Saturday, July 31, 2010

seeded rye not a success

Sounds better than saying it's a huge failure. Which it was, as far as I'm concerned. Don't be taken in by the fact that it looks kind of OK.

I'd never made rye anything, so I decided to try it. I used a formula relatively close to my whole wheat formula. The dough looked doomed all the way, and I had no idea how to correct it. Here's the breakdown:

the soaker (total 125 g before soaking):
  • wheat berries (very small amount - all I had left)
  • flax seeds
  • steel cut oats
Forgot to add salt, but it doesn't seem to have mattered. I think. Covered with boiling water and let sit overnight.

the dough:
  • rye flour (325 g)
  • all purpose flour (75 g - don't ask me why)
  • bread flour (150 g)
  • sourdough starter (220 g)
  • the soaker
  • water (300 g, plus whatever came with the strained soaker)
  • salt (11 g)
As usual, mixed ingredients without the salt, autolysed for 30 minutes, added the salt and mixed about 5 minutes in the stand mixer hoping to develop gluten. It looked like it wasn't happening. I did the Bertinet stretch/slap/fold. It cleared the table nicely, but not much elasticity developing at all.

I let the dough ferment for 45 minutes. It looked like nothing had happened. I did a few strech-and-folds, and half the time, the dough broke off instead of stretching. Not good news. I let it ferment another 45 minutes. Same thing. It just didn't look like it was developing any gluten at all. I let it ferment yet another 45 minutes, and then gave up. The dough was extremely sticky though it's a stiffer dough than my usual. And it didn't seem to have any strength, and it did not stretch. Bleh.

I floured the table and formed it into a ball and let it rest for 10 minutes. Time to shape. I was careful to go for surface tension this time, and I think I got it right, and finally the dough is starting to look like a loaf. Let it proof close to an hour, scored it, and baked it.

One good thing: The scoring was easy and worked beaurifully. I think it's because the dough was stiffer than usual.

I got oven spring. Yeay! I'm pretty sure it was the surface tension. Got a beautiful grigne too, and started to feel hopeful. I let the loaf cool overnight and cut into it this morning.

Calling it moist would be a euphemism. Moist to the point of goopy glompiness. You can't tell from the way it looks. It almost looks decent. True, the crumb is not open, but I didn't expect big holes with rye.

But if you press it even gently between your fingers, it turns into doughy mush. What's worse is the mouthfeel. For reasons I can't fathom, as soon as you put it in your mouth, it feels mealy, like you're eating porridge or something. I confess that a couple of times (stop reading here if you're easily disgusted) I took it out of my mouth to stare at it to figure it out, but I couldn't.

So what went wrong? Fermentation and/or proofing too short? Too long? Too much soaker interfering with gluten development, which is already not very active in rye? Didn't bake long enough? I have no idea.

On top of it all, the taste is nothing special. I'm not going to try and improve my rye bread, because frankly, it doesn't seem worth it to me. So who wants the rest of my rye flour?

Friday, July 30, 2010

rough sauces

I'm talking about stuff that's in between a sauce and a dip. Not silky smooth, but retaining some texture from the ingredients. Something you can use cold, say by spreading it on good bread, using it as salad dressing, or accompanying a main dish. Or you can use hot, maybe smothering a chicken, chickpeas, or scallops, and gently simmering it all together.

I started thinking about this when I realized that I was making a lot of them, especially in the summer. Some of them are traditional: Pesto and gremolata from Italy, persillade from France, chimichurri from Argentina, muhammara and humus from all over the Middle East, and mint chutney from India (along with a million other delicious chutneys). There must be a name for that kind of thing. And if there's no name for it, maybe it's because it's not seen as a unified category across cultures. Some of these are named according to their functions, e.g. dip, chutney, relish, etc. But I think what's fun is to use them in different ways and not to pin them down to one function. So please, send me suggestions for a name. In the meantime, I'll use 'rough sauce', though I'm not happy with it.

