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March 28, 2005

Flavor tips

Bitter greens (collards, kale, chard, dandelion), which I love, often call for acid, whether lemon or vinegar (I use organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar), so today I made kale--thinly sliced, quickly sauteed in a tad of olive oil--with sliced kumquats, organic of course. Vivid! Will try another version, this time with sliced blood oranges on the side, wrinkled black olives (nice and leathery, a bit like licorice), and thinly sliced red onion, composed on the platter, not all mixed together.

Will mix hot brown rice, with fresh dill, scallions, lemon juice, and shredded lemon zest.

Posted by BKG at 1:42 PM

Soudough--moment of truth

Wonderful! Really sour. Excellent crust, but slices more easily, and beautiful crumb--moist and flavorful. And, without cavernous cracks. Key seems to be turning down the heat from an initial 550F to 450F and pretty much keeping it there for at least 90 minutes, for what was a smaller loaf in any case, about 5.5. lbs.

Posted by BKG at 10:15 AM

Clocks

purse_t.jpgHarvey turned me on to clocks. Not just any clocks. He has a favorite street vendor in Soho from whom he buys unique clocks. For his personal trainer, someone as different from him as could be imagined, he bought a fur clock. And, if that were not enough, for a relative who is an animal rights advocate, he bought a fake fur clock. I spotted a clock that I want to give to Samantha--a purse clock. She collects purses and there is a restraining order out on new acquisitions so I figure that not only is this one small--it is a tiny purse on a key chain--but also, technically, it is not a purse but a clock!

Posted by BKG at 12:59 AM

Sourdough report

Well, I got great extensibility, but lost some of the elasticity because we went to a movie, Downfall, three hours about Hitler's last days, and had to leave the dough in the proofbox longer than planned, almost six hours more! The dough stuck to the towel and I had to scrape it off. But the loaf is looking good and the moment of truth will be tomorrow when I slice it. I was wanting a really sour loaf and one that was a little lighter. I've been putting different grains in the bottom of the cast iron pot, this time sesame seeds, in the past sunflower seeds, bran, or cornmeal.

Posted by BKG at 12:52 AM

March 27, 2005

Rose Levy Beranbaum

rose.jpg Listen to Rose "think like a cake" and warble like a cardinal in her Manhattan apartment. The kitchen has spilled over into the living room and the guestroom is no more. Here she is on WNYC's The Next Big Thing.

Rose is a fastidious bread and cake baker and wonderfully obsessed perfectionist. She is the one who turned me on to weighing ingredients and recommended Tanita scales. I bought the Tanita KD-200-210 portable scale (70oz x 0.1oz / 2000g x 2g).

Posted by BKG at 3:09 PM

Beans

Shelly, who arrived very fit, sang the praises of the GI Diet, recommended by his doctor, and I immediately ordered the book, Rick Gallop's Living the GI Diet. That is more or less how we eat in any case, but a few refinements won't hurt and I am curious. The positive effects of whole grains (and a high fibre diet more generally) have been overlooked in the current low-carb mania.

According to a recent study, "Fiber may decrease energy intake and induce weight loss by inducing satiety and reducing postprandial glucose concentrations. Moreover, because of their high fiber and water content, whole-grain foods contain fewer calories gram-for-gram than does an isovolemic amount of corresponding refined-grain food. Dietary fiber generally has been inversely associated with body weight and body fat. In the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study, fiber was inversely associated with BMI at all levels of fat intake, and it predicted insulin concentrations and 10-y weight gain."

Food for the week:

Posted by BKG at 12:41 PM

Namiki Murex FM H772

prod_myu.JPG

Shelly visited yesterday with Sam and that was a treat. Have not seen Shelly in a very long time and now Sam is all of 17 and headed for engineering at Queens University in Kingston. Joe and Lucca joined us later in the day, which was lovely as I've not seen them in ages too. At one point, Shelly reached under his sweater and into his shirt pocket and displayed a very special fountain pen, a Namiki Murex short, fine tip, "pilot" pen of 1970s vintage. Exquisite. Shelly collected fountain pens for many years and now has about 100, but has stopped. I love fountain pens and am dedicated to my two Pelikan pens, not as a collection, but rather as an insurance policy. They stopped making the ones that I bought years ago, two-tone green and black, and when mine were either lost or damaged, I had no choice to but to replace them with the newer models--the company was sold I believe. Then, to my shock, amazement, and utter delight, Shelly made me a gift of this wonderful pen!

I explained to Sam that a gift is a barometer and the perfect gift a sign of how well you know someone and how much you care. This one hit the jackpot!

It is dated July 1972 and has a fine medium nib. "The design of the Pilot MYU was inspired by the original quill pens of a former age. The unbroken contour from the fingers to the tip of the nib on the MYUs -- and the subtle contour on the Murexes -- do make for a more natural, more intuitive experience in writing and drawing." Leave it to Shelly to give me the quintessential Murex:

"The first Murex appeared in 1971, and was called the "MYU 701" in Japanese and identified by the Greek letter for "m" in Pilot's advertisements. Its model number is M-350SS. This pen is displayed in the Pilot Pen Museum (now called "Pen Station") in Tokyo. This one of those ingenious Japanese short style pens with long cap and short barrel that made the pen short when capped, and full size when the cap was posted. It was an extremely streamlined design with no markings anywhere except for the small Pilot name engraved on the cap. There is also a tiny date stamp with month and year on the barrel.

This model is considered the quintessential MYU/Murex, and therefore the most popular model today. It has also been called the "ultimate travel pen" because of its small carrying size as well as its sturdiness and reliability. It retailed for 3,500 yen when it first came out over 30 years ago, but an original MYU with price sticker (identical to the one in the photo) was sold last year on an internet auction for over 500 dollars. The market value of all the MYU/Murex models has been increasing dramatically as more collectors show interest in them, and those that remain will continue to grow in value."

The fine nib is particularly valued in Japan, where one Kanji character can have up to 30 tiny strokes.

Here is the Namiki story:

"Ryosuke Namiki, founder of Pilot, realized during his tenure as a professor at the Tokyo Merchant Marine College that drawing pens needed improvement. After making a prototype fountain pen, he started manufacturing and selling fountain pens with a colleague in 1918. The company was known as The Namiki Manufacturing Company, was renamed The Pilot Pen Co. Ltd in 1938, and renamed again in 1989 as Pilot Corporation. Since Namiki was Pilot's former corporate name, it was a natural name to use for its high end line of beautiful writing instruments. Today Namiki's unique features and designs are their trademarks. The Vanishing Point-still the only click-retractable fountain pen in the business, was introduced in 1964 and has been pleasing pen enthusiasts for over 30 years. Namiki's use of the Japanese art of Maki-e, which incorporates lacquer and powdered gold onto writing instruments for beautiful effects, is among the best in the business. Namiki to be the ultimate writing tool for every creative endeavor."

Posted by BKG at 11:00 AM

Rebecca

rebecca_j.jpg Shifra visited yesterday from Ann Arbor. We have not seen each other in years and we go back to around 1975. Meanwhile Rebecca is almost 11 and the apple of Shifra's eye. Shifra is in town for Purim. Just a couple of years ago the old Bobover rebe died, and just a few days ago, his 70 year old son died. Now the old rebe's American born son by his second wife is the Bobover rebe. A split in the group over succession is immanent. Rabbi Kessler paid Shifra the greatest compliment when he said, "Of course I remember you. You brought dignity and attention to our community." The question was, given that they just buried the rebe, what would they do for Purim. Shifra said that the most popular costume this year was American soldier in camoflage. Will need to find out what transpired at Bobov last night, also at Stolin and Munkac. We went to the Knitting Factory for Jennie's Purim madness.

Posted by BKG at 10:49 AM

Sourdough #7

This time I followed the recipe more closely, but added 2/3 cup flax, which I ground myself, 1 cup of rye berries, which I sprouted, and a little more than a cup of althus. Ever in search of the right balance of elasticity and extensibility, keeping in mind that rye doughs are sticky and as little flour as possible should be added when handling it, aiming for a crisp crust, but not one requiring a chain saw, wanting to avoid cavernous cracks in the crust, and looking for a nice moist dense interior, but wanting it properly baked with as much rise as can be reasonably expected.... This dough feels right. Now, I will slash the tops a little more deeply (1/2"), be more careful with the oven and watch the oven thermometer more closely (the temperature can get up to 600F), keep the lid on 10-15 minutes, rather than 20 minutes, and reduce the heat at intervals, with a bake time of about 90 minutes. Wrapped in a thick linen tea towel, after sitting for 24 hours (I may shorten this time to 12 hours), the bread lasts beautifully for more than a week.

