Monday, December 19, 2011


I know this is not food, but closely connected to it. A few weeks ago I spotted flameware clay in Berkeley, make by the same company that makes by regular 50/50 mix. They offered me a "rusty skillet" glaze too. It's a cone 8 clay, so St. Theresa (the kiln) really had to work hard to get this up to temperature, but as you can see, it is very pleasant in color and texture. More importantly, in case you don't understand what this stuff is - a stoneware that goes right on the stove top. (Not soft earthenware, which chips and scratches.) So for the trial run there's a chicken and vegetables simmering in the olla. Broccoli rabe in the cassola. The pipkin is untested, as is a bigger pentola still unfired. Oh and the little butter melting cup up front. Despite the fact that it's 30 bucks for a 25 lb. bag, I think this set was worth it. Well done Leslie's and IMCO.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Robert May and Brian May

Have you ever noticed how Brian May, Queen guitarist, has a decidedly 17th century hairdo? Much like that of Robert May, celebrated 17th century cookbook author? Hmm. Did you also realize that May lived in the age of Hooke and Boyle, the birth of Astrophysics and other May has a PhD in the same subject? Hmm. There must be more. Well I was feeling in a Baroque mood today. This recipe is not exactly in May, but it could easily have been. It is 2 lbs of pork shoulder very finely chopped, with chopped apricots, dates, raisins, walnuts, pistachioes, candied citron, angelica root, sugar with ambergris, musk, all soaked in Batavia Arrack and spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper. That went into a crust of mangalitsa leaf lard, sprinkled with coarse sugar. I'm hoping it will slide out and be sliced vertically. We shall see tonight.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Stupid Arbitrary Rules

Have you noticed how the world is filled with stupid arbitrary rules? I don't mean practical moral precepts, which are eminently useful. I'm talking about things people tell you to do which serve no purpose whatsoever. Cooking is rife with examples. People do things one way, it gets repeated a million times, then everyone thinks it's inviolable law. Perhaps no other food is so subject to the whim of arbitrary rules than beans. I've written some of these stupid rules myself. And this story just goes to show, such rules were meant to be broken. I got home last night with this brand new iron olla from The Spanish Table, and wanted to try it out so badly, that I just chucked in some dry red beans, water, salt, and a touch of oregano, and threw it on the fire. Not this fire, I mean in the fireplace fire. And left it there, until morning. Reheated it up and the beans were perfect, intact, and yet cooked through. Succulent, perfectly seasoned. And broke every rule about how beans ought to be cooked. Let me know if you have a similar rule-breaking story.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Pre-Game Lineup

People have asked me what I'm doing for Thanksgiving and I have to admit that it's pretty staid and traditional. All the same, I thought describing the line up might be fun, with the expectation that things will happen spontaneously, as always. There must be turkey, a fairly small Willy Bird, but he's been seasoned with wild sumac and juniper provided by our friend Miss Butterpowered Bike. Brining makes the bird taste like saltwater, so I just salt (delicately smoked Maldon flakes) and season a day or two before. Then there's also a goose. Actually two. One to roast on a spit before the fire, the other has been curing, finely chopped with the fat, in a cow's bung the past few months. I have no idea what it will be like, most likely a kind of spreadable confit, but not cooked of course. The bones went into a fine stock I froze, for the roast goose.

With this I was thinking of Varsa, a traditional Romanian sauteed sauerkraut with butter and paprika. This time my own sauerkraut and I'm thinking goose fat to stick with the theme. Kimmy is bringing roast Brussels sprouts which will go perfectly too. Got to be mashed potatoes, scalloped white sweet potatoes with maple syrup, a stuffing - I'm thinking made with a fresh sourdough spelt bread I'll bake today. J is making a fancy salad, though it's heresy on such a day. And of course I forgot to get string beans. I do the exact same clichee casserole, but with fresh shrooms, cream, stock, and fried onions on top.

