Dear friends and readers of the liberal press, per’aps you’ve noticed that Antarctica has seen higher temp’ratures than eva’ before. Since 1958, West Antarctica has warmed 4.4 degrees, a whopping three times the overall rate of global warming. Ya see, among otha things, ders dis’ Global Warming Article in da New York friggin’ Times dat explains it if you don’t wanna take my word for it. Friends, do not be alarmed. While you should perhaps secure your tickets for the next manned space flight to Mars in the hopes of not burnin’ to a crisp here on dis spinning Globe of Doom, rest assured that I am, in part, to blame.
As you know, Antarctica is my homeland. 1958. Geez. That was a looong time ago. 1958 was the same year my grandfather, Giacomo Paulo Giovanni di Penguin opened his first pizzeria on the continent. Our brick oven fires blazed day and night with the tastiest tomato pies this side of the Mediterranean. Penguins would come from the depths of the ocean, their flippers flapping, squawking and grinning with nothing but crispety crusts and blissful basil on the brain. We baked 20 to 30 pies a night, and with the oven roaring the whole time, the whole shabang was bound to get sweaty. So sue me! I’m a naturalist, but I’ve got pies to bake.
My friend, Don Reggie da Penguin says to me the other day he says, “Maximo, eh…why don’t you put some Buffalo Mozzarelle on my pie?” I says, “Reggie, ya killin’ me…you know I’ve been on this vegan diet for awhile and I’m not about to t’row it in de trash over some cheese, eh.” He just doesn’t get it, that Reg. You can defini’ly have a tomato pie w’id no cheese. And if you don’t believe me ’cause you’re a no-good babbeo, here’s how:
First, you gotta make a good crust.
– 1 packet or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast, pref’rably Red Star, but any’ll do as long as it’s not expired.
-2 1/2 cups wheat flour with extra good wheat flakes
-1/2 cup lukewarm water
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
Pizza stone, cookie sheet, or porous metal tray good for crisping.
-Gravy. You can make your own tomato sauce for the pie. There’s more ways than one way to skin a cat, and I’m not about to waste my time teaching you something as basic as tying your shoes. Just make sure it’s not a runny sauce because it’s gonna turn your dough into a mush if you’ve got a thin tomato sauce on there.
-Olives. Black olives, Kalamata, Manzanilla, Potentine. Get whatever kind you want, just make sure you slice ’em thin.
-Bell Pepper. Won’t that look nice when you’ve got sev’ral colors of bell pepper on the pie? Slice ’em thin and make sure you put ’em on towards the end so they’re still crisp.
-Mushrooms. I like white cap mushrooms or portabellas. Heaven knows what kind of pesticides they put in these things. Make sure you rinse your mushrooms thoroughly. They grow ’em in manure for Godsakes so just use your common sense.
-Basil. It’s a big noob mistake to put fresh basil on a pie and then put it in the oven. Stolito! Get your head out of the oven and start thinking straight. If you do that, it’s gonna burn to a crisp. Always add the basil last.
-Other ideas for toppings. If you’re like my friend Reggie, you’ll start asking about other toppings, like I’m gonna hold your hand or something. What are you, a wise guy? Get whatever else toppings you want and stop bothering me about it.
DIS PART IS VERY IMPORTANT, SO PAY ATTENTION
Yeast is a magical thing. It’s got creatures in it, and they don’t like it when you mess around with their environment. Find a clean measuring cup and add about a half cup of water. Warm it in the microwave or do what you gotta do to make it warm, but for Heaven’s Sake, never microwave the yeast or Mamma di Penguin will literally slap you upside da head. (I’ve got flipper marks to show for it.) Now just make sure it’s sorta warm, but not warm enough to brew a cup of tea. Add the teaspoon sugar and stir it around ’til it’s dissolved. Then you add the yeast. Let them sit in it for a good half hour. When you come back to check on them, it will be like you’ve got a very heady beer in the cup…foam everywhere. If you don’t see any foam, you probably did it wrong and made the water too hot, Scimunito, how many times do I gotta spell it out for you?
Now take out a large bowl. Add the 2 1/2 cups wheat flour and stir in the teaspoon salt. Add the cup of yeast little by little, gradually folding in the flour with your hands and pressing on it until it starts to form a solid ball. You may need about a half cup more of water, but be careful and add it gradually. You don’t want a soupy mess instead of a dough. If you run into trouble, just add a little more flour. Knead the dough with your fists and collect all the flour crumbles until it’s nice and firm. Pound it into a flat disk shape that is about three inches tall and about six inches across. Add your olive oil. Add a pinch more flour just to coat it so it’s not sticky. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, dark place for about an hour and a half. I call this the dough’s “time out.”
