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Food Sunday: Trying to Master Sourdough While Contemplating Catastrophic Global Warming

12:26 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Sourdough bread - success!

I.  One of my new year’s resolutions is to become a decent bread baker.  In many ways I’m close to being a gourmet cook, but bread making is something I’ve neglected.

I buy bread at the store.  I’m getting increasingly frustrated, though, at the lack of excellent bakery bread available in stores in southcentral Alaska.  When we travel to Seattle, Portland, Oregon or California, the excellent Italian and French style breads readily available from local bakeries overwhelms me so much, I stuff loaves to bring north into empty coolers that brought seafood down from Alaska.

The kind of bread I crave the most that one cannot get here, is the rustic sourdough loaf, with a crunchy crust, big bubble holes in the bread itself, and a tangy, sourdough taste.  So, I’ve started trying to make that.

In the past, I’ve tried various sourdough starter recipes – some using yeast, some using yoghurt, some just relying on time itself to create a usable, somewhat stable lactobacillus.

In light of the new year’s resolution, I searched the web for the most interesting sourdough starter recipe.  One that seemed quite strange, but fascinating, involved whole wheat flour and pineapple juice.  I decided to try it.  The site that had both that method and good word and video backup is called Breadtopia.

Supposedly, the pineapple juice starter initiator method was created by Debra Wink, back in early 2008.

Breadtopia’s sourdough starter recipe takes a couple days or more longer to get going than many others, but it goes like this:

Step 1. Mix 3 ½ tbs. whole wheat flour with ¼ cup unsweetened pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. (“Unsweetened” in this case simply means no extra sugar added).

Step 2. Add to the above 2 tbs. whole wheat flour and 2 tbs. pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for a day or two. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. You should see some activity of fermentation within 48 hours. If you don’t, you may want to toss this and start over (or go buy some!)

Step 3. Add to the above 5 ¼ tbs. whole wheat flour and 3 tbs. purified water. Cover and set aside for 24 hours.

Step 4. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup purified water. You should have a very healthy sourdough starter by now.

Back in early February, I did just that.  I even juiced my own pineapple for freshness.  The starter evolved just as it was supposed to.  I tried it.

The first time was a failure – the bread did not rise much at all over a twelve-hour period.  It didn’t taste tangy.  I figured the house wasn’t warm enough.

The second time, the bread rose some, but was still brick-like.  It tasted a bit tangy.

The third time, I tried mixing in rye flour.  The bread rose a bit more, and tasted tangier.  I didn’t call it a success, though, just “progress.”  I turned most of the loaf into croutons for a King crab Caesar salad.

The fourth time, shown at the top of the article, was considered a success, by everyone who tasted it, and the loaf disappeared quickly.  I followed this recipe like a fundamentalist Christian might follow the Book of Numbers.

Here’s what the replenished starter looks like today.  Yesterday, shortly after adding flour and water, it brewed over.

Sourdough starter jar

How have you done at sourdough bread making, or at artisan bread baking?
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Sunday Food: Jerry Traunfeld’s Root Ribbons with Sage

1:39 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I haven’t posted a Food Sunday article in a while.  Chock one up for a busy work schedule and long list of music I’m writing or preparing to start composing.  And pretty much all the Sunday Food diaries I’ve posted here in the past have been my own recipes or innovations on someone else’s.  This recipe is by chef Jerry Traunfeld, known mostly for his wonderful book, The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor.  This recipe, Root Ribbons with Sage, is in that book, but it has also been posted online.

I’ve made it three times now.  One time, I experimented with Golden beets added, even though Traunfeld explicitly says “don’t use beets.”  It is one of the most interesting uses of sage-infused butter I have come across.  I’m going to cook root ribbons with sage for Thanksgiving dinner this year, instead of one of the other yam or sweet potato recipes we’ve used in the past.

Here are the ingredients:

2 pounds medium root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, burdock, rutabagas, yams, parsley root, or salsify (avoid beets)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup coarsely chopped sage
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Chef Traunfeld suggests using a Swiss vegetable peeler like this one, but I used a standard kitchen peeler, made by Kitchen Aid.

Kristen Miglore at the Food52 blog has posted an article with a lot of pictures, including a slide show, that describe making this fairly easy recipe.  Here are the recipe instructions:

Wash and peel the roots and discard the peelings. Continue to peel the vegetables from their tops to the root tips to produce ribbons, rotating the roots on their axis a quarter turn after each strip is peeled, until you’re left with cores that are too small to work with. (You can snack on these or save them for stock.) Alternately, you may use a mandoline.

