Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hubbards, Pumpkins, Kabochas, Oh My!

All these courtesy of the local Farmer's Markets. I don't even know what kind some of them are. I plan to stash them in the basement through the winter to keep eating locally when nothing is growing. I started them in a big tupperware bin, but apparently they need to breathe a little. That's what someone told me at the market, and the ones that had already been in the bin for a couple weeks had moldy stems, so from now on I'll keep the lid off.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

First Love

My first tea love was this Harney and Sons Gunpowder Green. I got into it as a coffee alternative during grading sessions at the coffee shop. As a coffee shop regular I probably spend $300 or so on this tea ($1.50 a pop, 100 days a year for two years). When it came time to move to home-brewing loose tea, this was my first. Though it has fallen by the wayside to nicer teas in my home, I still dig a cup of this. It consists of dark green leaves from the Anhui province, tightly rolled into tiny balls. The brewed tea is slightly smoky and nutty. My cup this morning wasn't the freshest, owing to my months of neglecting the tea. Our affair may have ended, but gunpowder green and I will always have those afternoons at the coffee shop to look back on fondly.

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Cooking With the Beatles

If you listen very carefully to the end of Strawberry Fields, you'll hear John say "cranberry sauce" a couple of times. If you looked in my kitchen today, you'd find the same thing. I made it with local, organic cran's, which are increasingly rare as more and more are grown in Wisconsin. (You can see the bogs from the road if you're on I-90.) I love cranberries, but the question is always how to sweeten them to the degree that the other dinner guests will actually eat them too? Loads of honey? Too expensive. Tons of sugar? Too diabetes inducing. Well, I finally cracked the code. I cooked them in a little cider I had lying around, then pureed them in the blender. The color is unbelievable - the photo does not do it justice - and they're just sweet enough. I thought about adding some ginger, but the little Mark Bittman on my shoulder said no.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

2004 Nanijan Phoenix

For just over $4 I couldn't resist getting this raw pu-er tuo cha. The smoky scent is strong even before the water hits the leaves. The taste is much the same as the smell: pleasant and strongly smoky. As the tea cooled off it became bitter. I was enjoying this tea enough to brew it about 6 times. Now my teeth are chattering and I can't feel my eyes.

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Spring 2007 Bi Lo Chun

Bi Lo Chun, also called "Pi Lo Chun", means spring green snail. The name comes from the shape of the rolled leaves. When steeped, the leaves expand to become the green beauties pictured. In addition to being beautiful, they smell wonderful: nutty and vegetal. So why don't I like it more? I just don't think that tea tastes nearly as nice as it smells. The taste is subtle and even, much like the smell though weaker. If you get distracted you might think that you are drinking hot water. I've tried various amounts of tea and steeping lengths. I've also tried concentrating really hard with a serious look on my face. I just can't come to love it. Oh well.

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Pink Kraut

Another successful recipe thanks to wild fermentation and the book by the same name. Half green, half red cabbage, my first homemade sauerkraut is crunchy, tangy, briny, surprisingly fruity, noticeably fresh and very much alive. Rather than cooking, you simply "allow" this delicacy to come into being. Ingredients include salt and patience and little else.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

rice pudding in retro dish

A rainy day is a perfect day to make rice pudding. One quart of whole milk, one cup of short-grain rice, a tablespoon of butter, a little sugar (about a quarter cup), nutmeg, and cinammon all go into a 300 degree oven for three hours. Stir once after the first hour and once after the second hour or so but not in the last half hour if you want the pudding to have a nice brown skin. Throw in a few raisins in the last half hour if you like. Serve with honey or maple syrup. The pudding makes the house smell warm and milky and spicey all afternoon...

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Doke Snow Bud

This white tea comes from the Doke garden in India and it has a different character than the Chinese whites I am used to. It smells and tastes a little like grapes and the flavor lingers long after the tea. It was an excellent dessert after a nice noodle soup. I infused it three times, each for about four minutes with water that was far below boiling. There was no significant difference between the infusions though the third was weaker.

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A Nice Soup

There is a world of exciting noodle soup ingredients if you just have the patience to rehydrate them. This soup contains egg noodles, seaweed, tofu, and mushrooms, all of which were formerly dehydrated. It also has ginger, garlic, soy sauce, miso paste, scallions and half a hard-boiled egg.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007


I found this slug and this worm (on edge of leaf) in a load of mint I had bought at the Farmer's Market to dry for my winer tea stash. If they can live on it, so can I.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Da Hong Pao Oolong from La Route du The

I'm just back from a week in Paris and I'm doing my best to adjust to work and the time zone. I brought back three teas with me, one was this Da Hong Pao from La Route du The. It is a dark oolong with a rich mushroomy flavor and I dig it. It seems to benefit from water that's almost at a boil. This type of oolong is really a world different from greener oolongs. In fact it is closer to a pu-er.

More on Paris to come.

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Good Seckel Pear

As the season here in New England draws to a close, soon the only available local fruit will be apples. This pear might just have been the last local, non-apple fruit I eat until Spring. If so, it was a good one to go out on. The variety is called seckel, and due to it's small size and high sugar content, it's what I imagine a fairy or gnome might eat in tales of old. Called a "tree of antiquity" by some, it is said to be good for spicing and preserving.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

How Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables Should Look

Chicken, local red onions, carrots, parsnips, turnips, dill, plus sea salt, lots of pepper. The trick? A little turmeric and a lot of paprika enhance the flavor a little and the color a lot.