My first rough sauce that I blogged about was muhammara. A couple of days ago I made another one to cook chicken in, because I'm not crazy about the taste of chicken and I need to mask it. Didn't write about it because I couldn't take any pictures. It'll definitely be repeated, and I'll show you then. And last night, I made this:

cucumber, feta, mango rough sauce

I wanted to try out this cold cucumber soup with feta recipe from epicurious, originally from Bon Appétit. But once I started, I realized that 1) I didn't have any fresh herbs at home, 2) felt like something more solid than cold soup, 3) had a mango ready to be eaten, and as usual
4) wanted to have fun.

  • one cucumber (long and relatively seedless)
  • a very small chunk of red onion
  • feta cheese (lots - I don't know how much)
  • a quarter of a mango (didn't want it too sweet)
  • salt
  • red pepper
Put it all in the food processor, and whirled it until it was a consistency I liked. Very quick and very refreshing. It was my lunch today, on a toasted whole wheat tortilla, with tomatoes:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

seedy whole wheat redux

A miserably dark, rainy day. A perfect day to bake bread. The last time I baked this, the two loaves were smallish and were gone too quickly. Today, I'm making a bigger batch.

the soaker (total 250 g before soaking):
  • wheat berries  - beautiful sensuous chewiness
  • flax seeds - can't taste them, can't see them, but healthy
  • buckwheat groats - adds no taste or texture that I can detect, finishing up my stock
  • small pinch of salt
This time, I poured boiling water on the mixture and let it sit overnight. I wanted to see whether it would turn out significantly different from soaking in cold water. It did. It was much better.

the sourdough starter:
         I maintain my starter with all purpose flour, because I figure it's the most neutral. For this whole wheat loaf,  I built it up two days ago with whole wheat flour. When I tasted, it was a bit on the sour side and I wondered if I should have fed it closer to baking time. However, the sourness turned out just right, a remote whiff.

the dough:
  • sourdough starter (400 g)
  • whole wheat flour (625 g)
  • bread flour (475 g)
  • water (555 g, but I added more later)
  • sunflower seeds (99 g)
  • the soaker
  • salt (20 g)
If these amounts read as though there was careful, precise calculation of ingredients, there wasn't. Either that's how much I had at hand (e.g. the sunflower seeds, the whole wheat flour), or my hand slipped (the water). I'm not getting obsessive with precise baker's percentages because (1) it's stressful, and (2) it doesn't let you respond to what's actually in front of you. And I don't have to replicate breads precisely, which is a major advantage of being an amateur baker.

I mixed everything except the salt on the lowest speed of the mixer. The dough was clearly much stiffer than what I usually shoot for, so I added more water. Don't know how much. Just added until it seemed right.

I covered the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes (autolyse).

I added the salt and mixed the dough for 5 minutes on the second from lowest speed.

I covered it to start the bulk fermentation. One stretch-and-fold after 45 minutes, a second one after another 45 minutes. Then 30 more minutes of fermentation.

I pinched off a bit to bake into a flat bread. Just experimenting. I divided the rest of the dough into two, pre-shaped them into balls, and let them rest for 15 minutes. Then I put one in a round basket, and the other one onto the couche, and let them proof for 1 hour.

I filled an iron skillet with lava rocks and put it on the lower shelf of the oven, and preheated the oven to 500 F. I was determined to get more steam this time. Didn't help.

While I was waiting for the loaves to rise, I made my flat bread. I stretched it with my hands and cooked it in a skillet on top of the stove baked it on the baking stone (brain-fingers not coordinated). Puffed up and cooked very quickly. A success!

That makes me very happy. Will repeat it often.

At the end of an hour, the loaves hadn't risen a whole lot, but once again, I was afraid of over-proofing. I first baked the loaf that had proofed on the couche. I transferred it onto the peel, sprayed the top with water,  covered it with sesame seeds, and slipped it onto the baking stone. Put some ice cubes in the iron skillet. When I closed the oven door, I saw the steam coming out in sheets. I'm not sure any steam stayed in the oven. Arrgh.

Turned the oven down to 450 F and baked for 15 minutes. Turned it down to 425 F, and baked another 15 minutes. This was a bigger loaf than my usual, so I decided to give it another 5 minutes and then I let it stay in the oven w/ the door ajar for 10 minutes. Next, onto the cooling rack.

In the meantime, I had placed the second loaf into a plastic bag and transferred it to the fridge, because it would have to wait while the first was baking and then while the oven heated up to 500 F again. I think I'm going to adjust my baking so that I can bake two smaller loaves at the same time. This is too much juggling.

