Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WHAT are these?

I bought them last week at the market under the freeway in Stockton. The man said camotes. I recognized the word, said yeah yeah and forgot about them. But no, these are not Ipomoea batatas (sweet potatoes). Nor are they Jerusalem artichokes or crosnes. Nor oca. Though they are similar to all these. Finger sized. Starchy and sticky and very crunchy raw. Cooked reminiscent of a potato. I still have NO idea what they are. Any ideas?

Dioscorea opposita, aka Chinese yam. a cousin of the true yam. Grated raw is wicked slimy and would indeed make a good sex lubricant. Fried in oil it makes one of the best latkes I've ever eaten. See. It's the base for okonomiyaki! Thanks to my old pal Brian and his wife! You win a recipe for okonomiyaki. Grate these like for latkes, mix in shredded cabbage, scallions, ginger, crushed peanuts and salt. Then fry like a big pancake. If you're not vegan add egg and raw shrimp finely chopped.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Trial and Error (Stone Milled Red Barley Rolls)

People are often surprised when I tell them I mess up all the time. They ask, "Don't you test your recipes several times until they're just right?" No, I really don't. And even if something does turn out fantastic, I never write anything down and rarely remember exactly what I did. In fact I rarely do anything the same way twice. What would be the fun in that? Even if it's a routine dinner I try to do something slightly different. It's almost never inedible. But sometimes something goes seriously bad. What can you do? Say oops, try again.

Even more surprising is when something I fully expect to work doesn't or when something turns out really interesting that I am sure is bound to fail. Witness these bread rolls. They were made for a film demo this past week, from hand ground whole red barley, sourdough starter and a touch of salt. I just left them in a springform pan overnight and baked them the next day. They are dense, but have an unbelievable flavor, sour and sweet and crumbly rather than chewy. With butter they will be amazing. I think they got wind that I was about to chuck them in the trash. Look at the expression on their faces. Bizarre, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

Apparently my Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican, Chinese won a nice award. Here's a story in the Stockton Record.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fancy Footwork

This is a ZAMPONE. Not to be confused with ZAMBONI, though you could grease an ice rink with it. (Ok, I used that joke in the last cookbook, sorry.) But this is a different recipe. I wanted to see what would happen if left out all the skin inside and just used a good sausage stuffing. Lovely stiches arent they? My mutha would say you shoulda bina surgeon. Trust me, I had to use every blade in the house to bone and stich this. A carbon steel buffalo skinner to cut through the skin is essential and an exacto knife to poke holes through which you pass a trussing needle. It's definitely not sharp enough on its own. So this shapely gam will cure in the fridge for a week with salt, coriander, pepper, bay, etc. Then it will be gently poached for a few hours, then I think roasted so the skin gets crispy.There's a hefty layer of fat beneath. Betty Grable, eat your heart out.

And here it is after simmering for a few hours then popping in the oven to roast. It came out perfectly crunchy on the outside, sweet and fatty on the inside. You defintiely don't need to add more skin to the stuffing, as with a coteghino. Sliced nicely too. I brought it to a hoodie party last night and it was gobbled.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chickpea Waffles

I have a beautiful waffle iron, beaten up and battered though it is. I often put perverse things in it. Try a grilled cheese, or a tuna melt sometime. Or croque monsieur. I don't know why it has never occured to me to put other kinds of grain in there, but I happened to have a cabinet of odd flours leftover from a crepe demo. I don't remember this vast range being available even a  few years ago, but the gluten-free craze has caught on. I used amaranth, millet, teff, chesnut. Some came out light and airy, others heavier and nutty. The nicest of all, I think, is chickpea flour. A really delightful crispy edge, akin to farinata. Simple to do, just a cup or so of flour, a little egg (one divided made 5 or 6 waffles) some sugar, baking powder, milk mixed into a thick batter. Butter the surface and pour in the batter. Good with maple syrup but doesn't really need it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Patience with Beginners

Yesterday I realized that I had pounded up a small dried Indian coconut with sugar for no reason. I also had three egg whites left over after making nog. So I decided to see what would happen if I put the coconut with whipped egg whites and rice flour for some macaroons. They're nice. For some strange reason I tried whisking with my left hand. Know what? It's impossible. That arm has absolutely no muscle memory of having ever done this. And then I took out a knife and tried to cut a carrot into batons. Know what? My left hand is a complete beginner. And I'm starting to really empathise when someone, like my younger son, who tells me, he actually CANT make his own pancakes. Things I take for granted like swirling the pan with butter, pouring batter, flipping pancakes, are simply not things he can do yet, physically. And I assume there are probably many people much like him.

It also occured to me that this is exactly like writing. Some of my students can organize ingredients, put them in good order, and even flip them with a solid thesis. Some have never been asked to write a research paper yet in their lives. They are absolute beginners. And I understand why now. No one assigned a real paper. No one threw them in the kitchen and said, cook. Doesn't matter what happens. Start. Then do it again. And again. Eventually you will know how to write. Or cook. Same thing. Or anything. It's not something you can teach except for encouraging people to do it. I'm beginning to feel better about cookbooks with no directions, and my sophmore history seminar where I have basically just let the students loose and am making them write a full length 6,000 word paper. Like anything, simply doing it makes it possible.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Temperamental Starter

Starters are much like people. For no apparent reason they are ornery, they don't do what you ask, and sometimes you frankly want to kill them. The starters, that is. And I have killed them. All the more suprising when people write to tell me they have offspring from Durga, the first wild sourdough I ever made and shared. Seriously, her offspring are thriving as far away as Maine. I have gone through many starters in the past few years. And the latest young one was just being completely uncoorperative. One dough liquefied and was poured in the trash. Another was not cooked in the middle when I brought it to a party. Epic fail, as my kids say. The last one didn't rise well, but I baked it anyway and ate it this week. Dense, but bread. And then suddenly she is right as rain. Huge, poufy and magnificently risen. Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the new location on the shelf by the window rather than near the sink. I don't know why but suddenly she made a bread of such astounding beauty that I am truly flabbergasted. Just came out of the oven and still hot. The bread looks like most that I usually make, so instead I decided to show you this. The smallest pizza on earth. It is a real pizza. A bit of dough stuck in the bowl, good sauce, homemade mozzarella, salami (really) and some herbs. It was made exactly as a pizza should be. Delicious too. Benji and I split it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Power of Suggestion

Why am I so susceptible to the power of suggestion? Last night I was talking to Kristine about romano beans stewed slowly in olive oil and fresh grated tomatoes. Now I am making it. I ran into Jim at the grocery and he was buying pancetta. So look what I had to make just now. I literally only heard the phrase chicken soup as a woman was about to pick up a can. I want that. So some freshly made stock is simmering away on the stove. It's terrible, I can't hear a single food item even mentioned without wanting it. Christian tells me he's making spaetzle. I want that too. To go in the stock of course. This is what happens when you really love every food on earth. A blessing or a curse?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Maple Pecans and Rye

