December 20, 2010

Buddha's hand | fabulous recipe testing | Portlandia

I was walking through Whole Foods with my shopping list, because you know if you go to Whole Foods without a list, you may leave without your wallet. It's not that I think (like so many others) that Whole Foods is excessively expensive, it's just that there is so much temptation in my path. Even if I stay away from the deli counter, and buy only real food, there's SO MUCH real food, and it all looks so good.

If I stick to 365 brand and focus on specials, the food prices aren't bad. But like I said, there's temptation at every angle. Unexpected temptation. And I'm weak.

A few weeks ago, for example, I was wandering among the fruits and vegetables when I happened upon the most bizarre item I've ever seen in a produce department.

I was looking at citrus fruits and WHAT??? I couldn't believe my eyes at the weirdness I was seeing. It took me a while to understand that I was looking at a citrus fruit. I spent quite a lot of time admiring the selection of Buddha's hand, but at $6.99 each, I decided it was an extravagance I should live without.

But as soon as I got home I was distressed that I'd left the incredible thing behind. Naturally, whenever we went back to WF, there was not a Buddha's hand to be found. Until just the other day, when I was there as I said, with my list, searching out an organic orange to use in an orange bundt cake. There they were — two little ones, a big one and a freaking enormous one. They're all the same price, so I went for huge. I justified the purchase by thinking I could use one of the fingers for the zest in the cake. Oh yeah. Sometimes you just have to give in.

Buddha's hand, it turns out, is a variety of citron. It is basically thick peel and pith, but unlike oranges and lemons, the pith isn't bitter. It is very fragrant and is used for perfuming rooms or clothing, or in cooking for making jams and jellies, for zest in baked goods or for scattering onto salads or on top of sweet or savory dishes. You can slice the fingers in half and eat them, but I have to admit, I had a hard time cutting off one of the fingers for my cake. It just seemed wrong. The cake, however, was great, and will be the subject of a future post.


Testing 1, 2, 3

Non-traditional arroz verde (with a link to the recipe!)

I've been testing recipes for cookbooks again. Above is a non-traditional arroz verde created by Michael Natkin of Herbivoracious Blog. Michael is sending me only vegan recipes to test, and this one is wonderful. It's kind of like a fresh herb pesto with rice. I'm giving you the link to the recipe on his blog, but I have to tell you that I doubled the amount of rice but not the herb topping. I prefer much less oil in my food than some people so I needed to reduce the fat content, but I highly recommend that you try this, whether you decide to make it full strength or not. It's easy and amazing.

I'm also testing recipes for the new Urban Vegan cookbook and the first thing I tried was Tuscan bean dip. It was so delicious I couldn't believe it had so few ingredients and was so fast and easy to make.

This is hearty and humble vegetable soup — a great use of barley and so delicious.

I also made cream of broccoli soup — another winner. I feel so lucky to be making these wonderful recipes.


I know all the folks in Portland have a good sense of humor, so I can post this video. The one thing I can't understand is how the makers of the video left out the vegan scene.


  1. Excellent point! Though I imagine the actual Portlandia TV show will HAVE to mention veganism at least once.

  2. I have never even heard of that fruit let alone seen one! Sometimes you just have to buy something for the novelty. I'm a bit obsessive about that.
    I'm testing for Dynise too but haven't made anything yet. I was eying all the same recipes you made - it's good to see what they'll look like!

  3. "portland-where young people go to retire" love that.

    I love the look of a buddha's hand but I have never tried one. the taste ok?

    I did like my soup at Loving Hut but any time I get a bellyache after a meal it sort of ruins it in my mind. Chris was happy though. Good to see you!

  4. haha, that portlandia video put a smile on my face.

    i wouldn't be able to resist a buddha's hand either...i saw those used as a surprise ingredient in a cooking challenge show once and i wanted one so bad, maybe not to eat but to photograph.