The starters will be whatever I can find in the cave. A cured tuna belly - which turned black, a kind of tarantello, though I'm thinking of smoking it, to make it a sorra. A good 16th century trick. I also have a slab of mangalitsa lardo I made a couple of weeks ago, for the intrepid. There's the free-form cheddar, though maybe I'll make some fresh mozarella today too. Wouldn't you know there's a recall on raw milk this week in California, so it will have to be pasteurized. Drat. Smoking it might be fun. Some sopressata. I'm also considering breaking out the garum and soy sauce. The former is nearly a year old now, the latter close to that. Neither have been tested yet. Maybe each as a kind of dipping sauce for cardoons if I can still find them. Oh, I have some pickled walnuts too, a full year old and some pickled lemons. Who knows what other surprises might be in there? OH, miso pickled burdock root, now nearly 3 years old and never touched. I think I put it up when we started the first cookbook. Isn't a larder a lovely thing?

My usual drink of choice is good bourbon, couldn't find Pappy Van Winkle, but Buffalo Trace will do. This year there's absinthe too. A bottle of Enigma that's been waiting patiently a long time and some Jade Edouard, which is splendid. And of course the concord eau de vie chez moi, which is very pleasantly sweet and aromatic this year. Lots of wine too naturally - I've been on a pinot noir kick since visiting the Willamette Valley.

Apple pie is traditional, got to do it. A pumpkin pie also forcoming. And if I can find them not too expensive, a pecan pie. We'll see. So when are you coming?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Three Beautiful Dishes

I have had some absolutely unmitigated disasters recently. So to console myself, I hope you will indulge me, by ogling at three ordinary weekday meals I cooked recently. The first a regular steamed Asian shrimp dumpling, ginger, soy, sesame, etc. with a twist of cameron molido. Made it softer inside, saltier, but didn't quite stick together with a toothsome bite as ordinarily. But still splendid. Serve with soy and black vinegar dipping sauce.

Then a Shepherd's Pie. Lamb shoulder coarsely chopped with herbs, and carrots, celery, onion, a lot of wine, and with a kind of latke fried first and then put on top. It prevented the whole thing from going soggy on top. Oh yes, and I threw in zataar, sumac, cumin and pomegranate syrup. Why not? Gorgeous. Even after a few days, as leftovers. To swoon for.

Then tonight, on the grill, in a paella pan, roasted fennel bulbs, grapefruit segments, capers, then jalapenos, tomatoes, and shrimp. Some fresh oregano, parsley, holy basil. What more could you want? A side of couscous. Just rocked.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


If you have a yearning for a really good porchetta, can't find a whole pig, and aren't on your way to Italy, here's a decent solution. First recognize that you are trying to replicate the architecture of the pig, which means you need good fatty skin on the outside. Easy enough if you buy some good pork belly. Butterfly it so it is opened flat. Then lay down some sausage meat, that's the pink you see here, chopped by hand, and then lay on a wad of pork shoulder. Put more sausage around that, roll on the sides of the pork belly - and be sure to use some skin to cap the ends too, then just tie the whole thing up. Roast slowly over a wood fire for about 2-3 hours. Let cool. Slice. It went beautifully with a green sauce of pounded parsley, roasted garlic, salt and lemon juice. In Italy you buy this from a truck, on bread. Un Believe Able.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I find it hard to believe I've never entered a cooking contest of any kind. I'm really not a competitive type, but more importantly, I don't like losing. Still, I couldn't refuse a serious chili cookoff for Charles' 50th birthday. I think 23 teams. (And I did win.) This one is called Que Picante Puta Pipian. I was asked to post a real recipe. Here's as close as I can get:

First heat a few tablespoons of anatto seeds (achiote) in a cup of peanut oil for about 10-15 minutes and strain out the seeds. It will turn bright yellow. Then buy a 4 lb shoulder pork roast (with a nice amount of fat) and chop it coarsely with cleaver. Small pieces, though, not large chunks. It's all in the texture. Salt and pepper the meat, season with oregano and cumin and brown this in two tablespoons of the oil. Save the rest of the oil for other dishes. While this is browning take 6 medium hot large green chilies (I used fresh poblanos) and roast them over an open flame until blackened. (You can use regular green bell peppers too if you prefer no heat.) Put them in a paper bag, let cool and then seed and scrape off the blackened skin. DON'T wash them. If you can't get all the burnt part off, no big deal. Put the chilies in the blender with 2 cups of good chicken stock, 10 chopped green tomatillos and a cup of unsalted shelled pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Liquefy completely. Add to the now browned pork. Then heat a comal and place on it two cut up onions and let them char. Chop finely and add to pot. (You can also just brown in a pan in a little oil if you like.) Add two finely chopped cloves of garlic. Turn the heat to a simmer and add 2 cups of fresh orange juice and the juice of two limes. Continue to simmer for about 2 hours. Also add a single square of serious chocolate. I used a 72% cacao bar. I think at one point I also added a couple of handfuls of nopalitos to make it a little greener. It certainly isn't a traditional pipian in any sense, but tasted pretty good.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Grain Alcohol Day

I've been tasting fruit this past week from the roof dehydrator. It all came out nicely, very tart, chewy, serious plums, tomatoes and nectarines. And it then stuck me, why not go a step further? It must have been the limoncello recipe I was working on the other day. Why not toss everything into grain alcohol? I got a few little jars, you can see here in the center. Then I got carried away. The last meyer lemon on the tree with bay leaves and dried kumquats. Some shallots, ginger and lemon. Whole fresh tomatoes. Who knows? Some jars with spices like grains of paradise, cassia buds and long pepper. Went through 2 bottles. I have no idea which will be more interesting either, the fruit or the hooch.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lion's Head

I've spent the 24 hours mostly testing recipes and shooting them. With a camera, of course. All for a big text book. Three World Cuisines. Equipment, ingredients, food and culture, etc. Recipes too. This shot of the Lion's Head Meat Ball will not go in, though I like it the most. The suggestive spoon and puddles of fat. It tasted the best after cooking a while. The other meatballs were younger and prettier, but the last did taste the best. So I share it with you. Pork shoulder chopped by hand very finely, ginger, shallot, Shaoxing, sesame oil, soy. Browned in the wok, then poached in stock with curly greens - the Lion's Mane! SO satisfying and delicous, you could even eat the wait staff. Tomorrow morning I'm ready to tackle hot and sour - OK, so I'm on the soup section. Soupcon.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lamb Shanks in Almond Milk

Of all odd things, my wife and I came together on a single odd ingredient this past week. You have to understand, she doesn't eat anything I make on principle. But recently it has gone further: a raw food diet. I'll eat fish raw, meat, love it. Even human flesh. But vegetables in the juicer? And a never ending string of vegetal mush plates with nuts. They don't taste bad, but I'd shoot myself in the head before I ate only this.

And then I see boxes of almond milk. Horrid industrial pabulum. BUT, it can also be made from raw almonds and has been since the Middle Ages. Then there suddenly appeared raw almonds for about 12 dollars a pound at the health food store, and only 3 at the farmer's market. Must do it.

SO, you soak them over night, peel meticulously, and pound them in a big mortar, pour over hot water, soak several hours and strain, then you get this, above. Exactly like milk. Look closely. And delicious on its own. One jar went into various vegetal shakes. The other into lamb shanks with herbs, pepper, verjus (fresh unripe grapejuice) pinch of sugar and cinnamon. Can you see the marrow oozing out of the bones? Let me tell you folks! The almond milk works much like coconut, and even regular milk. You can also make cheese and butter out of it. OH, those are in the last cookbook. Well, check it out. A fabulously unctuous ingredient, well worth the time to make at home, even if it ends up in a shake.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Peter Chrysologus Starter

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.

Pizza Paneer Truck

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

Paneer Riserva con Tartuffo

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

Mopani Worms

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.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Colocasia (aka Taro)

Our fabulous market is among the nicest things about living in Stockfish CA. On any given day there will be something for sale which I have never seen. This is taro. I have used its in mature form, but never as a whole young plant. The base was peeled, the whole thing chopped up and simply steamed. It was quite like spinach, as the lady said it would be. So a little coconut milk, some turmeric and fenugreek, a little green chili pepper. Really quite remarkable. Why is this not more popular? The ancient Romans ate it. Especially popular in Cyprus, to this day. And of course all SE Asia, Hawaii, West Africa, S. America. So what happened in the West?

