Posts Tagged ‘diy


tiffins and hummus

My household has never found much use for ziploc bags, so when I have to carry lunch with me, it often looks like this:

Which reminds me of the thousands of tiffins delivered daily by the dabbawallas of Mumbai. The dabbawallas gather up homemade lunches in the mornings and deliver them, still hot, to office workers by lunchtime. The system is complex, with 175,000 tiffins changing hands through multiple depots each day, yet delightfully low-tech. Most deliveries are made by bicycle, and there are no computers, or even written words, involved. The tiffins are routed using symbols drawn on their lids to indicate their destinations. The system is also very effective: most online sources say that only one in 16 million deliveries goes astray. Very important in a society where food taboos matter–and proliferate.

If you don’t live in India but would like a tiffin that is more elegant, or more permanent, than mine, you can get one from To-Go Ware. I didn’t know this until I picked up a stainless steel container called a “sidekick” to put John-Paul’s shaving soap in:

But I figure the plastic (and bioplastic) containers are already cluttering up my kitchen cabinets, and I don’t see them going away any time soon, so I may as well use what I’ve got. Mine don’t snap together, but putting the stack inside a bag works just as well.

And what, you may wonder, did I use the contents of my tiffin for? You’ll note that those vegetables and those pickled jalapeños look ripe to accompany hummus, but there’s no hummus in the photo. That morning I tried to make hummus using chickpea flour. My main mistake seems to have been putting the garlic, tahini, and lemon juice through the food processor before I added the chickpea flour. The food processor created an emulsion that was too thick to absorb much flour. I ended up with a chalky brick that still tasted mostly of tahini. I still have hope for a gentler method–next time I’ll mince the garlic by hand and stir everything together with a spoon instead. For that particular lunch, though, I ended up buying hummus from Bi Rite, along with some tortilla chips, which are my favorite tool for scooping it up.

The jalapeños add a little spice. Sometimes we’ll spoon a bit of Sriracha chili-garlic paste on top instead, but we were out of it that morning. (The hot sauce in the picture is from a nearby taquería.)


On cooking in California: Part 1

I figured that moving to California would change our cooking habits. But how? We’d probably eat more citrus, and our salad season would be extended–would maybe even replace our winter mac and cheese season. That’s as far as I got in thinking about it.

And both of those things are at least partly true, but they’re not all of it, and they weren’t even the first changes we noticed.

Three things just showed up in our regular stock of ingredients: parsley, ginger, and yogurt. Of those three, I might have guessed the yogurt if you had asked me what new things we would keep on hand in California. More fruit equals more fruit snacking. More fruit snacking plus my hypoglycemic need for protein equals a steady supply of yogurt to go with the fruit. Maybe.

Actually, it started off as cottage cheese, but I tired of that and moved on to Greek yogurt, which was more flexible in the kitchen besides. It could be used in Kaddo Bourani when we found our counter covered with squash after a trip to the Farmer’s Daughter pumpkin patch last fall. It can also be used in muffins, mac and cheese (which we still eat), and other recipes–handy, given that we’re not milk drinkers and so we don’t keep milk on hand.

After a few weeks of Greek yogurt, it began to bother me what a harsh mistress Fage was. The largest container I could buy ran out well before the week was over, and it was awfully expensive. What was different about Greek yogurt, anyway? Was there anything special besides its thickness?

The answer is no. So I bought cheaper, larger container of regular yogurt, dumped it into a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, and placed that over a stockpot in the fridge for the night. Voilà, Greek yogurt.

Parsley has a sort of California connection, too. Fresh local parsley wasn’t available in Boston in the winter, and we couldn’t be bothered with the scanty plastic packets at the grocery. We became year-round fans of dried parsley, both for its own flavor and for the way it enhanced other flavors. But in California, fresh parsley is available, a huge bunch for a dollar, year-round at the nearest farmers’ market. We bought one and put it in a jar of water on the door of the fridge, where it immediately became a fixture. We use it in white wine sauces and sprinkle it on almost everything else, and it lets us make tabbouleh any time we like. (Thanks to Moosewood’s vegan chili recipe, cracked wheat was already a staple in the Cervantes-Ferguson pantry. And thanks to my grandmother, who swears by it as a cure for stomach upsets, I wouldn’t dream of not at least trying to keep a pot of hierba buena, or spearmint, growing. It languished in Boston; it’s thriving in San Francisco.)

Ginger first ended up in the fruit bowl because our wine bottles full of ginger syrup, which we mix with water and then carbonate to make ginger beer, wouldn’t have survived the move, so we gave them to friends at our last going away party. This left us in need of more ginger syrup, and there was ginger left over when I was done making it. We used the ginger in ginger-lemon-honey tea when we were sick this fall, but our favorite use has been frying it up crisp with garlic to sprinkle on any dish that’s even vaguely Asian, as Mark Bittman recommends.

Next time: The new things we’ve made an effort to keep in our California pantry.

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