Could anyone have guessed that I am writing a book about nuts right now? I guess no one knew but the publisher. Not even me, until I was reminded! But it's almost done and will go into Reaktion's Edible Series (with my pancake book). I've begun to test and photograph recipes. This one is so good I have to share it, as a little foretaste. Take pecans and heat them in a nonstick pan until fragrant. Sprinkle on some powdered cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper and a dash of salt. Now while stirring constantly sprinkle on maple sugar. It will melt very quickly and stick to the nuts. Keep stirring until they are nicely coated. Remove from the pan and let cool thoroughly. They are so crunchy, so intriguingly sweet and spicy and salty. Consume with some good strong Redemption Rye, straight. Languish.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sweet Tarts vs. Smarties vs. Sassy Sours

If like me you still find yourself rifling through the bottom of the Halloween leftover bowl, I have a piece of crucial information to help guide you through this treacherous terrain. First, gum seems to have disappeared. Alas. Most chocolate now comes in tiniest of fun sized micro-bites that are hardly worth the effort of opening. Unless perhaps they could be snorted. A stale Baby Ruth up the nose might not be bad. Snickers not even on a bet. I am not wild about mass produced chocolate, though there were a few Heath Bars in there. My kids didn't realize the candy bar preceded the heath bar crunch ice cream flavor. The 100,000 dollar bar is gone. Twix has lost its luster for me. And in all honesty, I have always found the sour sugary garbage much more appealing from a purely gastronomic perspective. I don't know why, but pixie stix were grand. Can you recall zotz with a little lump of caustic acid in the middle that fizzed on the tongue? But who knew that the perverse little sweet and sour tablets wrapped in clear plastic with twists on the end are not all the same!?

I thought the classic were Smarties. Though a half eaten package on my desk somehow tastes flat, chalky and dissolves too quickly on the tongue. Then I opened the so-called Sassy Sours which are clearly a cheap knock-off. They are disgusting, can be easily crumbled with your fingers. And the pale pastel colors are vomitous - and they all taste the same too. The Smarties are a little bolder in color, a little more sour and hold together with more convinction. BUT, Sweet Tarts are divine. Hard as a rock, bracingly sour, with assertive colors like blue, green, purple and orange. Made by Wonka, though I don't think that was the case years ago. So if you find yourself being offered anything else, refuse adamantly. Oh these are good, even the flavors taste distinct. I think I'll have another.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pickled Bologna, SO from scratch

The very idea of a pickled bologna leaves me giddy. I've never eaten it, but it has to be good. Apprently a thing Michiganders eat from a jar with beer. So I decided to make it. Of course utterly from scratch. These babies up front are several pounds each. I honestly don't know how people made proper mortadella before the advent of machines. I beat the flesh for nearly an hour with a wooden bat. Seriously. And it was definitely smooth, but not utterly emulsified. Maybe it never was in the past. IT's close enough, I hope. One is in a half a bung the other in a beef middle. Very mildly spiced. I am going to let them hang just for a few days. Then cold smoke. Then lightly poach. Then submerge in a briney vinegar with spices. To be eaten cold and sliced. If that doesn't sound divine, I don't know what possibly could. OK, on sourdough with mustard. Rock On Bologna!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Obol or A RANT on eating utensils

As a food historian and potter I have been thinking a great deal lately about the sthape and form of eating utensils and serving vessels. They change dramatically over time and from place to place. There's a chapter on this in my Three World Cuisines textbook and I even asked a related question on a midterm exam I was grading today. That is, why do different cultures use different cutlery, seating arrangements, dishes and how does that affect the cuisine, its flavor, texture and consistency? So when the company that makes this asked me to review the OBOL I naturally said sure.
Now just to preface my remarks: I am not at all against innovation and evolution of eating paraphrenalia. In fact I adore my set of knorks. They are beautiful, well balanced and eminently well engineered. Nor do I bewail the proliferation of finger foods and things eaten with hands. I prefer to eat with my hands for the sheer sensual pleasure of doing so. 
So the Obol arrived in the mail today with much fanfare. My 15 year old son immediately volunteered to test it with frosted flakes or some such crap. The whole idea is that the cereal stays dry and the milk is below. You scoop the cereal into the milk as you go, No Sog. The idea is ingenious. My son said in terms of sheer engineering it is a marvel. Revolutionary! But then I thought, would I want to eat anything out of a blue bowl? With a spoon that looks like a baby rattle? From a bowl that is cheap plastic, however well balanced? I don't think I can do it. If this were clay, wood, even metal, in warm appealing tone, I might get really excited. It so reminds me of what we used to feed my sons when they were babies, that I don't think I could bring myself to eat out of it without nausea. Final score 15 year old: 10. 47 year old: 0. I guess you now know your market folks.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Psophocarpus tetragonolobus

  You know, I've written about these. Mused on the name for hours of personal entertainment. It means 4-sided noisy fruit. Dreamed about all the things I'd do with them if I went to Thailand. But until recently I had never set eyes on one. Until they show up in the farmers market. The farmer told me his dad brought the seeds and has been trying to grow them for years and finally they bore enough to sell. Some were stir fried the others are being pickled. Where else could this happen but in Stockfish CA?
P.S. They are beans.

Monday, October 15, 2012

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Three World Cuisines

Hey Folks, Feeling like a book giveaway. This time it's my new textbook Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican, Chinese. It's a bit of food history and anthropology, a bit on cooking technology and utensils, ingredients and plenty of neat recipes. It is essentially an analysis of the ways these three cuisines developed over history and why. Answer this question and I'll send the first person with a complete answer a copy.

