Vol. 1: I am Nik‘s 1st Blog. Allow me to introduce myself.
Hey there. Nik Tyler here… I’m an actor, mixed media artist, writer, filmmaker, animal rights activist, vegan & newly-proclaimed “alkalarian“ who lives in LA and loves chillin’ with his creative friends, spending time with happy canines, watching indie cinema in empty art house theaters, sauntering down the street to an electric iPod beat, dreaming at the ocean, grubbing alkaline food, cooking gourmet meals for vegan girls late at night… No, this isn’t my online dating profile, I promise.This is my first official blog… ever. I’m stoked and honored to be making my cyber-world blogging debut on the prestigious Discerning Brute. One of the things I value most about the internet is our ability to easily and openly exchange ideas, information and knowledge by the simple click of a mouse and the rhythmic percussion of our keyboards. The Discerning Brute symbolizes that place where ethical gents can go to get a daily dose of new, interesting, mind-expanding insight, advice and knowledge on how to improve their lives and become even more compassionate towards all living beings (including themselves). What could be better than that?
So, in the spirit & hopes of sharing cool, ethical experiences, new-findings, off-the-beaten path advice, gourmet vegan-alkaline recipes/meals, lip-smacking-drool-inducing culinary pictures, and some other random-but cool-related topics I haven’t yet conjured up, I’d like to offer you a free ticket that will never expire, on the ride of my life… There is no height requirement for this roller-coaster, all you need is a computer, open eyes, open mind and an open heart.
I’ve Been Shot!
My first bit of advice is an easy enough habit to start, and it packs an energy punch that kicks caffeine’s ass. I’m beginning everyday with a shot of Chlorophyll – you can’t OD on this awesome stuff – it’s derived from high quality alfalfa leaves and is imperative to the process of photosynthesis. The brand that I really dig is World Organic Chlorophyll. It tastes great and you feel the energy surging through your body immediately. You can pick up a bottle of this green goodness at any Whole Foods, neighborhood co op, healthfood store or at several online retailers.
Some things in life need to be torn down and rebuilt to truly reach their most revered state. Sometimes you have to break something into its most basic parts, examine those parts, and then throw everything you thought you knew before out the window, simplifying and revising the whole’s place in the world. Such is the case with the Minneapolis band, Now Now Every Children. The sounds they produce come from the most conventional of sources—guitar, keyboard, drums, voice—but it’s been stripped of its form and any gaudy pretense and built into something more raw, basic, and beautifully simple that does what music is supposed to do: Make a visceral connection with its listener and move them.
At its core, Now Now Every Children is the duo of singer/guitarist/keyboardist, Cacie Dalanger and drummer/multi-instrumentalist, Brad Hale—two now barely twenty-somethings who started writing songs together after marching band practice in high school. This is one of those handy facts that people writing an article on the band or interviewing absolutely love to bring up, so I won’t pretend to be an exception. That said, listening to their songs with that keen bit of knowledge, you can definitely hear a little bit of the marching band influence in the drumming—less in a beginning of Destiny’s Child’s Lose My Breath kind of way, more in that it seems to have fostered a less traditional way of playing. Indeed, Hale lets his drums take the spotlight that would usually be reserved for guitars or another tonal instrument rather than just providing a backbone for the band’s songs. His syncopation and diversion from the run-of-the-mill, 4/4, gotta-get-the-song-to-the-end rock drumming is a welcome change and gives NNEC’s songs a unique vibrancy and life.
The other facet of the duo’s music that gives it an irresistibly enjoyable quality is Dalanger’s voice. Husky, low, and brooding, it seems completely disconnected from her diminutive body and young age. On top of that, she sings with a slight but strange almost-accent that further separates the songs from the usual. The overall result, when built into structures dressed with some sparse, well-cultivated keyboards and guitars, is an interesting, wholly-enjoyable collection of songs that pull you towards them in an often melancholy manner.
Dalanger and Hale followed up the release of their first two EPs last December with their debut full-length, Cars, on local indie superstar label Afternoon Records (http://www.afternoonrecords.com/news.php). The title track is one of the more upbeat tracks and likely the one that will make you fall in love with the band. Sleep Through Summer keeps the beat up, steadily building on meandering keyboards and chunky, shoe-gazey guitars to a lovely wall of noise finale. Have You Tried roots itself in Dalanger’s voice and a gentle, slow organ line, showcasing the group’s ability to rely on simple, stripped-down sound. First two tracks, courtesy of Afternoon Records, third via Bradley’s Almanac, a great Boston-based music blog (http://www.bradleysalmanac.com/). .
To pair with NNEC and the theme of stripping things down to the most bare part to make something new, we have for you a Deconstructed Curry that’s based on the premise that, in between all these rainy, unseasonably cool days, when it actually does feel like summer outside for a split second and we get to grill out, sometimes we want a little more than your basic veggie burgers, tofu pups, and kabobs. So the idea is to create a dish that makes good use of the grill to keep the heat outdoors and away from the kitchen, bases itself in the taste of traditional Thai curries, but attempts to avoid being overly heavy so we can enjoy it without collapsing in a sweaty heap at the end of the meal. Sorry. You likely don’t want to read ‘sweaty heap’ when considering food and the like.
