Monday, December 16, 2013
Posted by Tommy Schopp at 5:01 PM
Sunday, March 24, 2013
I headed to San Francisco last weekend, for the first time believe it or not, and had a remarkable culinary discovery at a place in the inner Richmond called Burma Superstar: Tea leaf salad, which you see above (I didn't get a shot of my own, so I pinched one from Grace Chen of cityfoodsters.com). We don't have a Burmese community in Portland, but we have some adventurous Southeast Asian restaurants, so once I got home, I figured I'd be able to find it somewhere around town. I was wrong. Nobody's doing this dish here, that I've yet found, anyway. So I set out to try and recreate what I'd had.
The definitive ingredient in this salad is fermented tea leaves, which due to a general lack of trade between Burma and the U.S., as well as a couple of really sketchy chemicals used in most commercial Burmese preparations, is basically impossible to get here (apparently, the Burma Superstar folks make regular excursions to Burma and mule a bunch of it back). There used to be an importer in London that you could order it from, but that source seems to have since dried up (and who wants to pay $40 in shipping for $2 worth of fermented tea leaves?). Making them myself wasn't really an option, as the process takes months and, presumably, a tropical climate, so the next best alternative was to use pickled tea leaves instead. I found this recipe online, for both the pickled tea leaves and the salad itself, and altered it a bit for my own purposes.
This salad is a two-step process, the first being the pickling and pureeing of the tea leaves. Here's the mise on that:
Posted by Tommy at 2:39 PM
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
So I've been doing some snooping around on the subject of juicing lately, and finally decided to give it a try. After a bit of research into juicers, I landed on the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor (model 67650). I headed over to New Seasons today to pick out some produce, pretty much at random, and came home with kale, parsley, celery, carrots and apples. You can see in the photo above how much the indicated amounts yielded in juice, using standard pint glasses for scale. The juicer handled these quite nicely, and as this site isn't about endorsing any specific products, I'll leave it that.
There are a number of considerations in all of this, of course, first and foremost flavor. How did all of this juice taste? The kale juice tasted a bit like grass clippings; I probably wouldn't drink it on its own. The parsley and celery juice tasted like, well, parsley and celery (one interesting observation here: the parsley juice came out weirdly gelatinous). The carrot juice tasted like carrots, but a little sweeter than in their whole form. The apple juice fell somewhere between cider and filtered juice. Next, I combined them, in the proportions above. Here's what that looked like:
This tasted pretty good. Celery was the dominant flavor (which in my case is a good thing, as I really like the flavor of celery; it's the texture that's always kept me away), the sweetness from the carrots and apples came through pretty nicely, and the vegetal flavors of the kale and parsley rounded it out and were particularly strong on the nose, to put it into nerdy beer/wine tasting terms. The next thing I did was to combine about a third of the pulp back into it, via blender (the rest of the pulp became a snack for the chickens). I had to really liquefy it on the highest setting for about 60 seconds to get a smooth texture. Even with that, it was still a little on the chunky side, but not too bad. The flavor wasn't quite as sweet as the juice alone, and in fact was slightly salty. Still pretty damn good, though. It did separate, quite considerably actually, as I made my way through it. Definitely best drunk from a bottle which you can shake between sips.
The second consideration is nutrition. This is something I've been taking fairly seriously in recent years, as I've passed 40 and my lifestyle remains, shall we say, guided by vices. I've become a big fan of George Mateljan's website, The World's Healthiest Foods, which contains an enormous wealth of information on the nutritional benefits of any number of different foods, and it's been a great help in tailoring my diet (I haven't necessarily slimmed down any, but on balance the food I eat now is way healthier than it was even five years ago). A considerable amount of the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, etc. come out in the juice, and I retained some of the fiber by adding the pulp back in, so I'm pretty happy with the results.
