Sunday, July 4, 2010

vegan exodus (and international cooking)

Portland, Oregon.  It is the largest city between Seattle and San Francisco.  It is jokingly said (with a grain of truth) that there are two seasons: rain and summer.  It is home to Mt. Hood, a volcano that paints a beautiful backdrop to a progressive urban area.  It has a temperate climate, prone to rain rather than snow, about 70 miles from the Pacific coast.  It is well-known as a city friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

Portland is stealing our vegans. 

I think Jess of Get Sconed started it.  She was born in NYC and found her way out to Portland and is very involved in, well, it seems, everything food and vegan-oriented out there.  She has a particular affinity for soy latte reviews (helpful, since Portland is a big coffee town).  Isa, founder of the Post-Punk Kitchen and also a native New Yorker, moved out to Portland prior to writing Vegan Brunch.  I was hopping around to blogs I hadn't visited in a while earlier today and I found that one of the two Philadelphia vegans I am aware no longer in Philadelphia.  If you guessed, "she moved to Portland," you win a prize - would you like a cookie or a biscuit?

Compared to the outlying suburbs and their inhabitants, Center City Philadelphia is a virtual oasis for vegans and vegetarians.  There is a huge number of veg-friendly chinese places in Chinatown.  The area in which I live has a sizeable Jewish population and was once known as the Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia, so there are a lot of vegan places to stay within kosher guidelines.  There are also a ton of ethnic restaurants all over the city that make it very easy to find food when dining out.  Compared to Portland, Philadelphia leaves quite a bit to be desired.  There is a very serious commitment to vegan culture out there and I appreciate that - I understand why it is so attractive to vegans to move out there.  It tempts me to do the same, yet I love my city so much.  Don't panic, Parents - we're not moving.

Ironically, we had Israeli Couscous with Vegetables and Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette for dinner last night.  If you don't know why that is ironic, in the context of a vegan exodus from the East to West Coast, please see the entire Book of Exodus in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

I have never used Israeli couscous before and it was an interesting experience.  If possible, I would say this bigger size of couscous is actually lighter than the smaller grains.  The "lightness" lent the whole dish a creamy texture, despite that there was not a drop of anything creamy.  The vinaigrette was delightful and complex - although I thoroughly mixed the ingredients, there were some bites in which the vinegar was more pronounced and some bites that were very lemon-heavy (but not in a face puckering way).  I liked that the vegetables were roasted rather than sauteed, also.

The recipe itself could use a little work - for example, I'd rather have some idea of how long you have to boil couscous to make it al dente instead of trying not to scald my tongue attempting to figure out if it's ready yet.  There were a few times I wasn't clear on when to add something or how much, so it's an okay recipe for people who can improvise, but if I was at an earlier stage in my culinary 'education,' this would have been too much of a challenge, I think.

Today Mister and I had a Mediterranean mid-day snack: whole wheat pita with hummus and black olives.  This is just mine - Mister had his own plate, piled a little higher in every regard:

Then, completely switching gears, we had a Japanese-influenced dinner: Yakisoba from The Accidental Vegan, accompanied by a bowl of pretty red cherries.

I made it with about half the ginger, since that was Mister's only complaint last time.  I used the cute little head of green cabbage I bought from the organic farmers at the FarMar on Tuesday instead of the recipe-prescribed napa cabbage, but I really don't think it made that big of a difference.

I also julienned the carrots instead of grating them for two reasons:
1. I love my julienne peeler.
2. I hate grating things.

Keeping with the Japanese theme, I served a bowl of cherries in place of salad or olives (our normal meal accompaniments).  Mister loves cherries so I was very happy when Whole Foods announced their Cherry Fest with great fanfare.  I was not so happy when I discovered that they think $7.99/lb is a reasonable sale price to introduce cherry season.

Fortunately, when I was wandering along the Italian Market yesterday, a lovely young man was willing to part with his pretty red cherries for only $1.50/lb.

They taste just as good as they look - go get some!

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