I inverted the second loaf from the basket onto the peel, sprayed it with water, and covered with sesame seeds. Continued to bake in the usual manner.

Results: Very little oven spring. Crumb on the dense side. The breads were very moist, maybe too moist. Both loaves spread sideways when I put them on the peel. I think I may not have developed enough surface tension, so I'll focus on that next time. But I don't even know if a whole grain loaf that's so packed with seeds can rise very high.

This picture shows very uneven rising, but parts of the loaf were better:

I thought that the denseness might have been a result of overproofing. But the second loaf proofed longer, and the crumb turned out better and more even:

So maybe the first loaf was underproofed. Sometimes this feels like a crapshoot.

People might find the moistness of the crumb objectionable, but I actually found it very pleasant eating.  So yes, the crumb was way too moist, but that felt like an advantage after toasting. And the ratio of the soaker to the dough was absolutely perfect. This made for a chewiness that was orgasmic. And I don't use that word lightly. Not only was the texture great, but the taste was wonderfully rich and earthy. I couldn't stop eating it. This turned out to be my most favourite bread so far.

losing control with strawberries

Strawberry season is here. That's not really reason to celebrate too much, because they have ruined strawberries with genetic manipulations - one of my pet peeves. What we get are pink-to-pale-red chunks, sour and largely tasteless, with a thick white woody center, an almost crunchy texture, and a faint aroma of what used to be strawberries. And that includes the organically grown ones. I buy them because every time I see them, I think to myself maybe this time... Hope springs eternal. But yesterday, I lost my mind. Whole Foods was selling huge 4 lb boxes in addition to the normal sized boxes, and I bought one. Crazy lunatic woman.

The truth is, I had come across Harold McGee's article on berries and thermotherapy, and as someone who regularly loses most of the berries to mold, I was anxious to try his method. No, that doesn't justify buying four pounds, I'm aware of that. So shut up.

As soon as I got home, I got my pasta pot going. Heated the water to 125 F (52 C), put a single layer of strawberries into the pasta insert, lowered it into the hot water, and kept it there for 30 seconds. Then I placed them on paper towels without crowding them. Repeated this until all four pounds had been "bathed." I waited until the strawberries were dry, separated some to use right away, and put the rest into a ziploc bag, sucked the air out through a straw from one corner of the bag, and closed it tightly. OK, now what. We'll figure it tomorrow, I thought. I can freeze most of it for making smoothies, and use others to top cereal with yogurt. All healthy and responsible eating.

I started today by pureeing some in the food processor. I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I started, but then everything came to me quickly. Because evil temptation was whispering in my ear nonstop. I had some Crave Brothers mascarpone at home. Added it to the strawberries. Then grated the peel of half a lemon into it - it smelled heavenly. Nope, I'm not going to add sugar. So far it's still pretty healthy. Now how do I eat this goop? Ideally, you'd make a tart with it. Or cheesecake. Or muffins. Or crepes. That's it, crepes.

I made crepe batter with only half a cup of flour, so that I wouldn't be tempted to eat a mountain of them. Half a cup will usually make 3-4 crepes. I added a bit of agave syrup. (Oh yeah, I'm so so health conscious) and made my crepes. I filled them with a tiny bit of melted chocolate (60%, so that's good, right?) and poured the strawberry mascarpone concoction on. Heaven. So good that I refuse to feel guilty. I promise the rest of the strawberries will go into very very healthy things.


I have no idea what it tastes like, but it's stunningly gorgeous. The photo is by Ruhlman, from his blog.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

comfort food in summer

A lot of my comfort foods are heavy on umami and feel like winter foods. Which is as it should be, because winter demands comforting. But I had a yearning for some favourites from childhood, and the veggies sitting in my fridge encouraged it.

I wanted bulgur. I also wanted the traditional rice with fried eggplant, which is eaten cold in the summer. So I combined them, and tweaked it some more to stuff it with more nutrients, because I refuse to make more than one dish a day in this heat. Last night I had it warm for dinner, and today I had it cold for lunch. Both were delicious.

