Sunday, May 30, 2010

Revisiting the Farmer's Market

It has been quite a few years now (possibly six) since I've gone to a Sunday farmer's market. Sure, I've ambled through a few farmer's markets within that time, but usually only because I stumbled upon them by chance, or boredom, and never with the intention of actually fulfilling a marketing list. I used to go to the Beverly Hills Farmer's Market every Sunday with my mom, grandma, grandpa, etc when I was 11 and 12 years old. In fact, that was so long ago that the location of the farmer's market has since moved from it's prior 1-block of Canon Drive to a weird, pseudo street parallel to Santa Monica Blvd behind the Public Library.

However, I love farmer's markets, and not just for the free samples. From a personal standpoint, I enjoy knowing that I am nourishing my body with both local and pesticide-free vegetables and fruits. From a culinary standpoint, I am exposed to new foods and/or ways of cooking them. And, from an observer's standpoint, I wonder at the pride, anticipation, or accomplished feelings that the farmers and vendors must experience as they put their produce out on display, offering up sliced samples in the hopes that you will decide that, yes, this particular vendor does in fact have the juiciest, richest tasting tomatoes at the market.

In the hopes of revisiting these past feelings and with the intention of stocking up on foods for the week, my mother and I headed to the Hollywood Farmer's Market at ten in the morning this Sunday. Why Hollywood, you ask? The Beverly Hills Farmer's Market is not only small and in a location that I do not like, but it brings up bad memories of the past, as I had been terminally ill during that time period in my life when I went to the market each week. Conversely, the Santa Monica Farmer's Market held on Main St and Ocean Park on Sunday is not too far away, but, from my experiences visiting it last year when I lived in Venice Beach, offers more cooked and prepared foods than it does fresh produce. My mother warned me that the Hollywood Farmer's Market would be large and crowded, and although I believed her, I truly was not prepared for the onslaught of human bodies and the three converging rows of vendors.

The selection was plentiful and varied to say the least, the most common vegetables and fruits for sale (aside from lettuces, of course) were avocados, oranges, grapefruits, squashes, string/Lima beans, strawberries, cherries, and blueberries. I was surprised at the abundance of kale variations available, and the noticeable lacking of raspberries, eggplants, and apples. Overall, it was a successful trip, and I ended up, using $32, buying both the items I had set out to purchase, as well as a few surprise goods.

My Purchases:

-2 super large 'bacon' avocados
-2 smaller non-Has avocados
-2 large bags of wild arugula (which means that it has flowers growing on it)
-1 pound of Persian cucumbers
-6 tomatillos
-1 bag chopped cactus
-2 nectarines
-2 bunches cilantro
-4 plum tomatoes
-2 yellow heirloom tomatoes
-1 bunch black kale
-2 small pots of genovese basil
-4 guavas
-1 container chopped Middle Eastern salad of cucumber, tomato, onion, lemon, etc

I'm glad I returned to the farmer's market and I plan on going again soon...if not next weekend, then the next. I suppose it depends on how much of the produce I eat within that time. But I am definitely not going back to the Hollywood Farmer's Market for a while. Too many people, too much selection. Even though it's tiny, maybe I'll just hit up the Melrose Farmer's Market.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mo' Betta Mo' Greens

Summer is finally here which means that you are not only more physically active, but that you're appetite is likely to decrease...or at least your desire for hot, hearty foods is. If not raw, then at the very least, cold/cool and fresh dishes are a great way to nourish and replenish your body after hot, activity-packed days.

Salads are a great way to get the nutrients you need, as well as satisfy your appetite. But they get boring sometimes, don't they? Lately I've been eating this salad (concocted off the top of my head one night at 2 a.m. after returning from a nightclub) which combines a number of surprising, loud, and exciting tastes to keep your mouth salivating and your stomach wanting more. And when you come to think of it, putting the pepperiest, bitterest, sourest, etc greens into one bowl-- despite the clash of flavors-- is actually a great idea because each bite is a surprise and delight.

The salad is comprised of three different leafy greens: iceberg lettuce, arugula, and cilantro. Although it's true that dark leafy greens are more healthy for you than their lighter-colored counterparts, such as iceberg lettuce, iceberg lettuce is a great source of Vitamins A, B6, C, K, and iron. Arugula, prized for its tangy, zesty flavor, is a super house of Vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium, iron, and magnesium. It is also a great natural stimulant for the secretion of detoxifying enzymes throughout the body. Lastly, cilantro, one of my top three favorite herbs, is another leaf that is prized for removing heavy metals and toxic chemicals from the body. It is also a great anti-inflammatory and digestive herb.

The salad is simple and quick to make and with just a few additions, it makes for a tantalizing dinner.

