Monthly Archives: July 2010

Summer Reading; in case you feel like an epic

I haven’t been cooking or eating out lately so there has been a dearth of posts of LS’sG2L. What can I say, I have just been too lazy. In fact, the sleepy days of summer have kind of made it impossible to do anything besides read so I thought I would post about some of my favorite books in case you are looking for something curl up with.

First, some of my favorites from

Epic Fiction

The Brother’s K by David James Duncan

In some ways this book does remind me of Russian Literature but it couldn’t be more of an American story with baseball, the 60s, and 7th day Adventists all featured quite prominently. I can’t think of anyone that I have given a copy to that didn’t love it, unless they didn’t read it because it is really long. It is just a beautiful book about a family in Washington that struggles through life. I even enjoyed the parts about baseball which I couldn’t possibly be less interested in which is a testament to the fabulous writing.

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

If you ever read the Mahabharata or are interested in ancient India or epics retold from the woman’s point of view than check out this novel, plus the cover is sparkley because that is what women really want. It is a story about a woman who ends up marrying five brothers that eventually are part of the most important war myth in ancient India.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A beautifully written account of the Biafran War for Independence told through the eyes of a family and multiple points of view. The characters are all substantive and how they relate to the whole political situation was enthralling.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

This is the first of the Mars Trilogy. The US and Russia decide that they should use all of their space technology for something and send a hundred scientists to live on Mars. Over the course of the book the planet is colonized and there is increasing trouble between Mars and Earth. Like the best sci-fi he takes all of our current problems like the destruction of the environment, unrestrained capitalism, and overpopulation and extrapolates. If you don’t like reading about science or politics skip this one for sure.


Breakfast Arepa

Latin American style brunch is probably my most favorite meal to eat. It all started, I think, with migas and then branched out to chilaquiles, polenta rancheros,  gallo pinto, and of course the breakfast taco. I wanted something really simple for brunch this week and I had some sausage on hand so I thought of making Sausages & Greens. This is a recipe that I first discovered in Vegan Brunch but has now entered my regular rotation to the point where I improvise regularly. I had sausages and Kale and I wanted to make it but I had already had the same meal with grits earlier in the week and I was really craving a breakfast sandwich. That is when I realized arepas were, again, the only possible choice. The meal is like the bastard lovechild or Vegan Brunch and Viva Vegan my two favorite cookbooks. Arepas make so much sense as a breakfast sandwich, they are about the same size as English muffins and even made in a simiar way. I wonder if people in Venezuela eat them in the am. I think I am going to have to go on a fact finding mission to get to the bottom of it. I could even make a movie about “The Quest for the Breakfast Arepa” Just imagine me, cruising around Caracas, asking lots of strange questions about animal products, getting arrested as a spy, and then hopefully being extradited back to the US. It would probably be worth it.

I came up with a new scheme for cooking arepas this time too. Before they took forever (aka 20 minutes) grilling in my cast iron skillet but it dawned on me that I could use the George Forman grill which does both sides at the same time so it takes half as much time. All you have to do to make the arepas is mix 2 cups of masarepa with 2 cups of hot water, add a little salt, mix together and then grill for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile in cast iron skillet sauté an onion and a few cloves of garlic. Add sausage pieces when softened. When the sausage is browned add the greens, folding them in slowly so you can fit them all in the skillet. When the greens have cooked down a little add a half a cup of broth, some red pepper flakes, a little soy sauce, and a teaspoon of liquid smoke. Cover and steam for about 10 minutes. The steaming makes the greens nice and plump. I love it!

Overall the meal was a little dry so next time I am thinking I will add a spread onto the arepas as well or vegan cream cheese which would make it a little more breakfasty. Or maybe the salsa golf from Viva Vegan. It was still super tasty and involved greens so it was healthy in my book as well.

I bet you this won’t be the last time I make breakfast arepas.

Austin Vegan Trailer Appreciation Weekend!

On Saturday Counter Culture (aka the best trailer in Austin) is having a huge celebration for their one year anniversary! Sue will be cookin up a bunch of vegan corndogs and sundaes along with the usual menu. This weeks special, by the way, is Philly Quesadillas, Chipotle Quinoa and Raw Cherry Chili Brownies! They are going to have bands playing from 4-8 AND Monkey Wrench books next door is going to have all their animal rights books and vegan cookbooks on sale, may I recommend Viva Vegan if you haven’t picked it up yet.

Vegan Trailers: Reading labels so you don’t have to.

Thai Fresh- Look Who’s In the Freezer

I think ice cream is one of my most favorite things about life. Certainly it makes the top 10. I am probably not alone in this. My mom loves ice cream too, one of her favorite things in the world is to ride around in a car on a hot day with the windows open and enjoying her favorite cone. She says ice cream is better when it is hot. I don’t know if that is true but I have certainly been craving ice cream since it started being >90 degrees. Sometimes I wish I still had access to a big walk in freezer to relax in, or maybe I would like to live inside the freezer at Thai Fresh. It would be really cold and I probably wouldn’t last long but I would eat so much ice cream that I would die happy and refreshed. Well,  if you can be dead and refreshed simultaneously.

