Not to be used as a flotation device

Lisa and I are big fans of the Jeff Hertzberg/Zoë François line of bread-baking books, and we just got their latest one, which is devoted to pizzas and flatbreads. Over the weekend I decided to try the recipe for “Turkish Pita Boats”:

This is a spelt-flour dough shell wrapped around grilled marinated chicken, onions, yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, and feta. You grill the filling separately, let it cool a bit, then roll a few ounces of dough into a thin, rough oval, pile filling in the middle, wrap up the sides and pinch the ends, and bake at 500° F for eight minutes. The baked dough is firm enough that you can pick up the whole thing in your hand, like so:

Now that I’ve got the basic proof of concept down, the next step will be trying different fillings (lamb, for sure) and doughs.

Not to be used as a flotation device Read More »


The New York Times reviews Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, the 6-volume, 40-pound, $625 labor of love from the lab of Seattle local Nathan Myhrvold:

I will get this out of the way fast. The text, and there is a lot of it, is proficient and as compelling as my high school science textbooks. But artful prose is not the point… the goal was clarity and thoroughness, and the information is indeed clear, sound and, if anything, too thorough. Buried in the verbiage is a treasure of insights, some truly original, some familiar but described from new and compelling angles. Sometimes overly proud of itself, at other times it is recklessly (and admirably) opinionated…

Government suggestions for temperatures at which chicken and pork are safe to eat seem “to have been based not on science but on politics, tradition, and subjective judgment.” There is no single safe temperature that kills salmonella, for instance, but rather times that food must maintain specific temperatures to kill it. The authors provide the time-temperature tables.

Several pages are devoted to how to wash your hands and there is a brief foray into the Timurid dynasty of Central Asia; the book includes the equation required to calculate the radiant heat of a gas grill (which is not nearly as effective as a charcoal grill, it says, explaining why). Not sure how to balance your centrifuge? Look no further. On sous vide equipment, the Pacojet, ultrasonic baths, gelling agents, hydrocolloids and emulsifiers, the text is astonishingly thorough.

There’s also, apparently, a recipe for making your own Pringles. Sounds like the must-have food porn book of the year.

Want Read More »

Next time I’ll take pictures

For now, you’ll just have to make do with the recipe I used (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Fish):


1 cleaned, fresh or thawed octopus (1-2 lbs.)
3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
bay leaf
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup red wine
1 (14 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning)

1. Put octopus, crushed garlic and bay leaf in a pot with water to cover (N.B., octopus corpses contract into a tight ball when heat is applied, so you may need more water than you think). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until octopus is tender, about 1 hour. Octopus is done when a thin-bladed knife pierces the flesh easily.

2. Chop octopus into bite-sized chunks and reserve.

3. Put olive oil in skillet. Cook onions over medium heat until softened. Add capers, olives, wine, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Add garlic, parsley, and octopus chunks. Cook another minute or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve over pasta.

Next time I’ll take pictures Read More »

PETA encourages Ben & Jerry’s to switch to human breast milk in ice cream manufacture

No, seriously. Or at least, if it’s a hoax, it’s a hoax being perpetrated on PETA’s own news release page:

This morning, PETA dispatched a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of ice cream icon Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., urging them to replace the cow’s milk in their products with human breast milk. PETA’s request comes in the wake of news reports that a Swiss restaurant owner will begin purchasing breast milk from nursing mothers and substituting breast milk for 75 percent of the cow’s milk in the food he serves. PETA points out to Cohen and Greenfield that such a move on their part would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health at the same time.

The Swiss restaurant owner mentioned in the press release is Hans Locher of the Storchen restaurant in Winterthur, and it turns out Swiss health inspectors have already forbidden him to use human milk as a cooking ingredient. I’m going to take a wild guess that the American FDA would react similarly. [Hat tip to james_nicoll]

(Bonus chain of thought: The mention of non-traditional dairy products naturally puts me in mind of the old Green Acres episode in which Mr. Haney was selling beauty cream supposedly made from hamster milk, which got me wondering, at the tender age of six, what hamster-milk cheese would taste like. And a much more recent discussion of artisanal cheeses raised the question of why pig’s milk isn’t used in cheese-making. The Illinois Pork Producers Association has the answer to that one.)

PETA encourages Ben & Jerry’s to switch to human breast milk in ice cream manufacture Read More »

Synsepalum dulcificum

Today’s New York Times has an article on “miracle fruit,” a West African berry that “temporarily rewires the taste buds, turning sour flavors sweet”:

The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids…

The berries, which cost upwards of $2 apiece (one berry is supposedly enough to “rewire” your taste buds for an hour), are used at foodie parties where guests sample the altered flavors of a wide variety of foodstuffs:

He ushered his guests to a table piled with citrus wedges, cheeses, Brussels sprouts, mustard, vinegars, pickles, dark beers, strawberries and cheap tequila, which Mr. Aliquo promised would now taste like top-shelf Patrón… Mr. Mozie listed his favorite miracle fruit pairings, which included green mangoes and raw aloe. “I like oysters with some lemon juice,” he said. “Usually you just swallow them, but I just chew like it was chewing gum.”

A large group of guests reached its own consensus: limes were candied, vinegar resembled apple juice, goat cheese tasted like cheesecake on the tongue and goat cheese on the throat. Bananas were just bananas.

Sounds intriguing, although if I were trying to stay under the FDA’s radar, I’d probably avoid the use of the phrase “flavor tripping party.”

Synsepalum dulcificum Read More »

Starling update

Turns out this nesting in vents thing is a common problem. My favorite of the proposed solutions comes from Calvin W. Schwabe:

* * *

STARLINGS IN CRUST (Etourneaux en croûte à l’ardennaise) / FRANCE

Remove the backbones from some prepared starlings. Rub them with a mixture of salt, white pepper, and mixed spices. Stuff with a bread stuffing containing the birds’ livers, some mashed juniper berries, and, if available, some liver pâté and truffles. Wrap each bird in a piece of pig’s omentum. Pack tightly in a shallow baking dish on a bed of the backbones, chopped onions, and chopped carrots, all browned in butter. Paint the birds with a lot of melted butter and braise in a hot oven for about 10 minutes. Unwrap the birds and place them in a large bread croustade that has been buttered, “melba-ed” in the oven, and sealed with a paste made by blending in an electric blender some fried chicken livers, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Bake in a moderate oven for a few minutes and at the last minute pour in a sauce made by reducing a cup of sherry added to the braising pan, straining, and adding a cup of demiglace or other rich brown sauce. Garnish with some pieces of truffles lightly sauteed in butter.


Fry some chopped turnips and carrots. Add a little stock and a glass of red wine. Place some starlings or other small birds in the pan. Add a thin purée of boiled potatoes mashed with beaten egg, dry mustard, and some stock and a little beer. Cover with stock and cook for about 30 minutes, adding some ripe olives near the end.

* * *

…in the end, though, we decided to just ask the landlord to nail some wire mesh over the vent opening. Maybe next time.

Starling update Read More »

Mmm, pork

Tried out a recipe from the Seattle P-I last night. It’s very good, especially with mashed potatoes:


1-1/4 lb. pork tenderloin
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1. Place the pork in a baking dish just large enough to fit it. Combine the other ingredients and pour over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake pork, uncovered, until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees (about 30-40 minutes).

3. Remove pork from oven and allow to rest five minutes before slicing into medallions. Scoop up the sauce from the bottom of the baking dish and put it in a gravy boat to pour over the pork slices. Be aware that this “gravy” is sweet and very intensely flavored, so that a little of it goes a long way.


In related news, Masaharu Morimoto has just published his first cookbook.

Mmm, pork Read More »