Food Art

art plate, originally uploaded by Seligman's Dog.

The 12 days of xmas to us is the gap between xmas and new year's in which daycare is closed. It is a fun, yet challenging period of the year. Mom's taking the brunt of the childcare while I work. This afternoon's activity (among many) was paper plate painting.

Not especially environmentally friendly, but fun. And, I was desperate.

Today, a twist. I use a ton of grains, herbs and spices while cooking and this activity took place in the kitchen (near lots of running water and cleaning supplies). Combining the painting with the many ingredients at our disposal, we created this multi-textured piece of art.

First we applied glitter glue and then coated each section with a different material.
Hair: dried parsley. Eyebrows: steel cut oats. Eyes: blackeyed peas. Nose: arborio rice. Mouth: orange lentils. Pretty cool result.


This is a sheet of dough!

this is a sheet of dough!, originally uploaded by Seligman's Dog.

This is a sheet of thinly rolled out dough for ravioli. It started out last night looking like this. With this dough and about 20 sheets like it, Trish, Frankie and I made some of the BEST ravioli of our lives together. They were filled with spinach, ricotta and parmesan (and some nutmeg). I've never quite rolled the dough out so thin. It was quite tough too. I feared the dough might be too tough. Apparently, if it's thin enough, it just can't taste tough. Pretty good pasta experience.

For the ravioli, we used this device. Nice shape and they stay together during boiling.


xmas biscuits

xmas biscuits, originally uploaded by Seligman's Dog.

Finished product of Sunday morning biscuits. Compliments of Frankie.

Biscuits are an intriguing part of my repertoire. Everyone who bakes, makes biscuits. But, they are deceptively simple. Flour, baking powder, salt, some fat and milk, more or less.

These particular biscuits started out like most others I do. I usually make a slack batter and from that drop biscuits. Today, because we wanted to do something a bit more fun, I wanted to make a slightly drier dough, knead it a tad and cut out the biscuits.

So, I took 2 cups of self rise flour (flour, leavening and salt together), cut in about 4T butter and poured in about 3/4 C milk while a cast iron skillet warmed up in a 450-deg-F oven. I fold in the milk until a shaggy mass formed. I flopped the mass onto the counter top and began folding it in half, not quite kneading.

Then, Frankie pushed it out into a squat 6-8" disc. From that, she cut out her shapes. Christmas trees and a gingerbread boy. I separated the dough shapes and placed them in the blazing hot skillet (NOT greased) and baked it for about 15 minutes.

Mrs. DavesBeer told me cutting them with a sharp cutter, like a cookie cutter makes for a good oven spring. She was right. These were high and the texture was flaky and layered. They were amazing. I think these will be our preferred biscuit instead of the drop version.


'twas the night before the night before the night before xmas

'twas the night before the night before the night before
Tomorrow's the day before the night before xmas and we're gearing up for xmas eve dinner: ravioli, smelts, veggies and salad. So tomorrow, Trisha, Frankie and I hit the kitchen for ravioli making. Tonight, I was in the zone making dough.

Traditionally, pasta dough is a cup of flour, an egg, a pinch of salt and a ca. t of olive oil. Eggs, however, have changed in size in the past decade or so. I had to use about 9 eggs to 6 cups of flour.

I piled all the flour (6 C unbleached white and 3t salt, mixed) on the counter and made a well in the middle. I then added a few eggs, some olive oil and began incorporating as much flour as the moisture of the eggs would accept. Then I folded the resulting dough a few times and put it to the side. I kept reiterated this procedure until all the flour was used up. The dough was then cut into 6 or so chunks, kneaded and wrapped in plastic until tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Trish will make a spinach and ricotta mixture, we'll all roll some dough out, make the ravs and put them in the freezer until xmas eve. Yum!

I'm enjoying making fresh pasta these days more than ever. I made several pounds of pasta dough tonight in about 30 minutes. I'm going to continue making pasta and eventually get into some nice grainy versions.

Final dough rolled out here.

My dough tip? I use a (dedicated equipment) 8" putty knife to help me fold and knead dough. Beats a pastry blade. Bigger, easier to handle and lots cheaper.


Kneadless baguette with a trace of olive oil

baguette, kneadless
Kneadless process, olive oil, 2% w/w (20 g/kg dough).

Couple big changes to the baguette thing lately making the bread approximately the same crustiness, equivalent flavor and much less difficult. My time-tested baguette process is being rapidly replaced.

My aspiration is to make a quick video of it. But, for now, words.
The recipe for two one pounders:

1. Add to mixing bowl in this order:
water (room temp), 1 2/3 C (400 mL)
rapid rise packet of yeast
olive oil, 1T (ca. 15 grams)
salt, 2 t (10 grams)
swirl bowl
unbleached white flour, 4 1/4 C, not packed, loose, level

2. Mix with wooden spoon until it balls up.
3. Cover bowl containing shaggy mess with towel (don't let it touch sticky dough) and let rise for about 1-1.5 hours. If you use warm water, the mass will puff up rapidly.
4. Preheat the oven to 450-deg-F.
5. Flour the puffy mass generously with flour.
6. Punch down and gather the dough ball, divide in two pieces and "round it" as previously described.
7. Let rest in a ball for 10 minutes (no need to cover for this short a period).
8. Form into a baguette shape, again, as described in the original procedure.
9. Allow the baguettes to proof on the counter top dusted with flour and covered with a dish towel. No problem if the towel touches the surface, let proof for about 12-15 minutes.
10. Take the risen loaf and gently put it on the baguette pan. I use an 8" spackle knife in the kitchen and use this to gently lift the loaf with another spatula so I don't deflate it en route.
11. Dust top of loaves with flour again and slash vents in the top. Use a razor sharp knife (serrated or smooth) and cut FAST so you don't tear the loaf (this takes practice and is critical).
12. Place the pan in the lower third of the oven and close the door.
13. Open the door and toss a ca. 1/2 C of water on the floor of the oven to create a lasting plume of steam.
14. Cook until loaves are amber colored. Color is a perfect endpoint. Approximately 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes or so and cut in.