What is the traditional way to consume hawthorn in China, apart from its medicinal use. What is this dish called in Chinese and English and why?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I finally bought a little oak barrel, something I have been coveting for a long time, which suddenly became affordable online - mind you at the same time a major food magazine starts talking about putting cocktails in barrels. No, we want our own product. Here's the idea: every day pour off a sip to see the effect of what happens to a nice clear Cab-Shiraz blend distilled. After only 5 days look at the color. It smells intensely of butterscotch candy. I mean exactly like Werthers. It's a surprise to taste that it's not sweet. I'll report back in a few weeks, but I expect some amazing things are going to happen day by day. Now if I can only figure out the sour mash, we will be on our way to bourbon.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Home Made Absinthe

Around this time every year I am usually fermenting grapes from the backyard. But the rats got them before I did, I mean every single grape, before they were ripe. Oh well, I guess they have to eat too. But I did manage to find some bottles of wine from last year and had a pleasant day making absinthe. It is not only local but small batch to a ridiculous degree as you can see. If the wine was about 12% I guess this is not bad for three bottles. It was soaked with dried Artemisia absinthium, which a friend brought me (the only imported ingredient) with herbs from the backyard including southernwood (a close relative), rue, sage, bay, beebalm and fennel. Then distilled. It was the slowest distillation I've ever done, not sure why. Maybe it was all the herbiage. Next to it is the tiniest batch of distilled mead made from 2 lbs of local honey. I'm not sure if anyone on earth does make a honey distillate, and I can certainly understand why they wouldn't. From about 1.5 liters of mead I got a few shots of hooch, which I guess makes sense if it was about 5%.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


 How to Make Njera
Start with some teff, a tiny Ethiopian grain and pound it furiously in a stone mortar until you have flour. Or you can buy teff flour. Any good health food store will have both. Put about a cup of the flour in a bowl and add water until you have a smooth batter. Cover with a towel. The next day add a little more teff flour and water. Continue for one week adding more each morning. It will be sour and smell funky. Next heat a very large non stick skillet and generously daub with butter. Make sure your batter is quite thin, add a pinch of salt too. Pour in about a cup of batter and swirl around so the entire pan is evenly covered. It will hiss and sizzle and little holes will appear. Cover the pan briefly to steam through. You don't need to turn it over or flip, just carefully remove with a spaluta and set aside on a platter. It will be nice and tart and chewy. On top you put little piles of stewed lentils, spicy stewed chicken (doro wat) and cauliflower or okra. Anything. You eat by tearing off little bits of the njera and picking up mouthfuls of the food.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blood, Sweat and Ears

I don't need to show you what this actually looks like in the flesh, but it is a chili, based on blood, pig ears, pork belly, onions and other odds and ends. I was fully prepared to make a raw vegan chili. (YES! Just for the challenge!) And then I found it already made and my kitchen preoccupied all morning. SO what can I do but go the utter opposite direction? It's for a chili contest tonight.

The cover parodied here is a post BS&T era album of recovered recordings. I dare you to listen to some of their best songs, absolutely fantastic. And after tasting this chili just now, this is too. Tastes like chocolate, which is SO weird because there is none in it. Just smooth, really dark, a little bitter, some sweetness, iron, spice. And nibblie bits of ear. Wonder if I could make this into a candy bar? Notice the blood stain on the poster too!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Schmaltzerdoodles: Duck Fat Onion Cookies

Begin by finely dicing one small onion and brown very gently in duck or chicken fat with a good pinch each of salt and thyme. Let cook about 30 minutes on the lowest heat possible, stirring often. Then place in a separate small bowl and chill thoroughly in the freezer, at least 20 minutes.

Take one cup of well chilled solid duck or chicken fat and cream in one cup of coarse grained unrefined sugar. Add one egg, a capful of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. Add in the chilled onions, a handful of crushed walnuts and enough flour to make a dough you can roll into balls. The more flour you add, the more cakey they will be. The less you add, the crisper. Roll out small balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. They will look and have the texture of Mexican wedding cookies, so sprinkle with powdered sugar if you like.

Makes 28-30 cookies. Serve with good bourbon, sit on the porch and enjoy at about 5:00 on a Sunday afternoon on the first day of fall.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beef Middles

I forgot what a delight it is to use beef middles to make salami. It's been more than a year. They're maybe 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and you can simply place the chopped meat inside by hand and squeeze it down hard, because they don't break. These are pork on the periphery, some with fennel, some with chili pepper. In the center are beef and in the back left a pair of lomo, i.e. cured pork loin, which is actually very tricky to stuff. And to cure, it needs to soak with salt and spices a week or so in the fridge first. So how nice is having a cave stuffed with salami? About 20 pounds, in a few hours, without a single machine. A WHOLE lot of fun. Whatever works best I'll bring to the party for The Lost Arts in SF next month. So my recommendation: forget about small diamater beef rounds. Not worth the effort and they dry out way too much before the meat has a chance to cure and get a good sour bite. And Pig Middles, work fine, but they sure do stink! These barely smell at all.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


This is a clip from a film about Monteverdi by Theo Roos. I'm in it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


It's been about a year since I dabbled in blood sports. So I thought I'd try a biroldo. It's Tuscan and  decidedly sweet, studded with golden raisins, pine nuts and a hint of cinnamon. The ones they sell at the store are rubbery and uninteresting, but I had a Spanish morcilla recently and it just got me thinking about blood again. Here's how to make it: Get a pound of fresh blood. (The Lion Market here sells little containers, about 2 bucks.) Plus 1/2 pound lean pork and 1/2 pound fat. Chop the meat and fat up very fine and mix with the blood. Add 1 tbs salt and the same of sugar. Then some crushed fennel, a good pinch of instacure #1, and stir in a handful each of raisins and pine nuts. I'm going to let this cure for a couple of days, then probably poach gently. You slice it off and eat cold like that, not recooked like a black pudding. We shall see!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Food Studies Handbook Giveaway!

Hey Folks, I received a big box of books in the mail today. The Routledge International Handbook of Food Studies. It's pretty expensive, so for those of you who really need it, I'm going to give away a copy. Just answer this question and it's yours. The first correct answer of course. (Hint: it's not in this book, nor can you peek on amazon.)

What kind of fish did the ancient Greek gastronome Archestratus recommend not be ruined with fancy nonsense like cheese? Just oregano and salt is best. What is this fish called today?

I'd be willing to send another copy if anyone can answer this weird question. From what city were these books mailed to my office? I passed through it just a few of weeks ago.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Renaissance Pine Nut Soup

I bet at some point you’ve tasted a White Gazpacho or ajo blanco as they call it in Cordoba. It is thick and creamy and made much like red gazpacho, minus the tomatoes – but including bread, olive oil, vinegar and a ton of garlic, maybe egg yolks. It’s garnished with bits of apple and raisins usually. There is a riot of flavors in this soup but it can be utterly delicious. But people tell you it’s the historic ancestor of gazpacho. Well, I don’t think so exactly. Or at least I’ve never seen anything exactly like it in the past. But some things come close. Here’s one that definitely captures 16th century taste preferences: take out the garlic and vinegar, add sugar and rosewater. I know it’s SO unhip nowadays, but I think this comes much closer. And frankly, it is fabulous.

