May 25, 2005
This time I let the dough rise in the cast iron pot and baked it at 450F. Looking good--nice rise, nice shape, and no gaping crevices on the top. I left the lid on for about 20 minutes and sprayed water into the oven a few times for some steam after that.
Next time, I will try:
- Doing a single rise and doing it in the cast iron pot from the outset for the maximum volume. I will also heat the lid before covering the pot and putting in the oven, so it will operate more like a cloche.
- Or, doing the double rise but leaving it long enough the second time to get more volume.
- Placing the cast iron pan with the dough into a cold oven, with the lid on.
I understand that a factor in the crust is the kind of flour, such that flour with more protein (white flour) forms a thinner crust and flour with less protein (rye flour) forms a thicker crust. I get a very thick crust. We'll see how this loaf does.
May 19, 2005
Soudough #9 cont'd
A lead heavy crusty bread. Maillard reaction in spades! My biggest challenge is getting the loaf into the very hot cast iron pan. I am going to try another method next time: let the dough rise in the cast iron pan, with the lid on, and once the dough is nice and high, put the whole lot into a very hot oven. I have a feeling I will get better results--more rise and still a good crust, maybe not quite so thick. This loaf is dense, moist, tart, and delicious.
May 18, 2005
I was looking for gluten-free flour--substitutes for wheat flour--so I could bake desserts that Jeffrey could eat. I ran across recipes that called for mixtures of starch or flour derived from tapioca, rice, corn, and potato, plus a gum of some kind (also recommended as an egg substitute)--xanthan, guar gum, flax, psyllium. So, with these items on my shopping list, I was at Integral Yoga and found the pysllium, but forgot what it was for. Once home, I started looking around for information and discovered that psyllium, the active ingredient in Metamucil, is a gentle bulk softener, in a word, a laxative. Here is a report on a celebrity bowel: "Due to the concerns about regular bowel function while in space, John Glenn and a fellow astronaut took a commercial psyllium product, Metamucil, with them on their nine-day flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998."
How does it work? "Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative and is high in both fiber and mucilage. Psyllium seeds contain 10–30% mucilage. The laxative properties of psyllium are due to the swelling of the husk when it comes in contact with water. This forms a gelatinous mass that keeps feces hydrated and soft, provided it is taken with sufficient water. The resulting bulk stimulates a reflex contraction of the walls of the bowel, followed by emptying."
Psyllium has the highest ratio of soluable fibre of any food, or so it is claimed: "Every 100 grams of psyllium provides 71 grams of soluble fiber; a similar amount of oat bran would contain only 5 grams of soluble fiber." Psyllium is supposed to help lower cholesterol. But, its capacity to absorb water and to bulk up to many times its size also makes it dangerous if you do not drink lots of water too. Otherwise, there is the risk of bowel obstruction or even choking!
India is the biggest producer of psyllium. And, there is a Thai drink, falooda, which has these tiny seeds floating around--turns out the drink contains basil seeds and psyllium. Well, I bought almost a pound of psyllium! Now, I have to figure out the best way to use it--safely!
First time at Integral Yoga (after many years) I saw hemp seeds--marketed as hemp nuts, as they are not actually seeds, from what I understand--and could not figure out how to use them. They are the new megafood, high protein with all the essential amino acids. Hemp is usually bird food, but once the hard husk is removed hemp is good for humans too. Interesting discussion of whether you can pass the urine test after eating this stuff. Turns out hemp activism is about more than smoking dope. Hemp is versatile and could put cotton out of business, so the cotton industry has been fighting it, or so the cashier says. She makes hemp seed milk in the blender--just hemp and water--or she eats it like nuts, straight. I make a nut/seed mixture (flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, almonds, cashews) that we toss into salad or over hot cereal in the morning. I've now added hemp!
Did not blog sourdough #8, which I made after Passover. Ran out of rye flour, so made a whole wheat loaf. Delicious. I now have #9 on the go, this time with the addition of a cup each of sprouted oats, hemp seeds, and ground flax, plus 2 cups of rye flakes that I ground into a coarse flour in the food processor, 2 cups gluten flour, and some wholewheat. Otherwise, the normal recipe. Worked up into a firm dough. We'll see how it goes.