Posted by BKG at 10:06 AM

March 26, 2005

Turkey

Elaine will make the first seder for about 25 people, which is small for her! She wants to make a turkey but hesitated as it is not something she normally does and was not confident. So I offered to find some good recipes.

Can we do better than Alice Waters?

CHEZ PANISSE'S BRINE FOR MEATS

2 1/2 gallons cold water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 bay leaves, torn into pieces
1 bunch fresh thyme, or 4 tablespoons dried
1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
5 whole allspice berries, crushed
4 juniper berries, smashed

Place the water in a large pot that can easily hold the liquid and the meat you intend to brine.
Add all ingredients and stir for a minute or two until the sugar and salt dissolve.
Leave poultry in the brine for 24 hours. If the meat/ poultry floats to the top, use a plate or other weight to keep it completely submerged in the brine.

Note: The recipe may be halved or doubled; the important thing is to have enough brine to completely cover the meat or poultry.

To roast a brined chicken: Drain well. Pat dry and stuff with onions, lemons and herbs. Rub the skin with oil to help browning and sprinkle with pepper (salt isn't needed because of the brine). Roast in a 400 degrees oven until done; generally about 1 hour and 15 minutes for a 3 1/2- to 4-pound bird.

See the following links for turkey:

Posted by BKG at 10:29 AM

March 23, 2005

Fujian Wedding Feast by Harley Spiller

While riding the $10 bus from Philadelphia to New York Chinatown, a Chinese passenger in the next seat was amazed that I was snacking on a Taiwanese treat of hot chili peppers and peanuts, fried crispy with sesame oil and seeds. I offered him some, and noted that it’s considered a good beer snack. He was surprised at how spicy it was, and suggested that milk might be a better accompaniment.

My neighbor’s name was Peter and he was headed to NYC on Labor Day, 2004 to “bring something” to Ming Dynasty Restaurant at 75 East Broadway, a heavily Fujianese section of Manhattan’s Chinatown. When we disembarked, he asked if I could help carry several light but bulky packages. I put suspicion aside for the chance to enter a Fujian restaurant with a Fujian native, and was thrilled when we were ushered directly into the kitchen. It was my first time in the underbelly of a giant 600 seat dim-sum palace. It was an off hour, and the staff was lazing about, catching cat naps on chopping blocks and the like. For a Chinese food freak like me, this was a taste of heaven.

The entire restaurant staff moved in for a close look as the cardboard boxes were opened to reveal 40 pounds of live shrimp that had just flown on Southwest Airlines from Florida, and bussed the rest of the way. Amazingly, there was no ice or dry ice, but the shrimp seemed perfectly comfortable in their spacious boxes bedded with loose straw. Apparently Ming’s restaurant was unable to procure live shrimp, so this gentleman had provided his own, for indeed he was to be married there the very next night. My reward for helping out was an invitation to the wedding banquet.

When I arrived the following evening at 7 pm, half of the dining room had been transformed into a wedding palace, with red cloth and sparkling decorations covering every available space. The other half of the restaurant soon filled with working-class Fujianese, attending what seemed to be an inexpensive banquet designed to build community for recent immigrants.

23 tables had been set for Peter’s 230 guests, and at each plate sat a bottle of Stock 84 Italian VSOP brandy. I was seated next to a Fujianese business man from Raleigh who informed us that these bottles were for the guests to take home. He suggested we drink as much beer as possible during the dinner.

Guests started snacking immediately upon arrival, as the tables were also set with sweet black pumpkin seeds, yellow date cookies, White Rabbit and coconut candies. Also on the tables were a variety of dips, important accompaniments at a Fujianese seafood banquet. There was red vinegar, white vinegar with red pepper, soy sauce, a soy/Worcestershire combination, and dried shrimp paste. A host soon appeared on stage, in a bright red-sequined sport coat and matching bow tie. He partnered with a long-haired lady in a gold lame dress to emcee the evening with non-stop Fujianese banter. There were only a handful of non-Chinese in attendance so this was as close to true Fujianese style as could be accomplished – nothing had been toned down for foreign guests. The only thing the emcee said in English all night was a sarcastic remark about understanding him. Ear-splitting Chinese pop music filled the hall non-stop, and there were even dancing girls with veiled and pierced midriffs.

First up was a mixed hot and cold appetizer platter with sweet-and-sour pork nuggets; deep fried fish bits; pickled cabbage; jellyfish that had been cut into uneven shards c. 1 inch by ½ inches; and steamed hairy crabs. Next up were the fresh shrimp I’d helped carry and yes they were worth the effort. Every single shrimp was sweet, plump and redolent of the sea. My favorite dish of the night came next, a triple-treasure stir fry of abalone and conch slices with sea cucumber intestine, sugar snap peas (a trendy ingredient in upscale Chinese restaurants), Chinese celery, and a pickled light-green stem that may have been seaweed. I asked a maitre’d about the mystery ingredient but I was passed around like a hot potato from staffer to staffer, none of whom I could make understand that I had a query, not a complaint. This triple-seafood, triple vegetable dish, cooked with more than a splash of Shao Xiang wine, was a real triple hitter! Most of the other seafoods at this banquet were also cooked with a healthy dose of Shao Xiang cooking wine, which is famously made in Zhejiang, Fujian’s neighboring province to the north. Not a single black bean or hot pepper was used to cook the food.

The married couple changed outfits at least four times during the three-hour banquet, and they were on stage for long periods of time, being ministered to by elders. At one point, after several minutes of excited crowding about, the elders stepped back and revealed the newlyweds, dripping with ostentatious 24-karat gold jewelry. The groom looked a bit like Mr. T and the bride’s broad gold plaques covered her entire upper body.

As earthy as seafood can get, the next dish contained fat choi (black sea moss), dried scallops, dried oysters and fresh spinach that was totally subsumed by the muskiness of this good-luck dish. Following was golden, dense and huskily flavored whole abalone in the shell, with a sap-like golden aspic, surrounding black mushrooms and baby gai lan. Wine-crusted ginger-scallion lobster was as sweet and oceanic as the shrimp, but quail, provided as a respite from all the seafood, were over-roasted. Pairs of whole small sea bass with ginger-scallion and delectably-spongy mushroom e-fu noodles rounded out the main courses. Hot desserts of sticky rice in coconut milk and red bean soup were served, but most were too stuffed to slurp any sweets.

All of a sudden, at the stroke of 10 pm, the wedding was over and the bride and groom were standing in a reception line to say good night to their guests. Waiters tossed take-out pails on the tables and people hastily bagged leftovers and headed downstairs to New York’s own Market Street, where vans were waiting for the ride back to Philly. I guess there is no giant Fujianese banquet hall like Ming’s in Philadelphia, so it was worth the road trip to celebrate this important life cycle event in true Fujianese style. I hope very much to hear again from Peter and his gracious family, as there was no time to tell the newlyweds that their Fujianese feast would be featured in Flavor and Fortune.

Harley Spiller

Posted by BKG at 2:18 PM

Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Love by Harley Spiller

It only takes $10 and two hours to travel by bus between Chinatowns in Manhattan and Philadelphia, so I hopped aboard to satisfy my curiosity about the similarities and differences between these two major cities-within-cities. Two bus companies, New Century and Today, departs from under the Manhattan Bridge and leave you smack in the middle of Philly’s Chinatown, which extends from 9th to 12th streets, from Vine to Arch. Squeezed between Center City’s bus depot, the Reading Terminal and Market, The Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Vine Street Expressway and the trendy food-filled Reading Terminal Market, Chinese businesses and homes do not really spread beyond the confines of Chinatown as they do in New York.

Pennsylvania’s largest Chinatown is a mixed neighborhood. The presence of quite a few raffish characters explains the unfriendly “bathroom for customers only” signs in the front of nearly every Chinatown restaurant. Except for a small concentration of industrial and commercial operations north of Vine near Callowhill Street, Chinatown stays within its borders. It seems that most Chinese restaurants outside this area are of the thoroughly Americanized ilk.

The first Chinese business in Philadelphia history was Lee Fong’s laundry, which opened in the 1860s at 913 Race near Hutchinson Street. The first Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia was also at 913 Race, on the second floor above the laundry. It was called Mei-Hsiang Low and it opened in 1880. The ensuing history of Chinese people in Philadelphia mirrors that of New York’s population, with exclusion laws and bachelor society holding firm until the mid-20th century.