We'll eat well tonight
Every few months I take my starter out of the fridge, scrape off the mold, refresh it a few times and start a sourdough loaf. I usually never make a soudough baguette because of the logistical problem of how to do the final proof.

The final proof of a sourdough loaf needs a lot of time (usually retarded in a fridge overnight). If I use the baguette pan for the final proof, the dough embeds itself into the perforations and won't release when it cooks.

This time I let the final proof go in the fridge on top of a piece of parchment on a sheet pan, loosely covered with plastic for 24 hours. Then, without warming to ambient temp., I floured the loaf and flipped it into my baguette pan and cooked it @ 425-deg-F (convection) with a steam shot. Awesome.

The recipe I used was starter (thick, 150 grams), water (150 grams), flour (unbleached and some fresh milled from wheat berries (using a coffee mill, ca 75 grams wheat berries, 150 grams regular unbleached white). I let it rise for 2 days in the fridge. Punched down/20 minute rest. Final proof as mentioned above.

Can't wait to cut in!


Merguez, Chickpeas and Swiss Chard

A while back, I found my best food find in Columbus. Mediterranean Food Imports carries merguez, a spicy (but, not too hot) Tunisian sausage. It's deep red and when sauteed, it renders some deep red colored fat. It tastes wonderful.

I started with about 1/3 to 1/2 pound of merguez sliced thin and sauteed in a high sided 6 qt pan. Once the sausage was cooked (about 7 minutes on medium), cleaned swiss chard leaves (a bunch, sliced in ribbons), a drained 15 oz can of chickpeas, a pinch of salt and ca. 1/4 C of water was added. The pan was covered and allowed to simmer on low for 10 minutes. In the meantime the couscous was prepared. After 10 minutes on low, the chard was cooked perfectly, wilted but not soggy. The mixture was served on top of a pile of couscous. It was absolute heaven!

Why no picture? None left. A welcome part of our dinner repertoire from now on.


Farewell 'til next season

basilFew things in life are better than fresh basil. The leaves themselves are slightly bitter and oozing with juicy volatile goodness.

Every season, we plant a few seedlings, clip them as if they were a bonsai and end the season with spindly plants that flower and achieve low yields of the leaves we tried so hard to foster. This season was quite different. Instead of this "depression era mentality" of saving it all for the end, I started harvesting leaves as soon as they were available. From anywhere and not caring about the plant's future. I wanted the basil and I wasn't going to let them go to seed.

Interestingly, the more I tore off, the more they grew. In the beginning of the season (end of May, I started harvesting), I used scissors to get my fix. Then, as days got busier and dinner prep time grew shorter for one reason or another, I attacked the plant and just ripped off the leaves. And, they just kept growing - robustly. We now have 3 basil shrubs outside with more tasty leaves than we've ever had before. My friend Gary who's an extraordinary gardener, was amazed. He kept asking how carefully I harvested the leaves and I told him I just kind of attacked it. He was stunned. I am a total basil fanatic now and have grown a new appreciation of this robust herb. It'll kill me to see them wither on the first frost. But, next season, they're going in early and I'm tearing in quickly. Can't wait.


Weber mod cold smoking action shots

Frankie and the mighty Mustangs will engage in their first soccer game ever (hopefully). In preparation, I'm fooling with the video camera and trying to figure out how to get a clip published on YouTube for the family and friends to view (clips can be private and email invites can be used for viewing). I only have Windows Movie Maker for editing. Not good but adequate to grab a clip from a stream.

One of my practice vids is some action shots of my smoker apparatus. It only took about two years of weekends to finish. And, it's not done yet. Today I'm smoking salmon. Really smoking - not cooking. Take a look.

And, here's my attempt at cedar, cold-smoked Salmon. Yum.

I also have plans to do my superfast, super good baguette. Stay tuned.


Basil hydroponics?

basilI clipped a small bunch of basil on my way in the house one weeknight and forgot what I was going to use it for so I stuffed it into some water to see if it would survive until I could use it. That was about 2 weeks ago! Now, I noticed it's thriving quite nicely. Click on the image for a bigger view. It's pretty awesome. I'm conisidering getting a perforated clear plastic piece to place over a pool of water to set up a mini hydroponic garden to see if I can use my basil for a chunk of the winter. It's my favorite herb and I LOVE to cook with it all the time. Keep you posted.


Pulled Pork Tonight/Tomorrow

picnicI've only tried barbecue overnight once and my heat died during the night. Tonight, after a great deal of reading my new favorite place to hang out, the forums on Virtual Weber Bullet, I found some modifications to a Weber grill to get me throuh the night easily. I made a bank of bricks to contain the coals and mesquite tidily against the side for a long burn indirect cooking of a sexy little 3.5 lb. picnic roast I picked up at Giant-Eagle today.

Tough to monitor in the early stages however. We've only been in this home less than a year and I just noticed the backyard is totally black at night. Kind of cool. I was only able to get this shot by pointing my camera in the dark and used the flash to see what was going on. This shot is about 2 hours into the cooking. Cracked about a 1/8 on the bottom vents and full open on the top.

I think I'll lose a bit of sleep tonight thinking about tomorrow night's meal. In the morning, I'll wrap it, put it in the fridge and take the kid on a wild day of activity. Tomorrow night, we feast.

