World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: September, 2005

San Francisco Snow Skiing


Really this is in no way food related–though I am tempted to taste the snow that is going down a few blocks away from my apartment.  I’ve uploaded some photos taken at 8:00am this morning.  The ski jump event takes place at noon on Fillmore between Broadway (run) and Vallejo (jump).

Rumour is Johnny Mosely who is 30 today has backed out from jumping.  It’s all being filmed for an upcoming MTV event.   


IMBB #19 -Vegan Tom Yum


Sam of Becks & Posh is hosting IMBB #19 Vegan, a great event to launch World Vegetarian month (October) perfectly perfect but Sam is one smart vegan cookie.

Lately, I’ve become curious about Asia cuisine in particular Thai food.  Needless to say the intersection of this new study with that of having to cook a vegan dish presented a challenge.  Just about every dish has that essential ingredient fish sauce or nam pla.  Truly this is the single most important flavoring for authentic Thai. An adequate substitute can be found in soy sauce although not in equal parts due to its strength.

So although this soup recipe from Real Vegetarian Thai, by Nancie McDermott in her own words, veers “away from the framework of authenticity” she is a realist.  Thailand, McDermott writes, “lacks a strong indigenous vegetarian tradition.”  There are religious practices such as Terawada Buddhism and Sino-Thais (Thais of Chinese descent) that have long traditions of traditions of vegan fasts and cuisines. It’s interesting to note that the Thai concept of veganism is stricter than Western interpretations in that many stimulating spices, onions, garlic and alcohol are excluded from the vegan diet.  These items are said to inflame passions.

In Phuket there is a 9-day Vegetarian Festival in early autumn where the center of town becomes a showcase for Thai-style Chinese vegetarian cooking.

This version of a popular soup, Tom Yum is a spicy lemongrass soup with mushrooms and tofu.  More commonly found is tom yum goong, which contains shrimp. Nahm prik pao, roasted chili paste fortifies the broth. Lemongrass permeates the broth and offers a delicate and ethereal note to the taste.  A more rustic, northeastern Thai version of this soup uses pieces of fish such as catfish or salmon.  After making this soup and serving this soup and telling my dinner guests that it was vegan S and W replied with a well we thought it “rocked the house.”  So really this dish convinced me that good tasting food, regardless of a vegan classification is just that, food that rocks the house and comforts the soul.

Final Dinner Menu (Semi-Vegan

Tom Yum (V)

Organic Greens with Spicy Thai Citrus Dressing(V)

Chicken Satay (Not V)

Satay Peanut Sauce (V)

Tom Yum
Spicy Lemon Grass Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu


Serves 4 –6

4 Cups Vegetable Stock

3 large stalks fresh lemongrass

12 wild lime leaves (optional)

2 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

3 slender green onions, cut crosswise into 1" lengths

1 fresh green jalapeno chili

8 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1” cubes

1 cup well-drained, whole canned straw mushrooms

2 tablespoons roasted chili paste

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan bring the stock to a boil over medium heat.  Meanwhile, trim the lemongrass stalks.  Cut away and discard any hard, dried root portions, leaving a smooth, flat base just below the bulb.  Trim away the tops, including any dried brown leaf portions; you should have handsome stalks about 6” long, including the bulbous base.  Using the blunt edge of a clever blade or heavy knife or the side of an unopened can, bruise each stalk, whacking it firmly at 2” intervals and rolling it over to bruise on all sides.

When the stock is boiling, add the bruised lemongrass stalks and half of the lime leaves 9if using), and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.  Cook until the stock is fragrant and the lemongrass has faded from bright green to a dull khaki, about 5 minutes.

While the soup simmers, combine the lime juice, the remaining lime leaves (if using), and the green onions in a serving bowl large enough to accommodate the soup.  Remove the stem from the jalapeno and cut the chili crosswise into thick rounds; add 2 or more of the rounds to the serving bowl; the amount depends on you love of chili heat.  Reserve any leftover chili for another use and set aside.

Scoop out the lemongrass form the stock and discard it.

Raise the heat to high and add the tofu, mushrooms, chili paste, sugar, soy sauce, and salt and stir well.  When the soup boils again, remove it from the heat and quickly pour it into the serving bowl.  Stir to combine the lime juice and herbs with the soup and serve at once. 

Note:  Adjust taste with more lime juice, chili paste desired.  Serve at once.