Monday, June 6, 2011


Hey Folks, I SO enjoyed that last giveaway that I thought I'd do another. Partly motivated by the fact that the publisher sent me many copies of this encyclopedia, because I pimped it for them, but also because I'm moving my office soon - just one door down, but clearance is good.

This is the A-Z ENCYLOPEDIA OF FOOD CONTROVERSIES AND THE LAW, 2 vols. edited by Liz Williams, whom you might know as director of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in Nola.

What is the historical, etymological connection between the legal term tort and the culinary term torte? Post your answer here as a comment.

UPDATE: Several of you came quite close, especially with tort, deriving from medieval legal French via Latin toquere to twist, i.e. twisted and mischevious. The torta also comes from the same verb in late Latin. Torta panis was to start a flat bread, almost certainly twisted or braided, given the name. Then applied to any flat confection, tarts, tourtes, torta in Spanish is still a bread.

Ali's is the funniest though. Tell me where you live and I'll send it along. I know Australia, but where???!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Cheese Blintz

Aren't these gorgeous? I was making blintzes on TV yesterday morning and the newswomen (Mae and Britta) so distracted me and wanted to help that I never had time to roll it out. So I had to come home and make these. (Incidentally, locals, if you know meteorologist Britta Merwin, I fed her her very first blintz.) And if you attended the Jewish Food Fair today the crepes for the blintzes were made by me, at least the frying stage.

Here's how: batter is about a cup and a half of flour, two eggs, vanilla, a tsp baking powder, a spoon or two of sugar, and enough whole milk to make a light thin batter. OH and add a few tbs melted butter too. Fry these up in butter in a VERY hot nonstick pan, as thin as you can. Swirling the pan is the trick. Fill cooled crepes with a mixture of cream cheese, cottage cheese, sugar and vanilla. Roll up as you see them here, and dab with raspberry jam. Your own of course! Honestly, I haven't eaten one in years and years. Fabulous.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia GIVEAWAY


The Monster four volume FOOD CULTURES OF THE WORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA is now in print. Seeing how most of you will not be likely to lay down $380 on amazon for this baby, and seeing how I have many copies taking up my dwindling office space, I thought I'd just give away a set. They weigh a ton - around 150 chapters, covers the whole world.

SO, the first person who can guess my favorite Spanish soup (I did happen to write the chapter on Spain) by 9 PM tomorrow will win the entire set. OK, no point in waiting until tonight!


BiblicalFoods with the tenth answer - salmorejo cordobes - after only 20 minutes.
Congratulations! Those of you who guessed gazpacho were very close, but the correct answer was right there on page 27 of The Lost Art. It's a thicker much more interesting kind of gazpacho. BiblicalFoods please get back to me via email and tell me who you are!! and give me an address, because there was another correct answer from David Farris. I'll put the whole beast in the mail today if you can get back to me soon via kalbala at pacific dot edu.

UPDATE 10:47 PM: I have to say I would never have guessed in a million years that the winner is the dad of one of my favorite students, who I had the pleasure of meeting at a talk/book signing last summer. Maybe I talked about the soup! THAT worked out perfectly, huh?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Alaskan Yellow Eye

I live in a place where, for reasons I cannot fathom, the very idea of whitefish is utterly unknown. I mean smoked whitefish, sold whole, pretty much anywhere food is to be found, on the East Coast. Shrivelled, with a shellac hue of skin, fragrantly fishy and oily. In it's perfect form, with just a touch of mayo on a bagel. I know you will cringe here - a cinnamon raisin bagel.