  • bulgur (2c)
  • eggplant (1 large)
  • green bell pepper (1 large)
  • chickpeas (1 can)
  • beef stock (2 c)
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • walnuts
Cut up the eggplant and the green pepper. Put them on a large oven tray - don't crowd them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and some olive oil. Put them into a pre-heated 425 F oven and roast until done.

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. Add the beef broth. When it comes to a boil, add the rinsed bulgur. Cover and cook at medium heat until there is no liquid showing above the bulgur. At this point, it's done or almost done. Note that unlike rice, the bulgur generally likes a 1:1 water ratio.

Add to the bulgur the roasted vegetables and a can of chickpeas which have been rinsed. Feel free to substitute some other legume as the protein source. Season with salt and pepper. Let it cook about 20 minutes on the lowest possible heat, so everything has a chance to meld.

Before serving, sprinkle the top with red pepper flakes (Aleppo, of course) and add walnut pieces. Enjoy. And as usual, it's very low GI, so no guilt at all.

Monday, July 19, 2010

the burnt loaf

I finished the first loaf quickly, and had to start on the loaf that I had burned.

 I was also curious about the crumb, given that it had proofed much longer than the first loaf and I had screwed up the baking temeprature. It looked quite good, except for the fact that it was, well, burnt. I cut off the top crust before I tasted it. It was more sour than the first one, obviously because it had proofed longer, but it was not an overwhelming sourness. It was pleasant, actually. The crumb was better too - more and bigger holes. But the difference was not dramatic.

I think next time, both the bulk fermentation and the proofing will be longer. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

halibut cheeks escabeche

When it's this hot and humid, I feel like something cold, refreshing, citrusy. Decided on escabeche. I was about to get some halibut at my local fish shop, when I saw that they had a bowlful of what looked like bits and pieces, labeled halibut cheeks. OK, obviously I have to try this.

I prepared the vegetables using my mandoline, and they looked almost too beautiful to cook.


Slice thinly and saute lightly in olive oil until barely transparent
  • red onion
  • red bell pepper
  • green bell pepper
  • garlic
  • carrots
Then add
  • juice of one lemon
  • juice of one orange
  • salt and pepper
Quickly saute in olive oil the halibut cheeks, or whatever seafood is going to be the main ingredient in your escabeche.

Put the cooked fish in a bowl, pour the 'pickled' vegetables onto it, cover and refrigerate overnight. Have it for lunch the next day.

Absolutely delicious. Did I taste the specialness of halibut cheeks? Nope. But hey, it had to be tried.

EDIT: The halibut cheeks led to massive unintentional cleansing. I should have trusted my nose. Sigh.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

whole wheat with grains and seeds

I want my daily bread to be a healthy whole grain, and I like seeds and grains in it for texture. What's available here commercially is disappointing. First, almost all of them have sugar/honey/syrup added. I'm fiercely opposed to this, not just on principled grounds (which I am), but also because I can taste it immediately. I've been able to find a relatively satisfactory bread but you have to hunt around town for it, and it ain't cheap. So I decided to bake my own basic bread, which is what got me started baking bread again.

Now that I've baked a number of good all purpose flour sourdough breads to get my feet wet, it was time to get down to business.

  • sourdough starter (220 g)
  • bread flour (300 g)
  • whole wheat flour (300 g)
  • water (300 g)
  • roasted sunflower seeds (70 g)
  • soaker (total 170 g before soaking)
    • flax seed ('cause they're good for you)
    • buckwheat groats ('cause I hadn't even seen them before and I was curious)
    • wheat berries ('cause I love their texture)
  • salt (10 g)
the night before: 
I feed my sourdough starter as usual, with all purpose flour.
I add a small pinch of salt to the soakers, cover it with water, and let it sit for about 14 hours.

I strain the soaker, in all its gel-like gloopiness from the flax seeds.
I combine in the bowl of my stand mixer everything except the salt, and mix at lowest speed for about 2-3 minutes. That soaker doesn't want to incorporate.
I let it rest for 30 minutes.
I add the salt and mix for about 4 minutes on the second-from-lowest speed.

