WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK: Deconstructed Curry vs. Now Now Every Children

August 4, 2009

by featured contributor, Troy Farmer

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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.

https://i2.wp.com/www.afternoonrecords.com/nownoweverychildren/myspace_may/images/topper_01.jpg

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/).
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Cars:

Sleep Through Summer

Have You Tried

You can purchase Now Now Every Children’s LP and earlier EP’s via Afternoon Records’ site – http://www.afternoonrecords.com/nownoweverychildren.html

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.

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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

DIRECTIONS:

  1. First, the paste. Begin by soaking the chilies.
  2. 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.
  3. While that’s going on, prep the rest of the ingredients as noted above.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Once everything’s ready on the grill, plate the noodles, bring ‘em on outside, and top them with the vegetables and tofu.
  14. 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!

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Troy Farmer Learn more about contriuter, Troy Farmer!


WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK: Heaven + Hell Tacos vs. Death

June 12, 2009

by featured contributor, Troy Farmer

h+h tacos

We must start, dear readers, by begging your pardon. Usually, with Whistle While You Work, we endeavor to divine those subtle strands that connect two seemingly distant realms of art; that of culinary alchemy and that of musical conjuration. True, comparing two such separate art forms runs the risk of offending some. For instance, Passion Pit has to be one of my favorite new bands from the last year, but I’m not sure how they’d feel about being compared to mango jicama salad. For that matter, I hear jicama doesn’t really care for the way Michael Angelakos sings. And, to be perfectly honest, I, for some reason, have always absolutely detested most any artist that incorporates food in their work or moniker (by way of example – macaroni art, any sort of fruit sculpture at a wedding, Meatloaf, Pearl Jam, Neutral Milk Hotel, Hall + Oates…this weirdness). But, in an effort to consistently bring you exciting vegan food and superb, often lesser-known musical acts in a not-so-conventional package, we march on, trying our best to coax out such connections between good food and music. This time, however, we just went for a cool name combo. So we give you the summer crisp heat of Heaven + Hell Tacos and the recently unearthed, mind-blowing protopunk from the 70’s Detroit band, Death.

One of the common things you’ll hear people say about the first time they heard Death is something along the lines of ‘it blew my fucking mind.’ I have to number myself among the people who had that same reaction. It was akin to the first time I heard the 60’s brit band, the Action. I couldn’t believe that the sound I was hearing was over 30 or 40 years old and, with both bands, I was shocked to find out that something so good had gone largely unheard for so long.

Photo - Tammy Hackney

Death was formed in 1973 by three black brothers from Detroit—David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney—who, by all accounts, had some very nurturing parents growing up. At 20, 18, and 16, respectively, their mother let them replace their bedroom furniture with musical equipment so long as they agreed to practice for three hours every day. They started out playing R+B but switched over to good ol’ rock immediately after seeing an Alice Cooper show (thank you, Mr. Cooper). At first, they were met mostly with confusion by audiences, which makes sense when you consider the date. This was right around the time that the Ramones were just getting going, and they were in New York. The Hackney’s were basically presenting this sound—this bridge between 60’s and early 70’s hard rock and what would become punk—in Detroit. This was also one and two years, respectively, before the Sex Pistols and the Clash had even formed in London. And the fact that they were black and doing this in what would soon become a white-dominated musical genre is all that much more mind-blowing.

death

Despite the resistance to their sound, and partly in response to it, Death marched on (hah) and actually met with some success in their short run. They recorded a demo tape in ’74 and were signed by the studio’s owner, Don Davis. As the story goes, Don Davis at one point presented the demo to renowned record exec, Clive Davis—who signed acts like Janis Joplin, Donovan, Santana, and the Boss. Clive reportedly loved the sound but hated the name. According to what is sure to now become punk legend, David, the eldest brother, who wrote the groups songs and acted as their driving force, reacted with a fervent “Hell no!” when told that they would have to change their name to reach any real success. Though neither of the Davis’ seem to remember much about this encounter (it was a really long time ago and those dudes are old now) the two still-living Hackney brothers stand by the story. Sadly, David died of lung cancer in 2000, so a true Death reunion isn’t possible. Regardless of what’s true and what’s not, it’s a great story, and there’s absolutely no arguing with the sound the Hackneys produced. Fast-paced, hard-edged, beautiful punk-before-punk songs with political themes and innovative structure. They were truly ahead of their time.

So we should all be thankful that fate put Julian Hackney—son of guitarist, Bobby—randomly heard the rare self-released single at a party in San Francisco last year and recognized his father’s voice. Crazy, right?