Harley Spiller

The oldest extant shop in Chinatown appears to be Tuck Hing, at 218 North 10th Street, but their antique-looking celadon green shelves hold distinctly modern merchandise. The Chinatown Friendship Gate, a beautiful structure at 10th and Arch Streets, is a symbol of cultural exchange between Philly and its sister city, Tianjin, China. It’s claimed to be the first Chinese gate built in the U.S. by artisans from China. Weighing approximately 88 tons, the archway stands forty-feet high. There’s not much other authentic Chinese architecture in Chinatown, but the corner of 10th and Winter Streets features a giant and lovely mural depicting Philly’s Chinese history.

In recent years, the Chinese community banded together to battle Philadelphia’s City Hall and its plans to further hem in the community with a ballpark on the outskirts of Chinatown. Community leaders were successful in their efforts to get the stadium built elsewhere, and a lovely bi-product of the fight is that the Chinese community is now very tightly bonded.

Like their brethren across the U.S., the majority of early Chinese-Philadelphians hailed from Canton, until President Nixon’s efforts in the 1970s helped open doors for immigration from other regions of China. As a result, there are about a dozen old-time Cantonese restaurants among Philly’s pantheon of Chinese restaurants. Besmirched carpets and sour wait staff speak of better days, and these old warhorses seem destined to soon go the way of Chi Mer and other now-defunct New York Cantonese halls. When an old-timer goes out of business though, the address doesn’t stay empty for long, and slick new places like Rising Tide at 937-939 Race Street remodel and open in the blink of an eye.

Far and away the most crowded restaurant in Philly’s Chinatown is Sang Kee, at 238 N. 9th Street. Also known as Peking Duck House, Sang Kee is filled to the gills on weekend nights. Two chefs were spotted with a slightly glazed look as they eyed the evening’s 5 giant pails of raw ducks to be roasted. Word has it that Sang Kee is the first Chinese restaurant to operate a franchise in a National Football League stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles. They are offering a fusion dish called “Cheese Steak Egg Rolls.” This might come as no surprise to locals in love with Philadelphia’s signature sandwich, but it surely must shock Chinese people who know not much about cheese. There are a million cheese-steak purveyors in Philly, but let’s hope there is no malice intended in the name of The Northeast neighborhood’s 50-year-old favorite cheese-steakery, Chink’s.

Other places teeming with business are Wong Wong at 941 Race and its kitty-corner competitor, David’s Mai Lai Wah at 1001 Race. Many Philadelphia Chinatown restaurants do not open until at least 11 am, but Wong Wong’s is open early with clean, classic, bountiful and inexpensive Cantonese fare including roast meats, congee, stuffed rice noodle, and wonton noodle soups. While Cantonese restaurants remain the mainstay, there are many places claiming to serve Sichuan, Hunan, Mandarin and other Asian cuisines. I did not see any exclusively Sichuan or Taiwanese places like the ones now flourishing in Flushing, but Philly’s Chinatown boasts several Japanese and Thai restaurants; two or three Vietnamese places; and Burmese, Malaysian and Indonesian spots as well.

Philly Chinatown is also home to Ray’s Café and Tea House, 141 North 9th Street a “cult” place catering to health-conscious locals with Chinese food and pricey gourmet drinks. There’s one fancy bubble-tea merchant called Zen Teahouse at 225 N. 11th Street, and a handful of small shops also sell a full range of these fruity and fun teas also know by the playful names “frog-eyes” and “dragon-eggs.“

There are plenty of places specializing in Peking Duck, seemingly the meal of choice for Occidentals in Philly Chinatown. There are quite a few options for vegetarians, some of which keep kosher. There are also a couple of upscale places like Michael Ly’s at 101 North 11th Street, and Azure which promises “vacation style” cuisine.

The grand dame of Philly’s upscale Chinese restaurants is the impeccably appointed Susanna Foo’s, serving French-Chinese fusion cuisine at 1512 Walnut Street (see Flavor and Fortune vol. 2 no. 4). Undaunted, Joseph Poon, at 1002 Arch Street, gives Susanna a run for the money with a friendly and open attitude. He teaches about Chinese cuisine in tours called “Wok & Walk” (215-928-9333). Mr. Poon can be seen demonstrating recipes on the internet, at www.ntdtv.com/xtr/eng/aReadArticle.jsp?id=17809

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation offers excellent tours called “Voices of Chinatown,” and more information about Phildelphia Chinatown can be gleaned from the commercial website www.PhillyChinatown.com. Scholarly information is available at the following websites:
http://www.gophila.com
http://www.ushistory.org/tour/tour_china.htm
http://citypaper.net/articles/2002-11-14/naked.shtml
http://www.folkloreproject.org/about/news/2002-sept.shtml

No self-respecting foodie should pass up a chance to snack and stroll in Philadelphia’s pungent Italian Market, with its energetic hawkers, innumerable shops, and 19th-century wooden pushcarts still in use. Don’t even think about sustenance from the bullet-proof windows of ABC Wok Restaurant, 1303 E. Passyunk Avenue near the intersection of Geno’s v. Pat’s, famous battlers for the title of king of Philly cheeseteaks. Instead, try a working-person’s spot that’s less expensive and far superior, George’s Sandwiches at 900 S. 9th Street. George’s plebian specialties including juicy tripe, or pork and provolone sandwiches, enlivened with beautiful-bitter broccoli rabe.

Not surprisingly, low rents at the south-eastern extreme of the Italian mercato have enabled a new Philadelphia Chinatown to blossom, anchored by the gigantic Southern Sky, 801-21 Washington Avenue, which purveys traditional Cantonese dim sum, deep-fried American favorites, and Phnom Penh noodle soups in a 600 person banquet hall with “a dancing pool, fancy spot lighting and excellent amplifier in order to make your party ore enjoyable.” Around the corner on 8th Street, there exists an ethnic enclave with a handful of Vietnamese and other south-Asian businesses including petite Asia@Cafe at 1030 South 8th Street near Washington Avenue. The owner of Asia@Cafe prepares a mix of Malaysian and Indonesian fare like Roti Canai, Gado-Gado, Rojak, Mee Goreng, and Chow Kueh Teow. She nodded to a display of lurid color photos of General Tso’s chicken; beef and broccoli; and other U.S. Chinese standards; and proffered a bone too slim for any Flavor and Fortune aficionado: “We do have the Chinese-American food,” she smirked.

With time for only one meal, I headed back to Chinatown but passed on the intriguing menu at kindly family-run Good Luck Café on N. 10th Street. I also took a rain check on the plebian but decidedly delicious-smelling Lakeside Chinese Deli on N. 9th Street. Instead, I narrowed the search to two newish Chinese places with Northern wheat food offerings

Jia Quan, a bright yellow and red lunch room at 902 Arch Street, offers dumplings and a variety of soups and noodles, but Lan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House got my vote because I wanted to try their “hand-shaved” noodles, something I’d never seen or tasted. Once I saw “knife-cut noodles” on a menu but skipped them because I mistakenly thought, “how silly, aren’t all noodles cut with a knife?”

Lan Zhou is a clean and family-friendly three-person operation. A television blares Chinese news amid a typically Chinese pale pink and green décor – need I say more? Very popular with young kids, Lan Zhou’s clear and tasty wonton soup has very delicate wrappers with the least amount of filling I’ve ever seen. These baby wontons are very easy to slither into your mouth and there’s lots of floppy wrapper for kids to spoon around in their bowl like goldfish tails. A worker made more wontons at a table, using just a tiny daub (maybe a ¼ teaspoon) of ground pork filling smeared into the middle of the square wrapper. To seal the wonton, she simply scrunched the bundle together into her palm using all five fingers.

Next I tried Lan Zhou’s hand-drawn noodles with pork and soy sauce, known in Mandarin as Xia Jia Mein. The chef went to work, magically turning a wad of dough into long strands of noodle with twists, stretches, and loud smacks on the work table. Tiny nuggets of coarsely ground pork stew sat above the delightfully gummy noodles, which were nested on shards of iceberg lettuce. It went well with the superb house-roasted hot chile pepper oil. The handmade noodles were of uneven width, just like the old handmade floor boards in the many 18th and 19th-century homes in this historic city. Combining all the ingredients of the Xia Jia Mein into single mouthfuls provided a juicy, gooey, mildly unguent, and thoroughly satisfying meal.