Thai Fresh is an amalgam of restaurant, grocery store, Thai cooking school, ice cream parlor, and tea shop on Mary and South 5th in South Austin. They are set up like a deli and almost always have a vegan option ready and waiting. You can eat there or take whatever you like to go and you pay by the size rather than a set cost. It is a good idea to call ahead if you are in a hurry because in case they don’t have anything vegan they will make you something in the meantime. The available dishes are always changing but a list of everything can be found on their site. The menu is rounded out right now with freshly made Agua Fresca’s, the owner Jam has a recipe for a Thai Basil Lime one that looks AMAZING!

Besides the deli they also have a tea counter and groceries including my favorite soy sauce Healthy Boyand all sorts of noodles, sauces, specialty ingredients, and local produce. When I went on July 13 they even had Kaffir Lime tree starts which I highly recommend if you want to make Thai food, it makes all the difference and growing the plant is super easy. Just don’t leave it out in the freezing cold.

I think, for me, the Ice Cream is the most exciting part. Many, if not most, of the varieties are vegan and there are all sorts of original concocotions that they make in the shop like Thai Basil and Tamarind. Today I had to have the coconut peach because it is July and Texas peaches are where it’s at. The ice cream was so delicious. Sweet and creamy and just exactly what I wanted on this hot summer day.

How to French Fry a Potato or How Oil and Water are not friends

I think french fries were one of the very first things I learned how to make, somewhere between the olive sandwich and buttered noodles. My Baba would always cook them for my sister and I when we were staying with her and I have a distinct memory of trying to recreate her methods at my Dad’s apartment in Chicago while he was out. We poured all the oil into a pot but it didn’t look like enough so we filled the rest of the pot with water. I remember looking at the pot of water with the big circle of oil in the middle and trying to stir it up so that it would mix. We lit the gas stove and threw the potatoes in and for some reason we couldn’t get them to turn into french fries, I guess we never heard that saying about oil and water.

Somehow we didn’t burn the building down and my Baba told me how to make them. Although we were out of oil to try again that day I have made french fries a lot since then. There is something really fun about deep frying even though it makes a huge mess and is pretty bad for you. I do it just a couple times a year but it seems like I meet a lot of people who are terrified of deep frying things and that you need all sorts of extra gadgets or skills. You really don’t need anything besides a lot of oil and a pot. And something to fry. State Fairs have taught us that you can fry anything but french fries are probably the easiest. I thought I would give some tips for all the deep-fried vegans out there who eat out every meal because it is one of the easiest cheapest things you can do and a great way to celebrate Independence Day because there can be fire involved and what is more American than a pile of Freedom Fries?

First cut up your potatoes in whatever shape you want and toss them into a bowl filled with water. Next, set the scene. Although I can only remember one grease fire in my life it is a good idea to grab the baking soda and have it ready or a lid for the pot you are going to use just in case. You never want to throw water on a grease fire. That is the most important thing to remember because the fire will probably just go out on its own if you don’t put water on it. Water will will cause the oil to sputter all over the place and that is how you can lose the house.Also this is a good time to put a shirt on if you like to cook topless or an apron if you have nice clothes because some oil will probably splatter on you. If you are particularly paranoid you can also wear glasses to protect those seein’ eyes although it is unlikely the grease would take out both eyes. Probably you would just lose one and have to wear a patch. It would be really annoying to explain to people for the rest of your life how that happened though. Once when I was 12 I twisted my ankle playing ping pong and people still give me a hard time.

Next you want to fill a pot or skillet with some high temperature oil like peanut or sunflower. This is not the time for extra virgin unless you are Italian and cook everything that way.  This is the time to use really cheap oil, American oil. If you have a candy thermometer you can use it to see when the oil reaches about 375. If you don’t have one just wait a couple minutes and then throw in a test fry. If it bubbles immediately you are probably all right. If it sinks and you can count how many bubbles are on it you are not ready.

Here is another important tip: after you take the potatoes out of the water dry them off with a towel. It seems like an unnecessary step BUT  remember water is oil’s enemy and you don’t want to get caught in between.

Once the oil is ready gently drop in some a potion of the fries in using some sort of utensil like a fryer basket or tongs or even a fork. The key is to just place them in the oil rather than tossing them. Once they turn golden place them on some paper bags or paper towels on a baking sheet to get rid of the excess oil.Here you have a choice. You can be impatient and eat the fries or you can put the whole baking sheet in the fridge, let them cool for an hour or so and then give them a second frying in hotter oil. This is the step that separates the best restaurant fries from the worst. That and letting the fries sit out for awhile before serving. You have to eat those fries while they are still hot or no one is going to love you. And then you will be all alone with a bunch a mushy french fries wondering what the hell happened to your life. I take it back, the dog will still love you. Dogs are great that way. The best way to do it is do the first round of fries, beer batter something and fry it and then put it in the oven on warm, and then do the second french frying and serve everything together with malt vinegar.

To summarize this ridiculously verbose post:

1) Water Hates Oil

2) Deep frying is fast and easy but only if you do it right

3) soak your potatoes after chopping

4) mise en place! baking soda nearby, baking sheet with paper lining ready

5) dry the potatoes after soaking

6) fry the potatoes in batches

7) get rid of the excess oil before eating

8 ) cool for an hour

9) fry them again in hotter oil

10) Enjoy with malt vinegar and something else battered and deep fried because  you don’t want to waste all that oil

11) Dispose of the oil in the trash not in the sink

If you live in Austin and you don’t want to make your own fries there is a Belgian french fry trailer downtown called Frietkot they have tons of different sauces to try and many of them are vegan.