The Culprit of Bitter Zucchini

cucurbitacin_eOne of our favorite meals is sauteed zucchini, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, coarsely chopped Uglyripes and pasta (and salt, pepper and olive oil of course). It's lightning-fast to prepare, is eaten slightly warm to room temperature and the leftovers make a killer frittata. However, recently our local market has been selling us zucchini that's pretty darn bitter.

I poked around the web looking for the cause. Apparently, a class of steroids called Cucurbitacins (depicted is Cucurbitacin E) are responsible for making eggplant, cucumbers and various varieties of squash bitter. Produce Pete (who, incidentally, should put up a blog) suggests selecting zucchini that are small and shiny. The larger the fruit the more likely they are to possess these bittering agents.

We here at Dave's Beer are contemplating soaking a split zucchini in brine (akin to the treatment some give Eggplant) to remedy the situation. Anyone ever try this? Leave your experience in the comments. Thanks.


Merry Christmas!

ravioliNothing says Christmas to us like raviolis on Christmas Eve. Trish and I belted out about a hundred of these babies the day before Christmas Eve with a wild toddler bobbing about the kitchen and everything. Total mayhem, but it was worth it. We had these with some baked cod that set off the smoke detectors, oh well. Wouldn't be the holidays if it weren't a little crazy.

Today, a standing rib roast (not done on the infamous Weber, sniff) and all the sides. Have a good food holiday all!



cantucciniThere's no shortage of biscotti recipes out there. My Mom makes an amazing one but my preference for this timely cookie has veered to the traditional. I made mine this year from a recipe in the 2001 Jan/Feb issue of La Cucina Italiana. This recipe is so simple, it's like a biscuit. Just a few ingredients, but its success depends on the process in which it's made. Took a few practice runs to get into a groove but finally made some good runs.

They're hard cookies begging for a dip in some hot drink but at the same time tender. I believe this tenderness is derived from gently working the dough once mixed; again, like a biscuit. Our good friend Amy makes the best I've ever had. I only hope mine are a fraction as good.

Slightly modified* recipe reprinted here for my convenience:
Cantuccini, makes about 30.
Self-rise flour, 200 g (1.5 Cups)
Sugar, 1 cup
Almonds, slivered and toasted, 3/4 cup
Vanilla extract, 1 t
Eggs, large, 2

Mix the wet with dry, divide and spread the sticky play-doh-like mass into 2 globs. Further shape the globs into ca. 12-15" logs on a parchment-lined sheet and bake in a 375F oven for 25 minutes. Cool briefly and cut diagonally and stand the cut cookies on another sheet and bake at 375F for an additional 15 minutes. Click the image for a larger image hosted at Flickr.

*The original recipe called for unbleached white flour and baking powder. Whenever I see this combination, I substitute self-rise flour. Usually the flour in such mixtures has a lower protein content (appropriate for most baked sweets) and it already has the chemical leavener in it (and a trace of salt). It's more convenient too.


Someday I'll return

ReflectionThis is a reflection of Frankie and I looking in the oven door at a baguette baking. I don't know when I'll post more kitchen adventures; I guess I'm on semi-permanent hiatus. I'll leave up the archives. Raising a kid sure takes a bunch of work.

Click on the image for a larger version.


Miserable Failure

Failed Jello AquariumI thought preparing Clare Crespo's Jell-O Aquarium recipe for after-nap treat time would make me the coolest Papa in the Penguin room (and, it seemed irresistably neat). I bought a 1-gallon polycarbonate cylinder for it and gummy eels because an aquarium of eels just seemed more apropriate for a gang of toddlers. I was totally psyched when I got the time to put it together.

Save your precious time and file this away as a miserable failure.

1. Berry Blue Jello is pretty cloudy and dark, both big problems for visualizing floating items.
2. Berry Blue Jello is pretty expensive and no generics exist because of the apparent challenge finding blue-hued food.
3. Fruit cocktail, drained, DOES NOT SINK!

Clare, you're creative but you gotta test your recipes instead of having an expensive photographer shoot what the creation should look like. That's why food blogs are so valuable, they're essentially tested recipes. I should've known this looked a bit too good to be true.

At least we have jello for a few nights for dessert.


Palm (soap)

Palm SoapAlright, I'm just not cooking anything interesting but I have a quick 10 minutes to whip together a soap recipe here and there, so I did:

palm oil, 340 g
coconut oil, 136 g
olive oil, 68 g
water, 288 g
NaOH, 75 g
lemongrass oil, 8 mL

Aqueous base prepared and allowed to cool. Then, the fats were melted and everything mixed around 120F. Mixed with an immersion blender and when the mixture thickened, I poured into two disc-shaped molds lined with plastic wrap and covered the surface with additional plastic wrap. I intend to slice these into 4 semi-circle bars.

The critical factor to this soap is according to the recipe, I should have only added 68 g NaOH, but according to the MMS calculator, it should be 75 grams for a superfatted soap. We'll see how it turns out. It traced kind of quick. This recipe size was perfect to fill 2 x 400 mL molds (enough for 4 good sized bars).

Soap was popped out of their molds after about 12 hours, very firm and cut to shape and allowed to cure in air. No visible carbonate on the surface. I think the MMS Calculator is pretty good in getting the right amount of NaOH in the mixture.

Update 13-Sep-2005
One day after unmolding, and cutting into bars there's no trace of carbonate formation. Years ago, when I made soap, I had problems with carbonate formation on the exterior surface of the bars. These are really clean and already very firm. I suspect they'll be ready to use within a couple weeks. So, get ready readers, some of you just might be reading about the development of your xmas gift. Sorry to ruin the surprise.


