Archive for October, 2011

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October 22, 2011: Shredded Daikon

October 22, 2011

My friend Pamela gave a slew of fresh veggies last week, from her CSA. All have been very delicious, but the most interesting was four daikon radish. Daikon is a larger (generally about 6″-1′ long by about 2-3″ circumference) white variety of the radish family, originally from Japan. It is not nearly as hot as the American red variety of radish, but is mild, juicy, and with just a tiny bit of hot and sweetness combined. Daikon is full of vitamin C, and is good for digestion. It is delicious as an accompaniment to just about any Japanese meal or as a healthy snack.

If daikon comes with leaves, cut them  off (you can blanch these and fry in a little sesame oil, for a great veggie side dish.) Skin daikon root and save skin for stock. Shred daikon and drain juices in colander, but don’t let daikon dry out. After sampling, I wanted a bit more heat, so I added 1Tblsp. of my pepper mixture from last week “October 20, 2011: Prepping Peppers” to about the 5C. of shredded daikon. Add a sprinkling of sal de mer, mix, put daikon in a jar and cover with rice vinegar.

The result is an interesting and delicious mix of hot, sweet, sour, and with a tiny bit of salt in a perfect balance. Tantalizing and complex to the tastebuds, healthy for the body.

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October 20, 2011: Prepping Peppers

October 20, 2011

As I am watching every penny these days I keep a close watch on the reduced rack of the produce department. My challenge/game is to find the best buy there and make a creative meal of whatever that is. With a little imagination it usually works out pretty well.

About twice a year, I find the produce department has put a lot of hot peppers on the reduced rack. They all have slight blemishes, but they are mostly fine. The other day I picked up about 1/2 pound of assorted hot peppers for only $0.60!

The most important thing about working with these peppers, is that you never know how hot they are going to be, so it’s best to protect yourself! Always wear disposable latex gloves and be careful not to touch any skin with the juice from the peppers. In fact, the best way to think of these hot capsicum beauties is to consider them closer to a pathogen than a foodstuff (they are in the nightshade family!) I once took a deep breath while cutting peppers and ended up choking from the capsicum fumes!

Wash peppers, and with your hands protected by the gloves, slice peppers in half, remove all bruised areas and the stem of the pepper, scrape out the seeds and discard them. Dice the peppers and mix with half olive oil and half white vinegar, so that peppers are covered. Refrigerate. The peppers will keep for a long time as microbes can’t live in such a hot and acidic mixture. I put a small spoonful of the chopped peppers in my morning omelette or in a stir-fry. I usually get through each batch of peppers, just in time for the next lot of peppers to appear on the reduced rack.

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October 19, 2011: Foodblogging with Escher

October 19, 2011

MC Escher "Bond of Union" 1956

Last week, I get a link from a fellow foodblogger who calls her blog “Feral Homemaking.” I am always honored when I receive these link requests. It means someone who does something very similar to me, has seen World of Okonomy and found it worthwhile. A very flattering gesture from a peer. As always, I look over the blog and as I am looking over “Feral Homemaker, I find myself really liking it, first, as it has a very unique voice. It’s foodblogging from the hip: straight opinions and smart writing on not only important things like economy for the home but also fun topics that might (or might not) be tangential to cooking. The blog has cool recipes and something I’ve haven’t yet seen: a foodblogger who’s brave enough to actually post what doesn’t work in their cooking! After all, cooking is always at least a partial experimentation the first time you make a recipe. Part of the process of cooking, is analysing what doesn’t work and fix if for the next time. I took a quick look at the “About” section to find out who this blogger is, but the information there was a bit skimpy, but I was hooked and I immediately added “Feral Homemaking” to my blogroll, I even posted a tweet on Twitter about how cool I think the blog is.

On Sunday, I got a very nice visit from my good friend, Pamela. Yet another good friend contributing to my skimpy larder, Pam brought a huge store of canned and dry good as well as a bushel of fresh veggies from her CSA: rainbow chard, kale, red cabbage, salads, spinach, daikon, fresh herbs, and squash. She also brought her own canned veggies. I had forgotten that Pam did canning, but her’s were wonderful: crispy dilly beans; pickled tomatoes (both green and red) and beets. After wolfing down the first jar, I had to move the rest of the jars out of my sight, as they were so delicious, I would’ve eaten the whole lot!