This dough may seem to be 50% hydration, but it isn't when you take into account the water that comes with the soaker. I debated whether I should add a bit more water, but it looked OK to me after the mixing:

bulk fermentation:
I let the dough rise for 45 minutes, and then do that magical stretch-and-fold thing. (I still have trouble grasping the fact that this is better than kneading.)
I let it rise for another 45 minutes.
After 90 minutes, I'm not sure that it has risen enough so I give it another fold and let it rise for 30 minutes more.

I pre-shape the dough into two balls and let them rest for 15 minutes.
I still haven't gotten myself a new set of bannetons, so I decide to proof them on the couche.
I shape one ball into a boule and the other roughly into a batard shape, and place them on the well-floured couche.
I give it an hour. They rise minimally, so I give it another 40 minutes.
At that point, the fear of too much sourness strikes and I decide to bake them.

OK, now this is why I need to get me some bannetons. I'm not the world's most coordinated person anyway, but the feat of getting the loafs from the couche to the peel is daunting. When there is more than one loaf on the couche, I usually have trouble rolling the loaf straight from the couche onto the peel. So I wonder about what I can use as a flipping board, get lazy, and decide to roll it onto my arm, and from there to the peel. Arrgh. It's amazing how laziness can trump good sense. I wanted to apologize to my loaf, which now was a bit deflated and a bit warped.

I slash the top of the loaf (in vain, it turns out), and spray the top with water.
I slip the loaf onto the baker's stone in the oven preheated to 500 F, turn it down to 450 F, bake for 15 minutes, turn it down once more to 425 F, and bake another 15 minutes.

There was very little oven spring and no grigne. This loaf didn't look sexy. I put it on the cooling rack and turned to the second loaf.

I decided to bake the two loaves separately, because I knew getting the second loaf on the peel would take additional juggling while the first loaf was in the oven, and I didn't want to disturb the first loaf while it was trying to rise (ha!).

I reheat the oven to 500 F. This means that the second loaf proofed almost 40 minutes longer. Curious to see what that will do.

I slip the second loaf into the oven. When I'm back in the kitchen to turn the oven down to 425 F after the first 15 minutes, I realize that I forgot to turn it down to 450 F when I first put it in. So it had 15 minutes at 500 F. Jeeeez, how could I?!! Well, of course I can, because I've burnt even soup.

I turn the oven down to 425 F. Then I think maybe it should go lower still, and I turn it down to 400. I give it 10 minutes, then I turn off the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.

I'm heartbroken, because the top crust looks really burnt. I know some people think you can't overbake bread (Clavel, Silverton), but that's not my taste.

However, this loaf has much better oven spring than the first one. I mean, it actually has oven spring. Was it the extra proofing? Or the crazy baking temperature. I dunno.

the morning after:
Ooooh, anticipation. I decide to try the unburnt loaf, and it tastes really really good. I toast one slice for breakfast, it's magical. I'm so so happy.

I compare it side-by-side to my commercially baked multigrain, and no contest, mine wins hands down. But look at the crumb.

How come it looks so good even though there was no oven spring? It's moist, chewy, with a rich earthy taste, and barely sour. So the loaf that doesn't look promising on the outside turns out to be super on the inside.

One flaw in the concept. Although the wheat berries are beautifully chewy inside the crumb, the ones that ended up on the surface of the loaf are hard and sharp. Unpleasant. I have to figure out a way to avoid that. In the meantime, I'm focusing on finding a good way to shave the burnt top crust of the second loaf to feed to my dogs.

Monday, July 12, 2010

buckwheat sourdough

Thought I'd follow a formula this time and see how it goes. I went with Susan's sourdough from her inspiring blog, since people on Fresh Loaf have such high praise for it. Susan notes that it's an adaptation of Jeffrey Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, in his book Bread: A Baker's Techniques and Recipes. The bread turned out interesting and surprising. And good.

Try as I might, though, I didn't/couldn't follow her directions exactly. First, I halved the ingredients:

450 g KAF all purpose flour
60 g buckwheat flour
300 g water
180 g sourdough starter
11 g salt

Susan's formula calls for rye flour, but I didn't have any. I'd gone to the store to get it, but once there, I was completely distracted by cherries, sea bass, etc. I had buckwheat flour at home, which I was planning on experimenting with, so that's what I substituted.

I mixed it all in the stand mixer for about a minute, maybe less. Then let it rest for 30 minutes. 