Juan Vallés Regalo de la Vida Humana pp. 623-4

Escudilla de piñonada

Take a good quantity of pine nuts which are well cleaned and white and as much of blanched almonds, and put all together in a stone mortar, moistening the pestle of the mortar with rose water or with broth so it doesn’t oil up, and then being well crushed loosen it with chicken broth and pass through a sieve, and then put it in a clean pot and add to it sugar and cook stirring always with a pestle until it thickens, remove from the fire and leave to rest a little covered with a cloth and over the plates, sprinkle sugar.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Routledge International Handbook of Food Studies

What do you know? Another book of mine just arrived. Here's what's inside:

Social sciences

1 The anthropology of food - Robert Dirks and Gina Hunter
2 The sociology of food - William Alex McIntosh
3 Food and communication - Arthur Lizie
4 Historical background of food scholarship in psychology and major
theoretical approaches in use - Kima Cargill
5 Nutritional anthropology - Janet Chrzan
6 Public health nutrition - Arlene Spark
7 The archaeology of food - Katherine M. Moore

8 Journalism - Helen Rosner and Amanda Hesser
9 The cultural history of food - Deborah Valenze
10 Culinary history - Ken Albala
11 Food and literature: an overview - Joan Fitzpatrick
12 Philosophy and food - Lisa Heldke
13 Linguistics and food studies: structural and historical connections - Anthony F.
14 Food and theology - David Grumett
15 Food and art - Travis Nygard
16 Food in film - Anne Bower and Thomas Piontek
17 Food and television - Sarah Murray

Interdisciplinary food studies
18 Food studies programs - Rachel Black
19 Food and American studies - Margot Finn
20 Folklore - Lucy M. Long
21 Food museums - Elizabeth Williams
22 Food and law - Baylen J. Linnekin and Emily Broad Leib
23 The intersection of gender and food studies - Alice McLean
24 Culinary arts and foodservice management - Vivian Liberman and Jonathan Deutsch
25 Food, cultural studies, and popular culture - Fabio Parasecoli
26 Food and race: an overview - Psyche Williams-Forson and Jessica Walker

Special topics in food studies
27 Food justice: an overview - Alison Hope Alkon
28 Food studies and animal rights - Carol Helstosky
29 Qualitative and mixed methods approaches to explore social dimensions of food and
nutrition security - Stefanie Lemke and Anne C. Bellows
30 School food - Janet Poppendieck
31 Food in tourism studies - Lucy M. Long
32 Food and the senses - Beth M. Forrest and Deirdre Murphy
33 Anticipating a new agricultural research agenda for the twenty-first century –
Frederick L. Kirschenmann
34 Food and ethics - Julia Abramson

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Curing Question

I have a question about curing meat. These are hand chopped pork sausages, made with a lot of paprika and garlic, that were hung to cure for three days at around 60 degrees and then smoked for about an hour somewhere around 120-30 degrees I'm guessing. I could handle them, so they never got very hot, but they're pretty much cooked through. They were delicious then and there and most went into a rice and veg dish, something like a paella. Luscious and smokey.

Here's my question: Can I now hang these and let them dry further? It's only instacure #1 inside, no bacterial starters or anything like that. Does the light cooking affect the cure? That is, will they go bad if I leave them to dry for a few more weeks or will they still be good to eat as a smoked and dried sausage? Or would it have been better to really cold smoke? I'm not talking industrial protocols here. I know this was done in ancient times and they were kept for a long time, but I have no idea what will happen. TKS, K

Monday, August 6, 2012


I haven't had a good rant in a while, so here goes. A few months ago a marketing firm must have collected data on every publication with the word food in it, and assumed these were food and cooking magazines. They then sold this data to every marketing firm in the country who then sold it to every company selling a new food product. As Co-Editor of Food Culture and Society, I am apparently on their radar. It began as a trickle of emails, then soon a deluge. New restaurants, food tourism, everything from gourmet foods to Peeps. (Yes, just this afternoon.) I started by politely explaining that I edit a peer reviewed academic journal. We don't feature new products, have a holiday gift ideas section, or do restaurant reviews. I don't blame anyone for misunderstanding, and most wrote back to me immediately, saying of course, sorry, we'll happily remove you from our mailing list.

A few didn't. A few insisted on offering products even after I'd explained it all. And sometimes it was just too hard to resist. PEEPS? By all means, send me all you like, I will eat them with glee. (You know I will share with you someday the recipe for peep floaters in chicken broth, chili and lime. Delicious.) So after one offer to send samples too many, I just said sure. I'd love to try your new product. That was being honest. And then this morning an envelope appeared containing promotional material and five little packets of candy. (The company selling sardines never send me a dozen cases as requested.)

This is not just any candy, but "supercandy" and it is designed especially for those with healthy active lifestyles who love candy but don't want to eat mass produced junk. OK. It has B vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes. I am already worried about eating it. And you have to wonder, people who lead active lifestyles can eat candy every now and then without worrying, no? And doesn't it also strike you as oddly oxymoronic? Health-Conscious Candy? So sort of like Probiotic Alcohol. Or Cigarettes for Children? I'd buy those. Regardless, the family was very excited when I brought it home. My wife scrutinized the ingredients and scoffed. (OF which I am very proud - it's still all industrial mass produced crap and vitamins in chemical form.)

But the kids and I tasted it all. From the gummies (not bad) to the caramel (too gooey to be pleasantly chewy) to tarts (which I liked the best - though they did make everything else, even water, taste really sweet) to the beans (salty and revolting like gatorade) to the gum (which tasted like breakfast cereal, froot loops in particular, which makes NO sense to me). None was actually good enough to purchase. I don't know how much they cost, but if I want a sweet tart, that's what I'll eat, once in a blue moon. Likewise gum, more often, but only if it tastes good. As for the rest, is any of the conventional candy that much worse for you that this? If you need vitamins and electrolyte balance, eat fruits and vegetables - maybe even liver for B12. But pharmaceutical candy? I honestly don't get it. And I'm sure it will sell in health food stores, then you'll see it on grocery store shelves. All because people just believe anything. Slap a label on a bag of cheetos saying "this is organic, all natural, probiotic, neutraceutical, functional, fair trade, local with NO glutens" and then people feel good and pay more so they can tell other people they ate it.

At time the imagination strains to comprehend the ways of man.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Meatloaf Makeover

There are few foods that have such vivid associations as meatloaf. It might even be the quintessentially uncool homey working class dish. It is the Ernest Borgnine of American cuisine. Good honest and plain. Which is of course why it has always been so ripe for a makeover. Or at least was. Meatloaf had its shining moment in restaurants, a few years ago, as a retro-comfort food. Made with grass fed organic beef, and local vegetables in season, naturally. Maybe even served with toast points to remind people of what became of its French cousins who did so well. But the makeover can go too far, if it tries too hard to be hip, fakes the funk, or somehow loses sight of its homey core, the meatloaf seems tawdry and tarted up.