Taste Bud Explosion Ensalada

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped finely
1 large handful arugula leaves, chopped finely
1 large handful cilantro leaves, chopped finely
1 large tomato, chopped
1 to 1/5 cups shredded mozzarella 'cheese' (soy, rice, vegan, or milk-based)
Tons of salt and pepper to taste

Wash all the greens and the tomato before chopping. Mix in large bowl. Add cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 1 large dinner portion serving.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

From Farm to Market

So this is what a RAW garbanzo bean (not their canned or dehydrated derivative) looks like...

Very fun to pop open/ peel and tasted oddly like snap peas

Pretty in Pink

Why is pink food so enticingly appealing? I don't even like sweets, but I wanted these donuts so badly...not to eat, but to admire; to display; to frame on my wall.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Only In Hawaii

I'm back on the aina and I knew there were some foods I missed that I could only get out here in Hawaii, but boy did I not realize how much I missed these foods/products.
If you ever have a chance to come out to the islands, make sure you have a taste of these:

Sea Asparagus-

It looks like mini asparagus spears, but the taste isn't fooling anyone. Sea asparagus is salty and sweet with a far more stringy-quality than the vegetable that it is named after. According to The Star Bulletin: "Officially, sea asparagus belongs to the genus Salicornia, making it a distant relative of beets and spinach, but it's certainly neither of those. It is an intertidal plant, which means it grows in brackish water near the edge of the ocean, but not in Hawaii."
Because of its brackish water origins, in its raw form, sea asparagus is very salty indeed. The best way to prepare it is by soaking it in boiling water for at least three minutes, and then repeatedly rinsing it with fresh water. 
I used to it plain with chopped garlic, but today at the Haliewa Farmer's Market, I came across Dr. Sun's stand and fell in love with his sea asparagus, chopped tomato and onion salad. 

Because I only bought two containers, which I ate within a few hours, I bought the ingredients myself separately, this time adding lemon juice and it was amazing!

Li Hing Mui 

Li Hing Mui is a salty dried plum powder of Chinese origin found in Hawaii. Because it is a powder, it is put on practically everything- from dried fruits, to sour patch kids to popcorn. It might look a bit gross, but if you like sweet/sour combinations, this is amazing. 


Basically a cousin to the standard purple passion fruit, but yellow, larger, and less sour.

Hawaiian Papaya-

In case you didn't already know this, there are two types of papayas: Hawaiian and Mexican. Hawaiian papayas tend to be pear-shaped, pink or orange-fleshed, and weigh about one pound, whereas Mexican papayas are much larger, weighing up to 10 pounds  (and they are longer) and their flesh tends to be yellow. The flavor of Mexican papayas is commonly known to be less rich than the Hawaiian papaya so make sure you try one when you visit the islands. 

Boiled Peanuts-

Don't ask me why, but there is something about soggy, damp peanuts that make them more flavorful and salty. Apparently they are common worldwide, generally sold as street food in India, Ghana, Nigeria, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Salvador, and Bahia. 


Furikake is a Japanese condiment that tastes great, despite the oddity of the ingredients it is made up of. It comes in many different 'flavors' but typically consists of a mixture of dried and ground fish (bonito flakes), sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt, and monosodium glutamate. Sometimes it can be salmon, egg, miso, or vegetable flavored. It is most commonly sprinkled on rice or popcorn, but I have been lucky enough to have it on roasted cashews. Yum. 

Furikake can easily be purchased at natural food markets on the mainland


I couldn't believe it myself when I first tried it, but poke, a raw fish salad, is amazing. Poke typically consists of cubed Ahi (yellow fish tuna) sashimi and served cold. Although all poke is marinated with some degree of salt and shoyu (soy sauce) WHAT sauce the poke is marinated in (and the quality of the Ahi) is what distinguishes good poke from shit poke. Some examples of popular poke styles are Limu Poke, Soy Sauce Poke, Wasabi Poke, and Hawaiian Poke. My personal favorite is Wasabi Poke, which is creamy (due to mayonnaise), orange in color, and very spicy and Hawaiian Poke, which as far as I can tell, has chili pepper, scallion, sesame oil, and seaweed pieces. As bizarre as it may sound, just think of poke like carpaccio or ceviche. 

Shrimp Flavored Chips-

I really have no excuse for eating these things-- they are my own dirty little secret. Maybe its the slightly buttery flavor, or maybe its the crunchy, airy quality of each bite, but I love these chips. There are lots of different types of shrimp chips, sometimes called shrimp crackers or prawn crackers, and let me just warn you: THEY ALL TASTE DIFFERENTLY. So, if you are intent on trying a shrimp chip that doesn't remotely taste like shrimp (just fat and butter), then opt for the Frito Lay Shrimp Chips. 