The third consideration is price. I've been drinking a fair amount of juice lately, specifically a combination of Columbia Gorge Organics' VitaSea (their version of Odwalla's green Superfood) their Pomegranite/Blueberry/Cherry, and Knudsen's organic version of V8. My end result today came to roughly 40 ounces, for about $11 worth of produce. The equivalent amount of the juice combination I've been drinking, near as I can estimate, would run about $9. So the price is a bit higher, but I figure it'll come down somewhat once Farmers' Market season rolls around and I don't have to pay retail for all of the ingredients. Plus, I can tailor it to my own preferences, use fresher produce and get an end result that contains proportionately less filler juices. So I'm considering this a success. Stay tuned as I tweak my juicing techniques...
Posted by Tommy at 3:05 PM
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I took on another vegan project this past weekend... Biscuits! These biscuits were gluten free in addition to vegan, and they worked out pretty well. This was all spurred on by a gal I've been dating for about a month who has some pretty particular dietary restrictions. We'd made our way to a gluten free bakery on MLK called Tula for breakfast a couple of weeks back, and after having one of their parmesan biscuits, I was inspired to try my hand at it myself. In the interest of giving credit where it's due, I based my recipe on a post I found on Vegansaurus, with a few alterations. To wit...
2 C gluten free flour*
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 tsp baking powder
5 Tbsp chilled vegetable shortening**
1 C unsweetened hazelnut milk
* I used Bob's Red Mill brand, you could also experiment with your own combination of corn, rice, garbanzo and bean flours, and potato starch.
** I used Earth Balance shortening; Crisco or vegan margarine would probably work in a pinch.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together well. Add the shortening, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, and cut in with a hand mixer until the shortening has reduced to smaller pieces, and the mixture takes on a sandy, pebbly appearance. Then stop, you don't want to overwork it. It helps, by the way, to have placed the shortening in the freezer for a while, as well as the blades of the mixer (or, if you're using a Kitchenaid mixer, as I did, the paddle attachment and the bowl).
Add the hazelnut milk and knead by hand until just combined, ten or fifteen times at most. Again, you don't want to overwork it, or the flakiness of the biscuits will suffer.
Spoon biscuit sized portions of the batter onto a greased baking sheet. You should get about eight biscuits per batch. Place into oven, and check them after eight minutes. The bottoms should be golden, but not quite brown. Place back in the oven for another four minutes. Keep an eye on them during this period, as you don't want the tops to brown, only the bottoms.
And enjoy! For the gravy, I used an altered version of the sauce from Epicurean Vegan's Mac and Cheese recipe with some sauteed and crumbled seitan thrown in (seitan is, however, by definition not gluten free), although I might try Vegansaurus' recipe in the future...
Posted by Tommy at 5:41 PM
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Okay, so there's no such thing as "Sorta-Veganism." I'm a poseur, and I'm more than willing to cop to that... But I did just turn 40 last year, and while I have no pressing health issues as of yet, no diabetes, no angina, no tingling in my left arm or any such like, I do have my vices, and milestones have a way of making a fella think. So, inspired by the work of George Mateljan, T. Colin Campbell's The China Study, and this dude, whose blog I kinda stole the title for this post from, I've decided to see how close I can get to an animal product free culinary lifestyle.
This all started about a year back, by the way, with an impulse purchase at New Seasons:
I picked these things up on a whim while shopping for jambalaya ingredients. I used them in place of traditional andouille, and the results were astounding... They were fantastic! The texture was great, and the flavor profile and spice level were dead-on. I decided right then and there that there was no reason to ever again use a pork product in my jambalaya. Then I did nothing, for about a year...
