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January 31, 2005

Classic sourdough

Just returned from Toronto. My 6 lb rye sourdough was a big hit with Mayer, though we needed a chain saw to slice it! It is a meal in itself. Ed Wood's Classic Sourdoughs arrived from Overstock while I was gone. Great bedtime reading! Will now make a proofing box and try flax, bulgar, cornmeal, mixed grains (Red River Cereal for starters--brought home 3 boxes from Toronto), and spelt, following his recipes, and will see if my Romertopf might sub as a clay cloche (domed baking dish). Will get an insta-read thermometer (Wood recommends a Taylor Model 9840 digital thermometer) and an oven thermometer. Also, sharp single edged razor blades for slashing the top of the loaf before baking. If I can find an inexpensive basket for rising the dough, I'll give it a shot. Also, various techniques for simulating a hearth oven. Above all, I think I will stick with cast iron: I have a covered enamelled cast iron terrine and various covered cast iron pots, with and without enamel and in various shapes and sizes. What are the differences in the quality of heat between clay and cast iron? I suspect that there will be differences in how high the heat, heat retention, humidity, and the like.

Posted by BKG at 09:13 AM

January 17, 2005

Sourdough in cast iron pot

DSCN8011_s.jpg Chava told me about her breadbaking and I decided to give it a try. So I made the chef, as it is called, over a four-day period, from organic rye flour and spring water. From the chef, I made the starter, and today, finally, the bread. Finding spots in the loft the right temperature, 78 F, was no mean feat. My goal was crust. And, I got it! I baked the bread in a very hot cast iron pot with the lid on and the result was spectacular.
I made one 6 lb loaf from the entire batch of dough, following this recipe (I did not have bran flour, so I used whole wheat bread flour, a little all purpose white, and whole barley that I soaked and let start germinate) and I baked the entire batch of dough in a very hot cast iron pot with the lid on as follows.
Form the loaf and place for the final rise in a floured linen tea towel in a bowl or basket. Place cast iron pot and lid in oven and preheat to 450F (45 minutes recommended). When ready to bake, cover top of dough with oat bran, corn meal, or oat meal. With floured hands, ease dough away from sides of bowl. Remove hot cast iron pot from oven and place on heatproof surface. Tip the bread into the hot pot, so bran side is down and loaf is in center of pot. Lightly dust the top of the loaf with flour using a sieve. With razor, slash the top a few times with cuts 1/2 inch deep and about two inches long. Cover with hot lid, place in oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake. For such a big loaf, I think it wise to reduce the heat to 400 or even 350 and to bake for longer than the 15 minutes recommended for smaller loaves. I am buying an insta-read thermometer to be sure the dough is cooked all the way through. Berley says the internal temperature should be 210 F. Others say less. Will try and see.

Here is the recipe for the chef, starter, and bread itself:
Sourdough Rye with Caraway Seeds: This recipe made one round 6 lb loaf. I got the cast iron pot (dutch oven) technique from Peter Berley, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen and he learned it from Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Bakery, which is around the corner from us and makes the best bread in town.

To maintain starter: Assuming you have 2 cups of starter in the fridge, let it come to room temperature. Remove 1 cup for the recipe or toss out or give away. To the remaining cup, add 1 c flour and 1 c spring water. In other words, equal parts starter, flour, and water. Some say leave a cup of starter in the jar and feed with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Or, feed with 1/2 c water and 2/3 c rye flour. Apparently, loose starter produces a more sour dough, as opposed to thick starter, which also produces a different crumb.

