Tuesday, January 22, 2013

fun with fermentation - or - it's not purple drank

Whenever I say fun with flags fermentation it makes me giggle. If you watch Big Bang Theory you know what I'm talking about. If you don't....well, then I guess you're not a nerd. Quick post today! I'm trying to start thinking of different formats to post in. Along with all my ramble-y, personal, trying to make connections to larger issues posts, and in accordance with my desire to post more frequently, I'll try to some shorter posts. Today's is the start of a 2, 3, 4??? week (depending on how long the fermentation takes) documentation of my sauerkraut adventure.

Two days ago, while simmering chicken broth for 9 hours (part of an upcoming post), I also thinly sliced about 3/4 of a purple cabbage. Hacking it in half was half the battle.

Once it was all sliced into a bowl I tossed it with 1-1.5 tbsps of coarse sea salt.

Then I alternately massaged it (with my hands, a good forearm workout I must say) and pounded it (with a wooden dowel-shaped rolling pin I use for such sadism) every once in awhile for the next few hours. I let it sit overnight, and in the morning packed it (tightly) into a jar and topped it with the liquid that had formed. Setting aside one whole leaf, to use as a "lid" to push everything under the brine is such a great idea!

I'll check on it everyday to make sure it's still submerged (I've talked about why before here).

Last night it looked like "purple drank" - a sugar/colouring/flavour concoction our cooks used to make once in awhile.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

ubiquitous roasted squash salad

Its winter. Kind of. It feels more like spring or autumn the past few days, but we have had some cold days. It may not be a popular opinion, but I hope we have more. I want to cook and eat "winter foods" - roasted and braised things, comforting and warming things. I want to spend time on my couch, in my bed, snuggled up and cozy. I want to spend time in my kitchen, spending the day making staples like a batch of brown rice, or beans, or vegetable stock. I need to do this now, before the sunshine pulls me outside to play, before the freshness and beautiful simplicity of summer produce makes me want to eat less "doctored" or transformed foods. I crave the months of cold, snowy, dark time to rest and rejuvenate, to nourish myself and my friends and family, to be quiet. Without that time, and our winters have been getting more and more mild over the past few years, I never feel quite ready for spring. The past few days have been warm - around 6 degrees Celsius (yes that counts are "warm" in Canadian winter). Today its rainy and 11. I still didn't leave the house, instead hibernating on my day off, cooking and lazing about watching movies.

When it has been cold in the last month, I've roasted vegetables. I did brussel sprouts and potatoes with lemon and thyme. Delicata and acorn squashes tossed in balsamic with cumin, chili powder and rosemary. Next up I'm thinking cabbage, inspired by this and this and the half head of savoy and full red cabbage in my fridge. I've also been salivating over Molly's braised savoy cabbage for about a year now, and Nigel Slater's cabbage recipes in Tender are making me swoon (and maybe some dumplings, pierogies, a cabbage galette?). It seems that I just want to eat cabbage lately, and mushrooms. I'm fickle I suppose because a month ago it was all squash and brussels.

Anyway, the boy has been taking an active interest in my blog, and food blogging in general lately. He's after me to post about a salad that I made with the roasted delicata squash. He's also after me to make it again, so he can eat it and I can photograph it. Although there are so many similar squash salads out there lately, I'm sure you can picture it. He says it is the best salad he's ever eaten, and uses it as an example of an original recipe I could post about. I say its just an amalgamation of a bunch of recipes I've seen, but I suppose that is the case with most of what I cook. I get an idea for something I want to make, then search around trying to find a recipe that confirms it/explains a process. I usually end up just reading 5-10 recipes and following a method - perhaps this is a luxury of a mostly-vegetarian, non-baker.

Its supposed to get cold again this week, perhaps there is more roasted squash in my our future.

Spicy Roasted Squash Salad with Pomegranates, Feta, Kale, Parsley, and Sprouts

For the roasted squash:

1-2 delicata squashes (I often cook larger quantities of things than I want for just one meal, perhaps because I bring dinners/lunches/snacks to work. Cook as much squash as you like/will eat.) Halved, seeds removed (and saved to also roast), sliced into 3/4 inch half-moons
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
cumin (to taste, maybe a 1/2 tsp per squash)
chili powder (mine is spicy, probably a 1/2 tsp per squash)
leaves from a sprig of rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper

Roast at 375 F 30-40 minutes, flipping halfway through, until browned and tender.
Eat immediately, or reserve for later use.

I had in my head, and on my To Cook list for awhile, and idea for a roasted squash salad, with wheatberries or farro, arugula, feta and pomegranate. Instead I've done a few all vegetables reincarnations. One night a friend stopped by for dinner, after a day of bubbly and movies with the boy. There was some carrot soup in the fridge, with a side salad of kale, pomegranate, feta, squash, and a little extra balsamic and olive oil. One time I brought a work dinner of roasted squash with radicchio and parsley, with tahini and roasted brussels sprouts and potatoes with horseradish creme fraiche. One time I added quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and radish sprouts.

