Friday, February 29, 2008

“It Wants to Come Sideways” Julia’s French Bread

The thirteen-page recipe for French bread in Mastering the Art of French Cooking is one of the landmarks of the genre, a recipe I talk about all the time, but never made. I was always a little suspicious of this recipe. Volume I of Mastering explains that no recipe for French bread is provided because it would be impossible to reproduce outside of France, and I was more inclined to credit this account. I was inclined as well to be intimidated by the notoriously detailed recipe in Volume II, but I need not have been. Having more details makes the recipe easier, not harder, and the writing is so intelligent and humane, it is really a brilliant analog to the wonderful bread itself. Some of my favorite crumbs:

[W]hen you tear off a piece, it wants to come sideways; it has body, chewability, and tastes and smells of the grain.

Use one hand only for the kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scraper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth [to take photographs!]

It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

This is the most wonderful stuff in the world. Many thanks Daring Bakers!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Just OK מיטלמעסיקײט

זײער אַ טײַערער לערער האָט פּערזענלעך געקעמפֿט שטײן און בײן קעגן דעם אױסדרוק „OK”, אַן אַנגליציזם װאָס איז אַרײַן אין אַלע שפּראַכן אױף דער װעלט. נישטאָ קײן אומה ולשון װאָס האָט נישט „OK”. נו, װאָס קען יו מאַך? מע װיל אַלעמאָל האָבן נאָר דאָס שענסטע און דאָס בעסטע, אָבער אַ מאָל דאַרף מען עפּעס אָפּקאָכן אָדער עסן (נישט פֿון דעם בלאָגעלע, גאָט זאָל אָפּהיטן) װאָס איז נישט פֿאַרן קיסר צו דערלאַנגען. אַ מאָל זענען זאַכן פּשוט „OK”. אױף ייִדיש זאָגט מען׃

nishkoshe: not bad

נישט שלעכט
nisht shlekht: not bad

גאַנץ גוט
gants gut: pretty good

גאַנדז גוט
gandz gut: “goose good,” a pun on “gants gut,” above

נישטאָ מיט װאָס צו באַרימען זיך
nishto mit vos tsu barimen zikh: nothing to brag about

נישט צו פֿאַרזינדיקן
nisht tsu farzindikn: it won’t cause you to sin (by complaining)

נישט קײן אומגליק
nisht keyn umglik: no misfortune

צו דערטראָגן
tsu dertrogn: you can stand it

אַז נישט מיט פֿעסער איז כאָטש מיט קאַנען
Az nisht mit feser iz khotsh mit kanen: If we don’t have barrels full, at least we have pails full

דער אינטערעסאַנטסטער פֿון אַלע אױבן צו מיר איז „גאַנץ גוט“, װען מען װאָלט איבערגעזעצט די עלעמענטן „גאַנץ“ און „גוט“ װאָלט מען געמײנט אַז דאָס איז טאַקע יאָ דאָ מיט װאָס זיך צו באַרימען, אָבער פּונקט פֿאַרקערט. אױף ייִדיש מײנט „גאַנץ גוט“ נאָרOK”.

A cherished teacher has been struggling valiantly against the expression “OK”, an Anglicism that has entered every language of the known universe, including Yiddish. We want of course only to have the very best of everything, but the awful truth is that sometimes folks do cook or eat something (not from this blog, God forbid) that you could not serve to the Czar. Some Yiddish expressions for mediocrity are listed above. The most interesting to me is “גאַנץ גוט”, gants gut, which, if its components were translated literally, would seem to mean “entirely good.” In Yiddish, however, gants gut is only “OK.”


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Get Dressed and Cook Something (Red Lentil Soup)

You can see the soup here in a Colombian clay pot. It is unlacquered—that’s the black river clay itself. I got it a beloved shop on Greenwich Avenue called “Be Seated.” The fabric on which it is sitting is a jacket I bought in the same shop. So you see, Be Seated sells clothes and pots, but no chairs. They should really call the store “Get Dressed and Cook Something”

This recipe, like almost all my soup recipes, makes a very large pot of soup. You may halve or third quantities to get a more manageable amount. It started out as a vegetarian adaptation of the Minestra di Esaù in Edda Servi Machlin’s Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews, but it has become almost unrecognizable. I really should have written about this wonderful soup by now. It is one of the reliable workhorses of the rotation. I make this all the time. Other herbal staples are to be found at Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Lia from Swirling Notions.