Take out your ball of dough out of “time out.” You’ll notice that the dough is more flexible and easier to manipulate. Spread some light flour on a clean kitchen surface. Place the dough ball on the surface, and go over it with a rolling pin once or twice. Turn it a quarter inch every time you go over it with a rolling pin, which will prevent it from sticking. Lightly flour the completed disc of pizza dough, and roll it around the rolling pin. This way, you can easily lift the rolling pin and place it on either a pizza stone or a cookie sheet. A cookie sheet is really inferior to a pizza stone for achieving a crispy crust. About halfway through the baking process, you wanna take the pie out of the oven and place it directly on the rack to make your crust extra crispy. If using a pizza stone, ignore all this. You’re golden.
Use your thumb and forefinger to pucker the edge of the dough to form a crust. This just raises the dough a little bit to prevent those delicious toppings from sliding off. Then slather on some tomato sauce and top generously with all kinds of vegan toppings.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the pie for about 20 minutes or until extra crispy golden brown. If you’re using a cookie sheet, again, I don’t know why you continue to breathe, but you might consider taking it out early and placing the pie directly on the rack or it’ll turn into a sloppy mess.
“Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.”
–Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 190–195
Maximilian Penguin’s Tasty Guacamole
I have traveled over the wide blue ocean, hiked atop treacherous glaciers, and trekked up the Incan trail in search of tasty recipes to quell my aching appetite. With temperatures averaging sixty degrees below zero during the Antarctic winter, I travel northward in search of warmer weather. I make my way up the coast to Tierra del Fuego, or Land of Fire at the southern tip of Argentina. I warm myself with a nice hot maté served in the traditional gourd and metal sipping straw. I then stop in Calafate to admire the glaciers and do belly flops into Lake Argentina before making my way by bus to La Paz, Bolivia.
With only a few pesos in my apron, I make my way up through Peru, Colombia, and Panama. That’s where I charter a boat all the way to Mexico lindo. The locals are usually so thrilled to have a penguin stowaway on the bus that they welcome me aboard without charging a fare because I tend to boost ticket sales. I get along well with travel guides and street vendors. When I waddle up to them, they tell me where the best restaurants are and help me find lodgings with bathtubs, which I like to fill with ice cubes for a nice long soak.
I have to special-order vegan food from the cooks at local restaurants when I am not preparing my own snacks with my portable kerosene stove. I like to order grilled vegetables, rice, and fried plantains even if it’s not on the menu as an entree. Not everyone understands. When I say to the mesero or waiter, “no como carne,” (meaning “I don’t eat meat”), I usually find a heaping helping of chicken or fish on my plate with a small side “salad” consisting of one pale tomato slice on a leaf of iceberg lettuce. This is because the word carne in Spanish means both meat in the broader sense of pork, fish, and beef, but also refers to beef, specifically. To many, chicken, pork, and fish are not necessarily meat and thus perfectly respectable vegetarian entrees. With the advent of blogs such as this one, more people are adopting a meatless diet compared to just a few decades ago. If you’re ever down South, one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants is the Bodhi Chinese Buffet between Entre Rios and Solis Street in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They have several delicious vegan options and many vegetarian entrees.
My South American hosts showed terrific hospitality at all times and meant no disrespect for my dietary constraints, but meat is such a large part of the culture that they felt sorry that I did not pile my plate high with pork ribs, blood sausage, and cow tongue. For them, calling myself a vegan was as if I had threatened to starve myself to death or teetered on a three story ledge for the sole purpose of dismaying onlookers. For my fellow vegans or vegetarians, we know this is a common misconception. A vegan or vegetarian diet can be most fulfilling and delicious with some careful planning and a vivid imagination for combining ingredients.
One of my all time favorite snacks is a hearty guacamole. You can scoop some onto a baked potato, dip cornchips into it, or spread a healthful amount on corn tortillas for delicious soft tacos. There are many ways to prepare guacamole, but I have developed my own version after some experimentation. All I can say is— make sure your fútbol-watching friends do not get to it first. There will be none left for hungry penguins like me! And as my friend Reggie can attest—a hungry penguin makes for an angry penguin. One who smashes things, forgets his half of the rent, and loses himself in haze of cornchip crumbles and blood-orange salsa stains that mar his pristine white coat. Don’t let this happen to you, friend–Get the recipe!
Maximilian Penguin’s Vegan Guacamole
3 large avocados
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. cracked pepper
¼ tsp. cumin
1 medium purple onion
1 garlic clove
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 Serrano pepper
Tapatio-brand taco sauce
- Cut the avocados in half length-wise by cutting down to the seed. Using both flippers, twist both hemispheres until you separate each delicious half from the other to reveal the delicious, meaty green insides. Dice the avocado into one-inch squares. This does not have to be exact. Penguins do not own rulers or believe in them.
