We don't need tax breaks, just cheaper cheese.

If someone asked me how the economy is doing, I'd probably say it was ok. I'm employed. I should be happy about that. But a trip to the grocery store lately has nearly put me in a state of shock. I think it was just 6 months ago, parmigiano reggiano, a staple in our house, was $8.99 per pound. At that price I'd shop pretty carefully to get piece with a minimum amount of rind and make the guy at the cheese counter go cut another piece if I couldn't find a satisfactory one. NOW IT'S $16.99 PER POUND!!. What's the deal? I thought it was a local thing, but last month in Chicago, I noticed the same price.

The grocery store is becoming a pretty expensive place to go these days. Things are becoming tough out there.


Maiden Voyage for the New Oven

We finally got our new oven last week and this was the christening loaf.

Several weeks ago my good friend Gary generously gave me a starter culture that he had prepared according to Silverton's procedure. I've been keeping it in the fridge. Once in a while I take it out, dump some out and replenish it with equal quantities of flour and water. Observing it over the course of a day, I see it plump up in volume within a couple hours. It looks very happy despite my neglect.

Well, the oven was coming and two days before its arrival, I fed the starter in this manner twice over two days maintaining a thick batter-like consistency and using it approximately 12 hours after its last feeding. The dough I made used this starter (300 g), water (300 g), unbleached white flour (425 grams) and a mixture of wheat/rye flour (75 grams) and salt (10 grams). I plopped it all in my bread machine and did a 30 minute knead, a 1.5 hour rise, 1 hour rest and 1 hour final proof (no fridge retarding). Baked in abundantly pre-heated oven (450-deg-F) for about 45 minutes on clay tiles with a steam shot (ca. 60 mL).

Looks ok. Tasted ok. I think I have to do the fridge retarding for the final proof. I just get nervous over doing this. I never have a confident feeling when to cook after warming it from the fridge and get paranoid of over-proofing and having it squash on baking.

(ps I've combed this text looking for its/it's mistakes and believe I got them all; leave a comment if I missed any.)


Dom Perignon - We Are So Not Worthy

A kind neighbor came by the other day and offered us a bottle of wine. She and her husband don't drink. She gave us this!! bottle of Dom. We immediately went back to inform them of the value of the bottle they so freely gave us but it's still ours. The only problem, we can't figure out what occasion is worthy of this libation.


Sausage with Lentils

Lately, I've had a wicked urge to cook something with tofu. After suppressing this urge, I got back to thinking about something more dear to my heart, sausage. I modified this recipe after browsing a few suggestions from a google hack I found on ResearchBuzz.com. Put in a couple ingredients and it spits out some links to recipes. Kind of fun.

I put in sausage and lentils and eventually came up with this simple prep:

Sausage with Lentils
sweet italian sausages, 2 (1/2 lb)
olive oil, 1 T
onion, Vidalia, 1, sliced thin
lentils, green, 1 C (ca. 1/2 lb)
parsley, curly, fresh, a bunch
stock, chicken, 3 C
salt, pepper

Saute sausage and break up in chunks. Add some olive oil to pan and saute onion, toss in parsley, lentils and saute everything a few minutes. Then add stock, salt, pepper and simmer for about 30 minutes uncovered until most of the stock is absorbed. Serve. Yum.


The Oriole

When we moved in our house in Baltimore we discoverd an Oriole stove in the basement. It's a cast-iron, several hundred pound beast that I adopted for beer brewing. Sitting on top is my faithful 50-Liter, stainless steel vessel with bottom valve that I use for brewing beer. The oven portion of this is not easy to use however. It has a gas regulator but no thermostat. You turn it on, let the temperature stabilize and monitor the intermal temperature . . . adjust the gas, stabilize, measure, repeat. It can easily achieve 700-deg-F.

When we moved to Columbus, we took it with us to our new home. I don't often get possessive of material things, but this mass of cast iron is kind of special. Since the big lightning strike, we've been without an oven and have had to use this thing to bake. I'm getting better at it and have cooked a bunch of focaccias on it lately. Tonight I baked one for a big potluck next door. (It was eaten quickly, always a nice feeling.)

If I can stabilize the temperature a bit better, I'm considering doing some ultra thin pizzas. Stay tuned for the results.