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July 19, 2010

Meatless Monday: Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Who needs gluten or meat when there is quinoa? I was introduced to quinoa less than a year ago, but it's already become a staple in my kitchen. Although I have all the varieties in my pantry, I prefer the soft and fluffy white quinoa. Lucky for me, it's something like $2.37/lb at the Coop. For that price, I will endure all the general ridiculousness that comes with being a working member.

Because of the sweltering weather and lack of air conditioning in my apartment, I have been trying to minimize my use of the oven and stove. So, this means that I have been experimenting with salads, cold soups, and frozen desserts. As much as I love eating this quinoa tabbouleh, I needed to branch out and try something new. One of my favorite cooking blogs, Closet Cooking had a great recipe for a Tex-Mex quinoa salad with mango and black beans, and it's a perfect choice for Meatless Monday.

Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Closet Cooking

Serves 4

1 cup dry white quinoa
1 large mango (pitted, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces)
1 red bell pepper (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 cup black beans (rinsed)
1 jalapeño pepper (finely chopped)
1 green onion (thinly sliced)
1 handful cilantro (chopped)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lime (juice and zest)
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse the quinoa under cool water. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil with the quinoa in a medium sauce pan. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the quinoa is fluffy and chewy, about 20 minutes. When the water has almost evaporated and the germ has separated from the seeds, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.
2. Cool the quinoa to room temperature. This will allow the dressing to coat everything, and little will be absorbed by the quinoa.
3. Mix the olive oil, lime juice and zest, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
4. Mix the quinoa, mango, red bell pepper, black beans, jalapeño, green onion, and cilantro in a large bowl.
5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Salt to taste.


July 15, 2010

Candy Claws - Glasslands Gallery 07.14.10

Glasslands Gallery must be one of the hottest venues right now. Seriously, the place doesn't have any air conditioning. I'm used to living without A/C, but those who aren't should mentally prepare themselves before entering. A sweltering room isn't ideal for most acts, but I felt like it worked for Candy Claws. The heat-induced delirium almost seemed like an intentional addition to their hazy musical dreamscapes.

Originally a duo, Candy Claws has now expanded to include eight members for their live shows. I would guess that the median age of the band is around 20, making this another band that reminds me of how little I've accomplished in my life thus far. Candy Claws recently lost their gear in a scary car fire, but they are trekking on with their tour.

Even with makeshift, borrowed gear, Candy Claws was able to create an eerie, ethereal atmosphere, walking the line between dream and nightmare. This isn't a dream where bunnies and teddy bears frolic together in a green meadow under a rainbow. Rather, their music also captures elements of confusion and anxiety, resulting in a complex view of what happens when we close our eyes for the night. I think that it's rare to find transportive music, and Candy Claws continues to impress me with their ability to paint another world with their sounds. I highly recommend that you check them out if they're passing through your town.

Candy Claws' second album Hidden Lands will be released on August 3 and can be pre-ordered at twosyllable records. Apparently, the album is a musical companion to Richard M Ketchum's book, The Secret Life of the Forest.

Silent Time of Earth - Candy Claws


July 9, 2010

Thai Turkey Larb Salad

After I graduated from college, I embarked on a month-long backpacking trip in Southeast Asia. Of our destinations, Thailand was the clear winner for best food. I love spicy, bold flavors, and I constantly tested my spice tolerance during this trip, to my stomach's detriment. Although I like food to be so spicy that I can't think straight, native Thai spicy was a little too much for me. Anyway, one of my favorite eating experiences was on Phi Phi Island, a true paradise. At a local dive, we ordered a spicy chicken salad that was out of this world. It was based on a traditional larb salad, and it had a surprising addition of raw cashew nuts that mellowed out some of the spiciness and tanginess. I regret that I didn't keep a food diary on this trip, because I would really like to attempt to recreate this dish. I guess I will just have to go back to Ko Phi Phi.

Alas, recalling this tasty revelation gave me a craving for larb salad. To make the dish healthier, I decided to use ground turkey instead of chicken. I created this recipe through extensive Googling and some intuition, and it's still a work-in-process. But, I was satisfied with the first attempt.

Thai Turkey Larb Salad

Serves 4

1 1/2 lb ground turkey
1 cup scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass (Tutorial here)
3 medium-sized shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 Kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
Thai chilis, thinly sliced (optional)
1/3 cup chopped mint leaves
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper

1. Bring 3/4 cup of water (or broth) to boil in wok over medium heat. Add ground turkey and simmer until cooked through (~8 min), breaking up meat with spoon.
2. Add scallions, lemongrass, chilis, Kaffir lime leaves, and shallots. Stir until the vegetables are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in mint, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Adjust fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar to taste.
4. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.

I use the Three Crabs brand of fish sauce, and the Squid brand has been recommended by David Chang. If you're in NYC, affordable Kaffir lime leaves can be found at Bangkok Center Grocery, conveniently next to Fried Dumpling on Mosco Street.


July 6, 2010

Beirut - MHOW 07.05.10

It's been a long time since I've wanted to blog after coming home from a show, but Beirut tends to have that effect on me. It's no secret that Beirut is one of my favorite bands, and it's really been too long since I had seen them live. When I read that they were playing a special show with box office-only tickets ($10!), I knew what I had to do. I knew that I would be waking up early on a Saturday morning and camping out at the Music Hall of Williamsburg box office in the summer heat.

