Vegan Chews & Progressive News {7-4-14}

Farmers Market Vegan’s “Vegan Chews & Progressive News” series strives to promote artful vegan food and progressive discussion of social issues—both of which prove necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

Happy 4th of July! While the news highlighted in this fifth edition of Vegan Chews & Progressive News may not contribute to your patriotism, July 4th still provides a fabulous excuse to fire up the grill for some summer veggies and dig into a pint of non-dairy ice cream. Let’s get to it!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

Strawberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon-Caramel Glaze
via Yup, It’s Vegan

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Photo via Yup, It’s Vegan.

Though the end of strawberry season is upon us in Brooklyn (hellooo, cherries!), Shannon offers up a chewy, yeasty, doughy, succulent, mouthwatering recipe to make creative use (not that eating them unadorned isn’t a fabulous use) of any late-season strawberries you might be lucky enough to snag. I expect that these whole-grain, refined sugar-free sweet rolls would provide both a comforting breakfast and a lovely warm-weather dessert, perfect for enjoying on the patio just before sunset.

Best Recipe I Made This Week

Ranch Potato Salad, Buffalo Tempeh with Homemade Sauce, and Sweet Kale Salad
via Betty Goes Vegan, Post Punk Kitchen, Emeril Lagasse, and Chef Mickiyah

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The “recipe” highlight of this week is actually a full meal made up of three components. The first: a Ranch Potato Salad with sweet green peas and a vegan ranch dressing adapted from the vegan-Betty Crocker remix cookbook Betty Goes Vegan. The second: crispy sauteed tempeh simmered in homemade buffalo sauce, inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe with a DIY twist. The third: a warm salad of wilted kale in a succulent sauce of Dijon mustard and coconut sugar with a sprinkling of juicy raisins, courtesy of Chef Mickiyah of Woodland’s Vegan Bistro (remember my rave review of this DC vegan hot spot last summer?). Hearty, boldly flavored, and nourishing, this dinner would have impressed any July 4th-celebrating non-vegan.

Must-Read News Article

This past week brought an onslaught of landmark court decisions, both inside and outside of the U.S.

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Photo via Grist.

Via Grist: In Canada, the Supreme Court ruled that any First Nation land that was never formally ceded to the Canadian government cannot be developed without consent of those First Nations that have a claim to it. In addition to challenging the Northern Gateway oil pipeline that would run from Alberta to China, the ruling recognizes the rights of the First Nations whose land the U.S. and Canada colonized long ago, and who have endured heaps of discrimination ever since. Way to go, Canadian Supreme Court.

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Photo via Slate.

Back home in the U.S., however, the Supreme Court produced decisions much less worth celebrating. Via Slate, Truthout, and Mother Jones: Not only did the Court strike down a Massachusetts law mandating a 35-foot buffer zone that anti-abortion protesters couldn’t enter to heckle patients outside of abortion clinics, it also declared that the government couldn’t require closely held businesses to provide their employees with health insurance that covers types of birth control that offend the owner’s religious beliefs. Both decisions severely infringe upon women’s health and reproductive rights, essentially indicating that corporations constitute “people” more so than do women. A much more sarcastic “way to go” to you, SCOTUS.

Favorite Podcast Episode or Video

BEST OF: Melissa Gira Grant on sex work, savior complexes, and a vegan dominatrix
via Citizen Radio

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Photo via Citizen Radio.

The topic of sex workers and their rights proves hotly debated, even in feminist circles, as many well-meaning folks attempt to control the actions of women who find themselves in precarious situations and choose to engage in sex work in order to get by. In this “Best Of” episode of Citizen Radio, Melissa Gira Grant—author of Playing the Whore, which is definitely next on my reading list—explains the politics behind the issue of sex workers with elegance, clarity, and wit. A must-listen.

For more information on sex workers’ rights, check out this recent article on Truthout, entitled “Cutting Off Sex Work Advertising Sites Disrupts Communities, Not Trafficking.”

Book Recommendation

The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap
by Matt Taibbi

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Photo via NPR.

While anyone who hasn’t lived under a slab of tofu for the past few decades has clearly seen the staggering wealth gap into which capitalism has sent our country spiraling, Matt Taibbi highlights the concrete impacts that this gap has upon the bodies of the poor and the criminal justice system. Switching between narrating startling stories of corporate/Wall Street money laundering and the clear discrimination in policing against people of color, Taibbi demonstrates the stark contrast between the treatment of the rich and poor in arrests, trials, and punishments. For example. on the one hand, the police arrest an impoverished Black man for “obstructing traffic” by standing in front of the door of his own home, while “too-big-to-fail” companies like HSBC receive no more than a slap on the wrist for major corporate fraud. A book to make your blood boil and your cynical laughter to ring.

In solidarity, Ali.

Seaweed & Edamame Salad | Thoughts on Vegan Privilege

Before introducing today’s recipe, I’m thrilled to announce the three winners of my most recent giveaway for two free pints of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream. Congratulations to Becca FergusonRosie Riccio DeRensis, and Megan Digeon! Enjoy the creamy, decadent, coconutty goodness.

I got myself into a Facebook skirmish the other day. I don’t often do so, nor do I know that I can even call this incident a “skirmish,” so much as an instance of me replying to a post I found problematic, and never hearing back from the poster or commentators. The post in question—entitled “Dear White Vegans: This is Your Collection Agency Calling“—elicited enthusiastic responses from two individuals who referred to themselves as “former white, privileged vegans.”

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I responded as such:

“I agree with many of the sentiments expressed in this article. The current vegan movement contains an onslaught of classist, racist, sexist, and ableist elements. Equating the mass slaughter of animals with genocide and slavery co-opts the unknowable suffering of marginalized peoples in an effort to further another movement.

However, I feel that the arguments expressed in this article are a bit ad-hominem. Yes, the way veganism at large is being executed right now is hugely problematic. But at its core, veganism, for me, is simply an extension of an effort to combat the multiplicities of oppression in this world. The exploitation of people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, non-human animals, etc. are not the same, but they share a similar component: an unequal relationship between oppressor and oppressed. I would argue that if this relationship exists anywhere, the possibility for a liberated society becomes greatly hindered.

Consider the powerful activists in history who were also vegan: Cesar Chavez, Thich Nhat Hanh, Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, and so on. They recognized that while different instances of oppression are not at all the same and each need to be understood in their own right, they are also intimately connected by their being perpetuated by a capitalistic, patriarchal, colonial mindset. To fight against these marginalizing power relations, I feel that we must engage in a multiplicity of social struggles in order to empower habitually silenced groups. And I would argue that these struggles should include non-human animals.”

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In essence, I don’t want to throw out the idea of veganism simply because its current execution involves a multiplicity of problematic aspects. Instead, since I’m currently privileged enough to enjoy access to a bounty of plant-based foods, an income to obtain such foods, and a social circle that won’t disown my non-mainstream lifestyle, I’ve passionately added animal exploitation to the list of oppressions I’m actively seeking to combat by leading a vegan lifestyle.

