Monday, November 24, 2008

So, Back To Cooking . . .

I did some ambitious cooking over the weekend. Or at least I think bagels are ambitious. They're so easily bought and can be really good when bought, so what's the point, right, but the LA Times did a big spread last week on bagels that included a recipe and tips, and I wanted to give it a shot even though they take two days to make. Here's the hook for me though: The more things I make from scratch, which is really a lot as of late, the more hearth-like I feel; like gather 'round my loving and modest yet inventive kitchen where I'll make you a pot of perfection from two beans and a carrot. I feel pioneering, resourceful, like a magician of sorts; a master nurturer, a creator -- it always comes back to some sort of Goddess Theory for me. Every time I put a good meal on the table that I created from the ground up, I feel like I'm saving the world, kinda. How the entire world and her ailments are connected to a few quinoa dishes and pie, I'm not sure. I'm only going off of raw feeling, like I usually do.

So the bagels. . . they took finesse. But every time I cook or bake I say that. I mean, what skill shines without finesse really? The bagels were close to perfect, though I think I know how I can make them perfect truly; perfect enough for Husband to eat at least. His heart is pure Cali now, but his palette remains true to New York. He said the bagels were a bit doughy, but the taste was there. I took this as a compliment even though he only had a bite. The girls, however, gobbled them up in a day. I had a couple myself. Doughy schmoughy.

Sunday morning, I made a mushroom Tofu Scramble and baked blueberry muffins. Mina woke first and when she came out of her room she said, "It smells funny in here," which wasn't really what I had hoped to hear. I had just added nutritionals yeast to the pan and it did smell a little funky. She is an extremely picky eater though I have to say that lately every home cooked meal has been a hit with her. She has requested seconds and asked that leftovers go into her lunch. Maya and I have almost the same exact taste in food so it's a thrill to cook for such an eager recipient. But with Mina I just hope for the best. I love that she has liked most everything in the great From Scratch Experiment. But when she said, "It's smell funny," I thought, Feh I can't win them all. When breakfast was on the table, I gave her much less tofu than I did Maya. I said, "Mina, the tofu tastes a little like soy sauce." Mina has tried to drink soy sauce straight from the bottle she likes it so much. She said, "Are you just trying to get me to try the tofu?" I said, "Pretty much." After the first bite, she yelled out, "Why does Maya have so much more than me!?" I said, "I didn't know if you'd like it. You said it smelled funny." She said, "Just because it smells funny doesn't mean it doesn't taste good." She demanded more. However, she wouldn't touch the homemade blueberry muffins. "You know I don't like blueberries," she said. "Uh, since when?" And Maya said, "Shoot, good, more for me," as she practically shoved muffins in her PJ pockets.

Steaming plate of scrambled mushroom tofu and muffins. If I didn't like blueberries, I might've still eaten these. Did I tell you that I took a raw food day-long class back in August? Back when I was pumped on transitioning more to raw foods? The class was given by the owner of Leaf Cuisine, who was intriguingly aloof and sharp-witted. He seemed a bit over it all in a weathered way. It seemed, with no obvious indication, that he internally struggled with the compassion and patience he projected and the fire of whirling insults and eye-rolling that possibly came instictually yet he suppressed. I loved this. He was handsome with greying blond surfer hair that was cut and swept back in a mature way. In between processing dates and chopping lemons and half-heartedly walking us through the menu hand outs, he'd casually drop snippets of his life in relation to the food. "Did you know that falafels were originally a raw dehydrated food, centuries ago? I learned this from the nomads of Egypt when I had that scuba diving business on the Red Sea." Huh? Later, I looked up his story and it was a doozy. He was basically run out of the town he lived in on the Red Sea with the end of a broken bottle by unsympathetic business partners who took over his business and any possessions with what he couldn't flee. He tried to fight these partners in the Egyptian courts, defending himself in Arabic.

So we learned how to make his kale salad. And raw mushroom soup. Oh and he lived in Paris in his early 20's, studying fine cuisine, then lived with a grandmother in Rome.

I signed up for the more advanced class that would be given in October. I was jazzed about learning more complicated stuff. As the weeks rolled on between courses, my raw food interest waned though I tried quite a few things. I found the amount of nuts in recipes upset my stomach a bit. Fruits and vegetables are obviously still by best friends, but I faltered with consistently experimenting with raw recipes. I gave in to the comfort of vegan cooking and baking, though I don't bake any where near as much as I used to. But when the second class came around, I was still intrigued to get more advanced raw instruction. When I showed up on the last Saturday of October for class, the kitchen of the rented synagogue was closed. No one else was there. I waited, and felt foolish after ten minutes. I called the restaurant and they said, "Oh yea, that was cancelled because only two people registered." Sigh. Thanks for telling me. I guess I won't be hearing any more swashbuckling raw chef stories.