Well, I think this one rides that fine line between being true to itself and yet still exuding elegance. It is still a meatloaf my mom would eat. Bison replaced beef, for no other reason than I saw it in the store for 7 bucks a pound. So this was hardly expensive in the end. I had to put the hard boiled egg in the middle. Inside went diced carrots, you can see, celery, shallots. But the real kicker and the key to light texture, came from a cup of sourdough bread crumbs, fried in the last lump of that lardo battuto I wrote about a few posts back. Plus a good squirt of tomato paste. And then, just so it's not too pretentious, some barbecue sauce as a glaze, and it was cooked in the toaster oven. 350 for about an hour. I say meat loaf needs another revival.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Scoby Snacks

Do you eat your mother? I mean that snot-like raft floating on the top of your komucha jar. I got the idea from a little snippet in Sandor Katz's new book, and I thought why not? I suppose it really should be raw if you want to ingest good bacteria, but I thought a little salt pepper and a quick sautee in good olive oil would be interesting. It was rather sour, but the oddest thing  - the texture is really firm and chewy with a kind of muscular structure. Very much like a scallop, which it sort of resembles. OK a vegetarian scallop. I think if you soaked it to remove the sourness it would really work. Serve with a little kelp. I might be onto something here. I also cooked a big floppy red wine mother and used it as a wrap around chickpeas and lettuce. Another interesting idea, no?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Honey Bees

It is with great sadness that I said goodbye to my bees yesterday. Apparently you can't keep them in a wall. A man came, opened a square in the wall and took out three big 50-lb buckets of hive and honey. Although I had nothing to do with this operation directly, it was nonetheless terrifying, exhilarating, absolutely astounding. At one point he invited me into the room literally filled with swarming bees for a chunk of comb. The first chunk was golden and tasted a little like orange. I don't think I've ever tasted anything like it in my life. This is the second chunk, apparently older, and probably from different flowers. That's all they could spare, as they need the rest to start up in a new spot, a few miles away. Many of "the girls' were left behind to clean up the rest of the honey, which is now oozing out of the walls. Rather surreal if you ask me. So is the plastic covering the hole and the furious buzzing behind it. The weirdest thing, is the bees through this whole operation just did what they were told. Remarkable.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lardo Battuto

Who knew this would be so simple and delightful! It is called lardo battuto, which means literally beaten lard. Not the sort you find in a block in the supermarket, and in fact never heated at all, but salted and cured lard-o pounded in a mortar with garlic and parsley. I just happened to find a casing filled with cured fat in the back of the cave. I must have made it this past winter. I became familiar with this kind of lardo (in print) through my old friend Bartolomeo Scappi, personal chef to Pope Pius V in the 16th century. He uses it in stuffings especially, and anywhere some extra fat and flavor can be used. Apparently in Italy it gets tossed into soup and stews. OH YES. I tried it on toast this morning, and let me tell you: imagine compound butter, but cured pig instead. Aromatic, unctuous, dizzying. Thanks to Miss Butter who prompted this line of inquiry. It's a thing I should have done years ago. Now let's just think where this might go. Maybe a dollop on a pork chop? For some odd reason I want to stuff a fish with it. Scappi must have done it. Bread crumbs, cheese and lardo battuto. I couldn't have come up with anything that magnificent.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pizza Madness

Somehow I think this speaks for itself. If you're going to make pizza, you might as well do it big time. There's classic pepperoni, the rabe and tuna, a pickled pork and sauerkraut up front, which turned out fabulous, and others included coppa which I found at the back of the cave, asparagus and a slew of other vegs. Arranging them all first this way made it easier to load and unload in the oven and take down the block to a party. There's still more, anyone free tonight?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bee Keeping

I always thought one day I would take up bee keeping. Ever since I read Virgil's Georgics in grad school. And I've consistently kept my eye on equipment and where to find bees. I never expected that bees would find me. I spotted a few outside the kitchen window about a month ago before I left town. Then the next time it approached a swarm. And now there are hundreds upon hundreds, especially in the late afternoon flying around in the shade of a trumpet vine a few feet from the Dutch door in the kitchen. I expected there would be a hive, the sort you see in Winnie the Pooh, and that I could just ask the bees for some honey, nicely of course. But no, they're in the wall. I put my ear up to it, and it sounds like the roar of a jet engine. Clearly thousands of bees busy making honey, flapping their wings to cool the Queen and do whatever it is bees do in their spare time. This is a whole city of bees, replete with a mall, supermarkets, even an airport. My first instinct is to live happily with them, but apparently the hive continues to grow and it's not at all good for the house. And there's no way to ask for honey politely if it's in the wall.  I'd definitely rather not kill them, given the status of honey bees in general. Does anyone know if they can be moved? Or if there's a way I can live with them? Or even transfer them to a conventional frame-hive? Or convert the wall somehow???

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pizza Perfect

I have been having explicit pizza fantasies for several weeks now. And somehow every time a pie presented itself, I thought, "This can't be it. Don't waste your opportunity on this specimen of mediocrity." But I did succumb a few times. There was that weird practically crustless perversity in the suburbs of Chantilly VA: a lot of cheese and meat and nothing else. Hardly anything even vaguely pizza like. I couldn't bring myself to eat pizza in Germany either, though it looked good. Perugia offered a decent one two weeks ago, but it was all crust, a hint of dark tuna and broccoli rabe. The idea was pure genius, but the execution so imbalanced and off center, that it was very unpizzaic in the end. And then NY this past week. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? I ate no pizza, but certainly ogled, smiffed and dreamed about it every moment. So, I am home today and thought I must just cook it. And the idea Perugia was still stuck there. And it truly is genius. Not my idea, but the ingredients must be right. Sautee the rabe first so it comes out crisp in the oven. Canned (YES) solid tuna in water, ordinary mozzarella. But all in perfect balance. Got to be a paper thin crust or you would lose the tuna, but very crispy. And it is beyond beyond. If you can think of a better unusual combination, let me know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cooking in a Castle in Germany

This past week I was in Nideggen, Germany cooking in a medieval castle. It was, oddly enough, for a documentary on the life of 17th century Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi. They wanted cooking segments with food that reflects the same Baroque aesthetic as his music. Cooked in a wood-burning oven and over an open flame. I chose a few dishes, a kind of gnocchi from Cesare Evitascandalo, an asparagus dish from Bartolomeo Stefani, and then a grand veal pie from Vittorio Lancellotti, who was an exact contemporary. Now, you have to imagine this. It is veal chopped finely then pounded in a mortar into a fine paste with sugar and candied citron, plus grapes set inside. This is in a rather sweet thick flaky pastry that is glazed and decorated with flowers. It's upside down here, but heart-shaped. Apart from being totally over the top, it is absolutely baroque in flavor and form. Lancelotti doesn't have a recipe, but it is featured in many of his menus, so reconstructing it wasn't too difficult. The best part was of course watching the crew wince at the idea of a sweet veal pie. But it was quickly devoured after shooting.