Most of the work for this will be done in prepping the curry paste, which is based on a Massaman curry, a curry that’s Muslim in origin and features warm, sweet spices and rich coconut milk. It’s actually easy enough to make, but it employs a bevy of somewhat obscure spices and ingredients. Most of them should be easy enough to find at your local Asian market. If you’re in New York, I highly recommend a trip to Kalustyan’s on Lex in Manhattan (http://www.kalustyans.com/). They specialize in Indian and South Asian spices and, really, even if you already have everything to make the curry, it’s worth a visit just to be blown away by the sheer number of spices they have there. That place is amazing. And yes, you could always do this on the quick with a can on vegetarian curry paste (watch out for shrimp paste in some brands).
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
For the curry.
• 1 tbsp fresh Coriander
• 1/2 tbsp fresh Black Cumin (not ground, regular fresh cumin will work too)
• 1 tbsp White Peppercorns
• 2 stalks Lemongrass with the rough outer layers removed, bottom 1/4 inch cut off, divided and thinly-sliced, employing only the tender, fragrant parts
• 6 cloves Garlic, peeled
• 2 large Vidalia Onions, peeled and sliced (can substitute any large sweet onion or an equal amount of shallots)
• 7 dried Red Chilies, sliced in half and soaked in warm water for at least 15 minutes (remove seeds for a less spicy curry, keep them in for a spicier one)
• 1 tbsp Kelp Granules (finely chopped nori sushi wrappers will work too)
• 1 tsp fresh Cardamom Seeds
• 1/2 tsp freshly-grated Nutmeg (already ground works, but fresh nutmeg, in general, is pretty great stuff, so it’s recommended)
• 1/2 tsp ground fresh Cinnamon (again, recommended but can be substituted with pre-ground)
• 1 Bay Leaf
• 5 Cloves
• 2 Kaffir Lime Leaves or (these can be hard to find, but some markets have them in the frozen section, if you can’t find them and see fresh Ngo Om leaves, these Vietnamese leaves can be substituted with the peel form 1/2 lime)
• possibly 2-4 tbsp Vegetable Broth or Water to help blending
• 1 can (14 oz) Coconut Milk
For the rest of the meal:
• 1 large Vidalia Onion, peeled and quartered
• 2-3 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, unpeeled and cut into chunks that will be small enough to eat but large enough that they don’t fall through your grill
• 3/4 lb Green Beans, trimmed
• 2 blocks of Tofu, cut into large triangles or squares
• 5 leaves Basil
• 1/2 package (8 oz) of linguine-size Rice Noodles (size M)
• 2 cups Vegetable Broth
First, the paste. Begin by soaking the chilies.
Next, take the coriander, cumin, and white peppercorns and toasting them in a heavy skillet for about 7 minutes, getting them fragrant and lightly browned, but not at all burnt.
While that’s going on, prep the rest of the ingredients as noted above.
Once that’s done, add everything to a blender or food processor and blend and mix until you have a smooth, uniform paste. I like to try to rely on as few appliances as possible in the kitchen, so I do this in a blender, which usually means adding all the ingredients except for the onion, which I only add a little bit of so that the whole thing doesn’t overflow. It also means using a little broth and a whole lot of mixing to get a good consistency.
Once that’s done, set the paste aside in the fridge to chill. Not that this is really going to make a lot of curry paste, so feel free to either plan other meals around it or halve the recipe.
Now use the basil leaves to rub down the pieces of tofu and then plate and cover them with the basil to get that herb’s essence.
Next, microwave or steam the potatoes for 4-7 minutes to the point that they’re less raw, a little tender. They’re the ones you’ll need to watch on the grill to make sure they’re completely done. Or you can just put them on the grill way, way earlier. I like to then use an oil pump mister to get a touch of olive oil on the onions, potatoes, green beans, and tofu and then salt them, but that’s totally optional.
Now get grilling! I usually start with the potatoes, keeping them over the high heat and turning them often. After about 5 minutes on the grill, the onion quarters should start to fall apart. When they do, gently roll the layers out onto the grill so more of the onion is making contact with it. The tofu can also go over high heat, just watching to make sure they don’t burn and turning the pieces once to crisp. The green beans need the least amount of heat and can go on last, when you’re about 5-10 minutes from plating. I keep them on a sheet of aluminum when I grill them so they don’t just fall into the flames.
The coconut milk can be put in a small to medium cast iron skillet and put right on the grill, not over too much heat, so that it begins to boil and condense. I like to keep mine on the warming rack of the grill the whole time, bringing it down to the main grill once I can watch it and want it to start thickening up.
While you’ve got everything grilling, you can add anywhere from 4-8 tablespoons of your curry paste to the skillet, depending on how you like your spice to milky ratio, stirring it in and letting it continue to thicken but not burn.
Back in the kitchen, while everything’s grilling, you can start to cook the noodles according to the package directions, keeping them just a bit al dente.