Irifune Restaurant on Kapahulu Ave-

No, it is not pretty. It's old, quirky, seemingly run-down, and very much a family-oriented restaurant. But, the establishment has been around for 35 years now and is famous for its dinner lines that extend outside to the sidewalk. Oh, yeah, and of course their grilled Ahi. You can find grilled Ahi anywhere in Hawaii, even at fast food joints like L and L Drive Inn, but Irifune is the cream of the crop. Give in to
the kitsch and taste a bite of pure heaven. 

Shave Ice-

Shave ice is a big deal in Hawaii and you have to make sure to call it "Shave Ice" not "Shaved Ice" or "Snow Cones" because, well, it's not. Hawaiian shave ice is a popular treat, consisting of fluffy, finely shaved ice topped with delicious flavored syrups and (optionally) served on top of a scoop of ice cream. The syrup flavors are plentiful and can include lemon, lime, coconut, cherry, strawberry, blue raspberry, cotton candy, watermelon, li

Hawaiian Avocados-

I suppose, having been born and raised in California, I should be partial to Hass avocados, but I most definitely am not. Although there are many different varieties of Hawaiian avocados, all Hawaiian avocados tend to be larger, longer (pear-shaped),  heavier, and greener than their mainland counterparts. This means that you have to wait longer for them to ripen but I personally like them when they are still a bit unripe as they have a crisp bite to them. The skin on these avocados is also much thinner and less wrinkly. 

All of the above avocados are Hawaiian, except for the Hass avocado in the lower left hand corner.

To appease Hawaiian food fans whose favorite foods I probably did not list, here is a list of other notable great strictly Hawaiian foods/products: Hawaiian rock salt, Kailua pig, Guava Jam, Spam Musubi, Leonard's Malasada's, mochi ice cream, poi, taro chips, kava, sweet bread, dried shredded squid, octopus, etc, onigiri, Poke sticks, macadamia nuts, etc....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Today's Bikram Yoga Class...

...smelled like I was waiting in line for Panda Express at the food court.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spring Reading

Growing up in Los Angeles, you never really get a chance to appreciate, let alone notice, the change in seasons. As a kid, the only indications that I had that spring had finally come was our government-mandated spring break and the dreaded, statewide Stanford 9 tests. Flowers blooming, icy rivers melting, and the long-awaited goodbye to the winter doldrums and hello to sunshine were unknown to me.

So, I did what I usually do, and sought answers in books. The first time I read Rabbit Hill was in Mrs. Polep's fourth grade class. Talking animals, especially rabbits, have never really been my thing and I can honestly say, had I not been a nerd and chosen the desk right smack in front of the classroom bookshelf, I probably would never have noticed the book. Ever since fourth grade, though, I have read Rabbit Hill every spring ( on an almost consistent, yearly basis) to remind myself that spring has come and that I should be joyful.

I know it's a children's book, but that shouldn't stop you from reading it. It's the typical story of nature vs. man, as a neighborhood of small critters, rodents, and animals team together to get rid of the newest tenant who moves to Rabbit Hill.

I'm curious if anyone else has favorite spring reading that they turn to time and again to read, or, if there is a particular book that they feel evokes the spirit of spring like no other.

To be honest, I don't like spring. The main reason is because, after suffering through a cold and dreary winter, I want respite-- sun and warmth. And yet, spring is never as warm as I'd like it to be, not to mention far wetter than I remember each year. Spring is merely another blockade to summer that I must wait out. This, of course, explains why I need motivational reading, such as Rabbit Hill, to get me through March, April, and May.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday Playlist

Sometimes you just need some motivational, energizing music to get you through the day, or in my case, to get you through finals.

Listen to Track 2, Kainchi Hare Krishna by Krishna Das

Three Cheers For Dressing Up Your Dog!

Yes, I'm procrastinating and yes, I'm a bit of a dog fan, but seriously, who can deny that dressing up your dog in ridiculous costumes is not funny? In fact, in general, why is anthropomorphization so entertaining?

Here are some ridiculously funny pictures of dogs wearing ridiculously funny outfits:

Pareidolia....Or Is It?

Some people see the Virgin Mary in a water stain and others see Jesus in their pancakes. This condition is known as pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon in which a person tries to find recognizable or significant subject matter in random objects. Sometimes this phenomenon can occur in fairly normal situations, such as when one spots a tree that looks like an old man or a cloud that looks like a fish. But of course, pareidolia can pop up in far weirder locations, such as the above mentioned holy sitings, or, on a more personal level such as with this carrot I had intended to add my to salad the other day. Granted, there is no resemblance of Krishna or Buddha in this carrot, but just look at this carrot and tell me what you see. Very Georgia O'Keefe, if you know what I mean.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Your Daily Mantra

Let's hear it for Krishna!