Equally important, however, is that in such a privileged position, I must also engage in actively combating the problematic aspects of the vegan movement, in part by constantly reminding myself that the privilege enabling my vegan lifestyle exists among the phenomena that I actively seek to combat. The actions I’m taking against such privilege don’t involve giving up veganism, since that would actively enforce another very real oppression. Instead, the actions involve supporting admirable organizations like Food Not Bombs and the Food Empowerment Project that work to make nourishing vegan options accessible to marginalized communities; working to free myself of the capitalistic mindset of nonstop accumulation of material goods; working not to reinforce my various privileges in my daily interpersonal relations; and educating myself about the histories and current manifestations of various oppressions by devouring anti-racist, feminist, anarchist, etc. literature and following progressive news sources.

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These efforts don’t stop my occupation of a privileged position, of course. I’m still able to take myself out for expensive dinners at upscale restaurants in Manhattan; I’m still able to host giveaways on the ol’ blog for free products while the vivacious homeless man, who hangs out most days on the bench in front of my apartment building, asks for donations; I’m still able to shell out $12.99 for a 6-oz bag of arame seaweed at Whole Foods.

But these privileges don’t exist because I’m vegan, and they’ll still exist even if I were to throw up my hands and give up veganism tomorrow (which I absolutely will not). They exist because I’m a white, straight, cisgender individual with an upper-middle-class background. And veganism is only the first way in which I hope to engage in a challenge to the capitalist, patriarchal, colonial, speciesist, etc. society that makes it super easy to thrive with such identity factors.

Now, before I recommence all this challenging, please excuse me while I enjoy the following salad that I made with a $12.99-bag of arame seaweed that I bought at Whole Foods after being inspired to make such a salad by a dish I enjoyed at a not-inexpensive restaurant in perhaps the most well-off neighborhood in Brooklyn. Don’t we all love a good contradiction?

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Seaweed & Edamame SaladNut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Serves 2-4 as a side dish.

Ingredients:

3 oz arame or hiziki seaweed (or a blend of the two)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp finely sliced scallions
2 tbsp sesame seeds (both white & black are fine)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Place the seaweed in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let the seaweed soak for 15-60 minutes, or until it has expanded significantly. Drain.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shelled edamame and boil for 4-6 minutes. Drain.

When the seaweed has finished soaking, heat the coconut oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a minute, then add the drained seaweed and saute for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated from the seaweed. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the toasted sesame oil, raise the heat to medium-high, and saute until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and relocate the seaweed mixture to a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the toasted sesame oil. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe submitted to Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.

Until next time, Ali.

TastyMakes Raw Organic Snacks Review & GIVEAWAY!

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

Get ready, dear readers, for a summer of exciting giveaways on Farmers Market Vegan! I have quite a few of these super fun product raffles up my sleeve for the next three months, so I do hope that you’ll keep a close eye on the ol’ blog amidst all of your warm-weather frolicking.

The first of these giveaways comes from the generous folks over at Tastymakes—a fabulous new snack company that specializes in raw, sprouted, organic, and ethically sourced savory crackers, sweet “barbites,” and crunchy granola clusters. Compelled to share the benefits of a raw, vegan diet with others after healing from a bike injury through alkaline eating, Tastymakes co-founder Melissa Lacitignola has joined with her husband and a professional raw foods chef to make her dream a reality. As if that story weren’t inspiring enough, TastyMakes also donates 5% of all its profits to anti-hunger organizations. Can you say “socially responsible company”?

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Not only do the folks at Tastymakes offer top-quality raw snacks, they also run a snack box subscription program through which customers can receive various amounts of crackers, barbites, and granolas each month. Arriving like clockwork every month with free shipping, these TastyBoxes ensure a pantry consistently stocked with energizing, nourishing snacks.

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Melissa and her team were kind enough to send me a couple product samples: one bag each of their Salt & Vinegar Crackers, Garden Herb Crackers, and Vanilla Nut BarBites. All of the snacks boasted a short list of hugely wholesome ingredients as well as an enormous punch of flavor.

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The Salt & Vinegar Crackers (the ingredients in which include apple cider vinegar, sprouted golden flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and sea salt) sported a supremely crunchy texture that dissolved pleasingly on the tongue as a hit of flavor spread through the entire mouth. These crackers will make you guffaw in disdain of those outdated salt & vinegar potato chips, whose muted flavor could never hope to stand up to that of these intensely savory crackers.

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The Garden Herb Crackers (the ingredients of which include sprouted golden flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, rosemary, thyme, sea salt, onions, and garlic) held a firmer texture than did the Salt & Vinegar Crackers, providing more heft for optimal dippability. Indeed, I enjoyed these fresh-tasting crackers spread with a pea puree and fresh almond milk ricotta from Kite Hill—not bad for a rough-and-tumble dinner, if I do say so myself.

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The Vanilla Nut Bar Bites (the ingredients of which include dates, walnuts, cashews, sprouted Spanish almonds, vanilla extract, flaxseed meal, and sea salt) offered a super intense vanilla flavor, coupled with a texture perfectly balanced between chewy and crunchy. I also found that these bites provided ample versatility, able to function not only as an ideal energy-packed snack, but as a premade crust for raw desserts! Check out the recipe below to see what I’m talkin’ ’bout.

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Mini Lemon-Ginger Cheesecake Cups—Raw, Soy Free, Low Sodium

Makes 8 mini cups.

Ingredients:

16 TastyMakes Vanilla Nut Bar Bites
1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 2 hours and drained
1/2 cup coconut oil (use this lemon-ginger flavored coconut oil for more of a kick!)
1/3 cup coconut or agave nectar (or maple syrup, if you’re not concerned about the cakes being fully raw)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger

Cut a sheet of plastic wrap about double the size of your 8-piece mini muffin tin. Spread the sheet over the tin and press the plastic wrap into each of the 8 cups to line them.

Take two Vanilla Nut Bar Bites and mush them together into one larger bite. Press the new bite into the bottom of one of the 8 cups. Repeat with the remaining 14 Vanilla Nut Bar Bites.

In the bowl of a food processor or the carafe of a high-speed blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews, coconut oil, coconut nectar or maple syrup, lemon juice, and ginger. Puree until very smooth. Fill each of the Nut Bar Bite-lined mini muffin cups to the brim with the cashew puree. Stick the entire mini muffin tray into the freezer and allow the cheesecake cups to set for about an hour. Remove each of the cups from the freezer about 5-10 minutes before you’d like to enjoy them.

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If that tantalizing recipe isn’t enough to get you ecstatic about this giveaway, I don’t know what will. Those of you that are ecstatic, though, have the chance to win your very own TastyBox! Simply click the links at the top or bottom of this post to enter the giveaway. Good luck!

This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 15, and I will ann0unce the two winners on the following day.

Sorry, this giveaway has closed!

I was not paid to run this giveaway, though I was provided with free product samples. All opinions are completely my own.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan Chews & Progressive News {6-6-14}

My blog proudly touts the tagline, “Kale and chickpeas with a side of social justice.” Lately, though, I feel that the scales of FMV have tipped toward the “kale and chickpeas,” and I’d like to afford the “side of social justice” a bit more weight. In light of this desire, I’ve decided to experiment with a new feature of the blog that I’ve deemed “Vegan Chews & Progressive News.”