"Hot meat, hot meat" Frankie will chant. Going to kill me if she becomes a vegetarian at 13.

pulled yumminessDamn, fire went out during the night because I didn't read the "Bullet Post" thoroughly enough. I was supposed to use the minion method to do the burn. Next time I guess. For now, I just fired it back up for a few more hours. When I found the grill out, the meat was still hot. Let it rip another few hours, wrapped it a couple hours and it pulled beautifully. It was a tad dry but really good. Frankie said "It's great Papa!". I don't get that too often, high praise indeed.


Cold Smoking: Weber mod, v 2.0

cold smoker

In my previous version of the Weber mod, I was essentially cooking, not smoking since my dome temperature was 150-deg-F. Since then I made the several changes. I'll point out all the features of the new version and indicate which are alterations to the old one.

1. Dome, no change here. Just a thermometer inserted to monitor the temperature near the food.

2. The Thunderbelly insert (caution: most horribly designed site in the world with loud music), used, as before, to position food further from the heat/smoke source.

3. The drilled out bottom to permit the smoke into the Weber kettle, no change.

4. The 6" to 4" ductpipe reducer. Perfect to fit an inverted 28 oz. can of tomatoes (empty, 6 in 1 brand). This is a big change. I drilled about 6 3/8" holes in the bottom of the can. This permits less smoke to go through the can as my previous much larger aperature. I believe this slows down the combustion of the wood resulting in:
a. reduction of billowing clouds of mesquite smoke all over the neighborhood,
b. my neighbors' comfort because they don't have to smell the billowing clouds of smoke all day,
c. our clothes and home won't smell of mesquite all day from the billowing clouds of smoke and,
d. the smoldering wood will last much longer (a ca. 2.5" cube smoldered about 6 hours).

5. Using my chimney/smoke conduit on top of a cast iron pan greatly reduced the dome temperature. The cast iron pan got really hot, but since the heat is essentially outside the system, it dissipates into the environment much better than the previous version. On a 80-deg-F day with no wind, I was able to keep the dome temperature at a steady 105-deg-F to 110-deg-F. Still on the high end of cold smoking, but on a cooler day, with a light breeze, this may be perfect for a 24 hour period of smoking, perfect for salmon or trout.

6. 650 W hotplate set on M, no change.

This was just a dry run with no food in the chamber. I have a couple more ideas to implement before a food run. Keep you posted.


Best Feta in Columbus

Mediterranean Food Imports is my favorite ethnic market in the city. On the southwest corner of Dodridge and N. High the market has a wide variety of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food not easily found anywhere else in the city. Over the past 5 years it's been through several owners and now it seems to be the best it's ever been.

Their best product is probably their feta. They carry Egyptian, Bulgarian, French and Greek styles. The Egyptian is probably their best seller; it's the mildest and creamiest of all the varieties.

My second favorite staple of theirs is their variety of grains and legumes. Lentils of all varieties and any mesh size of cracked wheat you can imagine. They even have Israeli couscous (sometimes called Maftoul, a larger mesh size couscous, awesome for this dish). And, now, bonus, a muslim butcher is on board. They have halal meats including Merguez sausage, a Tunesian sausage that's spicy and wonderful. I first experienced this delicacy at a Moroccan restaurant in Paris several years ago. It was heavenly. I've never seen it anywhere in Columbus.

They also have a huge variety of olives, olive oil, labne, dolmados, etc. If you haven't been there, you're missing out on one of Columubus' finest food gems.

ps An interesting recipe using merguez sausage.


Not quite cold smoked salmon

salmonMy cold smoker mod kind of shit the bed. Click on the photo to bring you to the Flickr slideshow of the project to this point.

The major problem is I ended up smoking at 150-deg-F. Hot smoking is at 225-deg-F and cold smoking should be at about 80-deg-F. Alton Brown smokes his salmon at 150 for 5 hours and I did too. But, I was shooting for several days at 80 degrees. I think I have to make the heat source even further removed from the smoking chamber.

I'll take what I have, let it rest and see what it tastes like. Maybe it'll be good enough. Keep you posted.

Notes 06-Aug-2007:
1. The fish was un-frickin'-believable. A tad dry, but I rushed the brining because Frankie demanded we go bowling (like, really fast).

2. The heat source is a bit of a problem and I'm working on switching to a food-quality liquid wax to heat the wood to smoldering (as I'm writing this, I have a dry run going). This is because the hotplate, while effective, smolders the wood too fast. A 3" cube of mesquite decomposed completely in about 3-4 hours. If I turn the hotplate down lower, it doesn't smolder at all. Also, the hotplate heats too much and the design wasn't effective enough at dissipating the heat. Maybe it'd work if it were 30-deg-F. But I want to smoke year 'round.

I want a near thermal-free smoke source.

3. Anyway, I have a pound of wonderfully smoky salmon that we'll enjoy tomorrow night on a bed of greens with warm lentils on the side and a sesame/soy/rice vinegar dressing. Yum. Not a bad first shot.


Ramming Speed

brewingA couple weeks ago, I had another Father's Day! My wife entertained the kid while I brewed a soon-to-be-sampled batch of my English-style ale. I brew on a circa 1920's cast iron Oriole stove in a 50 liter stainless steel pot I bought from Italy. It's a nice combination of brew equipment.

The fermentation went swell starting at an original gravity of 1.052 and ending with a crisp 1.010 for an alcohol content about 5.5% by volume. I kegged it up, dropped about 20 psi CO2 on the headspace and I think it's almost ready for tasting. All that's needed is for the CO2 to finish dissolving into the brew and for clarification and it's finally ready. It's the maiden voyage brew in the new home.

