Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Noodle Soup Book

Yesterday when I got to work, I had several important meetings, exams to grade, writing assignments to work on, but the obsession took hold of me. Noodle soups must become a book. Thank you anonymous commentator you requested it here! So I spent a few hours writing a proposal and sent it off to my agent. Fingers crossed.

The plan is to go global with it. The Asian family of soups is easily recognized. And so are the Italian. Oh tortellini in brodo. What you see here is actually leftover spaghetti soup. I mean it was spaghetti in sauce and I just added some broth. Really phenomenal with fresh tomatoes and parsley thrown in. Then of course there's chicken noodle soup and all its eastern European cousins. Spaetzele too I guess. Fideo soup in Spain.

But the question I have is what other cultures can be represented here? Are there whole other families of noodle soups I don't know of? I plan to exclude proper dumplings, but maybe I shouldn't. Are there South American, African noodle soups? Or from anywhere else?  There must be!    

Sunday, October 19, 2014

1000 Mornings of Noodle Soup

For reasons I cannot explain, I think I am going to embark on an odyssey of noodle soup every morning for 1000 days' breakfast. For the past 20 years I have eaten cold cuts, cheese, olives, toast, tomatoes, pickles, a kind of deconstructed sandwich. For a decade before that it was exclusively pancakes - which led to the dopiest little book I've ever written and the one that always gets mentioned first when I am introduced. Be careful what you write is all I can say.

Anyway, time to move on. Noodle soup calls. It all started in Boston this past summer when I had a beautiful kitchen in a highrise dorm for a few weeks and not a single utensil or vessel. I bought a tiny cheap pot and had noodle soup for breakfast. Not ramen in miso, but a kind of Vietnamese rice noodle spicy red soup, not pho, but something like it. It was SO good for breakfast.

Since then I've been making stock, freezing it, making noodles or buying them dried and fresh, just to get a sense of the range of flavors. And the world of noodle soup is ridiculously immense. But trust me, cilantro, lime, fish sauce, a chopped tomato and a shot of sriracha makes anything taste good. So this is my next batch. It's a pho base, with beef neck, ribs, lamb bones, and a lot of duck necks that were bought for like 3 dollars a big bag. I think I'm going to make a fish stock too to keep around - the lobster shell stock I made this past week was incredible.

My first shot at using alkali (koon chun potassium carbonate and sodium bi-carbonate) was not a complete failure, but the dough couldn't be pulled. Or even rolled out on a board. I used bread flour and some wheat gluten, assuming that really high gluten was what I needed. Nope. The crank roller turned it into flat noodles which are ok, but not yellow, slippery or properly chewy. I NEED a good recipe!! These are edible but not worth wrestling with. I'll work on it. In the meantime, I will have a great intense home made stock in the morning that will last a couple of weeks. And a range of noodles to throw in, rice, mung bean, buckwheat, etc. I am SO excited!!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cooking A Sephardic Dinner

A handful of people came last week to cook with me a Sephardic meal. Surprisingly all 7 of us stuffed into the kitchen quite well together, flour flying everywhere. I tried to do things from memory rather than follow historic recipes, and I think we wandered a bit into Turkish food, but that's where my grandmother's family was from. Of course there was raki. There were also yaprak - stuffed grape leaves (using those from my grapes which were old and tough, oh well) and great bourekas with spinach and feta, hummus and babaganouj, flat breads, and some fabulous kifteh made with hand chopped lamb and leeks. I love those. Baby artichokes were great too.

But this is the dish that sticks out in my mind. A sea bass actually from Turkey. I scaled and gutted him (THANK YOU PODESTO'S FOR CARRYING WHOLE FISH!) Lightly dusted with flour and fried in olive oil. Along with it onions were fried and golden raisins. A dash of cinnamon and then a good splash of white wine vinegar. It should marinate a few hours. My grandmother called it pesce in vinagra, though you might recognize it as escabeche.

Now what relationship this might have to the Medieval Baghdadi al-Sikbaj or to Peruvian ceviche, let alone to Tempura or English Fish and Chips, I wont speculate. But apparently they are all distant cousins.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Food in Time and Place

How nice! Look what just appeared on my desk. It's book #22. Coedited with Paul Freedman and Joyce E. Chaplin.

It includes great chapters by Gene Anderson, Jessica B Harris, Charles Perry, Jeff Pilcher, Amy Bentley, Frederick Douglass Opie, Krishnendu Ray, Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, Amy Trubek, Fabio Parasecoli, Peter Scholliers among others!

I'm really pleased with how this turned out. UC PRESS ROCKS! And so does the AHA for official sponsorship. I take it as formal recognition of the field of food history.