Drain them and add them to a lightly-oiled heavy skillet on medium heat. Stir the noodles to keep them from sticking and, after 2 minutes, add the 2 cups of broth and 1-2 tablespoons of the curry paste from the fridge, depending on how flavorful you want the noodles on their own. Cook for another minute, stirring constantly, and remove from heat, covering them until you’re ready to serve.
Once everything’s ready on the grill, plate the noodles, bring ‘em on outside, and top them with the vegetables and tofu.
Now take a serving spoon and dress with as much curry sauce as you like straight from the grill. You’re ready to eat! Feel free to visit your nice, cool kitchen for naps, card games and the like.
Until next time, here’s wishing you a delightfully deconstructed summer!
I had the pleasure of attending and documenting one of Chef Matteo’s 4 Course Vegan dinner-events recently. The events have been taking place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 2003, tucked away in an inconspicuous loft beneath the Williamsburg Bridge.
Matteo’s food and presentation are meticulous, sophisticated, and delicious – focusing on healthy, local, organic, vegan cuisine. The candle-lit, communal tables are a great way to meet people. Typically, this weekly event sells-out, so you must make reservations if you’d like to attend. I asked Matteo to share the recipe of my favorite dish from that evening. Enjoy! – DB
French Lentil Roulade w/ Macadamia ‘Salata’ and Herb Vinaigrette (serves 6)
2 cups raw macadamias, soaked 12 hours
¼-½ cup rejuvelac
¼ tsp sea salt Soak macadamias overnight for 12 hours. Drain and place in food processor fitted s-blade. Pulse to gently chop macadamias before adding ¼ cup rejuvelac. Process until macadamias are smooth. Place processed macadamias in a nut milk bag or cheesecloth and inside a colander. Put a 1 or 2 lb weight on top of macadamias and allow to ferment 12-24 hours. In a bowl, combine macadamia ‘salata’ and sea salt. Mix and refrigerate.
½ cup French lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 cups water
2 tbsp wheat-free tamari
pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, diced small
pinch of black pepper and sea salt
1 tbsp minced cilantro In small sauce pan, combine lentils, water, tamari, and sea salt. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside. Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots, salt and pepper and cook until shallots are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add cilantro and lentils. Stir to combine flavors and set aside until ready to assemble roulades.
¼ cup buckwheat flour
2 tbsp brown rice flour
2 tbsp tapioca flour
½ tbsp arrowroot powder
pinch of sea salt
1 cup nut milk
½ tbsp minced chives
grapeseed oil for coking crepes Combine buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot powder and sea salt in bowl. Stir to mix. Add nut milk and whisk until smooth. Stir in the minced chives and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Over medium-low heat, lightly grease a non-stick 6” sauté pan with grapeseed oil. Pour ¼ cup batter into pan and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip crepe and cook on other side for an additional minute until cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter. Cover crepes with kitchen towel until ready to use.
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp prepared mustard
2 tsp agave nectar
¼ tsp minced garlic
pinch of black pepper and sea salt
1 tsp minced oregano
½ tsp minced thyme Blend extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, agave, garlic, salt and pepper until smooth and creamy. Whisk in oregano and thyme.
1 oz baby mustard greens, washed and dried
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Lay one crepe flat on a clean surface. Evenly spread 2½ tbsp macadamia ‘salata’ on the crepe. Sprinkle 2 tbsp French lentils over the macadamia ‘salata’. Take the nearest edge of the crepe and roll it up using the macadamia ‘salata’ to seal the overlapping edges together. Trim the ends to make it uniform and neat. Slice crepe in half on bias. Set in the middle of a plate with the bias’ opposing each other. Repeat with remaining crepes.
Toss mustard greens with 2 tbsp herb vinaigrette. Evenly divide the greens amongst the plates placing them on top of the crepe. On each plate, sprinkle 1 tbsp of French lentils over the greens and drizzle with 1 tbsp herb vinaigrette. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Chef Matteo aims to bridge communities through organic, gourmet, vegan fare, in hopes of facilitating increased mindfulness and compassion in and of the living.
The ups, downs, ins, outs, disappointments, and triumphs of a day-to-day ethical living. By Featured Contributor, Matt Lara
There are a hundred-and-one reasons for guys to take care of their skin and hair, but so many of the products on the market are toxic, full of animal ingredients, or still perform horrible and needless tests on animals that it makes us want to give up grooming and be crust-punks!
Realizing that dreadlocks and gamy odors were not for me, I decided to do some overhaul in the grooming department. Bathroom shelf, meet your new cruelty-free, earth-conscious friends:
The first to go was that turbo-thingy razor that came free in my mailbox after high school graduation. Instead of shoveling out big bucks for more tiny replacement cartridges that are made by a company burning the eyes and skin of rabbits, I happily spent my money on a new Preserve Triple Razor. The shave is just as good, and there are some other great things to consider about Preserve Products besides smooth cheeks. I also switched to lavender and shea Moisture Shave from Kiss My Face. Now everyone wants to kiss my face. Now if they’d only make something so everyone would kiss my ass…
Also, if you’re a manly-man like me and use manly-man things like toner, consider my other big switch in the grooming department: organic cotton balls. If you are not using a spray-toner, these are great! Are they cost-effective? With cotton being one of the most highly-sprayed crops, and the price the environment pays for our single-use puffs, yes they are worth the extra dollar or two. Plus, the quality is actually better, and you’ll like that for your hunky mug.
