Archive for the ‘Cuisine’ Category

Vegan Punjab choley with ultimate grain mixture!

img_0237Last year, I posted my recipe for vegan Punjab choley, and this delivers more visitors to my blog than any other post! I must confess, it’s a great recipe, as it gives you choley that is:

  1. Tender
  2. Flavorful
  3. Satisfying
  4. Virtually fat free (you use no oil, so only the fat that is in the ingredients is in there)
  5. Low-sodium
  6. Easy to freeze and reheat
  7. Vegan
  8. Delicious!

Today the photograph includes my “ultimate grain mixture.” Did you know that you can cook any grain (wheat, rye, oats, buckwheat/kasha, millet, amaranth, quinoa, etc.) in the rice cooker using the same measure as you use for rice? It’s true! Hence, this receipt:

Matt Rouge’s Ultimate Grain Mixture (Gluten-Free)

1 measure brown rice

1 measure yellow millet

1 measure quinoa

Cook in rice cooker or on stove as you would brown rice.

This sounds like a very simple recipe, and it is, but I actually came across it through years of experimenting with differnt proportions of grains. The texture and fragrance and flavor is simply to die for! It’s rich, nutty, moist–yet with a wonderful crumbly feel to it at the same time. Give it a try–I think you will be most pleased.

  • Share/Bookmark

Coffee vs. tea

My belief is that, for a wide variety of reasons, tea (Camellia sinensis, not herbal tisanes, etc.) is a better drink than coffee.

Some of tea’s greatest advantages have nothing to do with flavor. Tea just happens to be a very practical beverage in every way.

Tea is easier to make.
All you need is the leaves, a pot to boil water, and a cup. A teapot helps, but millions around the world simply put the leaves in a cup and pour boiling water on them. Disposal is also simple and fairly mess-free: you just dump the leaves. The tools of tea-making clean easily.

Coffee, on the other hand, is a pain to make. You must grind it yourself or take a quality hit. It is slightly harder to measure than tea. Special equipment is needed to make it. Dumping the filter is theoretically simple but often involves a cleanup of grounds that overflowed, etc. The coffee apparatus itself requires cleanup and gets yucky after awhile.

Such are the comparative mechanics of tea- and coffee-making, but there is also the matter of success and failure. It is hard to screw up tea. If you steep it and it’s bitter, simply dilute with hot water. If it’s not flavorful enough, simply pour your tea back into the teapot and steep some more. If you didn’t use enough tea to begin with, add some more and resteep.

Coffee, on the other hand, is more easily flubbed and harder to correct afterward. If you use too little coffee or too much water, resulting in weak brew, there is nothing to do but dump it and start over fresh. If you make it too strong, it can be diluted with hot water but not so successfully as with tea. I will not even get into espresso-based drinks; making them well is an art requiring considerable skill in working with the coffee, milk, and machinery.

It is also easier to make just as much tea as you want. A small cup or a large pot. Tea is also faster to make than coffee.

Tea is stored much more easily, longer, and more successfully.
According to Wikipedia on coffee, “Once roasted, coffee loses its flavor quickly, although being kept in the absence of oxygen can greatly delay the process. Although some prefer to wait 24 hours after roasting to brew the first cup, all agree that it begins to get off-flavors and bitterness about a week after roasting, even under ideal conditions.”

In contrast, you put tea in a metal can and stick it in a cabinet. In general, you can store tea for up to a year without it losing much or any flavor, and some varieties may be stored quite a bit longer. Further, tea doesn’t taste rotten if it’s a little past its sell-by date; it merely loses some flavor. The upshot is that anyone can buy tea, make it him/herself, and drink it at its best.

Tea is less expensive.
A full analysis of the relative expense of tea and coffee is complicated by the fact that there are some very expensive teas (thousands of dollars a pound), whereas there are no coffees that cost that much. Further, the quality of the leaves and beans available varies at each price point.

But let’s put it this way: very cheap tea is of better quality and cheaper than very cheap coffee, and very good tea costs about the same as very good coffee.