Every Friday morning, I plan to publish a post that shares with you, dear readers, an amalgamation of the best of two worlds about which I care immensely: artful vegan food, and progressive discussion of social issues. Spreading the word about both of these worlds, I feel, proves necessary in fostering a society that prioritizes the wellbeing of all creatures (not just the rich or the human) over the continuous striving for profit/resource accumulation.

To start, each Chews & News post will include:
1.) My favorite newly published recipe—a vegan recipe published over the course of the concluding week that I feel encapsulates the creativity, innovation, and abundance of animal-free eating.
2.) The best recipe I made this weeka vegan recipe (either from a blog or a cookbook) that graced my own kitchen during the week, and that significantly wowed my gastronomic sensibilities.
3.) One or two must-read news articles—articles from progressive news outlets that I feel provide important insights and outlooks on prevalent news stories and/or social issues.
4.) My favorite podcast episode/segment—an excerpt or full episode from one of my favorite podcasts (or television news shows) that I feel accomplishes the same task as the must-read news articles.
5.) A book recommendation—during the summer, I finally find the time to devote to reading for pleasure (an endeavor not frequently accomplished during the school year). Most of the books I enjoy nowadays I feel provide valuable social commentary, and I’d love to share the titles with you all.

Without further ado, the first installment of Vegan Chews & Progressive News!

Favorite Newly Published Recipe

 Coconut Rosewater Ice Cream
Via Wholehearted Eats

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Photo via Wholehearted Eats.

Sophie offers a recipe for thick and smooth coconut milk ice cream, cutting its richness with a floral and uplifting note of rosewater—sounds ideal as spring ends and summer emerges. Even better, Sophie offers alternatives for making the recipe if you don’t have an ice cream machine handy (one day…).

Best Recipe I Made This Week

 Mess O’ Peas
Via Peter Berley’s “The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

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This oh-so-simple side dish combines the fresh tastes of spring—snap peas, sweet English peas, scallions, and mint—with the butteriness of coconut oil to yield a light yet unctuous dish into which your tastebuds can almost melt. Ah, divine simplicity of fresh produce.

Must-Read News Article

Our Words Are Our Weapons: The Feminist Battle of the Story in the Wake of the Isla Vista Massacre
by Rebecca Solnit, via Truthout

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Photo via Truthout.

Author of “Men Explain Things to Me” Rebecca Solnit critiques the mainstream media’s attempt to frame the recent Isla Vista massacre as based solely in either mental illness and lack of gun control, when Elliot Rogers’ lengthy manifesto clearly indicates that the act was one of misogyny. She uses this event and the ensuing #YesAllWomen hashtag as jumping-off points to discuss the importance of language in furthering women’s liberation, pointing toward the feminist movement’s historical coining of terms like “sexual harassment” and “rape culture”—terms that have helped us to identify problems that previously had no names, and were therefore difficult to discuss. An important perspective on the discussion surrounding the Isla Vista massacre.

Favorite Podcast Episode/Segment

Elites Would Like You to Shut Up
via Radio Dispatch

Photo via the New York Times.

Photo via the New York Times.

Brother and sister podcasting duo John and Molly Knefel comment extensively upon Frank Bruni’s recent New York Times op-ed that basically critiques anyone but him for providing commentary on current news stories. John and Molly astutely note that Bruni’s piece is indicative of a broader culture of the unwillingness of social elites to allow the 99% any input in the framing of our world.

Book Recommendation

Green is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege
by Will Potter

Photo via Green is the New Red.

Photo via Green is the New Red.

Longtime journalist and animal rights activist Will Potter documents the American government’s crackdown on environmental and animal rights organizations, focusing primarily on the labeling of such groups as “terrorists” even though the vast majority of their crimes have involved no human or animal injuries or casualties. Potter points out that the primary targets of this government crackdown have been organizations that threaten corporate profits, and that government agencies openly express their desire to protect financial interests. This explains why the government is allocating considerable resources toward investigating vegan potlucks rather than legitimate hate groups. An I think necessary read for any activist.

Until next time, Ali.

Broccoli Crunch Snack Bites (with Flavor Variations!)

You know how once a zucchini plant establishes itself in your garden you’ll find yourself with a constant supply of zucchini such that the little green squash works its way into your every meal? In the 21-person vegan cooperative where I live, we have no zucchini plants or any sort of garden, and yet last week we experienced the same phenomenon of single-veggie overload with that rascally cruciferous known as broccoli. Midway through last week, multiple shelves in our refrigerator suddenly overflowed with green florets, as if our grocery shoppers sensed an impending broccoli drought in New York state and thought it best to prepare by purchasing the nearby market’s entire stock of the veggie.

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Hypothesizing that my housemates would not consume this wealth of broccoli before it began to yellow and wilt, I sought to prepare a snackable goodie that would use up a substantial amount of broccoli and that my housemates would gobble up in no time. Enter the broccoli crunch snack bite. One of my co-workers at Compassion Over Killing last summer first introduced me to the idea of coating broccoli in a blended mixture of nuts, spices, and liquid—similar to those used to coat raw kale chips—before dehydrating it into a bunch of crunchy, flavor-rich, super fun nibbles. Drawing upon this preparation method, I employed the leftovers of an almond sour cream that I had prepared for dinner the previous evening to coat the broccoli and popped the florets into our house dehydrator. Hours later (no one ever said that dehydrating was a speedy process), three enormous heads of broccoli had reduced down to a couple trays of savory snack bites, and a couple hours even later, all of them had disappeared into the bellies of my housemates. Mission accomplished.

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Below you’ll find the base recipe for the crunchy broccoli goodness, followed by a number of flavor variations as well as directions for baking the bites in the oven if you don’t own a dehydrator.

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Broccoli Crunch Snack Bites—Can be Raw, Soy Free, Oil Free, Low Sodium.

Makes 5-6 cups.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup almonds, soaked 8 hours or overnight
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup or agave (use agave for raw variation)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups water
3 large heads of broccoli, separated into florets

Blend the ingredients almonds through water in a high-speed blender until smooth. Place the broccoli florets in a large bowl, and pour the dressing over the broccoli. Toss well to coat. Spread the coated broccoli on as many dehydrator trays as you need to fit all of the broccoli, and dehydrate at 110°F for 12-24 hours, or until dry and crunchy.

Oven Variation:Preheat the oven to 400° and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until crunchy.

Chili Cheese Variation:Add 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 clove garlic, and 2 tsp chili powder to the blended ingredients.

Spicy Maple-Chipotle Variation:Increase the amount of maple syrup to 2 tbsp and add 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp chipotle power to the blended ingredients.

Coconut-Peanut Butter Variation: Increase the amount of maple syrup or agave to 2 tbsp and add 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut, and 1 tsp vanilla extract to the blended ingredients.

Bright Miso Variation: Add 1 tbsp light miso, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 small clove garlic, and 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard to the blended ingredients.