If it tastes good, I'll be inviting some fellow food bloggers for a taste soon. Watch your email.


Cold Smoking: The Heat Source

DSCN1115One requirement for cold smoking is a constant source of low heat to smolder wood. This is most commonly achieved using a hot plate and pan with wood chips in it. But, it's energy intensive and requires an outlet outside for the duration of smoking.

I wondered if a kerosene tealight (or paraffin) would do the trick. This could be placed inside a can (with ventilation holes) and on top of that can, wood chips in another can. I tried this using a citronella/kerosene tealight (I wouldn't use this in the future because of the citronella, but for proof of principle). The piggy-backed cans were placed inside my funky Weber-Kettle mod and voila! Within minutes, it was filled with mesquite smoke. And barely any heat generated. Since these little tealights can go for 12-18 hours, it should be a convenient source of fuel.

The big question, which will have to be tested on a piece of real food is: Does the food acquire any flavor from the burning kerosene? I suspect, since the kerosene is well contained in these tealights and if the combustion of it in the wick is complete, all the flavor should come from the choice of wood used for smoldering.


Whole Grain Naan

Grainy NaanThis Sunday on the way home from swimming, Trish asked if I could make some naan for the dish she was preparing (a special lamb and spinach Indian dish). When she says "naan" she's being generous. I make flatbreads that are closer to a pita than naan.

Well, not this time. I used a basic bread recipe and to cook, I chose my trusty Weber Q because it has a nice cast-iron grill surface. I heated it up to the highest I could, lubed up the grill with spray oil and plopped on my dough discs. They didn't puff up like my usual flatbreads (I usually do them in the oven). About 4 minutes per side gets nice small burn marks and the breads are heavenly. I only made 4 big ones. Here's the recipe I used:

Grainy Naan Dough
water, room temperature, 150 g
honey, 10 g/2 t
olive oil, 17 grams/1 T
yeast, rapid rise, 1 packet
salt, 5 g/1 t
swirl contents until honey's dissolved.
unbleached white flour, 150 grams
grainy flour (I used a 1:1:1 mixture of rye, wheat, spelt), 75 grams
Mix with large spoon until it balls up and then kneed briefly. Let rise an hour or so. Punch down and divide into 4 balls. Press the balls out to about an 8" disc using flour to keep them from getting sticky. Let rest and preheat the grill to the highest setting. Toss the dough on (I can fit about two on my grill at a time). Within a few minutes, they'll be sturdy enough to flip with a pair of tongs. Let cool and serve. Unbelievable.

feedback from the family:
There were 4 breads made from this batch. The thickest one tasted the best. The thinner ones were a little thin and cracker-like but the thicker one (depicted in the image above) was nice and floppy and tender.


Weber Kettle Mod - Cold Smoking: Proof of Principle

cold smokerI have the itch to do some cold smoking. I'm especially looking forward to salmon and trout. Cold smoking is simple; it's simply a process of bathing food in smoke but in the temperature range of approximately 10 deg above ambient to not more than 110-deg-F for a long time (18-24 hours). Therein lies the challenge. Finding a cheap piece of equipment (because I'm frugal) that can maintain a constant low temperature for at least that long is no small trick.

I took an old Weber Kettle I had from the trash and removed the bottom mechanism to permit the bottom vents to stay full open. I hypothesized if I could get the heat source below the kettle (rather than inside), I should be able to waft the smoke into the kettle keeping the temperature inside the kettle cool enough for smoking. In order to keep the cooking surface as far from the heat source as possible, I affixed a Thunderbelly stainless collar to my kettle (the cooking surface is on top of this collar). Then I used my starter chimney and built an 8 briquette fire in it, tossed in some mesquite shavings on top of the briquettes and shimmed it up close to the bottom of the kettle. In this configuration, the heat source is approximately half way in the chimney which serves to deliver the smoke to the bottom vents while most of the heat dissipates to the surroundings.

Monitoring the dome with a thermocouple inserted (with the vent full open), a temperature of approximately 95-105-deg-F (ambient temp 80-deg-F) was achieved for hours! Unfortunately, I could only hold this temperature for ca. 6 hours. Then, I'd have to charge more fuel and this would be annoying in the timeframe required for this process. Overcharging the chimney would likely result in too much heat generated.

This rig needs to be rock stable for at least 18 hours and since it's a long time, it also needs to be nearly maintenance free - I don't want to have to go out in my yard in the middle of the night (to fight a racoon).

In my next attempt, I'm going to use a hot plate and cast iron skillet to smoke wood pieces below the chimney. I'll still use the chimney as my smoke conduit.

A good first attempt, but I'm now waiting to find a hot plate at the thrift store. Keep you posted.


Baba Ghanouj, an old friend.

Baba GhanoujEver make one of those meals that you immediately thought to yourself "why don't we have this more often?". Last night we wanted something simple and made one of our favorites Baba Ghanouj. It's so simple, healthy and we don't have it nearly as often as we should.

I took a medium/large eggplant and baked it on the gas grill until the shell was charred black (my wife started it actually). I took the charry eggplant and, with a potato masher, squashed it and pressed the flesh from it's charred body. The skin was pulled out of the bowl and to the bowl was added salt (1 t) the juice of a lemon, tahini (60 g, 1/4 C), some (nice quality) dried parsely, a couple tablespoons of olive oil and continued to mash away with my potato masher (an Egyptian woman I used to work with did it this way rather than a food processor to get a slightly chunkier texture). Depicted is the result. It was served with warmed pitas and fresh chopped veggies. A lovely Summer meal.


