Mikey likes it!

Pad ThaiThrough the tickling grapevines and the smell of oncoming winter, a blonde rushes through the door. Her coconut milk cheeks flush hibiscus as the warmth envelops her. She embraces Taw Vigsittaboot and kisses his handsome, creased cheek. This one, he knows, likes her orders spicy.

Thus begins an essay I wrote for my Johns Hopkins nonfiction class. And my prof actually liked it! Much like a cook who serves with trepidation, unsure how the food will taste on her guests’ palates, I never know how my writing will reflect in others’ eyes. By the time a piece is done, I’ve stirred and tasted and added a pinch of this or that so many times that objectivity is impossible. I may decide it’s flavorless or the most delicious creation in the history of the world, but know full well that anyone outside my brain (or my kitchen) can have a completely different take.

Now at least one critic has had a say in this one. I’m not sure if it was the merry Thanksgiving feelings talking or it really is good for a first draft, but he had good things to say about it. And that gave me the confidence to share the draft with you.

The piece is also a perfect choice for you, dear reader, because it has to do with food and a delightful D.C. culinary find–Thai X-ing.

Give Flare to Gold a read.

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Stuff it

You have cute, serving-sized winter squash. What do you do? Stuff it.

You want to turn a mound of mashed tofu into something Thanksgiving-esque. What do you do? Stuff it.

A table full of baked squash, tofu un-turkey, mashed red skin potatoes, green beans with garlic butter and toasted walnuts, cranberry sauce, and homemade blueberry crepes sits in front of your face. What do you do?

Stuff it!

Between the spicy polenta-stuffed squash, the stuffing-stuffed tofu, and the stuffed bellies around the table, that was certainly the theme of my Thanksgiving.

It seemed only fitting to create a post stuffed full of photos. Here goes.

THE STUFFED TOFU

THE THANKSGIVING TABLE

The mashed potatoes, stuffing, mushroom gravy, and string beans seem to be stuffed into the back corner, but you get a good view of the polenta-stuffed squashies.

The squashies baring their tangy inner souls

You’ve probably had your fill of photos now.

Ready for a new recipe? How about this:

Picante polenta-stuffed squash
Makes 6-12 servings

Ingredients

3 medium to large winter squash (like butternut) or 6 small ones (like sweet dumpling or acorn)
1 cup cornmeal
4 cups water
Dash of salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeños (or hotter pepper like serranos, for more bite), finely diced
About 1 cup cheddar and jack cheese, shredded (optional)

What to do

Preheat oven to 375 F. Pierce the whole squashes with a fork several times. If you have a cleaver or you’re feeling macho, hack open each squash (preferably cutting it right down the middle into 2 identical pieces) and remove the seeds. Place whole squash right side up or squash halves cut side down on an oiled baking tray. Bake for 30-60 minutes or until a fork goes in with a little resistance.

While the squash is cooking, you can prepare the polenta. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onion for a few minutes, then add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté a few minutes more. Set the veggie aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the 4 cups water to a simmer and slowly add the cornmeal, stirring constantly. Add a dash of salt. Lower heat and continue at a leisurely simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the polenta is thick and smooth, remove from heat and stir in the veggies. Taste and add salt to taste.

Now go back to the squash. If you’re using acorn squash or another smallish, round squash and you’ve baked them whole, at this point you can cut off the tops. They will look like they’re about to become mini jack-o-lanterns. Set the tops aside and do not re-bake them. They’re just for show. If you’re using larger squash, cut them in half.

With whatever kind of squash you’re using, at this point you’ll need to remove the seeds. Also scoop out some of the insides until you have a generous amount of stuffing space.

Stuff each squash up to the top or a little more. Return to the oven to bake at 375 for another 30 minutes or until the squash is good and soft. If using cheese, sprinkle it on top of the squash at this point and bake or broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with the tops on or near the squashies, or cut squash into wedges. Try it with salsa!

Down to the wire

Did you do it? Did you already figure out your Thanksgiving menu? Meal details were the first thing I thought of, but I realize not everyone is as food-focused as I.

 If you still need good vegetarian dish ideas, check it out:

Un-Turkey and Stuffing – My own adaptation of a recipe I found years ago and have been making ever since. Far better than that Tofurky crap.

Pumpkin Cookies – Cookies that I started making this year that have been a hit (try replacing some or all of the raisins with currents or dried cranberries.  You can also substitute butternut or acorn squash for the pumpkin).

More recipes – From another blogger who has collected all the great vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes I was too lazy to search for.

Gobble gobble!

Nice stats!

Another lovely result of the photo contest: more hits!