Smoky “Bacon” Variation: Increase the amount of maple syrup or agave to 1 1/2 tbsp and add 1 tbsp tamari, 1 tsp smoked paprika, and 1/2 tsp liquid smoke to the blended ingredients.

Cool Ranch Variation: Add 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp dried dill, 2 tbsp fresh chives, and 1 tbsp fresh parsley to the blended ingredients.

Recipe submitted to Waste Not Want Not Wednesdays, Recipe Wednesday, and Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan in Florence, Part 3

Don’t miss your chance to win a jar of body butter and a tube of lip butter from the all-natural and vegan cosmetic company Ellovi! Enter Farmers Market Vegan’s latest giveaway by Wednesday, April 2.

Well, dear readers, my adventures in Florence, Italy have come to a close, but I still have one more round of vegan Italian cuisine to share with you all. The last few days of my trip included day trips to the nearby towns of Siena and Fiesole, both of which boast magnificent churches and stunning views of the Italian countryside; a dinner party with my parents, aunt, uncle, and cousin; and a theater jaunt to see the previously on-Broadway show Stomp. And of course…tons of tasty vegan noms. Here are a couple culinary highlights from my final days in Florence:

Il Vegetariano

Via delle Ruote 30r, Florence, Italy 50129

My travel companion Gabe shows off the front of Il Vegetariano.

My travel companion Gabe shows off the front of Il Vegetariano.

I first discovered this 30-some-year-old staple of Florence’s vegetarian scene three years ago when I spent the summer with my aunt, and eagerly returned to introduce this popular, all-organic eatery to my travel companion Gabe. Luckily, from that summer I gleaned the experiential know-how about how Il Vegetariano works, so that I could lead Gabe along in the process. You see, Il Vegetariano’s set-up differs from that of a traditional sit-down restaurant, functioning in a more cafeteria-style manner. Upon entering the restaurant, the diner proceeds past the two dining rooms to greet the kind bespectacled man behind the ordering counter, seated beside a colorful blackboard that lists the daily-rotating menu of small plates, salad bar, entrees, and desserts. The diner puts their order in at the counter, pays, picks up a tray, and stands in the line in front of the salad bar/dessert counter to wait for another kind balding man to grab a freshly made plate from the kitchen, and/or to choose from an array of raw and cooked vegetables to enjoy in a salad. Finally, the diner can choose a seat in one of two mahogany-clad dining rooms with exposed brick walls, or on a covered patio just behind the restaurant.

Dessert case, salad bar, ordering station, and pick-up counter at Il Vegetariano.

Dessert case, salad bar, ordering station, and pick-up counter at Il Vegetariano.

During our visit, Gabe and I opted to enjoy the warm weather and took a seat on the patio. Peckish after meandering around the city all morning, we dove into our bowls of immensely savory brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes, cauliflower, and parsley. Herbaceous and full-bodied, the pilaf’s flavor showcased just how complex simple vegetables and grains can taste. Of course, considering that Il Vegetariano describes their wide dessert selection as their specialty, Gabe and I simply had to sample a slice of a crumbly tart jam-packed with succulent pears and apricots. Certainly no complaints there, especially when my entire meal cost less than 10 euro.

Brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes and cauliflower.

Brown rice pilaf with roasted artichokes and cauliflower.

Pear-Apricot Crumble Tart

Pear-Apricot Crumble Tart

Gelateria Perche No!

Via dei Tavolini 19r, Florence, Italy 50122

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Gabe once again serves as my restaurant model.

Venturing out for gelato after enjoying lunch at home became a favorite ritual of mine and Gabe’s during the latter portion of our stay in Florence. While we most often headed to Festival del Gelato due to its close proximity to our apartment, Gabe and I opted on one occasion to sample another of Florence’s famous gelaterias, founded in 1939 and known as Perche No! (aka “why not!”). Upon first entering the small shop, I noticed and hugely appreciated that the gelateria had separated its non-dairy gelatos into a separate cooler, making ordering much simpler for myself and others who avoid dairy. On the day that we visited, Perche No!’s non-dairy flavors included banana, dark chocolate, pear, soy-based hazelnut, soy-based vanilla, strawberry, lemon, and raspberry. Funnily enough, Gabe and I both chose the soy hazelnut and raspberry to satisfy our daily gelato quota. While both gelatos held the exact flavor essence of their respective fruit and nut bases, the soy hazelnut proved less creamy than the rice-based hazelnut that we often enjoyed at Festival (strange, considering that rice milk tends to hold a much thinner texture than soy milk!). Regardless, Perche No! boasts some darn tasty gelato.

The "senza latte" (without milk) case at Perche No!

The “senza latte” (without milk) case at Perche No!

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Miso di Riso

Borgo degli Albizi 54r, Florence, Italy, 50122

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A couple of weeks before arriving in Florence, my mother emailed me to express her excitement that she had discovered a newly opened vegetarian restaurant called Miso di Riso (translated to rice miso) along the main pedestrian street in her neighborhood. As such, I made it a point to accompany my mother to lunch at the eatery during one of my final days in Florence. Brightly lit, filled with verdant potted plants, and boasting a plethora of vibrantly colored décor, Miso di Riso provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere in which to enjoy some macrobiotic-inspired vegan noms.

After ordering, my mother and I check out the dessert case to find such tantalizing creations as two mixed berry tarts, as well one with a semolina crust and chocolate ganache filling. While we opted to head to Festival del Gelato for dessert after our meal, Miso di Riso’s bakery selection definitely impressed me.

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Soon after we had sufficiently ogled at the dessert case, my mother and I received our plates. I chose to sample a savory tart of cauliflower and seaweed with a remarkably flavorful crust, accompanied by a meltingly tender pile of curried cabbage and a lightly dressed salad of gorgeous greens and shaved carrots. As for my mother, she opted for the tofu burger, complete with vegan mayonnaise and coupled with a colorful sauté of mixed vegetables, as well as a salad similar to mine. While both my mother and I “mm”-ed with delight at the features of our plate (the tart and burger) as well as at the impeccably fresh salads, the vegetable side dishes left us unimpressed—though tasty, they struck us as dishes easily made by any home cook. This new restaurant has a great base (and space!) on which to build, but it definitely requires improvement.

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Le Fate

Borgo Allegri 9r, Florence, Italy 50122

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About seven minutes before my mother, Gabe, and I planned to leave to see Stomp, my mother decided to call the restaurant at which we wanted to have dinner, only to find that they had no open tables for the night. Scrambling to find another eatery for the evening, we soon recalled another newly opened vegetarian restaurant that we had passed by on one of our evening passeggiare (walks), called Le Fate (translated to “the fairies”). With moments to spare, we secured a reservation and ran out the door to the theater.

That scramble for another restaurant resulted in one of the best gastronomic decisions of my trip, as the meal that my family and I enjoyed at Le Fate will live on in the Seiter family memory for years to come. True to its name, Le Fate boasts a rather enchanting dining room and a mystical menu: the four appetizers find inspiration in the four elements (earth, water, wind, and fire), while each of the entrees corresponds to one of the twelve astrological signs. Upon noticing the struggles of our English-speaking family to decipher the Italian menu, our charismatic waiter called the chef out of the kitchen to explain in detail every dish—VIP treatment, eh?