Honey (soap)

soapFirst in an occasional series.

In the years p.f. (pre Frankie), I used to mix up soaps; mostly they were cold process. Last night, I resumed my soap-making activity with a small batch of Honey Soap that I got from Diana's Sugar Plum site. I'll post a pic when it finally cures. So far, Frankie and I mixed the following:

vegetable shortening, 340 g
coconut oil (mp 76F), 114 g
beeswax, 28 g
water, 240 g
lye, 56 g
honey, 2 tablespoons measured by two squirts.

All the fats were combined, melted and brought to ca. 120F. The lye solution was mixed and cooled to 110F and combined. Frankie stirred a while and then I charged the honey and sped things up a bit using my (dedicated) immersion blender. We poured it into a plastic wrap-lined mold and placed an additional piece of plastic wrap on top while it did it's initial reaction to prevent carbonate formation on the surface. We'll unmold it in another day and let it cure for a couple weeks before trimming it for gifts and use.

Update (7-Sep-05)
I unmolded the block of soap in two days. It was kind of soft and let it rest on each of the bar's sides. According to the recipe, it should be cured in about 2-3 weeks. Everyday it gets a bit more firm and there's no carbonate on the bars at all. It's got quite a bit of excess fat (superfatted) so that's not too surprising. Keep you posted as it cures.


I hope you can't overdose on lycopene

tomatoIt's that time of year. Trish and Frankie go out to the garden every afternoon and bring back a bowl of "red gold". Tomatoes. The most perfect fruit in the world. Today Trish skinned a bunch for me to turn into pizza sauce.

Every night we have a bowl of coarsely chopped tomatoes dressed with a touch of oil and balsamic vinegar salt and pepper and sometimes we just slice and eat 'em with a spec of salt. It's a great time of year.

I think we'll be pressure-canning a bunch in the next couple weeks if the harvest continues and we become all tomatoed out.



Toll house cookiesStill nothing much to write home about with regard to interesting new adventures in the kitchen but the wife and kid made the best cookies ever Saturday. Toll house cookies. Recipe from the bag of chips and no skimping on the butter. These cookies present me with a vigorous challenge every time I walk by them. They're wrapped in plastic stacked on a plate in our kitchen.

The first time I walk by the dish, I sneek into the plastic wrap and grab a half of a cookie because half is better than whole - right? Well, the second pass by the cookie plate I feel must take the second half because then I won't get caught leaving just half a cookie. Well, you can see where this is going. Let's just say these wonderful little miracles don't exactly get stale sitting on the counter. I look forward to their future efforts. Frankie seemed to help quite a bit. At the age of 2 yrs and 5 months, she's becoming quite comfy in the kitchen.

Aside from that and a tasty focaccia recently (I might elaborate on it in a future post), not much going on. But we're not exactly going hungry. Hope you're all keeping cool.


Intermittent efforts

Like many bloggers who are lucky enough to find themselves chasing down a 2 year old, my experimental food projects have taken a lower priority indicated by my frequency of posting. I'll always enjoy experimentation in the kitchen but haven't had the time to do as many of these experiments nor assemble the outcome for presentation here (I frequently fall asleep about a minute after Frankie). This is just a note to say, I'll be getting back to it soon, but when I get a chance.

On queue: I'd like to share my mega granola recipe (Frankie loves granola); this is utilitarian and good. I'm going to use my oven to try to make some sweetened, dried sour cherries from a neighbor (trick is how to sweeten them?). I'm totally into flax seeds lately - more with them later ...

In the meantime, I've been logging my food shots for recipes already covered on flickr. It's a good repository for me to put photos of stuff I do routinely but aren't worth a blog entry.

Hope you're all enjoying the Summer!


Viewer mail: pork shoulder cooking time

Lately, we've been eating light. Salads, bread, cheese, veggies ... lite fare for these humid days; not much to blog about. However, that doesn't mean 'Q emergencies don't exist. This one was from a man I'll call Jack:

I was going to smoke a pork shoulder picnic roast, and the recipe I have says to smoke it for 1 1/2 hours per pound. My roast is close to 9 pounds and if my addition is right that makes it close to 14 hours of smoking time. My question is: could I stick it in the oven at about 200 degrees for about 5 hours then move it to the smoker after I wake up in the morning? I really don't want to keep my smoker up to temperature by staying up all night.
A 'Q purist would've passed Jack's email address to the nearest online Viagra salesman and been done with it. But, I saw a person with a busy schedule, not unlike a busy parent, trying to achieve great results on a busy schedule and thought this was actually a great idea. Some oven, some smoking.

He was using a picnic roast (my personal favorite for pulled pork) and cooked it 8 hours in the oven at 200F and 9 hours in an offset smoker. Despite a few ups and downs regarding the temperature of the smoker (tending to other work-related duties, we'll forgive you this time Jack) he achieved a final internal temp of 180F (I believe that's as good as it gets for pulled) and said he got a roast that "cut like butter". Kind of driving you nuts isn't it.

He did comment on the fact it didn't pull with a fork, but I've observed similar results on some outstanding "pulled pork" myself. The picnic cut is a bit different and may not lend itself to a texture that pulls. So, once again, a reader comes up with a pretty darn good work around to the low 'n slow cooking that can sometimes challenge one's schedule. Good job Jack.


