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It’s no secret that I can’t cook. Well, it’s not that I can’t cook, it’s that I usually don’t. I am perpetually in awe of people who on a regular basis go to the trouble of creating amazing meals and desserts from scratch. To me, you people are like superheroes… it amazes me that in the same time that I can waste sitting around doing nothing, you kitchen folk can whip out a casserole or a cake likes it’s nothing. That’s pure magic.

Me? I generally can’t be bothered. I do enjoy cooking when I actually get around to doing it, but when I do it’s a big deal. Geez, what a production just to get vegetables cleaned and chopped! I’d much rather just enjoy the fruits of someone elses more talented labor. I’m blown away whenever someone feeds me something they’ve made, as I know that even the simplest things take so much time & effort to create. Many of you out there spend a lot of your time in the kitchen cooking up awesome dinners and incredible desserts for the people who matter to you, and for that you deserve mad respect. Cooking with care & love is just about one of the greatest (and sexiest) things you could ever do for someone, so in case no one’s thanked you for it lately, allow me: THANKS! I could not be a Foodeater without you Foodmakers.

Basus Homestyle

You know where this is heading, right? You guessed it- I cooked! While it is a rare occurance that I bust out and cook up an entire feast, it does actually happen once in a blue moon. This latest cooking adventure took place because of a wonderful offer I took advantage of courtesy of Basu’s Homestyle, a new Indian food service here in Los Angeles. Basu’s make delicious traditional masala’s (sauces) that you can use to create an amazing Indian meal in very little time. As of this writing, Los Angelenos can try Basu’s yummy offerings at the Whole Foods hot bar on Santa Monica & Fairfax (and they plan to expand to more locations in the near future). Mr. Meaner over at Quarrygirl.com did an excellent write up of the prepped Indian goodies by Basu’s that you can now get at Whole Foods, including: basil vindaloo with peas and mushrooms, tofu apple masala, vegan curried beef with basil vindaloo, channa dal and peanut masala with roasted red potatoes. Oh man, it all looks so good.

While I haven’t tried the ready-made options at Whole Foods yet, I was lucky enough to take Basu’s Homestyle up on their generous free taste-test of their masalas and other goodies. At first figured I’d just serve the sauces over rice but they gave me so much great stuff (Masala Sauce, Peanut Masala Sauce, Chana Dal, Tamarind Chutney and Saffron Rice) that I was immediately inspired to cook a real meal with it.
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Just a quick Sunday post because it’s such a lovely day. I woke up too late to visit the Hollywood Farmers Market with as much time to linger as I would have liked, so I went to the closer Studio City Farmers Market instead.

The Studio City market does not have the awesome vegan soul food from Taste of Life like the larger Hollywood market, but it does have the delicious Corn Maiden tamales. This was my breakfast:

'Corn Maiden Tamales at the Farmers Market

Corn is my crack. I love it any which way: sweet, savory, hot, spicy, baked, fried, whole, ground… you name it. I am not by any means a tamale connoisseur, my only qualification of expertise is my desire to eat them. Corn Maiden makes all kinds of delicious tamales and there’s always a few different vegetarian and vegan options, all rather tasty. Today I had one made with vegetables, potatoes and balsamic vinegar and the another made with sweet white corn. They came with a spicy tomato salsa and a mild tomatillo salsa. I had the savory tamale with a bit of each salsa and enjoyed the sweet one plain. A perfect combo.

Here’s a look at my market haul:

'Dave's Gourmet Korean Food

The packaged stuff is from Dave’s Gourmet Korean Food which is only available at local farmers markets (I haven’t seen them at the Hollywood market yet). Everything they sell is vegan, made by a master Korean herbalist who combines ingredients for maximum nutritional goodness. Next time you see their stand at a farmers market you should go check it out, they’ll usually let you generously sample everything.

The top container is Dave’s special tempeh, made from soy and brown rice by some fancy process of chef wizardry involving first pulverizing it, then grilling it and cutting it into strips. It’s got a very unique texture and mild flavor, I like to eat it with Dave’s kim-chi (not seen here because I’ve still got a jar in the fridge from my last visit).

The next container holds marvelously marinated lotus roots; pretty to look at, tasty to eat, and also said to be an aphrodisiac. I also got the mixed vegetable BiBimBop. I haven’t tried it yet but it’s calling my name from the other room. From what I can identify there’s pickled cucumbers, burdock root, bean sprouts and carrots, along with a couple of white rooty looking veggies I’m not sure about, all on top of cabbage.

I also picked up some little persimmons, red peppers, an Asian pear, asparagus, ginger and the most adorable little purple eggplants on the planet. Off to the side are a pair of delicata squash. Looks like I’m set for while :)

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There are those who hate on L.A something fierce. I’m willing to bet that none of them have ever visited the Hollywood Farmers Market on a fine mid-winter day like today (sunny and warm, crisp blue skies and just the tiniest hint of a breeze).

The Hollywood Farmers Market rules for so many reasons, so don’t even get me started. Just go if you haven’t already. And ride the metro… it’s right there and you won’t find parking any closer, or cheaper. You might even run into a celebrity. Like Gwen Stefani.

Hollywood Farmers Market

Instead of my usual soul food lunch at the farmers market, today I ventured out and tried the Korean food stand instead. The nice lady there makes these delicious vegan vegetable pancakes.

Hollywood Farmers Market

The plate came with noodles, rice and kim chee. It was all great, though my pancakes were a little bit under cooked on the inside. If I get these again I’ll ask for them well-done and crispy. I also want to try her tasty looking tofu, which looks like it’s nice and spicy with Korean goodness.

