Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

4
May

Ova Elixa – Eggs dressed with fish sauce

   Posted by: Livia

This is another Roman recipe. I made it for Noisemakers IX.

So a lot of SCA events just have a bowl of hard boiled eggs in the shell – pretty much for people to fill up on when they aren’t adventurous for weirder dishes. So I found a recipe that would make hard boiled eggs one of the adventurous dishes.

These were served cut into quarters and already drizzled with the sauce, and a side pitcher so you could add more sauce, if desired.

Ova Elixa: liquamine, oleo, mero vel ex liquamine, pipere, lasere – Apicius VII, xix.2

Boiled eggs with a sauce containing fish sauce, olive oil, red wine, black pepper, asafoetida

So for the fish sauce, I ended up being convinced by my favorite cheese mongers to try . And I chose this dish to use it on because I thought the woodiness and the eggs would go well together.

We strewed the plate with baby arugula so the eggs wouldn’t shift in transport from the kitchen to the buffet.
The pitchers with the sauce were made by Brunissende.

And this was at the very start of the buffet so that it would be like the sources in a Roman dinner party – from eggs to nuts – but I forgot to put out the nuts in the end.

11
Nov

Laterculi: Poppy Seed Pop Tarts

   Posted by: Livia

Okay, so this is not an accurate redaction. Or, well, it’s about (slightly less) as likely to be accurate as anything else.

There’s a play by Plautus (Poenulus 325-6) there’s a reference to laterculi with the only description being that they are composed of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, (wheat) flour, and nuts.

Okay, so the name is also descriptive. It’s the word for bricks or tiles.

Some people take this description and match it with gastris, a food from Crete described by Athenaeus as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and poppy seeds, with fruit, honey, pepper and white sesame seeds. That will lead you to redactions both simple and amazing.

Now that last gastris redaction – which looks to me like a seedy fruitcake – would be perfect to make in an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ shape that was not unlike a common Roman brick shape.

On the other hand, Athanaeus’ gastris recipe has fruit and no flour. But Plautus was very clear that flour was involved in this project. Flour would be easy to add to the gastris because the nuts are working in a similar way. But it’s also leeway to go in a completely different direction.

One could make candies out of the honey and seeds with just a bit of flour.

Or! And here’s what came to my mind as being kinda fun – you could make pop tarts and call them tiles.

Okay, so pop tarts. First place to go is Smitten Kitchen‘s homemade pop tart recipe.

Next the filling. I liked how La Spelonca separated the poppy seeds and the sesame seeds. It both made them look more dramatic and kept the flavors clear and less like bagel toppings. So tentative working plan is to have two different flavors of pop tarts: Poppy Seeds and either almonds or walnuts or both; and Sesame Seeds and either hazelnuts or pistachios or both.

Okay, so poppy seed filling is a thing. But my first google search yielded only recipes that called for milk… but the Romans mostly ate their dairy in the form of cheese. It just didn’t feel right.

So I kept looking and loved this one that described the method and thought process beautifully and clearly – cook poppy seeds with a minimal amount of water, grind, cook again with honey and sugar.

Okay, so first I have to find the poppy seeds. So off I go to Amazon. And the first review right off the start informs me that real bakers look for unwashed poppy seeds for a richer, nuttier flavor and a better texture. Well, okay. So off I go looking at the unwashed poppy seeds and their reviews. And then things started to get weird. There was some division, but also some overlap, between the bakers and the people making poppy seed tea. And some of the people making the poppy seed tea seemed more interested in the color of their tea than the flavor, but others loved the flavor. Erm… And then I got to the ones talking about how ‘effective’ their tea and/or baked goods were. And there was the one who assured people that the reviewer really could tell that these poppy seeds were unwashed because there was plant material included as well. Ummm… I object! Because if I’m baking and there’s plant material, don’t I then need to wash the poppy seeds? But it wasn’t all double entendre and drug references, because there were still people staunchly championing the unwashed seeds while listing their preferred baked good and their baking credentials. But then I got to the one that was all, “I just made the best batch of muffins ever. Now I’m off to take a nap.” And I just. Now I have no idea whether kolaches is actually a baked good or just a wink and nod drug reference in the land of amazon reviews. So I still haven’t what to buy for making a large quantity, but I picked up half a pound of what are definitely washed seeds at a spice shop in the Italian Market.

So poppy seeds and water in a small saucepan. Check. Going well. The poppy seeds take on moisture, darken, and swell.

Grind the poppy seeds… doesn’t go so well. I put some in my mortal and grind it with the pestle… and it goes okay, but every time any utensil touches the poppy seeds there’s mess left behind. And so after a few desultry grinding attempts I figure I might as well see if I might like the consistency of it not ground all that much. So I put it all back in the saucepan and add the honey. And then add more honey because honey was more common that sugar back in the day. And then panic! Because the honey just liquifies and everything becomes sloshy. And cooking it more doesn’t make it any drier. And what if I really needed sugar to get a good paste because of how honey is like an invert sugar? Eh, whatever – let’s refrigerate what I have and see how it moves tomorrow. Plus I’m going to add nuts to it.

And the paste is fascinating! I used a fork to move it and it’s sort of a non-Newtonian liquid. Woo!

Okay, so crust. Filling. Assembly!

I got a friend with skills and a marble rolling pin to help with the first set of rolling out (I’m hoping I can use my pasta roller when I’m on my own). I rough guessed a size that’s smaller than pop tarts. My goal is to find a size that stretches my supplies while still being large enough to not get grabbed by the handful. One or two should be an intuitively obvious portion size. These ended up about 4″ x 3″ (and I think I could go a smidge smaller and have them about the size of poker cards).

I did one batch with just an egg white wash for sealing and one with a beaten egg. I think I’ll go with the beaten egg for future versions (because simpler to brush and more efficient use of stuff).

About 2 teaspoons of filling lumped in the center. And then I spread it out with my fingers because everything else seemed to just get coated in seeds more than helping to move them where I wanted. I left 1 cm margin. I can try getting a narrower margin, but too narrow might lead to disaster. And then I crimped the edges sealed with a fork and poked holes in the top.

