Cooking is a tool of communication…a nurturing dialogue with rhythm, temperature, and color. I can remember as early as 6 years old being amazed by watching people transform these ingredients of various textures and flavors that were seemingly insignificant as individual parts, but together forming stories that nourish and influence the body, heart and soul. It is a language of nature…a palpable romance that presents itself freely to all the senses. In fact, there isn’t any type of human connection that we haven’t incorporated food in at some point. Yes! You can totally go there! Cooking has healing and medicinal properties that can be identified and traced factually throughout the history of all documented Life on Earth. I fully believe that loving and mindful food preparation is as magical and artistic as songwriting, dance, and poetry. By the time I was 12 years old I was already a Foodie Fool and 100% sure that my life would revolve and evolve around the Stage, Writing, and adventures in the Kitchen.
My food prep style comes from a combination of smell and texture. My seasoning style contains a list about 15 flavor algorithms designed by the blending of herbs, heat, sweet, and spice that I’ve picked up from exploring Burmese, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, and American cuisine. My recent discovery of the exact location of my African decent, has me looking forward to experimenting in that culinary world this coming Fall and Winter. I love exploring new spices and cooking styles without following known recipes to the word. That’s where the adventure is! To me published recipes are more of a suggestion than a rule. Its the same way I look at songwriting or any art form for that matter. Someone goes on an amazing journey with fails and successes…meets with inspirational events, fights with their own demons, gets in and out of their own way…all to come to a moment of satisfied self realization. They find this “gem” of knowledge and understanding from this artistic journey. They can now that share it and call it their own creation. Well I fearlessly love my own artistic journeys in Life, Career, and in the Kitchen. I also have a natural joy in sharing my “gems” of knowledge and understanding.
That being said, not everyone was born with the same kitchen chip! That’s all good though. You still have to eat. No matter what your talent level, we all deserve good, healthy food and the feeling of making it yourself is priceless! That’s what this blog is about. It’s not a recipe blog, really. Its a share of ideas to hopefully inspire the less experienced and unconfident folks to go off in search of their “gems”!
So, I learned that nourishment was the first communication used between a child and it’s Mother. Then I observed that as we grow we use it between family and friends. The real fun starts when you become an adult! In my early 20s I learned that nourishment was also a fantastic ice breaker for dates. I was a broke actor and songwriter in a tiny apartment, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t show a date an amazing night of food, drink and live original music. I would gather a few dollars and hit the Farmer’s Market for some fresh produce. Then off to the Polish Butcher. Then a visit to Anthony at his East Village Italian shop. Anthony made sauces, pastas and mozzarella cheese by hand. I’ve always preferred to shop at locally owned spots. To me there is a certain enchantment in purchasing goods directly from the grower, or preparer. They become part of my team for creating an unforgettable night of all natural decadence. I would bounce my recipe ideas off of Anthony because his life was his shop. He seemed to live vicariously through the stories of how his customers prepared his handmade products. We would go into detail because I always wanted my date to know that I created a dish inspired by them. Nothing says, “I appreciate you” like tasting fork full of flavors that represent your best qualities. That is as far as we are going into the dating life of my 20s. I’m sure there are good Christians reading this.
I am however, going to share some actual dishes that I’ve made. This first entry will focus on Vegetarian dishes for people who still want a substantial amount of protein in their diet without eating meat. Note: I am by no means a committed Vegetarian. However, I do believe firmly that if we all just took a few steps back from consuming and wasting so much meat, the process would not have to be so poisonous and violent. It would improve the life and health of the Earth, Animals and Humans alike. I enjoy meat a few times a month, but mostly eat vegetarian food. That’s my two cents.
This blog is aimed at readers (single/married) from age 25 to 45. The recipe contents will not be what you may be used to at times. As I mentioned before, I cook by texture and smell, and taste so listing measurements is not my strong suit. “Have fun storming the castle!”
