Saturday, December 30, 2006


Snow. Cold. Gray Skies. Gray World. Any green? Yes. Hidden underneath the snow.

A bit poetic isn't it?

s soon as Christmas is over, I start poring through the Gardening Catalogs, looking at my garden plots to see if there's any dirt peeking out of the snow yet, and searching, oh so longingly, for any sign of the sun. I know, I know, Winter just officially started but I officially want it to be over. I went sledding the other day and it was absolutely exhilarating. I would like winter a lot more if I could play in the snow all day, everyday, but I think people might start asking around for me if I disappeared like that.

Yesterday I couldn't take it anymore. I went to my gard
en and kicked at the snow, thinking I might be lucky and find some tasty edibles left over from Summer's Bounty. I did find lots of inedibles: frozen squash, dried up tomato plants, and a couple of wilted and cracked hot peppers. I had given up when I remembered the arugula. My arugula stayed green for so long. It even survived the first frost and a couple of light snows. Could it still be green and edible? I walked to where I remembered planting it and started moving the snow away. I kicked and scraped and there it was! I pulled a leaf off and ate it. Mmm, frozen arugula. It was definitely still edible, but had grown very spicy and was a little icy. (Hey, more poetry). The fact that it was still green and edible (though not tasty) made me happy, but didn't quite satisfy my urge for summer. I went inside, drove to the grocery store and bought a package of arugula from the produce section, and today, while I looked out my window at the snow, I made a tomato, avocado, and arugula sandwich. I toasted the bread in olive oil, salt and peppered the veggies and dipped the finished sandwich in balsamic vinegar and more olive oil as I ate it. Not as fresh and tasty as a summer version, but I think it will tide me over for at least another twenty-four hours or so until I'll need to find some other relic of summer to remind me that it still exists.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I do some consulting for a local restaurant called Ginger's Garden Cafe. They specialize in vegetarian, vegan and raw vegan dishes and they're only open for lunch - but occasionally, they have large, private dinners. At their last dinner, they wanted to serve a sampling of raw vegan fare to help educate the attendees about the complex tastes and delicious flavors that can be present in raw gourmet food. The head chef, Sandy Thomas (a.k.a. "The Red Hot Chef") asked me if I could help her create a raw sushi dish for the event, so about five days before the dinner, we got together in the kitchen and started creating. For the sushi rice, we used jicama, a large root often used in Mexican Cuisine. It looks like a large squashed ball with brown elephant-looking skin and tastes like a radish with a bit of sweetness and none of the heat. Jicama is over fifty percent water, so we first peeled the thick skin off, cut the white inside into chunks, processed it in a food processor until it was thoroughly shredded, and then packed it in cheesecloth and pressed it in a hydrolic press to get the water out. When we were finished, we had two bowls: one full to the brim with jicama water and the other about half-full with the fibrous white pith. We seasoned the latter with traditional sushi rice seasonings and then spooned it onto nori sheets (dried seaweed pressed into a thin square). To this we added thin slices of cucumber and avocado (traditional japanese sushi fillings), marinated portabello mushrooms, red pepper strips, sunflower sprouts, and julienned carrots. Sandy made a traditional pickled ginger by julienning ginger and pickling it for several days in a mixture of beet juice (for color), agave, and apple cider vinegar. I created an almond and shoyu sauce I call Thai Nut Sauce, and we decided to plate up the sushi with a side of this sauce and regular Nama Shoyu (a living/raw version of soy sauce).

A couple days before the event. One of Sandy's chef's fell ill with a terrible flu, so she asked me if I could come in and help. I absolutely love the intensity of a commercial kitchen; food and people flying everywhere. So, 0f course I said yes. My work was much less challenging than creating a sushi dish, but still fun. Sandy and her team chose to serve a grilled polenta dish with a brazil nut hummus sauce to their vegan guests and I was set to the task of forming the polenta rounds and frying them for later reheating. Sandy also asked me to cut and assemble a fruit tray. There are two things that really get me excited about food: 1) the smells and 2) being an artist with the final product. I was so thrilled to do the fruit. It smelled glorious and designing it was like putting together a puzzle of a Hawaiian Sunset.

I thought I would be involved in just the preparation part of the event, but the day before the dinner, Ginger's manager asked me if I would be the host for the event. I gladly accepted and after preparing the last of the sushi, ran home, changed my clothes and went back to the restaurant. After everyone was seated and dinner started, I ended up spending most of my time in the kitchen helping with last minute preps before the plates went out. The energy was frenetic and exhilirating - focused expressions, furrowed brows, people (mostly Sandy) running back and forth shouting orders. I helped garnish plates (in my nice clothes) and took lots of pictures to prove to the staff, later, that they were amazing.

The event, thanks to good planning and a talented kitchen staff, turned out to be a great success. Sandy got several compliments (you know, "My compliments to the chef") and we got raving reviews on the sushi, most specifically on the Thai Nut Sauce. People were asking us if we'd bottle it and sell it at the restaurant. Well, I'm not planning on bottling it any time soon, but look for the recipe in my upcoming cookbook. I'll keep you posted (literally).

The best part of the night was at the end
when I got to steal some leftover sushi.
Shh! Don't tell Sandy.