Saturday, July 30, 2016

Samurai Sandwich: Retro Veggie Recipe

Here’s another recipe inspired by Bloomingfoods Coop in Bloomington, Indiana, from god-knows-how-long-ago . . .

Okay, actually, I do know how long ago, because as an inveterate journaler, I took notes at the time. I know the exact day I ate the original sandwich that inspired this. I cribbed this recipe, sort of, from a visit to Bloomingfoods Coop (now Bloomingfoods Market and Deli) in June 1988, when I was taking a break from the National Women’s Music Festival, which was then held on the IU campus.

Like my beloved concoction called “Bric-a-Broc,” this is another stuffed-pita sandwich I had purchased from the deli case at Bloomingfoods. I devised my “recipe” from the ingredients listed on the label stuck to the sandwich wrapper. . . . I mean, ingredients list? I just figured it out. By now, it might be very far from the original; but hey, I like it.

Here are the ingredients, more or less, as I copied them: Pita bread, chickpeas, tahini, miso, sautéed onions, bell peppers, lemon, sea salt, garlic . . . and, of course, sprouts.

From this, my current recipe has evolved, basically a good ol’ fashioned veggie hippie hummus with Japanese influences. I’m enthusiastic about this blend, and I hope you’ll try it!

Samurai Sandwich
Based on a 1980s deli offering from Bloomingfoods Coop, Bloomington, Indiana

  • 1 15-oz. can garbanzos/chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • approx. 2 big T’s of tahini (it’s basically a ground sesame butter; get it at the health-food store)
  • approx. 2 big T’s of miso (another health-food-store item; I suggest light miso, in the summer, and darker in winter; trust me, it’s a macrobiotic thing) (also, get the kind in the refrigerator case, because you want the good stuff)
  • juice of one lemon
  • sea salt (to taste)—or soy sauce or tamari, I say, to go with the theme
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or pressed
  • 1 onion, chopped, sautéed until starting to brown/caramelize (add a little mirin or rice wine, if you have it, or a little splash of sherry or a pinch of sugar)
  • 2 T sesame seeds (optional)
  • half a large green bell pepper, chopped
  • pocket pitas, halved, bonus points for whole wheat, because this is a crunchy vegetarian recipe
  • crunchy greenery, such as alfalfa sprouts, or bean sprouts, or shredded raw cabbage, chopped lettuce, whatever

1. Put the garbanzos, tahini, miso, lemon juice, salt or soy sauce, garlic, and half the sautéed onion into a food processor and whirl it around until it’s super creamy. Add a tiny bit more water or more lemon juice, if necessary. Turn out into a mixing bowl.

2. Stir in the rest of the sautéed onion, the sesame seeds, and the bell pepper.

3. Pita pockets are more flexible and fillable if you nuke them or heat them in a skillet for a bit. (To honor our hippie heritage, microwaving or “nuking” them is not recommended; it’s just out of character.)

4. Spoon the mixture into pita pockets and add the crunchy greenery (sprouts, cabbage, whatever). (You could also use this as a stuffing in a wrap, made with a flour tortilla like a burrito.)

Truly, this is a recipe to mess around with to suit your own tastes. I like the sweetness of the caramelized onions and mirin. As with any hummus, you’ll need something to add crunch. Chopped cabbage or sprouts are a nice complements.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bub’s Sangria

When I lived in Montana back in the 1990s, one of my coworkers shared with me a homemade cookbook—a smallish, green-covered loose-leaf job full of hand-typed recipes and hilarious commentary. The author, whom my coworker declined to identify (perhaps it was he himself), had apparently made the book just for fun. My coworker said he had encouraged this fellow to seek publication, but that he had repeatedly declined. Too bad!

I photocopied a few of the recipes, but I wish I’d copied the whole book.

The writer of this cookbook had adopted an alter-ego with the pseudonym “Snodgrass,” who was part hillbilly buffoon, part everyday Joe, a guy-in-the-kitchen making tasty chow with whatever’s available. Except this common Joe had an extraordinary vocabulary and wit. There’s a deceptively well-educated writer behind the bumbling cook sharing his culinary discoveries, describing his cooking techniques in hilariously perfect descriptive terms.

Today, I imagine this writer has a blog somewhere and is entertaining the hell out of his readers. I hope so. (Trust me, I’ve looked.)

And I hope the writer finds my post, here, and contacts me, because I’d like to thank him (her?) for creating such a fun cookbook. And like my coworker, I’d like to encourage him to seek publication—even if just an Amazon publication. Even if just online. And I’d love to credit him by name.

Below is one of the recipes I copied from “Snodgrass’s” little masterpiece. I hope you hoot at it just like I did when I first read it. By the way, it loses something when converted to prettified computer-kerned type. Its writer took great care in typing out the whole work in glorious Courier and hand-drawing text boxes and arrows, and affixing color prints on the pages. Yes, there were staged photographs of rustic characters sprinkled throughout the book, too. Apparently it was the author and his friends, in disguise.