I started the oven at 350F. And then after 10 minutes with no obvious cooking I popped it up to 425F. Total cooking time was 25 minutes, and that was a little too much (very brown, some corners just starting to burn, still entirely edible and hella tasty). Then I looked at the recipe, which was 350F for 30 minutes. So I just panicked too early.

When they were cooking, there was enough butter in the dough to lead to puddles of bubbling fat that were almost frying the pop tarts. So not okay for a toaster! But it was kind of sexy on a lined sheet pan.

When you bite in, the first taste is browned butter. And the second bite is also butter with a bit of pastry. When you get to the filling, it’s amazing. The nuts and poppy seeds are a lovely texture among the crispy pastry flakes and I’m not going to worry about grinding the poppy seeds at all for the future. And the honey is a great balance to the butter. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. They’re going to make the best breakfast.

So plans for the future:

* reduce butter per 2 cups of flour from 1 cup to 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons)

* try rolling out with pasta roller

* Cut to 3.5″ x 2.5″

* Poppy seed & almond is great. Also try sesame seed & hazelnut.

* Make 75 of each flavor; 150 total. Freeze before baking.

24
Oct

Sigara böreği

   Posted by: Livia

The last day I was in Istanbul, my host let me help her make Sigara böreği. Here’s my attempt to document what we did so I can remember for the future.

Filling

3 bunches of fresh spinach (with large leaves) from the farmers market were washed thoroughly in several changes of water. She had 2 salad spinners going at once.

In a skillet, 1 minced medium/large white onion was softened in a generous glug of olive oil. Once it was soft, she peeled and shredded in 2 smaller potatoes (all that she had on hand, perhaps more would have been used if she had it) (large holes on a box grater). Stir stir stir. Cook Cook Cook.

And then the cleaned and roughly chopped spinach went in. And we cooked it until is was a soft and homogeneous mixture.

Season with black pepper and salt.

Then the heat was turned off, and it was set aside to prepare the wrappers.

Wrapping

Was not made with phyllo dough! She hod bought freshly made circles of thin dough from the local market. Yufka! Which I just found at a market in this city, which is why I am now thinking about making them on my own.

So she spread out this 2″ round of dough in a single layer on the counter (and kept the rest covered lest it dry out).

And she mixed together yogurt, eggs, and olive oil until it had a soupy texture (and she added ingredients as needed to get the right consistency).

Spread a thin-ish layer of the egg mixture over the yukfa. Fold the yukfa in half, so you now have a semi-circle. Slice the semicircle into 6-8 (I forget which) long triangle wedges.

Assembly

Spoon 1-2 Tablespoons of the spinach filling on the wide part of the triangle. Tuck in the corners and roll the dough around the filling. If it seems dry, feel free to add more of the egg mixture to seal, but it shouldn’t be wet either.

Lay your finished cigars on a lined baking sheet. They can now sit overnight in the refrigerator (I don’t remember if this is just okay or preferred).

When ready, bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

Things that are missing from this recipe
She also had white cheese (like feta) that went into this dish. Was it mixed into the spinach once it had cooled? Or was it in the egg mixture? I don’t remember.

Were there any herbs in the spinach mixture? A bit of parsley wouldn’t hurt.

Other similar recipes online
http://www.deliciousistanbul.com/blog/2011/03/15/sigara-borek/
http://www.deliciousistanbul.com/blog/2012/02/14/swiss-chard-pastirma-borek-recipe/
http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2013/03/a-favorite-turkish-treat-sigara-boregi-crispy-cheese-and-herb-filled-pastry-rolls-a-delightful-find-in-istanbul-karakoy-lokantasi/
http://www.turkishcookbook.com/2006/08/cigarette-borek.php
http://userealbutter.com/2008/09/14/sigara-boregi-recipe/
http://www.anediblemosaic.com/?p=3740

vegan -> http://www.messyvegetariancook.com/2010/05/19/vegan-spinach-borek/

ETA: Okay – so I’ve made it now and can answer all the questions I had before!

First – this is not a crispy version. This dough looks terrifyingly designed to be crispy. I was sure that everything was ruined because I only had storebought Yufka instead of getting a fresh batch from a local market. Everything turned out fine.

Second – Yes, add the cheese to the filling once it has cooled. I ended up using a mixture of peccorino romano and sheep milk beyaz peynir. Whatever brined white cheese should be tasty. Also, I was worried about the saltiness of my cheese, so I was moderate about the salt in the filling. But, really, it could have used more salt.

Third – resting time is important! The first batch I cooked was the last batch I made, and it ended up releasing a puddle of oil that made the rolls soggy. I was resigned to finding them tasty anyway. But the second batch, which had been sitting long enough for the dough to fully hydrate and the tops (brushed with more of the egg/yogurt/oil mixture) to get a little tacky, didn’t lose any liquid and came out fairly similar to the ones I’d had in Istanbul. And the tops turned lovely golden and brown.

Cooking time – 425F for 20 minutes.

9
Oct

More Roman food

   Posted by: Livia

Fair warning – there might be a lot of posts all in a row. I’m planning a ancient Roman menu and am going to be putting my thoughts together here.

Starting off with 2 main sources – Apicius, which I’m familiar with, and Mark Grant’s Roman Cookery (which references ancient sources and then sometimes veers pretty far off, and I’ll need to go back and check his translations)

Outline (links to specific posts for each recipe to come later)

First thematic group

So this Roman Cookery book has a recipe for Ham in a red wine and fennel sauce (p.124-125) that’s described in the “Heidelberg Papyrus” which I haven’t tracked down yet. But it looks simple and tasty, and more importantly looks like it can be served on the side of either sliced ham as a preserved meat or ham as a cut of meat, cooked and sliced cold.