I believe it was thanks to your reading and voting that led to 4,760 hits from 263 unique visitors in a little over two weeks. The two-week average recently has been 2,800-4,000 hits from around 165 people.

Yes, it’s modest compared to some sites, but I’m quite pleased. Thanks for reading and keep the comments coming!

Mr. Olive goes to Falls Village

It looks like Olives gets to go to Falls Village, CT, but I won’t send it alone. Three others will keep it company.

The olives got the most votes, with the onion coming in second. Unfortunately, the way the onion’s cropped, it’s not the right dimensions for the photo exhibit. After some discussion, the onion refused to be recropped, citing some noble reason like adherence to artistic vision.

The rest I chose based on favorites according to readers and artistic merit according to moi. (Hey – I never claimed it would be a democratic process).

Thanks for your votes in my little photo contest and for supporting this acolyte photographer. Thanks especially to those who waded through the Feast Your Eyes posts to view the pictures!

The photos getting an all-expenses-paid electronic trip to the food conference are:

Olives

An Avocado in Hand…

Shallots in a Hurry

Collards

Thanks again!

Get out the vote!

avocadoWill the avocado prevail? Or the suggestive bite of an apple? Or perhaps the red onion that sees all and though it bares its every crimson layer remains a mystery? 

If you haven’t guessed, this is an update to the vote for the food photo for me to send in to this: You can now either check out the “Feast your eyes” posts OR some contenders on Flickr.

Post your vote as a comment to this post. Thanks!

Chocolaty treat

Here’s a recipe from Aiko, who mentioned this simple vegan delight when we had a little reunion in the New Paltz area. We really must have weddings back home more often!

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or a bar of dark chocolate

-1 package soft tofu

-Maple syrup or whatever kind of sweetener you go for

(I don’t have exact measurements because I don’t think you really need them. It’s the perfect recipe)

Method

-Blend the tofu in a blender or food processor until creamy

-Melt the chocolate. This is usually done by placing a bowl over a pot of boiling water and keeping an eye on it so that the chocolate doesn’t scorch

-Mix the chocolate with the tofu in the blender

-Add sweetener until you’ve reached your desired sweetness level

Presentation

Like any pudding, it’s best to pour into individual serving dishes and then cool in the refrigerator.

Alternatively, you can freeze it. I did this in an ice cube tray where the ice cubes were shaped like a heart. Once frozen they were easy to remove only becuase the ice tray was rubber and I could pop them out. With plastic ice cube trays you may need to oil the surface so they pop out (I don’t know what that will do to the taste) or maybe lay some wax paper inside before pouring. Anyway, frozen they are no different from fudgesicles. Delicious!!

The Hazon Food Conference–where Jews and food meet

… including this here Jew. I’m going to it!

This should be quite interesting. A chance to see the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, be in the presence of a shechted goat, and see all sorts of creative foodie presenters.

Yet another great part of the Hazon Food Conference, I just learned, is a photo exhibit. I plan to submit some photos, and I thought it would be fun to have readers vote on which You are Delicious pix I should send. Please take a look at past entries or look at all the posts labeled “Feast your eyes” with photos taken by me. Then leave a comment and let me know which are worthy!

U Street Farmers Market

Yesterday I got it into my head to stop by the U Street Farmers’ Market early.

Just to put in a quick plug for farmers’ markets, they are a wise thing to frequent. They are green as can be because they bring the produce directly from the local farmer to you (fewer food miles and less carbon emissions!), and make that important connection between the eater and where/how the food is produced. Plus the food is always fresh and delicious!

Anyway, as I was about to take off at the outrageous hour of 8:30 on a Saturday morning, I suddenly was seized with doubt. Is this one of those markets that opens at 10? Is it still happening this far into the fall? I thought some research was in order before I headed out.

The first item in a Google search was a city development firm. Uh… no. There was a lovely review of the market here, but without specifics. DCist had the right dates but the wrong times. Logan Circle News had another listing for the hours (which turned out to be correct), but didn’t mention the date range. Even El WaPo seems to have overlooked it in 2006 and I didn’t see another listing for 2007.

I am here to tell you:

U Street Farmers’ Market

14th and U Street NW

9 a.m.-1 p.m on Saturdays*

For 2007, it runs June 2 until November 17

*I don’t recommend getting there early because the city keeps these wily farmers in line with a strict ordinance that says they can’t sell anything until the stroke of 9.

Pesticide-free produce, cider, homemade pasta and free-range meat, baked goods from the Bread Line, an opportunity to donate food you buy to Martha’s Table — it’s all there for another two weeks.

And do check out the WaPo’s list of farmers’ markets for more. Just plan your arrival wisely.