Red Lentil Soup with Parsley and Garlic Paste

3 cups red lentils (1 ½ pounds)

olive oil (be liberal)

4 onions

3 or so carrots

½ head of celery (about 7 ribs) peeled and destringified

(optional) 1 or 2 dried red chiles, such as chilcostles

2 6-ounce cans tomato paste

½ bunch flat parsley

3-5 cloves garlic

coarse salt

Wash and sort the lentils. You may set them to soak while you prepare the vegetables, if you like. Heat oil in a large soup kettle. Cut the onions into quarter-inch dice and add them to the oil. While the onions are simmering, dice the carrots and de-stringified celery. Add them to the pot, along with the chiles, if you are using them, when the onions are quite soft. Continue stirring and cooking until the vegetables have relaxed. Add the tomato paste and stir and cook a while longer. Now add the drained lentils and about four quarts of water and some salt. Simmer for about an hour, removing the foam from the surface and adding more water as necessary, until everything is tender. When the soup is just about ready, mince together the parsley and garlic with some kosher salt. Stir the herb paste into the soup.


Friday, February 22, 2008



Lunar eclipse

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hemp Seed Filling for Tarts, pastries, and Homentashn (Hamentashen)

Well, of course I am beginning to think of poppy seed fillings, even if we have (blessedly) an extra month to think about them this year, and it seemed to me that the qualities of richness, mild bitterness, and just general seedlikeness (seediness?) that makes mon, or poppy, such an ideal pastry filling all work in favor of hemp seeds too, maybe even more so. My very first hemp seed filling is so delicious that I will be making many more, possibly a hemp and poppy mosaic sometime. Erin from The Skinny Gourmet will be hosting Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, where you will find all manner of plant-based sweetness.

Hemp Seed Filling for Tarts, pastries, and Homentashn (Hamentashen)

2 cups hulled hemp seeds

1 cup milk (in this recipe, you can easily substitute soymilk or coconut milk)

½ cup agave (or honey)

4 cardamom pods

2 pinches salt

Zest from one largish lemon, grated or microplaned

Toast the hempseeds in an iron skillet to a light golden brown, stirring constantly. Do not toast them quite this dark, because they are headed for a little further cooking. When the toasted seeds have cooled a bit grind them to a coarse meal in a processor or grinder. You could probably leave them whole too, if you feel like skipping this step. Put the ground seeds in a small saucepan with the milk, agave, cardamom pods, and lemon zest. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring until the mixture has thickened. Allow the filling to cool and for heaven’s sake don’t forget to remove those cardamom pods! You can now use the filling for homentashn, strudl, or little tartlettes like these, made with Maida Heatter’s chocolate shortbread dough.

Food and Drink, Recipes, Cooking, Food, Vegetarian, vegan, vegetables, antioxidant-rich foods, Weekend Herb Blogging, whb, , , , ,

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

װי אַזױ דערגרײכט מען ערפֿאָלג אין דער ליבע

װי אַזױ דערגרײכט מען ערפֿאָלג אין דער ליבע פֿון ג. װאַנדעלי, װאַרשע, (?)1930

How to Achieve Success in Love by G. Vandeli, Warsaw, 1930(?)

אַ פֿרײלעכן און הצלחהדיקן װאַלענטײַנז ענק אַלע!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bamboo Honey Vanilla Pudding (Japanese Knotweed)

I have been making this pudding, or something like it, almost every week for the last three months. Bamboo honey is made from Japanese knotweed, or Polygonum cuspidatum which looks like bamboo, but is unrelated. The knotweeds are related to buckwheat, and the honey, like buckwheat honey, is dark, spicy, and rich in life-giving antioxidants. Bamboo honey is milder and fruitier than buckwheat honey, and perfectly suited for any desserts made with milk, cream, or yogurt. The Yiddish word for knotweed is גריקע (grike), so Japanese knotweed is probably יאַפּאַנישער גריקע (yapanisher grike). The word in Chinese is 虎杖 Hǔzhàng. Ulrike will be rounding up other herbal gifts of the weekend at Kuchenlatein.

Honey Vanilla Pudding

6 cups milk

1 fat bourbon vanilla bean

1 ½ cups bamboo honey, or other honey, or agave

pinch salt

2 1/2 ounces cornstarch (1/2 cup, lightly spooned)

2 eggs

2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter

1 teaspoon vanilla-scented bourbon, or vanilla, or bourbon, or neither

Pour five cups of the milk into a large, heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk. Add the vanilla pod, honey, and salt, and bring to the simmer, stirring with a flat-bottomed whisk, or other suitable implement.

Combine the remaining one cup of milk with the cornstarch (if you have a medium-sized bowl with a pouring spout, that is just the ticket), and whisk well. Add the eggs and whisk to combine.