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It's Tough Eating on the Road

In case you can't tell, that's a sausage that has been shaped and labeled like a beer. A bad beer. My recipe recommendation is to not eat it.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mush in my Mouth

Hi friends, thanks for the invite. I do like the look of things so far, and I hope you don't mind if I spend the next few posts cataloging the mushy loves of my life. They give both joy and consternation, as Mr. B likes his green beans briefly steamed and pasta more than toothsome. Well, the green bean debate will rage on, but I do have an end run around the pasta issue: trahanas. A Greek pasta that comes in both sweet and sour varieties, it was made to be mush. I've only had the sour version, which is semolina mixed with yogurt or soured milk curds (which I suppose is the same thing) and is terribly easy to make.
Do this (I do like y'all's directives):
Boil a quart of water, add a cup of trahanas, boil for 15 minutes. Add diced fresh or canned tomatoes and sprinkle with feta. I've had this as a soup in Greece but serve it as a side here, most recently with a zucchini frittata. Added bonus: it glistens just as viscerally as in the pic - nice, no? I've only found it at a Greek shop in Northern VA, but it's available on Blogging is fun! peace out

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Seeds of Change

This photo may not look like much, but it is. Each speck that you see above is the seed of an heirloom tomato plant, and each seed will grow into its own plant, which will in turn produce it's own seeds, and so on. As Farmer Al says, "One grain of corn planted in a suitable environment will in turn - someday - feed the world."

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

My New Pu-er Cake

This is my new Pu-er cake, a birthday gift to myself. It is green pu-er, which is processed more like green tea than black. Green pu-er seems to be relatively uncommon around the states though, so far, I prefer it to black. I'll post more about the cake as I spend more time with it but my initial impression is that it is wonderful. It has a bit of smokiness, sweetness, and it smells like autumn leaves. Then again, maybe I'm just smelling the autumn leaves.

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Oyster Mushroom Scramble with Farmer's Cheese on a Bagel

The secret ingredient: butter.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is There a God?

They say that pomegranates contain exactly the same number of seeds as there are commandments in the Torah, which is 613. Some take this as proof of the existence of the divine. My girlfriend and I decided to put it to the test. Sadly, there were only 314.

It is possible that an heirloom pomegranate similar to those in existence in the time of the Bible would have the full 613. If so, we will have conclusive evidence not of god's existence, but that our food has fallen from grace.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Your Own Grated Horseradish

Unlike most attempts to replicate mass produced food products, this one turns out right. The only difference is a nasal kick closer to wasabi than to the limp twang of the jarred product we're used to. Do this:

1. Grate horseradish.
2. Add white vinegar to taste.
3. Add sea salt to taste.
4. Taste.

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The Best Plum I've Ever Had

REDHEART-Early season. Redheart is a medium to large dark red plum covered in a heavy grayish bloom and with bright red, fine grained, sweet and aromatic flesh. the fruit hold well on the tree. The vigorous and upright tree is pollenized by 'Elephant Heart', 'Wickson' and 'Santa Rosa.'

What struck me most about this stone fruit was the vivid color that runs throughout it's flesh. Having grown up eating black plums with dull, yellowish flesh, you can imagine my surprise when I bit through the thin skin of this one.

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These stubborn nightshades are some of the last on the vine. I will eat them.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fried Artichoke Hearts

1. Find leftover canned artichoke hearts in fridge.
2. Halve.
3. Place in hot olive oil.

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Kagoshima No. 24 from Rishi

Description on package: "bold yet sooth with low astringency and a perfect balance of bitter-sweetness and delicious umami flavor."

I'm still not sure exactly what umami is. This tea was thick and savory with a little bitterness and a little bit of a grassy flavor. Delicious, though I think I like my greens a little lighter.

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Jewish Penicillin

Woke up feeling crummy and soon had a full and nourishing stove going.

Ginger tea. Water and ample ginger cut into straws. Boil, then simmer extensively. It's then ready to drink but will only develop a superior bite when left off heat for several hours.

Matzoh balls. I've never used club soda but might try it next time. Conversely, my ancestors didn't use a mix, so why should I? Won't next time.

Chicken soup. Substituted a Cornish game hen for a smaller serving. Resulted in a slightly reddish broth and excellent flavor. This accompanied by parsnips, carrots, onions, sea salt, black pepper, and fresh dill, parsley, and garlic added at the end.

Horseradish. Raw, chewed while cooking.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Beef Shank, Fresh Bean Stew

In a crock pot, I combined the following. A beef shank from the Farmer's Market in Davis Square, Somerville. Fresh, shelled cranberry beans from the Farmer's Market in Central Square, Cambridge. A heaping handful of orange and yellow cherry tomatoes from my garden, a hearty splash of port, and half of a red onion. Four bay leaves, sea salt, black pepper.

About three hours into the process, I spread the marrow from the shank on fresh bread. If you've never experienced this before, you're stupid. Or vegetarian.

I ignored several complicated recipes for slow cooked shanks on-line which suggested things like dredging, browning, and cooking the meat and beans separately. After eight hours, I had a rich stew bubbling with golden oil sparkling on its surface. Having finally prepared my own fall apart meat, another veil of the mysteries of cooking has been lifted.

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