Hollywood Farmers Market

And here’s the bounty I came home with. From left to right: mandarin oranges, purple cauliflower (oh joy!), artichokes, fuji apples, arugula, watercress, mint, sage, cherimoya, rainbow chard. The lemons are not from the farmers market but they insisted on being in the picture. What was I going to do, argue with a lemon?

All of this, along with the lunch and a round trip on the metro = under $30.
Wearing sandals and a t-shirt in January while sampling strawberries = priceless.

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Update October 2008: Leda’s has closed shop and is now catering only :(
Read on and see what you missed!
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When my aunt brought out her homemade honey cake on the first evening of Rosh Hashana I asked if it had been made with eggs. My uncle replied that of course she had used eggs, or else it wouldn’t taste good, that no cake could taste good without eggs. I took that as a challenge to prove him wrong.

For the second night of Rosh Hashana I busted out with 2 dozen mini vegan cupcakes from Leda’s Bake Shop and proceeded to rock my egg eating family’s world.

'Vegan cupcakes from Ledas Bake Shop

I got two flavors, the velvet cake (their version of red velvet cake without the artificial red) and peanut butter-vanilla. Both were fabulous and moist and rich and delicious. I like the tiny little size, about two hearty bites worth each, which allows you to try out a couple of flavors without filling up or pigging out. Unless of course you keep all 24 of them for yourself. I had read many raving reviews about Leda’s and am very pleased to report back that it’s definitely all that, and then some. They also have vegan scones, brownies and cookies. Quite an indulgence.

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A delight indeed. I got this pre-made lunch at Whole Foods, unsure as to whether it would actually be good, or kinda dry and tasteless like some of these ready made meals often tend to be. I was pleasantly surprised to find it not only juicy and fresh, but also totally yummy.

'Asian Mex Delight: Edamame wrap

The “Asian Mex Delight” is made by Foodology, a local company that supplies natural prepared foods to markets. It’s a spinach tortilla wrapped around organic edamame, black beans, corn jicama, green and red bell peppers, red onions and comes served with a tasty mild salsa. Pretty simple in theory but awesome in the execution. It makes for a delicious and hearty lunch… filling but not too heavy. Good stuff for when you’re too lazy to make anything but not too lazy to roll into Whole Foods to pick up something quick.

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I’ve been wanting to attend the tofu festival since I’d first heard of it years ago and last weekend I got my chance. I can’t say that I was overwhelmed by it’s greatness, I was expecting something better. My favorite point was getting to catch about 5 minutes of the Taiko group playing their amazing drums.

It was super hot and sunny out and there is nowhere along the few festival blocks to get away from the sun and into the shade. Couple this with the fact that the festival was packed, and closed off on both sides so that everyone is stuffed into the middle of a narrow street filled with booths on both sides.

For a festival all about tofu I expected more… uh, tofu. And food in general. But the focus didn’t seem to be on the food, with just as many vendor stalls as there was food. Many of the booths had nothing for vegans or even vegetarians, and some of those that did only had unappetizing options. A lot of what I saw just didn’t look tasty or in any way unique. On the other hand, there were a few places that did have stuff that looked really good, but all of those places had super long lines, where you would get stuck standing in the middle of everyone’s walk way on this packed street, with the sun beating down on you. Not my idea of fun. Even though it wasn’t chaotic and everyone (including myself) seemed to be having a pleasant enough time, I still felt that it wasn’t laid out well from a space planning perspective (it felt quite claustrophobic in there), and it wasn’t well organized either in regards to the food options and ways of getting it.

That said, here are some pictures of what I did get to try:

'Vegan sweet potato pie with tofu cream

This was the “Vegan Sweet Potato Pie with Tofu Cream” from A New Way of Life Cafe. This was my favorite of everything I tasted at the festival, it was quite delicious. I want more.

'Honey Orange Tofu and Mock Tofu Margarita

House Foods of America were one of the sponsors of the event, this one above came from their booth. First off was the “Honey Orange Tofu”. It was pretty good but nothing special. Generic Chinese food restaurant sort of flavor. Next to this dish you’ll see the (non-alcoholic) “Mock Tofu Margarita”. I tell you, this was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever tasted, and trust me, I’ve eaten some weird shit in my time. It was so gross! You’ve all seen the sorts of things I eat, you know I have eclectic tastes and appetites and am open minded when it comes to food. This though… this was just wrong. I took two sips of it and threw the thing away with disdain. They basically took Margarita mix and blended some plain soft tofu into it, at least that’s what it tasted like to me. I don’t know if there was anything else in there such as soy milk maybe, but whatever was or wasn’t in it, that was just a bad idea that should have never seen the light of day.

'Tofu Keema Curry Rice from Curry House

This was the last thing I got to try, anything else that looked good had at least a half-hour line in front of it. From Curry House this is the “Tofu Keema Curry Rice”. It was very tasty, a thick Japanese style curry over tofu, vegetables and white rice. Came served with hardboiled egg which I declined. They also had iced barley tea which I love and theirs was very good. I should learn to make it at home.

So yeah, ate some tofu and got a bit too much sun. Oh, and I also walked over to Olvera Street and had a fresh sweet corn tamale filled with pineapple (not pictured) which was way better than anything at the Tofu Festival. I probably wouldn’t go to this event again but it was nice to get out of the house. I just read on LAist website that this may have been the last year for the festival because they didn’t bring in enough money.

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'Garbanzo beans, couscous and eggplant salad

Todays was a simple lunch at home as I didn’t have time to go out. You’ll probably see more homecooked meals for a while as I attempt to indulge a little bit less.

Here we have tasty couscous with currants, topped with a garbanzo salad mixed with a bit of tahini, eggplant salad with cucumbers & sundried tomatoes and grilled seitan (from Whole Foods). Yummy, nutritious and simple.

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