I took an order of Meat Ball Noodle Soup to go, and was delighted to discover Lan Zhou had placed the hand-shaved noodles in a separate container so they wouldn’t be overcooked in the hot soup. To make these noodles, the chef takes a block of raw dough that resembles a loaf of bread, and starts whittling away at it with a sharp long blade. At first I thought he was removing the hardened bits, as one does with the rinds of cheese, but I was wrong. The whittlings are the actual noodles.

The fresh shards of dough are then cooked in the soup and their ragged, deckled edges and varying thicknesses and textures make them a highlight in the world’s noodle pantheon. The soup’s “meatballs,” which seemed for all the world like normal wontons, were made of slightly sweet pork and chopped vegetables wrapped in a dough skin. The lovely broth was completed with a bountiful amount of fresh spinach, providing healthful balance.

Lan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House is at 927 Race Street, telephone 215-923-1550. Their hours of operation are as uneven as the shape of their noodles: Sunday through Wednesdays from 11 am to 9 pm, and on Friday and Saturday from 11 am through 10 pm. Beware of shortened hours on Thursday, from 11 am thru 4 pm.

All told, Philadelphia’s Chinatown is a microcosm of New York City’s five Chinatowns, except Philadelphia is perhaps 8 years behind New York, which is currently experiencing an influx of Northern, Western and Southern Chinese restaurants, including a handful of Muslim Chinese restaurants and a recent spate of Indian Chinese restaurants. While New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle are much larger magnets for Asians, there’s no doubt that Philadelphia has one of the busiest and best-stocked Chinatowns in the U.S.A.

Many thanks to Didier, Bridget and Margot for their hospitality, and to Cara Schneider of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation for her many kindnesses.

Posted by BKG at 2:16 PM

Dumplingus Extremis by Harley Spiller

A reporter from TheMorningNews.Org contacted me at the end of March 2003, to see if I would lead him to one of my favorite Chinatown restaurants in Manhattan. When he offered a $50 budget to pay for the meal, I smirked to myself that it would take me a week to spend that much money in Chinatown. So I upped his ante by offering to take him on an extreme dumpling-athon. “Let’s go taste the very best dumplings at eight different restaurants in one lunchtime,” I countered, and he accepted, albeit with some trepidation about his ability to complete such a marathon.

By the time our appointed date of April 6th had rolled around, SARS and the debilitating rumors about the new disease, had swept through the world. Despite Mayor Bloomberg’s trip to Tart and Tasty and proclamation that we run a greater risk of being hit by a car than SARS, some were avoiding Chinatown altogether. The plan to spread our meal ticket among eight restaurants took on new importance.

We were to meet at 11 am at 31 Division Street’s Dim Sum House, a plebian tea-luncheonette that was especially popular with the elderly and after-church sets. Their weekends-only dumpling, suey jing bao, a round, twisted-top dumpling with an opening like Cyclops’ eye, contained a little bit each of pork, shrimp and mystery deliciousness. They were usually sold out before noon. This time, though, 31 Division Street had been all dressed up in new marble clothes and the old standby had turned, seemingly overnight, into a fancy Hong Kong style seafood house. It wasn’t even open at 11 am (the old place was in full swing by 8 am). One of the old-time waiters, now dressed in a new maroon vest, recognized me and my glum look. He said, simply, “no more.” Luckily, the reporter was a bit late so I had time to gather my spirits and pick a replacement starter for the big chow-down.

Min Jiang is a Fujian restaurant on East Broadway just above the Manhattan Bridge. It’s a working class spot with more space reserved for the food than the patrons. You might not think twice about the steam table dishes in the front window, as they look very much like all the other Fujian offerings that flood the area around Eldridge and East Broadway. The affable owner/chef, however, is very talented and his superb Hong Kong style seafood dishes are about 1/3-off the price of equivalent dishes in fancy restaurants. On the exterior sign, this restaurant is alternately named 95 Hok Zhou.

Min Jiang’s handmade suey jao are plucked from a plastic freezer bag and take about 8 minutes to reappear on a plastic platter with a specially blended dip of soy, vinegar and spices. Loaded with fat wads of bright green chive and just a few crumbs of pork, the skins are at once firm and soft, a perfectly slippery bundle of strong flavor. We nail the plate almost immediately, the toothsomeness mightily impressing the mild-mannered reporter.

Next it’s off to the Northern Chinese snack shop in the basement of the older of two shopping malls directly below the Manhattan Bridge. Shop is a nice word for the place with no English name. Rickety dining tables and dumpling assembly operations spread out in the subterranean hallways. It was only after visiting Shanghai that I had the nerve to try this skin-of-the-teeth operation. The place is so Chinese that there is not a word in English and ordering by round-eyes can only be accomplished by pointing. Although they have several types of dumplings, I’ve found better versions at other locations so we had the sesame noodles, which are nothing like the peanut-buttered glop of Chinese American fame. They are light, redolent of scallion, and come with a bowl of clear fishy broth on the side. The place is almost always busy with homesick Northern Chinese natives seeking the $1.50 pasta and other reminders of their motherland. We spotted a snack coming fresh out of the fryer and took a flyer on the burger-sized doughnuts covered with black and white sesame seeds. They were hot and crispy and loaded with pungent mustard greens that actually taste like mustard. Scrumptious stuff.

Next it was time for the ultimate pork and chive fried wonder, the gwor tip proffered at Dumpling House on Eldridge Street a block and a half below Delancey. Gwor tip are equally good at the newer and larger sister (literally) restaurant, Tasty Dumpling on Mulberry south of Bayard. The gorgeous and gregarious owner, Vanessa, greeted us and said she had seen me on TV. “I called my sister to tell her,” she said, but “before I could say anything she said she had seen you too.” I had been unwittingly filmed for a SARS story the week before while eating the special fish dumpling soup at Bayard Street’s best broth maker, Bo Ky Pho. I pretended to put a mask on my mouth and leave. She laughed and we agreed that we can’t hide from the unknown and invisible and had both chosen to simply go ahead with our lives.

Vanessa knows her customers and sometimes adjusts recipes to make them more health-conscious. For example, her sheng jeng bao, traditionally made with pork and just a little vegetable, have been altered to include black mushrooms and crispy water chestnuts in lieu of some pork. Dumpling House has vegetarian dumplings, superb wontons, and sometimes the staff can be seen eating uncommon northern delicacies like ground beef in a doughy bun with a few mighty sprigs of fresh dill.

The mainstay of Dumpling House, though, are the fried pork and chive half-moons that develop a lacy golden brown crust from the half-fried half-steamed cooking method. Cooks preside over the flat-bottomed woks, constantly turning, adjusting, tilting, and adding water and oil until the top of the skin glistens translucently. Everyone, including fancy tour magazines from California, Toronto and beyond, proclaims Vanessa as the queen of the dumpling. At $1 for 5 pieces, there’re quite a few frugal foodies who’d nominate her for President.

We were starting to feel a bit full, but the walks between restaurants were restorative. By the time we got to Yogee Noodle on Christie St. we were raring to go. Recently renovated, this is the cleanest and one of the prettiest restaurants in Chinatown. Main dishes like “paper-baked fried rice with chicken, squid and dried scallop” are world class. Their fried rice, fried broad rice noodle, and beef soup are also as good as it gets. We came for dumplings though and the only dumplings on the menu besides won ton, are fu chow yan pi won ton, which are a variety of wonton using fish in the dumpling wrapper. They come in soup and are tightly packed with shrimp and pork and a little green vegetable. The skin is translucent but firm, the faint fish flavor unveils itself slowly and the bouncing bundles soon disappear.

A dumpling tour would not be complete without the latest Shanghai export craze, shao lung bao, pork-and-crab dumplings with soup inside the wrapper. These delicate treats must be worried open with a slight nibble or the diner will be scalded with the boiling potion within the just firm enough skin. Joe’s Shanghai on Pell Street is the leading soup dumpling maker in New York (although Joe’s in Elmhurst is consistently the best of their several locations). The constant line out front somehow gives the staff license to be rude and bum-rush the clientele, but the glorious soup pockets are worth the hassle.

The plan next called for a visit to Shanghai Snack Bar on Elizabeth Street near the Canal Arcade, but we were starting to fill up and I wasn’t sure their larger and porkier suey jow could compete with the delicacy of Min Jiang’s. We shelved Shanghai Snack Bar for another day and headed to Tart n Tasty, downstairs on Mott Street just below Canal. Their specialties are tong shui, health tonic soups, but their watercress dumplings are standouts too. The long, wrinkled tubes come in clear broth and one can see the pink shrimp and bright green “Western vegetable” within. They are as tightly packed as the yan pi dumplings at Yogee, and you have to really use your molars to break into these firm and delectabe delights. They are clean and healthy tasting, almost like California cuisine.