Alright, I'm out. The dill rice is almost done.


Jonathan K. Cohen said...

Technically correct bagels are a miracle. Every bagel that I have had out here on the West Coast has been in some way deficient, and many have been out-and-out impostures. If you have created a bagel with any degree of verisimilitude, my hat is off to you. I will say that the bagels in the photo look a little underdone. I'm trying to recall from my childhood what kind of oven the bagel bakeries used -- my guess is wood-fired, but not with fancy-shmancy wood. The bagels had a wonderful golden-brown color on top, and had a slightly burnt bottom. The onions on the onion bagels were darkly caramelized, often burnt. Man, what memories! If you can get any of this back, you'll have to forget about the cupcakeria and start a bagel bakery instead. The whole West Side will thank you.

Lynda Lippin said...

I live on a tiny island in Turks and Caicos far away from any bagel that resembles a good chewy NY one, so I too had to learn to bake them or be without. Kneading, boiling, baking--it's a job but so worth it. Yours look incredible!

Tales From A Chef

Melinda said...

Those certainly are gorgeous bagels.

And: "Just because it smells funny doesn't mean it doesn't taste good." Wise words!

Marigoldie said...

Everything pictured here is ridiculous. I can't even get over those blueberry muffins, how huge & delicious the berries look.

Also, here's to Goddess Theory. No doubt in my mind that home cooking saves the world.

Laume said...

I've made bagels from scratch and yes, they are a lot of work. Mine came out "okay", not enough loft in them if I recall. Yours look utterly delectable.
Your whole first bit about "goddessy cooking" - I feel the same way. I had bits and pieces in my head - my grandmother's recipes, watching other relatives bake, a boyfriend's mother teaching me to make tortillas from scratch and my MIL's Italian food love - but there's also a bit in there that I read in the first chapter or two of Laurel's Kitchen that has stuck in my head ever since. I think she was one of the first proponents of what later became the Slow Food Movement. It's not a vegan cookbook (although it is a lovely vegetarian one) but even if you just find it in the bookstore and stand there reading it in the cookbook aisle, give it a perusal.

Betsy Kimmel said...

damn girl, those bagels look perfect to me! so, enough about cooking, how's Loops? we've been mountain biking locally lately. jim took a nasty spill on his roadbike and has juicy roadrash all over his left side (damp, windy road-tires just slipped right out). no broken bones, thank science!
go see "Religulous"-classic.
Hey, and don't get all robot-like with work, dammit! i need you fresh and spunky!
happy t-day!

Mandi said...

Mmmm, bagels. Those look gorgeous. You're so much better than me, sitting around and whining about how bagels don't exist here -- total props to you for making them!

Radish King said...

I wish you would post your recipe for bagels. I've made them several times (and they were easy peasy) with children who found it great fun to twirl the dough on their fingers until the hole appeared. My recipe only takes one day, boiling then baking. I'm curious about yours.
Rebecca Loudon

julie hasson said...

What gorgeous bagels! I love cooking and baking food from scratch too. It's so soul satisfying!

I hear you with fickle eaters. My son is that way, so mealtime can be challenging at times.

j-boo said...

Oh my gosh, everything looks SO INCREDIBLY delicious!!
Yum, yum, yum!!!

I can't believe you made bagels! Wowza... how rad is THAT!!?

You rule!!!

xoxoxo, Jinxi

**PS - I hope my little gift-a-roo arrived in the mail for you last week... and I hope you liked them (winx) =)

madness rivera said...

Thanks all my friends for the great comments. Lynda, your story sounds awesome!

Hi Laume! My next door neighbor is sort of involved in the SFM; she knows the secret handshake. I'll check that book out. Thanks.

Hi Rebecca, here's the link to the LA Times article with recipe and all:,0,4097819.story

Anonymous said...

What Beautiful Bagels! That should be a band name. The poppy seed one was stunning. Oh, and I hadn't told you that Ma Cee commented to me on Thanksgiving that the scones were the best she had ever had. And I heard Malcolm say that before he even tried your food, he knew it would be fantastic. Go get em girl.

Radish King said...

Thank you!!!!