* Coconut Curry Veggie Sausage and Pasta
Curry is a very exciting and exotic spice to play with. There are many different heat levels, spice blends and colors that make up curry. So far I have only cooked with Thai style curry paste. The options are Red, Yellow, and Green. They are named by the color of the chili peppers used in the blend. The Indian style curry (which I will get into this year) is different in the sense that you don’t necessarily identify it by color. The three major Indian styles are Korma, Madras, and Pasanda. Like I said, I will touch on them after I’ve gone on that adventure! Curry has a lovely, warming quality. It is like an internal hug that squeezes beads of perfumed sweat from your pores. It is amazing with any kind of protein. Now, when you add some thick natural Coconut Cream to the mix, it’s just plain sexy! We’re talking grown folks eating here. This time I used a Green curry paste and my protein was vegetarian tofu sausage. It consists of sliced veggie sausage sautéed with green cabbage, red pepper, black beans, mint leaves, shallots, and mushrooms. It all simmers in coconut cream before being poured over a tri-colored rotini. Then it’s topped with fresh scallions and bean sprouts. See raw ingredients below.
This is an excellent dish to break the first “home date ice”. It’s warm, spicy, filling and exciting to the senses. Its very easy to put together, although it doesn’t look or taste like its easy. That’s another bonus! Success for this dish relies heavy on the finished textures of all the ingredients. For safety, I cook the rotini first alone with all my focus. You NEVER want to serve under or over cooked pasta! Note: Al dente does not mean under cooked. It’s a texture thing. One good way to test any pasta or ice is to occasionally single one piece out of the pot. When you bite into it, you should feel no crunch, but the slightest bit of resistance is good. You should also boil the water in a good amount of salt water. That’s pretty much all the direct salt I will use in this dish. There is enough salt in the other ingredients already. That’s just my opinion. As for the rest of the ingredients…again, its about textures and cooking time. In this dish, the longest cooking time would be for the cabbage. Once the cabbage is cooked over medium heat in either olive or sesame oil for about 2 minutes, you can then add your bell peppers, spicy peppers (if you’re a heat fiend like me), and shallots and cook another 2 minutes. Add the veggie sausage, mushrooms, and black beans. Just about every veggie protein can be eaten raw. Its made from soy and vegetables, so when you add it to a cooked dish, your just allowing it time to absorb your flavors. You’re not cooking it like a meat. There is no “is it done yet?” Then we scoop the green curry in. Add your fresh mint. I learned as a bartender that the oils in herbs are better released when you muddle, or just tear them in pieces. So I ripped each mint leaf in three parts before dropping them into the pan. As soon as the dish takes on the smell of being complete…meaning you feel that you could eat it as is, that’s when you lower the heat to a simmer and add the coconut cream. Let that sit for about another 2 mins, stirring every 30 seconds or so. When the cream starts to bubble right after you stop stirring, then it ready! Put a palm full of rotini in bowl. Then pour the curry dinner over the pasta. Top it with raw chopped scallions and bean sprouts. Invest in good looking bowls. The worst is to go through the love and effort of creating a fantastic dish, then serve it to yourself, or anyone is a chipped up, ugly bowl. I would serve this with a rose in the Spring, or a hearty Australian red blend in the Fall. In the Winter and Summer, a nice Porter or boozy IPA brew will do the trick nicely!
*Tempeh Steak and Vegetable Rice
I am a BIG fan of tempeh. It is just as versatile as tofu. It can be eaten raw, seasoned like steak, chicken, and pork. It’s a brilliant option for clean protein and the texture is closer to meat, than tofu is. For this dish, I handled the tempeh like a piece of steak.