Revitalizing Eye Cream from Avalon Organics is one of my new staples. Say what you want, I’m conscious of my smile lines! I can still feel this stuff moisturizing and firming even at the end of my most tired days. I’m also a sucker for the Soothing Lip Balm for some smooth smackers without the girlie, glossy look.
I can think of so many uses for tea trea oil, and with Trader Joe’s putting it in shampoo, I am so there. Tea Tree Tingle is quite an experience with every wash. For styling, I find David Babaii for Wildaid to be wonderful. Their motto is “It’s beautiful to be good,” and I couldn’t agree more. 10% of their profits are donated to Wildaid to help with wildlife conservation. I use their Bohemian Beach Spray and the Fibers Molding Paste.
There are several product lines like Organic Grooming by Herban Cowboy, and JASON which Joshua covered in THIS POST that make men’s grooming products, so check them out too!
Finally, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has an excellent podcast episode dedicated to the compassionate bathroom. And hey, I didn’t buy all this stuff at once. Purchasing just one of these products is helping make for a more compassionate world.
Matt is an actor, singer, closet poet, dancer, avid reader, guitar picker, waiter, home cook, nosey coffee shop guy, animal lover…he basically has to know how to do everything. He lives in New York and Los Angeles.
There’s something about living in New York that really makes you hunger for warm weather. Maybe it’s the massively long, brutal winters that, while technically more forgiving than other cities’ winters, seem just that much more confining as most of us are car-less and forced to trudge through terribleness and weather the storm for months, so to speak. Regardless though, New York at the end of winter—or, in this case, in the midst of a unseasonably cool, rainy, craphats spring—starts to burst at the seams in anticipation of those fabled sunny, jacket-less times. We all start to come out of this wake-work-home-sleep hibernation and begin to remember that, hey, being outside used to not suck.
I, for one, am beyond psyched that those times are nearly upon us, and, with them, all the light summer fare that graces fresh meals and food-centric get-togethers. One dish that’s great for most any warm-weather occasion is Mango Jicama Salad. Super-easy to make, yet still intensely tasty and fresh, this is an especially great addition to any park-side or backyard soirée. Mango most everyone knows and likely loves by now. But the key to this salad is the addition of the lesser known jicama, a sweet-tasting Mexican root vegetable with the texture of a water chestnut. Mix in some lime and a little cayenne for that surprising twist of spice, and you’re about ready to impress your friends and put all those humus and cracker platters to shame (sorry, Sabra).
Of course, with warm weather and outdoor parties also comes fun, dance your ass off party music. No more boarding yourself up and listening to the Cure all day long. No, no. It’s time to get out there and dance. And I can think of no one better band to shake your booty to right now than Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Passion Pit. I know I get on stuck on these bouts of musical fixations, but I’ve been obsessed with their music since I first heard it last summer. http://www.myspace.com/passionpitjams
Passion Pit started in 2007 when mastermind and vocalist, Michael Angelakos, recorded a six-song EP to give to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day (thanks for upping the ante there, Mike). The EP, titled Chunk of Change, then started making the rounds at Emerson College, where Angelakos went to school at the time. Now, as a full-on group with reportedly wildly fun live shows, the band is set to release their first full-length, Manners, May 19th on NYC-based French Kiss Records (also home of faves Cut Off Your Hands and The Dodos). Based on the little bit I’ve heard so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being one of the best records of the year.
In short, simplistic terms, the music is great and you must obtain as much as you can right now. I’ve waited long past my required month to make sure I’m not just caught up in an auditory fad, and I love these guys. Angelakos’ voice is high-pitched, strained with positive emotion and far from perfection in the most perfect of ways. Webbed under his singing is a glitchy, mess of electronics and percussion that’s skillfully molded into poppy, beautifully written and wholly original pieces that make you feel like skipping down the sidewalk as you listen to them. Think emotive, post-modern disco. Fruity, exciting, and enticing, their a perfect match for Mango Jicama Salad, I have to say.
Two of my favorite tracks from Chunk of Change: Smile Upon Me
I’ve Got Your Number
Along with a few tracks form the forthcoming full-length, Manners:
and the not as upbeat but quite beautiful Moth’s Wings
Yes, that is a man singing. Really.
Also, a bizarrely awesome remix/cover of Sleepyhead (from Chunk of Change) by the Murmurs (remember them?) via Palms Out Sounds –
Alright, on to the food!
1 Ripe Medium to Large Mango
1 Medium Jicama (about 1 lb. In weight)
Juice from 2 Squeezed Limes
1/2 Cup Chopped Cilantro
1/4 Cup Chopped Mint (any variety)
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Ground Cayenne
First off, when you use the mango, make sure it’s solid, not squishy, but gives a bit to the touch. Usually, the more red it is, the more ripe it is. Score the skin of the mango with a knife in quarters and then carefully peel it from the meat of the fruit. If the mango is too ripe, the fruit may be a little harder to separate from the skin, so just go back and cut the excess from the pieces of peel.