The first is easy to demonstrate. Huge bags of Chinese Oolong or mammoth cans of generic grind are both cheap. The difference is that the tea will be quite drinkable whereas the coffee at that price point will be nasty. Ergo, better tea is available cheaper.

Further, very good tea and coffee are roughly equivalent in price. A 1 lb. bag of Keemum Concerto (a great black tea from is just $29.00. They say it costs $0.17 a cup. According to Taste of the World, gourmet coffee tends to cost about $0.12 to $0.25 a cup. Hence, good tea and coffee are roughly similar in price.

Tea is more healthful.
Tea is chock full of vitamins and healthful compounds. Green tea and black tea have different, healthful compounds. Tea is said to reduce cancer risk, etc. There are studies that show benefits to coffee, too, but these benefits are not as large. Coffee has more health risks, too. Here are the two Wikipedia articles on tea and health and coffee and health, so you can judge for yourself.

Billions can’t be wrong: tea is a more enjoyable beverage than coffee.

On average, tea tastes better than coffee.
The reason for this is simple: the manipulation of the tea plant to produce the final product is not very complicated. There is (for most varieties) no complicated roasting or processing involved, and the product keeps well. The result is that a cheap, thin Oolong served in a plastic glass in a dive Chinatown restaurant is an unimpressive but drinkable thing.

For opposite reasons, cheap coffee made without care is nasty, nasty stuff. The coffee sitting out for hours at your local oil change place is a liquid nightmare. Bad beans, bad roasting, lengthy storage at room temperature, bad drip maker, and time sitting out all combine to create an unpotable, thick, black bullion.

Tea tastes better under a wider range of circumstances.
Tea tastes good hot and cold. It tastes fine at room temperature. It tastes fine after it’s been sitting out overnight. It tastes fine after being steeped twice or three times. It tastes fine thin and diluted.

Coffee is a more particular beverage. It too tastes fine hot or on ice, of course, but it tastes bad at room temperature. It is undrinkable if it is too thin or boiled down.

Tea offers a much wider variety of tastes.
There is a variety of coffees, but I would not consider it wide. I’ve tried a bunch, but they all seem like variations on a theme. I’ve even tried a 100% robusta coffee, but the difference between that and an Arabica (a different species) is not so great as the difference between two fairly different Chinese greens (same species).

Tea, on the other hand, offers a stupendous variety. First, you have many different regions: China, Japan, India, Ceylon, Africa, not to mention several other Asian countries. Second, you have the different types: green, Oolong, black, white, pu er, etc. A cup of first flush Darjeeling tastes absolutely nothing like a Chinese pu er. Even among just the Formosa Oolongs, one can find incredible variety. The world of tea invites years of exploration at a reasonable price. It’s a great hobby.

Tea offers a better caffeine buzz.
It may be true that, based on the amounts and concentrations that people generally drink, tea has less caffeine in it than coffee. But for the tea connoisseur, this is unlikely to be true on a practical level. Certain tea plant varieties just have ton of caffeine in them. Nor do green teas have less caffeine than black: it’s the same amount of caffeine per same leaf of tea, so the tea variety and the concentration at which the tea is drunk will determine the level of caffeine.

I have been much more buzzed out on tea than I ever have on coffee. Drink the right variety of tea at a high concentration, and you will absolutely be flying. I have had tunnel vision, giddiness, and an overall feeling that I can only imagine is what speed is like. Not that I endorse such an experience or seek it out myself on a regular basis.

I haven’t seen any research, but I do think tea offers a different type of caffeine buzz. If I drink a lot of tea, the buzz seems to go mostly to my head. When I drink coffee, I seem to get less of a head rush and much more crankiness in my body.


Tea is the “real thing,” not friggin’ Coke.
The fact that Americans drink so much Diet Coke and other chemical soups is a real shame on our culture. We just don’t know better, I guess. Tea is a cheaper, easier, and more environmentally sound beverage, but still we stick with the fake-o concoctions in aluminum cans. What a joke. (And I’m guilty of it myself. Nor are other countries necessarily better: Japan drinks awful canned coffee in copious amounts.)