For sure, we were already past full, but there was one more restaurant to go. I wanted the reporter to experience a particularly favored loci of dumplings, the 500-seat dim sum parlor now known as New Oriental Pearl, 105 Mott St. We had come for the excellent yu chi gao, shark’s fin dumplings, but alas too many early birds had beaten us to the punch and they were sold out. We settled for lots of tea and an odd dessert, leung guar gao, or bitter melon balls. These deep-fried bright-green doughnuts are made with fresh bitter melon and a filling of black bean and peanuts. They taste uncannily like dark chocolate but ooze a bit too much oil for most tastes. New Oriental Pearl also sells a chicken dumpling with slivers of black mushroom that is unusual and exceptional, although we were too stuffed to consider another bite. Bow La, we learn, is the Cantonese term for “full.”

The reporter decided to walk back home – to Brooklyn. I had a few cold lagers that afternoon but could only muster a salad for dinner. This extreme dining technique was gluttonous to be sure, but it was fun and enlightening to pit these house specials against each other in such a limited time. They are all winners and I’m up for the challenge again, although perhaps only once every couple of months. Any takers? Or would you prefer to try out some of the Russian dumplings in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn? Village Voice food reporter Robert Sietsema’s word has it that henkali from Georgia are dead ringers for Shanghai soup dumplings, and that’s not all. China’s neighbors to the North offer a vast assortment of dumplings, including Ukrainian variniki Russian pelmeni and piroshki, Uzbekistani manti or surpa, and more. Anyone care to set a date? Please write me at inspector-collector@nyc.rr.com

The author thanks Rosecrans Baldwin, Rachel B. Knowles, and the unsung flour-covered heroes who rarely have time to put down the rolling pins and emerge from the back rooms of Chinatown.

Harley Spiller is in the process of creating a television series called SHOW YOUR STUFF with INSPECTOR COLLECTOR, a kind of Antiques Roadshow for kids. His personal collections of Chinese menus, spoons, fruit-paring devices, chopsticks, even toothpicks are all part and parcel of his passion for food, museums and the lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

1. Min Jiang a.k.a. Hok Zhou, 95 East Broadway
2. unknown name snack shop in the basement of the older of two malls under the Manhattan Bridge(on the North Side of East Broadway)
3. Dumpling House, 118A Eldridge, 212-625-8008
4. Tasty Dumpling, 54 Mulberry, 349-0070
5. Yogee Noodle, 85 Chrystie, 212-965-0615
6. Sweet and Tart Cafe, 76 Mott, 212-334-7688
7. New Oriental Pearl, 105 Mott, 212 219-8388
8. Shanghai Snack Bar, 14 Elizabeth, 212-964-5640
9. Joe's Shanghai:
9 Pell, 212-233-8888
24 W. 56th, 212-333-3868
8274 Broadway, Elmhurst, Queens. 718-639-6888
13621 37th Avenue, Flushing, Queens, 718-539-3838

Harley Spiller

Posted by BKG at 2:09 PM

Harley's favorites

My menus are now on view at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas thru june 05. CBS Sunday Morning is going to film there on Friday for a Nov. 21 airdate.

i better get back to work so i can go to lunch!

hungrily,
Harley Spiller

Posted by BKG at 1:27 PM

March 21, 2005

Dosa Diner

Shawna and I headed off to Jackson Heights. Turns out that the F train goes right there and it is not all that far, but it is a trip. We walked around, had a delicious lunch at Dosa Diner (the rasa dosa with chilis and onions, stuffed with paneer and green chili) was divine. The chutneys they served with it were interesting too, especially an oily deep red one that seemed to have been made with a sandy powder of urad dal. Shopped at Patel's and found an extraordinary selection of fresh vegetables -- drumsticks, various kinds of beans, fenugreek -- as well as a whole line of frozen Indian vegetables, apparently grown in Florida.

Posted by BKG at 8:54 AM

Wu Liang Ye

From Peter Cherches:

I had dinner with a group of 10 last night at Wu Liang Ye, 36 W 48th St, New York 10036, btwn 5th & 6th Ave, across from Rockefeller Center. It's one of the few truly authentic Sichuan restaurants around, and it's Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten's favorite New York Chinese restaurant. It's a bit upscale, but there are economies of scale with a large group, and it wasn't a heavy drinking crowd, so surprisingly the bill came to only $30 a head including tip. The menu was:


NYT other recommended dishes: Cold noodles with sesame sauce, soup with fish fillets and cabbage, dumplings, tea-smoked duck, double-cooked bacon with chili sauce, chef''s bean curd with spicy sauce.

Reservations recommended.

Posted by BKG at 8:36 AM

March 18, 2005

Sourdough #6

DSCN9200_Shawna_j.jpgShawna is here. Yesterday she shadowed Eric at Bellevue and today she shadows Jay at Columbia Presbyterian. She is totally excited about medical school. Last night we finished off my Moroccan chickpea stew and the celery root, fennel, and fava beans, as well as the salad that I never got round to serving the night before. Then we dashed off to my office, got my mail, returned a library book, and made it just in time to see Born into Brothels, which we liked a lot.

She loves the bread. We finished that off too and yesterday morning I got another batch going. First I bring the starter from the fridge to room temperature or a bit warmer, in the proofing box. Then, I whip it up with water and rye flour to make the starter I will use for baking, let it sit in the proofing box all day until it is nice and bubbly, and then reserving half for next time. To the half for baking I add more water and rye flour, salt, a cup of whole flax soaked, 1/2 cup caraway seeds (what an aroma!) and more than a cup of altus (crumbs from the last loaf, soaked in water), as well as 2 cups of sprouted rye berries. This made for a really sticky dough, so I am hoping that I did not add too much whole wheat flour. The result was a rather tight dough, not as loose as on other occasions.

In any case, I formed a round loaf--7 plus pounds (heavy rye doughs are best baked as a big round loaf because they form a very thick crust and this shape and size reduces the ratio of crust to crumb)--and let it sit overnight. This morning I punched it down, formed a big round loaf, and let it proof in a floured linen towel for about 5 hours. Heated the oven and cast iron pot to the max, sprinkled oat bran on the bottom of the pot (corn grits are better as they do not brown as quickly), and tipped the loaf into the hot pot. No scoring or docking this time. We'll see how it does. Covered the pot with the hot lid and placed back in the oven. Baked covered at 470 for ten minutes, removed the lid, and turned the oven down to 420 for the next hour.

So far looks like nice oven spring, some random and deep cracking of the crust, but not too bad, and the crust is not browning too quickly. This being such a big loaf, will bake it for a second hour at around 380. Need to be sure that the internal temperature of the loaf gets to at least 190F, but do not want the bread to dry out or the crust to get too thick--and I do mean thick.

Posted by BKG at 2:20 PM

March 17, 2005

Joelle's root recipes--and chicken for Pinki

celery-root_small.jpgRoot salad: Grate or shred raw celery root, parsnips, turnips, and a carrot. Toss with parsley or chervil, olive oil, lemon, salt and paper.

Root soup: Boil and puree 1 parsnip, 2 potatoes, leek, and celery root. Vegetables can be sauteed in a little olive oil for 5 minutes first, or not. Makes a smooth and delicious veloute.

Pickled beet salad: Joelle uses a jar of Polish pickled beets. Slice them and dress with cumin (preferably ground), garlic or shallots or scallions, olive oil, pepper, and fresh coriander.

Chicken with fresh ginger and salted lemons: A recipe for Pinki. Saute a chicken, cut up in parts, in the olive oil from the salted lemons. Skin can be removed. Start with the dark meat, then the breasts, which cook more quickly. Add no salt as the lemons are salty. Add a few cloves chopped garlic, about an inch of chopped fresh ginger. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice from the salted lemons. Cook slowly for about 30 minutes. Add 1 salted lemon, cut in quarters and thinly sliced, and simmer a little longer.

Posted by BKG at 11:29 AM

Dinner last night

fava.jpgShawna was with us and what could be better than a vegetarian cookfest with Joelle and Marshall leading the way and Sarah photographing everything. We made:

Posted by BKG at 10:47 AM

March 13, 2005

Mamalade simplified

To keep things really simple:

Day 1: Take grapefruits and lemons (ratio of 1:1), reserve pips. slice thinly, and combine fruit with water (ratio 1:3, by volume). Tie pips up in a little bit of gauze and add to fruit. Soak overnight.