Sensible sourdough tips
Starters using grapes and other sources of wild yeast

Posted by BKG at 05:07 PM

January 16, 2005

Rangi's winter dinner

Rangi and family arrive January 10 and we'll make a dinner in their honor. Here is what I have in mind:
* To drink: New Zealand wines, mulled cider, and seltzer
* To nibble: Edamame and Malaysian peanuts (they are tiny, hard, tasty)
* Collard, kale, and chard with quinces: I can't find quinces. In desperation I tried Dean and Deluca, but no luck. (While I was there I checked the chestnuts for the cabbage dish. They were mouldy and at top price, mind you. The man in charge of produce shrugged my observation off with "Well, some of them are mouldy."). So, change of plan. Bosch pears instead of quinces. They are nice and firm and will do the trick. I will adapt Robert Wemischner's recipe for Sweet and sour greens with quince and pomegranate and will poach the pears, using quince syrup left over from my last batch of quinces. Turns out Bosch pairs are perfect--select firm ones (not rock hard and not ripe). They hold their texture and provide a wonderful flavor.
* Red cabbage and beets with maple-glazed chestnuts: I tasted the most wonderful red cabbage and beets at Blue Hill and want to replicate it, not as a foil for meat but the main event. I'll saute onion til nice and brown and braise the cabbage (2-3 pounds, finely sliced) with 2 c red wine and 1/2 red wine vinegar and whole spices (cinnamon stick, whole cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf, grated nutmeg). The beets will be roasted in foil in the oven, peeled, and cut into a small dice. Cabbage and beets will be mixed together and, depending on what I think it needs, I'll add some red currant jelly. If I were not using pomegranate molasses for the greens, I would definitely use it here. The chestnuts maple-glazed chestnuts will be a very nice touch (I managed to drop a few down the elevator shaft when the bag broke.) They were great! They just made the dish. I piled them on top of the heap of cabbage.
* Red cooked daikon
* Green salad: water cress, thinly sliced Napa cabbage, red leaf lettuce, parsley, dill, scallions. I was hoping for carambola, but I could not find a nice one. So, perhaps sliced lotus root. Actually, as it turned out, I never got to the salad. We'll look forward to salad all this coming week.
* Greek roasted potatoes with olive oil, lemon, and oregano.
* Roasted red onions with dried cranberries and balsamic, and powdered palm sugar (or brown sugar).
* Roasted cauliflower with olive oil and shredded lemon peel--made it without the peel. Just plain, the cauliflower has the most marvelous flavor and texture.
* Black and green soybeans : dried black soybeans soaked, gently simmered, liquid reduced to almost nothing, a little shoyu added--the beans become shiny and delicious--served in its own mound on the same platter as a mixture of bright green edamame, my own barely sprouted mung beans, finely diced purple onions, sliced kumquats (watch out you don't get ones that are all dried out inside), and flowering chives, dressed with lime and cilantro
* Black rice, prepared in the rice cooker--came out with each grain perfectly separate, like little ants.
* Dessert: Chinese preserved plums, dried persimmons, blonde and black sesame wafers, preserved apricots, preserved ginger, and haw flakes.
And, if I get to it, glazed walnuts inspired by the absolutely perfect ones that were served with a seaweed and beet salad at Gobo. Never got to the walnuts. I need to buy perfect ones and try out the two main approaches--fried vs baked. I am after a perfectly shiny, very crisp surface. Very nice with a composed salad of some kind.

Posted by BKG at 09:00 PM

January 06, 2005

Red Bean Chili and TVP

Soak 2 cups of red chili beans over night. Drain, rinse, place in a pot and just cover with cold water. Gently simmer until tender. Saute 2 onions, 5 garlic cloves, 2 stalks of celery, and 1 green pepper all chopped. Add 2 tbsp chili powder (or more, to taste) to the sauteed vegetables and cook a little more. Add the vegetables to the beans, together with a tin of chopped tomatoes. I like the ones that have been fire roasted because they add a slightly smokey flavor, as do the chipotles. Barely cover 2 cups of dry TVP with water to rehydrate. After 5 minutes, add the rehydrated TVP, 2 bay leaves, and 1-3 chipotle chiles to the beans. Cover and stew the chili gently until the beans are nice and soft. Add salt to taste. Continue to simmer to let the flavors meld. Even better the next day. Serve with brown rice. Chopped cilantro is a nice touch.
There are many recipes for chili powder and for chili. Here is mine:
I used a variety of dried chile peppers (ancho and several kinds of New Mexico ones that Lorie gave me). I toasted them with cumin, paprika, and oregano in a cast iron skillet. After the mixture cooled, I ground it to a fine power in a coffee mill reserved for the purpose. I added three smoky chipotles whole to the pot of chili and once the chipotles softened, I tasted the chili for heat. If hot enough, I removed the chipotles. If not hot enough, I mashed them up and returned them to the pot.