May 17, 2005
Khichdi with stuffed vegetables
2 cups Basmamati Rice
1 cup yellow mung dal
6 baby potatoes
6 baby brinjals
6 small onions (optional)
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Ghee
4-5 cups of water
To be mixed for the sambharia:
1 cup besan
1 tsp green chilli paste
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1/2 cup grated coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped corriander leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tsps sugar
salt to taste
3 tbsp oil
1) Wash the potatoes,brinjals well then make slits on the potatoes in a cross shape take care not to cut all the way.
2) Do the same with the brinjals but leave the stalk intact.
3) If you are using onions peel the outer sking and make cross slits to the onions also.
4) Stuff the sambharia masala into the slits made in the brinjals, potatoes, and onions and keep aside.
5) Wash the rice and dal till water runs clear and soak for 5 mins
6) Heat Ghee in a heavy bottomed vessel add rice, dal, turmeric powder and 3 cups of water.
7) Bring to a boil on high fire.
8) Then turn to simmer and add the potatoes, brinjals, and onions.
9) Let it cook on slow flame till done, do not mix, just keep an eye on the water level and keep on adding water till dal and rice are cooked. Check if the potatoes are done by inserting a knife or skewer.
10) Serve hot with plain curds and papad.
May 12, 2005
One of my guests emailed me after the celebration: "Barbara, loved the food last night. kudos to you and the chef...One question: For those of us with somewhat delicate kishkes, I have learned that eating lettuce with beans is supposed to help reduce their gasacious power. I have not done an empirical study. I looked around the table last night for lettuce and saw none...was wondering if you know whether other veggies have the same tamping down the bean power. The ful was...delicious, but I did not eat too much of it. I know you are catering to many special food needs but why not just throw a few green leaves onto the table near a bean dish. Thanks."
So far as I know, lettuce will not do the trick. Here is what I wrote back:
"Thanks! You were reading my mind. I always have greens on the table, but not this time. Never heard about lettuce or greens having that effect--some greens can create gas. But, greens on the table. Absolutely!" Beans are not the only culprit. High fibre foods, especially if you are not used to them, can cause gas. What I do know is that:
- asfoetida, which is used in Indian cooking, is supposed to reduce gas.
- Also, soaking and throwing off the water.
- And, Mexicans use epazote.
- Another trick: Try cooking beans with a washed, unpeeled, whole orange. Add the orange to the pot with the beans, cook the beans, and remove and discard the orange when the beans have finished cooking.
- Or, do a gas-free soak: Place 1 pound of beans in 10 or more cups of boiling water; boil for 2-3 minutes, cover and set aside overnight. The next day approximately 75 to 90 percent of the indigestible sugars will have dissolved into the soaking water. Drain, and then rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking them.
- Palliatives include cumin, caraway, ajwain, turmeric, and konbu.
Green fava beans
Got inspired by the feast last night and this morning I made a delicious stew of green fava beans (I buy them frozen in Chinatown, usually with the skin still on each individual bean, but this time I saw peeled ones too); leeks, garlic, turnips, and the salted lemons that I made with Joelle and Marshall when they were here. I also used the dough that was left over to make pita and found that the flat cast iron griddle is perfect for the purpose--the pitas puffed up like little balloons and cooked very quickly. And, the zucchini flesh that had been removed when they were cored? I sauteed the flesh in a little olive oil and garlic. I also made a pureed broccoli soup, with ginger and nutmeg. Lovely watercress in the fridge for salad tomorrow.
A message from Joelle today:
"Also, since our visit with you a couple of months ago, Marshall has started the business of rye bread baking. He made a "starter" just before Passover (good timing when we were supposed to clean the house from any chometz..!.). And so far he made 2 loaves, and they were delicious. We put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven..., as you suggested. Last week, he took a piece of dough from his last loaf and put it in the fridge as a starter for the next loaf. And since he used a small jar, the starter actually rose in the fridge and has popped the lid out and got out of the jar!!! I noticed this today. Bread is a living creature..."