After Death…er…died in 1976, in the face of the massive joint take-over of the airwaves by disco and corporate programming, the Hackneys basically moved on with their lives, venturing into other music and being met with varying degrees of success. Bobby and Dannis actually still play the college hackey-sack circuit to this day in the reggae band, Lambsbread. So it was quite a blast form the past when Julian approached his father, asking about Death. The two were lucky enough to uncover the original demo in Bobby’s attic and then be championed by an enthusiastic record collector, who used his connections at the Chicago-based indie label, Drag City Record, to get the demo released this year as “…For the Whole World to See.”  Seven songs of utter protopunk might and a highly recommended gem of a recording. Not to mention a kick-ass story to back it all up. Check it:

Rock-N-Roll Victim:

and the insanely awesome Politicians in My Eyes:

So, again, apologies, but I’m not going to attempt to make any sort of ‘so hot they’ll kill ya’ death/Death analogies here, but, for your eating pleasure, I do give you Heaven + Hell Tacos. Why Heaven + Hell, you ask? It’s basically the same premise as the McDLT from back in the day, where McDonald’s gave you the hot side of the hamburger in one part of the crazy terrible Styrofoam container and the cold ‘fresh’ vegetable side of the hamburger in another part of the crazy terrible Styrofoam container. We’re just going for an edgier, some might say more punk (eh?) name. Plus these are tacos. Not hamburgers. The recipe is simple and fairly modular, but it’s based on the idea that you want a base of spicy, savory, protein with some fresh, crisp vegetables that are a little on the hearty side for a more unique crunch. The top it all off with some awesome South American aji sauce (best).

So, here we go. This should make two tacos. Feel free to double or triple if you like lots of tacos.

Heaven + Hell Tacos

For the protein, we recommend any of the following:
– 4 oz. Seitan (homemade’s great and cheaper, but store-bought is fine), sliced into small pieces
or
– 1 Field Roast Sausage or other vegan sausage, chopped into small chunks
or
– 4 oz. Shiitake, Crimini, or Portabella Mushrooms, chopped into small chunks
– 1/2 cup Homemade Barbeque Sauce with a little spice added (here’s a nice homemade barbeque sauce recipe we did, just add about 1/2 tsp. cumin and 1/2 tsp. paprika when you’re cooking the protein), or some Adobe Sauce or other spicy, savory sauce
– 1 tbsp Olive Oil

For the crispy topping, we recommend:
– 4 medium Radishes, sliced into thin strips, roughly 1/4 inch square and the length of the radish
– 4 Radish Leaves, sliced into thin strips
– 1.5 cup Watercress, stemmed and packed
– 1/2 Red Bell Pepper, sliced into strips to roughly match the radish
– 1 Spring Onion, sliced into thin circles
– Juice form 1/2 Lime

And for the aji:
– 1 Spring Onion, diced
– 3/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, diced
– 1 Fresh Jalepeño, seeded and diced (watch fingers-to-eyes action after chopping this one)
– dash Cumin
– dash Salt
– 1 cup White Vinegar
– 2 Soft Taco Shells or Wheat Tortillas (we like the small fajita ones that are about 6” in diameter)

*Don’t forget tortillas or shells!

DIRECTIONS:

  1. So, basically start by chopping all your fresh ingredients and putting them in small dishes for quick assembly later.
  2. Add the juice from one half of the lime to the dish with radishes and let them soak while you prepare things.
  3. For the aji, simply mix the ingredients in a container and set in the fridge to chill.
  4. Now take whichever protein of your liking and brown it with the olive oil in a cast iron skillet. After 5-10 minutes, add your sauce and let it sauté for another 5 minutes.
  5. Warm your tortillas in a pan or the microwave for a few seconds, toss in the protein, top with your fresh ingredients, and add liberal doses of aji as you go.
  6. That’s that. Enjoy Death and the heaven and hell that follows.

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Troy Farmer Learn more about contriuter, Troy Farmer!


WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK: Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits vs. Deer Tick

April 10, 2009

by featured contributor, Troy Farmer

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.

vegbisc

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.War Elephant

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
Long Time
Dirty Dishes
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)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Sea Salt
  • 1/8 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Sugar
  • 1/4 Lb. (about 1/2 Cup) Cold Vegan Margarine (non-hydrogenated)
  • 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.

  1. First, combine the dry ingredients in a large, preferably metal bowl.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Take ‘em out and eat ‘em up. Have a warm and flakey weekend!

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Troy Farmer learn more about Troy Farmer