I took Pam through the Wayside Inn area near me. We followed the basic route that Lisa, little Harry, and I did in my “August 30, 2011: Speaking at Geese.” One variation is that when we ended up in the drygoods store that Harry found “BOR-ing!!!” I found that they had a whole other floor that I had never visited. Poor Harry! If only he could’ve held out a little bit more! This floor was full of the coolest toys from end to end! Harry would’ve loved it! As Pam and I are picking through toys that we remembered from our childhood, we are talking about blogging in general and that moves naturally to foodblogging and Pam casually mentions “Well, in my Feral Homemaking blog, I…” Suddenly, it’s like I stepped into and Escher drawing! “WHAT! WaitaminuteYOU’RE the Feral Homemaker!!!” Pam assumed that I had known all along when she sent me the link!

I hope that Pamela takes my appreciation of her blog, absent of my  knowledge that it was her writing, as the highest praise. It’s rare event to be able to offer a “no-strings attached” compliment to the people in our lives. I tell everyone that my friends and family keep me on my toes, as collectively they are the most talented, interesting, kind, and REAL people I have ever known, and by their example, make me want to be a better person!

…and now what a treasure to visit Pam’s blog: a rare chance to look anew upon an old and valued friend, this sparkling Mobius-strip of a personality who twists through my life!

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October 10, 2011: Yams in Maple Syrup

October 10, 2011

Baked Yams with Maple Syrup

I’m still trying to get used to the tide of generosity from my friends. For years the tide has gone out in the form of dinners for them, and now the tide has reversed to my favor. On their way out west to writing retreat, Teja and Barb stopped by on Friday night with large bags of groceries. I’m going to have to return most of the oatmeal that they gave me (I’m very appreciative guys, but the only way I can take oatmeal is if it is filtered through an apple crisp, first!) In addition to enough carbs to choke a horse, they also gave me some yams, which is coincidental, as I had promised my friend Lisa a recipe for them, just a few days ago.

Chris and Sara stopped by on Saturday and we had a great day with this perfect New England weather visiting Tower Hill, strolling through the gardens and taking a tour of their Heritage Apple Orchard and learning about the types, origins, and histories of some of America’s oldest apple strains. We learned that the perfect looking apples we find in the grocery store are not necessarily either the most healthy or tasty of what we can find in apples. We also learned that a few flyspecks on the skin of an apple doesn’t alter the taste at in the least. All three of us unanimously judged the best variety to be “Jonathan” and we all took some home. The “Jonathan” is medium-sized apple from 19C. New York , with a brilliant red color, sometimes shading to green and is a great eating apple.

We then had lunch in the “Secret Garden” with lively “chippies” darting in and out of the hedges, for entertainment. We ended lunch with the most perfect cider apple donut I’ve ever had in my life. Tower Hill had a craft fair and market that day and Chris bought me a jar of Grade “A” Amber Maple Syrup. That got me thinking how I could combine some of my friend’s gifts.

Yams in Maple Syrup:

Wash and peel the yams (save skin for soup stock) and immediately immerse in a pot of H2O to keep air from browning the yams. Add a little sal de mer to the H2O and boil the yams 1/2 hour, turning the yams so they cook uniformly. While yams are boiling, preheat oven to 350°F. Transfer yams to a buttered ovenproof pan, and spread more butter on top of yams. Sprinkle sal de mer and white pepper on yams. Bake for 15 minutes, top with maple syrup and sprinkle with lemon zest. Continue baking for 15 more minutes. Yams should be able to be pierced easily with a fork. Serve with a little more syrup.

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October 03, 2011: Japan’s “Schindler”

October 3, 2011

Photo: Courtesy of the Chiune Sugihara Museum; Kaunas, Lithuania

Last night, I once again pulled out one of the gems of my movie archives: “Schindler’s List” (1993). This is one of those films that I love, but I really have to be in the right mood for, as I spend most of it in tears. Part of the tears are from being so disappointed with the hate that humanity can have towards his fellow-man; part is from the bravery that individuals can have within the clutches of such hate; and part is for the admiration that one person (if they can find the strength to actually go against the “norm”) can have on the world. So, at the end of the film, Oskar Schindler has saved 1.100 Jews and is honored as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” in Israel. I think it is the power of the story and Mr. Spielberg’s film that after, I asked myself, “OK, so who else is honored?” Usually, questions like these lead to research, and this particular research lead to yet another one of history’s forgotten heroes of this period.