Day 2: Boil mixture for 15 minutes and leave covered overnight.

Day 3: Boil mixture for 15 minutes and leave covered overnight.

Day 4: Combine mixture with sugar (ratio 1:1, by volume). Bring to boil and simmer gently, uncovered, until it gels. You will need to get the mixture to 220F.

Flavor will improve with keeping. Several weeks advised.

If you have difficulty getting the mixture to jel, cook down to reduce the water and concentrate the pectin and sugar.

Posted by BKG at 10:37 PM

Marmalade redux

orange_t.jpgLast time I really wrote about marmalade was in New Zealand. Annie was dying and a few months later Lina passed away in an instant. Dora and Lina were great marmalade makers and New Zealand grapefruit (Poorman Orange) is incomparable. Annie loved to cook (and so did Dora and Lina) and the way we communicated with each other during the last months of their lives was through food. Marmalade is memory in a jar.

I don't think I realized--how could I have missed this?--how Scottish marmalade is. After all, oranges are not Scottish. How did this happen? Well, marmalade, as the etymology of the word (from the Portuguese word for quince) indicates, started out as quinces preserved in sugar. Quince marmalade was imported from Portugal. The meaning of marmalade was then extended to any fruit preserve, as in pear marmalade, and eventually came to be identified exclusively with citrus. A few entrepreneurial Scots started producing citrus marmalade from wonderful bitter Seville oranges and made Scotland famous for it. There is a dark Oxford variety made with brown sugar. C. Anne Wilson writes all about it in The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today, Together With a Collection of Recipes for Marmalades & Marmalade.

I've been baffled by the underlying marmalade principles because there are so many variations in the proportions of fruit, sugar, and water, as well as in the method. Should the fruit be soaked and for how long? When should the sugar be added? How long should the marmelade be cooked with and without sugar? I want to understand the kitchen science.

Here is what I have figured out so far:

Anne Wilson says that the dark marmalades with very thick slices of peel, the Oxford type, is preferred by men, a legacy of the Oxford dons, and the clear light type with delicate shreds of peel by women. Wilson also writes that historically there was a preference for very sweet marmalade, especially if made from bitter Seville oranges and with less water than we use today, though apparently the trend in Australia is towards sweeter marmalade that is chewy and chunky. However, several sources say that 65% sugar (is that by weight or volume?) is needed for marmalade to keep properly. The food chemists say: "The optimum conditions for jelly strength are 1% pectin, a pH of 3.2, and a sugar concentration of 55% (by weight)."

I like my marmalade very thick and intense with assertive chunks of peel. And, I do not like fussy recipes that have you take the fruit apart and, in some cases, throw parts of it away. I like to slice the fruit, all of it, and take it from there. Cooking times (without and with sugar and when and how it is added) also vary considerably. Cooking the marmalade in small batches gives you more control over how long it cooks, as you can bring to a boil more quickly and cool it more quickly. Some recipes have you add the sugar and bring quickly to 220F and you are done. Others have you cook the fruit and sugar for hours. Soaking the fruit reduces the cooking time, in addition to increasing the pectin and flavor.

I like bitter marmalade, but cannot find organic Seville oranges. Actually, I cannot find Seville oranges, period. But, even if I could, they would have to be organic. I did not realize, when writing about marmalade in New Zealand that Poorman orange, which is what everyone makes marmalade from, is not just a grapefruit aspiring to be an orange, but perhaps closer to some of the bitter properties of the Seville orange, though very different from it. Just read Wilson, who says the Poorman is a bitter type of orange! But she is quite wrong in saying that Poorman is hardly grown anymore and that New Zealanders make their marmalade from grapefruit. Unless, we have a different idea about what a Poorman is. It is a cross between an orange and a grapefruit:

"'Poorman Orange' (syn. "New Zealand Grapefruit", "Kawau Grapefruit" and "Sunfruit") is the rind of choice for those who make their own marmalade jam. It was reported to have been brought to Australia from Shanghai in China in 1820 and specimens sent to New Zealand in 1855, where it gained some notoriety. This is the 'Sunfruit' that is grown in Swaziland and exported to England for their marmalade craving. (syn. "New Zealand Grapefruit", "Kawau Grapefruit" and "Sunfruit") is the rind of choice for those who make their own marmalade jam. It was reported to have been brought to Australia from Shanghai in China in 1820 and specimens sent to New Zealand in 1855, where it gained some notoriety."

"Le pomelo 'Poorman Orange', sélectionné en Australie au début du XIXème siècle, puis répandu en Nouvelle-Zélande, est en fait un hybride complexe, probablement entre un pomelo et un hybride de pamplemousse et de mandarine. Cette variété à d'autres noms, dont 'New Zeland', 'Goldfruit', 'Morrison' (cette dernière dénomination caractérisant une sélection particulière sans pépins). Le fruit est moyennement gros, avec une peau jaune-orangée, et une pulpe orangée et juteuse, légèrement amère. Cet hybride se comporte bien dans un climat subtropical frais comme celui du nord de la Nouvelle-Zélande, et en tout cas mieux qu'une sélection simple de pomelo.

[Citrus paradisi, le pomelo, est un agrume dont le fruit est très largement répandu sur les étals de fruits. C'est un assez gros fruit de 10 à 15 cm de diamètre environ, à peau et chair jaune ou rose à maturité. Le fruit est cependant beaucoup moins gros que celui du pamplemoussier, Citrus maxima syn. Citrus grandis. Le pomelo était vu lors de sa découverte dans les Antilles en fin du XVIIIème siècle comme une mutation de Citrus grandis. Par la suite, en 1847, James MacFayden, dans son ouvrage Flore de la Jamaique, lui a donné son nom botanique Citrus paradisi. A partir de 1948, on a commencé à soupçonner que le pomelo était en fait un hybride de Citrus maxima x Citrus sinensis, c'est-à-dire un hybride de pamplemousse et d'oranger. On voit d'ailleurs de plus en plus souvent son nom botanique noté de manière à refléter ce statut d'hybride : Citrus x paradisi.]"

In any case, the consensus on grapefruit and mixed citrus marmalade seems to be the following (I am going to experiment in any case):

1 part fruit to 3 parts water to 3 or 4 parts sugar. The way this is expressed in recipes is: Thinly slice the fruit and add 3 times as much water. Allow 1 (or 3/4) cup of sugar for each cup of fruit and water mixture. I will try with less sugar and see how I make out. I also like to add black peppercorns and bay leaves. And, I did a 3-day soak. Mine is a boy/girl marmalade, with the big chunks of peel favored by the Oxford dons and fine shreds of peel said to be favored by women.

I'm up for trying marmalade from Buddha's Hand citron, citron, and pomelo, also known as shaddock and the progenitor of grapefruit, which is supposed to be a cross between pomelo and orange, for that matter kefir lime, kumquat, and ugli fruit, not only their fruit, but also their leaves. Bring on the citrus!

Posted by BKG at 9:28 AM

Soudough #5

This time, I added sprouted barley (1 cup of barley sprouted made about 2 cups of sprouts) and a cup of flax, which I ground. I baked the bread to an internal temperature of 190F. Got nice oven spring, though less than last time, perhaps because of the 2 cups of sprouted grain. The bread is wonderfully dense, moist, and sour, with a killer crust that even my new bread knife had a hard time cracking when tackling the loaf for the first time. The trick now is how to bring the dough to an internal temperature closer to 200F without drying out the dough near the crust, while insuring that the center is completely baked. Am now sprouting rye berries for the next batch, as I want a loaf on hand so I can give some away Wednesday when Joelle is here. The sprouted grains hold moisture, so I suspect that the loaf will keep better. Greta and Mark will love this bread. So northern / eastern European. Hardy winter grains that flourish under adverse conditions. Dense nourishment.

Posted by BKG at 9:19 AM

March 12, 2005

Chinese and Malaysian restaurants

Posted by BKG at 11:26 AM

March 9, 2005

Marmalade

Dora's Marmalade

Wash and quarter 12 Poorman’s Oranges and 6 large lemons. (If American citrus, use 12 oranges, 6 grapefruits, and 6 lemons.) After removing the seeds, slice the fruit fiŽnely. Tie the seeds up in a little cheesecloth. Place seeds, fruit, and 6 quarts water in a large pan and let stand 24 hours. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Let stand overnight. Next day, bring to a boil and add 6 lbs of sugar. Stir well until sugar is dissolved. Boil hard for 10 minutes. Add another 6 lbs of sugar. Boil 20 minutes. Stir well to prevent scorching. Simmer, stirring, until the marmalade sets when dribbled onto a cold saucer. It is ready when it wrinkles as the saucer is tipped. I like to add bay leaves and sprigs of thyme or rosemary.