Food for Thought – Crescent


It’s Sunday, Sirine’s day off.  They sleep late and make a breakfast from the fruit trees and garden in the building’s courtyard:  sweet oranges, tangerines, tomatoes, grapefruit, avocado.  They sit on a fold-out aluminum love seat on his balcony with plates and knives and a bowl of salt.  A trail of juice runs along her fingers and Han kisses her palms.   -excerpt from the novel, Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

23rd Post Meme


"Or possibly I could squeeze in a lesson at 

Cooking in Crete and conquer my fear of filo."

I was tagged by Barbara over at Winos & Foodies yesterday.  It’s a fun one as it takes you back in blog time to see what you were doing.  My 23rd post was part of a series exploring Greek cuisine during the 2004 Olympics. Deeper meaning? Well it does say I always like to learn something on vacation. It could also suggest that I try to do too much on vacation.

I’m tagging,  Life Begins at Thirty , Pocket Farm, Eggbeater, Traveler’s Lunchbox and Meathenge.

Meme Instructions

1. Delve into your blog archive.

2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas…

5. Tag five people to do the same.

Image: stock

SHF #12 – Nanaimo Bars – Canada


Happy Birthday! Sugar High Friday is a year old!  So in a small tribute to the event’s originator, Jennifer the Domestic Goddess I have selected a Canadian "custard" based recipe. Thanks to Elise of Simply Recipes for hosting this most indulgent event.

Funny how you eat something somewhere else and it’s a new taste sensation. This is exactly what happened last week when I had my first ever Nanaimo bar.  Or what I thought was my first. 

Growing up my mother made brownies often.  But on special occasions, dinner guests, a fundraiser or a special visitor she would embark on making a layered mint brownie.  Well, Marsha, Marsha, Marsha, let me tell you, those brownies we’re ‘outta sight’!

So there I am with my friend C, who grew up in Ottawa, at a local coffee shop in Banff, before starting off on the first leg of our road trip back to San Francisco.  You should try one of those, she suggests, points with eyes wide. It was two hours (and one black bear sighting) later before we could stop for tea to go with the bar.  Well, to cut the story short, WOW. 

Quick bit of background on the history of this bar.  It is strongly claimed by Nanaimo, Vancouver, B.C. and to have surfaced in the late 1950s.  Some say it’s a coal miner’s treat from 1930s brought over by settlers from Northern England.  Still other stories circulate that it’s from the Dutch settlers that came through in the early 1900s.  In 1986, a Nanaimo newspaper held a recipe contest to find the best of the best.

So it short there now appears to be many variations on the theme and as many thoughts on the origins of this recipe. My Boston-based mother’s recipe is simply a variation on this theme.  There are, to name a few, mint, espresso, cherry-almond and peanut butter. As it was too late to call the East Coast I just improvished as I didn’t have graham cracker crumbs.

While this is not a true baked or cooked custard as there’s no egg in the custard component of this recipe.  But there is a need for custard powder.  This appears to be some agreement out there that one should seek out the British brand Bird’s.  Being that Sam is enjoyng island life I decided that an equivalent American substitute was Jello pudding mix.  Thanks to the good graces of our host Elise at Simply Recipes for the wiggle room.

This coffee break sweet is not for the sugar intolerant–it’ll send you to the moon where you’ll float among the stars in the chocolate heavens. Oh but what a ride it is.

>>>>Continue to Nanaimo Bar Recipe>>>>>

Read the rest of this entry »

Recipe for Healing

"New Orleans has become one of the cities of the mind, and is therefore immortal." —Cleanth Brooks, author

It’s been a while since  I’ve written, mostly due to being overwhelmed by Katrina and a planned vacation to Banff (Canada). So today, in an effort to reconnect with myself, I went looking for hope.  I promise, the next post will be worth the wait–I’ve been working on it for months!

As mentioned many times before my interests in culture include food and also art.  And what I know from personal experience is that art heals as it reveals.  And given the number of creative souls that call this city home–the chefs, restaurateurs, musicians, vocalists, poets, writers, and painters–that have shaped New Orleans into a unique, distinct and as influential a city twice the size, reinvention is second nature. 

So after wading through a lot of articles that were disheartening I was encouraged by a Washington Post article saying that, "Folks are volunteering by the hundreds to conserve the city’s art and architecture, several organizations report, reminiscent of the outpouring of volunteerism that followed the disastrous 1966 flood in Florence." {Note: Those waters receded in one day.}

Another story of an artist in the New York Times, "surviving on water from a neighbor’s pool," as "he spent his days making art from junk he picked up in the street and taking photographs of the destruction so that someday, he said, people will be able to experience Katrina through the eyes of an artist." Or the one of a musician who started Radio Marigny from his balcony post-Katrina so that music could fill the streets once again.