This magnificent photo was taken by Claudia van Koolwijk.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sweet Little Piggie

I know you're not supposed to get attached to your food, but this little piggie was so sweet. Kristine bought her and brought to a yearly Hootenany. It took 5 hours to roast her (the pig, not Kristine) slowly over white hot coals. Just salt. I thought the huge wooden stake was a good idea, though covered in foil so it didn't ignite. Two piles of rocks on either end held it up. Best of all: I cut it up as quickly as I could and it was litterally grabbed and gobbled up within a few minutes. About 60 pounds. There's only a little ziplock bag left, which I think will have to be pulled and sauced for dinner tonight.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican, Chinese

What do you know! My next book is now available on amazon. Three World Cuisines. Now why the paperback is recommended for 22 and above and the hardbound for 18 and above, I can't imagine. Must be those cocktail recipes. Or maybe it was the directions for ritual sacrifice?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cooking in Bamboo Tubes

I hope I can entice you to make this delectable dish. So straightforward in flavor, so prehistoric in cooking method. And dare I say rather stunning in presentation? In Cambodia and Thailand I think it's called kao lam. Versions exist throughout Southeast Asia, sometimes with beans or other ingredients. First you need a pole of freshly cut bamboo. Grow it yourself or find a friend who grows it. Saw it into sections about a foot and a half long. Saw below the nodes so one end is open and the other closed. Then soak some sticky rice in water for about an hour. Drain and add coconut milk. Add some unrefined sugar (salt too) and chopped bits of dried fermented sausage. I thought this was lap cheung when I pulled it from the cave, but the fennel said otherwise. No matter. Fill the tubes 3/4 way up and add coconut milk almost to the top. Then take a patch of banana leaf, which you can buy in a SE Asian grocery store and tie it to the top opened end. You can use a strip of the leaf or string works even better. Then make a good roaring fire and prop the tubes up against it. I think an iron bar running above the fire would work best. Not directly in the flame, but pretty close. They will char on the outside and maybe even catch on fire. Don't worry, just turn them around and continue cooking. After about 45 minutes remove and split them horizontally with a sturdy machete. Serve right in the tube. There's a lovely bambooish aroma and a little smoke. I made this for the first time at a party yesterday and I can't wait to go tell the lady at the Cambodian gorcery store how they came out. She was excited and perplexed that I was trying it, but I think her good luck wish hit the target.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Feed Yourself

What's more fun than cooking? (No, not that, but yes it is.) I mean FEEDING other people. I brought a mess of odds and ends to class to today, a huge honking bread, some very fresh cheese and some old stinky salame from the back of the cave. And my students devoured most of it. But sometimes, you just have to feed yourself. I mean cook something you love even though you know no one else will dare eat it, for no good reason whatsoever. It's not guts, just some simple beans for heaven's sake! They look familiar, but no, they're really young favas, not phaseolus. Cooked pods and all with olive oil, grated tomato, basil and some water so they don't burn. I can't remember the last time I found favas this young and tender, but if you see them, please promise me you will feed yourself first and don't worry who else will eat it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another Coteghino

If you can believe it, this was an accident. About a year ago I made a coteghino (aka skin sausage) and wasn't planning on doing it again. But I just a got a new knife, a lovely curved Buffalo Skinner from J. Russell & Co. which I am told is not stainless steel. So I needed something with skin to remove, hence some slabs of pork belly now curing into bacon. The skin came off easily. And a tongue is curing too. (Long story, but a tongue that was impossible to peel went into an Olla Podrida the other day in Fullerton, and so I'm into the tongue thing.) Anyway, the finely chopped skin was mixed with pork and went into this wonderfully baroque middle, which curved right around itself into this remarkably obscene form. Lots of fennel. I think I will bring it Darrell Corti's next weekend. I also baked a few monstrous breads for my class, made a little cheese, who knows what else. Every day should be such as this.

Monday, April 9, 2012

One Bunny on a Bun?

It aint Louisiana Back Bayou Bunny Bordelaise a la Antoine. But Easter comes, and goes, and then I think of rabbit. Little time to spare. And I think, Asian cooking must have rabbit. India? Tandoori was suggested to me. Maybe. No stir fry. Not BBQ. SO how about a good SE Asian marinade? Fish sauce, lime, galangal, shallots, chilies. A touch of tomato paste for fun. Then on the grill. These were really delightful. This combination would taste great with a hunk of shoe leather. Next time I'll try that. In the meantime, I encourage you to embrace rabbit. OK, cuddle up first, then eat him for heaven's sake!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gefilte Fish

For those of you poor souls who sufferred the jarred gefilte the past two nights, you know, the kind with a little wad of snot attached and some equally jarred horseradish, here's a step up. Ideally you want to find fresh pike or carp. Not in Stockfish, CA. So I tried basa. Why not? The key is to make a good stock with bones, aromatic vegs, shallots, tarragon and goodly salt. Then pound the fish in a mortar. Seriously, a food processor will cut the fish, you want everything pounded and gummy. I have to admit I departed in a heretical way, as usual, by adding a drop of sesame oil and a pinch of dried ginger, but otherwise these were gefilte, not Asian fish balls. Three big filets held together by one egg, and a half cup of matzoh meal. Then form into torpedos with two spoons and drop gently into a little pot of barely simmering fish stock. Let them chill thoroughly in the stock. Serve with ABSOLUTELY freshly grated horseradish with a touch of salt and white vinegar. Be sure to cover the horseradish after grating or it will lose the lovely heat. These were devoured, two nights in a row. I adore them.

Friday, April 6, 2012

University of the Pacific Spotlight

This is a fun promotional piece from the university, including still shots and video from all over the place, including my current freshman food policy seminar. I have no idea how they got all this footage!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why is taste historically stunted?

I have a serious question. This weekend I spoke before the Renaissance Society of America about food, of course. It occured to me that no one present would have the slightest qualms about watching a play of this era, looking at a 500 year old painting, or hearing Renaissance music. They do it all the time. It's their profession! Then at the reception, with marvellous food mind you, it occured to me: what would happen if you served them Renaissance food? I mean sweet chicken blancmanger, peacocks resewn into their feathers spewing flames, sweet sour perfumed sauces. Sugar and cinnamon on everything. They would run in terror. They might be amused for a few minutes, but no one in their right mind would take it seriously and honestly eat it with enjoyment. Why are our historic sensibilities completely and utterly stunted when it comes to gastronomy, but so highly refined for the other arts? Is there something inherently different about taste, because we ingest it? So it becomes more closely bound to our own time than any other kind of taste? Or is it because historians set the canons of taste for the past in the other arts but have never done it for food? Everyone recognizes the Mona Lisa but would be very hard pressed to identify a signature Renaissance dish.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Corned Beast

Ah, SO sorry I forgot to put a picture up. It's my sourdough roasted and sliced horizontally, my sauerkraut, my mustard, this wicked winey corned beef and I think melted cheese too. Browned in butter, GASP!