June Taylor's Grapefruit and Meyer Lemon Marmalade

5 pounds grapefruit, rinsed
5 Meyer lemons or small regular lemons, rinsed
1/2 cup lemon juice (from 2 to 3 additional lemons)
2 1/2 pounds sugar.

1. Remove the grapefruit skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut the peel into 1/8-inch slivers; stop when you have 3/4 cup. Discard the rest. Slice off the ends of the grapefruit and the remaining grapefruit peel and pith. Remove grapefruit segments, reserving membrane. Stop when you have 5 cups of segments.

2. Cut the ends off the Meyer lemons, deep enough so you can see the flesh. Leaving the peel on, remove the segments of lemon and reserve the membrane. Cut the segments crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Put membranes from the grapefruit and Meyer lemons in a jelly bag and tie closed.

3. In a wide and deep pot, combine the grapefruit segments, grapefruit peel, lemon pieces and jelly bag. Add lemon juice and 2 1/2 cups water. Simmer until the grapefruit peel is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

4. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Working over a bowl in your sink, squeeze the liquid from the jelly bag; keep squeezing and wringing it out until you extract 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pectin. Add pectin and sugar to the pot. Place over high heat and boil, stirring now and then, until marmalade is between 222 and 225 degrees and passes the plate test. (Spoon a little onto a plate and put in the fridge for 3 minutes. If it thickens like jam, it is done.)

5. Meanwhile, put 6 sterilized 8-ounce canning jars and lids on a baking sheet and place in the oven. When jam is done, remove jars from the oven. Ladle jam into the jars, filling them as high as possible. Wipe the rims. Fasten the lid tightly. Let cool. If you don't get a vacuum seal, refrigerate the jam. Makes 6 8-ounce jars of marmalade. Adapted from June Taylor.

Three Citrus Marmalade

2 grapefruit
2 lemons
2 oranges
water
sugar

Remove seeds from the fruits. Slice the fruits thin and put them in a large bowl. (you will use the rind) Add 1-1/2 parts water to 1 part fruit..Let stand overnight in refrigerator..Pour into large pot and boil for 10 minutes. Now, let stand again for 24 hours and then add 1 part sugar to 1 part mixture. Simmer for about 3 hours. Seal in sterilized jars. This make 6 pints and is great for holiday gift giving.

Posted by BKG at 9:05 PM

March 8, 2005

Dinner for Joelle, Marshall, and Sarah

Years ago Joelle was here and we cooked up a storm for a reception in her honor. She is a wonderful cook, drawing on her family's North African (Algerian) kitchen. I suggested we cook this time too.

cardoon.jpg
C A R D O O N

"A member of the thistle family. When these thick, silvery stalks are cooked, their flavor is a cross between artichoke, celery and salsify. A popular Italian vegetable. Resembles a bunch of wide, flat celery." It has a big beautiful thistle flower and is related to the artichoke.

Here is her email response to that suggestion:

"Just a little memorabilium (I'm not sure this is the correct English term): Marshall and I kept a vivid memory of that winter day of 1991 which we spent at your apartment, cooking for a dinner party. We made cumin carrots, and other dishes I now forget. Do you remember that lovely time? [Of course I do! We made cardoons and also fresh fava beans in the shell, sliced finely, and if memory serves me also fennel and possibly celery root.]

BitterMelon_small.jpgAs for your culinary plans: Marshall is an expert in both pickled lemons and bitter melon. He keeps Madame Mergui's recipe for pickled lemons very jealously, and will love to share it with you. Madame Mergui is the mother of a long-term friend of mine, Fanny, who lives in Casablanca, and whom we visited a few times in the past ten years. On one of our visits, Marshall begged Madame Mergui to give him the recipe for pickled lemons. We had a controversy about whether or not adding olive oil over the lemons in the jar. I think it is a delicious culinary trick, because you can then use the oil to cook some dishes such as baked fish or celery root/fennel ragout. But Marshall thinks that putting oil over the lemons is not "authentic". So goes conjugal peace.... he will not let me interfere in your fixing pickled lemons....

Sarah is also interested in cooking, although she does little of it, but she and I have been watching some of the Food Channel programs, which I find quite relaxing and interesting, given the depressing stuff one can see on the "news" channels. Our favorite (and most outstanding) chef on FC is a young man by the name of Tyler Florence. Next would be Alton Brown, quite a character of his own."

Posted by BKG at 2:42 PM

Live salad

Gave Jeffrey a little green plastic mesh lid and organic mung beans last week, which we picked up at Integral Yoga, on our way to the Perry Street Theater to see Gareth Armstrong's excellent Shylock. Just got a report: he successfully sprouted them, stopping when a tiny sprout appeared, Indian style, and made Live Salad, to Stuart's delight!

Posted by BKG at 10:04 AM

March 7, 2005

Rabbi glasses

glass_small.jpg Jeffrey gave me a rabbi glass from Fishs Eddy. On my way to Enselow's today, I passed by Fishs Eddy and dropped in to see if they still had rabbi glasses so I could pick up a few more and actually use them for a small dinner party. Sure enough they had three of the four rabbi glasses left--Rabbi Spector has sold out, though why him and not the others I do not know. In small print it says, "Swap them with your friends. Collect the whole set." They are supposed to get more in. I will go back for Rabbi Spector. Fishs Eddy apparently invented these themselves.


Posted by BKG at 11:59 PM

Maasai Barefoot Technique

WBusiness-blk_small.jpg Yesterday went with Diana and Eric to see Laurie Anderson's new work, The End of the Moon at BAM. Quite wonderful. Intimate and cosmic and very Laurie Anderson. That strange viola. Her voice. The personal narratives. The vast spaces of timbre. I noticed, Diana's new shoes--they were peeking out from under the bottom of her trousers--but I did not know the half of it. We both have feet that need special attention. And, she found these strange new shoes, just ten months on the market, that come with a training video and a free tutoring session. Just my kind of thing. So today on the way to the opening of The Power of Conversation: Jewish Women and their Salons (it is, incidentally, a terrific exhibition) at The Jewish Museum, I dropped by Enselow's and got a pair. Melvin took care of me. What at trip. These are no ordinary shoes, let me tell you. I have them on now and I don't know whether to rock or to spring or what little muscle to exercise. The brand is MBT Masai Barefoot Technology--how politically incorrect is that!--to invoke the perfect posture and gait of the Maasai. The company is Swiss. And the claims or at least some of them are over the top, like cellulite reduction. Talk about marketing. These shoes are billed as "the worlds smallest gym." They are big and roomy, a little like moonshoes. Melvin says comfort is the new fashion. Nothing could be further from extreme pointy toes and stilettos! They are all the rage among the orthopedically inclined.

Posted by BKG at 11:21 PM

March 6, 2005

Bread knife

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How is it possible that in my entire life, loving to cook as I do, I have never had a proper bread knife? Now that my sourdough loaves are so crusty, more like a suit of armor, and I joke that a chain saw is needed (and dental insurance), I so struggled to slice the latest loaf in half that one of my guests was prompted to murmur to another guest, "I have the ultimate bread knife. I got it at IKEA," as it turns out the Alias Knives Series Breadknife. Eureka! A light bulb went on. A good bread knife. What a thought!

An internet search produced a few leads: the top rated bread knife by America's Test Kitchen was the Forschner (Victorinox) Model 40040, a stamped, rather than forged, knife, which can be found online for about $30.00, not including postage. Impatient to get a bread knife right away, I walked over to Broadway Panhandler. The chance to compare bread knives convinced me to go with the Wusthof Classic bread knife (4150: 23 centimeters). It has deeply scalloped serration and nice heft. When I compared it with the Victorinox, which is a nice knife, I realized that what America's Test Kitchen had in mind by crusty (Italian bread, French bagettes) was nowhere near my big, heavy, dense, C R U S T Y loaves.

Brought it home and gave it the test. Perfect! Lovely even thin slices, cutting through the tough crust with ease and precision. Now I have to enforce strict discipline to protect this knife. No soaking it in the sink or having it rattle around with other cutlery.