After reading this recipe, you’ll wish I would also share the other recipe I copied from this book, three entertaining pages of “Wilson’s Legendary Incandescent De-Escalated Thermonuclear Enchiladas” . . . just as I wish I could peruse the entire “Snodgrass” cookbook again.

Enjoy! And if you are the original anonymous Snodgrass, I hope you’ll contact me.

33. Snodgrass’s Brother Robert’s Salubrious Native Fruit Elixir
and All-Purpose Inebriant
more generally known as

Snodgrass discovered the formula for this important health-food beverage during one of his latter-day expeditions to New England. Bub wrote it down on a piece of old Kleenex box and gave it to Wifey who lost it for several weeks before rediscovering it under a stack of five-week-old mail and paraphernalia on the kitchen counter.

This is an excellent way to dispose of about a gallon of cheap rot-gut Burgundy. It requires no cooking and very little proficiency in any enterprise other than pouring, mixing, and drinking. It does need to age at least a day after you’ve assembled it. The end product is a nice sharp fruity punch with certain edifying inebrious properties.

Bub’s original formula was for half a gallon of wyne. But Snodgrass has made a few strategic volumetric modifications in order to enhance the more efficient exploitation of metric wyne bottles. This recipe makes enough Sangria for a whole Sunday School picnic.

  • a 3-liter jug of BURGUNDY or some other cheap RED WYNE
  • 1½ cups of BRANDY
  • ¾ cup of SUGAR
  • 3 LEMONS—squoze
  • 3 ORANGES—squoze
  • 3 APPLES—sliced thin (greenish apples, Bub says)

1. Go down to the store and see what kind of BURGUNDY is on sale. Buy a 3-liter jug. When you get it home, drink 2 or 3 big mugfuls. You need that much space in the jug.
2. Squeeze Yr LEMONS and ORANGES into a big pitcher. And fish out the seeds. Pour in the BRANDY and the SUGAR and mix it up. Dissolve as much of the sugar as you can. Then pour it into the wyne jug.
3. Finally, slice Yr APPLES and stuff them into the jug with everything else. Shake it all up until everything seems to be properly scrambled and the sugar is dissolved.
4. Let it sit at least 24 hours before you drink it.

. . . Isn’t that a hoot? Wouldn’t you like to read more of Snodgrass’s recipes and culinary commentary?

In all seriousness, sangria is not exactly quantum physics; adjust everything to your tastes. Most people mix it in a big pitcher instead of stuffing the fruits all down the neck of a wine jug (as funny as that idea is). Basically, you fortify and sweeten the red wine with sugar and brandy and flavor it with sliced fruits; let it sit overnight, and the result should be rather syrupy and thick. Adjust flavors to taste. Sometimes I add some lemonade or orange juice.

Then, what most people do (which Bub’s recipe doesn’t mention—perhaps he misplaced the bit of Kleenex box this part was written on) is, upon serving, to add club soda or seltzer, or possibly a lemon-lime soda such as Sprite, to thin it out a bit and make it bubbly. Serve it over ice and garnish with fruit slices. A perfect punch for a hot summer evening!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Formerly Household Hints, Now “Life Hacks”

Maybe the word “household” is something people want to get away from. Maybe it sounds too much like a 1950s housewife, and maybe some people think there’s something wrong with that.

So the term “life hack” has taken its place. It sounds like something from MacGyver (I guess—I’ve never seen the show)—or Mission: Impossible. (I remember the original!) In other words, I guess, the opposite of a 1950s housewife, in other words, cool. (Or maybe “geeky” is the objective. How should I know? You have to wonder about it, though.)

Whatever. Call it what you want, but here’s my recent submission: A better way to seal up the many plastic bags we keep food in. It’s cheap, efficient, compact, and airtight.

Compare my suggestion, below, to all those annoying plastic “potato chip clamps” that always slip off the bag and take up acres of space in your kitchen “junk drawer.”

So: You know those double-wire twist ties that come on every bag of coffee? —Save some of ’em!

When you straighten them out, they fit very neatly wherever you want to store them, and they never tangle up.

The basic idea is, “If it works for a bag of coffee, why won’t it work for a bag of chips, crackers, or cereal? Why not use those ties for any kind of plastic bag?”

First, gently press the air out of the bag and flatten the empty part at the top.

Then, fold over the edges until you get a point large enough to get the twist tie behind.

Then, roll it over a bit . . .

Fold over the ends of the twist tie . . .

And presto! Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! —A great idea, am I right?

Now you can toss those silly “potato chip clips” into the recycling bin—they never worked very well, anyway!