An interesting meat sauce

meat_sauceThe past few weekends, we've had friends over for a simple barbecue. Just burgers and dogs on the grill. Fast easy, lends itself to the host actually enjoying the company. But, we found ourselves building up the supply of uneaten smoky-flavored burgers. I put them in the freezer and finally decided to use them.

Although I'm in the school of cooking meat raw in tomato sauce (rather than sauteeing it first), I had to make use of the cooked meat. Unfortunately, cooked burgers can be kind of tough after sitting around. I sauteed a few slivers of garlic (we go easy on the garlic in my home), some chopped onion, my new favorite canned tomatoes, 6 in 1 and tossed in those burgers just cut in half and let it barely simmer for a few hours. I then mashed up the burgers with a potato masher and voila, meat sauce with a subtle smoky hint to it.

We ate it with whole wheat pasta for a robust and flavorful meal. This is what remained of Frankie's portion (we helped a bit).


Kid Friendly Restaurants in Columbus?

Kevin Joy from the Dispatch emailed me today asking about kid-friendly restaurants. Here's an excerpt:

Basically, I'm trying to find restaurants around town that either have:

a) more upscale children's menus
b) healthier children's menus
c) no kids meals at all, but do have, at times, a family clientele...such as the time I saw kids eating sushi at Haiku.

I'd be interested to hear any suggestions, if you've heard stories or had experiences with any of the above. Feel free to forward to anyone that might want to share their two cents.

[upscale children's menu? Hmmm, I'm thinking Kevin doesn't have children]
My general guidelines on dining with a wildly energetic kid are the following:

-Any restaurant that has crayons immediately available is good.
-We try desperately not to go to fast food because there's good stuff out there for just as cheap (still happens on occasion).
-I'm afraid we're destined for noisy places with the kids, because they just can't sit still longer than the time it takes to eat (about 15 minutes if you're lucky, my daughter's now 4).

Our family's picks so far:

1. Believe it or not, Hometown Buffet, is pretty good. It's a chain but their veggies are cooked well, they have an amazing variety of foods, our friends are vegetarians and love it there too, it's rowdy as hell so no one cares if the kid jumps up and runs around. Food is lightly flavored with just s&p (probably) and the kid only costs a dollar per year of age. Good food, cheap, loud, tolerant. Sorry it's not sexier.

2. Maybe not the healthiest fare, but kid-friendly is Pig Iron BBQ (N. High). Crayons at the ready, a nice selection on the kids menu (not just mac 'n cheese, etc.). Good for the adults too! And, they're very nice to kids.

3. Healthier. Whole World Bakery. It's a vegetarian/vegan place on N. High. My daughter loves the hummous platter (hummous and fresh veggies). And we like vegetarian fare too. Pretty cheap, very kid friendly, about $20 for all 3 of us.

4. Haiku (NOT kid-friendly). We ate at Haiku when my girl was about 18 months. We went early so it was ok. But all the hipsters who came in the door avoided our table like E. Coli. It's funny, young people are the least tolerant of children in a restaurant, whereas the older set often look at a screaming child and smirk (I suspect they're relfecting on their past).

5. Sher-E-Punjab we hear is excellent. Vegetarian buffet on Tuesday nights and our friends tell us it's kid-friendly. Haven't tried it yet. Definitely will soon!

6. Cafe Shish Kebab. We went there with another couple and their 4-year old. I hate to stereotype middle eastern-run restaurants, but I'll make an exception here. The waitstaff are always wonderful with children. I don't know why, but every restaurant we've tried is great, the former Turkish Cuisine when it was on High was great, Cafe Istanbul in Easton was kid-friendly (but food was mediocre at times). The cuisine in general is flavorful and beautifully spiced without being to much for the little guys and Frankie's a big meat eater (she eats lots of good food). At Cafe Shish Kebab she loved the donner kebab. Not bad price either.

Add your favorites in the comments or send them to Kevin Joy of the Dispatch (kjoy@dispatch.com).


Cornbread with Flaxseed

Cornbread with flax seeds(click on the image for a better view)

I must confess, my favorite cornbread, until now, has been Jiffy. But, recently, I bought some corn tortilla chips with flaxseed embedded in them and just couldn't forget them. Grainy, corny and I absolutely love flaxseed. Like flavorful, nutty sesame seeds. So the other night, I began to formulate a cornbread recipe that would be, hopefully, as tasty as Jiffy with a bit more grain to it.

The cooking method is pretty critical, even with the Jiffy mix. The cornbread mixture is cooked in a 9" cast iron pan that's been preheated in a 450-deg-F oven and in the last few minutes of that preheating time, I add some reserved pork fat (ca. 1T). The hot pan guarantees a good oven spring and a killer crisp crusty cornbread.

So here's the basic recipe. I look forward to having fun with this basic recipe like adding corn or cheddar, etc. Enjoy.

Dave's Killer Cornbread with Flaxseed
1. Preheat oven to 450-deg-F and place a 9" cast iron pan in there during the preheating.

2. Ingedients:
coarse cornmeal, 1 C
unbleached white flour, 1 C
flaxseed, 1/4 C
sugar, 2 T
baking soda, 1/2 t
baking powder, 2 t
salt, 1 t (5 grams)

milk, 2/3 C
vegetable oil, 1/4 C
egg, 1

3. Prep
Mix dry ingredients, mix liquid ingredients, dump wet into dry and blend until just mixed and let rest about 10 full minutes. Add some fat to your preheating pan. Remove hot pan from oven (place on potholder, it's wicked hot) and dump in rested batter. Don't worry about leveling it out. Place in oven and bake about 15 (until golden on top) minutes. Remove from oven and invert pan to place the hot cornbread on cooling rack. Allow a good 15 minutes to cool and dig in. Yum.