As a pre-meal amuse bouche, we each received a small crostini of house-made whole-grain bread spread with what I took to be an artichoke pate, served upon a leaf of soft and lemony sorrel. For an appetizer, the table opted to share a platter of house-made vegan cheeses and fruit compotes. Though I couldn’t discern the exact flavors of each of the cheeses, I could tell by the textures that two of them certainly featured agar-agar seaweed as a binder, while the other two seemed to be aged nut spread-type cheeses. Unfortunately, the latter two lacked the creaminess integral to satisfying cheese, though their flavors proved intensely complex. I have absolutely no complaints about the sweet and expertly spiced compotes, however.

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While I found the vegan cheeses a tad lacking, there was absolutely nothing subpar about any of our entrees. Indeed, every bite (both of my own dish and stolen from the plates of others) offered a new flavor and mouthfeel, providing for a hugely interesting and astronomically delicious meal.

The only diner of our party to order the dish that corresponded to their actual astrological sign, I chose the Vergine (Virgo) plate as soon as I heard the chef say “dates,” “fennel,” and “homemade basil tofu.” The bowl of homemade noodles coated in a creamy, succulent sauce of dates and caramelized fennel that I enjoyed that night still enters my dreams. Providing textural contrast to the silky pasta were leaves of bitter radicchio spread with house-made basil tofu and topped with orange segments and toasted hazelnuts. An inspired dish.

My mother opted for the Gemelli (Gemini) plate, which featured a bowl of fluffy-on-the-inside-crusty-on-the-outside biscuits in three savory varieties, accompanied by a number of spread and toppings: a mild golden chutney of onions and apples, a rainbow-colored salad of minced peppers, a fluffy and cloud-white vegan mayonnaise, oil-marinated heirloom white beans, and quenelles of smooth hummus. Um, wow.

Finally, both Gabe and my father chose the Capricorno (Capricorn) plate: creamy black lentil soup topped with a puree of white root vegetables, served alongside perfectly round balls of falafel with carrot-tamarind spread, and rounded out by a salad of mixed greens and ripe berries. Need I say more?

Though we all found ourselves too full to enjoy dessert, we did end the meal quite enjoyably by speaking with the bubbly owner of the restaurant—a longtime vegan and astronomer who gave us each our horoscopes before leaving. Le Fate’s inviting atmosphere, it’s enormously hospitable waitstaff, and its inspired and tantalizing culinary creations have earned a top spot on my list of most memorable travel restaurants, and I can hardly wait to return during my next trip to Italy (crossing my fingers that it’s soon!).

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Though I probably experienced one of the more perfect spring breaks of my entire life during the past two weeks, I’m happy to find myself back at school and among the community of my on-campus vegan living cooperative. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the spring on Farmers Market Vegan!

Until next time, Ali.

Vegan in Florence, Part 2

Welcome, dear readers, to round two of my special post series for the month of March: “Farmers Market Vegan Goes to Italy”! My last post, reaching you from the art-filled city of Florence, offered you a taste (pun very much intended) of the first of my vegan adventures during my two-week stay in Italy; check it out to fulfill your daily quota of quaint cafes, traditional Neapolitan pizzas, and dairy-free gelato.

In the days following my last post, I and my travel companion Gabe have continued our slow and steady touring of the city, journeying to Piazzale Michelangelo, an elevated square in Florence’s Oltrarno neighborhood that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city (and the trek up the steep winding roads to the Piazzale will also take your breath away).

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In addition to the sightseeing above and the restaurant exploration below, I also discovered a storefront of the vegan cosmetic company LUSH, which practices ethical product sourcing and actively combats animal testing. Further evidence of a growing consciousness of animal rights in Italy!

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Of course, Gabe and I have also continued our survey of Florence’s vegan scene. Our second round of culinary gems include:

Mercato Sant’Ambrogio

Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, Florence, Italy 50121

Touted as Florence’s second-best open-air market (close behind the Mercato Centrale), Mercato Sant’Ambrogio offers a colorful bounty of fresh produce alongside artisanal bread, marinated jarred veggies, and other goods. Open everyday except Sunday, the market is located just around the corner from my parents’ apartment, and my mother and I pay it a visit on most mornings (in much of Europe, grocery shopping happens on a daily rather than weekly basis like in the U.S.). Spring has arrived here earlier than in the States (not too excited about returning to a snowy New York in a couple of days), and the market accordingly boasts piles of green goodies like artichokes, fava beans, delicate greens, and Romanesco cauliflower alongside early fruits like strawberries and pears. Much of the produce has made appearances in the dinners that I and my mother have cooked at my parents’ apartment, including steamed artichokes served with vegan aioli; platters of roasted veggies; crisp and simple salads; and breakfast bowls of fresh fruit, granola, and hazelnut milk.

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From top right: globe artichokes, zucchini with blossoms, Romanesco cauliflower, enoki mushrooms, mixed lettuce, and fava beans.

La Raccolta

Via Giacomo Leopardi, 2r, Florence, Italy 50121

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The La Raccolta storefront.

The La Raccolta dining room.

The La Raccolta dining room.

A natural foods store complete with non-dairy milks of every ilk, ancient grain bread, dried seaweeds, and a well-stocked bulk section comprises the front of La Raccolta, while through a doorway in the back you’ll find a macrobiotic restaurant in an inviting dining room with walls lined with brightly colored art of various African animals. Along with the Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, the grocery section of La Raccolta has provided an almost-daily destination for me while in Florence, fulfilling all of my soy yogurt, non-dairy milk, granola, and apple cider vinegar needs. Due to the pretty steep prices of La Raccolta’s restaurant, however, I’ve only dined there once during this particular stay in Florence—but boy, do I always enjoy my meal there.

Vegan items make up the vast majority of La Raccolta’s impressive menu, complete with whole-grain pasta dishes, seitan scallopini, and macrobiotic-style vegetable dishes accompanied by lip-smacking sauces. Despite such an extensive menu, however, I’ve ordered the same dish on all three of my past visits to La Raccolta (I first ventured there three summers ago when I lived with my aunt for three months): the mixed platter. This substantial plate is composed of 7-10 separate preparations of roasted, steamed, and sautéed veggies embellished with creamy sauces, accompanied by fresh raw salads and more hearty grain and bean dishes. On the platter pictured below, I found (from the top of the plate and working clockwise) a gingery sauté of cabbage and carrots; herb-roasted potatoes; a crisp salad of lettuce and shaved carrots in olive oil and vinegar; a delicately flavored mash of fava beans; parsley-packed orechiette (ear-shaped pasta) with broccoli in a creamy sauce; herb-roasted kabocha squash; steamed purple cabbage in a bright yellow-orange sauce; and steamed broccoli and green cabbage in a tahini sauce. All so simple, yet so lovingly prepared and bursting with freshness.