First time for everything

Squash-'n-ZucchiniIn my many years of cooking outdoors, I've never used a gas grill. I got one free from my few minutes of fame and finally got the nerve to take the helm the other night.

One of our favorite meals is a simple mix of roasted zucchini, fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced basil, lightly toasted pine nuts, cooked pasta and salt, pepper and olive oil. The residual heat of the cooked pasta gently cooks the tomatoes and the dish is best served at room temperature. And, it has hand size pieces for Frankie to grab (if you use amusing shapes of macaroni).

This time, the only difference I made to the recipe is I grilled the zucchini and summer squash. I cut them in quarters, tossed them with oil and grilled them for a while on medium on a cast iron platform. It required 60 grams of propane (in case you were interested in ridiculous details). It was fun, quick and I might even use my gas grill with some regularity. Totally inappropriate for the low 'n slow thing but quite handy for the lightning fast dinner preps.


Lentils, peas, rice

lentils, peas, rice
A while back, Sasha posted this simple recipe of lentils, peas and rice. I barely modified it but re-posted it as an endorsement if nothing else. A great contribution as a room temperature potluck dish. It's a regular part our nighttime scramble to get healthy food to the table. I simmer 1 cup dry green lentils in in (ca. 3 C) stock and about a teaspoon of fenugreek, caremelize thinly sliced onions, cook about a cup of basmati rice and combine everything into a bowl containing a 10 oz bag of frozen peas (the residual heat of the lentils, rice and onion warms the frozen peas and the frozen peas stop the lentils from further cooking, or, as a chemist, I can't resist saying the whole mess equilibrates nicely). I add a liberal slosh of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and let it set for a while and serve with yogurt/lemon juice on the side. We love it and I hope our gathering today does too. Thanks Sasha!


Sourdough on my schedule?

Update: 6.24.2005
IMG_2332The resulting dough stayed in the fridge for 72 hours. I warmed it up about an hour, shaped it into a loaf and let it proof 2 hours. Here's the result. Totally sourdough but possibly underproofed. It looks a tad dense. We'll be hacking into it for tomorrow's b'fast. Next time I'll be using a poolish variant (using 2 x 1/4 t shots of yeast for a boost) of the same recipe. I like the graininess of the loaf I just think I'll be wanting more volume, we'll see tomorrow. I'm just not a sourdough type guy. I need the volume. Click on the image for a bigger view.

Original post: 6.22.05
I'm not dead yet.

Summer travel, simple meals with easy to handle and fling food have kept me from disclosing anything exciting on the food front.

I have been itching to get back into sourdoughs though. I got my starter from the fridge (kindly prepared via Silverton's method by my good friend Gary), scraped off the mold and refreshed it by taking 2 tablespoons of it in 200 g flour and 200 g water and letting it rise in a ca. 70-deg-F basement for about 12 hours (massive volume expansion; definitely still alive), disposing half of it and replenishing with 100 g of flour and 100 g water. The resulting starter was deemed ready for use after an additional 12 hours fermentation.

Next, I mixed 300 g of starter with 300 g water, 400 grams unbleached white and 100 grams of mixed grainy flours (spelt, wheat, rye, flax seeds and rolled oats) and salt (10 g). I tossed this mess in the pan of my bread machine and gave it a good 10 minute knead, rounded the slightly tacky dough ball and tossed it in my fridge inside of a plastic container bearing an exhaust hole. My intention is to take 1/3 of this mixture out at a time over the next week and let it warm for about an hour or so, shape it into a loaf, proof it and bake into grainy baguettes. I'll keep you posted on the results.


Kitchen Scraps + Leaves -----> Tomatoes

Compost Update: 6.23.2005
Well, the fornicating worms weren't enough. I'm afraid my composting activities have sensed my deep-seated Republican thoughts and just won't decompose. I dumped the worms and pilot size compost into my big composter and churned it up. I found a zillion ants! I suspect my balance is simply off. It's about 2/3 moist leaves and 1/3 kitchen waste. I'll keep churning but I think I just have a pile of waste.

Compost Update: 5.12.2005
Well, one co-worker a million of you have asked about updates on this post. For about 3 weeks I shook my mini-composter of kitchen waste and leaves about once a week and kept it moist. No change. Yesterday I put in a pile of worms from my neighbors compost heap and put the mini bin in my garage (so it wouldn't overheat in the sun) and will keep an eye on it. In the 7th comment, a reader gave me this link for composting recipes too. Thanks!

Original Post: 4.19.2005

worms currently ravaging
leaves and kitchen waste
and hopefully mating like rabbits
Here at Dave's Beer we are enamored with all things fermentable.

It's getting close to the time when we plant our favorite fruit, the tomato. Unfortunately, our compost heap died this winter. We set it up by layering leaves and good old food scraps. It was pretty hot for a couple months but then died. The heap is mostly still in the form of leaves rather than nice rich compost. I guess we buy some topsoil this year. But, in the meantime, I'll be experimenting with a small-scale tumbling composter; a hole-punched plastic container that I shake daily for aeration. Before I dump over a hundred bucks on something like this, I want to verify the turnaround they claim (in the order of weeks).

This image is a shot of a plastic container with holes in it so it can get moist. It contains a weeks worth of scrap food and about 3 times as many leaves (in mass). I'll water it and shake it daily to promote the microbial decomposition. I'll post the final appearance when it turns.


A way to cook greens

A friend asked me for some suggestions for simple recipes that can be done in the course of the daycare/workday scramble; we call them desperation dinners. Here's one we got from a Martha Stewart Good Food issue sometime ago and now it's a regular part of our repertoire. Greens are pretty bountiful this time of year and thought I'd toss this in.