House of Fiber or an Alternative Style Chili

Chicken, black bean, corn chiliIf you want to be a chili purist, go dice your sirloin in perfect 1/4" cubes and find out the rest of the specifications of "real chili", but, like anything, even perfect purists' chili, can get boring.

For some time, we've been having pearled barley simmered in stock and lightly seasoned as an alternative to rice on the side. The other day, while buying some pearled barley, I accidentally bought fast cooking pearled barley (Quaker brand). Not quite the same but it had a neat sounding recipe for a chicken chili on the back. I modified it a bit, spicewise, and it was pretty darn good. I just can't resist corn and black beans together.

Chicken, black bean, corn and barley chili
Onion (1 med. chopped) and garlic (1 clove slivered), sauteed in olive oil, 2T
Ancho chili powder, 2t
chicken (about 2 C chopped, leftovers, cooked)
cumin (fresh ground), salt, pepper to taste
black beans (14 oz. can not drained)
corn (15 oz. can not drained)
tomatoes, ca. 15 oz, fresh or canned
quick cook pearled barley
water to desired thickness

I put in everything except the barley and let gently simmer for 2 hours. During the last half hour, I added the barley. Then served topped with tortilla chips and cheddar (ran out of sour cream, would've been a nice topping).


Whole wheat pasta?

whole wheat pasta?Let's not go into details, but simply say the family's trying to get a bit more grainy and a bit more fiber into the diet, and hopefully without using supplements. We're eating lots of veggies with dinner, some meat's been substituted by veggies and legumes and I think we're doing well without losing much of what we genuinely like to eat.

The newest addition to our diet recently made its premiere appearance the other night. Whole wheat pasta; 5 g fiber compared to 2g fiber/serving for regular durum dry.* We served it with a tomato sauce in which had been cooked sweet italian sausages.

Results? I don't know. I think I need another taste (tonight). It was definitely noticeable and I wasn't immediately thrilled. The texture is nearly the same as regular durum pasta but the taste was definitely ... can't quite describe it but .. more. A lot like the difference between bad white and wheat bread. Not that regular durum is anything like white bread but the comparison is about the same. Anyone else have any opinions on trying this type of pasta?

I think next we'll switch back to regular pasta and bulk up the fiber using greens and beans like Lisa's Pasta Dish (scroll to bottom of post).

*This reminds me of Nancy Silverton's concern of unbleached white versus wheat flours in breadmaking when it comes to the health benefits. She says unbleached white has fewer natural components because of the processing but is enriched with vitamins, whereas whole wheat flour contains much more of the grain, but the added components (germ, husks, etc.) are not as bioavailable and pass through. So, the two may be similar healthwise and the benefits of the switch between durum and whole wheat pasta may be moot.


I think weber_cam is back online

pizza tossThis food blog, in its original form, is dead. I'm now continuing it with a lighter note. Any food fancy I have gets posted because food is fun. Gone are the days of the tediously-prepared fancy things. Now are the heavy parenting days where we try to convey to Frankie that food is special and how it's related to family, friends and fun and never to be taken for granted.

Last night, we had a few friends over for pizza and Mario, with my cheapo camera with its infinite shutter delay, worked with me tossing dough to catch this shot. I don't usually toss pizza dough. It's pretentious and unnecessary, but fun. The pizzas were nice. Most pizzas were minimally topped with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella but one fancy one (our personal favorite) was topped with grilled eggplant, caramelized onions, tomatoes and chevre. It proved to be a crowd pleaser.

And I got to toss dough.

So, for the future of the weber_cam, look for silly food-related items, cheapo, kid-friendly ethnic dining in Columbus (got a few nice ones in the queue) and whatever else I feel like.

Tomorrow we're serveing grilled shrooms 'n tofu, lentils & rice (seasoned with fenugreek), grilled squash and zucchini, and burgers and dogs all around (it IS Memorial Day weekend after all).


200+300+500, my new formula

whole grain bouleThe thing I'm learning about sourdough starters is how robust they are. Here's a quick tale and I'll eventually elaborate this to try to prepare it on a weeknight.

I took my starter out of the fridge yesterday morning. The dead looking thing had liquid on top and a claylike sediment. Probably weighed about 50 grams.

I poured off the liquid and added water (ca. 100 g) and swirled it until the suspension was homogenous. Then I added about 125 grams of flour and stirred it up into a thick batter. It was bubbly within hours.

That night, I took 200 grams of this starter, diluted it with 300 grams room temperature tap water (300 grams) and swirled to get a homogenous suspension, poured it into my bread machine and added 500 grams of flour. About 350 grams unbleached white and then a mixture of rolled oats, oat bran, spelt flour, rye and wheat to get up to the 500 grams. Then let it knead in my bread machine about 5 minutes and let it rest. After about 10 minutes, I added salt (10 grams) and let the mass knead in the machine an additional 15 minutes. It was a pretty stiff ball. I dumped it on the counter. Total weight, about a kilo. I put it into my rising container and let it rise overnight (about 8 hours) until it grew to about 2L in volume.

I sprinkled it with flour, punched it down, rounded it and let it rest an hour and went shopping. Then I did the same thing. Punched it down, rounded it and put it in my heavily-floured brotform proofing basket covered with a dish towel to let rise (about 2 hours). Looked almost doubled. I preheated my oven, dumped it onto a perforated baking sheet, scored it and placed it into a 425-deg-F oven to bake for 45 minutes.