Carefully (it can be slippery) slice the mango into thin rods, about 1/2 of an inch square and two or three inches long.
Throw it all in a large mixing bowl.
Next, carefully cut the brown rind from the jicama. I usually use an actual knife rather than a peeler, as the rind can be a bit tough for most peelers. At this point it’ll look pretty much like a giant macadamia nut.
Quarter the jicama and then slice it into 1/2 inch slices. Now cut the slices into rods that approximately match the mango pieces in size and shape.
Add the jicama to the bowl.
Next, chop your herbs, add them to them bowl along with the lime juice, salt, and cayenne, and mix thoroughly but gently, to avoid breaking up too many pieces of jicama or pulverizing the mango.
Chill for half an hour or more, and you’re good to go. Get out there and enjoy that weather!
The ups, downs, ins, outs, disappointments, and triumphs of a day-to-day vegan living. By Featured Contributor, Matt Lara
I had a friend once tell me that he didn’t know how I remembered all this vegan stuff everyday. I told him that it’s all just a bunch of small things, and I keep adding more as I go. So here are some small things i’ve come across for your own use and enjoyment. Start compiling….
For me, it starts with waking up to good vegan choices. I have had many of those mornings where I’m running to work with deli coffee and a muffin. I have to recognize these days—they often end up filled with trips to the vending machine—and know that many of these short-term fixes can become long-term effects on my health and the environment. If I’m going veggie I have to do it healthily, and that extra 15 minutes to eat a good breakfast has become a priority. I’m not someone with one daily routine, so I have a few breakfast options depending on what my week looks like. If all I have time for is coffee and a muffin, it’s organic fair-trade coffee and a muffin I baked the previous weekend. Some days it’s simply cereal or a smoothie. On Sundays I like a good tofu scramble or pancakes. My favorite go-to breakfast is a bowl of Irish oatmeal, also known as steel-cut oats. They are packed with nutrition, but do take a bit more time to prepare than the sugary oats you pour hot water over. Luckily, there are some short cuts to lessen the prep time to about 10-12 minutes (I use the “quick soak” method all the time).
These tins make excellent pen holders!
Speaking of morning coffee, I stopped drinking so much of it. It was no big decision and not even that big of a struggle. It was more like avoiding an addiction in the making. I still chill over an occasional soy latte at my local coffee spot, but I am now enjoying loose-leaf green tea from Rishi Tea. They make a variety of green and black teas, as well as many herbal infusions. According to their instructions the leaves can be brewed 3-4 times. I am surprisingly refreshed after a few small cups. Green tea does have some caffeine in it, but not nearly enough to give you those coffee jitters nor those fun post coffee “movements” that tend to come along.
If you have a circle of vegan friends, do get together for a potluck. One of the highlights of my month was attending the one hosted by The Discerning Brute himself. If Josh is cooking, I am there. By the time I arrived, his stuffed shells were all but gone, but there was still plenty to eat. It is so refreshing to walk into a room and be surrounded by many amazing dishes, great people, and great animal friends running around adding life to the party. Plus, there were guests who did not consider themselves vegan. They got a chance to both see and taste this deliciousness we experience on a daily basis. To me, that’s the best way to show people what we’re doing. If our food is undeniably great and all are welcome to partake, we’re on the right track.
Matt is an actor, singer, closet poet, dancer, avid reader, guitar picker, waiter, home cook, nosey coffee shop guy, animal lover…he basically has to know how to do everything. He lives in New York and Los Angeles.
Being from the south originally, there are a number of things I miss, now living in the big Yankee city. There’s the random, and now sometimes unsettling friendliness of strangers (seriously—on a trip last summer, this woman passing by said ‘hi’ to us in the friendliest manner and, I’m sad to say, it freaked us out.) There’s the slow, easy, nearly-foreign-now calm to almost everything. And then there are the impromptu, unassuming means of entertaining—swimming holes, house parties, garage shows… Obviously I need a vacation. But, point being, the thing I miss most of all is the food. Being vegan, a lot of that food’s totally out of reach. But, having grown up around it and having those tastes imbedded into my gustatory memory, they’re foods I’m constantly trying to replicate and improve upon, vegan-style, yo.
One of those foods is buttermilk biscuits. These warm, savory, buttery blocks of awesomeness were a mainstay of my extended family from Virginia and something that could be found on the table every Sunday and holiday. Being the transplant that I am, though, this particular recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from the Waverly Inn + Garden in the West Village.
These biscuits bring to mind slow, winding mornings with strong coffee, sleepy cats, and folksy southern tunes. I’ve never been much for a lot of the actual southern-rock-alt-country-whathaveyou, but, thankfully, much like the northerner’s take on biscuits, there are a bevy of excellent northerner bands right now who seem to be yearning for this same, rootsy, easy sound that traditionally came from the south. Call them phony hipsters-turned-hayseeds if you like, but I love their take on the genre and how it’s now been pulled into it’s own world. Bands like Seattle’s The Cave Singers (ex-Pretty Girls Make Graves, and Cobra High) and NYC’s O’Death bring their new world talents and takes on traditional music and transform it into something else altogether. And it’s excellent.