When the hot milk begins to boil, ladle two or three cups into the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Now pour the tempered cornstarch mixture into the saucepan, and continue whisking until it thickens and returns to the boil. This will take about five minutes and is the only little bit of effort this recipe demands. Remove the pan from heat, but don’t stop whisking just yet. Add the butter and bourbon if you are using it and whisk to combine. Pour the pudding into about eight little bowls or glasses, or a serving bowl. This is the part of the recipe where almost all cookbooks will advise you to cover the surface if you do not want the pudding to form a skin. Whom do they think they are fooling? Of course you want the pudding to form a skin! The skin is really the whole point of the exercise. And the honey and vanilla, of course. Chill the puddings and serve as is, or with cream, or even just with some wonderful organic whole milk. If you happen just to have made some chocolate agave glaze, I don’t see how that could hurt. You may also substitute agave for the honey to make a lighter, low-glycemic version that is also wonderful.

I get bamboo honey from Tremblay Apiaries at Union Square on Fridays, and Bourbon vanilla beans and extract from The Vanilla Company.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

װעגעטאַריש געפֿילטע פֿיש: מזל אדר דגים

הײַנט איז געװען אַ טאָפּלטער יום־טובֿ, ראש־חודש אדר, און דער כינעזער נײַ־יאָר. בײדע יום־טובֿים זענען באַזונדערס מזלדיקע טעג פֿאַר פֿיש. בײַ ייִדן, זאָגן מיר װעגן דעם פֿרײליכסטן חודש „מזל אדר דגים“, און בײַ די כינעזער זאָגט מען 年年有鱼”, (ניען2 ניען2 יאָו3 יו2) װאָס מײנט „אַלע יאָר זאָל זײַן פֿיש” װאָס אױף כינעזיש איז אַ װערטערשפּיל פֿאַר „אַלע יאָר זאָל זײַן גענוג“

אױף אַזאַ גינציגן און מזלדיקן טאָג װי הײַנט איז עס שױן צײַט איך זאָל ענק איבערגעבן דעם רעצעפּט פֿאַר לינע ברױנס װעגעטאַריש געפֿילטע פֿיש, װאָס אַ סך פֿון ענק האָבן לאַנג געװאָלט.

װעגעטאַריש געפֿילטע פֿיש

פֿון לינע ברױן קאָך־בוך פֿאַר געזונטהײט ניו־יאָרק 1931, ז' 69. אױסלײג און אָרטאָגראַפֿיע האָב איך איבערגעגעבן װי עס שטײט און גײט אינעם אָריגינעלן טעקסט.

אַ קאָפּ סאַלאַרי. „אױסטערפּלענט“–אַ בינטל. אַ ציבעלע. אַ האַלב פֿונט װעלעשע ניס.

צעמאָלט עס אַלץ אין אַ שפּײַז־מילכל. צעשלאָגט צװײ אײער. אַ האַלבע קאָפּי זאָ. אַ שטיקל אײַנגעװײקטע ברױט. זאַלץ-צום טעם. מאַכט, אַז עס זאָל אױסזען װי שטיקלעך פֿיש. װיקלט עס אין ציבעלע שאָלכץ. דרײַ ציבעלעס. צװײ רױטע טרוקענע פֿעפֿערלעך. קאָכט עס אין אַ ביסעלע װאַסער צװאַנציק מינוט צוגעדעקט אױף אַ קלײנעם פֿײַער. סערװירט מיט צרײן. מען קאָן עס אױך מאַכן מיט קאַליפֿלאוער, אַנשטאָט די ”אױסטער פּלענט“.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bell Fruit, Wax Apple, Jambu, יאמבוס

I have heard stories from a number of usually reliable sources about how some folks go mad for syzygium samarangense, also called wax apple, bellfruit, and jambu in English, יאַמבוס (yambus) in Yiddish, and 蓮霧 (lián wù) in Mandarin, so I was of course very excited to find some. They are pleasant enough, very crisp, juicy, and mildly sweet with just a little waft of rosewater, but I don’t entirely see what all the fuss is about. I was much more carried away by mangosteens, yellow dragon fruit, and white pomegranates, to name a few of the stupendous and wonderful plants I have been fortunate enough to enjoy of late. I will have to give them another chance, if I get one.

I do think I have a pretty good chance of stumping Sweetnicks this week, though.


Monday, February 04, 2008

OK--It's Enough Already with the Resolutions. Come Into Eisenberg's and Get On With Your Life!

Sign outside Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop on 5th Avenue and 22nd Street, and, incidentally, my second-ever online self-portrait (here's the first). Where's the chocolate lady?

ETA: While one of the reviews on the site to which I linked describes the menu as "kosher comfort food," Eisenberg's, while a very good neighbor and a venerable landmark, is not a kosher establishment, and I do not mean to suggest that it is.

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