Final weight, 800 g. What a crust! I think the best part of whole grains as part of the flour make-up (ca. 20-30% by weight) is how robust the fermentations can be. No sluggish rising for this yeast-free loaf (no added commercial yeast anyway). The final loaf was light, the crust crisp and near perfect. A great bread for tonight's gorgonzola and salad. Bread, cheese and salad nights are our absolute favorite meals. Simplicity.

I'll be doing the same thing over weeks to come but feeding the starter and doing the main fermentation of the dough in the fridge over a couple days and doing the final proof at night to have a steady and predictable supply of good bread during the week.

Unfortunately, a boule's so large the cool-down time is lengthy and we won't be able to eat the goodies until the next day. Maybe that's no so bad. Poilâne thought his breads were best on their fourth day! I don't remember where I read that but I'll look and get back to you.


Simplest Ribs Imaginable

ribs_low_n_slowThe gang here at Dave's Beer is in the middle of the crazy week we call "Frankie's Birthday". Actually on Wednesday, but the partying started on Sunday. Needless to say, we're busy and getting some home-cooked food on the table is challenging.

I've had the hankering for ribs and didn't have time to fire up the grill. So, in anticipation of Tuesday's dinner, I bought some baby backs, gave them a rub down and plopped them in the oven at 10 pm at 225-deg-F and let 'em rip until 6 the next morning. Woke up, wrapped them in foil, walked the dog and let the heavenly smell guide me through the rest of the morning scramble. They looked like this when I wrapped them up.

Tuesday night, I warmed up the foil package at 300-deg-F for a half hour and chopped them apart. They were delicate, moist and nearly perfect. I cooked some greens and served them with some bread (and fresh carrots for Frankie, a staple of hers).

What an awesome midweek treat!

(Sorry Biggles, got to have meat, even if not smoked properly.)


Desperation Chicken with Cashews

chicken_with_cashewsTonight's scheduled dinner was taco salad. Boring. We do it too much. Had this recipe sitting on my desk for weeks and picked it up and realized I had almost everything I needed to make it for tonight. Frankie didn't like it but it was a lightning fast prep and really good. And, it had thinly sliced cucumbers in it! Really interesting twist.

Chicken and Cashews
Quick marinade while chopping other stuff:
rice vinegar, 1/4 C
water, 1/4 C
cornstarch, 2 T
sesame oil, 2 T
soy sauce, 1 T

Mix and plop in thinly sliced boneless chicken breast (3/4 lb I think).
Let marinate about 20 minutes.

Have ready: green onions (bunch, sliced thin), red bell pepper (thin slices), ginger (finely shaved and chopped), garlic (few slivers), mini seedless cucumbers (thinly sliced), cilantro (fresh, chopped, 2 T), toasted cashews (whole, 1/2 C), water.

Ready, set, go ...
Heat pan with sesame oil (2T) and soy oil (1T) and toss in chicken (not quite a stir fry but hot and cook quick). Then add red peppers, ginger, garlic and let mixture cook until the bell pepper is softened a bit. Then toss in nuts, onions, cucumbers and cilantro some water and heat a few minutes. Serve over rice.

After the dish, I read the recipe (I usually memorize the recipe before I get home from work for speed) again and realized I was supposed to have some brown sugar in the marinade. Next time.


Braising, the lazy cook's method

Originally uploaded by Seligman's Dog.
Trish has been out of town since Wednesday and I'm starting to wither. I get Frankie in daycare by 7:30, go to work (rest 8 hours) pick her up and get in about 5, set her up with Sponge Bob (she goes into a trance), feed the cat, walk the dog, get dinner cooking and attempt to get us fed by 6, dog out to pee again, bath at 7, DVD for the kid for 30 min., read Frankie 3-6 books, put her to sleep, put her to sleep again, put her to sleep again, dog out to pee once more, she then stays asleep anywhere from 8-10 pm. Then, I crash soon after. It's grueling.

Single parents are GODS.

After Frankie went to sleep last night, woke up and went to sleep again, I dashed to the kitchen and took two of the most unappetizing looking frozen boneless breasts of farmed protein and tossed them into some onions, garlic, some chili sauce (conspicuously close to ketchup), a hefty dash of Old Bay, some ancho chili powder that I made, a T of brown sugar, a dash of worcestershire (I don't give a shit if it's misspelled), salt, pepper, a 1/2 C or so of water, covered it and set it on a low burner all night (about a full 6 hours).

The next morning, a beautiful scent filled our home and the chicken had taken on the appearance and texture of pulled pork (a food Frankie usually eats happily and chants "hot meat" when she eats it). I took it out when we got home tonight and heated it up.

Tastes wonderful, let you know if the kid likes it.

Mom, come home!!


I tried to resist ...

Every Friday night, Trish and I pick up Frankie and go out for dinner. It's a fun ritual I've come to look forward to. We dine at a variety of (kid-friendly = LOUD) restaurants; anything from the heavenly Pig Iron Grill to Whole World, a vegetarian place. Last Friday, we went to the latter. Frankie got a hummous platter (hummous and veggies), Trish got smoked beans in tomato sauce over cornbread and I got a tofu sloppy joe sammich topped with sprouts on a hamburger bun (whole wheat of course). The last three times we've been there, I've liked it more and more. I keep trying to resist so I can fulfill my meatly needs, but I just keep getting lucky with their menu.

A few weeks ago, I got their version of Gado-Gado. Gado-gado is and Indonesian dish whose preparation varies greatly depending on the source. Basically, it's steamed veggies on rice with a peanut sauce over it all. Whole World's variation made a stew of veggies in peanut sauce which was ladled over rice. Unbelievable. I still have fond memories of it. They also have a HUGE variety of veggie burgers (soy, veggie, lentil or rice-based). Every variety I've tried so far is pretty darn good.