If you haven't done so already, now's the time to start your corned beast for St. Patrick's Day. I did it yesterday, and a full week to cure is about right. The reason to do it is not cost: corned beef was $3.99 a pound in the supermarket yesterday and raw brisket was $4.99. You do it because it's fun! And tastes better, because you can do whatever you like with it. Moreover, you don't need a buy a huge honking hunk of beast if you only want a bit. I bought a 2 lbs brisket end with a nice cap of fat. To start: sprinkle generously with salt - a little more than if you were just going to cook this. (I actually used a red salt impregnated with French wine that my friend Lissa in Paris gave me, but regular sea salt is fine.) Then very lightly sprinkle with pink salt. (Instacure #1) Then add whatever you like - I used juniper berries sent to me by Miss Butterpowered Bike from Colorado. Plus coriander, black pepper and bay leaves. Throw it in a leakproof ziplock and into the fridge for a week. Now here's the divergence. Forget boiling it. Much of the flavor is lost in the water. So after it's thoroughly cured, rinse it off. I like to put it in a casserole on a bed of sauerkraut (your own), add water or other liquid (such as beer - your own), cover and bake slowly for about 3 or 4 hours undisturbed. Serve on toasted rye (your own) with a good smear of mustard (also you own) along with the kraut. It's LOVELY.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kombucha Egg

This morning two long running experiments came together fortuitiously. First there is komucha. I have tasted many that were positively vile with seaweed and other garbage. Then others that just tasted like fruity vinegar. But I imagined just a sweet tea kind of komucha would be lovely. So I just made some black tea with sugar and threw in a disk of vinegar mother to see what might happen. Three weeks later it is perfectly delightful. Tart tea vinegar. Not effervescent, maybe because I left the lid off? But then it occured to me, if this is really just vinegar why not throw in some hardboiled eggs and see what happens? I didn't salt it, but maybe should have. We shall see. If it works, maybe vegetables would pickle nicely in it too. Does anyone have experience with this?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Circus Peanut Soup

This is a West African Recipe of such elegance and beauty that the only way to properly defile it is to use the most heinous of all mass produced junk foods: bright orange vaguely marshmallow-like, artificially banana flavored, tough chewy bright orange circus peanuts. They are the very antithesis of food. I love them. You'll need a whole 3.5 ounce bag, preferably stale. I bought mine at Walgreens. This is a serving for two as a starter; add more ingredients to make a big pot. In a small saucepan, brown 3 chicken thighs with skin and bones in a tablespoon of olive oil. Remove them, add one chopped onion, and a half cup each chopped red and green bell pepper. Add a tablespoon of minced ginger, and crushed red pepper to taste, plus some toasted and ground coriander. Then grate in two roma tomatoes, without the peel. Have fun here, you can add whatever you like. Brown the vegetables and add the chicken back in. Cover with water and simmer for about 45 mintues. Remove the chicken and discard the skin and bones. Shred the chicken and return to the pot. Taste and make it hotter if you like. Throw in the whole bag of circus peanuts and let them melt. There will be a jolt of sweetness, so adjust with a touch of acid or mor heat if you like. Garnish with a sliced circus peanut. As you will see the gelatinous goo thickens the soup well. Not perhaps as nice as peanut butter, so if you use a touch of the latter I wont tell. But here's the most perverse part. IT ACTUALLY TASTES GOOD! *I bet you could make this with PEEPS too. Next will be cooking with Necco Wafers.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Conejos en Escabeche

Juan Valles Regalo de la Vida Humana

Assen muy bien los conejos y después córtenlos en pedaços y echenlos en una olla nueva or otra semejante vasija de tierra vedriada poniendo entre los pedaços del conejo hojas de laurel y una poca de salvia piccada, y después hagan el escabeche y échenselo por encima de manera que los pedacos estén bien cubiertos del escabeche, y el escabeche se haze desta manera: Tomen dos partes de buen bino blanco y una de vinagre fuerte, pero en esto se has de tener consideraçión a si el vinagre es fuerte o flaco, porque si fuere flaco será menester echar más, y si hoviere limones córtenlos y échenlos tanbién, y muelan clavos y pimienta y gengibre y un poco de nuez noscada y désele un hervor y su sabor de sal y échese sobre los conejos, pero téngase aviso que los conejos has de estar fríos quando se les echare este escabeche. Algunos echan un poco de azeite en este escabeche y para conejos súffrese, pero no para perdizes no otras aves.

Roast the rabbits very well and then cut them in pieces and place in a new pot or in a similar glazed earthenware vase, placing between the pieces of rabbit laurel leaves and a bit of chopped sage, and then make the escabeche and put it on each in a way so the pieces are well covered witht he escabeche, and make the escabeche in this way: Take two parts of good white wine and one of strong vinegar, but in this you must take consideration if the vinegar is strong or weak, because if it is weak it will be necessary to add more, and add enough lemons cut, and grind cloves, pepper and ginger and a little nutmeg and let it boil, salt to taste and put over the rabbits, but be advised that the rabbits must be cold when you add the escabeche. Some add a little oil in this escabeche and for rabbits it works but not for partridges or other birds.

This is a recipe I prepared and spoke about in NY a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn't say much gastronomically because I wanted to leave it on the shelf for a few weeks to thoroughly pickle. I was a little apprehensive. Stop and think about it, rabbit sitting at room temperature for a few weeks? I guess if you've got to go, might as well be worth it. In the end, the flavor was quite intriguing, sour but with serious bitter and aromatic notes from the lemon peel and bay. Definitely worth a try. And incidentally, this manuscript was just published in facsimile from a unique copy in Vienna. I venture to guess this may well be the first translation of this ever made into English. And as for tasting it, I might be the first person in 450 years. Or maybe all the others were poisoned.

Monday, February 20, 2012

That Egg

The eggs that willed itself into being. They are first pickled with beets to make them pink. The tops removed judiciously, the yolks excavated and devilled with a touch of mayo, green chili pepper and oregano. Then put together again. Then encased in freshly chopped pork shoulder, seasoned into sausage meat. Then, in lieu of proper caul fat, some bacon is carefully slashed intermittently and stretched into a netting that is wrapped around each. Then they are set to cook in the barbecoa, napped with a tart tomato and lime based sauce. And voila.

Sliced open, and amazingly everything stays intact. I think if I ever try this again, it should go on a stick. Definitely Fair Food. The other perversity was a small pickled quail egg wrapped in meat to cure into salami. I'm hoping the egg stays good in the month or so the little salami olives take to cure. We shall see!


