Monday, May 31, 2010

Flour and water

This Memorial Day weekend has been one of the worst in my memory weather-wise, with constant rain or drizzle and temperatures well below normal. Fortunately it's kicked my domestic side into high gear, and I've been busy in the kitchen. Yesterday it was tortillas:

Little soft taco-sized numbers, and so easy to make:

  • 2 cups all-purpose, unbleached white flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup palm shortening (original recipe calls for lard)

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 1/2 cup warm water

Mix together the flour and salt, then cut in the shortening with your hands until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Add the water and oil and knead into a smooth dough. Divide evenly into 16 balls of dough and let sit in the fridge for at least one hour. Heat a skillet (mine is plain old stainless and works fine, but seasoned cast iron is supposed to be ideal) to just below medium. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible. I roll mine between two pieces of non-stick parchment paper so additional flour isn't necessary. Carefully lay the tortilla in the pan and cook until the surface begins to puff (you can see this just starting in the pic above). Turn over and cook for a few more seconds. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

And today, in my never-ending quest to find new things to ferment, I'm attempting homemade soy sauce. Well, bean sauce, anyway. I'm using black-eyed peas instead of soy. Following the directions I found here, I made the flour/bean loaf:

After ten days under layers of paper towel, they should be well-inoculated with the necessary microorganisms, and hopefully the weather will have cheered enough to dry them outside. After that, it's a summer's worth of fermenting until it's ready to bottle and use. So much for instant gratification.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I've fairly recently become hopelessly addicted to kimchi. I've had the ultra-hot, mushy, canned variety and was none too impressed. Inspired by my New Favorite Person, Novella Carpenter (seriously, read her book, Farm, I've come to realize how easy it is to make fresh, delicious kimchi at home. And often out of stuff that might otherwise end up in the compost bin. For example, my newest experiment:

This is proto-kimchi, of the radish top variety. I love traditional garden-type radishes, but there's so much waste with all those greens. I've tried cooking them (they're okay sauteed, especially if there's butter involved), but I'm betting they'll taste great fermented to perfect tartness with basil, cilantro, onion, garlic, and heaps of red pepper flakes.

The process of kimchiafication is simple. Take a bunch of sliced vegetables (radish, onion, greens of all sorts...the list goes on and on), sprinkle liberally with sea salt, mix, and let sit until they've released much of their water (an hour is usually sufficient). Rinse well and squeeze as dry as possible, mix with seasonings (which for me most often includes the aforementioned pepper flakes, garlic, grated fresh ginger, toasted sesame oil, and fish sauce or fish paste), a little honey or sugar, and pack into a clean crock with a plate on the surface of the kimchi to keep everything squished together. Then just put a lid on it and hide it in a dark corner of your pantry for a few days. When it starts to smell pickled, it's kimchi. Repack it into a sealed jar and stick it in the fridge. Eat it with meat, noodles/rice, in soup, or just by itself as a tart, slightly-salty snack. Like any pickle, it keeps virtually forever when refrigerated.

Extra-bonus: unpasteurized kimchi is full of "good", gut-friendly bacteria.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

It's been a while, huh?

Rather than discuss the Founding Fathers, or the pros and cons of nationalism, or even how my stupid neighbors are already shooting off fireworks in our tinder-dry neighborhood...before 10:00 a.m....I'll just tell you about my newest project:

It's just a box within a box, stuffed in between with too-short-to-spin alpaca fiber as insulation. The interior of the box is painted with non-toxic, washable poster paint. Added a little black pot and a glass casserole lid from Goodwill for around five bucks. With the paint, the whole set-up cost less than $10.

It works surprisingly (to me, anyway) well. Yesterday I baked (or, technically, more like steamed) a batch of biscuits in it. Today, in honor of the holiday, I'm fixing that most uniquely American of dishes, brown rice cooked in coconut milk with curry, lime, and lemongrass...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dude! It, like, totally worked!

Yup, my too-cheap-to-live seed germination solution worked perfectly and insanely quickly. Like, tomatoes and basil germinating in three days. Here they are, tucked under lights and lookin' good:



The only thing resisting are the chilies (poblano and jalapeno). Maybe they're waiting for the completion of the greenhouse? That's cool. I wouldn't trust me either.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mmm...makin' babies...

Well, plant babies, anyway.

If you've ever been to my house, you know I keep it cold in the winter. Sure, you can see your breath, and the frigid air will likely bring on yet another of your coughing spells, but just look at my heating bill! Assuming you can grasp it with your rapidly-numbing digits.

What I'm getting at is that tomatoes and peppers need warmth to germinate. And it's pretty obvious that a person as cheap as me isn't going to shell out for a fancy heated germination mat. So about me I cast mine eyes, and they came to rest...on a cheap-ass foam cooler.

Ding! Just add a quart jar of hot tap water morning and night, and you have the perfect, temperature-controlled enclosure. At the first sign of green, the new seedlings will be placed under grow lights and learn to deal with the realities of my chilly little house. But for now they're almost living the good life in their foam-clad Margaritaville. Lucky little bastages...

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Today's the first day of spring. I know what the calendar says, but nature's clock has other ideas. Today was so beautiful I could (and can still) taste it.

I spent this liminal afternoon putting together the first half of the garden beds. Who says print news is dead? From where I stand, it's positively writhing with worms.

Seriously, newsprint makes an awesome foundation mulch for a new garden bed. Covered with well-aged manure from a kindly neighbor, partially-composted leaves, and topsoil, it's ready to molder for a couple months until planting time begins in earnest. The new, ultra-rich soil will be planted with sweet corn, squash, and a metric ton of tomatoes. I'll use my older, shadier garden beds to plant root veggies and greens.

Compounding my planting mania, the ever-resourceful manfriend found us a free, jumbo-sized greenhouse frame. This year we'll have eggplant, peppers (hot and sweet), and (with any luck) maybe a gourd or two to add to the harvest. I haven't been this excited about spring in years. I see my planting options expanding, and I'm thoroughly tickled.

Saturday, March 21, 2009's what's for dinner!

It's been a tough winter. I mean as tough as wimps like us Pacific Northwesterners ever see. Temps in the single digits, seven*TEEN* inches of snow. Pity us, oh folks with actual weather. We're just not built for this.

But now it's feeling spring-ish. I'm desperately trying to think about considering setting aside some time to ponder getting my garden together. But in the indefinite interim, I'll scrounge. Last night the man-friend and I went to visit a friend of ours. Her housemate had harvested a large quantity of tender spring stinging nettles (Urtica dioica, for those keeping score at home). I have fond memories of nettle-eatin' from my misspent youth in Alaska, but I haven't harvested any from my home "stash" (they're related to marijuana, you know). So today I picked a bunch:

I steamed 'em thoroughly, combined them with a half-dozen eggs, some fresh parmesan, a few chopped basil leaves, and a diced avocado. This I poured into an oiled glass dish and baked at 350 until all puffy and pretty-looking. Thus was created my first Nettle Frittata:

Which is not to be confused with Nelly Furtado:

This is an important distinction, as frittatas (in all likelihood) originated in Spain, while Furtado is Portuguese. Both nations get surly when their identities are conflated.