Posted by BKG at 11:25 AM

Let's hear it for TVP

TVP, textured vegetable protein. How blunt and unpoetic. Extruded straight to the plate. Laboratory talk. White coats, stainless steel machines, and soybeans. I'm not a big fan of fake anything, least of all fake meat, which always strikes me as a deprivation approach to vegetarian eating. Why think of the glory of an all vegetable cuisine as meatless? By what it lacks from a non-vegetarian perspective? Then again, if there is to be no meat that means not even fake meat. No nostalgia for what is not there! That said, I never cease to be amazed at the sheer ingenuity, even wit, of mock foods, but only if they are made of natural ingredients--I detest the mock dairy products endemic to modern kosher cuisine and consider the non-dairy creamers white axel grease, a toxic transfatty superfluity. I sympathize with those who say that even faking treyf is not such a good idea and with vegetarians like Shawna who are equally opposed to faking meat. But, I do have to admit that the versatility of the soy bean, not only as a food but also an industrial product (and the way the line sometimes blurs) is astonishing, to mention only hydraulic fluids, animal care, candles, crayons, diesel additives, paint strippers, furniture, and building products. All of which is leading up to my rediscovery of TVP. When I had a bowl of vegetarian chili a few weeks back--I was teaching and needed a quick hot bite on a cold winter's day--I detected nice little chewy bits of TVP in the spicy mix. Tasty, I thought. But TVP is not so easy to find around town. Commodities on First Avenue at around 10th Street had it and I whipped up a beautiful pot of spicy chili.

Posted by BKG at 11:02 AM


For weeks I've been thinking about daikon, ever since reading Madhur Jaffrey's recipe--and her note about how much she likes daikon prepared in a particular way--in her World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the Globe. For the best price, check http://www.bookfinders.com. Basically, for each pound of daikon (peeled, roll cut into 2" pieces), you need 2 scallions (1.5" slices including white part, which needs to be sliced again in the length) and 2 slices of ginger, sauteed for 30 seconds in a little oil. Add the daikon, 2 tbsp soy sauce (be sure it is brewed, I prefer organic), 1 tsp sugar, and 3/4 c water. Bring to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a little sesame oil and cilantro. Or, forget the foie gras and sprouts and here is a very nice, if fancier, version for Edamame Dumplings, Five-Spice Broth, and Braised Daikon from Ming Tsai (1999), which I have modified to eliminate meat and butter:
canola oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 slices ginger
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1/2 teaspoon toasted whole Szechwan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon toasted whole cloves
1 teaspoon toasted whole fennel seeds
Salt and pepper
6 cups water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 daikon, peeled and cut into 8 (1-inch) disks
Fleur de sel and coarse cracked black pepper
Edamame Dumplings, recipe follows
Edamames, for garnish
In a saucepan coated lightly with oil, sweat the onions and ginger until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the spices and season. Add the water or vegetable stock and bring to simmer. Add soy sauce and daikon and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the mixture by 20 percent. Check for seasoning, and strain out the spices, keeping the broth. Place the daikon into the strained broth. Keep hot. In a large, heated pasta bowl, place 1 braised daikon piece. Ladle the broth around the daikon, and add 3 Edamame Dumplings. Garnish with edamames.

Edamame Dumplings:
2 cups edamames, reserve 1/4 cup, for garnish
1 cup tightly packed spinach leaves
2 tablespoons chopped chives or scallions
Salt and black pepper
1 package thin, square wonton skins
In a pot of salted water, boil the edamames until soft, about 15 minutes. During the last 2 minutes, add the spinach, to wilt.
Strain well and add to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add chives or scallions and season.
To make the dumplings, lay out 4 wonton skins at a time, and spoon about 1/2 tablespoon of mousse on each. Moisten the edges and fold in half to form a triangle. Fold left tip of triangle underneath to attach to right tip (like a tortellini). Repeat and make 24 dumplings total. Reserve in the refrigerator.
In a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water, add dumplings and cook for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

Posted by BKG at 10:28 AM

What I like about Urban Organic

Each Wednesday at about 7:30 pm, a box of fresh organic produce arrives from Urban Organic. No plastic bags, no fanfare, just a jumbled heap of produce plus one sheet with tips and recipes and reasons to eat more produce and why organic. What I like is that I get whatever they give. I could pick and choose a little, but except for a standing order not to include bananas, I stick with the box of the week, sometimes adding parsley or celery. This week I got spinach with muddy roots. The greens--lettuce, chard, kale, collards, dandelion, depending on the week--are generally sparkling fresh. There may be a squash or sweet potatoes, bosch pears, a few apples, maybe some kiwi fruit, and one or another kind of citrus, but always carrots and potatoes. I don't go shopping--I would have to go pretty far afield for organic produce or pay a premium for lesser quality--and once the box arrives I am committed to cooking it up. That means a better diet all round and less inclination to eat out, whether because I never got round to cooking or shopping or boredom with what's in the fridge. I like the small quantities, the variety, and arbitrariness--the roulette--of it all. I do supplement the box with a few choice items from Chinatown such as watercress and daikon this week. More on daikon momentarily.

Posted by BKG at 10:12 AM