That, this is not. But rather a species I think called Yellow Eye, a slab given to be by Wild Bill, my history department compatriot, who caught him in Alaska. I smoked it yesterday with some wild salmon, and what you see before you is, I must admit, much better than whitefish. The capers aren't bad either. Now if I could only get a real bagel in this wasteland.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


So, last week I spoke at a gig on Nuevo Latino Cuisine at Davis. The lunch was fantastic. Adriana from Pico Pico Maize Cafe in Napa and SF made Arepas with magnificent sides. And she explained to me how to make them. I haven't had a chance until today. BUT, in fact, today we have a guest contributor. My son, who wrote this recipe (and called them gorditas for a class assignment). But it is entirely his recipe as he wrote it (a very different style from my own, as you'll see). BTW - He's 14.

Gorditas by Ethan Albala

Meat and cheese-filled corn pocket
Serves 4 people
Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
1 pound ground beef, 1 onion, ½ of a green bell pepper, ½ of a red bell pepper, cilantro, salt, pepper, ½ teaspoon of cumin, ½ a teaspoon of oregano, “P. A. N.” pre-cooked white corn meal from Columbia, mozzarella cheese, 4 Roma tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 chile mulatto, pinch of piloncillo, cinnamon, and nutmeg
1.) Filling
1. Heat olive oil in pan
2. Break up ground beef in pan, cook until brown
3. Add chopped onion to pan, along with the cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, bell peppers, piloncillo, cinnamon, and nutmeg
4. Turn heat down, and let filling simmer on low
5. Pass chile over open flame to soften
6. Break open the top of the chile and pour out the seeds
7. Soak chile in a bowl of 2 cups of hot water for 10 minutes
8. Blend chile with chopped tomatoes and soaking water until smooth, then add it to the filling in the pan.
9. Let filling simmer for ½ hour on low heat with the top off
2.) Wrap
1. Preheat oven to 350 F
2. Mix 5 cups of water and 4 cups of P.A.N. mix into bowl
3. Make 12 even balls of dough; racquet ball size
4. Flatten balls into a ¾ inch thick, 3 inch diameter even disc
5. Put patties into dry, hot pan to make a crust, then put in oven for 20 min at 3500 F
6. Slice the side of the Gorditas to make a pocket, do not cut all the way through
7. Fill pocket with filling, cheese, and cilantro, sour cream or yogurt optional
8. Eat and enjoy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


No, this is not an Algerian L'ham Lalou or a Thai Khao Lham. It's yet another of my attempts to invent a new word. It's a lamb-ham. A cured and in this case smoked lamb shank. It was five bucks. Took less than a week. And I smoked it along with a whole chicken and a lot of other little things. Here's what you do. Buy a pair of lamb shanks. Salt them generously with a tiny tiny pinch of instacure #1, and some good unrefined sugar. Add some spice, cloves I like. And thyme. Whatever. In a ziplock in the fridge for about a week. Then smoke over the coldest smoke you can manage - I used hickory soaked in local ruddy zin. Never got above maybe 180 - 200 degrees. In a regular little Weber kettle. A few lumps of hardwood charcoal to get it going. Then hung in the cave (i.e. wine fridge with all the other salumi) for a while. I'm impatient. But I think it should keep a long time. Think of it as a little teeny lham. Carved as is, very thin slices. Lightly cooked, no more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Cleansing Veggies

At the risk of seriously offending my porcofiliac friends, here is a meal not only lacking in meat of any kind, but dare I say it... vegan.

No, I have not lost sight of my ideals. Let me explain, this is after a trip to New Orleans. More meat than could choke a camel. Restuarant August was truly phenomenal. Strawberries in season and combined in unimaginably delightful ways with crudo tuna, pork fat, lamb belly, sweetbreads and various other carnivorous delights. It was several hours and about a dozen courses. Ravioli truffled with seafoam and tomato concasee was dizzying. And dare I say Cochon was even better? A selection of "boucherie" bits of salami, smokey pancetta, pate, ham, coppa. Followed by a smoked hock on read beans and rice.