I let a piece of tempeh sit in 5 Spices Marinade (from an Asian Market). I’ve also made my own marinade before. Gather your favorite seasonings and add olive oil and some tasty cooking vinegar (I like vinegars that are infused with herbs and peppers), or red or white wine. You can get Liquid smoke, Soy sauce, or Worcestershire to add some extra vibe. Let it sit over night absorbing that marinade. If you forget or don’t have time for the long marinade its not the end of the World. The tempeh will absorb the flavors well as you chop and prep the rest of the ingredients. Start cooking your brown rice. Fast boil Portobello or Baby Bello mushrooms with red and yellow bell peppers. Mix them in with the rice when its about half cooked. When the rice has about 15 to 20 mins left to cook, refill the pot you boiled the peppers and mushrooms in, add some dried paprika and salt to the fresh water. Boil chopped collard greens to tenderness. As the greens cook, get your grill pan, or regular pan super hot. Sear or grill the marinated tempeh like a steak (high flame at 4mins either side). Plating: I’ve always found my protein sitting on a bed of greens to be very attractive. In the center of the plate put a mound of collard greens. Lay the seared/grilled tempeh on top, then circle it with a trail of your fluffy mushroom and pepper brown rice. Yum!
*Vegetarian Green Tea Soba Noodles
I have love for some parts of Asian cultures. The foods of some countries and regions, and the mentality of others. I also practice some Bhuddist precepts and meditation styles. Besides the benefit of mediation, my favorite thing is to explore Asian culture through the food. You will see the influence throughout this page and a lot of my cooking ideas. This right here with though!! Remember, my way of cooking most dishes from countries other than America is most times not the traditional way. I eat something I like, then I make it at home in my own way.
This is a fun and easy 10 minute dish. After gathering and chopping ingredients, start heating water. Chop some (firm/extra firm) tofu, shallots, avocado, cauliflower, and a handful of spinach. Add soba noodles to boiling water. 2 minutes in, add the cauliflower. 4 minutes in, add the chopped firm tofu. Let it all boil together for another 2 minutes (total of 6 minutes). Turn the fire off and add the spinach leaves. The spinach takes about 30 seconds to cook right in hot (not boiling) water. Pour everything into a colander and keep it under cold running water as you continually mix with your hands to ensure even cooling. Pour your cooled mix of noodles and vegetables into a large bowl, then add your raw shallots and avocado as a topping. Season with sea salt, and either sesame oil, or a black bean chili sauce like I used in the photo above. Mix it together again in the large bowl. fill a serving bowl and eat with chopsticks if you wish. You can also serve warm, right out of the pot. Traditional Soba noodles are cold and it’s usually simply noodles and a black soy based soba sauce. I enjoy the traditional way as well, but at home its more practical for me to make it with ingredients to create a full meal. This is closer to a Ramen style.
*Veggie and Cheese Scramble
Come on! This is pretty self explanatory. I added this dish to give you an idea of freedom when it comes to eggs in the morning. Many times I incorporate leftover dinners into the morning breakfast/brunch. This scrambled egg dish so simple and you can switch the veggie for broccoli, spinach, greens, or kale.
Pre chop fresh shallots, scallions, or red onion, asparagus, and tomato. Lightly drizzle olive oil, or melt a pad of butter in a hot pan. Asparagus goes in first. Let it cook for about a minute before you toss in the chopped shallots. When the aroma of the cooking shallots fills the air, crack open your eggs and add them to the pan. When the bottom of the eggs become solid white, sprinkle salt and pepper to you liking and add the black beans, tomatoes, and either shredded or thinly sliced cheese. (I used thinly sliced marble bleu cheese this time) Then just continually fold the eggs over and over until you reach the consistency that is most appetizing to you. I didn’t feel like bread this time, but you can always add your favorite toast. Don’t forget your mimosa!
*Green Summer Roll-
I mentioned my passion for some Asian foods before. This was my first attempt at creating a Summer Roll. Although it’s been a favorite dish of mine for countless years, I had never made it for myself. Until now, I had never bothered to ask myself why. After some personal truth seeking I have come to realize that in my mind, this dish was an event of an old relationship. I guess i quietly believed that I couldn’t make them for myself, because in the past, they were made FOR me with love by someone else. Now if that’s not proof that food can be a powerful means of intimate communication, I don’t know what else is. We eat…we heal. We heal…we eat.