All of a sudden, I also realized that I only had one good knife, a big chef's knife. All the rest were either interesting but not very functional knifes that I had picked up on my travels, or just plain junk. I've removed the offending blades from the cutlery tray and knife rack. And, my next purchase will be two paring knives. Somehow our last two, which were decent knives, disappeared. One was confiscated at airport security. I forgot it was in my backpack from a class fieldtrip--I brought apples for everyone and a knife to cut them up. The other may well have gotten wrapped up with the garbage, which we wrap in newspaper, and ended up in the trash.

Posted by BKG at 11:46 PM

March 5, 2005

Shelley's dinner

Great session today and dinner a success.

* Pureed edamame, with lemon juice and shredded zest, and served with black soybeans, simmered with tamari till dry, and garnished with tufts of flowering chives and enoki mushrooms.
* Live salad was especially good: barely sprouted mung beans, tiny intense grape tomatoes quartered, a whole cucumber seeds and all, but peeled, and diced, daikon peeled and diced (all dicing is small), fresh mint, lime, salt, and fresh green chili or black pepper.

Everything else worked out fine: Yukon gold potatoes, cauliflower, roasted red onions with cranberries, carrot poriyal (forgot to add the shredded coconut), and the greens, which were divine--finely julienned collards, diced poached bosch pears, and sauce of poaching liquid reduced to a syrup, with pomengrantes molasses and vinegar. The sticky rice and medjool dates were spectacular.

Posted by BKG at 12:39 AM

Wine notes: Trius

A New Zealand friend came to see Max and brought a Canadian bottle of wine, which was delectable. Trius Red, 2002, Hillebrand Estates, Niagara on the Lake. An award winner and for good reason. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Posted by BKG at 12:22 AM

March 3, 2005

Pistachio Sauce

Another inspired creation from Casa Moro: The Second Cookbook, adapted by and from Gourmet:

1 1/4 c unsalted shelled pistachios (5.25 oz)--I will try with other kinds of nuts
1 small clove garlic, crushed with 1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest (if only I could find the microplane that Dalia gave me)
5 tbsp good olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water
1-3 tsp orange flower water
1/2 c each of coarsely chopped fresh parsley and mint
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Pulse the nuts till coarsely chopped and combine with everything else. Serve at room temperature. Intended to go with meat or fish, but I will serve with something else...

Posted by BKG at 12:13 PM

Medjool dates in coffee and cardamom

dates2b.jpg"In Coachella Valley, the most popular soft variety is 'Medjool,' originally introduced into the United States in 1927 from eleven offshoots from Bou Denib Oasis in French Morocco."

I give Pinki subscriptions to Gourmet and Bon Appetit as a gift and never read them myself, except this month, which is dedicated to London, since we will be in London in a few weeks. Well, I found a few truly delectable recipes, first among them this date recipe, which I plan to serve tomorrow night, with the Philippine sticky rice in banana leaves that I brought back from Toronto--I'll steam them. The Gourmet recipe is adapted from Casa Moro: The Second Cookbook and is truly inspired. They serve the dates with drained and thickened Greek yogurt, but to make the lactose intolerant happy, I will serve it with coconut rice.

14 oz (2 cups) Medjool dates, whole or pitted
2 cups espresso freshly made or 5 rounded tsp instant espresso in 2 cups boiling hot water--I will use decaf
1 tsp sugar
20 whole green cardamom pods, light crushed
1 3-inch stick cinnamon, broken in half.

Pit dates (slice along one side of date to remove pit).
Bring everything else to a boil and pour over dates. Bring to room termperature and steep, refrigerated overnight. Serve chilled.

Sarah gave me wonderful dark chocolate espresso beans that I may use to add a crowning touch...

Posted by BKG at 12:03 PM

WaWa Canteen

New find. Manna, the Korean hole in the wall that I loved (until I saw the cook put a spoon in the pot, in her mouth, and back in the pot, and I detected questionable ingredients) disappeared, and in its stead pristine WaWa Canteen has opened up. I plan to work my way through the menu. So far the kimichi stew and bibimpop were fine--fresh and tasty--and the cashier was so sweet. She brought me a delicious hot lemon/honey tea on the house to nurse my cold. I was speechless, literally, and not only because of laryngitis. It's real, though Korean students complain it is not really Korean, but WaWa does deliver very fresh ingredients of high quality, prepared with a light touch, from a sharply focused menu, with nice vegetarian/vegan options at great prices in a smart environment. Must say, though that the hum and buzz of airducts and sound bouncing off hard services do make for a particular acoustic experience. A welcome addition to the neighborhood, which is otherwise strong on pizza, Mexican, and muffins, but a desert when it comes to Asian cuisines, now that Shima and Montien were forced to relocate. Oh, I forgot to mention Apple, which I find too cavernous for my taste and tad upscale for everyday fare.

Posted by BKG at 11:45 AM

March 1, 2005

Rooibos

rooibus_t.jpgFirst had rooibos tea when I was in Capetown. It was apparently "discovered" in 1904 by one Benjamin Ginsberg, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, who saw the Khoisan people (popularly known as the Bushman) making tea from a wild bush that grows in the Cedarberg Mountains. The color is identical to orange pecoe and the tea is delicious and supposed to be very healthy. It is my current favorite. This brand is from English Tea Store. Here is the story:

"Technically, Rooibos is not a true tea. It comes from the plant Aspalathus Linearis, rather than the Camellia plants that produce traditional teas. The name Rooibos comes from the African slang for the Dutch words for 'red bush'.

The Rooibos plant is a small shrubby bush that only grows in South Africa. The bush grows anywhere from 1/2 to 1 metre in height, with very thin, needle-like leaves. The leaves are green, but turn the characteristic red after fermentation.

The Rooibos seeds are precious, because the plants produce few of them. The seeds also pop out of the fruits as soon as they are ripe, making harvest difficult. Many farmers still raid anthills looking for Rooibos seeds.

It is a rather delicate plant, and the cultivation has not changed much over the years. The plants thrive best when left along in their natural soil. The farming of Rooibos has always been very close to nature and remains so today.

The locals have known that Rooibos can be used to make a delicious beverage for a very long time, but it was only 'discovered' in 1904 by a Russian immigrant named Benjamin Ginsberg. He was a settler in the area and thought that the tea was so enjoyable that it should be available to people everywhere. He was the first to market Rooibos tea."

Here is the full story.

"More than 300 years ago, indigenous inhabitants of the mountainous regions of South Africa’s Western Cape were the first to collect wild rooibos and use it to make tea. These people discovered that they could brew a sweet, tasty tea from rooibos leaves and stems that they cut, bruised with wooden hammers, fermented in heaps, and then sun-dried. Botanists first recorded rooibos plants in 1772 when they were introduced to the tea by the Khoi people.

Rooibos became a cultivated crop by the early 1930s, has been grown commercially since World War II, and now is exported to countries worldwide, including Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, England, Malaysia, South Korea, Poland, China, and the United States...

The harvested rooibos is processed two different ways, producing two types of tea. The green leaves and stems are either bruised and fermented or immediately dried to prevent oxidation. The traditional fermented tea is processed today in much the same way as the indigenous people processed it hundreds of years ago, including the sun-drying step, but the tools are more sophisticated now.

The fermented type is called red tea because fermentation turns the leaves and the resulting tea a rich orange/red color; this distinctive color led to the Afrikaans name rooibos, which means "red bush." The unfermented type, often called green rooibos, contains higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants because fermented rooibos loses some antioxidants during the fermentation process. The unfermented type was developed to maximize antioxidant levels in response to recent interest in the health benefits associated with the antioxidants found in C. sinensis teas. Unfermented rooibos tea is a tan/yellow color rather than the rich reddish color of fermented rooibos."

Posted by BKG at 11:04 PM

Sourdough

I'm not sure if this is sourdough #4 or #5. But, it is gorgeous. Terrific oven spring this time. I added ground flax and althus and used a little more white flour. The bread is in the oven, it is late at night. Max is sleeping. He leaves for San Francisco first thing in the morning for his exhibition. I'm finishing the endnotes on an article. And, nursing a cold with rooibus tea.

Posted by BKG at 10:58 PM

Seitan

Next project is to make seitan.I have the gluten flour and am ready to roll. I want to make steaks or cutlets, flat, dense, and chewy, that I can grill.

Posted by BKG at 10:54 PM

On the cooking agenda

* marmalade, with citrus from Urban Organic
* mango chutney
* pickled onions
* pickled beets
* garam masala
* seitan steaks
* yogurt

The first four are for Max.

Posted by BKG at 10:46 AM