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

Every Bikram yoga class ends with two rounds of kapalabhati, "fire breathing" which helps to detoxify and energize the body, bring mental clarity, increase circulation, and firm abdominal muscles. Of course, by the time you get to this posture, you've already been working out for at least 85 minutes and could care less about the benefits of said-posture. In fact, you're pretty much only thinking about when you get to leave that 103 degree room and take a shower.
To get myself through this last posture, I create a mental game for myself. At the studio I go to in Los Angeles, there are three huge framed pictures of young Bikram, older Bikram, and Bikram's teacher, Bishnu Ghosh on the back wall. During fire breathing, I look at one picture per breath, silently thanking the Birkams and Bishnu Ghosh for guiding me in class and asking which one of them was guiding me and giving me strength during class that day. It might sound odd to some people, but I enjoy giving thanks to those who created this practice which I love so much and it makes the sequence go by so much faster.

At the studio I do Birkam yoga at in Connecticut, there are no pictures whatsoever on the walls of the classroom.  So, what do I do to pass the time and give my practice a spiritual aspect? I silently chant the names of Hindu gods/goddesses and deities, thanking them and asking who guided me through my practice for the day. Here is what I chant: Krishna, Shiva, Rama, Durge.
Today, my chantings ended on Krishna both times, so today's mantra is dedicated to Lord Krishna.

The above mantra, "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna..." may sound familiar as it is the primary chant of the Hare Krishnas. Known as the maha mantra, it is considered the most important mantra in the Vedas, and is also sometimes referred to as the great mantra. When chanted, the mantra is traditionally intended as a petition to God (in this case, Krishna), roughly translating to: "O Krishna, O energy of Krishna, please engage me in Your service." In the Hare Krishna religion, this mantra is supposed to be chanted everyday with the use of mala beads. However, because the maha mantra is chanted throughout India and the world for that matter, regardless of religion, it has come to be used as a universal mantra, with "Krishna" standing in symbolically for whichever god/deity you may worship.

There is much to be said about this mantra that cannot all be discussed now; however, I will end this post with a statement that George Harrison made about Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON), made that has always stuck with me:
In a book I read about George Harrison and the Hare Krishnas that I received from the ISKON Temple in Culver City, CA, I read a statement about the maha mantra and why chanting it is so great.

"Mukunda: Once you asked Srila Prabhupada about a particular verse he quoted from the Vedas, in which it’s said that when one chants the holy name of Krishna, Krishna dances on the tongue and one wishes one had thousands of ears and thousands of mouths with which to better appreciate the holy names of God.
George: Yes. I think he was talking about the realization that there is no difference between Him standing before you and His being present in His name. That’s the real beauty of chanting–you directly connect with God. I have no doubt that by saying Krishna over and over again, He can come and dance on the tongue. The main thing, though, is to keep in touch with God."

It's probably just because I'm a visual learner, but I love the idea that every time I chant the maha mantra and speak Krishna's name, he dances on my tongue.

Yoga Dog

There are times in my life when I see, read, or hear something that I make a mental note to remember and use later in life. For instance, when I was in middle school I started keeping a small journal of thoughts and ideas for future book and character ideas, jotting down such details, as inconsequential as they may have seemed at the time, as interesting last names, bad habits, or facial quirks for my future protagonists and antagonists.
Yesterday I had a similar ah-ha! moment before my Power Vinyasa class. At West Hartford Yoga there is a cute, little white dog named Ky who lounges around the studio lobby and back office. I always greet Ky, as I am not only a dog lover but I am sorely in need of canine love what with leaving my dogs back in California. Before entering class, Ky and I shared a moment-- I pet her until she literally melted in my lap and became as limp as a stuffed animal-- and then entered the studio to warm up.
Five minutes later, as I resting in shivasana, Ky ambled into the studio, sidling up to the nearest yoga for a pet! I don't know why the addition of a furry creature in my yoga class, stretching and resting on a mat like the rest of us, was such a wonderful occurrence for me, but it was at that moment that a. I fell in love with a dog (I should probably see a therapist for this) and b. I vowed, when I open my own studio or establish myself as a teacher at a studio, I must get a yoga dog as well! Of course, the only problem I foresee with this is people who are allergic to dogs, but I suppose if West Hartford Yoga can get away with it, then so can I!

Chudleigh, the "yoga dog" for a studio on the Big Island, Hawaii

Yoga dogs are awesome and I can't wait to have one of my own. However, I am never going to teach or understand these so-called crazy yoga classes for dogs.  And the scariest part is that this trend appears to be spreading throughout the world...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

From Garden To Table

So this is how asparagus grows...

What To Do....

...with a lost baby squirrel?

Today's Bikram Yoga Class...

...smelled like freshly baked Challah