If the latter, there is an easy recipe for pork boiled in water with dried figs and bay leaves in Apicius (VII, ix, 1 & 2)

This would be lovely near Cabbage Salad that Grant (p.142-143) cites from Mnesitheus of Cyzicus, quoted in Oribasius’ Medical Compilations. Possibly also hard to track down. But it’s sliced cabbage in vinegar and spices. The closest recipe in Apicius (III, ix, 1) has you dressing the cabbage with salt, old wine (not vinegar), and oil. But most of his recipes have you cooking tha cabbage.

this group: gluten free, dairy free, fish free

second thematic group

Cucumbers in a quick refrigerator pickle (Apicius III, vi, 3) – I’ve made this before, and it’s pretty easy. Recipe does contain liquamen.

Olives & Celery – another Mark Grant recipe (p.74) from Columella – which should be significantly easier to double check. I want to take the serving of this as an olive and celery tapenade piped into celery logs

Hard Boiled Eggs – quartered and dressed with liquamen, pepper, and asafoetida (Apicius VII, xix, 2) and I figure there will be some plain eggs held back for less adventurous people and children

Patina of Anchovies – wash the anchovy, and steep in oil. Arrange in an earthenware saucepan, add oil, liquamen, and wine. Make a bouquet of rue and origan, and put it in. When cooked, remove the bouquet. Sprinkle with pepper and serve. (Apicius IV,ii, 11) – they were available for a good price and seem iconic for Roman food.

notes for this group: gluten free, dairy free, contains egg and fish

thematic group 3

Moretum is in Grant (p.72-73) citing pseudo-Virgil, but I’m also pretty sure the Apicius listserve has had copious discussions of this cheese, herb, and garlic spread with more than one ancient source.

Goat Cheese and Rice in Vine leaves – Grant (p.94-95) from a commentator on Aristophanes. Rice and cheese wrapped up in leaves, browned and fried in honey. For some reason the directions include unwrapping the rice as a stage, and that’s weird. So I need to look into that (and find an excuse to skip that step). This is a labor intensive reach recipe I might ditch. My plan is to make it a month or so ahead (possibly host a workshop to have several people help) and take it as far as browning the wrapped packets, and then freezing them. And then on the day of they can be reheated by frying them in honey.

Selection of white brined cheeses. Totally influenced by my trip to Istanbul, but I’d like to offer a couple different feta-like cheeses that have different flavor profiles.

Selection of crudite

  • carrots
  • asparagus (blanched – Grant p.142 from Anthimus)
  • endive
  • celery
  • broccoli rabe (if fresh and affordable)
  • sliced mushrooms

Lucanian Sausage (Apicius II, iv, 1) if my sausage making friend can get it done in time to smoke and age. This is supposed to contain fish sauce, and I’m torn between leaving it out and offering versions with and without… or making people suck it up and only try if they’re willing to have some fish sauce. Whatevs. Also considering whether it would be a good idea to have this on the table with the other pork products, but I like it with this group of food items more… will think about dietary restrictions.

Almond-stuffed dates (Apicius VII, xiii, 1) – which I’ve made often and are always well received

notes: gluten free, (possibly fish free – see sausage)

thematic group 4

Sesame Crackers – yeah… there are 2 drastically different hypotheses in Grant (p.154-155) from a short line in Athanaeus, so the end product is totally unreliable, but I’ve had an Alton Brown recipe for sesame crackers that I’ve been meaning to try for months now.

Honey & Sesame Flatbread (Grant p.97 from Athanaeus) would be a performance piece made hot the day of. Only if I’m feeling up to the added stress. One of the reach goals

Mushroom-shaped Bread (Grant p.53-54 from Athanaeus) is again pretty damn hypothetical. The sources just specify the shape and the things that make it different from a standard white bread recipe. But we don’t know their standard recipe. I’m willing to do some experiments and make some educated guesses, but this is something supported by archaeology as well as text, and the redaction looks like it would be easy to make in foil tins, which would make it super easy for this sort of setting.

Fried Dough with honey & seeds (Grant p.57-58 from Cato) is the performance piece my sausage-making co-conspirator wants to make. And since several people have offered friers it wouldn’t be too logistically complicated.

And then maybe some not roman at all honey butter for the bread, and olive oil with herbs.

notes: 2 recipes are dairy free, all the gluten, fish free, vegetarian, some dairy

breakfast set up

Coffee, Tea

Hydromel (Grant p.82-83 from Bassus) actually looks like it would make a good weak hot apple cider
1 part cider | 2 parts honey | 3 parts water