...Until Portland's favorite local bagel shop, Kettleman's, was purchased by the Noah's/Einstein's conglomerate, and I was forced to seek out another local bagel purveyor. I set out with whole grain bagels in mind, and after some legwork, found a few, including notable varieties from BagelLand and Spielman's, as well as Dave's Good Seed Halos. Kenny and Zuke's, unfortunately, still offers no whole grain variety, according to their website, anyway (Nick, I'm talkin' at you here). All of this bagel searching got me to thinking about also considering an alternative to cream cheese; which led me to this stuff:
Now, I'd be lying if I were to say it were a perfect match. The texture is good, but the flavor is just a bit off, a little reminiscent of cardboard, even after adding some chopped up smoked salmon (see, I told ya I wasn't going totally vegan...). But it's better than the Tofutti version, and I've found that mixing two parts of this to one part Philly brings the flavor profile into the range of acceptable. So that's what I put on my bagels now, and I'm quite happy with it.
My cream cheese epiphany inspired me to revisit my experience with vegan chorizo and jump headlong into the fake meat scene. A little bit of research revealed that "meat analogues" are made from one of two things: Soy, which yields tofu and tempeh, and vital wheat gluten, aka seitan. Here's what I've discovered so far:
I've been really impressed with Seattle-based Field Roast's line, which is built around wheat gluten and contains no soy. Their Italian sausages are fennel forward flavor-wise, which for some might be a problem, but for me, not so much, as that's how I like Italian sausage to taste. The texture, as with the Mexican Chipotle variety, is pretty damn close to the real thing. They're great in pasta & marinara, beans & rice and kushari.
Here we see two patty varieties, one sausage from Trader Joe's, the other chicken from Morningstar Farms (pretty sure Morningstar doesn't operate any actual farms, but anyway...). Both of these are soy based, which in theory isn't a bad thing, but in reality usually means that there's fair amount of textured vegetable (soy) protein involved. The problem with that is that the production of TVP typically involves temperatures high enough to denature the proteins in the soy, rendering them more or less inert as they pass through the digestive tract. In other words, about as useful, health-wise, as Cheetos (also, look out for soy protein concentrate and soy protein isolate; pretty sure neither of those comes straight off the tree, either). Another thing to think about when dealing with soy products is that you're likely to wind up with genetically modified products, unless you're really diligent about reading labels (look for Organic or Non-GMO). For the record, TJ's sausage patties were pretty tasty once I had a really good sear on 'em, though the interior remained a bit mushy. The Morningstar Chik patties were kinda chicken-like, but at the end of the day... meh.
This stuff's actually quite good, whether formed into a pattie and fried, crumbled up, sauteed and added to a scramble, or what have you. It's composed mostly of suspect soy products, and is manufactured by a subsidiary of ConAgra... Make of that what you will. I'm considering this the "guilty pleasure" of the meat analogue world.
We've all heard of Tofurky... Turtle Island Foods have been doing their thing for about thirty years now (in Hood River, OR, no less), but it's only in the last decade or so that they've emerged from the shadow of Gardenburger, Boca and Morningstar to make a name for themselves. Tofurky's deli slices are made from a combination of vital wheat gluten and tofu (soy), which is non-GMO and contains no TVP. Both approximate the texture of meat-based cold cuts pretty faithfully. The hickory smoked variety is the tastier of the two.
At the risk of sounding like I'm shilling for 'em, which I assure you I'm not, here we see Field Roast's entries in the deli slice category. Like the rest of Field Roast's products, these are made without soy. The Wild Mushroom variety, while tasty, is a bit crumbly and fragile, making it somewhat impractical for serious sandwich work... The Lentil Sage and Smoked Tomato versions hold up a bit better, and have great flavor, with a texture that's a ways off from real meat, but this becomes a moot point once piled into a sandwich. For me, flavor trumps texture, and these have become my go-to fake cold cuts.
By now you've probably guessed that I'm more or less in love with Field Roast. That said, I'm not in love with their meatloaf product. The flavor is pleasantly meatloafy, but the texture isn't exactly 100%. It's weirdly springy and chewy, and I'm pretty sure I lost a bit of enamel from one of my teeth while test-driving this stuff... Not a good thing. It would probably be better suited to a "meatloaf" sandwich than sharing a dinner plate with some mashed potatoes... Either way, be mindful of your choppers.