Tea is a real, organic beverage; its flavor is naturally complex. Even cheap tea is suitable for the sophisticated palate.

America has become somewhat coffee-smart but is still tea-stupid.
With the advent of Starbucks indie coffee joints and palates that can appreciate better coffee, America has become somewhat coffee-smart.But America is still incredibly tea-stupid. The same Starbucks that has educated the masses about good (or at least mediocre) coffee serves tea at a high price in cheap little bags (Tazo, what a joke).

A variety of other influences is preventing Americans from seeing tea for what it really is. Green tea is promoted by health food stores, which is fine, but almost no understanding of green tea connoisseurship is conveyed. In effect, people get the idea that green tea is a generic type of medicine, when in fact the variety of green teas from various regions is astounding, and green tea is one of the most exciting types of tea.

The bottled teas available in the US are atrocities that give Americans a false impression about tea’s nature. There are a lot of faux brands like Republic of Tea that try to make you think their sweetened concoctions are organic, good for the environment, healthful, whatever; but they can barely be labeled tea; they are more like Gatorade.

Drink more tea.

  • Share/Bookmark

Depression is power and wisdom within you and for you

Chapter 7 of Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore is entitled “Gifts of Depression.” Moore writes,

The soul presents itself in a variety of colors, including all the shades of blue, gray, and black. To care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colorings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange–the brilliant colors.

As the chapter title and the quote imply, Moore goes on to teach us how depression can be of great use to us. I highly recommend the book and praise the wisdom of Moore’s view of depression.

Here are a few ideas of my own. First is my take on the difference between sadness and depression: sadness is the painful mental state that occurs when one desires something that one does not have but can imagine having. One may be sad, for example, at the death of a close relative; the return of the relative is impossible, but one can at least imagine it. One key aspect of sadness is that it could instantly be eliminated were the object of desire made available.

In my experience, depression has something of the “flavor” of sadness but differs in that there is no particular object of desire missing and no apparent path to resolution. Depression may feel as though it was caused by, say, the death of a close relative, yet at the same time one does not intuit that the darkness would lift should the relative return. Moreover, despite whatever causes may seem to pertain, depression ultimately feels like a dissatisfaction with existence itself, with the very nature of the universe.

It is this existential nature of depression that makes it such an important tool for our development: it takes us to the very heart of things and lets us abide there for an extended period of time. Certainly, depression is the pathway to the “Dark Side” of the heart of things, but once we are in the heart we can learn more about both the Dark and the Light.

In our society at present the typical view of depression is that it always weakens and reduces, never strengthens or augments–but is that really the case? Depression, of course, used to be known as “melancholy,” which state of mind has spurred deep reflections into the human condition and produced great art in all media. Before you push your depression away, despising it, see what gifts it has to offer you within its black inner sanctum. It truly can be power for your use in many areas of life.

There is both a mundane side to depression and a spiritual. Of course, there is no firm dividing line between the mundane and the spiritual; they are completely mixed together, and the smallest things in life can have great meaning: that’s why we’re here. Too often, however, depression is merely treated as a mundane matter, a chemical imbalance, a nuisance to be rid of as quickly and conveniently as possible. Take a pill and feel better.

To those in extreme mental anguish, I certainly recommend getting the necessary help, whether from a therapist or a psychiatrist, whether through talking it out or taking medication. There is no shame in that; doing so doesn’t make you any less spiritual of a person. Indeed, I highly recommend working with depression on both the mundane level (this is a nuisance making my life worse) and the spiritual level (what can this teach me about myself and about Reality?).

I just got over the second-worst depression of my life (and I have only really had two big ones). It was a time, I feel, of great development for me. Indeed, both my commercial and creative writing work continued to go better than ever, I made tough deadlines, and in general my life was orderly and productive. I was able to listen to classical music, to read poetry, and to appreciate both of these at a deep level. At the same time, I was in deep pain, pain which could not be divided from the lessons I was learning and the power I was accessing.