Chanelling my ancestors today. If you have some leftover fresh pasta dough, as I did, made of high protein bread flour, just roll it into thin rounds. Then stretch as far as it will go. Brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar, a layer of walnuts and cinnamon. Then roll up and curl into a coil. More butter and bake. When it comes out barely moisten with rosewater and honey. I think this is far more intriguing than the syrupy gloop cut into diamonds. Still has crunch, is drier and less sweet. The pastry is balanced with the filling. Now go make some. There is probably no dessert easier or cheaper to make when you have a few spare minutes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eggs Pickled, Devilled, Garnished, etc.

I was flying home last night after a fabulous cookbook conference in NY, reading a cooking magazine that shall remain nameless. Perhaps I was in a critical mood from the surfeit of discourse, or maybe it was just clarity only afforded to the hung over, bloated and exhausted on multi-stage cross continental flights. There were a few devilled egg recipes in the magazine, SO very lacking in inspiration that it afforded me a few hours of private amusement thinking of better things to do with an egg. This is only the nicest looking. I usually don't fuss with food, but this cut of a pickled chicken egg holding a pickled quail egg, holding an edamame puree, with random pink pickled radish and chive, I think looked too nice to pass up. Equally fetching was the same red egg (for Valentines!) with it's yolk devilled, restuffed, spiked, similarly stuffed with another egg and various garnitures from jars on the shelf - corn relish, sage leaf, pimento. They got too noisy and crowded to show, but they sure tasted fabulous. NEXT step, add a smoke element. I'm thinking of pickling, then lightly smoking, then stuffing. With pancetta garnish instead of soy. Send some ideas. Share your pictures too, I'll post them. It has GOT to be better than the dumbed down drivel that's out there now folks.

Ah, Here's another idea I woke up with today. Boiled, Pickled, Devilled, then Scotched!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I know everyone is into meringue the past few years. But I have been trying to perfect them for at least 30 years. By perfect, I don't mean your standard French or Italian meringue. I mean those my Auntie Fanny made. YES, I had an Auntie Fanny. My grandfather's sister, from Kastoria in Northern Greece, who spoke Spanish as her first language. Sephardic. I saw her last maybe in 1972 or 3. She made these when I was still very small. And I've been trying to do it ever since then. Seriously. And on a completely random whim, after using a ton of egg yolks, there were all these whites. And I think I've finally figured it out: almond extract! Here's how. Whip egg whites by hand with a jot of cream of tartar. Tiny pour of vanilla and almond extracts. Add powdered sugar, about a cup per three whites. Beat until stiffer than the devil. Drop onto paper bags torn up, I remember this detail. Bake for about 4 or 5 hours at 200 degrees. Let cool. For me they evoke her apartment in NY, that was very high up with a window open and I remember her worrying that I would fall out. I'd never been so high up in my life. Except for right now.

Clobbered Cream

Every now and then it's good to notice you've been talking a particular talk but not walking the walk: I've been saying for a long time that milk or cream just left out rots if it's pasteurized. But raw milk naturally ferments. Have I ever just let it do that? On the counter and unattended? Last week I was making butter, which ended up going into a bizarre 16th century recipe I'm talking about next week at a cookbook conference in NY. Let me just say this recipe I'm pretty sure has never been translated into English and I doubt has been cooked using original techniques, at last for 400 years or so. So I had some raw cream left over. I just left it out. And in one week this is what happened. Not very sour, rather pleasant and buttery. I'm not sure if it's creme fraiche or clabbered cream or what, but it did it to itself. GOT to love bacteria!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Gastronomical Cat

I have a remarkably weird cat. Ray likes to thumb through the cookbooks. It's rarely the same one, so he has clearly been looking for a specific recipe for some time now. Nope, not in Julia. Jeff Smith, you must be kidding? So this morning he pulls out The New Basics by Julee Rosso and Sheila Luckins. I am NOT kidding. He opens it quickly, I think finds what he wants and rips a page out, then crosses his arms and sits on it with a satisfied look on his face, waiting. I've long been wondering who leaves the dirty pans in the sink. And where those stray bits of bulghur wheat tabbouleh came from. He has very clearly been teaching himself how to cook so he doesn't have to eat cat food any more. Normally he waits till I'm gone to start reading, but this morning, I guess he couldn't wait. And for some reason he didn't think I could put two and two together - that he's the one messing up the kitchen, and then pretending it was the kids.

So here's the bigger question: do I invite him to cook with me, and just pretend the whole thing never happened? Or do I confront him, and tell him to stop tearing up my old 1980s cookbooks. Actually I never knew he could read either. What other things do you suppose he's been keeping from me. OH! That's why the pickles have been disappearing too! He's been nibbling on them. And look how he's just sitting there as if nothing's happened. Opposable thumbs apparently are not such a big deal folks.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baby Artichokes

They are in season now, funny enough. So if you find baby artichokes - they are best battered and fried - but here are some other ideas. In all cases pull off the outer leaves, peel the stem, cut off the top pointy end of each and the very bottom discolored end of the stem. Keep them in a bowl with lemon juice as you work to prevent discoloration. Then you can marinate them in olive oil and vinegar with oregano, and roast them on the BBQ, then submerge completely in oil. I don't know why this isn't more common in the US, it is among the most delicious things imaginable. Next to them is an experiment: they were blanched briefly and covered with 1/2 strong brine and 1/2 white wine vinegar with fennel, coriander, bay, peppercorns. Why not? They could also just be put in a good O&V dressing after blanching and served as an appy.

It was an overall pickle day in fact. From big red bartop pickled eggs to little quail eggs in rice vinegared tea. Also meat, just to see what happens. Little salametti I made last night as demos for a workshop are now in brine and some other leftover odds and ends, just to see what happens. I also made some coppa stuffed in hogs middles. Should work nicely. What I'm really awaiting is the pickled broccoli rabe. They went very dark, smell a bit funky and I'm hoping haven't gone slimy. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beef Back Ribs

Sometimes the best fun in the kitchen is to buy something you're unfamiliar with and hit it with your best shot. I spotted these ribs and am pretty sure I'd never cooked them before. They're not short ribs. Rather some weird scraggly end of what I assume was left after removing various steaks. There wasn't much meat on them, very short sections, only three bones. Cost about 4 bucks. I browned them in oil, doused with tempranillo and then for no good reason apart from the fact that I had these ingredients around, threw in 2 anchovies, a few squirts of tomato paste in a tube and a sliced shallot. Covered the casuela with tin foil and left to simmer maybe an hour and a half. They were unbelievably tender without being mushy, rich without being unctuous or too fatty, just a lovely deep rich beefy flavor. DO try them if you see them around folks.