So can you blame me for craving some vegetation upon comng home? This is so simple, but greens is greens. Mustard in this case. Surrounded by sauteed corn, shallots and jalapenos with a good shot of lemon juice. Some sliced little orange tomatoes on top. Came together wonderfully. Try it instead of that salad I know you are dreading right now. Perfect for spring and after overindulgence.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Good Shit

I am a man who rarely succumbs to expletives in common parlance, almost never in moments of anger, and certainly not casually for trite effect. But today, and it usually does approach stealthily, I found the urge to curse irresistable. It began around 7 am when I found myself cursing before a class at UT Austin into which I was skyped. Then my Western Civ class. OK, you can't talk about 19th c. Imperialism without cursing a bit. Before I knew it, I was cursing at colleagues. In e-mails. "OH for FUCK"S Sake!" I said to someone.

So it is only fitting that this be named something indecorous. Though it includes some of my favorite things. Broccoli rabe, capers, onions, chili flakes and, believe it or not, corned lamb shank - which is marvellous beyond description. But the whole can only be described as "good shit." I'm sure Alton Brown wishes he could use that phrase on TV from time to time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

PIZZA MOVIE This is a movie of me and Rosanna, making pizza utterly from scratch. It follows a clip from my hero Graham Kerr!

Friday, March 25, 2011


What a curious day. I lectured in the morning on William Morris, which I haven't done in a decade. About the pleasure of making things for other people. The exercise of labor outside the capitalist economy. We were covering Utopian Socialism the day before. And by sheer coincidence I woke up at 4:30 this morning to start baking. And also emptied the cave of salami that was definitely ready, and a cheese made a month ago. Sort of like provolone. And some pickled asparagus. All of it was perfect. And I brought all this to my food policy class. And this is what was left. Do you think one could possibly be happier? Only wish I had some homemade wine to bring too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Feast Inspired by The Borgias

So if you read any cooking magazines, you will have seen by now a flashy add for Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI in "The Borgias: The Original Crime Family." I have no doubt it will be a bodice-ripping, blood-splattered melodrama like The Tudors. But what caught my attention is a feast inspired by the series, with culinary luminaries like Marcus Samuelsson, Todd English, Nancy Silverton and Cat Cora.

In case you don't know the Borgias, Rodrigo was from Valencia and became pope Alexander VI in 1492, drew up the infamous Treatise of Tordesillas which divided the world between Spain and Portugal, among more infamous acts. So I guess that's why they were thinking New World ingredients. Chili sauce on shrimp, tomatoes in a cibreo, and a chocolate budino for dessert.

But of course the Borgias never ate any such things. Tomatoes and chilis don't show up in recipes until the late 17th century, and chocolate was drunk, not put into cakes until much later - and no European in the 15th century ever tasted chocolate anyway. OK, I know, they say "inspired by" but why? They could have used real dishes these people ate, taken directly from contemporary cookbooks. There are even Catalan recipes (that I a convinced come from Rupert of Nola) adapted in Martino of Como and published in Platina's De honesta voluptate. (Produced at the papal court for God's Sake!) In other words they had the real thing - and there are even modern editions. And they decided to fake it. What's the point? What do you learn about anything except the egos of these chefs. Drives me absolutely rabid! A real opportunity to taste culinary history and they make the whole thing up! (I now fling myself into the corner with my mouth foaming).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Un Jour Pour Flaneurs

I've never considered posting from abroad. Not bringing a computer made that impossible this time, but upon return, why not? I found myself with a free day in Paris on Saturday. Among my favorite things in this world is a mindless mapless ramble without any particular goal. Of course if you know the city, you inevitably drift toward familiar haunts. In NY, it might be Balducci's or Chinatown. In Rome, the Campo dei Fiori, or even better the market in Prati. Always a matter of food, of course.

So how delightful that my internal gastronomic compass should direct toward Les Halles. Or at least the big stinking open pit, that even after being gone many years, still has magnetic force. Not the belly anymore, perhaps the bung? Adjacent is the old Jewish neighborhood in Marais. Most of the kosher butchers were closed. But there was Schwartz's, packed utterly to the gills and spiling into the street, or I would have tucked in for some pastrami.