Depression is a teacher, but eventually the student must graduate. After I felt I had learned all the lessons this particular depression had to offer, I requested help from a Higher Power to leave the darkness. Within two days, the depression had lifted. About a week later, I had what might be termed a relapse, but this time I felt that a different approach was being requested of me: I was not supposed to push the depression away but go through it, into it, and out the other side.

I prayed the prayer, or mantra as I call it here, that you see below. In this mantra, we empathize with depression, seeing it not just as the source of the bad but the victim of the bad–while at the same time recognizing our complicity in the bad. We also see our Sat-cit-ananda (being-consciousness-bliss) nature as the ultimate remedy to the Pain-darkness-destruction of depression.

This prayer had for me an immediate and lasting effect. I invite you to try it and see if it doesn’t work for you, too. Of course, it is not really the words that have power but the concepts behind them, which are the wisdom of many teachers and many times.

If you are in pain, I wish you healing and love.



Source of Pain, I bless you and succor you; I have caused pain. Order of Darkness, I bless you and succor you; I have done the work of darkness. Power of Destruction, I bless you and succor you; I have caused destruction.

With being I free you from destruction, who destroy all. With the light of consciousness I free you from darkness, who bring darkness to all. With bliss I free you from pain, who bring pain to all.

Source of Pain, I bless you and succor you; I have caused pain. Order of Darkness, I bless you and succor you; I have done the work of darkness. Power of Destruction, I bless you and succor you; I have caused destruction.

  • Share/Bookmark

I made Punjab choley–again

Punjab choley cooked by Matt RougeA truism of blogging is that you never know what posts are going to get the most hits. Searches on “Punjab choley” have landed me more hits than just about anything other than “matt rouge.”

So today I’m writing a new post, this time complete with recipe and a more appetizing photograph of my most recent choley adventure. I cannot promise that my choley is exactly as it is made in the Punjab region; rather, I suspect that, in terms of spices, it probably isn’t. I do believe, however, that most Indians and Pakistanis would enjoy it! Note: I do not use use any butter in my Indian cooking, nor meat, so this receipt is perfect for vegans. In fact, it is an incredibly satisfying dish; you will not miss the animal products in this one!

The basic ingredients

The essence of Punjab choley is

1) Chickpeas (aka, garbanzo beans). Imagine cupping your two hands and filling them with dried chickpeas; that’s about how much I used, soaking them for over a day. They filled your basic steel mixing bowl (I never measure these things out, as you can tell). You can used canned chickpeas, too, but I love the texture of the dried after you’ve cooked the heck out of them; they retain a delightful springy texture to them. And if there is a more economical food than dried chickpeas, then, well, I haven’t found it yet.

2) Tomatoes. I used two cans of diced tomatoes; canned tomatoes are ideal in texture for this dish.

3) Onions and ginger and garlic. I used two large yellow onions (chopped not too fine) and ton of ginger, probably about a quarter of a pound. I julienne the ginger quite fine instead of grating it; it retains a bit of crunch within the dish even after lengthy cooking that pleases the palate. I did not use garlic this time because I didn’t have any, but use as much as you like, chopped or not chopped as you please.

The seasoning

1) Salt to taste. It really doesn’t need much.

2) Hing (asafoetida resin–they’ll have it at your local Indian food store. Important hint: store the opened container in your freezer; otherwise, it will totally stink up a cabinet!). I use a lot of hing in this, but you can completely leave it out if you wish.

3) Dried hot peppers. I threw in a bunch of those little round Indian peppers, but other types will do. You can also leave them out to keep the spice level down: totally a matter of personal preference.

4) Spice blend. You will not go wrong if you just put in a bunch of regular curry powder and a few extra cardamom pods. I typically will use a bunch of G&S curry powder as a base (this may not sound very gourmet, but it is hard to grind certain spices to a fine powder, and this gets in a good base of these upon which to build creatively), add in additional coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ajowan seeds, and cloves that I grind myself. I then throw in cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick whole into the slow cooker. Again, all this is a matter of personal preference, and you can spice it lightly or heavily.

5) Sweetener. You don’t need much, but there should be a bit of sweetness to the dish–just a hint. I use 100% maple syrup; maybe about 1/4 cup.

