Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Is there a secret to cookware for vegans?

I think this question is fraught with fallacious arguments, although there are a few things that belong in the arsenal if you want to make life manageable. What is important is the staples you use, and you set up a program so you're always cooking ahead certain staples, so you can just reach for them during the week... For that, as I have pointed out in earlier blog entries, I recommend a top of the line Rice Cooker, with a GABA Brown Rice cycle. The timer will free you up tremendously. I start my breakfast before going to bed, so that it's ready at 6:30, and then I can setup anything for during the day, even lunch first, and dinner later, but in reality I cook these staples in batches for a few days.

But then it comes to pots and pans, and what is the best for cooking without oil, and sometimes even without water?

For the last forty years I have used Demeyere Silvinox, and these pans were designed to cook without oil or water. They stay beautiful, but they are a bit


Then, some of my favorite pans are Calphalon, and that is what Khokon, the owner of Packsun was using when we had our Oil-free Vegan dinner there. Calphalon is also high quality cookware, though again a bit pricey, but not as high as Demeyere.

Recently, I found some budget options, and they seem to work well, though I don't know if they'll last forty years. There is the Gotham Steel, Titanium & Ceramic Non-stick frying pan, and here is a Youtube video on it. I have used it for vegetables quite successfully, and I like it.
And lastly, there is the Red Copper (TM) pan, which is also a good candidate. And here is another review, which is quite impressive, and confirms my first impressions with this material. The green one in the video I have never tried.

The confusing part is that the Red Copper (TM) pan says to season it, while the Gotham Steel pan does not say so, and visually the materials look quite the same. You can get these everywhere in the city at Bed, Bath and Beyond, or online. I like the way both of these work with oil-free cooking of various vegetable dishes, and they remain easy to clean.

By comparison, for a while I had a Uniware Ecolon pan that also claims a ceramic coating, but I found it did not stay as easy to clean, or as forgiving for oil-free cooking. Different from the ceramic coating used in Red Copper and Gotham Steel, it does not tolerate steel utensils. To me this is not a big point per se, for I use mostly wood or silicon utensils for cooking, as I generally don't like any risk of scratching in any of my pans. For now, it is not one of my favorites.
But the choices are endless, but it does seem some pans are better than others, and quality does pay for itself. Notice how Demeyere claims 30% lower energy consumption, that really does make a difference also. Quality does pay.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Inaugural No-oil Vegan Dinner Improv at Packsun

Tonight, Monday March 27th, 2017 we spontaneously had our first no-oil vegan dinner at Packsun. It all started with a conversation at Neerob Bazaar at 2085 Starling Avenue, with owner Khokon (Muhammad Rahman), and a few friends. He then simply said, let's do it right now, and with that he grabbed some ingredients, and our little group was on its way to the Packsun Restaurant, at  2160 Westchester Avenue, which he also owns.

There, inside of 40 minutes, Khokon whipped up a beautiful no-oil vegan dinner with basmati rice, whole wheat roti, and three vegetable dishes:

  1. Sautéed spinach with onions, garlic and chili peppers.
  2. Yellow lentils, tomato, onion, garlic, chili peppers, and some turmeric, salt and pepper
  3. Water squash (this is a light green squash that is popular with the Bangladeshi community), eddo (a delicious tuber, the jamaicans call this white coco), tomato onion chili peppers, garlic, turmeric, a bay leaf and salt.
The food was too good, so I only took a pic of the last bit of #3(bay leaf in the middle)
This was not a joke, people inhaled the food. Khokon himself was an inspiration, he had only just discovered the whole idea of oil-free vegan cooking recently, through our conversations, but he loves it now himself. So we have a motivated owner (and part-time cook).

In short, this experiment is off to a roaring start. All the ingredients can be found at Neerob Bazaar.
Neerob Bazaar

Asked by one of the diners what was the secret of his preparation, Khokon answered: "All you need to cook a good meal is heart." Now, that's my kind of cook, I'll go to his restaurant any old time.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bronx #not62 and Dr. Robert Ostfeld, cardiologist at Montefiore

If you weren't paying attention, the plant-based lifestyle has gone mainstream at least four years ago, for since that time, Dr. Robert Ostfeld, a cardiologist at Montefiore Hospital, has been teaching plant-based nutrition at Einstein College in the Bronx. I had the pleasure of attending his workshop at the Chappaqua library recently, and if you missed it, don't fret, you can still catch up with a video the library posted, here.

The presentation was impressive, even for me, for to hear this doctor saying how he's never seen any medication achieve such dramatic results as the simple dietary change to a plant-based diet, was music to my ears. Generally speaking, the presentation reinforced everything I needed with my knowledge from Dr. Esselstyn's books, and the documentary Forks over Knives.
At the cost of one visit with Dr. Ostfeld at Montefiore, you can participate in his four-hour Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore.

Note the key statements: 
"We have been humbled and awestruck by our results" says Dr. Ostfeld. When asked about why the program, still in its infancy, is meeting with such success, he explains, "Our patients are presented with scientific evidence of this diet's powerful effects during our four-hour Wellness Program. It's harder to get all the information across during a 20 minute patient visit." In addition to the dramatic impact on heart disease, research continues to mount on the effectiveness of a plant-based diet in reducing the risk of many forms of cancer, osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease, many digestive diseases including IBS as well as autoimmune diseases.

In the aftermath, I have started to organize some more specific activities in the neighborhood:
  • NYPL Parkchester will be showing Forks over Knives on April 25th at 5 PM.
  • I have set up a Meetup group to work with local restaurants to put oil-free vegan dishes on the menu,
  • And on April 15th, I will be at a health fair from Metro Plus at Devoe Park.
Last, not least on March 25 I met some young people at a meeting at Community Board #9, who are planning a healthy restaurant in the area, probably vegan. In short, inspiration galore.

It all reminds me of a young mother I met at one of our community planning events, who said her number one priority for our neighborhood was to not have another fast-food restaurant. She wanted more healthy food choices for her kids.

The times they are a changing. They sure are! If the Bronx wants to change health outcomes, such as the #not62 campaign seeks to achieve, it should do more to supports programs like this one.