Saute in this order in a large wide (ca. 6 qt) pan (serves about 3-4):
1. sweet italian sausage with a little olive oil
2. a huge pile of greens (we use swiss chard most often), add some water and cover for ca. 10 minutes till the greens wilt to your desired tenderness),
3. toss in freshly toasted pinenuts, raisins and cooked pasta (1/2 lb dry).
4. add more olive oil, salt and pepper and serve. It's good warm to room temperature.

It's amazing how much greens condense when cooked so it's a good recipe to use up those bountiful subscription greens.


The Butt

Last weekend I made some pulled pork. My favorite cut to use is the picnic roast, another part of the shoulder. Unfortunately, the only thing I could get was a 6.2 lb butt roast (bone-in of course). The first time I learned what a butt roast (or boston butt or blade roast) was, an energetic butcher placed both hands on my latissimus dorsi to describe exactly where the butt and picnic roast were. I was quite happy the butt roast was a misnomer.

I used the same rub I use for ribs and smoked this using Royal Oak lump for 10 hours running at about 225F +/- 25F. I did one mop with cider vinegar and unlike past times, I smeared a bit of bbq sauce (just commercial stuff) over the exterior one hour prior to taking the roast off to rest an hour before pulling. I then mixed the meat with a bit of my own sauce composed of ketchup, cider vinegar and smokey rendered pork fat (5:1:1). It was quite a meal. We made sandwiches with pulled pork, colelsaw, pickles and sauce.

I posted this to remind me a 6.2 pound butt roast produced an adequate yield for 8 hungry adults with a bit leftover. Happy 'qing this weekend.



I used to strive for bubbles on my pizzas and, more the better. The other night, I stretched a 500 gram ball of dough to about 14-15" diamater, covered it with a dish towel and played with Frankie a while before topping it. Then I topped it with a simple tomato sauce, mozzarella and a bit of reggiano (kid special) and popped it in the oven. It practically exploded with bubbles. I think it was the long rest that did it. It was pretty cool looking. Just thought I'd share.


Frankie's First Pizza

Friday nights are becoming pizza night in our house. It's the end of the week, we're a bit tired and need a fix for dinner. I prepped the dough Thursday night and tossed it in the fridge. I took it out about an hour before dinner while I preheated the oven (to 550F). I plopped the dough out of the rising container and start pressing it into a 15" round (500 grams dough).

Frankie got into pressing out the dough into a circle and flapping it over and over. Great technique. She did pretty good. We had a nice round pie with her help. And that thing on her wrist is a compass she got from some happy meal (but we won't admit we got it at Wendy's the night before).


Bees and Salad Dressing

I think Alton Brown's Honey Mustard dressing is the best ever. It's a simple mixture of honey, Dijon Mustard and rice vinegar. I can make it on my electronic balance in a minute. It's calorically dense but the amount needed to bring a salad to life is scant. As good as it is, I couldn't help tampering.

Here in Columbus, we have The Bee Lab cranking out honey in different types and textures (you can mail order it on their site, check out the creamed honey!). So, using Sunflower honey, and, because I was in a rush the other night for dinner, I used yellow mustard because it was faster to squeeze into my salad dressing bottle, and the usual rice vinegar to make an outstanding variant on Alton's recipe. Give it a shot. Or try any substitution to the general recipe of honey, mustard & vinegar and see what you get.

Honey Mustard Dressing
Honey, 5T (100 grams)
Mustard, 3T (45 grams)
Rice Vinegar, 2T (30 grams)
Shake until uniform. Use sparingly.


Deep Dish Pizza

In all my baking years, I've never made deep dish pizza. When we lived in Evanston, we used to frequent Giordano's for a sausage "topped" deep dish. These things are built upside down and are a hearty meal indeed. I used essentially Emeril's recipe with a few modifications. I didn't have any semolina flour on hand and left it out. I will repeat it including the semolina. But, duty calls, it's Friday night and the gang demands pizza. Also, my pizza sauce is much simpler and milder than the sauce of that wild man "Bamming!" everything in sight. He's a scary man.

water, cold, 200 g
olive oil, 25 g
salt, 5 g
honey, 5-10 g
unbleached white flour, 300 g
Fleischmann's instant active dry yeast, 2 t
Kneaded 5-6 minutes in my bread machine, rounded the dough and let sit in the fridge. I did this the night before we used it.

My Thick Sauce
Simmered "6-in-1" brand chopped tomatoes, a couple slivers garlic, olive oil (ca. 1-2 T), oregano, salt and pepper. There is always a stash of this in my freezer. I use a pretty thick brand of tomatoes and usually don't use paste. If the brand of tomatoes used is thin, just cook it down.

Assembly of Pizza
The oven was preheated to 450F (I always preheat excessively). The dough (about 500 g) was warmed about an hour. I punched it down and let it sit on the counter in a squat ca. 8" disc covered with a moist towel for about 20 minutes. It was then stretched to a 14-15" circle. I chose a heavy duty aluminum 10" diameter cake pan. Because of the high temperature and long duration baking (450F/30 minutes), I thought a dark pan would burn the crust; hence, the choice of shiny aluminum. The dough was draped over the pan and allowed to come over the edge a bit. I let it rest again for a few minutes and began topping in this order: sliced mozzarella, crumbled sweet Italian sausage (raw), tomato sauce and parmesan cheese and baked it in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. I originally intended to use 400 grams of dough per 10" pie but ended up using the full 500 grams. That resulted in the huge wave-like crust. Next time I might end the crust at the pan's edge.