6) Curry leaves. A few of these can go in at the end of the cooking process (otherwise the flavor disappears; note, however, that the flavor is very strong, so don’t put in too many). These can be hard to find fresh (and that is the only way they come), but they had them Saraga market one day and I bought some. Hint: They freeze very well. They are optional in the dish.

The cooking process

Fry the onion, ginger, and garlic in vegatable oil on low to medium heat until brown and slightly mushy. Put this and everything else into the slow cooker with adequate water (which is to say, you fill it up with water and let it cook down and keep adding water as necessary; the end product, however, should be moist but not soupy) and cook on “high” for about six hours. Check the choley-in-progress from time to time to make sure that you are not burning the dish; not all slow cookers cook at the same rate. At some point you will want to turn the heat down to “low” and cook for an additional period of time: maybe four to six hours, but so long as you are not burning the dish you are not really hurting it, either. If you used canned chick peas, cooking time will be much reduced.

I like to cook the dish until it’s “destroyed,” as I put it. The chickpeas get some mush to them and the color of the spices has completely penetrated them. The tomatoes and onions and ginger and whatnot have all been converted to a tangy sauce for the beans.

Serve over brown rice or a grain mixture of your choice, and I really don’t think there is a healthier, more flavorful, more satisfying, or for that matter more economical meal on the planet. Make a ton, eat heartily, and freeze some portions in those Glad containers for later consumption, and your life will be perfect!

  • Share/Bookmark

Rouge Musings for November 3, 2008

This is my first “Rouge Musings” post, in which I just write about what’s on my mind without forcing too much discipline on the process. I hope you enjoy it, and–

Did they change the recipe for M&M’s Peanut Butter? I bought a bag recently and they seemed bigger and cruder, with more chocolate and less peanut butter. Indeed, the chocolate therein tasted pretty poor (whereas it seems better in the M&M’s Peanut–maybe for reasons intrinsic to the chocolate, maybe because the combo of cruddy chocolate and peanut and shell just doesn’t taste too bad).

We’re talking Hershey bar-level grunge chocolate.

Went with friend to Noblesville this evening, and people in a long line outside the county building to do some early voting. It’s good to see people participating in politics with enthusiasm. I am not a pessimist about our country or my generation, or the next several generations working their way up in age. Things are OK.

In the line was one of my friends, who said he was going to follow me on Twitter, and I started following him. Should you care to follow me, you will find my Twitter profile link on this page. Enjoy.

I’m not one of the many people who are worrying about the election (which is to say, I’m not worried that Obama will lose). Obama is going to win; Obama has “winner” written all over him right now, and, the beautiful thing about this man is that he gives all of it, or nearly all of it, back to the people in love and service. Sound corny? The next eight years will demonstrate the corn level; I’m patient.

  • Share/Bookmark

I made Punjab Choley

Punjab choley made by Matt RougeMmm… doesn’t that look appetizing?

Having grown dependent on Trader Joe’s Punjab Choley for home enjoyment of this dish, I took the choley challenge. Soaked a bunch of chickpeas overnight, tossed them into the slow cooker with tomatoes, a ton of ginger, a megaton of spices, and cooked it all for about 12 hours. You can find recipes online (hey, did you think think this is a cooking blog? I don’t know why I’m posting this either). This is low-fat (I skimmed the oil), and because I didn’t use butter, it’s vegan, too.

To repeat, I have no idea why I put these cooking posts up, but somehow it feels right, you know?


I wrote a new post about Punjab choley, complete with recipe.

  • Share/Bookmark

It's called pulled pork

If you’re into haute cuisine, shouldn’t you spell pork “porque”? It’s hauter.

We’ll I got all haute last night and threw a big ol’ chunk o’ porque into the slow cooker, turned the machine on “high,” and left the meat in there all night. Pork and water and black peppercorns and bay leaves.

In the morn, it all came right off the bone. Poured in bottle of barbeque sauce and mixed it all up. ‘Twas tasty. That’s all you have to do to make pulled pork! So easy even a pig could make it.

You could make pulled ostrich if you had a cooker big enough.

  • Share/Bookmark