  5. Amanda,
    I would hope so! I didn't know about the TV show, but just read about it after I saw your comment.

    I had to buy it to take photos! And also because it was so odd. We must both have the same good taste. :D

    Yes, photographing it was on my mind, but possessing it was also a priority. I hated cutting it but now that I have, maybe I'll try eating some.

    That was our favorite line. Also the part about working at a coffee shop for a couple hours a day.
    I don't think I'd buy a buddha's hand for the taste, which is kind of like the pith from a navel orange. It did add a really nice flavor to the cake I made, and it smells lemony.

    I know what you mean about feeling sick after a meal - sometimes that happens to me, too, but so far never from Loving Hut. Now I want to go to Cafe Flora and have dinner in the glass room. Maybe we should do that sometime.

  6. I've wanted to try a Buddha's hand forever but have never seen one in any of the stores I frequent. Would I have paid $6.99? Oh yes, once at least for sure. But I would also feel weird about cutting off one of the "fingers." A better name for it might be Buddha's flower...or something less evocative. Can't wait to see what you do with it!

    And, oh, man, I usually *double* the oil, garlic, chili, etc., in the recipes I make...rationalizing it on the grounds that I'm usually halving the recipes, and what can you fry in 1 tsp oil? Half a garlic clove? It is to laugh! I'm not laughing too hard, however, as it appears I'm facing some kind of die* in the near future. That arroz verde looks awesome. Happy testing!

  7. I'm so glad you liked the arroz verde! Thanks for testing it and linking to it. Funny, I can never resist *any* interesting food, and yet somehow I've resisted the Buddha's hand a couple of times. I know I won't hold out long :).

  8. Whoa, that's one amazing fruit! And the soups look awesome!

  9. I've been seeing those Buddha Hands around too, and they always catch my eye...but I've felt too lazy to buy one and figure out what to do with it. I'm looking forward to see what you do with it.

    The tester recipes look delish. I love your arrangement presentation of the bean dip, so pretty! And that broccoli soup is calling my name, looks so appetizing with the fresh pepper on top!

  10. Buddha's Hand, wow! That's got to be the most exotic looking food I've ever seen! I'd never heard of it before! It almost looks like something you'd find growing at the bottom of the sea.

    All the dishes you made look delicious! Taste tester for vegan cookbooks, that's a great gig you got there! :-)

    The Portland video was a hoot, but yeah, no mention of the vegan scene? How'd they miss that?

    I'll be eagerly waiting for your orange bundt cake recipe, as I scored two bags of organic oranges last week and am trying to find a variety of recipes in which to use them! I've got bread, muffins, cranberry sauce and pancakes covered - but a cake would be nice! Finding organic oranges around here is a challenge. I long to live near a WF (nearest one is a 5 hour drive, *sigh*)

    Thanks for a fun and interesting post!

  11. Wasn't that Tuscan bean dip yummy? It's fun to be testing with you - but hard, because I have to hurry up and make stuff before someone else does & the recipe is closed!

    I went to Whole Foods when visiting family in the U.S. a few years ago, and I couldn't believe how expensive everything was - it made ma a little sad because I had to be careful with my money...but was very cool.

  12. Whoa Amazing Fruit, Peculiar shape & Color, Hope the taste would be good.

  13. Zoa,
    It seems like just yesterday you were gloating about all the exotic products you could find in your local stores, and now what? You can't find buddha's hand? Hmm. That's odd, it's such a common ingredient. :D I'd send you one if I thought it would make the trip without rotting.

    I often reduce fat and sugar in recipes, but not if I'm trying to fry something. You need oil in the pan for that. And I often increase herbs and spices. Next time I make the rice recipe, I'll reduce the oil but keep everything else the same.

    The rice was great — both beautiful and delicious. I was attracted to the buddha's hand because of its appearance rather than food possibilities. It's in the refrigerator, now, and is quite startling when the door is opened.

    Have a fantastic trip! And tell the girls I said "hi" and I always read their blogs.