One of the more recent finds for me in this category is Providence, Rhode Island’s John McCauley, who plays under the moniker,Deer Tick. McCauley started out at the age of 18 making home recordings on his nylon string guitar and giving them out at shows. Five years later, he’s toured extensively, firmed up a once rotating cast of supporting band members, worked up a pretty devoted following, and released his first “official” album, “War Elephant,” on Partisan Records. With McCauley’s cool, rough, howl of a voice and the rolling push of the music, there’s a definite feeling of looking back at what’s come before these songs, be it the southern rock of Creedence<!–, or the high hills music of Appalachia, but, again, with the cast of it being played by people almost foreign to the original thought that gave birth to that sort of music. It almost feels like Deer Tick and these other bands are reaching back to the nostalgic, romanticized world of our parents and childhood—for many of us, the simplified and sadly beautiful 70s, mustaches and all. Whatever the reason, the resulting music is excellent. And goes superbly with south-by-north biscuits on slow, warm mornings. Check them out –
These Old Shoes
Art Isn’t Real
Still Crazy After All These Years (Paul Simon Cover)
The biscuits are best right out of the oven, with maybe a little vegan margarine on them and some preserves. They’re also excellent with a vegan sausage gravy. Or, if you want to get fancy, mix some maple syrup with cold margarine to make a vegan maple butter. The trick with cooking these is to keep them as cold as possible when missing them and to touch them (warm hands) as little as possible too, so the pieces of margarine—which make them flakey—don’t melt. Make the whole batch and them freeze what you won’t eat for later. They make for great Tofurkey sandwiches and BBQ pulled seitan sandwiches (still refining that recipe….) And this recipe can be doubled if you’re cooking for some sort of vegan army.
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour (we like King Arthur brand)
3/4 Cup Oat Milk (you can use Soy Milk if you prefer)
1/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
Egg Replacer equal to One Egg (we like Bob’s Red Mill brand)
Like most things, I like to make these biscuits completely by hand, though many prefer to use a heavy-duty mixer. I like to try to keep them as old-world as possible. You know, without the lard and dairy-based butter.
First, combine the dry ingredients in a large, preferably metal bowl.
On a cutting board, dice the margarine into small cubes, about one inch square. Really try to touch them as little as possible, using a utensil to slide the cubes off the knife, and toss a little flour onto the pieces as you add them to the bowl of dry ingredients so they don’t stick together.
Take a stiff rubber spatula and mix the dry ingredients into the margarine, using the spatula to firmly break the cubes into smaller, pea-sized pieces, cutting the margarine into the flour mix. Be very thorough with this part, making sure you break up all the cubes into tiny pieces. This is what makes the biscuits flakey.
In a measuring cup, mix the oat milk and vinegar together to simulate a buttermilk. If you’re not a huge buttermilk fan, use less or no vinegar, compensating with the oat milk so the total mixture equals one cup. Slowly add this to the flour-margarine mixture as you stir with the spatula. Once it’s mixed together, the dough will look pretty wet, which is a good thing with this recipe.
Now, flour a clean counter-top and turn the dough out onto it. Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough and, using your hands, gently fold the dough over itself three or four times, evening it out and flattening it down a bit each time.
Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough out so it’s about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. You can form an oval or keep the edges rough, for an old-world, uneven look.
Using a knife, cut the biscuits into rough squares a little smaller than the size of the desired finished biscuits. I usually make mine a little big—about 4 inches square.
Put these on a cookie sheet and refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake at 375 degrees. They should only take 7-10 minutes, so watch them carefully, waiting until they get a golden brown look.
Take ‘em out and eat ‘em up. Have a warm and flakey weekend!
It’s amazing to me (but not surprising) that industries whose practices are not only notoriously cruel and often superfluous, but blatantly damaging to increasingly fragile ecosystems are able to advertise that they’re ‘green’. Like the greenwashing of furs, coal, cars, and more – Julian reports on a movement within the hunting community towards ‘green’ bullets. We learned a lot about the phenomenon of greenwashing in the book “Toxic Sludge is Good For You”. And we must ask – what’s next? ‘Green’ bombs?
‘Green’ Bullets: For the Ethically and Environmentally Conscious Hunter?
by Julian Dezorzi
About a month ago, The Discerning Brute jokingly awarded the Canadian Fur Council’s “Fur is Green” campaign with the “greenwashing award of the decade” (see entry here). The CFC certainly struck a chord with people who know anything about the toxic, cruel, and unnecessary fur industry.