I've been known to take freshly baked bread and launch it out the back door when I'm not pleased with the results. This was not one of those occasions. Trish, Frankie and I attacked this with a small salad on the side and there was some left over. I thought it was pretty awesome. Too much crust and all. Next time, I'll use less dough (like I mentioned earlier) and also use the semolina flour that was called for in the original recipe. I suspect that will result in a more appropriate crackly-crisp crust. But overall, a success. Wish you could've joined us.


Tofu "Meat"balls? - just say no!

Below is a proposed experiment. I won't use the term "miserable failure" because I'll just get more hits than I'm comfortable with but I think you get the gist. Tofu just doesn't have that fleshy, moldable feel like meat and all it did was crumble and never held together despite the milk and egg and cracked wheat. Oh well, cheap experiment. The turkey ones were made in short order so we could have something to eat during the week. Yum. Can't wait. And, neither can Frankie, they're her absolute favorite.

Original Post:
This is more of a note to myself than it is something you might find interesting (but just in case, here it is).

Cooking lately has been more for utility than show. However, I thought of something I have to try. Usually, recipes that try to substitute tofu for meat fail miserably (at least in my hands). That's the result I get when I've attempted some Moosewood preps. Texture just isn't right.

One of my recent modifications to the meatball was so good, I almost got a copyright for my site, I (and the gang here) liked them so much. Basically, I modified the mouthfeel of ground turkey with cracked wheat. And when I made them again more recently, I accidentally added more liquid than usual and had to add a ton of cracked wheat to get them to stick together. I was worried at the time but they turned out pretty awesome. You can't detect the presence of the cracked wheat yet they don't taste like ground turkey either. I made this modification because ground turkey is just too soft a protein and feels too, too . . . just can't describe it. Too tender and soft I guess. From the title of this post, I guess you know where this is going.

Here's my next recipe creation:
tofu, 1/2 lb, firm, crumbled
egg, 1
parsley, bunch, chopped
onion, 1/2 finely diced
milk, couple tablespoons
salt & pepper
enough cracked wheat to keep 'em together in golf ball-sized lumps

How will I cook them? Those who cook meatballs are in two camps: sear the exterior followed by braising and the lazy braisers. I'm a braiser. Just plop them in a basic tomato sauce and simmer for a couple hours. That's how I'll do these.

Why bother with this if I'm NOT a vegetarian? Curiosity mostly and I have this love/hate relationship with vegetarian cuisine. I find it challenging to get good flavors without the aid of meat. I'll let you know how they turn out.


Just Chips

Last night, I couldn't resist.

One strategy we've tried to calm the Frankster into sitting quietly at dinner (b'fast and lunch are no problem, dinner is nuts) is to give her a small quatity of something she really likes, an appetizer of sorts, to get her in the mood to eat (blackberries, Goldfish Crackers,, etc.). Last night, just before dinner, I attacked a russet with our mandoline slicer, plugged in the fry baby and tossed 'em in. They were tasty. Didn't quite work though. All she wanted was the chips. She ended the meal standing on her Learning Tower, eating a bowl of Chex. Hmmm, why does this seem familiar.

Anyway, it's amazing how wonderful a chip can taste when it's made with good oil, fried at the perfect temperature and actually tastes like a potato.


Deep Dish Help

The other night on FoodTV, I saw this episode of Unwrapped on Deep Dish Pizza. I was so salivating. I saw one prep by a pizza guy (business) in Chicago who built this pizza in the following order:

-dough in a cake-like pan slightly up the sides
-slices of mozzarella
-sausage raw!
-tomato sauce
-Reggiano with some oregano
-baked for 20 minutes (didn't say the temp - I'm guessing around 400F)

Two things have me baffled. The type of pan. It looked silver on the portion the pizza touched and blackened from use everywhere else => where do I get one of these? And, raw sausage?

Anyone have any good - tested - preps for Chicago-style deep dish pizza?

I got an itch and I'll be taking the plunge this weekend. Leave any assistance in the comments. Thanks. I'll save you a piece.


Next Project

Why the obsession with the baguette? It's quick and it cools quickly. Although it's tempting to eat bread when it's warm, it's a no-no. The loaf is supposed to cool completely before cutting in and eating. That's probably the biggest reason I like the baguette shape. Good crust to crumb ratio and with all that surface area, it cools quickly - all the way to the center.

So, speaking of daily bread, can I optimize what I have to have a loaf in the oven in the time it takes to preheat it (say 20 minutes) or can the loaf be ready and proofed as I walk in the door; preheat, slash the top and go? A neighbor of mine asked me the other day about freezing dough. I had never done it but it put a thought in my head that won't go away. I figure it's just a matter of experimentation to get the thaw/final proof time and temps. It's got to be better than those torpedoes of overly-conditioned crap from Pillsbury. Here's my initial plan. Although this plan only has two rises, they're each pretty slow. I think it'll work. But, unlike most real scientific literature, I'll actually disclose the results whether it works or not. Failures are always more instructive than the successes.

1. Mix baguette recipe and machine knead for 15 minutes or so and plunk in fridge for first rise (12-24 h).
2. Scale dough to dinner size loaves, ca. 400 g (320 g post-baking weight); good for a small family.
3. Form into loaf shape and place on baguette pan or other cylindrical holding device (lined with freezer paper) and cover loosely with plastic.
4. Now, the tricky part. Remove from freezer in morning before work and leave on counter probably in the pan it'll be cooked in and covered with something that doesn't touch the surface of the dough (so it won't stick). It might have to be sitting on parchment in the bread pan too to prevent it from adhering to the pan too tightly because the pan's perforated.
5. Come back 8-10 hours later, slash top and bake away.