- In a small saute pan, coat the pan with 1 tsp. vegetable oil and heat to medium heat. Smash the garlic with the flat edge of a large cooking knife and slice and dice it until the pieces are quite small. Dice the onion into 1 centimeter pieces. Salt the onions and garlic.
- Roast the tomatillo and Serrano pepper in the oven at 400 degrees (I only do this if I have more dishes in the oven or it wastes energy I could be using to heat my igloo). Alternatively, put the tomatillo in the microwave and cover it with a kitchen cloth for 4 minutes or until the skin is almost peeling off, and dice and grill the Serrano pepper in the pan with the onions.
- Combine the tomatillo, the grilled onions and garlic, and season with cracked pepper and cumin. Using a macerator or a blunt wooden spoon, mash the ingredients into a paste. (It really tastes better than using a metal spoon or food processor). Some penguins own deluxe macerators made of wood or marble, like the kind an old-time apothecary used to mix poultices. I travel light, so I don’t always have one handy.
- Slice the lime twice, into four pieces. Squeeze the lime into your mixture and stir. If you have cuts on your flippers, the lime-juice could hurt more than a seal bite. If this happens, get your friend Reggie to do it. He probably owes you money from last week’s poker game anyway.
- Season with three to four drops of tapatio sauce. Enjoy this delicious dip with friends, but be sure to save some for yourself.
As a penguin, it was a hard decision for me to become a vegan, as penguins’ diets consist mainly of krill, squid, and fish. I used to enjoy the crisp flakiness of calamari, but at what cost was I consuming this delectable appetizer? I considered a vegan diet to prevent over-fishing and lessen my impact on the environment. This vegan-friendly recipe is the talk of the Antarctic tundra–a tasty meal that even my omnivorous human friends are sure to love.
| Prep Time: 15 mins* | Cook Time: 20 mins | Total Time: 35 mins* |
-1 cup dried black beans (or substitute one 16 oz. can of black beans)
-1 cup dried red kidney beans (or substitute one 16 oz. can of kidney beans)
-4 roma tomatoes
-1 small white onion, peeled and diced
-2 garlic cloves
-1 large green bell pepper
-3 Hatch, New Mexico green chilis
-2 tbsp. canola oil
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/4 tsp. pepper
-1/2 tsp. cumin
Some penguins are not partial to the taste of cilantro and can only handle mild spice. Cilantro actually tastes soapy to them. I can’t imagine it, but it must be awful! Do not add these ingredients if you have an aversion to cilantro or spicy foods.
-1 tbsp. red pepper paste
-1 tsp. minced cilantro
-2 Serrano peppers
- Preparation: If using dried beans, soak 1 cup black beans and 1 cup red kidney beans in 2 ½ cups of water. Let sit overnight.
- Peel and chop two garlic cloves and dice one white onion until the pieces are about ½ inch wide.
- Add 2 tbsp. of canola oil to the pot on medium heat, adding the chopped onion and garlic until the pot starts to simmer. Add ½ tsp. salt to the garlic and onions. Cook until slightly browned.
- Chop the bell pepper, hatch chilis, tomatoes, and optional Serrano peppers (with care not to touch your eyes or beak with your flippers—it hurts!). For a milder taste, pare the Serrano peppers by slicing them down the middle and removing the seeds. Add mixture to the simmering onions.
- Drain your beans and add them to the mixture. Pour 1 cup of water onto the mixture. Season to taste with the cumin and pepper. Stir your chili periodically.
- Cook on medium heat until the chili thickens. Lower the heat to one or two on the dial once it starts to thicken and finally looks like chili. Add the optional red pepper paste, minced cilantro, and Tabasco sauce to taste.
- And Voila! The result is a delicious chili to warm your insides on a cold Antarctic day.
Some choices impacting your preparation time:
*Using flippers or hands:
This is not really a choice, but it can make a difference. If you’re using people-hands, preparation tends to go a lot faster because it’s easier to chop and stir. Flippers are okay for stirring if you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Be sure to clean your flippers (or hands) with soap and water before you begin.
*Choosing canned beans or dried:
You can either use canned beans or dried. I recommend dried beans for health reasons and because I’m trying to eliminate preservatives from my diet. If you’re trapped in a cave or on an ice floe in Antarctica, canned beans may be your only option. If it’s all you have, make sure you select beans that are low in sodium and have few preservatives. Wash and drain the canned beans thoroughly to remove their soapy residue before use.
*Using a pressure cooker or a regular large pot:
I cook my vegan chili in a pressure cooker. It’s much faster, and you don’t have to slave over the pot all afternoon. You can still use a larger pot instead of a pressure cooker—just be careful because it takes about twice as long and you might want to stray from the pot. Never leave a flame unattended! You could burn down your igloo. That happened to my friend, Reggie, and it was a total disaster.