Seed stuffed buns (Grant p.106-107 from Plautus) Again, a very oblique mention. I’m thinking of these like miniature pop tarts stuffed with poppy seeds & almond or sesame seeds & pistachio – or something like that. And these would be something where we’d make it way ahead and freeze and then just pop them in the oven first thing when we go to set up. **expanded here**

~~~~~~~

Prep timeline

4 months – 1 week ahead
Cabbage salad (refrigerate in jars)
stuffed dates with nuts (freeze)
Lucanian sausage (hang dry / refrigerate)
Stuffed leaves (freeze)
Cucumber pickles (refrigerate in jars)
Seed stuffed buns (freeze)
make signs and labels for everything with all ingredients

week before
boil pork / find where to buy ham (vacuum pack and refrigerate)
hard boil eggs
make olive/celery tapenade
moretum
sesame crackers
double check your signs/labels

1 day ahead
crudite
– celery, carrots, mushrooms
– blanch asparagus
– cook sauce for ham/pork
– bake mushroom-shaped bread (maybe reserve a couple to bake on site for delicious smell and hot bread-ness)
– mix dough for flatbreads
– thaw frozen things
– triple check your signs and labels

Day of event

  • start coffee and hot water
  • bake seed buns
  • make hot cider hydromel – serve in crock pot
  • is there a mini crock pot for the ham/pork sauce?
  • fry dates in honey (can be done in a tray in the oven)
  • peel hard boiled eggs
  • fry stuffed leaves in honey (can probably be done in a tray in the oven)
  • quarter eggs and dress with sauce
  • slice ham/pork
  • fill celery logs with tapenade
  • arrange crudite and cheese plates, arrange all the other things, too, why don’t you?
  • how are we feeling about the fried dough and flat breads?
21
May

restaurant review – Schlesinger’s Deli

   Posted by: Livia

Just got back from a trip (which is what I meant my first post back to be about, but writing this instead), so I had a massage schedule because my back had been hurting and there was a long plane trip. Surely those would be disastrous together. Surprisingly, however, I’m doing pretty well, so the massage was just an extra bonus trailing end of vacation time.

Anyway, that put me walking to work from center city, which is rare for me. So I took the opportunity to try somewhere new for breakfast.

Schlesinger’s Deli
1521 Locust Street
Open 7-9 daily

I was looking for something light, but I have also completely run out of bagels… so the possibility of decent bagels won out.

I ordered salami & eggs (scrambled). They were cooked very firm and completely serviceable. The bagels were running low by 10am, but I scored an everything bagel. It had a crust, but not so much of one that it scratched my gums. The inside was bagel-y, instead of bready, but there was no stretch to the texture. Again, it was okay. The fruit cup side looked completely unimpressive, but was surprisingly good – they’d managed to ind canteloupes with flavor (still rare around here this time of year).

So I wasn’t wowwed but had nothing bad to say.

Except then I saw a patron come in and casually sexually harass one of the waitresses (“Can I get you anything?” “Come over on my lap and ask that again.”) and the waitress brushed it off and took it in stride, as she has to. But the manager was present and did nothing but welcome those patrons to the restaurant. So I was a bit disappointed.

And then that same manager publicly scolded one of the other waitresses for having been late to her shift and how dare she want to leave on time after that. She should stay the same amount late, since he has a restaurant to run and this is serious. And no matter how valid the critique, I should not be able to give you details of it, and it should not have happened right in front of the cash register.

So, no, I will not be going back there.

And, yes, I’d feel the same way even for the best bagel in New York.

2
Jul

Broccoli & Butter

   Posted by: Livia

In 1988, I was taking a course on logic. And, as is common in classroom debates, the topic was legalization of marijuana.

And we had the usual arguments with health studies and traffic studies and prejudicial enforcement. Fine. But the one that finally won the argument was this slippery slope extrapolation of, “Well, if you are going to go around saying people can’t get high when they are harming no one but themselves (i.e. in a controlled setting without involving non-users), then you might as well restrict people from consuming butter.”

Now at the time, this was ridiculous. And yet the class also had trouble pointing to the one thing that made it a different case.

In 2012, the arguments are exactly the same, but people take seriously the possibility that butter consumption might be affected by governmental oversight of some form. And every single time this comes up, I remember how incredibly unlikely it seemed back then.

What does broccoli have to do with health insurance? (NYT)
Broccoli in the Supreme Court decision (WSJ)
regulating soda size in New York (NYT)
Ruhlman fights back (tongue in cheek) with butter protections (blog)

8
May

Cena Trimalchionis

   Posted by: Livia

Right, so my local SCA group is experimenting with a casual Latin reading group, and we’re working our way through the Cena Trimalchionis.

So far, the dishes are more edible than I remembered them being in Latin class back in the day, so I’m pondering a bit on making a dinner from the text. We’ll see. But for now, I’m using this spot to make notes.

Initial Nibblies – black and green olives

First Course – fake eggs served in baskets with straw under a wooden chicken sculpture.
Make a thin pastry ‘egg’shell from a dough that is mostly just flour and lard. Maybe the size of a small balloon. Prebake them. Pre-roast a doormouse chicken thigh. Put that in the shell. Fill with peppered egg yolk hollandaise sauce. Top with a little pastry to close the shell, and bake for another 8-10 minutes.

20
Apr

Why are you feeding people?

   Posted by: Livia

Michael Ruhlman is a person who thinks about the whys and hows behind the food we eat, the methods we use to make it, and the sharing of it with others. He has given a TED talk. He has written many impressive cookbooks and books about cooking, with his most recent books exploring especially the fundamental components of cooking: Ratio and Twenty. And his recent post on Food Fascism has really struck a chord among the community of people who think about sharing food with each other.

The focus is on the decisions one person had to make in choosing the foods for a dinner that was part of her wedding celebrations – and whether it is reasonable for everyone to expect their preferences to be catered to, especially when that catering is expensive.

The whole post is not particularly long and worth reading completely for context. But his advice contained the following two paragraphs that will serve here as a summary:

“As you noted in a follow up email that no one in your party has any serious conditions (celiac disease, shellfish allergies), I would serve whatever the hell makes your daughter happy. I’m sure she’ll want a good variety, and so every normal person can enjoy his or her self.

But since you know that some of your relatives are a bit touched in the head with regard to their own diet, and that restaurants do charge by the head, I recommend including just what you elegantly wrote in your email on the invitation, politely. “I’m aware many in our big and diverse family may have diets they must adhere to, so if you suspect that our menu won’t suit you, please let me know so that we can let the restaurant know how many people will be attending the meal. If you won’t be attending do let me know, and also let me know if you will be joining us for the celebration following the meal.””