Also picked up one each of these. Both are good, both slightly gritty in texture, the hazelnut's definitely the better of the two. Really nice flavor. Drinking a second glass of it as I write this. I'd put it on my cereal, if I ate cereal. Might try it in my coffee.
Anyway, stay tuned, more to come in my "sorta vegan" adventure...
Posted by Tommy at 10:30 PM
Monday, June 6, 2011
Okay, I've gotta say one thing right up front here: I stole this idea, and the execution of it (nearly down to the detail), from Alton Brown. This is not my tandoor project, but rather my attempt to recreate Alton's tandoor project...
Alton Brown is, it's no exaggeration to say, the patron saint of my kitchen. I've learned as much from Good Eats as I've learned from any cookbook, any cooking class, or any nitpicky deconstruction of any meal or any menu I've ever encountered. The man is, simply, a gift to people such as myself who like to cook and want to work out how to do it better, more effectively and more creatively. I can't really compare him to the likes of Julia Child, Auguste Escoffier, Thomas Keller, et al, as he's not a chef per se (pun intended). I do, however, consider him to be in roughly the same league as Harold McGee, Shirley Corriher and Michael Ruhlman. A bit less academic than McGee and Corriher, and a bit less cultivated than Ruhlman, he shakes out as more or less the Bill Nye of food, i.e. very solid technique, with just enough whimsy to keep it interesting. Unfortunately, Alton Brown recently brought Good Eats to its conclusion, after fourteen seasons. I was really hoping his show would go on forever, but like all good things, it had its beginning, its middle, and now its end. Still, two hundred and forty some odd episodes leaves us with an awful lot of material to sift through. Thank you for your efforts, Alton, I am forever indebted.
So, because this Alton's thing and not mine, I'm not going to get into the details of what I did. If you're curious about that, you'll have to refer to his Curry episode, which can be found on YouTube, first half here, second half here. I will give you a pictorial run-through of the project, though:
First, I grabbed myself a large unglazed terra cotta flower pot. This one's 17.5" across at the top...
And then turned it over and drew a line 1 inch down from the bottom.
I took the bottom off with a hacksaw (you'll want a masonry blade for that hacksaw, btw, which doesn't look like a blade at all, but rather like a thick metal string embedded with bits of carbide; yes, you could use an angle grinder like Brown did on the show, but Brown is Cornelius Van Moneybags and I'm not, so I used a hacksaw)...
Hang onto that bottom section, btw. You can put it in the bottom of your oven to even out the temperature, or even use it as a baking stone...
I then soaked the pot in water for about 18 hours, let it dry for two, and set it on the bottom grate of my Weber grill. The standard 22 inch Weber kettle is perfect for this, btw. The Bottom grate is almost exactly the same diameter as the pot I used...
Next, I fired up some charcoal in a couple of chimney starters. I like lump charcoal for its lack of binders and other weird chemicals. It's a good idea for this project, btw, to have two of these, as you'll need a lot of charcoal to achieve the insane temperatures that characterize a tandoor (don't worry, the Weber can handle it).
I dumped a total of five chimneys' worth of charcoal into the pot, two at a time. This is about four or five pounds of charcoal. It got pretty hot, but I probably could've used a couple extra chimneys' worth...
Next, I made my friends wait around for dinner...
Then I made them wait around some more (Risa, by this time, had decided she wasn't hungry, and headed upstairs; everyone else stayed put)...
Despite the 18 hours of soaking, the pot cracked nonetheless. This is probably not such a bad thing, actually. In the future, the crack will allow it to expand as necessary (the crack closed up, btw, once this was all over and the pot cooled down). Sure, some heat will be lost through the crack, but a little extra charcoal will make up for that. As long as the thing stays in one piece, it should work just fine.
