April 13, 2011

Odds and Ends

Hi guys! Sorry my posts have been so infrequent. My cold stuck around long after I'd given it an eviction notice, but it seems to finally be gone now. Tomorrow I am getting an upper endoscopy (where they stick a scope down your throat) to find out why I've had acid reflux for the past three months, so that oughta be totally rad. Sometimes I feel like an old lady! At least I will be sedated so I should be in a great mood for a few hours afterward. :-)

Anyhow, still haven't been doing much cooking, but I do have a few restaurants on which to report as well as some other miscellaneous items. So here we go with the most random blog post of all time!

Steel Cut Oats

Every vegan blog posts about them at least once and I am no exception. Have you guys tried them? I gotta say, I'm a big fan. Apparently the only real difference between these and regular "oats" is that they have not been pressed (or rolled) to be flat, therefore they take a bit longer to cook. This gives them a rounder, heartier texture and they pop a bit when you chew them. I like to make a big pot of them then store them in the fridge. I don't add mix-ins to the entire pot, because then you're stuck eating the same type of oatmeal everyday and no one wants that. Instead, I heat up my individual portion each day and add in whatever the heck I feel like! One day I used the same type of filling from my failed Farina Cake - I toasted walnuts in a dry pan, then added a bit of sugar, some orange blossom water, dried cherries, and a little water. I let it simmer until a syrup formed and then mixed it in to my oats - WOW! So, so good. I've also been known to add combinations of almond or soy milk, maple syrup, nuts, raisins, cinnamon, bananas, apples, nut butter, maple sugar, jam... you get the point. The possibilities are endless. And steel cut oats are a great source of fiber and protein, so it's much better than starting your day with tater tots (the cafeteria at work calls them "breakfast potatoes", but I realize this does not absolve me of my guilt). 

Moo Shu Vegetables at Wild Ginger. Isn't the lighting positively seductive?
Wild Ginger

A few weeks back Johnny and I went to an Asian vegan restaurant called Wild Ginger in NoLita. It is tucked away in quiet neighborhood on Broome Street. It's a tiny restaurant and they don't take reservations for small parties, but we went a bit early on a Saturday night and had no problem getting a table. Dim lighting, tropical decor, and a candle on every table make for a very romantic setting. We started with their version of a Scallion Pancake - one large, crispy pancake topped with a fresh mango salad. If it's any indication of it's tastiness, Johnny insisted on ordering a second one because he liked it so much! For our entrees, Johnny went with the Orange Seitan at the suggestion of our server. Yum! Thin slices of seitan, breaded and fried, dipped in orange sauce and served over broccoli. The seitan was really tasty, my only criticism was that the sauce was a bit too thick, but still yum. I ordered the Moo Shu Vegetables: a huge serving of stir-fried veggies with Moo Shu pancake wrappers and hoisin sauce. Loved it! It was fun to make little burritos and dip them in the sauce and all the flavors worked so well together. For dessert we "shared" a sundae of vanilla soy ice cream, mango puree, and fresh fruit on top. This was a piece of heaven to me -so creamy, just the right amount of sweetness, and the crispness of fresh pineapple... Johnny hated it! Don't know why, but I was happy to eat his share, too. An adorable family was celebrating their mom's birthday and at one point, the staff turned down all the lights and the whole restaurant sang her "Happy Birthday"! I love stuff like that. And did I mention how insanely cheap this place is? All the food mentioned, plus a small pot of tea for me and iced tea for Johnny for... $40? We thought we had the wrong check, but no, this place is just that awesome! I also love how close it is to Little Italy, we took a romantic stroll down Mulberry Street after dinner and Johnny got some cherry italian ice, much to his satisfaction. We will definitely be back to Wild Ginger!

Cherry Ices are the other woman in our relationship. Look at that face... so ADORABLE!

This past weekend, we tried a new place in our neighborhood called Teqa. They advertise it as a Taqueria/Tequileria, but it's much more. I had been intrigued by it because the restaurant itself is just gorgeous! It recently opened and I often walk by it on my way home, so it was fun to watch it transform from a hole in the wall to a beautiful space. We started with the All Greens salad: baby spinach, asparagus, roasted Poblanos, and avocado. I didn't even use dressing because the grilled asparagus and roasted poblano provided a perfect amount of flavor. This salad was HUGE and I was shoveled forkful after forkful into my mouth until it was all but gone. I'm pretty sure I made Johnny swoon a few times it was so attractive. I told my server I'm vegan and she told me they could make the veggie tacos for me and leave off the non-vegan elements. The finished product was three corn tortillas stuffed with mushrooms, peppers, caramelized onions, crispy potatoes and a romesco sauce. Amazeballs! That romesco sauce was SO good, I am definitely gonna be trying that at home.  All recipes I've found for it are 100% vegan! Johnny went for the shredded chicken quesadilla and was so enamored of it that he was ready to go back and get it again the next day! Unlike Wild Ginger, this place is pretty darn expensive, even by trendy Murray Hill standards ($14 for chips and guac? Ohhellno.) but if you order wisely you can escape with your limbs intact. And the quality of the food makes you forget how much you're paying anyway. Typical, New York. Typical.

Isn't it pretty? Just wish they'd get rid of the cowhide chairs.... ewww.
We went to the famed Apollo Theater for the first time that night, too, to see one of Johnny's favorite singers, Salif Keita. This man is amazing! To give you a little background: he's from Mali and is a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire. However, Salif was born with albinism and he was cast out by his family and ostracized by society because of it. His decision to pursue a career in music was also not considered suitable for a member of the royal family, but his passion for music was unstoppable. He is often called the "Golden Voice of Africa" and is one of the most successful African recording artists of all time. How's that for inspiration?

This show was so amazing! A group call the Pedrito Martinez Trio from Cuba opened the show and they totally blew me away - lots of percussion, male and female vocals, and piano made me wanna go to the nearest class and learn how to salsa dance! Then Salif took the stage with a group of about ten musicians and two gorgeous back-up singers. His voice is truly unmistakable and rich and the rest of the group was so talented, some playing instruments I have never even seen before. I was surprised when during his first song, a woman from the audience walked up on-stage, handed Salif some money, danced for a minute or two, then walked back offstage. I thought she was very brave for walking straight past security to do this as they were a bit aggressive that night. But into Salif's second song, another woman, then a group of men, even some children did the same thing! One after another, showering him with money, hugging and kissing him, dancing around the stage... woah! This continued on for the rest of the show and security was totally cool with it, even helping people come off the stage so they didn't fall. It was refreshing to see someone this famous be so accessible to his fans! Everyone seemed so joyful to be in his presence, it was really incredible to watch. He also started a charity called The Salif Keita Global Foundation to bring attention and support to those affected by albinism. In Africa, many babies who are born Albino are killed due to superstition and ignorance. The Foundation  educates about albinism and collects donations of sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats. Pretty amazing guy, huh?

Anyway, I've rambled long enough, hopefully I will be sharing a recipe or two with you very soon! xoxo

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