After such a pleasant savory experience, I couldn’t help but sample one of La Raccolta’s many vegan dolci (desserts): a multi-layered pastry similar to phyllo dough stuffed with almond cream and topped with caramelized pears (known in Italy as mille foglie, or “cake of one thousand sheets”). A transcendental experience.

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Festival del Gelato

Via del Corso, 75r, Florence, Italy

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Gabe and I have made a point of enjoying una coppa of gelato once per day, for no afternoon ritual can beat reveling in creamy, artisanally prepared yumminess that tastes exactly of the real fruit, nut, or other edible that comprises its flavor. One of Florence’s most popular gelaterias, Festival del Gelato finds itself right next to the Duomo, one of Florence’s most popular tourist attractions. In addition to a number of fruit-based gelatos that contain no dairy (including mango, strawberry, and lemon), Festival boasts two rice milk-based gelatos (cappuccino and nocciolia, aka hazelnut), neither of which, as an added bonus, contain sugar! Surprisingly, Festival’s rice milk gelatos prove creamier than those based in soy milk that I’ve enjoyed at other gelaterias, though their fruit-based gelatos tend to harbor an ever-so-slightly more diluted fruit flavor than other gelatos I’ve sampled. I feel like the spectacle of their neon lights make up for this disappointment, though.

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That’s all for this round of vegan Florentine extravaganzas! Look out for my next post on eating vegan in Florence.

Until next time, Ali.

Vedge Cookbook Review + Spanish Roasted Brassicas Recipe

As I mentioned in my last blog post regarding development and consumerism, I find myself feeling quite uncomfortable during the holiday season—a time of family, love, generosity, and unity that our modern Western culture has overshadowed with greed, overconsumption, material accumulation, and Black Friday casualties. These disconcerting cultural tendencies, magnified during the holidays, bolster my urge to live simply, with minimal possessions and producing minimal waste. My view of living simply, though, does not necessarily mean living without gifts—indeed, they can provide a heartwarming medium through which to foster community and relationships—but rather prompts a rethinking of gifts and gift-giving.

My discomfort with our current mainstream notion of gifts stems from the attitude surrounding them. As a child, I judged the quality of my Christmas by the number of presents I received, even having the nerve to cheekily ask my mother, “That’s it?” if I felt dissatisfied. But would I ever feel satisfied if the importance of gift-giving lied in accumulating as much as possible? Could I ever escape the power that possessions wielded over me if the absence of the latest Apple product in my Christmas haul inspired in me resentment toward my mother?

Gifts with which I can feel comfortable stem not from the desire to own the latest technological gadgets, nor from a false need to surround oneself with “stuff,” but from a genuine feeling of love and gratitude between both of the gift-givers, and between them and the earth. In the dire state of our world, we must imbue all of our actions with a consciousness of alleviating our impact on the planet, and gift-giving proves no different. In my view, loving and earth-friendly gifts include those that the recipient can put to good use, and those that generate little to no waste. For example, the bulk of my Christmas list comprised of donations to various organizations such as Our Hen House, and Kindle cookbooks, which require minimal resources to produce as opposed to print books, and which I use every day.

But literally…every day. Not an exaggeration in the least. Because I view the act of providing non-vegans with flavorful, hearty, and unique food as integral to animal activism, I constantly look to my collection of virtual cookbooks for inspiration in such endeavors. I also view my cookbooks as helpful in honing the skills necessary for my ideal career path—one that creates a livelihood out of the aforementioned activism. Thanks to my dear mother, the latest additions to this Kindle cookbook collection include Vedge by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby; Vegan Secret Supper by Merida Anderson; Dirt Candy: A Cookbook by Amanda Cohen; Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry; Betty Goes Vegan by Annie and Dan Shannon; and The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook by Jere and Emilee Gettle.

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So that the section of my brain devoted to culinary creativity would not explode from all of the tantalizing recipes within the pages of these six cookbooks, I decided to limit my kitchen experimentation first to recipes from Vedge, since it comes from the masterminds behind my favorite restaurant. Featuring 100 recipes from the Vedge menu tweaked minimally to suit the home kitchen, Vedge perfectly reflects the sophistication, beauty, and locally sourced/seasonal philosophy of the highly acclaimed Philadelphia restaurant. Organized in a manner similar to that of the restaurant menu, Vedge starts off with “Small Bites and Small Plates” such as olives, salads, and light vegetable dishes; moves on to “Soups and Stews” that span from brothy pho to creamy parsnip-chestnut bisque; includes a “Dirt List” with preparations that maximally highlight seasonal and specialty varieties of vegetables; offers heartier “Plates” that hire beans, lentils, and grains as backup singers to the superstar veggies; appeals to the baker in all of us with creative fruit-based desserts (can you say Strawberry Sorrel Bread Pudding?) and unpretentious breads; and finishes with unique cocktails.

Spiced Little Carrots with Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree (photo from the Vedge website).

Spiced Little Carrots with Chickpea-Sauerkraut Puree (photo from the Vedge website).

Eggplant Braciole (photo from the Vedge website).

Eggplant Braciole (photo from the Vedge website).

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers, and Red Onion (photo from the Vedge website).

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers, and Red Onion (photo from the Vedge website).

Since Christmas, I’ve had the pleasure of making and eating four of the book’s recipes, two of which my mother and I first enjoyed at the Vedge restaurant itself. The Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce constituted the appetizer of my family’s two-course Christmas dinner, though I used a homemade silken tofu mayonnaise instead of the Vegenaise recommended for use in the recipe (many of the recipes in Vedge call for vegan mayo, and Rich and Kate recommend Vegenaise. However, I found that homemade mayo provides a quality substitute in the recipes for those of us who like to avoid prepackaged products). A dish just as tasty as that we remembered from our visit to the restaurant, the smoky, just-charred sprouts with the tangy mustard sauce created a winning combination. My mother also noted that the texture of the shaved sprouts harbored so much substance that she almost mistook them for pasta. I have a feeling that we will be making this dish often.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole-Grain Mustard Sauce

The night after Christmas, Vedge once again graced our plates with Celery Root Fritters and Remoulade (a pseudo-play on crab cakes and tartar sauce). Fostering an intense love of the knobbly, underused root, I found myself immediately taken by its double use in the recipe: once, roasted with onions, mashed, formed into patties, coated with chickpea flour and Old Bay seasoning, and pan-fried; twice, grated, blanched, and combined with vegan mayo, capers, dill, mustard, shallots and tarragon to create a tartar sauce-like spread, the taste of which you’ll never want to leave your tongue. I only wish that the recipe had specified to squeeze the excess moisture out of the grated celery root after blanching it, for the remoulade turned out a bit waterier than I would have preferred. All in all, though, a fabulous dish (the veggies you see in front of the fritters comprise a simple sauté of brussels sprouts and sunchokes, not featured in the cookbook).

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Celery Root Fritters & Remoulade; Brussels Sprout-Sunchoke Saute.