Here we see the first round of skewers, half of them lamb, the other half chicken (thigh meat), cooking away. These don't take long to cook, btw. Five minutes, tops, before they begin to char. The cooking time will become longer as the coals begin to die out (lump charcoal burns much faster than briquettes, so for extended lump grilling projects, you'll need to add more as time goes on)...
And here's an admittedly unflattering shot of the final product, over rice, with a very simple (and very tasty) tikka masala sauce...
While the cooking technique itself is interesting, even more interesting, by far, was the tikka masala sauce. I've thrown together a lot of curries over the past few years, including Saag Aloo Murghi and an Indo-Fijian curry famous among night shift workers at OHSU, as well as numerous improvisations, both successful and not so successful, and this one is up there with the best of them. Refer to the second YouTube clip for the tikka sauce. Definitely worth it for that alone.
Monday, May 16, 2011
This bread will be traveling with me to work this week, where it will be sliced, toasted and topped with watercress/walnut/tomato pesto, nova lox and sliced avocado.
I adapted this recipe from Peter Reinhart's Oat Bran Broom Bread, from his book, Whole Grain Breads. This is a great book, one I highly recommend to anybody interested in baking with whole grains. The focus of most of the recipes is on developing flavor through a multiple-day fermenting process. I made the addition of whole grain rye and barley flours, substituted sunflower seeds for flax seeds (the Omega 3 benefit of flax seeds, by the way, is highly overstated. You'll get much more bio-available Omega 3 fatty acids from fatty fish or fish oil capsules; if you want to really nerd out on why this is, check out Susan Allport's The Queen of Fats) and multiplied the recipe by 1.5 to fit my loaf pan. I like to go by weight on everything, specifically by gram for maximum accuracy and control. If you don't have a good electronic scale that measures in grams, well... Pick one up.
275g Whole wheat flour
42g Oat bran, finely ground (I pulverize mine in a coffee grinder)
40g Sunflower seeds
1 tsp Salt
Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon or your fingers, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 18-24 hrs.
200g Whole wheat flour
70g Rye flour
70g Barley flour
1/2 tsp Instant/rapid rise yeast
Knead all of the ingredients together in a bowl with wet hands until incorporated, about 2 or 3 minutes. Let rest for five minutes, then knead again for 1 or 2 minutes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18-24 hours.
Remove the pre-ferment from refrigerator 2 hours prior to assembling final dough.
Soaker, chopped into small pieces
Pre-Ferment, chopped into small pieces
85g Whole wheat flour
1 tsp Salt
3 1/2 tsp Instant/rapid rise yeast
4 Tbsp Honey
1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Extra whole wheat flour for adjustment
Combine chopped soaker, pre-ferment and the rest of the ingredients (except for extra flour) in a bowl and knead together with wet hands until incorporated, 2 or 3 minutes. Dust a work surface with flour, toss out the dough and roll to coat with flour. Knead for 5 minutes, then allow to rest for 5 minutes while you oil a clean bowl. Knead the dough for another minute or two, incorporating extra flour until dough is soft and smooth, but still a bit tacky. Place in oiled bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for an hour, to about one and a half to two times its size.
Punch down the dough (this involves not actual punching, but rather folding folding the dough in thirds to reduce it to more or less the original volume), shape the dough to roughly the shape and size of a 5.5" X 10.5" X 3" loaf pan, transfer into pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 30-60 minutes, until dough has risen about an inch above the top of the pan, about one and a half times its size.
While dough is going through its second rise, preheat your oven to 425F. Place a medium sized oven proof bowl filled with hot water on the oven's top rack. Once the dough has risen, reduce the oven temperature to 360F and place the loaf pan into the oven, on a middle or lower rack or directly onto a baking stone. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn 180 degrees and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the bread reads 195-200F.
Remove bread from oven, cool for at least an hour (I like to use fan, as you can see in the photo, to speed the cooling process up a bit), then eat it!
Posted by Tommy at 4:44 PM