I’d say that a good 80% of the comments are in support of his positions, many of them with a wave of relief that they can admit to being unhappy about the sense of entitlement displayed by seeming-ubiquitous picky eaters.

There are even people with highly restrictive diets agreeing with his position because there are standards of behavior to be maintained:

The bottom line is that it’s never OK to rant and rave and make a scene about your food. Whether you’re at a party or a wedding, just remember that the event is not about you (unless of course it’s your own event). Even if you’re at a restaurant, the other diners don’t need to be subjected to your special dietary concerns. If you have a problem, quietly ask for a manager and pull them to the side to discuss it. Even better, write a letter to the management and don’t go back to the restaurant — both you and the restaurant will be better off. I’ve always appreciated a restaurant that will tell me up front that they can’t accommodate me as it means that nobody is wasting their time and even better, I’ve just increased my chances of not getting sick.

And I have to tell you that the whole discussion makes me wince. Because it’s the same discussion that you see in other venues – and it uses many of the same kyriarchal language that is used to refuse to examine privilege.

And I’m going to call BINGO

Who gets to be the “normal” eater and who gets the synonym for insanity? Well the picture right at the top of the post (which is held up as an ideal in the text) is meat and potatoes and a bit of vegetables. Ah, the golden era of nostalgia these days – the 50’s.

Also, there’s a generous accession that there are some people with real/medical needs to have restricted diets, and those are okay (but so inconvenient M I Rite?). And who are you to call the people eating fascists, when you are talking about asking for accreditation for food restrictions upon entry? Please may I have no ____, here’s my doctor’s note. Are you serious?

Why do we even care whether someone’s diet is restricted for health, ethical, or purely whimsical reasons? It’s restricted.

What reason do you have to want to feed people food they won’t enjoy? No matter that the reason!

Ruhlman says, “But foisting your diet on anyone or even talking about it in a way that even remotely self-serves or proselytizes, pisses me off.”

But by inviting people to eat your food and then serving people food they won’t enjoy eating is doing exactly that.

Making food for vegans and sneaking some butter in because you’re sure they’ll like it better that way if they don’t know – isn’t helping your guests. It’s helping you feel better about your own food choices. It’s betraying your guests’ trust that you are their friend and respect their ethics.

Making food for someone with an allergy and figuring that it’s not that severe, or probably faked, or just inconvenient to cater to, is risking their health. Even if they do not suffer for your choice, you are still the kind of host who is deliberately willing to compromise your guests’ health. Often times when this comes up, it’s discussed with a tone of spite – the cook getting back at the people who would dare make the person planning the menu think about the guests’ needs.

But even if it’s a fad diet. Even if it is just a food preference. Why are you calling them people who are important to you, if you don’t care what is important to them?

When I read the letter from the bride, I was pretty sure that the guests with the food restrictions were not just difficult to eat with, but also people who were generally unpleasant to be around. The answer there – don’t invite them. Don’t invite them and then test whether they’re willing to starve themselves for the pleasure of your company. Don’t invite them and expect a present when you are unwilling to offer food they can eat. Don’t invite people you know ahead of time you aren’t willing to have at your event. Because is slighting them on the invitation any less rude than slighting them on food? At least the former you can pretend was an oversight.

And what about more general cases? It’s important to ask yourself why you aren’t willing to accommodate the people you want to feed. What are you trying to prove to them? Why are you trying to normalize them?

And then once they are invited and you’ve undermined their needs and or values, don’t you dare say they aren’t being polite enough when they criticize you. (see also: tone argument)

And, yeah, it can be hard work to pay attention to what everyone will eat. It can take a certain amount of thought to pull together a meal with enough elements that people will enjoy that everyone will be pleased even if they can’t eat 100% of the meal. It’s much easier just to make a meal you’d like. But paying attention to other people’s wants and needs is one of the important steps in building friendships. It shows you give a damn.

Okay, so you’re going to have to forgive me on this one – I’m trying to take pictures of my food, and photography isn’t one of my interests. However, of all the people I invited to eat my beans, I didn’t manage to invite anyone else who wanted to take pictures, either, so it was all up to me and the camera in my phone.

That said, I can cook – and cook I did. I wasn’t expecting a particularly good success rate. In fact, I did run out and buy bagels just in case everything failed – that’s how little confidence I had. This was way out of my comfort zone, and yet I ended up liking everything!

So I cook with beans regularly – why was this out of my comfort zone? Well, for one – one of the dish was a baking project, and I’m still not fully pleased with my breadmaking skills and don’t consider myself a competent baker yet. And for another – when I make beans for just me, I really enjoy cooking them to mush, but for this I wanted to much more precisely control the textures of the beans and have a wide range of firmnesses… and if I were going to be playing with it, they might all end up crunchy after 3 hours cooking and what would I do? Oh, my!

So my two main weapons for playing with texture were baking soda (basic) and citric acid (acidic). Well, okay, I had many options for acidifying, but alkalizing has fewer options.

Marx Foods is a lovely company, and so far they’re the only people to ever offer me free things to experiment with, and some of my favorite experiments have come from working with exotic samples they have given to me. This time, they gave me three kinds of beans: Marrow, Mayacoba, and Azuki.

And I made at least one dish for each bean.

Azuki beans – intrinsically sweet, source of red bean paste (on language)

my opinion – I didn’t find them all that sweet… just not so savory that sweet things wouldn’t work with them. But I did end up adding sugar to both dishes.

I separated the 700g of red beans into two sets of 350g each, and I cooked one with baking soda to make paste, and the other batch with an added 1/4 tsp of citric acid as soon as they started to soften so that I could work with whole beans. With both batches, I ended up using less than the whole quantity (noted in the recipes)

Dish 1 –
Azuki Bean, Lemon, and Coconut Bread Pudding

(dairy free)

ingredients:
1 lemon peel (after having been used for something else)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

350g 150g azuki beans
50g coconut sugar
1/4 tsp citric acid

1 loaf challah, day old
1 cup large flake unsweetened dried coconut, loosely filled
1/2 cup golden raisins