I'll be thinking about this for a while. Chime in with any suggestions in the comments.


Baguette, it's the speed

Last Sunday night we had our favorite meal: bread, cheese and salad. My baguette was on its game that night. I used olive oil (ca. 5 grams/500 g dough) which is not what I usually use as the source of "catalytic shortening" and made it with no overnight delays; just a straight dough, machine kneaded and a heavy yeast charge of Fleischmann's instant active dry (ca. 2 t). It was absolutely killer. It was voluminos with a razor crust and tender interior (but not Wonder brad type tenderness) and excellent flavor.

I realize anyone reading is bored with my daily bread obsession but I depicted a few of the key observations of a great end product. In the first image there's a good indication of the result of powerful oven spring. The final slash opened wide during the initial moments of baking. In the second image is the crackled, mosaic-like crust that occurs in the first minutes of cooling out of the oven. Finally, the third image is the cross section of the sliced loaf. Not big holes but not too fine either (again, not Wonder bread). Yeah, it's the result of yeast and it's not as virtuous as starters and all that but I guarantee even a Frenchman (or woman) would enjoy it.

It was great the next day too. The "next day test" for me is important. A good loaf should be good the next day even if a bit drier and slightly stale. The flavor should still be good. I was disheartened the last time Trish and I went to France. We were staying with a friend and actually had a couple loaves in Dijon which looked great but tasted only mediocre and the next day they just weren't that good. But the loaf was from the Supermarche. Sorry for the digression. I just wanted to point out a few endpoint observations that aren't included in original prep.


My new read, it's Saucy

My most recent find in new food blogs was by Molly at Orangette. She writes a fun story culminated by a classic but modified recipe. She's now writing for a new site called Saucy. Her first contribution's, worth a read.


Frankie and I make focaccia

Saturday, I wanted to do a quick focaccia to accompany dinner. I intended to do something different but I got distracted, tossed something together and liked what I came out with. Instead of herbs and a bit of Reggiano on top, I just mixed some tarragon, basil and rosemary (all dried) into the dough and topped it with just a skim of EVOO. Prior to tossing it in the oven, we had to dock it (put lots of indents in the dough so it doesn't come out like a big pita). That's where Frankie's skill was especially useful. She pounded the surface of the dough quite handily just before I tossed it in the oven. This image is us looking at in the oven. If you look carefully, you can see our reflection.

Herbed Focaccia, free form
water, rt, 200 g
olive oil, ca. 20 g
unbleached white, 300 g
tarragon, rosemary, basil, ca. 1 t each dried
honey, ca. 10 g
salt, ca. 5-6 g
Fleischmann's instant active yeast, 1.5 t

0. Preheat oven to 450F.
1. Dough cycle for kneading and first rise.
2. Squashed and rested 20 minutes.
3. Pushed dough out to ca. 10" diameter circle and let rest 20 minutes.
4. Docked by pounding little fists over the surface.
5. Painted surface with olive oil.
6. Baked (on parchment) about 15 minutes till golden brown. Mmmmm, here's a final pic.


The real Dave's Beer

I think most food blogs had their start in hard copy. This is an image of the original and still-used-today notebook where I keep my beer brewing activity. It's the only component of my fermenting empire that hasn't made it to the web.

And, it never will.

For some reason, I enjoy scratching down my beer recipes as I go and keeping notes in a bound notebook where no mistake will ever escape for good. It's a lab notebook in the truest sense of the concept. A place where pages are dated and numbered, mistakes are crossed out such that they can still be read and updated as close to the time the actions occur as possible. There's nothing pretty about a lab notebook, it's about data integrity.

Why not share? I make extract brews and there's a whole class of purists who believe it's a useless pursuit if you don't grow the grain and malt it yourself and I don't have the energy to try to convince them they're wrong nor can I tolerate the undue criticism. So I keep my brewing to myself. I will, however, share the brew. Stop by sometime and have a sip.


Contact with Kingsford

I've wondered about the safety of using smoking chips, e.g., the ones from Kingsford and went to their site to contact them about it. Here's our exchange:

Me: I have a concern with your chips for smoking. I thought wood needed to be preburned (like lump charcoal) to be used for smoking. Otherwise, if you burn fresh wood, like those chips, you add a ton of volatiles to the food as the wood begins to smolder. Can you explain a bit more about the way your wood chips are treated and address the safety of smoking food with them?

Kingsford Guy: Thank you for your recent e-mail about KINGSFORD wood chips. The information you requested will require further research. Unfortunately, it may be several days before we will be able to provide an answer to your question. Once we have the necessary information, however, we will provide it to you by e-mail as promptly as possible.

Having thought about this exchange for the weekend, I'm actually kind of shocked at the Kingsford guys response. I'm more than a little surprised he didn't have this information immediately available. Should be interesting to see what he comes up with researching their own product! Good thing Dr. B's here for an authoritative opinion.


It's not about the bling

Do what you love and the . . . I forget the rest.

The other day a small crew from Picture Show Films and a marketing person from Weber came by for the shoot. Sixty something degrees in Columbus - in February! What a day to take a break from the grind and cook some ribs low and slow. While the rest of the family frolicked in the sun, took care of the kid (thanks my love!) and made sides for the end of the day rib fest, a couple guys stood in my yard and we talked barbecue ALL DAY LONG. I think I might have to crawl back to the church and tell them I made a mistake.