Like most, this "recipe" is obviously quite flexible, while being easy, healthy, and delicious. I do on occasion find squash to be a bit sweet for my liking, so the addition of smoky cumin, spicy chili, and fresh parsley help to lift it up. And pairing it with bitter radicchio is nice as well, if you're into that kind of thing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

adventures in fermentation, part deux

So I made kimchi. I started October 20th, and left it for about a month and a half to ferment on my counter. I used tips from Well Preserved (LOVE this site!) and (mostly) followed the recipe from Tigress's Kimchi Primer. I decreased the proportions, and used what I had on hand. This meant white cabbage instead of savoy or napa, white radishes instead of daikon, and some carrot. I also added scallions, ginger, garlic, and Korean chili powder. There is a bit of a discrepancy between the salt:water brine ratios used by Tigress (1/4 cup salt - approx. 60 ml - to 1 quart - or 4 cups - water) and Joel (6.5 tbsps - approx. 90 ml to 3 quarts water) at Well Preserved . I usually trust Joel on all issues preserving related, but I figured I would follow Tigress's recipe since I was using her procedure. If anything it should just mean the higher salt:water ratio would make my kimchi saltier and take longer to ferment.

I'm not sure why Tigress advocates a two day process, but I did as well, and I'm pleased with the results. I left the water to sit overnight (for the chlorine to evaporate) then mixed the brine. A good way to do this is to bring a small amount of the water to a boil, add the salt to dissolve, then add the remaining reserved cool water to bring it back down to room temperature. I covered the prepared vegetables (thinly sliced for the roots, large squares for the cabbage) with the brine overnight. The next day drain the vegetables, reserving the brine, add the aromatics, then pack into jars/fermenting crocks/bowls and cover with brine. The important thing is to keep everything submerged. This prevents air contact, creating an anaerobic environment which prevents "bad" bacteria from growing. The salt content prevents bad anaerobic bacteria (such as botulism) from forming before the lactobacteria start creating an acidic environment. Tigress says that as long as you stir once a day, pushing anything floating back into the brine, you should be ok. I don't have a crock so I used a deep bowl, with another smaller bowl set on top to keep things from floating too much. Over this I placed a clean kitchen towel. I stirred every day. For about a month. Then I transferred the kimchi into a large swing lid jar, sealed it and left it on the counter for another 2 weeks. I still stirred everyday, and by this point (end of November) it was quite cold in my kitchen, but this is when I started to see the white scum (a harmless yeast) forming on top sometimes. I just scooped it and any affected vegetables out. I also tasted the kimchi every few days to see whether it had my desired level of sourness. At first it was very salty, but over time this decreased as fermentation progressed. When it was to my taste, I put it in the fridge.

I did find I needed to add more Korean chili powder (probably at least 2 tbsps more, in addition to the 2 tbsps I started with) and its still wasn't spicy. Then I added some brine from my fermented hot peppers, and it still was not really spicy enough. Overall however, I was very happy with the results, and would follow the same process again. It was easy, low maintenance, and has given me a food that helps build healthy gut bacteria. I've been meaning to post about the process, but I haven't really used the kimchi yet, other than stealing a few little pieces once in awhile, something I did more often when it was on the counter instead of tucked away in the fridge. But I've had a recipe in mind for awhile and the other night I finally actually cooked it. And it was delicious! And the most exciting part is I cooked it in the "new" cast iron pan I got for Christmas, that my mother found at a garage sale!!! I got some nice action shots and now I'm finally motivated to post about it.

Orangette's Kimchi Fried Rice

I, naturally, made some changes, although slight. I cooked a bunch of brown basmati rice a couple of days before, so I had that, but only about 2-3 cups leftover. I still used 4 pieces of bacon though lol. And maybe 1.5 cups of kimchi (which I do wish was spicier). Next time I would reduce the amount of bacon if I was reducing the rest because it was a bit overpowering and I really wanted funky kimchi taste.

I also added some diced carrots, and scrambled an or two egg on one side of the pan after adding the kimchi and letting that brown. One of my foodie weaknesses is an aversion to runny yolk (I know, I know!) and I like the extra heartiness of the egg in the rice itself.

Since the recipe is already linked, I'll just say the process I used:

Add bacon lardons (quite uncouth ones I must say) to cold pan and slowly bring to medium heat. Once this is mostly crisp add 1 diced carrot, cook another minute or two, then the kimchi. Let this wilt a bit and brown. Push everything over to one side (my pan is large enough to do so) and add the beaten egg. Once this is mostly set, break it up and add the rice. Turn up the heat, and cook, pushing down on the rice, until it is brown and crispy. Since it was the first time using a cast iron pan I hadn't seasoned myself, I wasn't sure how it would work. Molly says hers usually sticks, but not to use a non-stick because of the high heat. Mine turned out awesome. I took the time to comment on Molly's post before digging in, but the boy, who normally waits, said "no way, I'm eating it NOW!"

Next use for my kimchi - either kimchi tofu soup, or trying to recreate a kimchi and mung dal soup I had the only time I was courageous enough to venture out for Korean food.

I'm having some issues with my computer and uploading pictures, so I'm going to post this now, and add them later hopefully *fingers crossed*