There is spirit and hope. The arts community here is tight-knit.  Right now, most are scattered and are keeping in touch through email. However many artists, on the other hand, have passed over the buttoned-down state capital of Baton Rouge for the laid-back Lafayette.  Speculation is abuzz that this this city may be the "new" New Orleans, or at least temporarily. Many believe that out of this disaster a fusion of Cajun and Creole, New Orleans and Lafayette cultures, striking new combinations of art blends may arise.

A new organization has already formed this past weekend, Project HEAL, (Helping Employ Artists Locally), offering displaced artists employment opportunities in local communities. The organization is headed by Matthew Goldman, a music producer and press and advertising director for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. 

Goldman, interviewed in the Los Angeles Times states it best.  "I think people in New Orleans are going to pair up with people here and make music here that people have never made before."

So when the question arises in the media of "Should New Orleans be rebuilt?"  my response is how could we not?  It’s a jewel in our treasure chest, rich in American cultural heritage from it’s jazz to its cuisine.

Besides not having a place to live or clothes to wear most New Orleans artists have no supplies, instruments or tools to work and sell or to go out on a gig.  Buy their books and CDs.  Or better still make a tax-deductible donation to Project HEAL,

     Acadiana Arts Council
     P.O. Box 53762
     Lafayette, LA 70505
     (337) 233-7060, (337) 233-7062 fax
     A 501(c)3 Non-profit organization
     EIN: 51-0138288
     Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted

News Articles:

Cultural Survival (Baltimore Sun, September 12)

Sound and Spirit Endure ( Pittsburgh Post Gazette, September 11)

Planning for a New, Improved, New Orleans (Washington Post, September 8)

Local Food Challenge – Part II

Eat_local_huge_1 As the Eat Local Challenge drew to an official close yesterday it’s time to take a cold hard look at my findings.  Yesterday’s prelude post, helped to set the context of what my story is, overextended.  Most of you are aware of my philosophy on local, organic and artisan foods.  It’s good for the environment, the local economy, the producer and well, as CookieCrumb will tell you, "it tastes great."

First, the hard truth. I think I’m running 50-50.  I’ve had bright moments including, organic cornmeal muffins studded with Swanton strawberries, substituting Jamba Juice for homemade ones of Crane melon and Swanton strawberries with Strauss organic yogurt, an exceptional BLAT. But this month has been more of an awakening that this type of change can’t be done in isolation.  I’ve had dark moments, that I’ve enjoyed, one Jamba Juice, a dinner at Maverick’s that I excused myself from everything.

Without stating the obvious, often the reasons we eat the way we eat is dictated by our lifestyle, work style and more simply put, time.

Not only do you need time to shop but you need time to prepare meals.  I leave my house at 6:30am. I return typically around 7:30/8:00pm. Or later. Sure, some of you are saying, ‘well on the weekend plan your meals, shop, freeze, can and prepare your meals ahead of time.’ I did that two weekends.  One of them was because I worked at the farmers market!  So, I’m sorry I have  two days in which to do all those errands that don’t get done during the week, see friends, do laundry, and cultivate what energy I do have for a hike or to write or photograph.   I do send out my laundry, which I have to say is something I never thought I’d do.  This is not something in this New Englander’s actions.  But it saves me three very valuable hours on the weekend. See how much guilt I have?

So while yes the upside is that while I started up my CSA subscription it  certainly doesn’t help that I wasn’t home to prepare meals.  I’ve put that on vacation hold while I’m off retooling myself in Banff next week.  Which brings me to another revelation.

I eat out a lot more than I thought. This is entirely due to my work schedule. Some nights I just ate a piece or two of local cheese and fruit on principle. However, some dinners out were wonderful discoveries such as Small Shed in Mill Valley (rockin’ pizza ALL local goods). I know what your thinking now, I need a lifestyle change, starting with a new job. That’s being actively addressed.  So if you know of any senior-level marketing positions in San Francisco or within 25 miles of the city drop me a line. 

So, the positives to this month-long challenge has been that I have included more organic foods mixed with local goods.  I’m also more aware of how much day-to-day responsibilities influences who and what you are.  I also ask more questions–which I’m certain others will find trying! 

Thanks to Jen who pulled this effort together.  I proud to know her and to be a friend. It’s amazing what power the intersection of one woman, a blog and an idea can have on people around the world. Smart people are neat, eh? 

Oh yes, I’ve given up the microwave.  It’s now the largest bread box/digital timer you’ll ever come across! (So, how does one ethically dispose of these things?)