To please the ethnic food-loving palate of my best friend Maddie, whom I invited over for dinner one night, I played with Vedge’s Squash Empanadas with Green Romesco—homemade dough encasing a mash of squash roasted with coriander and cumin, accompanied by a bright yet deeply flavored sauce of roasted green peppers, garlic, cilantro, and toasted almonds. I substituted spelt flour and coconut oil for the all-purpose flour and vegan butter/shortening called for in the recipe, yielding flaky, toothsome results. However, the saltiness of the dough proved a bit much for my saltily sensitive palate, and I would probably omit the salt altogether as I usually do if I decide to recreate the dish. The other qualm I have with the recipe comes from the amount of roasting time specified. The recipe calls for roasting the squash at 400°F for 8-12 minutes and the peppers for 6-8 minutes, yet with small-diced veggies and an oven that errs on the side of too hot, the veggies required about double the time specified to adequately cook (I experienced the same problem with the celery root in the fritter recipe above). If you find yourself with the Vedge cookbook, I would recommend planning on roasting the veggies in any recipe for longer than specified, and to plan the cooking of your meals accordingly. Recipe technicalities aside, the dish proved crowd-pleasing and flavorfully stunning. I served it alongside a recipe of my own creation for Spanish Roasted Brassicas (recipe below).

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Finally, I tried my hand at another recipe with which my mother and I fell in love while dining at Vedge: Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade. Between bites of the soup, my mother and I could not help but exclaim, “This tastes exactly like bouillabaisse. But there can’t be fish in it…dear goodness, I hope there’s not fish in it…”. Rest assured, the folks at Vedge had not decided to renounce their morals in a single dish, but they sure created a memorable gastronomic experience for my mother and I. The soup features simmered cauliflower crushed to a rice-like consistency surrounded by a tomatoey broth spiked with white wine and Old Bay seasoning, complimented by a gremolata-like topping of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. My version of the recipe increased the amount of rice called for and added chickpeas for substance, substituted brown jasmine rice for white, and (sadly) omitted the veryveryveryveryvvery pricey saffron. While I quite enjoyed the texture of the soup, I found its flavor a bit lacking, and I doubt that this unfortunate occurrence owes itself completely to the omission of the saffron. Unfortunately, this particular dish might be best left in the hands of the Vedge team (or in the hands of someone with some damn saffron…).

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Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade

Tomorrow, I plan to experiment with Vedge’s Soba Bowl with Shiitake Dashi and Market Greens (a dish that authors Rich and Kate purport to enjoy every morning for breakfast with their son, Rio), adding a bit of pan-fried tempeh for some good old-fashioned protein. Beyond this surely warming and grounding soup, recipes I’d still like to try from the Vedge cookbook include a dish of peeled-open, marinated, and grilled portobello stems known as anticuchos; the Napa Cabbage Funky Kimchi Stew; the Warm Ramp Hummus; and the Whole Roasted Carrots with Black Lentils and Green Harissa.

If you enjoying playing around in the kitchen with involved recipes that feature the best produce the earth has to offer, then I would highly recommend picking up a (digital!) copy of the Vedge cookbook. With that, I shall leave you, dear readers, with the simple, Spanish-inspired dish I created to accompany the empanadas featured above. Enjoy.

Spanish Roasted Brassicas—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:

1 small/medium head cauliflower, chopped into smallish florets
2 small/1 medium head broccoli, chopped into smallish florets
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower and broccoli florets with the oil, paprika, and sherry vinegar to coat.

Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the brassicas are tender and golden-brown. Serve.

Until next time, Ali.

The Myth of Development & the Harms of Consumerism | Brussels Sprouts & Sunchokes in Green Curry Sauce

On this day—the fourth day after Christmas, the 30th day after Black Friday, the 106th day after my birthday, the whatever-th day after everyday on which we in our culture expect to spend money or receive gifts—I find myself once again pondering consumerism. As a Geography major, I often encounter the notion of “development-as-progress” in my studies at Vassar. By development, of course, I don’t mean the implementation of running water or basic social services—these sorts of developments almost certainly serve as markers of societal progress. No, the development that I’m talking about, the kind that keeps me up at night, regards economic growth as essential for prosperity, and thus encourages us to consume (natural resources, money, animal products, land) more than we ever have before. It subjugates the earth by regarding our life-sustaining planet at a commodity. It contributes to ever-intensifying class disparities between Western and non-Western cultures by deeming earth-friendly indigenous modes of production as “inefficient” and “unproductive,” insisting upon the necessity of technologically mediated modes of production for “progress.”

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But considering that this “development” has manifested in resource depletion, climate change, social division, mass extinction of species, factory farming, and more, do we really want to “progress” in this manner? Do we really want to invest ourselves in a lifestyle that, by valuing the pursuit of wealth and possessions as an end unto itself, “is associated with lower levels of well-being, lower life satisfaction and happiness, more symptoms of depression and anxiety, more physical problems such as headaches, and a variety of mental disorders”? (Macy & Johnstone 46). The time has come to realize that our consumptive habits enact profoundly negative consequences upon the earth and all of its inhabitants, rather than asserting it as an unquestioned “American way of life,” as did President Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer in May 2001 (Macy & Johnstone 13). In the words of feminist environmental activist Vandana Shiva, we must “redefine[e] [...] growth and productivity as categories linked to the production, not the destruction, of life [through an] ecological and a feminist project which legitimizes the way of knowing and being that create wealth by enhancing life and diversity, and which delegitimizes the knowledge and practice of a culture of death as the basis for capital accumulation” (12).

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By necessitating that I carefully choose the food I consume, veganism has familiarized me with the practice of analyzing my own consumption and that of our broader culture. This awakened consciousness about consumptive patterns has prompted me and others—such as my housemates in the vegan co-op in which I live at Vassar—to buy food in bulk so as to reduce packaging, to reuse plastic bags for vegetable storage, to drink only out of reusable water bottles, to purchase used items rather than buy new ones, to donate used items, to not flush after every trip to the bathroom, etc. These practices may seem like insignificant behaviors in the face of an enormously destructive Western system of consumption—and we also engage in harmful practices such as using computers, etc.—but they are indicative of the growing popularity of modes of intentional living that re-envision “development” and “progress” as symbiotic earth-human relationships similar to that described by Shiva above.

Of course, veganism does not automatically lead to a sense of urgency in combatting general capitalism and consumption. Indeed, innovative vegan companies have recently taken the market by storm—offering humane versions of meat, cheese, and eggs, yes, but also playing within our problematically capitalistic system. Towards these companies, I find myself in a state of ambivalence. On the one hand, I worry that they embolden our consumerist culture by adding new products to the market and encouraging customers to “buy into” veganism. On the other hand, I wonder if these companies provide a business model in harmony with the aforementioned modes of intentional living, in that they offer animal- and environmentally-friendly alternatives to astronomically destructive industries. Clearly, I’ve still got some thinkin’ to do, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, as well.

