Recently in Project Omniherbivore Category

Winter was, perhaps, not the best time to start in on my project of eating every edible plant I hadn't yet eaten. Today, though, I hit a double.

Cardoons look a bit like taller, wider celery, but they're actually part of the thistle family, and indeed their taste is not entirely unlike artichokes, if not in that neighborhood of divinity. They're very tough--they have to be soaked in water with lemon juice for half an hour (the instructions tied to the cardoons also suggested soaking them in salt water overnight!), then boiled in water with more lemon juice for another 20 minutes or so, and they were still pretty crisp after that. I finished them off by sauteeing them in a bit of olive oil for just a minute. Very tasty; I'd certainly have them again.

Black radishes actually just have thick, almost crustlike black peels; inside, they're the same pellucid white as your typical red radish, but much bitterer. I looked around for a recipe, and ended up following a suggestion on somebody's web site: peeling stripes off the peels, slicing the radishes very thinly, tossing them with a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper, and sticking them in a 425-degree oven for 45 minutes until they turned into radish chips, then grinding a little more salt on top of them when I served them. Still bitter, but in an intriguing/edgy way, not an unpleasant way. If I made the same thing again, I'd probably use a mandoline to slice them even thinner so they'd come out crisper.

(I am putting the word "pizzazz" here just to get the top Google hit for "pizzazz" + "pellucid," just in case anybody else who was 8 years old in 1978 happens to remember that particular joke.)

Also cooked tonight: one of the lowest-effort good tofu recipes I've ever made. First you make a sauce: two teaspoons of cornstarch, drizzle in half a cup of vegetable stock until it's saucelike, then stir in a tablespoon each of water, soy sauce and sesame oil, a teaspoon of Chinese chili paste, and half a teaspoon each of sugar and salt. Then you heat up two tablespoons of a light neutral oil until it's really hot, throw in a teaspoon of chopped ginger and a tablespoon of chopped garlic, stir it around for 15 seconds, add a cubed pound of firm tofu, saute it for a minute, stir up the sauce, pour it in, turn the heat to low, and wait for the sauce to get thick, stirring occasionally. Ta-da.

project omniherbivore #1: purple carrots

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First in what I hope will be an occasional series. Following the suggestion of this well-circulated and thought-provoking article to "try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet... biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields," I'm making it a deliberate project to try every nonpoisonous species of plant I can find that I haven't eaten before (at least those offered for sale as food; I'm not going the "Wildman" Steve Brill route just yet. Maybe later).

Experiment #1, found at Limbo yesterday: purple carrots. (Are they actually a different species?) I'd been told they were crisper and sweeter than orange carrots; crisper, yes, but when I tried a couple raw, they actually seemed slightly bitterer, and I was slightly disappointed that the purple color was only on their skins; on the inside, they were orange. So I cut up a few and threw them in with some leeks I was braising for dinner, along with a couple of orange carrots; cooked, their texture and flavor were all but identical.

Deerhoof at the Crystal Ballroom last night: excellent, and adjusting well to their trio lineup. (A couple of links that have been hanging around for a while: here's a nine-song live-stuff-and-covers collection--as one long MP3, but the track listing is here, and includes covers of the Beatles, My Bloody Valentine, Canned Heat and Herman's Hermits--and here's "+81" from the new album, which neatly encapsulates what they're like for people who haven't heard them before.) But one moment I really enjoyed was actually before they went on: their intro music was Niney's awesome "Blood and Fire," which I don't think I'd encountered at club-speaker volume before--hearing Jamaican music from that era at suitably high volumes always makes me imagine what the "sound system" scene would really have been like.

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