Melt the butter with the sage in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir for a minute to partially cook the sage. Add the root ribbons and toss them with tongs until they begin to wilt. Add the salt, a good grinding of black pepper, the maple syrup, lemon juice, and about 3/4 cup of water.

Continue to cook the vegetables over medium heat, turning them with tongs every minute or so, until all the liquid boils away and the ribbons are glazed and tender, about 10 minutes total. Serve right away, or cool and reheat in the sklllet when ready to serve.

It is important to have everything ready before you apply heat to the butter and sage. The process goes very fast, so this should be cooked close to the end of meal preparation.

Sunday Food: Parmesan Cheese Cups

11:13 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

parmesan cup in roasted beets & greens salad

Two weeks ago, my wife and I went to our annual dinner at one of Anchorage’s finest restaurants – The Marx Brothers Cafe.  We love beets, and both wanted to try what was called a “roasted beet and greens salad.”  It came with a creation in its midst we had never seen before:  a cup-like construction made of melted shreds of Parmesan cheese.

The waitress got the new cook to vaguely describe how the cup was made, and also how he had roasted the beets.  The beets had been cut into 1/8-inch by 1-inch slices while raw, and roasted in freshly squeezed orange juice.  The Parmesan cups and how they had been made was not described in much detail, so when we got home after dinner and a concert, I looked around on the web. When I googled “Parmesan cheese cups” images, I got these.  Clicking on them got me to lots of advice on how to make them, and on how not to do it:

Here’s Cooking Canuck’s recipe for Parmesan cheese and rosemary cups in a strawberry-spinach salad.

Here’s Color Outside the Lines’ recipe for spinach salad garnished with orange zest and citrus dressing in a Parmesan cheese cup.

What I did was experiment with two different sizes of non-stick frying pans and some pre-shredded Parmesan and Romano cheeses.  I put the pans on very low heat on the stove’s electric burners.  You can’t rush the cooking, and you need to wait until the cheese has cooled down to where it is very touchable, before you try to use a spatula to remove it from the pan.

Here’s the cheese beginning to melt:

parmesan cheese cooking into cheese cups

Here’s the cheese, forming over an overturned, small relish cup: Read the rest of this entry →

Sunday Food: Preparing Saved Seeds in the Greenhouse in Alaska

1:41 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Arugula, cilantro and dill seeds saved from 2011

These are arugula, cilantro and dill seed, saved from plants grown inside and outside last year.  The cilantro seeds represent the 18th or 19th generation of seeds, brought over from the greenhouse of our old house on the other side of Wasilla, when we moved to Neklason Lake in 1995.  I’ll be planting them next week.

In the house, I’ve got three kinds of tomatoes and three kinds of lettuce coming up in starter planters already.

We’re having beautiful, sunny weather this week.  Although it is barely getting above freezing here in the afternoons, in the greenhouse, it is getting up into the low 80s, which makes it a pleasure to work on 2012 gardening projects there.

I saved seeds last year from tomato, cucumber, zucchini, basil, arugula, cilantro, corn and dill plants.

Do you save seeds and plant them?

Of the seeds I’ve saved and planted the following year, it seems that three – cilantro, arugula and Stupice tomato, which I’ve generated now for years, have taken on their own “Alaska-ness” from being regenerated again and again.  The Stupice, especially, tends to fruit earlier than Stupice plants I might buy at a nursery.  And the Alaska-regenerated arugula seems to go from seed to edible greens in less than 25 days.

And the regenerated cilantro – It has been incredibly productive, long-standing, slow to bolt and delicious.  I wrote about it for fdl Food Sunday last year.

Meanwhile, here’s what it looks like outside the 80-plus degree greenhouse.

Food Sunday – Cilantro-Pistachio-Lemon Pesto

3:30 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Cilantro-pistaccio pesto #1

For once, we’ve been presented with an embarrassment of cilantro.  It doesn’t happen very often to Alaska gardeners.  The batch seeded in late June turned out so splendid that we want to use every leaf petal.

Should I turn it into a pasta ingredient?  Directly, as part of the pasta dough, or indirectly?

Let’s try indirectly. Read the rest of this entry →

Food Sunday – Using Dried Mushrooms in Pasta Dough

10:11 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Mushroom-based pasta #3

Depending upon where one lives, mushroom hunting season could be right around the corner, or months away.  Here in southcentral Alaska, it is getting near time to begin looking in the Northern Boreal forests around where I live, after every rain.  The most favored wild mushrooms locally are the Boletus especially Boletus edulis, also called locally King Boletus.  I also gather Boletus mirabilis and Boletus reticulatis (very small, even when mature).  There are many kinds of edible mushrooms that pop up locally, but few are choice.  The Boletus are delectable.