Ok. Here’s how I made them. I had leftover rice paper in the kitchen. You can get this at any Asian food market. Get a very large bowl that will fit the circumference of the rice paper in it. You can also use a wide and semi deep pan. You fill it with enough cold water to submerge the paper only for a few seconds. I learned the hard way (and through a Youtube demo) that you should have a damp towel next to your bowl. Otherwise the rice paper may stick to other surfaces and break as soon as you try to wrap it. Once the rice paper is wet, it is no longer super brittle. Just lay it on the damp towel. It will continue to absorb moisture from the towel. By the time you load the first section of your ingredients the paper’s texture will be perfect. About 3/4 of an inch toward the center, I place my raw chopped cabbage with a couple of strips of marinated tofu on top. Then I pull the edge of the rice paper over the pile of cabbage and tofu…covering and tucking under it. If the paper texture is right, it will stick to itself, sealing the ingredients in a tube-like shape. Then in front of the tube (just about middle of the paper), I lay my bean sprouts, mint leaves, scallions, and sliced serrano chili. Then I continue rolling the tub over my my new pile and meeting the other edge of the rice paper. Make sure the lip of the edge is sealing the roll completely. Now, I only used soy sauce for dipping because my tofu was seasoned strongly. Next time I will make some sauces to my taste and share them if they come out right! You can also purchase a nice peanut sauce, or a sweet/spicy honey chili mix. Cheers to the good times of old relationships!
*Greek Style Tabouleh Salad-
We know that Tabouleh is a light wheat salad that accompanies many Middle Eastern dishes. It began in Lebanon and Syria, but spread across the Middle East and even into Greece before it landed in the hearts of American Vegetarians. I like making my own because a lot of times restaurant Tabouleh has either too much parsley, or too much vinegar for my taste. I also enjoy adding a protein of my choice. This time I decided to do it Greek style and add raw tofu. I cooked a box of Tabouleh grains and added lime juice and chopped tomato. I let it chill in the fridge for 30 mins while I chopped the tofu, cucumber, feta cheese ( I used a feta with jalapeno in it), white onion, and endive lettuce. When I brought it out of the fridge, I added all my chopped ingredients. I drizzled olive oil, a little bit of red wine vinegar, and some ground sea salt to taste. I dropped a few Mediterranean olives on top and was good to go! Excellent post workout salad. Try it with grilled shrimp, grilled chicken strips, or even steak strips on your non vegetarian nights.
* 3 Green Medley-
This is one of my favorite veggie sides I’ve ever made. I absolutely love green vegetables for there flavor, vitamins, health benefits and color. I came up with this last Thanksgiving. I am already known for my love of Kale in the Family, so I wanted to do a different green this time. Since I couldn’t make up my mind for this dish, I decided to mix Collard greens, spinach, and green cabbage together. You may notice that these are the three greens I used in the various dishes above. Again, I love the natural flavor of green veggies, but not everyone has the same taste. So, I first sautéed onions and garlic in butter and olive oil, then put it aside. Of course the three different greens have their own distinct textures. So for a large group of eaters, I boiled each green separately to its perfect biting texture, mixed them after all were straining, then stirred in my onion, garlic, butter and oil mixture. I ground a light amount of seal salt in, and it was done! For smaller groups you can boil all greens in one pot. Be sure to respect textures though! Collard greens would go in first, then after a few mins add the cabbage, then after another few mins, turn off the fire and add the spinach to the non boiling pot. The spinach should reach a nice texture in 30 seconds. Strain the mix then return it to the now empty pot while you stir in that yummy sauté mix. This can be used as a layer in a veggie lasagna, or add black or red beans with a soy based ground faux beef. Then sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top. I could come up with about 4 more options. You will soon be inspired to create your own!
Next entry coming up will contain meat and fish dishes, as well as soups for the Fall and Winter.
Thanks for reading!!