Added the salt and mixed for about 3 minutes. It didn't look like it needed more mixing; it was beautifully smooth and stretchy.

Then I was supposed to fold it after 50 minutes. I don't have a good sense of time (meaning I usually disregard it), and the timer doesn't always help (because I disregard that too, to the dogs' distress). I have a feeling it was more like 70 minutes before the first fold.

Now the folding schedule was off, so I did the second fold a bit earlier, in another 30 minutes.

Yet another 30 minutes, and the fermentation seemed to be enough.  I didn't want to let it go for the suggested 2.5 hours, because I'm trying to correct a recurrent mistake, over-fermentation.

At that point the dough looked different from any dough I worked with before. Incredibly stretchy, but not many holes and no big holes. It had definitely risen some, and you could also tell by how it felt when you touched it, but I started worrying about how subdued the holes were. Maybe my starter wasn't vigourous enough? I had been sure that it was - was I wrong? Or maybe the culprit was the buckwheat. Buckwheat has no gluten. I hadn't added any high-gluten flour to compensate. Was it going to work?

On the other hand, there were reasons to think everything was going fine. The stretchiness of the dough meant that there wasn't a gluten problem. And when you gently placed your palm on the dough, it felt right - good resistance, beautifully smooth, etc.

Not like I had options at this point. There was nothing to do except to go on.

I had thrown out my bannetons some years back and haven't replaced them. What do I use for proofing? The dough was very soft so I knew it was going to spread a lot. Bite the bullet, I thought, make it a big ciabatta. I gave it a couple of gentle folds and let it proof right on the peel. I really don't know how long it proofed, but I think it was about an hour, at most an hour and a half.

In the meantime, the oven had been preheated to 500 F, with the baking stone in it. I slid the loaf onto the stone, with a sigh of relief when it actually did slide off the peel. Turned the oven down to 450 F and baked for 15 minutes. Dying of curiousity, I opened the oven door and peeked in. Hey! It had risen beautifully! I turned the oven to 425 F, and baked another 15 minutes. Then turned the oven off and was going to let the bread sit there for 5 minutes, when my time handicap struck again and I left it there for half an hour. Way too long. The crust got too thick and too brown for my taste. 

I let it cool completely, and cut off a slice before I went to bed. Ugh. The buckwheat was overwhelmingly strong. Disappointed, I went to bed debating how to choose between love of experimentation and enjoying a predictably good result. 

Next morning (yesterday), I gave it another try. Surprise! It had mellowed beautifully and tasted great. The buckwheat taste was there, of course, but it was not overwhelming and it was not too 'strong' to have for breakfast before your mind and your body readjusted to life. And this morning, it was even better.

So it's true, bread develops better taste after a day or two. I guess I didn't want to believe it because it would mean that I couldn't tear off a piece right out of the oven. But really, isn't that one of the main reasons we bake bread? To get to it while it's warm? I refuse to give that up. The solution is to bake at least two loaves, one to attack right away and one to let rest for a day. Then we can have our bread and eat it too. (Groan! I know, but I couldn't resist it.)

I loved the consistency of this dough when I was working with it, and the end result, so this formula will be repeated. The sourness was just right, the crumb had great texture, and it was moist and chewy.

I prefer a bit less salt, so I'll reduce the amount next time. Also next time, I won't screw up the crust by overbaking.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

sea bass with pistachios

I got some fresh sea bass (levrek) yesterday, and I immediately knew what I was going to do with it.

Sea bass and pistachios. Simplicity itself. It turned out to be an absolutely perfect marriage.

Season the sea bass with salt and pepper.
Saute in olive oil, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
Chop pistachios roughly. (I did it with a knife, didn't want it to get mushy.)
Press the pistachios onto the sea bass.
Cook for 3 minutes more in oven pre-heated to 425 F.
Drizzle with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.

I have to say that sticking to a low GI diet has dramatically changed the way I go about cooking. When you do a major overhaul of how you eat, you let go of a lot of automatic stuff in the kitchen and become more in tune with your own palate. Very liberating.

And yes, the sea bass was 'responsible sourced,' whatever that means. I decided to trust Whole Foods and not go on a quest to personally ensure that it was all ethical.

who's the boss of this chicken?