Mushroom-based pasta #4

Those we don’t east fresh, we dry, usually on a screen in a baking pan at about 175 degrees F. They can be stored for up to a year in a jar, along with other dry storage foods.

Recently, I’ve tried grinding up dried mushrooms as the basic ingredient for pasta, both as ravioli and fettucini dough.  It works rather well.

I use an old electric coffee grinder that we don’t use for coffee anymore.  We use this old one for fine grinding of spices and other items that are completely dried, cleaning it thoroughly after every use, so that the taste of what was ground last doesn’t mess with what is next.

Last Sunday, I made a Bay scallop fettucini with dried mushroom pasta.

The pasta dough also contained mature arugula leaves and arugula flowers, and a bit of flour, but the main ingredient was the dried mushrooms.  I had already used all of our own dried mushrooms from 2010, so I used some of the dried mushrooms one can get at Costco in a big plastic jar, at a reasonable price.  That blend contains boletus, shitake and other dried mushrooms.
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Food Sunday: Copper River King Salmon Scrap Ceviche

7:01 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Making CR King Scrap Ceviche - #1

The third largest river in Alaska, the Copper, is currently the most famous worldwide for its salmon.  Bristol Bay, famous for the world’s largest run of Sockeye salmon, hosts salmon from several rivers, as they mill around, waiting for the right time to enter any of dozens of streams to their spawning grounds.

The Copper River Sockeye is the most highly sought fresh salmon in the United States.  The Copper River King is said to rival that of the Yukon King in flavor.  Less well-known than the Copper’s Reds, the Kings are noted for their extremely high oil content.

The Copper is fished all summer long, from mid-May into September.  Many of its tributaries’ runs come in at different time, making the commercial fishery, at its delta in the north Gulf of Alaska, durable.  Upstream, there are Native, subsistence, personal use and sports users.  Princess Lines passengers can opt out for a King fishing trip on one of the Copper’s tributaries.  Natives and subsistence users have fish wheels along the bank above the confluence of the Copper with the Chitina.  Urban and rural subsistence and personal use fishers also dip nets into the waters, bringing out their annual harvest.

Making CR King Scrap Ceviche - #2

The Copper is under increasing pressure from every direction, but the number of fish caught annually there over the past 40 years has stayed remarkably close to the same from decade to decade.  The first year I caught a salmon at the Copper River, was as a commercial gillnetter, in 1974.  The most recent ones were on Thursday, as a personal use dipnetter.

Making CR King Scrap Ceviche - #3

I brought  home my biggest King since the last century, 38 pounds.  One of the fillets will be eaten at my mom’s 93rd birthday party later this summer.

Making CR King Scrap Ceviche - #4

The other one got subdivided for a few meals.

Making CR King Scrap Ceviche - #5

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Food Sunday – Don’t Be Afraid of Beets

11:24 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Beet files #2

When I was a kid, back in the 50s and early 60s, our family ate a lot of canned vegetables.  Some we canned ourselves.  Right after canned peas, the stuff I hated the most were canned beets.  I hated that taste so bad that it took years to recover my ability to appreciate beets.  Now I’m totally in love with them, and so is my wife.

Living in Alaska, we were frustrated that beets planted as seed in the ground in late May do not ripen until mid-August or later.  Last year, I experimented in starting beet seeds in 6-ounce starter containers and transplanting them in the garden.

Beet files #7

I also planted some into the ground as seed.  The result of the transplant project was amazing.  We began eating full-size beets in early July.  This year, I started over 100 in little six-packs, and all but the last 36 are planted and growing rapidly.

Beet files #6

Some of the early transplants are now larger than a quarter, and we expect to be harvesting before the end of June.

Beets are very nutritious. Their young leaves are also one of the tastiest of fresh greens. In the early days of cultivation, in the second millennium BC, they were primarily grown for the leaves. That had changed by the 7th century AD, and alongside their use as a sugar making product, their use as a storable root vegetable expanded. Some varieties store almost as well as potatoes in cool root cellar environments.

Beet files #4

Beets may be pickled in both Eastern and Western traditions. Beets, pickled in Kerr jars, are an Alaska staple, but some of my Japanese and Korean American friends pickle them in rice vinegar, along with burdock, or even in combinations with choys, sort of like a cross between Korean fresh pickled vegetables and kim chee.
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