Anyway, many asked me "how much did you get?". Well, they did force me to use a shiny new kettle (but I did get to use the lump charcoal of my choosing). The new kettle and I bonded pretty quickly (don't know if my old kettle will forgive me) and then they just left it behind and said I could have it and I might also get a Weber Smokey Mountain™ out of it as well. It's a smoker I've wanted for a long time. My yard's small and can't easily accomodate one of those huge rigs; the Smoky Mountain™ is a pretty nice rig and has a small footprint. So, I got some nice stuff but I would've paid twice the comps for the fun we had.

As they filmed, their editor kept collecting feeds in the dining room and was already beginning the editing. They're going to make a short commercial for tv and going to run longer streaming video spots on the Weber site beginning in April. I'll keep you posted and give links.

Grilling Details: Royal Oak lump charcoal, maintained a temp of approximately 225-deg-F for 5 hours beginning at about 7:20 am (with a few spikes because I kept playing with my new toy). Monitored only the dome temperature only throughout the session. Used a pretty typical dry rub and did two moppings with cider vinegar during the cooking. The meat was also warmed to RT prior to tossing it on. Let 'em rest about 20 minutes wrapped in foil and boy were they tasty. The ribs themselves were pretty variable with respect to the amount of meat. Some were really meaty, others not as much. They were all pretty lean.

How were they? The image shows what remained. It's a pretty crappy image but it was a busy day and didn't get to take too many pics. Well, this is the last post for a long time about this. On to meatier episodes.


Valentine's Day, A Good Day to Rub Ribs

Tonight the gang will pile over to our house to briefly stay and watch the rubbing of the ribs in preparation for tomorrow's barbecue fest. I'll use a rib rub similar to that reported previously. Then they get out of my kitchen and we proceed with the bath, watching of Nemo, bedtime and get ready for tomorrow's shoot. Looking like good weather. Potentially rainy but warm. And, I'm not sure if the butcher pulled off that little membrane on the ribs. Got 7 half racks ready to go. We'll be serving them around 1-2 pm with (ham-hock flavored) black-eyed peas, greens and corn bread. If you happen to be driving by, stop in to say hey.

'Que specifics: I'll be using a Weber Kettle, burning Royal Oak (Naked Whiz gives it a 4.8/5) and relying on the native smokiness of the lump itself rather than tossing in too much extra smoke. Probably shoot for 5 hours at 225F.


Prep: To Do List

Next Tuesday, Picture Show Films will be here for the day. We'll be preparing Ribs. We'll be giving them a rub the night before, wrapping them up, warming them up the next morning and tossing 'em on the faithful Weber at about 7 am Tuesday. They'll be done by 1 pm. After an hour rest, we'll feast with the crew with Ribs, greens, black-eyed peas and Cornbread. The Prep:
a. prepare ingredients for rub
b. buy ribs (about 7 half slabs, baby backs).
c. buy a new foil drip-pan
d. check fuel supply of lump charcoal; be using Royal Oak for this round.
e. calibrate thermocouples
f. clean out Weber
g. buys lots of extra fruit/coffee/juice for the crew to munch while waiting
h. buy cornmeal stuff for corn bread and greans
i. polish the rig (no smart ass the rig refers to the infamous Weber)
j. remove dog poo from yard since there's no snow to cover it

If you're in the vicinity, feel free to drop by, just be prepared to disapper temporarily at 1 pm because that's Frankie's naptime.


Meatballs: Recent Findings

Photogenic? Hardly. But, there are few foods that give me a more comforting feeling than meatballs in tomato sauce. When we have them with pasta, you can hear Frankie chanting "more meat, more meat". Music to my ears. She also eats ten times the weight of these little delicacies in fruits and veggies, so I think her diet's balanced.

I've spent some time recently talking about meatballs. In the past I've made them from ground turkey and cracked wheat (I was quite proud of that innovation), ground sirloin (my Mom's preference) and now I'm using the holy trinity of meat: beef, pork and veal. In less fancy circles, it's called "meatloaf mix". I heard about it many times but not many supermarkets have it. The other day, I found it in a local market. If you find this delectable mixture, use it.

My Meatballs, makes about 10 small ones
ground beef, pork, veal (equal weights), ca. 1/2 lb.
bread crumbs, 1/2 cup
parsley, finely chopped, bunch
garlic, trace or garlic powder
onion, small, finely diced
egg, 1
milk, enough. add milk and bread crumbs to get a mixture that's not too wet or dry.

To cook, plop 'em in sauce raw and simmer tomato sauce (tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, bay leaf) for a couple hours.

I could eat these for breakfast they're so good.


Pancakes Coming

It's almost February 2! According to Wikipedia, it's technically the festival of the Purification of the Virgin. According to word IQ,

the eve of Candlemas was the day on which Christmas decorations of greenery were removed from people's homes; for traces of berries, holly and so forth will bring death among the congregation before another year is out
But to us, it's the Festival of Pancakes with Huckleberry Jam and Powdered Sugar.

I think Frankie will approve of the Holiday.


Pizza, Lean 'n Thin

I usually don't write about what I ate last night. But, this was kind of interesting. I usually have a lump of dough in the fridge from the baguette recipe. Recall, that's a lean dough, about 3 grams fat (veg shortening) per 500 grams of dough; much less than my pizza dough which has about 25 grams fat (olive oil) per 500 grams (and a little honey). I keep the baguette dough in the fridge (up to a couple days) so we have something on hand to add something special to an otherwise skimpy meal.