I ran out of rye flour this week so baked a 100% whole wheat (stoneground, organic) sourdough loaf and it is delicious.
Avinadav's Mediterranean Feast
Intense day dedicated to colloquium on Mediations of Anne Frank, followed by a festive meal prepared by Avinadav. Avinadav is 15th generation Israeli on his mother's side (Sephardic Jews from the Balkans). His father's family came from Halab (Aleppo, Syria) to Palestine in the 1930s. He remembers his grandmother cooking for the Sabbath. The kitchen was filled with little primus stoves and on top of each one was a pan of a different stuffed vegetable to feed the family and friends that came to visit throughout the day. She stuffed everything, even carrots. She made her own pomegranate molasses. It was so precious that Avinadav's father saved a bottle of it for 30 years, long after she had passed away.
I stipulated the conditions: vegetarian, actually vegan (no dairy products), and, except for pita, no wheat. Avinadav emailed menu possibilities for the meal. Then we met and finalized the lineup over dinner and worked out a shopping list. Avinadav shopped along Atlantic Avenue and on the Upper West Side. I shopped in Chinatown. The fresh herbs included parsley, coriander, mint, oregano, and rosemary. Mo assisted Avinadav all day and Max and Dina pitched in too.
- Stuffed onions: big sweet Spanish onions, sliced in half in the length but not all the way through, parboiled, taken apart and each layer stuffed with basmati rice (with bits of salted lemon and other things), and the lovely oblong shapes cooked in a tamarind sauce
- Stuffed zucchini: hollowed out, stuffed with seasoned basmati rice, and cooked in pomegranate molasses
- Green and yellow zucchini, sliced, broiled, and dressed with olive oil and lemon
- Broiled and green peppers, peeled and dressed
- Roasted beets: wrapped in tin foil and roasted in the oven for 2 hours, peeled, cubed, and dressed with lemon and olive oil
- Fava beans: big dried ones, soaked overnight, boiled, and dressed with red radish, olive oil, lemon
- Orange and fennel salad, with small pitted purple olives, salted lemons (the ones Joelle brought me from Bloomington)
- Roasted roots: parsnip, parsley root, turnips, celery root, and fennel, with whole unpeeled garlic cloves
- Tomatoes, diced and dressed
- Roasted carrots and sweet potatoes, dressed with straight tehina
- Tehina: absolutely luscious, with olive oil and pinenuts
- Eggplant with tehina: Avinadav roasted the eggplant over a gass flame at his place as my stove is, alas, electric.
- Eggplant with lemon and olive oil
- Pickled turnips that I made
- Pita, made from scratch. Avinadav could not find fresh hyssop (zatar), so he used fresh oregano
- Big kalamata olives, with olive oil and fresh rosemary
- Poached Bosch pears: peeled, cored but with stem in tact, stuffed with marzipan, and poached in red wine, sugar, and cinnamon, with poaching liquid reduced and poured over the pears, which are served warm--Avinadav wanted to serve the pears with macaroons or ice cream, but not this time.
- Dried fruit stuffed with ground pistachio nuts and marzipan stuffed with nuts.
This is the first time that someone has cooked for me. I did so want to cook myself, but that was impossible. I ruled out a restaurant and considered ordering in, but could not bear the thought of aluminum trays and cans of sterno. Then, I had a stroke of good luck! I was talking with Dina, a visiting scholar, and casually asked how she was doing and how her husband was doing. "He now knows more about Chinatown now than anyone," she said. Inquiring further, I discovered that he is an artist and chef! With the dinner less than a week away and me still undecided, with a limited budget, but wanting the celebration to be beautiful, I asked if he might be willing to cook. Yes, indeed. The results were wonderful! Lara even blogged the meal! The only tragedy in all of this is that I did not get to cook with Avinadav and to learn from him.