Did stumble on a little market though, too early for oysters alas, sea urchins as well, but there were my favorite pine-honey candies. Still regretting not smuggling home cheeses though. A few little museums, some brightly colored marshmallows - apricot, mint, rose. And the whole day was spent. A dinner with gorgeous snails, rilettes, ruddy Chevergny - not to mention VERY frightening andouillettes. Do you know what I'm talking about here? Pigs intestines stuffed into pigs intestines. Smells like pig shit, otherwise very tasty. It's just the feeling of having intestines in intestines, in your intestines, that's philosophically perplexing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pickling Sunday

What a pleasant day for pickling. Someday I hope I'll be able to say I grew these and put up 100 pounds, but no. No chickens, no woodland for mushrooms, no verdant asparagus laden fens. But our local farmer's market did supply. 5 bucks for a big flat of brown eggs, 2.50 a bunch for fat local asparagus, and our own fungi finder provided these. Simple acid pickling. Not "canned" just hot brine and vinegar (50/50) with spices - saffron and lemons with the eggs, dill with the asparagus. Sealed and should be ready in a week or so. LOVE this stuff.

Walnut/Currant Bread

I think I threw everything in the house into the smoker yesterday - a cured brisket, sausages, a pork shoulder. So it was surprising at the end of the day that this bread was the most interesting thing that happened.
I'm not sure if this is how it's supposed to be done, but if you start with a regular levain dough, after 2 hours' rising, dump in walnuts, currants, sugar, butter. What could be bad about that? 12 hours rise in a bread pan. It makes a lovely breakfast, toasted. But what's that smokey smell? Ah, it's me.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Having breakfast at my desk in the morning means sitting adjacent to the storage shelves, and every now and then my nostrils are assailed by something pungent and odorific.
Today I sniffed with particular interest. OO doggy, OO dat? Ah, sardines. I forgot about them. A week ago, no two I think. At room temperature. In an escabetx. That means fried and doused in vinegar, olive oil, rosemary, pepper.
The surprise? It's remarkably mild. Dare I say even delicate? But it's not herring. Please, anyone knows where to find fresh herring, let me know. Pappa needs some seafoo.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Meat Zeppelin Sliders

Never underestimate the depths of depravity to which the human soul will plunge in moments of sheer unmitigated mind-numbing boredom. My son asked me to make donuts. Why not? So I start dumping buttermilk, butter, flour, sugar, egg, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fennel, almond extract - OK, so I got carried away. And then fried up some zeppolline. Little Zeps.
And then, I recall the zeppo-crema, zeppole filled with sorbet or ice cream. Weird, but a very Sicilian thing. They even put ice cream on a bun. BINGO, says my mind. Hey they put a hamburger on a crispy creme, right? Somewhere in this derelect nation of ours. Why not a diminutive hamburger, pickle, barbecue sauce on a little crispy sweet zeppole? Not bad. My son only asked "Why did you put BBQ sauce on it?"

Friday, February 25, 2011

NPR story on Taco Bell

This is from a series called The Academic Minute which will air on Tuesday. Best, Ken

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

piccole lasagnette

Start with two gallons of raw milk. Proceed to set curds, cut, drain, then boil the whey for ricotta - still warm from the pot, mozarella made from a handful of the fresh curds - still squeeky. A few fresh rounds of paper thin pasta dough in each ramekin, dabs of tomato sauce. And into the toaster oven. It doesn't get any fresher than this.
The larger cheese (aka Felicity) is still under weight, maybe a pound or pound and a half, but quite elegant, in a mold made from a little paint bucket with holes drilled in it. I'll let you know how she turns out maybe three or four months from now.

Friday, February 11, 2011

#13: A Rant

Is the number 13 really unlucky? For reasons that I can't explain as a rational being, I have never ended a paper on page 13, or even stopped chopping on 13 cuts. (And yes, I count, thanks to Sesame Street and Martin Yan.) SO you can imagine the trepidation with which I approached my 13th book. One never knows in what order they will actually be published, and if I were counting as I wrote or edited them, this would be further along, but I'm pretty sure it will be #13. There were serious nightmares dealing with contributors. Late late, lame, dropped out, replaced, followed no directions. The last chapter turned in the day the whole thing is due Feb 1st. Ask me who it was, I'll tell you. Then the past week has been the hell of fixing references. Entirely my fault for not making contributors do it themselves. But we're already a little over the deadline. Like that really means anything after two years! But I have NEVER missed a deadline before. Hate the idea.