Kaunas, Lithuania, shortly before Chanukah 1939

Solly Ganor is an 11-year-old jewish boy living in Kaunas. His parents had emigrated from Russia years before, from the Russian revolution. His family is fairly well off from their business of textile import/export, but Solly, concerned about Jewish refugees streaming in from Poland, (which has been recently invaded by the Nazis) has given away all his allowance to the refugee boards to help. Solly goes to his aunt’s gourmet food shop to borrow some money for a film. In the shop, talking to his aunt, a stranger overhears his plight and kindly offers the money to Solly. The well-dressed gentleman has been in the shop to pick up a few items for dinner. Solly is struck by three things, the man’s generosity, his kind eyes, and that he is clearly from another place than Kaunas. The man is in fact, Japanese Vice-Counsel Chiune Sugihara. To return the favor, Solly invites the Vice-Counsel and his wife to celebrate Chanukah with his family. Years later, Chiune and his wife Yukiko remember the festival of lights spent with the Ganor family: the songs, the ceremony, the cakes, the stories, the fun. Far from home and their own family, the easy welcome of a sweet boy and the Jewish family makes an impact on the Japanese couple.

Later, after the Nazis invade Lithuania, the Ganor family was sent to Dachau, and sadly only Solly and his father survived. Ironically, it is the Japanese-Americans of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, men who have been interred by their own country who free the two Ganors from Dachau. To this day, Solly Ganor cannot look upon a Japanese man without experiencing feelings of affection, friendship, and gratitude.

The Dutch Connection:

A half year after the Chanukah with the Ganor family, on June 15, 1940, the Nazis invade Lithuania and now the combined Polish immigrants plus Lithuania’s own Jews are in danger. Russia orders all foreign ambassadors to leave Lithuania. Only Dutch counsel Jan Zwartendijk and Vice-Counsel Chiune stay as they hatch a plan together to try to save the Jews of both Poland and Lithuania: two Dutch colonies, Curacao and Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) do not need entrance visas. The only way out is to the east, through Russia, via the trans-Siberian railway. The Russians will allow the Jews through their country, but not to stay. The Jews need a destination before they can go to the Dutch islands. Japan is the answer.

An Outright Refusal Followed by an Outright Insubordination:

Vice-Counsel Sugihara asks for and is denied leniency for the Jews three times by his native Japan. Tokyo’s Foreign Ministry states in no uncertain terms that the visas to Japan must not be issued. Risking his career and his future and chancing imprisonment (or worse) for not only himself, his wife, and his family, Sugihara, for the next month, tirelessly issues thousands of visas for Europe’s Jews. Often, he works 18-20 hour days, rarely eating, pausing only to have his wife massage his aching fingers, tired from signing visas. He is even signing visas on the way to the rail station, as he is forced to leave, and passing them out the car window to people. At the end he has signed blank sheets of papers and gives these, with his seal of office, to an assistant. Before he leaves, he bows deeply to the crowd and apologizes for not having done more. In the end, Vice-Counsel Chiune Sugihara has saved in excess of 6000 Jews!

Obscurity and a Final Tribute:

As a valuable diplomat and translator, Japan used Sugihara’s services until the end of the war, but then, summarily dismissed him. Sugihara worked as a part-time translator and even struggled for a while selling light bulbs door-to-door. The final decades of his life he worked as a manager of an export company that had dealing with Moscow. He never mentioned his dealings in Lithuania and his friends and neighbors never knew of him as an extraordinary man. It was not until 1969 when a man that was saved by Sugihara, hunted him down to thank him, and together with hundreds of other Jews that were saved by him, persuaded Israel to give Sugihara (like Schindler)  the honor of “Righteous of the Nations” in 1985. Sugihara passed away the following year. It was only when a huge delegation of Jews, from around the world, showed up at Sugihara’s funeral that his friends and neighbors had any idea of his contribution to mankind.

Before his death, and forty-five years after his actions in Lithuania, he was asked the eternal question, “Why?” To this, he replied his simple devotion, “They were human beings and they needed help.”

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