Last night Mom was out wining and dining a job candidate and it was me and the kid home for dinner. Table for two and I had no plan. After a brief panic, I took my lean dough, warmed it a bit, and decided to make a couple personal pizzas out of it with some fresh tomato (ugly ripes™, the best!), mozzarella and a bit of Reggiano. Seemed like a promising fix. But would that lean a dough work for a crust? I like my pizza crust with the oil and trace of honey to give it a tender interior, crispy exterior and amber color.

To my (and Frankie's) pleasant surprise, it worked quite well. A bit more chewy than usual but since we let the topped pies rest a good 10-20 minutes (diaper change between pizzas) before shoving them in the 550-deg-F furnace, they bubbled up nicely and were adequately tender. Frankie ate mostly my crusts, a couple pieces of orange and a crayon (purple, I think). She likes sauce more than fresh tomato but the different dough was a nice change.

The image is one just out of the oven and one about to go in on my two peels.


Quick, Call My Agent

Got the TV commercial. Me and my Weber (and dog, of course, she cleans the grate). Got a conference call Wednesday morning at 9:15 to hash out some details. I think I'm going to hold out for Nick Cage as the stunt double. Let you know how it goes.

Update: Cage is busy that day. Filming starts Feb 15th (weather permitting) and I get my choice of a new grill for compensation! Someone pinch me.


Desperation Dinner #1 (Soup)

Our newest favorite quickie:

Collards, Chicken and Beans Soup, serves 2-3
1. Saute onion and a sliver of garlic in olive oil.
2. Add 10 oz. frozen collard greens, a chopped boneless chicken breast and can of cannelini beans.
3. Let simmer while walking the dog, changing a diaper and reading "Everyone Poops" (about 30 minutes).
4. Ladle into bowls, top with grated Reggiano, serve with crusty bread, wait anxiously for Spring and enjoy.


Fresh tomatoes - in Winter?

Last night was pizza night. We made one of our favorites: roasted eggplant, fresh tomato and chevre. The amazing thing I noticed this horrible season of rain, snow and dirt is the tomatoes in the supermarkets are pretty darn good! What a cool surprise. I've been buying a beefsteak type from Michigan and just last night got some killer Romas and used them for our pizza.

During past Winter seasons, supermarket tomatoes have always presented as ripe, red and juicy only to taste mealy and flavorless. But these two examples are really good - and from Giant Eagle of all places. It's good to have them around. Salads, pizzas and our spirits are better for them.

P.S. Pay no attention to the psychotic way I cut this pizza. Frankie gets small squares and we get slices and then I just started making random cuts. Trust me, it tasted MUCH better than it looks here.


We Made the Short List

A note I received last Friday from my contact at Picture Show Films:

Hi Dave-

I hope you had a good holiday season. I just wanted to let you know that you're on the short list of candidates for the Weber spots we're shooting. Weber is still figuring out exactly what they want to do in terms of the number of spots and the products they want to feature, but they really liked your story. I should know more by the middle of next week.
I had a phone interview a few weeks ago. He's making commercials for Weber and I might get in one. He said if the deal goes down, he pulls up with his crew in an RV and shoots improv style all day while I grill. Is that a cool gig or what? Keep you posted.

And for the last time, I did tell them what I looked like. Brad Pitt and Nicholas Cage made the short list for the stunt double.


Pan Size

Note: See update appended.

I was reading about a bread I'd like to try on Let's Cook with Meg and Ted. It's called a Grant Loaf and it seems really quick beginning to end. I especially appreciated the emphasis placed on the size of the baking pan relative to the batch size of the loaf. When baking in a pan (rather than free-form on tiles or something) I believe this is a particularly overlooked parameter. At least, it's been in my experience. I found this cool reference on volumes of popular Pan Size and their volumetric equivalents. Should be a useful reference when creating/planning/scaling a recipe. Just thought I'd share.

Update: You'd think I'd actually pay attention to my own advice. I used an 8 1/2 x 4 x 2 inch pan which was roughly 1100 mL volume (measured by simply adding water to the empty pan; It's tricky to compensate for the bevel in the pan and really wanted an accurate determination of volume. The recipe I decided to use was:

My First Grant Loaf
water, hot tap, ca 110F, 200 g
whole wheat flour, 90 g
rye flour, 90 g
spelt flour, 90 g
honey, ca. 15 g
salt, 5-6 g
rapid rise yeast, 1.5 t, ca. 5 g
Total mass, ca. 500 g

8 minute mix in my bread machine, shaped into a loaf, let proof for 30 minutes, baked at 425 for 30 minutes, popped out of the pan, let cool 20 minutes and ate some. It looked like the earthy crunchy super dense loaves at your least favorite health store. So, right now, no pic. But it tasted great!

The pan size, based on the citation in the first paragraph, was roughly 2 times too big. I think this has a lot to do with the dynamics of baking, the sides covered the loaf rather than the loaf springing past the sides of the pan to be baked. Maybe it won't make a difference, but my next attempt will confirm it. I'll either double the dough size or decrease the pan size. Stay tuned.

One last note: I'm actually not pitching this it tasted so good and I always pitch stuff that frustrates me. Drives my loved one nuts but I can't tolerate inferior baked goods and despite this one's shortcomings, it was quite good. And, I did all before dropping the kid off at daycare.