BUT! HUZZAH! I turned the damned monster in today, with only two minutes (literally) to spare before picking up the kids. Two years makes it to the finish in 2 minutes. Weird. It's that number again. Funny enought the cover was set a long time ago, I suggested a nice 16th c. kitchen scene and they're using it. Maybe this wont be 13 after all. (BTW. This book is a Cultual History of Food: The Renaissance, one volume in a big set.)

OH, Also just noticed real BEAST of an encyclopedia (FOOD CULTURES OF THE WORLD) is up on amazon. Dare you to pre-order. And on Monday I start proofreading. All 4 volumes. GASP! CHOKE....

Monday, February 7, 2011


I have eaten alligator a few times before, and against my better judgement I have always sauced it or cooked it in a way that obscures any hint of alligatorish flavor. And I have to say, even this relatively simple straightforward beer batter, yeilded results that were delicious, but still left me wondering, where's the alligator?
I wonder how one would cook this so it tastes like something. Option #2 would been gumbo, but maybe I should just have tossed it in a pan with butter? I wont say tastes like chicken, that would be an insult to the poor fowl.

Monday, January 17, 2011


It's things like this that make me think I must have been Italian in another life. Every Christmas I buy a panetonne and proceed to eat it myself. This year the one I bought was a little too sweet. A little too redolent of artifical vanilla. And a little too cakey. This is bread, after all.
So, when I espied in the cabinet some whole candied mixed citrus, I had to give it a shot. Start with sourdough starter, about 2 cups. Add in a few cups of whey, an egg, a hefty pinch of saffron, about a tablespoon of melted butter and a half cup of sugar. Knead in the finely chopped candied fruit. A tablespoon of salt. Let rise for a few hours knock down and let rise again in a bowl lined with parchment paper. A cylinder would have been a little better, but the shape doesn't really matter. About 10 -12 hours later bake at about 450 degrees, right on the parchment. OH MY, is this delicious!

Friday, January 14, 2011


One day over the break I took the boys into Berkeley to buy presents, and simply had to stop at one of my favorite stores, The Spanish Table. Bought odds and ends with no particular dish in mind.
But by sheer coincidence I happened to win, via Zester Daily, a paella set - from The Spanish Table. I never win anything! But there is was, rice, a new pan, piquillo peppers, saffron, pimenton. And I just happened to have the other odds and ends I bought: razor clams, an end of serrano ham, chickpeas. Why not? It was actually a stunningly good paella too. Rice came out perfect, not too dense and clumpy, not over flavored. I'm thinking chorizo overpowers it. Little bits of ham work much nicer, and as for overcooked chicken breast, forget it. I imagine vegetables alone would be fabulous in this too.

Latke Trick

DO you suffer from soggy latkes? We've all eaten them. Someone fried too many in a pan, on too low a temperature, or covered them with foil. They would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven.
Here's a neat trick to avoid such tragedy. Coarsely grate your potato (pictured is the results of but one) into a bowl. Squeeze out every drop of water by hand into another bowl. You don't need a strainer or cloth. Bare hand works fine.
Wait a minute or two and you'll see the water separate into two layers. Discard the upper layer of dirty water, keep the surprisingly dry white starch below. Add it back to the grated potato. Mix in well, with a touch of salt, pepper, thyme. Then divide into about 3 small cakes and fry in just a few tablespoons of duckfat or goosefat until brown and crisp. Eat at once, or keep warm UNcovered in the oven.
If you are stark raving hungry, serve with a round of boudin noir (I brought this one back from Paris) and some homemade sauerkraut. I suppose some sour cream couldn't hurt. It is said that the first meal of the New Year presages all to come. This was my first. HUzzah!