Like a fangirl, I arrived at the venue when doors were scheduled to open. Things were running a couple minutes behind, and I found myself joining a long line of other eager Beirut fans. Since I arrived so early, there was more waiting to be endured inside, but it was all worth it when the band took the stage. For this performance, Beirut was a 7-ensemble, and I was happy that they didn't shortchange the brass section. I've said this before, but Beirut are experts at romanticizing brass instruments. Move over guitar, because the euphonium is going to be the next big thing. Teenagers all over America are going to form Balkan-folk bands.

The band played an expected set of favorite songs, and I enjoyed revisiting the reasons why I had become a Beirut fan. Beirut is truly a band of talented individual musicians, and it is always incredible to watch them in their element. Zach claimed that he was suffering from allergies and that his voice would crack like a 14-year-old's, but that turned out to be an exaggeration. I wasn't sure if I could be blown away by another Beirut show, but I was pleasantly surprised. As cheesy (or insane) as this sounds, I think I may have experienced a moment of pure bliss during "Nantes." I can't really explain it, but the live music actually made me reevaluate my outlook on life. The beautiful combination of sounds was so moving that I became convinced that true beauty does exist in the world, and it's worth fighting for. Or, I may have been delirious from my insomnia. Holler in the comments if you know what I'm talking about.

Zach did announce some exciting developments. Beirut expects to release a new record soon, but Zach didn't give any clues as to when it would happen. But, it is now confirmed that they are working on something new. Fingers crossed that it happens this year.

Carousels - Beirut

Setlist (I pieced this together independently, so please let me know if any of this is wrong)
Elephant Gun
Forks and Knives
The Shrew
Postcards From Italy
Scenic World
East Harlem
Sunday Smile
The Akara
Cozak (or is it Cocek?)
The Penalty
Mount Wroclai
Gulag Orkestar


July 5, 2010

Meatless Monday: Watermelon Gazpacho

Through a recent experiment with classic gazpacho, I learned that I am not into eating tomato-based ones. It kind of feels and tastes like I'm drinking a salad. But, watermelon gazpachos are a different story. I tried making one last summer, and I fell in love. eating s/f's recipe is a refreshing dish for a summer picnic, and it has a rather complex flavor profile. It's sweet, tart, spicy, and all around amazing. I would recommend that you start off with half a jalapeno, and add more to taste. The jalapeno that I was used was particularly spicy, and I ended up having to add more of the other ingredients to tone it down. Also, I still don't have an immersion blender, so I used a food processor instead. If you're using a small food processor and need to blend in batches, I recommend that you keep the mint, pepper, and green onions in separate bowls. It'll be easier to equally disperse the ingredients and taste along the way. Out of laziness, I omitted the garnish, but it does make for a much prettier presentation.

Watermelon Gazpacho

Serves 3-4

3 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 jalapeno pepper
2-3 stalks of green onion, sliced thinly
1 lime
1/4 cup mint leaves
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Salt and pepper

1. Put the watermelon chunks into a large bowl. Reserve a few chunks for garnish.
2. Zest the lime over the watermelon and squeeze the lime juice into the bowl.
3. Remove the seeds and ribs of the jalapeno. Finely dice 1/2 of the jalapeno and add to the bowl.
4. Add in the green onions (reserve some for garnish), rice vinegar and mint leaves, stirring to combine.
5. Transfer the mixture into a blender , whipping until creamy and smooth. Add more jalapeno to taste.
6. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
7. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with watermelon chunks, green onion and a few mint leaves.


July 2, 2010

The Wrong Coast

I hate to say it, but I'm starting to think that I'm on the wrong coast. While sweltering weather is forecasted for NYC once again, the weather is absolutely gorgeous in San Francisco and Los Angeles. And, it seems like all my favorite Summer 2K10 jams are by Californian musicians. Could this be a sign? Should I pack up my bags and head west?

For whatever reason, I felt like summer officially started when I listened to Ty Segall's "Girlfriend." To be honest, I've had mixed feelings about Ty Segall since I went to his headlining "show" at Mercury Lounge last September. Apparently he had been sick, so he only performed for about 15 minutes. It was a major letdown, especially since I had been looking forward to seeing him live for quite some time. Maybe I'm too harsh on the guy, but I can't deny that "Girlfriend" is a hot summer jam. It's the kind of song that will get you pumped for almost anything, even a trip to the dentist.

By far, Best Coast has been one of the most impressive new acts to emerge on the scene in the last year or so. If I hadn't seen Best Coast at CMJ last fall, I may have missed out for much longer. Amazingly, every new track has been increasingly stronger. When I fell in love with "Far Away," I thought that Best Coast couldn't get any better. Of course, Best Coast proved me wrong with their newest single, "Boyfriend." With catchy lyrics and melodies, "Boyfriend" is pop at its best. I have listened to this song on repeat for hours, and it might be for nostalgic reasons. If this song had existed when I was in middle school, it would have been my anthem. Being hopelessly in puppy love with a guy friend was a story that was all too familiar to me at age 11, and Best Coast captures this yearn so perfectly. Bethany Cosentino, you are my hero. Be sure to look out for Best Coast's first full-length release, Crazy For You, which you can pre-order here.

Last but not least, "King of the Beach" by Wavves has been my default pick-me-upper. With all the ridiculous publicity surrounding Wavves and their behavior in the last year, I may have decided to stop paying attention. I really have to thank The Great Pumpkin for convincing me to check out the new album. "King of the Beach" is the first track of the album (by the same name), and it's a great opener to a set of summer festival-perfect songs. Hearing it live may make you want to jump onstage, do a 5-second dance, and dive into the crowd. If P4K's stamp of approval isn't compelling enough for you (or turns you off completely), I hope I can nudge you to take a listen below.

Girlfriend - Ty Segall

King of the Beach - Wavves

Boyfriend - Best Coast


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