Saturday, July 30, 2011
The hidden world of bacteria never ceases to amaze me. A month or two ago my starter began to stink something awful. I know, you think it needs to be saved from 1856. Not at all. So I chucked it. Mostly because I was going to be away for a while and not baking. Upon my return I began a new one. Flour of wheat, rye, maybe something else and water. Then: What is that smell? Sort of like parmesan, and feet. It did take two weeks to finally smell like starter. And then of all things, it is raging lacto leviathan. Raised this baby in less than 6 hours. I normally let it go from 12 -14 hours rising. WHAT?? It is nearly 100 degrees here, but still. That is totally unbelievable for a sourdough. So, to honor today's saint. His name is Peter Chrysologus. Means Golden Word. And The Word is awesome.
Whaddya know? The paneer works really nicely on pizza. This dough is made with a bit of my new untested sourdough starter made with some wheat I grew in a pot out back. It's now raising its very first bread. On top is the paneer from earlier this week, halved little yellow tomatoes, pickled okra (I think one of the best batches I've ever made) some leftover ratatouille mostly zucchini, walnuts. I think that's it. No sauce. Some sage and basil from the garden. I think a $20 pizza at the very least. I wonder if you could sell this from a truck. Maybe with rose in summer. And instead of a kiddy tune, you pipe some Cole Porter. I'd come a running.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
OK, I will admit I have been getting out of hand this week, throwing together extraneous ingredients that just happened to be in the fridge. It started with some local truffles that begged to be used immediately. In eggs with cheese, sure. With oysters wrapped in bacon, why the hell not? But this one was sheer chance. Who bought all this milk? I'm bored, I'll make some paneer.
If you don't know how, this is the gateway drug for all cheeses. 2 quarts of whole milk. Juice of two lemons. Bring milk almost to boil, pour in juice, let curdle. Pour into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and drain for an hour or so. Then press for a few hours. Unwrap and lovely. It first went into a saag paneer of course. But all the rest? I kneaded it with salt to be smooth and dense. Poured over olive oil and threw in some truffle slices. It is AMAZING. This was the first tiny jar after a week or so. The bigger one I'm going to let sit and age a bit in the cave. Delicious. Closer to feta than I would have imagined, but truffly. Say OH MY.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
About 20-something years ago, in a little apartment in the Bronx, I tried out some recipes from the Silver Palate cookbook. Tabbouleh sticks in my mind as especially toothsome. I must have stuck to the recipe at first because that particular page is splattered with unspeakable ordure. Maybe of use someday to an intrepid culinary archaeologist. Even more interesting is how far I've strayed from the original recipe. The only thing similar is the hour's soak 1:1 ratio in water. I seem to have tripled the amount of parsely and lemon juice, thrown in red pepper and shallots. And interestingly, less olive oil than the original. All the other ingredients in the original are gone. Weird. But still a staple, as you can see with this Greek salad, hummus and homemade pita. This stuff is just in my blood.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I am of the opinion that if there's anything you want from pretty much any place in the world, New York is a good bet, or often even better London. People from every corner of the former Empire, which means most of the world. I spent this past week loitering there, mostly eating pork scratchings (aka cracklings) astounded by places like the Borough Market, the Ginger Pig in Marylebone, Neal's Yard in Covent Garden, etc. We are talking serious food here. But who could guess at the stodgiest of all revered old purveyors - Fortnum and Mason - I would find these for sale? You've all seen the commercial right? The white guy gives the South African couple some chicken to taste and he says, "tastes like Mopani Worms." Well, it doesn't taste like chicken, at least these were hard and crunchy and salty. If they were fattier I would say they're not unlike pork scratchings, but that would insult the Pig Gods. Let me say, these worms were tasy, interesting, and I hope if you see these for sale in your locale, try one. Look closely between my fingers to see what you're in for. But the flavor and texture was quite pleasant.