Ruhlman has posted this cool video of Brian Polcyn trussing a chicken. One benefit of trussing that is not mentioned is that it prevents the silly bird from looking like an obscene slut.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

chana dal

I found out about chana dal from the blog of David Mendosa, who writes about diabetes. I stumbled onto his blog after I realized that the way I have been eating has a lot to do with a good diabetes diet. David has quite a bit of information about chana dal, along with many chana dal recipes. Apparently, this relative of chickpeas has one of the lowest glycemic indices, with almost no effect on blood sugar. It's also high in protein and very high in fiber. Sounded perfect. So I ordered some from Bob's Red Mill.

Most sources say to soak it overnight or to cook it in a pressure cooker, but on the package from Bob's Red Mill it said to cook it for about 20 minutes. So I decided to treat it like lentils.

Cut up and cook bacon slices until almost crisp.
Saute thinly sliced onions and small chunks of carrots in the bacon fat.
Add one Ancient Sweet pepper (I first mentioned them here), sliced into small bits.
Add one chopped jalapeño.
Add to taste chipotle, ground coriander, garam masala, and black pepper.
Add stock or water, and cook until done.

I served it (to myself) on bulgur, with a small dollop of yogurt for twang. Lovely. I think this legume is going to become a staple in my kitchen.

Monday, July 5, 2010

olive oil

I love olive oil. I want to be olive oil. I want olive oil in and on everything. 

I like my olive oil strong and fruity. I want to smell the olives. Most olive oils on the market are way too bland for my taste. I see them advertised as subtle, refined, etc., and I think: For foreigners. Foreigners, meaning people who didn't grow up in an olive oil culture. 

In US, I usually get my olive oil at Best Turkish Food, an online retailer in Chicago. They are quick and helpful, and no, I'm not a shareholder.

My go-to olive oil is Tariş Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It's basic, it's inexpensive and it tastes like my childhood. I buy it in large 3 litre cans, but it's also available in 750 ml bottles.


Tariş is moving along with the times, though, and is producing olive oils with different acidities and methods of processing, along with organic olive oils, and terroir olive oils (they don't call it that, but these are specific to small geographic regions, like terroir wines). Very fancy. Very boutique. And priced accordingly.

I was curious about these different kinds and decided to try some, in spite of the prices. So I got a bottle of İlk El (literally, 'first hand'). Pretty bottle, pretty colour, expensive ($34 for a 500 ml bottle - ouch.)

I wanted to make sure I tasted it without interferences, so I made a simple lunch for myself with Crave Brothers ciliegine (very small mozzarella balls), tomatoes, and roasted walnuts. Drizzled it with İlk El, and dug into it accompanied by homemade sourdough whole wheat bread.

Bland, no character, for foreigners. I don't begrudge Tariş aiming some of its production for export. Look at all those best-selling Italian olive oils, most of which are blander than bland. (I have actually heard Americans complaining about olive oil that's 'too strong.' Wha?!!) So good for them. But not for me. I should've known better, of course. İlk El's acidity is less than 0.5%. Really fruity olive oil tends to have a higher acid content. My usual Tariş Extra Virgin is 0.8%.

One might generally want to be a bit stingy with such expensive stuff, but I'm pouring it all over everything, trying to use it up as fast as I can. And I'm trying not to feel guilty about sauteing salmon in $34 olive oil.

I also bought a bottle of Erkence, another boutique olive oil, and I'll report on it when I start using it. But I have a feeling I'll soon stop these experiments and go back to the old, iconic labels without fancy packaging. If they survive, of course.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

so it's good for something

Catherine McEver's work is super interesting, including her embroideries on Wonder Bread.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

where are they?

Sourdough whole wheat bread I baked two days ago. Still not following a recipe, but I'm getting wiser. 

I used almost all whole wheat flour, and the starter had been fed with whole wheat for the last couple of feedings. Added roasted sunflower seeds, roasted sesame seeds, and flax seeds. I thought I'd put in a ton, but they're not very present, are they? Can't taste them much either. Next time I'll put in twice as much. 

Lessons learned:
  • remember to soak whole grains the night before, so you can add them too
  • less starter - it's OK to waste, as long as you don't tell my mom
  • vastly increase seed ratio
  • buy your seeds elsewhere so they're fresher