[ vegetarian improvisational peasant fusion cuisine for the 22nd century ]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

nashs farmshare recipe, dec 22

I'm sure we're all of sick of Indian food, faux or not, so I'll try escape the present now-here vitamin complex and anglicize some Christmas Specials. Most importantly of course, it's the season of the Gift and the Party, which is to say, the selfless act (action without regard to its fruit, as the Gita sings) and the joy of togetherness. Get those two down and nobody will pay attention to those hints of cinnamon (not cassia, i tell you) in the champagne or applesauce or quenelles or however...

Comedown Pancakes

The solstice has been a thrill since long before dear Jesus was a bearded commie twinkle in his Father's third eye, and the morning after a thrill calls for some serious grounding. We look to the venerable latke tradition for inspiration and to the frosty morning soil for ingredients: golden beets, parsnips, yukon golds, and their ilk.

For each hangover (refined sugar, fermented grain, or conspicuous consumption induced), assemble:

1 root vegetable, grated
1 egg
1 short glass of milk
some flour

The idea is to make your typical pancakes substituting as much root vegetable for flour as you can get away with. The egg is shorthand for binding and leavening and can be replaced by a binder (flour, arrowroot, tapioca, etc...) and some baking powder besides. The milk is short for richness (largesse) and can be replaced with soy milk, vegetable stock, lemongrass tea, or water.

Start by grating the roots -- the smaller the better, as more starch and area alike shall surface for the alchemy.

Mix your eggs in their own private bowl.

Then mix together a bit of flour (start small, maybe a cup for the family) with some salt, black pepper, and grated nutmeg for flavor. Carve a hole in the center of your flour and add the beaten eggs bit by bit, incorporating steadily.

If you pour too fast you'll end up with little clumps of flour and you'll have to stop Everything and make a whisk or a blender to smooth things out, because maybe for once the stores are closed and everybody is holed up trying to decipher their new televisions, pacemakers, and plowshares.

You have the beginnings of a crepe batter. Add enough liquid to where it makes sense to add the grated vegetables, and do so. Now comes your own personal wisdom, which is, in the advanced analysis, not your own at all. You want there to be the right balance of binder, liquid, and roots so the grated goodness stays in a sort of soul-full suspension in the batter, neither in patties nor running all over the littered floor. Get this balance right and -- if the salt is right -- they will crown you with laurel and come back for more.

Cook like pancakes on a hot griddle with butter if the animals permit and oil if they don't. Make sure they brown well before flipping -- the vegetables will need some cooking (grating is only half the battle). If you find the pancakes are browning before the beets are cooking, take a log out of the stove and try again.

Served best with applesauce and champagne, naturally.

A quick concession to the holiday aesthetic

So it's red and green as I remember. This is a two-in-one dish, which is to say, I'd like you to do the same thing twice.

Red Cabbage (round one)
Spinach (round two)

Blend together with careless speed:

2 small onions
2 shallots if you have them
As many green chiles as you can handle (0-6?)
1 head of garlic

The key innovation to this curry pesto comes from Suhartata ("sweet aunty") who rags the the hairy end of the onions and separates each (c)love of garlic from the mother, but otherwise does no preparation. She does not peel the garlic nor stem the chiles and that was two days ago and I've lived to preach the gospel. Go forth! She also blends in a bit of coconut (depending on income constraints) but I would suggest

1/2 cup of broken walnut bits, soaked overnight, and blended

to form the base of the pesto. You could take an African trip and use peanuts but if you get the balance wrong you'll end up with middle school flashbacks and that's nobody's idea of a merry time.

Then heat your wok or frypan with coconut or olive oil, now recommended by nutritionists and old women alike, and fry the paste for a quick minute, until fragrant and brown. Add the chopped vegetable (red or green) and cook until the balance of crunch and lost vitamins feels right. It only gets better and better as the vegetable cooks down, more like curry and less like vegetable. Here they continue cooking until almost dry, a flaky spicy green between your fingertips and the dosa. No expectations.

a side note on gifting this weekend

Depending on your procrastination index, this may be too late, but I heard a nice tip from Nobel-prize winner Wangari Matthai the other day. She recommends a bit of wisdom from the people of Japan, who apparently wrap their gifts in cloth, not paper, thus replacing kitchy morning trash with a soft reusable envelope, and saving millions of trees in the process. Maybe this year, maybe the next, but as thunder turns to lightening, the darkness has got to give.