Not to be outdone, some hunters have decided to follow suit and go ‘green’ in the name of ‘environmentalism’ by switching to copper-based ammunition rather than the more often used, highly toxic, and (of course) cheaper, lead-based bullet alternatives. Now, not only will our environment be protected from the adverse effects of all those toxic lead bullets, but the animals on the receiving end of the slug would be thrilled to know that the person who shot them from a hundred yards away was doing their part to protect nature from – you got it – something that might kill. Or as one of our ‘environmentalist’ hunter friends, Phillip Loughlin, who, “made a choice he knew would brand him as an outsider with many of his fellow hunters,” rationalizes: “I believe that we need to do a little bit to take care of the rest of the habitat and the environment — not just what we want to shoot out of it.”
Have you ever seen what a copper mine looks like today? And what copper looked like in the days of the gold rush? Watch this short video. Or how about the effects that mining for the highly depleted copper metal that will go into making these so-called ‘green’ bullets? It is unlikely these bullets are being made from recycled copper, and peak levels are exceeded, making copper mining much more costly and hazardous.
I am not claiming to be perfect – after all, I am typing on a computer with copper in it, knowing it was built somewhere in Asia and it’s construction is causing cancer. This article, however, is about the greenwashing of bullets used to kill animals. Let’s turn our attention back to the article and see how hunters are beginning to warm up to the idea of going ‘green’.
What exactly is ‘green’ about the killing of thousands of animals a year? Population control? O, the old population control rationalization. This is often the argument that hunters and rifle aficionados use to justify their desire to bag the ‘big’ buck, go on the canned hunt, and get the trophy that will sit atop their mantle piece as a testament of their skillful manhood rooted in some primal fantasy. Although there are numerous reports that suggest that population control does work in some instances, these studies are countered by numerous studies suggesting otherwise. (See here and here, for example).
Then there’s the effects that hunting has upon land management within many of the private lands that are deforested in order to create a ‘hunter-friendly environment’, devastating even more forest systems and forcing animals to become ‘pests’ as they seek out food in ever-expanding residential areas and farmlands.
The main argument that this article is attempting to put forward is that lead-based bullets are hazardous to the health of the humans who will eventually consume the animals they kill. The article cites a study by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources “which found that when lead bullets explode inside an animal, imperceptible particles of the metal can infect meat up to a foot and a half away from the bullet wound — farther than previously thought” or, as Dr. William Cornatzer, a dermatologist and falconer, after testing a number of venison samples and finding that “about half of the 100 samples — all shot by hunters — tested positive for lead,” points out that “the scary thing is these fragments are almost like dust in the meat. They’re not like metal fragments you would feel when you bite down.”
The implicit megalomaniacal assumption made by this article is ultimately just another example of the speciesism that is part of the dominant social and cultural fabric. This assumption is that human health, safety and lives are intrinsically more valuable than the lives of other animals and the natural environment. Never once does the article acknowledge the ramifications that hunting has upon the habitats that house the thousands of animals that are hunted, for sport and otherwise, each year.
For the majority of us, hunting is not necessary for survival. Most of us can thrive on a plant-based diet. Of course subsistence hunters are not the problem here. I’m not asking the Inuit, Aboriginal or Uru to go vegan. And subsistence hunting is often more humane than farming animals (so if you cringe at the idea of hunting, yet salivate for cheap bacon, it’s time to come to terms with factory farming). However, sport hunters will often invoke the romantic life-or-death imagery of subsistence hunting in order to justify their sport.
Although the article could conceivably be lauded for the concern it addresses for both human and the natural environment’s well-being through switching to these ‘green’ bullets (arguments that, as I have briefly shown, are highly problematic and belie the actual effects that hunting and mining have upon the natural world) it must equally, and perhaps even more forcibly, be attacked on what it fails to address, namely, the total disregard for the safety and health for the actual animals that are being shot and shot at by both lead and the copper alternatives. For example, what are consequences that lead-poisoning has upon the bodies and cognitive systems of the animals that often ‘get away’ wounded? Such oversights and miss-acknowledgments are sadly the norm. Indeed, this article has striking similarities and echoes the lack and total disregard for addressing such questions in the news media’s coverage of the USDA’s unprecedented recall of 164 million pounds (!) of meat that happened last year– a recall that came to light as a result of a number of whistle-blower videos showing ‘downer cows’ and reports surrounding the egregious and just plain disgusting treatment, handling and killing of cattle and other factory-farmed livestock.
While new reports came in everyday, I found myself searching in vain for at least one report from the mainstream media outlets that condemned and/or attacked the actual perpetrators of these acts to no avail.
I am not claiming that people’s health should not be a nation’s number one concern, nor am I arguing that the weight and severity of these events should not have been reported. Quite the contrary! These reports and the videos that triggered them are essential to informing the nation of the horrendous acts being committed everyday by the meat and dairy industries, as well as the hunting industry. It is of utmost importance for people to be aware and (hopefully) concerned with what they are putting into their bodies for daily sustenance and there must be more oversight and regulations put into place in order to protect not only humans, but animals as well.
This ‘green BULLets’ story is just a part of the ‘green-ification’ agenda that all industries are trying to cash-in on. The absurd notion that something as destructive as ammunition can be ‘green’ is not only deceptive but is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Being ‘green’ means undertaking actions in order to live within a sustainable world that respects the fact that environmental resources are scarce. It is an acknowledgement that our actions have effects upon the world we live in and an attempt to offset, reduce, minimize, or even reverse the impact that these actions have upon the earth and its resources.