    Mainly I just look at the buddha's hand, but I did grate one of the fingers into a cake.

    It looks like an octopus sitting in my refrigerator. I love it.

    I'm glad you liked the video — we laughed a lot when we saw it. I think I'd have a hard time if I didn't live near food coops and Whole Foods, but five hours would be a little too far to go, even for WF!

    I loved the bean dip and am thinking of making it again tomorrow. But, yes, it's a little stressful competing for the recipes. You never know how many others are cooking at the same time and will post first.

    Indian Restaurant,
    The taste is kind of lemony but bland. It's a nice flavor to add to foods, though.

  14. I saw the Buddha's Hand at Central Market but couldn't think what in the world I would use it for. Glad you got one.

    I LOVE that Portlandia video and can't wait to watch in January. Our friends from Portland are NOT amused in the least.

  15. haha.. that video cracked me up.

  16. Oh wow I really love the look of that Buddha's hand. Looking forward to reading about how you use it :)

    And while I'm here, I just wanted to say it was lovely to meet you and Ken. Thanks for the great dinner company :)


  17. That Buddha's hand is so cool looking. I've never seen anything like that. I probably would have had to break down and buy it also.

    Those are some good looking testers that you have made.

    I'll have to check that video out when I get home. I can't turn my volume up at work. :-(

  18. Wow, that is one weird looking fruit! I can see why you didn't want to cut one of the "fingers." The dip and soups look great, too! :)

  19. That Buddha's hand is gorgeous! I have a love/hate relationship with Whole Foods...there are so many things that are just sooooo hard to resist! Even going in with a list is no guarantee I won't leave with at least something I don't really "need". Temptation in every aisle/section :-)

    I always cut back on the oil/margarine/fat too :-) When testing I try to make things as written, of course, but that doesn't mean I don't go back and re-make it later with adjustments and reductions in the fat content.


  20. I used only one finger so far and there's a lot more to go. A marmalade would be perfect but unlikely.

    I love the video, too. I just feel bad that I waited so long to retire when I could have done it years ago in Portland.

    It cracks me up, too, and I've seen it at least three times.

    It was great meeting you too. I'm so impressed with all the traveling you two have done, most people only dream about traveling for a year but you actually did it. Hope you enjoyed your time in Seattle — and your dinner at Sutra!

    The buddha's hand is one crazy-looking fruit.
    You definitely want the volume up when you watch the video!

    I still don't want to cut the fingers off but I can't use the fruit if I don't. I'm working on it. :D

    I hear you about Whole Foods. Temptation is their specialty. I test the recipes as written, as you do, though sometimes it's hard. I usually have to reduce the salt, too.

  21. I've seen the buddha's hand around a few times but never tried it. Sounds like a fun ingredient to use and photograph. :-)

  22. that fruit looks insaaaaaaaane. I WANT ONE. It reminds me of something from Pans Labyrinth, like the celeriac they kept under the bed...that looked like a baby (I hope you've seen the movie, or else this comment will sound weird haha)

    I love your blog!

    -Amy :)

  23. Chow vegan,
    It stills pains me to cut it — I feel like I'm hurting it, which is weird, I know. Today I cut off a piece and added it to my smoothie.

    Yes, I know what you mean — I have it in the refrigerator where it looks like an octopus. One of my kids had a slight heart attack when he opened the refrigerator door and saw it for the first time. Thanks for the blog love! :)

  24. Andrea, the buddha's hand does look interesting and different. I would feel hesitate to cut one finger too. :-) I'll keep this in mind next time I go to WF to see if I can find it too. Good adventure!

  25. Okay, I've been staring at the "hand" for days now, trying to figure out how I feel about it. I'm not sure if I'm feeling dirty or hungry. I guess I'll have to buy one and see what happens. :-)

  26. Katrina,
    I hope you get to see one next time you're at WF.

    Um. OK. I see. Stay calm. It will all be OK. Holidays can be stressful. :D


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