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A new endeavor that gives me hope in the face of all this mythological development, consumerism, and ambivalence comes in the form of a self-sustaining vegan eco-village based on a gift economy, named Eotopia. Conceptualized in large part by Raphael Fellmer and Nieves Palmer—a German couple who has thrived living completely without money for over a year now—Eotopia defines four main objectives of the project: creating a sustainable village through permaculture, reuse and recycling, self-sufficiency, and a vegan diet; forming a functional gift-economy; providing a system of free education; and cultivating a community of love, trust, and personal change. Eotopia currently lies in the beginning stages, seeking both community members and a viable piece of land on which to construct the community, but has laid out a timeline that expects to achieve 50-100% self-sufficiency by late 2015. Ideally, I would love to participate in such a community in my future life, but that will have to wait at least another two years until I wave goodbye to Vassar.

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To provide some levity on this weighty, thought-provoking topic, I give you, dear readers, a plate-lickingly scrumptious recipe that puts the “reuse” part of intentional living in action by employing the sweetened condensed coconut milk leftover from making my famous holiday “butter” pecan rum balls. Enjoy.

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Brussels Sprouts & Sunchokes in Green Curry Sauce—Soy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium.

Serves 2-3.

Ingredients:

3/4 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/2 lb sunchokes (aka jerusalem artichokes), scrubbed and cut into small chunks
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight (be careful not to shake during or after refrigeration)
5 tbsp green curry paste (about 3/4 of a jar of Thai Kitchen brand)
1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss the brussels sprouts and sunchokes with the melted coconut oil. Roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, open the can of refrigerated coconut milk, taking care not to shake it. Scoop only the top layer of coconut cream into a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, saving the coconut water at the bottom of the can for a later use (great for smoothies!). Add the curry paste and the maple syrup (if using) to the saucepan with the coconut cream, and gently stir the ingredients together as they melt. Allow the sauce to simmer while the veggies roast.

Once the veggies are tender and nicely browned, add them to the saucepan. Stir together and allow to simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Serve.

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Until next time, Ali.

Works Cited

Macy, Joanna and Chris Johnstone. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012. Print.

Shiva, Vandana. Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. London: Zed Books, 1989. Print.

Catering Adventures: An Autumnal Menu for Fifteen

As the fall semester nears its conclusion, I find myself in the midst of a catering quasi-business. My position as co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) has developed to include (and I’m thrilled that it has) the responsibility of event-catering alongside speaker-coordinating, meeting-facilitating, campaign-organizing, and conference-planning. Indeed, in the past three months, I’ve provided quality vegan grub for two campus lectures hosted by VARC: the first delivered by the ubiquitous Carol J. Adams (author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, don’t-cha know), the second by thought-provoker extraordinaire James McWilliams (can you say vegan pizza buffet?).

Most excitingly, my burgeoning catering skills have begun to elicit requests from other student organizations to provide fabulous animal-free goodies for their events. Doing so works to cultivate my ideal role as an animal activist of opening individuals’ hearts and minds to veganism through bountiful, flavorful, satisfying, and creative plant-based foods. Not to mention, it offers me a legitimate excuse to devote my time and energy to experimenting with new recipes and cooking techniques…for a profit, no less.

My first non-VARC catering request came from the Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC), who planned to host a spoken-word poetry night with the two queer activist poets (and gluten-free vegans) Alok and Janani who comprise Darkmatter, and wanted to host a small dinner for the artists after the event (funny how many individuals who fight for other forms of social justice also lead a vegan lifestyle…). Check out a couple of Darkmatter’s powerful performances here.

Stipulating only that I not use any walnuts and include a kale salad, QCVC bestowed upon me full reign over the dinner menu, with a budget of “not ridiculously expensive.” Turning to my infamous 49-page “Recipes to Try” Word document, I formulated an autumn-inspired catering menu to satisfy the vegans in the group and wow the non-vegans.

The meal began with a succulent, creamy Parsnip-Hazelnut Soup, inspired by the Parsnip-Chestnut Bisque in the newly released (and positively magical) Vedge cookbook. With only olive oil, onions, parsnips, hazelnuts, coconut milk, salt, and pepper as ingredients, the soup highlighted the sweet, earthy flavor of the parsnips, accentuated further by the toasty richness of the hazelnuts. Though I would have loved to create the original soup recipe with chestnuts, the natural foods store I visited for catering ingredients did not carry them. Thus, I turned to nuts of a similar sweetness as chestnuts, and ended up immensely pleased with the modified soup’s final flavor. Served in a slow-cooker, the soup remained steaming hot throughout the entire dinner.

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To provide textural contrast to the smooth soup, I roasted up two trays of chickpeas coated in maple syrup and cinnamon, inspired by My Whole Food Life. Proteinous croutons, no?

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Next to the soup sat a big ol’ bowl of kale salad. Though I didn’t follow an exact recipe for the salad, I did draw inspiration from this salad featured on Choosing Raw. My method of salad creation follows: cut three bunches of lacinato kale into chiffonade; massaged said kale with the flesh of two avocados, two tablespoons of olive oil, four tablespoons of maple syrup, and two lemon’s worth of juice; stirred into the massaged kale one kabocha squash’s worth of roasted squash cubes and 1 1/2 cups of toasted pumpkin seeds. The resulting salad featured an amalgamation of flavors and textures, with the melt-on-your-tongue, succulent squash; the crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds; the rich, creamy avocado; the complexly sweet maple syrup; and the tanginly acidic lemon. Honestly, though, how could a dish that incorporates kabocha squash, maple syrup, kale, and avocado not inspire gastronomic nirvana?

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As per the request of my VARC co-president Katie, the meal’s vegetable side dish comprised of meltingly tender roasted sweet potato fries, accompanied by the oh-so garlicky cashew aioli from Christy Morgan’s cookbook “Blissful Bites.” One spoonful of this aioli and it became all I wanted to put in my mouth for the rest of my life (well, until I remembered kale…and roasted brussels sprouts…and kombucha…okay, the sentiment didn’t last very long). I only wish that my blender could have pureed the aioli into a smoother consistency, though I suppose I’ll have to wait for perfectly silky cashew creams until I receive a Vitamix for my college graduation gift (some students ask for cars, Ali prefers blenders).

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Because I’m familiar with the sheer joy of encountering good-quality gluten-free bread, I wanted to bake up an artisan loaf for Alok and Janani. I had seen this recipe for Farmhouse Seed Bread circulating all over Pinterest and garnering rave reviews for months, and yearned to experiment with it myself. Since the natural food store I visited did not carry teff or sweet rice flour, I substituted equal amounts of buckwheat and tapioca flours, and experienced fabulous results. The boule featured a crackly crust and a moist, dense interior—ideal for soaking up the Parsnip-Hazelnut Soup.

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Finally, to round out the meal, I made the dessert that never fails to impress any eater, no matter how picky or averse to veganism: a raw cheesecake. With a silky smooth filling and a simultaneously crunchy, chewy, and caramely sweet crust, it’s no wonder that of all of the catered dishes, only the cheesecake did not produce at least a small amount of leftovers. I employed this basic raw cheesecake recipe, layering thin slices of crisp apples on top along with a scant drizzling of maple syrup.

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The dinner guests offered only positive feedback about all of the dishes. I can hardly wait until my next catering gig, and in the meantime, will plan to engage in some publicity measures in order to gain attention for my…business? Wish me luck!

Until next time, Ali.