So, if you crave meat, go to Pig Iron; if you can do without, Whole World won't disappoint.

Kale, sausage, gmelli, pine nuts, raisins & grilled cheese (and my failure to give my daughter a nutritious meal)

Kale, sausage, gmelli, pine nuts, raisins & grilled cheeseThe other night, I had prepared a favorite of ours. Kale, braised with a touch of garlic for a couple hours, combined with toasted pine nuts, gmelli, sauteed Italian sausage and raisins with a healthy dose of olive oil. A good hearty meal for a cold night.

Instead of trying to get this meal past Frankie, I caved like a sopping-wet piece of cardboard and just made her a grilled cheese so I could enjoy my meal without a 40 minute negotiation session on eating a couple bites of the meal.

It worked, but I still feel the guilt.

Original recipe for this dish. Enjoy.


Sunday Morning Waffles

Sunday Morning WafflesI'm one of the few who don't like Silverton's book. I think her starter preparation is tedious and unnecessary. Starters are robust and don't need to be fed and nurtured 3 times a day. You can let them turn green, shave off the mold and perk 'em up again with a few replenishments of flour and water. Catching them at their prime for optimal leavening ... now that takes a skilled baker and LOTS of practice.

The only recipe from her book I absolutely love is her sourdough waffles. It's robust and easy. A friend of mine gave me some of the starter prepared by her method and I've kept it for years (thanks Gary!). I refreshed it a bit this weekend in preparation for Sunday waffles. Kind of a regular thing in our house. I altered the recipe a tad to incorporate cornmeal to give the waffles an interesting extra flavor. They were unbelievable and we had plenty to freeze.

Silverton's Waffles - modified a bit by me.
Night Before:
white starter, ca. 1 cup
unbleached white flour, 1 C
cornmeal, 1/2 C
milk, 250 g (ambient temp)
butter, 114 g (melted and cooled a bit)
salt, 1.5 t
brown sugar, 1 T
-Mix and let sit 8-14 hours covered with a towel.

Next morning:
Add two whisked eggs and 1/4 t baking soda
Mix, will be a thick batter

Make waffles (I never lube the waffle iron)


Panini Press

Alright, this blog shits the bed in frequency of posting. And, now, in quality.

But, I couldn't resist disclosing this one. I love a hot grilled sandwich. Last night for dinner, I was pressed for time (as usual with both working, daycare, etc.) and I went for a quickie but goody. My Mom's panini press did the trick. We had cheese and mortadella on oat bran bread. Sounds weird, but kids like weird things. We had our sandwiches and a vast selection of crunchy veggies on the side and voila! Dinner.

So, toss those fancy panini irons and use a piece of foil and an iron on high. Butter the outsides of the bread, put favorite fillings in sandwich, place the sandwich in foil folded in half and grill a few minutes on each side. My favorite is thinly sliced cheddar and thinly sliced tomato on a good crusty white.

Thanks Ma.


The Results

Peforated Pan/Brotform Loaf In yesterday's post, I babbled about the opportunity to use of this nifty new pan and bannetton I was using to bake a boule with nice volume and crackly crust.

Although, my recipe was only a quick rise dough, the results were very nice. The crust, initially was crackly and the interior tender; after cooling, because it was slightly enriched (with olive oil and honey), the crust became softer but still maintained some tooth.

The real victory of the day came using these tools and this kneadless process. I've been somewhat obsessed ever since I watched this video and I had an amazing success story yesterday. When I get reproducibility on it, you'll be the first I tell. I used the recipe, but my own cooking method.


On humidity, perforation and the Brotform

Perforated thin panbrotform
It's about frigging time for a new post. Giada's nuts was a good chuckle, but it's time to move on.

Historically, I've had problems achieving good crackly crust on anything but my baguette. I think it's primarily an issue of humidity attacking the new loaf on all sides in the oven when the yeast is experiencing its final gasp of life (a.k.a. oven-spring). The perforated baguette pan simply allows the steam to hit the loaf from the bottom (and all other sides are simply exposed, so they get it too). Today's experiment involves the application of a perforated, thin, flat pan I found the other day at good 'ol Giant Eagle. ANY size loaf could fit on this thing and best of all, you don't need stones in the oven or a peel to get the loaf in and out. This thin pan, I hypothesize, should heat up quickly and permit my steam shot (ca. 60 - 120 mL water, tossed into the hot oven floor or squirted from a bottle) to completely bathe my loaf in steam, regardless of shape, producing a crackly mosaic of crust surrounding a tender inside (a.k.a. "Papa's good bread" Frankie calls it and I stand proud).

Additionally, since I'm making a boule today (a round bread), I'm using a nifty item my love bought for me a year ago called a Brotform (2nd image). It's a bamboo-like bowl used for the final proof. There's surprisingly little (I've found) on the web for using these. Do they need extensive seasoning/use? Is a slack dough going to stick? I'll be exploring these and other questions in weeks to come.

Today's recipe is not a good control. It's not the simple baguette recipe; there are a lot of variables tossed in. Life is simply too short for rigorous factorial experimental design everytime you need some bread. So phthththth. And, I need this for dinner at Amy and Mario's tonight!

My recipe for today is:

water, 250 g
honey, ca. 1 T
olive oil, 1 T
Montana Sapphire unbleached white, 375 g
rapid rise yeast (Fleischmann's), 1 packet
salt (not kosher), 7 g

First kneading and rise in the bread machine (my kitchen slave), 2nd rise will be about 20 minutes and the final proof somewhere around 20 minutes (cold kitchen today, we'll deal with the final proof when it comes). Baking will be at 450-deg-F (convection) until deep golden color. I'll post the results.