There is nothing sustainable about the hunting industry. In fact it’s quite the opposite. The amount of energy it takes to extract the copper it will take to support this $1.08 billion a year industry, the environmental ramifications that the deforestation measures that are used in order to accommodate sport hunting, and the imbalances to the populations of animals hunted for sport are just a few examples of the consequences that this industry has upon the natural environment and a testament to its lack of sustainability.
The Discerning Brute’s featured contributor, Julian Dezorzi, is a recent grad-school graduate. Julian De Zorzi is an activist and aspiring writer-filmmaker who lives in Brooklyn.
Are you a size 9? The Discerning Brute has teamed up with NOHARM to give away a pair of snazzy vegan ankle boots in US size 9! You can easily win these handsome leather-free shoes worth $300! Wowee! So, why don’t we dig leather here at DB? Find out.
I’m a huge fan of dill and am always trying to find new ways to incorporate it into foods. I feel like it’s totally the kid on the ball field who gets chosen last. Meanwhile, basil and cilantro and sage are all running around, showing off, sliding into home base…those jerks. Anyway, I’ve been hankerin’ to find a new use for dill lately and think this recipe fits the bill pretty well. It’s an accumulation of some familiar ingredients in a little less conventional packaging. “Pesto without basil!” you say? “Pesto without basil,” I say.
The musical group we’re pairing with the food is much the same: an unconventional packaging of a somewhat familiar and wholly delightful sound. Mica Levi, who tours and records with two other musicians (Raisa Khan + Marc Pell) as Micachu and the Shapes, is one of those talented souls who has the ability to create beautiful, catchy, easily accessible songs that somehow sound completely fresh and original. Her songs are unpredictable, bouncing along from verse to chorus to maybe another verse to some strange sound that may have been someone dropping a tray of dishes and back to the chorus. Really, one of the best things about the songs is that they’re never, ever boring. And, despite how odd and unlistenable that may make the music sound, it’s really not.
Levi, who was raised by musicians and started playing music at age 4, performed in the 90s as a DJ in London’s UK Garage scene, which seems to have found a place in the roots of Micachu’s glitchy, electronic beats and blips. On top of all that and interspersed throughout are myriad unique sounds that make it seem like the band is giving impromptu performances from a junk yard: vacuum cleaners, glass bottles, a homemade hammer action guitar, and a bowed instrument made from a CD rack. But grounding all of that potentially off-putting weirdness is the fact that strong, catchy songs are at the base of the music and, to top it all off, Mica and the rest of the band seem friendly and down-to-earth.
5 Cloves of Garlic, pressed, chopped into large chunks
2 Shallots, chopped into large chunks
4 Walnut Halves
6 Yukon Gold Potatoes, small to medium, quartered with skin
1 Cup of Fresh Dill, packed to measure
1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Lemon, squeezed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
I like to lightly cook the garlic in pestos to give them a more rounded, savory taste that’s a little less biting and much easier on the breath over the following 24 hours. So, first:
Roast the garlic, shallots, and walnuts in 1 teaspoon of quality olive oil on medium-low in a skillet, preferably cast iron, for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Lightly salt the contents to draw out some of the flavor and moisture. Allow the garlic to brown a little, but not too much and definitely don’t let it crisp up. Once that’s done, transfer the contents to a small bowl and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, quarter your potatoes and roast them covered in a skillet in about 1 teaspoon of olive oil, turning them every now and then so they brown evenly. Do this for about 2-3 minutes, again, not letting them get too brown or crisp up too much, and then add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan. From here on out, you basically just need to keep checking the potatoes to see how tender they are. If they’ve absorbed all the water and are still too firm, add a little more water, cover, and check them again in a few minutes. It should take about 5-10 minutes though, all told. If you like things smokey, like I do, you can also feel free to add a touch of Hickory Smoke Flavoring while cooking the potatoes. Though I tend to add that to just about everything. It’s a problem.
While the potatoes are cooking, still keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t overcook, get the garlic mixture out of the fridge and add it to a blender or food processor along with the dill, 1/2 cup of olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the nutritional yeast. Bend well, stirring from the bottom when necessary to make sure the mixture blends evenly. It should start looking like a bright green paste, similar to, say, pesto.
Once that’s good and evenly blended, you’re ready to transfer the potatoes to a bowl along with the dill pesto, where you’ll mix and coat the potatoes just before serving, so as to keep that bright, spring-like green. And that’s about it.
From all of us at the Discerning Brute, we hope you enjoy a pleasantly mixed up week.
Whistle While You Work is written by featured contributor Troy Farmer. Click here for his full bio.
With ‘Whistle While You Work,’ we hope to bring you innovations in both vegan cooking and music, posting a new recipe and complimentary music review once every two weeks. Sometimes the music will inspire the food, sometimes the food will inspire the music, but, with every entry, we’ll give you new finds for your ears and your taste buds.