8 10 eggs
3/4 cup coconut sugar
(2) 15oz can coconut milk

Two days before:

Take the peel of 1 lemon (organic, since you’re using the peel) and boil it in plain water. After the peel is soft and the water has a yellow tinge (the longer you boil it, the less bitter – I aim for about an hour), drain. Boil (low boil, not rolling, because this is hot sugar!) it again in equal parts sugar and water. Again, for as long as you have patience – at least half an hour. This time, when you remove the peel, reserve the syrup as well.

Put red beans on to soak. (I put them in an empty quart yogurt container, add plenty of water, and let sit about 24 hours)

The evening ahead:

Drain red beans and simmer in plenty of water until they just start to soften. Add sugar and cook for another 10 minutes. Bite a bean and see if it has a pleasing texture. When the texture is firm but not crunchy, add the citric acid. Stir. And then drain the beans.

Oil large casserole dish and tear the challah loaf into chunky pieces so that they fill the casserole dish. Add drained beans, coconut, and raisins. Slice off the pith from the lemon peel, and cut the candied peel into thin slivers – add as many of these slivers as you like, I used half a lemon’s worth.

Beat together the eggs, sugar, and coconut milk (I did this in a couple batches so that I could use a bowl with a spout – having a container that pours well is more important than efficiency here). Pour the mixture over the bread and fillings. Cover and refrigerate overnight – to make your life easier in the morning when you’re hungry, and so that it has a creamier texture because everything has longer to soak the liquids in.

The next morning:

Cook in a slow oven. (In this case, the cooking temperature and time were determined by another dish, but on it’s own I would guess that it would do well at 325F for 45minutes, but definitely check to make sure it’s cooked through)

Heat up a quarter cup of the reserved lemon syrup, and pour overtop the pudding.

Verdict:
I ended up with the beans a little harder than what I had pictured when I devised the dish, but it really worked well that way – they were almost like nuts. But my guest who abhors nuts in bread pudding (or almost anything sweet), still loved the dish. The beans and the coconut really play well together, and I’m thinking of taking the beans I ended up not using and simmer them with coconut milk to have with sweet sticky rice. I’ve adjusted the recipe also to include more liquid because mine ended up near the dry side, but I was limited by my coconut milk and didn’t want to switch to adding dairy to the amazingly dairy free bread pudding.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 6 out of 10
I found things with similar names on some restaurant menus (Ozumo’s execution in very different; Bamboo Sushi’s is also a bread pudding and has a citrus note, but the execution is darker and it does not have coconut), but I did not find any recipes or blog posts with a similar recipe. The closest I came there was a rice pudding.



Dish 2 – Azuki Bean Paste Cinnamon Rolls
(note: dough is only slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour’s guaranteed recipe)


ingredients:
(dough)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
198 to 255g lukewarm water
361g all-purpose flour
85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
35g vanilla sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
30g dry milk
21g oat flour
20 cardamom seeds, ground

(filling – enough for 2 batches of the dough above)
350g azuki beans, having soaked overnight
42g coconut sugar
1-2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp korintje cinnamon

2 tsp milk
oil for pans

(icing)
3oz cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered (vanilla) sugar
milk to thin for consistency

The evening ahead:

Make the dough – proof the yeast, mix everything together in a mixer with a dough hook for, “about 7 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom,” put in a greased container to rise in the refrigerator overnight. (more complete directions here)

Make the paste:

Only use about an equal quantity of water to beans because you aren’t going to be pouring any off – add more as needed. Simmer. beans and water until soft.

Oh, what, they aren’t getting soft? Add 1 tsp of baking soda and stir that in. There’s no reason not to add the first teaspoon right at the beginning, but you get a fun foaming action if you wait until the beans have started to cook.

If they still take a while to soften, add up to another teaspoon of baking soda, but increase slowly.

Often with sweet things you add a pinch of salt for balance – do not do that here because baking soda has a salty taste of its own.

Once the beans are soft, add the sugar to taste. I like the coconut sugar because it’s not as sweet as regular sugar, and it has a bit of a toasty dark undertone. I was aiming for the low end of sweetness, so you might want more sugar.

Add the cinnamon. If you are using a milder cinnamon, feel free to increase the amount to taste.

Note that I don’t have any mushing directions. I found that just stirring broke down the beans to the point where there was a lumpy paste, and I liked the additional texture enough that I didn’t see a benefit to breaking it down further.

Refrigerate overnight.

That morning:

Roll out the dough to 16″ x 12″ (possibly just those dimensions because it fits well on the KAF cookie mat or because everything happens in half sheet pan measures – I was rolling it on the mat to measure). If the dough starts to resist and pull back in, cover it in plastic and come back in a few minutes to keep going.

Brush dough lightly with milk.

Spread a thin layer of the bean paste on top.

Roll dough the long way as tightly as will keep everything tight but not distort the dough too much. It will stretch some as you roll. Pinch the end to the roll to create a smooth seal (it seals especially well if you roll the seam to the bottom as you slice the cylinder).

Slice into 1″ pieces and set in your tins (I had 1 8″ round, which held 7, and 1 9″ square, which held 9). Cover and let rise for an hour.

Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes.

Whip together the cream cheese and powdered sugar, and then drizzle in the milk until it’s loose and runny. Drizzle lightly on top of the hot rolls.

Serve!

Verdict:
Wow! These came out perfect. And they were never frustrating, even though I’d been told that this sweet roll dough could be hard to work with. And I was going to put all of the credit on the King Arthur Flour recipe, but no – I have also gained skills, too! The giving up and letting the dough rest when it starts to fight back is definitely a new skill. There was no frustration rolling it out at all. And I now want to use my mixer for my bread doughs instead of all of this kneading by hand craftsmanship. Though the reason I went with mechanical help was that in the reviews and comments on the King Arthur site there were a couple people who had troubles, and the answer was almost always insufficient kneading time.

To prep for this recipe, I also checked Cooks Illustrated‘s techniques for making the dough. And while the dough wasn’t so useful there, they spent a lot of time discussing the problems of filling leaking and burning. And you know what – I think bean paste cinnamon rolls might be superior to cinnamon sugar ones. One – it stays where you put it and doesn’t leak. Two – instead of using the sugar for texture and quantity of filling as well as sweetness, you don’t have nearly as much flexibility with the sweetness level of the roll and they often end up too sweet.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 2 out of 10
