Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hamburger Buns

My husband and I went to the farmer's market and got some local, grass-fed beef burger patties. I haven't been eating much bread these days, and the only bread they had at the market was sweet. I did have some whole wheat flour at home I'd been soaking since the day before and a packet of yeats, so I thought I'd take a stab at it. I have had success with Nourishing Traditions flour recipes, so thought I could cobble together her technique of soaking flour with a recipe for whole wheat buns from Great Whole Grain Breads, by Beatrice Ojakangas. The result was better than I had hoped! The bread is light, even though I had no white flour, even for kneading. Here's pretty much what I did:

  • Soak 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour in 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature for 12-24 hours (mine was about 24 hours)
  • Proof 1 package yeast in a large bowl with 1/2 cup warm water
  • Add soaked flour to yeast, and added 1 egg, 1/4 cup melted butter and 1 tsp salt.
  • I added another probably 3 cups whole wheat flour to the bowl to make a stiff but not dry dough. 
  • Knead the dough on a floured board for about 5 minutes until elastic and springy
  • Wash and oil the bowl, put the dough back in the bowl and turn over to coat with oil. 
  • Cover bowl and let rise 1 hour to 1/2 hours
  • Punch down dough and cut into 12 pieces for buns. You could also make rolls by cutting it smaller.
  • Place of oiled cookie sheet, cover and let rise for another hour.
  • Bake at 400 for 13-15 minutes. 
In retrospect, I might have used white flopur to flour the board, but it didn't make it tough. I'd also soak maybe 3 cups flour in buttermilk, but again, why mess with success.
Before Baking


Here's a good breakdown of why soaking flour is good.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Veggies Are Tasty!

This is really a non-recipe, one of those things that's easy to throw together with little muss or fuss. I went out to my garden and picked what was ripe: tomatoes, peppers and some herbs and added stuff I got from the farmer's market: zucchini, carrots and onions. You could, of course, get what looks good at your market. I'd avoid leafy vegetable and broccoli as they tend to get bitter with roasting. The base recipe is from Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough's book, Real Food Has Curves. Their recipe is for ratatouille, but I had no eggplant, so it's just roasted veggies, but it's very tasty. Roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness. I took all these veggies and chopped them up. The peppers below are some of the many peppers we've grown this year. None of them is hot, but they're all wonderful in different ways. The white one is very crisp and mild and the red one has an almost berry-like intensity. My husband then went out and picked a long dark green one that had a nice green pepper taste almost like an anaheim.

. Here's the veggies all chopped. I just chopped as many as would fit in my 9 x 14 Pyrex pan. It's one zucchini, about 10 small tomatoes, about 6 small carrots, 6-7 garlic cloves and 1/2 a red onion (because it's what I had). I added about 1/4 cup olive oil, chopped fresh basil and oregano (about 2 tbs) a couple large pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper and 1/2 cup chopped kalamat olives.

The pan is wrapped in foil and popped in the oven. I set a timer for 20 minutes and then stirred it up. This is what it looks like after 20 minutes.
 This is what it looks like done. The veggies have nicely caramelized without losing integrity or becoming mushy.
I cooked up a combination of brown rice pastas, because it's what I had. I wanted spaghetti, but my husband forgot to buy it. Never fear, it's all about improvisation in my kitchen! I grated some Parmesan over the lot. A squeeze of lemon added a great note of acid!
 Here's the meal, with grilled salmon, a lovely goat cheese with cantaloupe and a nice bottle of Eagle Eye Infatuation. 

The cheese is a Bucherondin Chevre et Belle. It has a crumbly interior and an almost brie-like rind. We like to get a small piece at Whole Foods for about $4 and nibble away at it. The wine was from Eagle Eye winery.  We met the owners at a wine festival several years ago and have loved their wines ever since. My husband, the resident sommelier, saw them last week at a local wine store and got a great deal on a case of Infatuation. They call it a great burger and pizza wine. I call it a great $12 bottle of red yum! All in all, it was a wonderful Tuesday meal and there's enough leftovers for lunches the rest of the week.   

