Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rawmesan and other things I didn't do last year...

There's nothing that gets the calendar year off to a new start like facing your failures. My very first post in this blog, I was planning on making Rawmesan, Ani Phyo's cashew version of the ubiquitous cheese-- she calls it a cheeze, which is fine; except that being a former English major, I cannot abide that type of lingual slurring, or the sticky sweet cuteness of phrases like Krispy Kreme. So I won't call it that. And I didn't make it, because one of the necessary ingredients was lacking, the lemon.
Going out to a grocery store on New Year's Eve is crazy, but we tried-- only when we saw the craziness in the parking lot at Dash market on Colvin, I admit it, I couldn't stand the thought of being in there for a single second. It was a total clusterfuck, not worth the irritation. The point of having a well-stocked pantry was borne in on me (yet again) and I wished for the days when I lived closer to a store that sold lemons by the bag instead of by item. Wonderful Wegman's does, but they are not close enough to make it into my weekly shopping habit, and their produce, while lovely, is generally too expensive.
Where you shop, defines how you eat. When I lived here in WNY before my long sojourn in the Midwest, I shopped at the University Plaza Tops; living on Minnesota Avenue, it was an easy straight shot up Bailey, and not a hassle to be in during most of my shopping hours-- I liked to go late night, when I could, and my downstairs neighbors were barfly guys, so they weren't inconvenienced by me traipsing up and down the side stairs at 11:30 pm or worse. That changed, but so did my eating habits.
In Indianapolis, I shopped at a bunch of stores-- Trader Joes (we could use one here), Marsh (a poor version of Wegman's), the Georgetown Market (sort of a cross between health food store and co-op), very rarely at Wild Oats, the new Sunflower Market that had opened in Broad Ripple, (now closed) but mainly, my one-stop-including-booze-store, (a straight run down Moller Road) Meijer's. This was a huge huge store: even stopping in for just a few things would take 20 minutes because of the walking, but it had everything. Bulk items, housewares, choices, good produce at reasonable prices, with plenty of pre-cuts (not that I use those), plenty of organic, and very well-stocked with all kinds of specialty veg and fruit for a wide array of ethnic/geographical groups. Any kind of fresh pepper you wanted, you could get there. About the one thing I could never find was good ladyfingers for tiramisu, so I learned to make them myself. The bakery was also not wonderful, but that was widespread in Indy, a lack of good bakeries, and I'm a baker anyway. My cooking style solidifed, there-- fresh being the first ingredient, whim of the moment second, making use of what I had third: I could stop in on the way home from any of my three/four jobs without much trouble for a last minute idea or a bottle of vino or salad greens. Often, my weekly shopping was done on the way home from a job. Not a good time crowd-wise, but it meant I'd have a plan for dinner, and it was on the way.
At Meijer's, I could always get a bag of lemons for $2.99 at the most, so I had fresh lemons on hand all the time. I used them lavishly, without thinking about it, without worrying about the expense involved in shipping a fruit in from Florida, without remembering how hard it was to find them at a decent price in Buffalo. Lemon in salad dressing, in sauces, as a last minute tweak to a soup or stew, lemons sliced and roasted with potatoes, lemons in countless breads and muffins and pies. It was a staple for me, the bag of lemons on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and I rarely let it run down to less than two before getting a new bag. After moving back to WNY, and being super poor our first few years, I had to rethink my whole food strategy, rethink every lemon-influenced dish I made, re-imagine my entire cooking style and repertoire.
Now I have a greater distance to travel to get to affordable lemons, I'm thinking about the overall cost more. It's not just that they are more per bag now at Wegman's. I can see that they don't fit as part of our natural diet here, whether we're surrounded by opportunities to purchase them or not. And what about other super-nutrient items that vegetarians are supposed to eat, like flax seeds and such? Where do they come from? Should we bother?
It's a toss-up: eat something citrusy and try to shrink your carbon footprint other ways, or give up the lemon and the orange, the grapefruit that zings and sings on your tongue, limes that you need for a good Margarita, zest that virtually every cookbook calls for somewhere. If we stuck to regional recipes here, we'd still have to buy a lemon or two, they've been available so long. You can't make a basic Ice Pick without a lemon wedge, and the next most popular version is, of course, the Stoli O and orange version. How could we get through summer without them? (Let's not even get into it over the tea...)