This was hard to search as there are many permutations of rolls and buns, which might include or just be on the same page as cinnamon, using azuki beans or red bean paste. So it’s hard to be sure I wasn’t missing a lot. That said, I didn’t find many exact matches, which is actually a shame since I think it’s a superior result. The first match I found that was close was a cinnamon roll that used the beans in the dough, instead of the filling, but then I found someone with the exact same idea (in fact, that search was where I got the idea to include cardamom in the dough), only she did not enjoy the results as much as I did – partly because she processed her red bean paste more than I.

Mayacoba beansdescribed as mild beans that are thin skinned and also good at keeping their shape in cooking.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these! You know those kale and white bean soups that are so delicious? Imagine that – as a quiche!

Dish 3 – Kale and Mayacoba Bean Quiche

ingredients:
400g Mayacoba (Canary) beans, soaked overnight
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 Pie crust (sorry, I used up all my baking mojo on the rolls – this was purchased)
egg white

1/3 lb pancetta, in 3 thick slices, then diced (bought at Milk & Honey Market)
1 medium purple onion, diced
3 large curly kale leaves, cut off the stem and sliced into thin shreds

4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp spicy mustard (obtained mine at the Philly Food Swap

Put the beans and herbs together in a pot with plenty of water and simmer for an hour – but keep a close eye on them. We want them completely soft, but not at all mushy or broken down. And, yes, these beans were amazing for that – the skin might break, but the beans kept their shapes nicely. When they’re cooked to your satisfaction, drain them and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Pick out the rosemary stem and the bay leaf.

Cook the diced pancetta all the way until at least half of it is looking crispy. Pull out the pieces and drain on paper towels.

Take 2 Tablespoons of the pancetta fat, and cook the diced onion down in that over medium high heat. Once the onion is soft and starting to brown at the edges, add the kale. Just dump it over top, and then start turning it as the bottom wilts. Stop cooking it when the kale is a bright, vibrant green, soft all through, and glistening with an even coating of fat. (note: pancetta fat can be exceptionally salty, so wait until you can taste the kale before deciding whether to add more salt to accommodate the beans.

If you’re going to make the pie crust, do so. Lay the pie crust into the pan and ease it into the base. Prick all over with a fork and then brush with some egg white. (in the land of not being wasteful, I just go ahead and crack the first egg for the filling and aim the brush for whites – thus having one fewer dish to wash). Bake for 10 minutes at 350F

So now you have ready to go in: beans, cooked pancetta cubes, and a kale/onion mixture.

Take your pre-cooked pie crust and layer those fillings in. (I considered also adding a hard cheese, but that idea was abandoned when I saw how rich my other ingredients were already going to be). If you can, end with the kale on the top, but that doesn’t matter much.

Thoroughly scramble your eggs and beat in the dairy (yes, you can use half and half, instead) and the mustard. Pour the eggs over the filling, and then stir them together a bit (which will break up your layers – no worries.

Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.

Verdict:
Yum! OMG Yum! This was exactly what I’d hoped. Everyone loved it. You really can’t go wrong with quiche. It didn’t even seem heavy at all, even with the full measure of beans. I’ve even frozen some pieces to reheat as breakfasts over the next few weeks. I tried microwaving one this morning, and it even reheats well. ♥


How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 8 out of 10
I have no idea why I didn’t find anyone else making this recipe – it’s delightful. Possibly because there are just so many white bean options that I didn’t search the right one. Here are the ones vaguely in the same family of delicious: white bean quiche with fennel and corn; spinach olive bean quiche; parsnip and kale quiche avec bacon; spinach and white bean quiche; vegan cannellini bean & kale quiche)

Erm… so I ran out of original ideas, and this next one is from a recipe. That said, it’s a recipe from ancient Rome that’s very different from a lot of food going on these days.

Dish 4 – Conchiclam Commodiana (Dried Beans in Commodus’ Style)

Conchicla Commodiana: pisam coques. cum despumaverit, teres piper, ligusticum, anethum, cepam siccam, suffundis liquamen, vino et liquamine temperabis. mittis in caccabum ut combibat. deinde ova IV solves, in sextarium pisae mittis, agitas, mittis in cumanam, ad ignem ponis, ut ducat, et inferes. (Apicius book 5, section 4, number 4) (I mostly used this site’s redaction, except for where I corrected their translation or substituted based on what I had available – and I didn’t look up the measurement equivalences… so only a little bit, but I did use it as a source)

ingredients:
400g Mayacoba (Canary) beans, soaked overnight
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp dill seeds (anethum is dill, not anise)
1 tsp epazote (because I wanted more green herbs, and it might be helpful with beans)
1 tsp fat or oil
1 small-medium yellow onion, finely diced (dried in recipe)
half a dozen healthy sprigs of parsley, leaves and stems divided, both chopped finely
1 tsp Phu Quoc fish sauce
2 Tbsp red wine
4 extra large eggs

Boil the beans, skimming off the froth.

With a mortar and pestle, grind the pepper, dill seed, and epazote.

In a skillet, fry the onion and parsley stems in a little oil (I used a teaspoon of the pancetta fat from the previous dish). Add the cooked beans, ground herbs, and fresh parsley – stir that together. Add the fish sauce and the wine, and it should be easy to stir, but not liquidy.

Take the beans off the fire and let cool.

Beat together the 4 eggs, and then stir into the cooled bean mixture.

Put it in the oven and cook very slowly. You could use a water bath, but I was already using the pan I usually use for that with the bread pudding, so instead I slowly raised the oven heat – letting it settle a bit at 180F, 220F, 275F, 325F, and 350F. And I think it was almost 2 hours before it looked cooked through.

Surprisingly, it was a souffle! I made ancient Roman bean souffle!

Verdict:
Fascinating. The (other) classicist among us said that it tasted like spring time – with the bright dill, green herbs, and earthy loamy beans. It was simultaneously heavy and light. It wasn’t a dinner dish, and I’m not sure it’s a breakfast dish. This was solidly in the land of brunch food.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 2 out of 10
You won’t find it anywhere else, but I certainly didn’t make it up.

Ohhh… this next one might be my favorite. This is the only one that could actually be a workday breakfast.

Marrow beans – described as having a creamy texture with either a meaty or a bacon-y flavor.

Okay, so this past year I finally started to enjoy congee or jook – by making it at home. I was inspired by both Tea and Cookies and David Lebovitz to make it at home with rich and flavorful little tidbits.

And I thought to myself – why not cook a very thin bean soup full of tastiness like you do with rice? I was so confident of this recipe, that I used the whole measure instead of dividing it into two potential recipes.