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mexican Kimchi and Chorizo

I can't wait to have these together! I love anything having to do with cilantro and lime juice with some kind of chili. Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, I love it all! Sally Fallon has a Latin American Sauerkraut recipe in her book, but I switched it up a bit, adding jalapenos, cilantro and lime juice. Here's my version. I used Napa cabbage because I had a lot of it due to a shopping communication error. I'll let you know how it comes out in a few days, when it's a fermented!

  • 1 medium Napa cabbage shredded (about 12 loosely packed cups)
  • 1 cups carrots, shredded (I used more because I got over-zealous with the grater!)
  • 2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (if you like biting into pieces of pepper, slice them, by all means!)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 onion, quartered and thinly sliced (again, it's what I had, use more, if you like)
  • 2 tbs lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbs sea salt
  • 4 tbs whey, or 1 additional tbs salt
Toss everything together and pound for 10 minutes as described here, then pack into jars.

I found the recipe for this chorizo here. The recipe in my sausage book didn't have any chili, and I definitely wanted more flavor, so I went searching. I used the next to the last one and have reprinted it below. I used a combination of regular chili powder and pasilla chili, which has a wonderful fruity quality. I'm letting it marinate now and will let you know how it tastes when it's done!

Chorizo Mexicano

Serves 8

   2    lb Pork; lean, coarse grind
 1/4    lb Pork fat; chop fine
   2    Tbsp   Paprika
   2    Tbsp   Chili powder
   1    tsp   Pepper, black
 1/2    tsp   Cinnamon, ground
 1/2    tsp   Cloves, ground
 1/4    tsp   Coriander, ground
 1/4    tsp   Ginger; grated
   1    tsp   Oregano, dried, crushed
   1    tsp   Cumin, ground
   2    tsp   Salt
   6      Garlic cloves; crushed
 1/2    cup  Vinegar, white
 1/2    cup Sherry, dry (can substitute brandy)
   1      Sausage casing (optional)

Combine pork meat and fat thoroughly. Add paprika, chili powder, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, oregano, cumin, garlic, salt, vinegar and sherry (brandy may be substituted). Mix well with hands.  
Mixture may be stored in a crock in cool place for twenty-four hours, or better, for 2 or 3 days. Form into patties and saute.  
Alternatively the mixture may be forced into sausage casing and hung to dry in a cool place. This is best done in cold weather and hung in a breezy place help with drying.

Update: The chorizo had too much sweet spice, for my taste. I'd make it again with less sweet and more hot. The vinegar added a nice tartness. I'd also add a tad more fat. I didn't add as much as in the recipe and it was a bit on the dry side. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kimchi, Sauerkraut and other Fermented Veggies

Some time ago, when everyone was afraid of the bird flu, it was discovered that eating kimchi could prevent and even cure the flu. It was all the rage for a while, but then, as with many health food fads, faded from mass market view. Preserved vegetables, however, are very healthy, indeed. They contain vitamins and fiber and also happy, healthy bacteria that's great for your digestion and general gut health. A healthy gut is important for your general health and immune system. The typical American diet is a gut-buster in more ways than one! Here's a good background article, but I'm going to focus on the way I make fermented vegetables. The easiest, cheapest way I found to ferment vegetables I found in a wonderful book by Sally Fallon called Nourishing Traditions.

Kimchi Tools

These are my basic kimchi/sauerkraut-making tools. Nothing fancy or expensive. If I ever have money to burn, I may get one of these, but my $3 craft store bowl and plastic potato masher work just fine for me!  I used small, new canning jars for this batch, because I plan to give these away, but I also use repurposed jars that were around. Fermenting isn't as fussy as canning, so the jars need to be clean, but not fresh from boiling water!

These are the basic kimchi ingredients:
  • one medium head of Napa cabbage (I like to use organic wherever possible) 
  • one bunch green onions
  • one tablespoon grated ginger
  • one cup grated carrot
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper (or more, if you like it hot)
  • 1 tablespoons sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey, if using, otherwise, add another tablespoon salt
A note about whey: Whey is a dairy product that accelerates the lacto-fermentation process. I make mine by draining whole, plain yogurt in a tea towel. If you have plain yogurt, you may have enough whey on top of your yogurt if you've had it a couple days. I use it also for soaking grains, so I make a batch of it. More on that another time! This is what it looks like. It keeps in the fridge a long time!