I'm considering trying to grow a little lemon tree, for one. When I wanted to 20 years ago they were literally impossible to find-- a spreading disease had blocked off all transfer of the plants. Now things have changed. We don't have the best climate for it, but it's worth a shot, and the still swelling popularity of Meyer lemons has made growing citrus here a hot possibility. Meanwhile, I'll concentrate on buying most of my other produce locally and seasonally, as I have been since moving back to Buffland, thanks in large part to Dash and to the Kenmore Village Farmer's Market.
Yesterday, we had our nutball heroes with Adirondack Cheddar instead of Rawmesan. They were delicious, and they're very delicious when completely vegan as well. After I get used to making Rawmesan, and maybe some raw breads when that dehydrator gets here, an utterly raw version may be in the cards and in this blog. Who can tell?
For us pagans, it's been the new year for a while and we've worked with that energy; but for all of us here in Buffland, it's a new calendar year and a new decade. I hope we can all think more about about the real costs of our daily habits. I hope we all have a great season of thinking, period, coming at us. But if you know me, you know I'll be thinking about food in all its aspects 1/3 of the time or more. I can't help it, and I don't want to. There are worse ways to look at the world. Right this moment, I'm thinking about what to do with those last couple of nutballs in the fridge, and thinking about making guacamole with my two ripe avocados (a California crop!); only, I have no lime to season it with, just a few Clementines. And now I'm thinking about Ani Phyo's taco nut meat, and how these things might fit together. And I'm getting hungry.
Oh, just remembered one of the few restaurant meals in Indy that I miss; ironically, as there are no real pizzeria style pizzas there, and it was a torture to me for 14 years of living there-- Bazbeaux's Garden pizza, with artichoke hearts, avocado, spinach, green pepper, red onion, black olive, ricotta, that my friend Mike N. and I always ordered on a thin, crispy whole wheat crust. Mike was a more-is-more kind of guy about pizza toppings, so we usually got green olives on this as well. It was beyond awesome. And I have fat-free ricotta in the fridge, for some reason, and some olives, and I can always make pizza dough, so-- guess what we're having? Don't you wish you could have the same?
Then we'll be at the Regal on Elmwood, I hope, watching one of my favorite Narnia stories being destroyed on film. So what we have is, one goal for the new new shot to hell, one (stated elsewhere) brilliantly upheld-- to spend less money on a willy-nilly grocery budget and on takeout; and how better to do that than by using up leftovers along with what we have in the house to make a fantastic and satisfying meal?
I've already thrown together a sauce of chopped tomatoes and olive oil, seasoned with dried basil, clementine peel, garlic, onions, and thickened with a little ground coriander and the remains of the sauce from around the nutballs in their pan. Pizza dough you can find recipes for anywhere, and I don't use a recipe for something that basic and variable... I'm sauteing zucchini slices in EVOO with fennel seed, onion and some green peas to stand in for the spinach and artichoke. And I have leftover feta and more cheddar. There are salad greens ready, radicchio, organic purple kale & some romaine, to toss with a basic vinaigrette. And there's one bottle of Champagne left... hmm. Maybe we'll see the movie tomorrow.

Eat something good tonight. Peace, Mari

Oh, and Jim? I am practicing my guitar!

*Hysteria update!* The Rawmesan recipe DOESN'T use lemon. The basic cheeze does. That's what I get for wanting to try new recipes on a holiday. Sorry, Ani, I didn't mean to mess it up. Here's the recipe for it, anyhow.

Ani Phyo's Rawmesan Cheeze: from Ani's Raw Food Essentials

SHE SAYS: "Sprinkle an extra layer of savory goodness on soups, salads, wraps, and pizzas."

Makes 1/2 C.

1/2 C raw cashews**, ground into a powder
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp sea salt

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. Will keep for 5 days in the fridge.

**in a separate section of the book, Ani notes that all seeds and nuts should be soaked or even sprouted before use in recipes. The given soaking time for a cup of cashews is 4-6 hours. Drain and probably pat dry before use in cheeses. The remainder should be kept covered in the fridge, I believe, and will doubtless keep better dry.

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