February 22, 2006


It looks like Tuesdays are Experimental Dianna Cooking days this semester, since Jacob teaches a late class and doesn't get home until at least 8:30. It's worth noting that Experimental Dianna Cooking differs essentially from the general run of daily cooperative cooking in this house in two ways. One, when there isn't anyone around to question what I'm doing or whether it'll taste good, I'm not shy about trying whatever stupid shit occurs to me. If it's bad, I'll eat it anyway; if it's really bad, I'll throw it away and have cereal or toast for dinner instead. Two, when I know there's no one to help me cook, real recipes start to sound insurmountably complicated and labor-intensive. Vague, half-formed ideas are much easier to commit to.

All of this really could lead to far stranger things than it recently has, and frankly, in most of the cases I can recall the results have been prosaic no matter how revolutionary the ideas. Still, the fact is that if I'm going to invent a food sensation that will sweep any significant portion of this or any other nation, it's going to be the result of an ill-conceived solo experiment. This week, all I did was make some very nice chili.


1 1/2 cups vegan "ground", such as Morningstar Crumbles
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup small white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
6-oz can tomato paste
14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. Herbs de Provence spice blend
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch coriander
pinch dried basil
red pepper flakes or ground piquin chiles to taste

Sautee the onion and crumbles in a medium pot with a dash of olive oil, then add the garlic, mushrooms, and celery and sautee until veggies are starting to soften. Add the diced tomatoes, most of the can of tomato paste (I used probably 4 ounces), and enough water to allow the mixture to simmer. Stir well. Add spices, adjusting to taste and keeping in mind that my quantities are wild guesses, cover, and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until your boyfriend comes home. Serve over rice (jasmine is incongruous but delicious).

Posted by dianna at February 22, 2006 08:26 PM

Experimenting in the kitchen leads to destruction and death. For instance, the time when I was seized by supernatural forces to create savory oatmeal. Normally one adds a pinch of salt to oatmeal to enhance the flavor. I didn't have a salt shaker, so I tried delicately pouring from one of those big cylinders. I slipped and got about a tablespoon. Rather than throw it out like a sensible person, I decided to run with it. "Why not add hot sauce?" I thought, "And garlic? And would some cumin and black pepper and mustard powder be the end of the world?" Sadly, the answer was yes.

What sort of herbs are in Herbs de Provence? I've got everything else on the list there (except the vegan meat-substitute, and I figure I'll just use beans instead).

I also tend to find Cumin is a welcome addition to chili.

Posted by: Zach S. at February 22, 2006 09:45 PM

Herbs de Provence, as I understand it, is a slightly more delicate and fragrant version of your basic Italian Seasoning mix. Here, I'll give you the ingredient list off the back of the bottle: winter savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, and lavender flowers.

If you substitute for the crumbly things, I'd suggest adding something extra-flavory to make up for it. So, for instance, beans plus a dash of vegan Worcestershire sauce or barbeque sauce? Rehydrated plain TVP chunks plus soy sauce? You get the idea.

Posted by: Dianna at February 22, 2006 10:25 PM

I can hardly bring myself to comment upon this savory oatmeal idea, but I feel that I must.

That sounds like the most godawful combination I can imagine, but then, you could remove the oatmeal entirely and it would still sound like the most godawful combination I could imagine. Garlic is fine. Black pepper and cumin I can handle in moderation. But the combination of garlic, black pepper, cumin, hot sauce, mustard powder and too much salt would need more mitigation than even a bland vehicle like oatmeal could provide.

And yet, I couldn't really promise that under similar circumstances I wouldn't try something equally foolish. It's my tendency to inappropriately sweeten things rather than to inappropriately savorize them, but I do see how the general problem occurs.

Posted by: Dianna at February 22, 2006 10:43 PM

once i was seized by a gnome when making hot chocolate and he made me, are you ready for this?, add marshmallows. i thought, "this is crazy. can my stomach handle it?" the gnome became more greedy to overwhelm all my senses, "add cinnamon," he urged, "the visigoth always added cinnamon."

Posted by: michele at February 22, 2006 10:43 PM

You mock, Michele, but you should watch out for those hot chocolate gnomes. I tell you this not from my own experience but from my beloved sister's: peanut butter is not a good additive.

Posted by: Dianna at February 22, 2006 10:45 PM

Eh. Visigoths are pretty nasty, I guess. I mean, they'll savage your village pretty good. But the ones you've really got to look out for are the Invisigoths. You're just standing there, everything's fine, then suddenly the village starts pillaging itself!

Posted by: Zach S. at February 23, 2006 05:46 PM