The first step is to shred the veggies. I like to use a knife for Napa cabbage and a mandolin for green cabbage. Napa cabbage I find too big for my mandolin. I have a lovely Chinese knife that was a gift from a friend, so I use that, but any large knife will do. Make your slices as thin as possible.

Napa cabbage varies in size, so I usually fill this bowl. Next, I grate the carrot using a box grater and for the ginger, I use a microplaner.  Feel free to peel your ginger, I don't.
Shredded Cabbage
Grated Ginger

Ready to Pound

Chop the green onions and garlic, sprinkle on the salt, red pepper and whey (if using) and toss everything in the bowl together. Now comes the fun part! The vegetables  need to be pounded to start them releasing their juices. You're not mashing them into a pulp, just whacking at them for about 10 minutes. I usually set my kitchen timer for 10 minutes and start pounding.
After 4 minutes of pounding
After 7 minutes of pounding
After 10 minutes of pounding

Packing into Jars

The kimchi is now ready to pack into jars. I place some into the jars and pack in tight with a wooden pestle from a Japanese grinding bowl I have around. Use whatever you have, but you want to pack the veggies down, so the liquid come up to the top of the veggies.

Finished Jars

WARNING: Be sure to leave about an inch of head space on top of your jars. Pressure from the fermentation will build up, otherwise, and cause your jars to start leaking (don't ask how I know this!). 

In the Pantry

After screwing on the lids tightly, I put them in my pantry for 3-4 days (shown here with a batch of sauerkraut made the same day), then transfer to the fridge. You can eat it after 4 days, but it gets better as it ages and will keep for months, if it lasts that long. I eat a bit usually every day!

Finished Kimchi

The recipe for sauerkraut is made the same way, and contains:
  • one head green cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tabelspoons whey, or an additional tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seed (I use less for a less strong caraway taste)
Pound and pack into jars the same as for kimchi.
Enjoy some kimchi on scrambled eggs, or with rice and fish. We like rice, fish, eggs and kimchi for breakfast! Gets your day off to a great start!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Epicurean Diet

What is The Epicurean Diet, you may well ask. Isn't Epicurus the philosopher who preached decadent indulgence? What does that have to do with dieting? Isn't Epicurean Diet an oxymoron? I don't think so. First of all, Epicurus believed we could trust our feelings of pleasure, but he didn't favor overindulgence. Once you've past the point of satiety, anything more isn't pleasurable anymore. Eating foods too rich, or not balanced makes you feel sick. I believe getting to know what makes you feel good in body mind and soul is the key to a happy, healthy life. Everyone reacts differently to different foods.

Finding what makes you healthy and strong may take time and education as well as trial and error and learning to trust yourself. I don't believe most people actually feel good eating over-processed foods. As my friend Stacie says, those foods are soulless. People think they like them partly because of billions of advertising dollars, and a glut of empty sugar, fat and salt.  I think if people really stopped to taste and savor really well prepared whole foods, and got off the crap food for a while, they might just find a fast-food burger just isn't appealing anymore.

Ask anyone, I've always been a foodie and a good cook, but recently, I've been looking hard at how I take care of myself and what I eat and cook. I have made some changes, including cutting out all processed foods and most sugars. I'm influenced by traditional cuisines from different cultures, including, of course, the Mediterranean. I also exercise almost every day. I have found that I don't crave sweets or junk food, once I got over the habit of reaching for them. Some nagging health issues are clearing up and I've lost weight. I don't weigh myself regularly because I feel like, for me, the focus on a number takes me away from my goal of good health. I believe if I eat well, enjoy my food and my life and exercise, I'll be healthy at whatever size I am. I do not weigh, measure or count anything. I believe my hunger and pleasure are my guides.

In this blog, I'm going to share my journey to Epicurianism, as well as recipes and tutorials. I wish you deep satisfaction in all aspects of your life!