So I have no idea how incredibly inappropriate the name of this dish is – probably a bit, since it’s not rice – but I also have no better word to describe to you what is going on in this dish.

Marrow Bean Jook

ingredients:
1 tsp bacon fat (or pancetta fat, or any oil, really)
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 inches of ginger, cut into thin 1″ matchsticks
750g marrow beans, soaked overnight

duck stock

1 cup dried chanterelle mushrooms, steeped in hot water for half an hour

3 scallions, sliced into thin rounds
2 garlic cloves, sliced into thin rounds
2 mild peppers, sliced into thin rounds with no seeds

Stock:
Right, so I made special duck stock for this dish. I picked up a container of duck heads and feet from Siu Kee Duck House in Chinatown, and I cooked it overnight at 200F with my allium ends and carrot peelings, seasoned with 2 dried chilies (one of the few remaining things from the first sampler of free things Marx Foods sent me), black peppercorns, 3 whole cloves, 1 star anise, some fennel fronds, and a sprig of rosemary.

Jook:
In a bit of fat, cook down the onions. When they are creamy, add the garlic and ginger. After a minute, add the drained beans. Stir a few times, and then in goes the stock. Don’t worry if the stock is gelled solid, it will melt as it gets warm.

And then cook it for hours as you make everything else.

After the first hour, take the rehydrated mushrooms and cut them into centimeter pieces. And go ahead and add both the mushrooms and their water to the jook – it’ll only make it tastier.

Stir it every 15-30 minutes to encourage it to break down. I found that the marrow beans did not need any baking soda to turn smooth.

Near when it was time to serve, I took the three condiments above (scallions, garlic, and hot pepper) and toasted them separately in a barely-oiled skillet and put them out for toppings.

Also, go ahead and taste the soup. Mine was plenty salty, but if it had not been, I would have added a teaspoon of fish sauce.

Would also be excellent with a poached egg on top – but this particular meal had used plenty of eggs already.


Verdict:
YUM! Totally breakfast-y. Rich flavors, mellow intensity. Felt like a big hug.

How original is this recipe? Let’s say it’s a 7 out of 10
There’s millions of years of history of thin bean soups. Gruel, porridge, pottage, pulse – there’s really very little possibility this is a unique innovation. But as far as I can tell, it’s the only one on the internet.

Here’s a small selection of other things vaguely like it that I found while searching: lima bean potato gruel (wow – least exciting name for food ever); mung bean millet gruel; Pat jook (made with azuki beans, so that wouldn’t have been original); fruited green bean congee; congee with mung bean; 1889 bean porridge; Tutu – dutch Antilles bean porridge; mung bean porridge in coconut milk; Molly Katzen’s Bean Porridge; Ful

So it is the time of birthdays among my friends.

One weekend there was a joint birthday party for three of my friends, and one of them received three beautiful blocks of cookware grade Himalayan salt from a boyfriend.

if google+ displays the pictures, this is an assembly of all three blocks, two small and one large

(Oh, yes, there is a possibility of photos on this post! That’s because my friend took pictures and posted them to Google+. Is there aren’t photos, blame google for not displaying them. Wooo!)

The next weekend, for my birthday, we cooked on salt.

salt block on a big, sexy gas range

So I’d spent all of the past year pondering the Charcutepalooza challenges, participating in one, and looking all over the D’Artagnan catalogue to use the challenge’s discount code. And all year, no purchases from them. I sigh over the missed discount.

But that meant that when it was time to grill meat, I was ready. What’s more, I was grilling meat with someone who only eats fowl or swine for meat. But that was perfect since the one thing I’d really been pining after in the D’Artagnan catalogue was the wild boar.

And since I wanted the most forgiving cut possible, I went with the wild boar tenderloin. And then just to hedge my bets, I also selected a chicken sausage.

the styrofoam shipping container with the wild boar and chicken sausage all propped up and looking eager to be cooked

We started with the wild boar, and we sliced it into three thicknesses – thin (about 2-3mm), medium (4-6mm) , and thick (10-15mm).

one intact tenderloin, and below it the one we were slicing into the thicknesses

We started with the thin ones – and they were delightful. All salty on the outside, but with the salt taste very distinctly on the outside. The people who rarely eat red meat thought it tasted like steak. I thought the wild boar had a delightful funk of liver. But there wasn’t any flavor I’d call gamey. And they just melted on the tongue delightfully. Sadly, thought, the block had not yet reached a temperature to give the meat a good sear.

meat. cooking on salt. it's kind of beige in the picture.

The middle thickness was not as pleasing. It ended up being a bit chewy. But then once it cooled, it developed a graininess that made it tender again.

By the thickest ones, we were getting a lovely caramelization while still retaining the juicy center. Also, we threw some asparagus on the salt, too.
just what the text says

Of everything we made, the asparagus was the most delicious! The outside could blister while the inside still hadn’t lost its crisp. The saltiness was perfect, and it needed no other seasoning.

Oh, right – other seasoning. We also tried some thick boar slices rubbed in Penzey’s Galena Street rub. Meh. Not only did the rub already contain salt (so not necessary with this cooking method – imparts mild saltiness, my ass (luckily, I love salt)), but also the pepper and paprika powders were not happy with the high heat and turned a little bitter. Don’t get me wrong – I still ate the meat and loved it, just not as much as the plain slices.

You can also see that we’re building up meat residue on the salt block. If we’d cooked much longer, it could have grown a bit off putting. Here’s what it looked like scraping the salt down after we’d finished with the boar.

Ewww meat crud

And then we moved on to chicken sausages, sliced mushrooms, and slices of onions (a brilliant last minute addition). Slicing the sausages into rounds proved to be a mistake because that was just too salty. But grilling intact ones was delicious. Even more delicious was wrapping them in dinner rolls and adding mushrooms and onions and a bit of mustard and calling it a hot dog.

foreground: sausage sandwich. My friend has also added ketchup, but I'm trying not to judge her for that. background: chicken sausages and mushroom slices grilling on the salt block

The mushroom slices were more exciting that expected. We didn’t cook them to a point where the were releasing a lot of liquid, but the outside got firm while the inside puffed a bit, and it was like biting into a tiny mushroom pillow.

And the onions were beautiful grilled onion slices, pulling up the meat juices from the previous grillings.

And then there were birthday cupcakes. (Using Nigella Lawson’s Victoria Sponge Cake recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, topped with King Arthur Flour’s lemon pastry filling whisked with whipped cream). Not only a good dessert, but they also made a good breakfast the next day.

a while cooking rack full of cupcakes, with one special chosen one bearing a lit birthday candle

I have some wonderful friends.