Wednesday, February 3, 2016

There is no right or wrong decision...

I have decided to take up my blog, which has remained dormant for over 4 years. And while there are some layout changes I will make at some point, I'm currently traveling through South America and they're not my biggest concern. While there will be plenty of food writings, I expect there to be a lot of non-food ramblings, starting with this first post. I also don't live in Brooklyn anymore. Without further ado...

“There is no right or wrong decision…just a different set of opportunities depending upon the one you make!” – text from a friend.

Several months ago I was faced with making a decision between two distinct options. The details of one choice were laid out in front of me and I knew exactly how it would play out. Exactly. The other choice was much more nebulous, at best. In fact, I would be taking a leap of faith with no guaranteed results. As far as I can recall, this was the only time in my life that I’ve been faced with such a decision. It’s always been a choice between two (or more options) with no guarantees or with many moving parts: what city to move to after college, which job to choose, etc. Without being privy to the lives I may have led in the alternative dimensions in which I chose to live in San Francisco or Portland, instead of Seattle, I’ve never been able to weigh outcomes against each other.
            Making decisions over the course of my life has involved a mix of analyzing information, weighing past experiences (if applicable), listening to my gut, and usually a little bit of “fuck it” mentality for good measure. And let me be clear, I’m talking about larger decisions in life, not which shirt to wear or whether I should eat another slice of pizza. So, when faced with these two options, how would I decide? The guarantee was tempting, but I felt like a contestant on the Price is Right playing a game in which I had just uncovered a $10,000 prize. With one remaining pick, I could choose to hold or uncover the final cube, which might be $100,000 or $1, or anywhere in between. Take the guaranteed money or gamble it on coming out on top or losing it all?
            Life is much more exciting than money. In my world atleast. I don’t gamble often, relegated only to the occasional trips to Vegas in which I play craps with friends as an activity much like going to a concert or going bowling. Sure, it can cost a lot more than either of those two things, or it can pay for hours of entertainment and then some. But with gambling, there are really only two outcomes: you win or the house wins. With life, the opportunities that may arise from any one decision can multiply exponentially creating a world never imagined, taking you on a ride in which you think you are in control. And while you may be the conductor on the train of your life, you may not necessarily control the track switches. And that’s beautiful.
            I don’t think I’ve ever used an amusement park analogy because I don’t really like amusement rides. But if I did, I would liken my choices to the guarantee of riding the newest/tallest/fastest roller coaster and hopping in a single seat car, on tracks that lead outside the park, a ride with no name or description. A ride that noone can review because, if anyone has ever ridden it, it is so personalized that experiences would be irrelevant from one passenger to the other. This single car could drop off a flat earth, sprout wings and fly over erupting volcanoes. Or it could sputter for infinity on flat tracks of comic book black and white. If it were a dream, you might be able to choose your own adventure, but this is real life and expectations rarely pan out as planned. To choose the latter, one must try not to expect anything and improvise when necessary.
            I forgot to mention one other source of information that I take under consideration regarding weighty decisions…advice from a good friend. I love my friends and they never hesitate to offer up counsel, especially when I ask their opinions. Looking back, as much as I take their advice under consideration, I usually choose the opposite. It’s not that I don’t value their opinions - I value them greatly –it’s just in my nature to forge my own path. And it has generally worked out well for me. As the late great Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few/But then again, too few to mention.” But this choice is not about regret. On the contrary, it’s about listening to a good friend and reveling in the glory of the opportunities that arise from the choices we make. And whether we risk the bank or not, there is no right or wrong decision.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gluten Free Banana Bread

I'm a proponent of good food. That's where it begins and that's where it ends. What happens in between often times turns into a food fight in the arena of debate. I'm not going to bore you with some philosophical, medical, social or ecological reason for becoming gluten free. Hell, I'm not gluten free. But, I would like to challenge the naysayers out there, the traditionalists, to open your eyes to the possibilities of variety.

Once upon a time we were lucky enough to have hundreds, thousands of varieties of wheat, corn, potatoes and so many other fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. With the proliferation of small farms and farmer's markets, along with a growing interest in food, we've been granted access to many of these strains, atleast the ones that haven't been lost for good. And while artisanal multi-grain breads are sought after, and even held in as high regard as their white bread brethren, gluten free products are still looked down upon by many. I'm not arguing the idea that the traditional baguette, the one you find on any street in Paris, with it's crisp outer crust and aerated, chewy center, can be improved upon as a gluten free, or even a multi-grain bread. However, there is a place for less-than-traditional styles of baking.

Recently, while at work, I had some bananas that turned past their prime and decided to bake some banana bread for my client. In the cabinet with all the other baking ingredients, I stumbled upon a completely new ingredient, atleast new to me: Timothy grass flour. I have known Timothy grass as something you feed to rabbits and hamsters, but had never even considered it for human consumption. It turns out that Timothy grass, with its mellow nutty flavor,  is extremely high in protein and fiber (17% each) and is naturally gluten free. I decided to give it a try, mixed it with some other gluten free flours, and while not surprised by the result, I was overjoyed with the finished product...which turned out to be finished quite quickly by all who consumed it.

The Timothy grass flour I used came from Montana and you can find it here. When I think of Montana, cattle, wild game and perhaps anti-government militiamen come to mind. Add gluten free flour to that mix.

Here's the recipe:


1 teaspoon olive oil
10 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 large bananas)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup Timothy grass flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup chestnut flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease your loaf pan(s) or muffin cups with the olive oil*

Puree the bananas, sour cream, eggs and vanilla in a blender.

Sift the flours, sugar, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fixed with a whisk attachment. Turn the mixer on low to mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and mix on medium-low until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the banana mixture in 3 batches, mixing on medium and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Fold in the coconut.

Spoon into the loaf pan(s) or muffin cups and even out the mixture. Bake until lightly browned and bread bounces back. Depending on the size of the loaf pan(s) or muffin cups, baking time could vary between 15 minutes and 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

*I split my batter between a small loaf pan and mini muffin cups and the bake times were 45 and 15 minutes, respectively.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Menu Challenge

My good friend Brian, a chef in Vancouver, and I decided on a little exercise in creativity. We're putting together a 7 course menu, both of us alternating between courses. Each course focuses on a different vegetable. Brian chose cauliflower for his first course and really wowed me..., I felt the need to really up the ante with my own course. I decided on beets, in all their luscious glory, because they're one of my favorite vegetables, and also because they're very versatile. Using red, golden and chioggia beets, as well as young, tender beet greens, I created a dish that focused on the flavor of beets, but also sought to vary textures using raw beets and greens and a beet "soil." The resulting dish broke down as follows: roasted red beets; tarragon roasted golden beets; a raw cross-section of chioggia beet; raw beet greens; beet and almond "soil"; beet, apple and red wine reduction; tarragon golden beet oil; borage and pea flowers; micro arugala and amaranth.