Monday, December 15, 2008

Kitchen A Go-Go

It's my first real snow day! What a great time to fire up the ol' Kitchen In America, upload some grainy pictures of dinners past, and relieve myself of some pent up thoughts on food.


The Red Cabbage of Courage

What the hell do you do with a red cabbage? Ask the internet, and all you get is "shred and braise with some apples." Or meat. No can do, world. The red cabbage was one of the last items from our last CSA box, and I wish it hadn't been; it left me with a sort of helpless feeling, "well, I guess the rest of this winter's food is going to be just as floppy." It got braised. Once with apples and other stuff, and the other half with ginger and carrots. I don't envy the people who may have to eat this every day. Not that it was bad; the cabbage develops a nice earthy flavor that's balanced by sweet apples or the combination of ginger's zesty charm with the afterthought of sweetness from a good carrot. It seems a shame that there isn't more to do with such a pretty, underappreciated vegetable. Next time I have one, I'll be more aggressive.


I made seitan last week. It's another one of those meat substitutes that looks like poop but tastes awesome. It's especially good with scrambled eggs; spice it and shred it and it's almost chorizo. It would have been great in these stuffed acorn squash; they definitely needed something meaty, though they look cute enough to devour here. I've been devouring the Moosewood Cookbook's "at home" version, but finding that I already do variations on many of the recipes; their flavor combinations and cooking methods are very similar to mine.


On To The Bread!

My new job, squeezing goats for money, left me a pretty tired after the first few days; the new sleep schedule altered my appetite/desire to leave the couch to the chagrin of my yeast addiction; I went into withdrawal, became pale and sour smelling, and ultimately deflated into a puddle of goo. I started a poolish last week with no particular intentions, just to have some bread around, when I remembered an article my stepmom sent me. On Saturday I split up the poolish and whipped up two doughs. The first was a pretty standard, too-wet-to-knead ciabatta dough, straight up. The second, based on the article, was thick and sticky with molasses, sugar, an egg white, and more flour than I thought reasonable. It took a long time and many gluten rests to get this mass to windowpane, and then even after two days in the fridge it had hardly risen. I was worried; I don't like to admit defeat and throw away dough (I never have, but I have choked down some mediocre loaves). I decided to trust the author, despite my having made a few alterations to the recipe, and plug ahead. I cut the dough into eight pieces, rolled those into tubes, and pinched the ends together. A short rise later I plopped them into some boiling water for a minute, and baked them on a wire rack.

Voila! Bagels! And without a hint of fat, either. The crust had that toothy rubberiness that bagel snobs seek out, so I hear. They were a bit dark from the molasses, but toasted and spread with some pear-anise goat cheese they were a rich, filling breakfast.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Horrible pictures from Thanksgiving

I will, one of these days, actually take a photograph of people and food that looks slightly appetizing. As it is, you will have to imagine that everything and everybody in these pictures was wonderful, delicious, and entertaining.

That's olive bread in the basket. Walnuts and goat cheese to the side. Wine and Tony. Improvised cushions.

I apologize to everybody who sees this picture. It's not flattering because I can't take a damn picture.

I also apologize if this doesn't look appetizing. It was. And it still is. You can actually mix all of these together and put some cranberry sauce on top and make the most delicious gruel ever.

Even the birds got their Thanksgiving feast on-- they were out there for most of the day!

Notes From The Yeastmaster: Olive Bread

There is a trick to getting it just right. It's a secret trick, so I can't tell you what it is, but I can tell you that it's all in the mind. It's intuition. And I don't mean to too my own horn here, but I've got it.
Ok, that's actually the secret. And I may or may not have it.

I am culturing a nickname for myself, and that nickname is the Yeastmaster. I like to think of myself as being in control of, and one with, yeast. This is a dangerous game to be playing, I know. I'm not lying when I tell you that I think I'm responsible for the infection of both a jar of maple syrup and a jar of molasses. The syrup was a little bubbly from the beginning, but as time went by, it gradually transformed into an inedible, obviously alcoholic, Bizarro maple syrup. It was not good on pancakes, much less in the mouth. Perhaps an industrial Vermonter or Canuk will figure out a good maple liqueur recipe. As for the molasses, it still smells good and has only breached the lid once. I am the YEASTMASTER! Watch me convert sugars and carbohydrates into alcohol and CO2! Hear me gurgle!

Yes, so I made olive bread as the official bread of this year's Thanksgiving feast for four. It all started on Tuesday, when I put together two cups of water and flour and 1/4 teaspoon of yeast and stuck it in the fridge. By about noon on Thursday (after some incantations and other sorts of black magic), it was two loaves of bread that not only tasted like olives, but smelled and looked like olives.

To once more toot my horn, it came out perfectly, and you should be jealous that you didn't get to try it. The crust was firm and tender, with just a little crisp to it, and the crumb was nicely gelatinized. Gelatinized? Yes; the web of holes and gluten had heated up in just the right way to give the interior a sort of sheen, the kind that you see on the bread served at nice restaurants. It was moist and chewy, and because of the added olive oil and some of the brine from the olives, each bite had the essence of garlic stuffed olives, if not an actual olive piece. It was also good with herbed chevre and toasted walnuts with rosemary.