Back for a second helping? Let’s talk porridge.
Soaked breakfast porridge with sweet cultured cream and blueberry compote
In the U.S., you probably are most familiar with porridge in its most popular form, oatmeal. Scottish immigrants are typically credited for introducing the oat to America in the late 19th century. In 1901 the merger of four oat mills in various states across the country resulted in the formation of a national food conglomerate called the Quaker Oats Company. Quaker Oats quickly put its considerable financial resources to the work of expanding its brand, to ridiculous success. The packaging and color scheme as well as the “Quaker Guy” rank among some of the oldest advertising images still in use today. It was in the 1920s though that they knocked the proverbial ball out of the park with the introduction of Quaker Quick Oats, rolled oat flakes processed to absorb water seemingly instantly. The on-going Depression, low-cost, and wide availability were contributing factors to Quick Oats becoming the American standard.
Quaker Oats by dbostrom on Flickr
Quick Oats were a sign of a change in American lifestyle. The new American Dream evolved from the pages of print media, which crafted the public image of what life should be for the modern family. Rest assured it was not an image of life back home on the farm, it was “metropolitan”. The media convinced the new influx of working class men and particularly women that their time was too valuable to be spent laboring over meals. The mass campaign prevailed: It came to be considered a right and a freedom to work tirelessly at a job, and a liberation to buy pre-packaged and ready-to-eat meals. Laboring over the stove was considered an ancestral plight; something that you worked hard to free yourself from. Twenty minutes to make traditional porridge became too much of an inconvenience when Quick Oats took only a couple of minutes.
These clever marketing schemes led us to the convenience culture we’re in today, where the average American wouldn’t know how to take care of themselves if not for the local supermarket, retail store, and ubiquitous faucet of running water. Everything previously valued in food processing as it relates to health took a backseat to prep time. Consequentially, modern packaged oatmeal and even worse, cold boxed cereal, bear little resemblance nutritionally to what our great-grandparents ate. The industrial processes involved in manufacturing shelf-stable quick meals often denatures the ingredients, robbing them of nutrients and decreasing their digestibility. Additionally, a range of additives for consistency in flavor, texture, and preservation are brought into the mix.
Here at the General Store, we value traditional preparation methods that, contrary to the modern industry, enhance the nutrient density, digestibility, and flavor valued by countless cultures for centuries. Every culture that ate porridge traditionally prepared it by soaking, sprouting, or otherwise fermenting their grains to maximize the health benefits. Below is a recipe for an easy porridge that can be made with coarsely-ground or rolled kamut, whole wheat, spelt, oats, rice, or most other grains.
This recipe and many others involving traditional preparation methods can be found in Nourishing Traditions, an invaluable resource in our kitchen.
- 1/2 cup rolled or coarsely-ground grain
- 1/2 cup warm filtered water plus 1 tablespoon whey, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, or lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon mineral-rich sea salt
- 1/2 cup filtered water
For highest nutritional benefits and best assimilation, porridge should be soaked overnight or even longer. Once, soaked, oatmeal cooks up in less than five minutes – truly a fast food.
Mix grains with warm water mixture, cover and leave in a warm place for 7-24 hours. Bring additional 1/2 cup water to a boil with sea salt. Add the soaked oats, reduce heat, cover and simmer several minutes. Remove from heat and serve with plenty of butter or cream, and a natural sweetener like Rapadura, maple syrup, maple sugar or raw honey.
Our favorite sweet toppings include:
- raw whole milk or kefir
- homemade apricot butter (recipe in Nourishing Traditions)
- fresh berries or berry compote
- diced apples or bananas mixed in while cooking
- sweet cultured cream (recipe here)
- crispy nuts (recipe in Nourishing Traditions)
See our previous porridge post for savory topping ideas.
This post was contributed to What’s Cooking Wednesday.
Porridge with slow-roasted lamb, bacon, 5:10 egg, scallions, and garlic chili paste.
We experiment with a lot of foods at the General Store. Our fridge is over-populated with mason jars full of random sauces, stocks, left-over meats, juices, and brines. Most of these things are delicious. Others we hide in the back of the fridge, our secret shame. But we’re always looking for ways to use up the leftover stuff that tastes great! Lately, we’ve taken to the task of making lots of sprouted flour. Now grain is really cheap when purchased in bulk and Dan hates making multiple trips to the co-op, so we tend to buy a whole lot of it at once. This has left us with more grain than we know what to do with.
“What to do with all that grain?” is a question faced by every culture that has cultivated it. The answer, in pretty much every region of the world, was some type of porridge. If a grain was harvested, someone somewhere has made a porridge out of it. And there’s a reason it hasn’t gone away: Porridge is crazy nutritious, cheap, simple to make and has limitless potential to be delicious. While doing some research for this article, we came across a few interesting facts about porridge:
- In the ancient Buddhist “Vinaya” texts porridge holds a special place as a food that Lord Buddha consumed prior to achieving Nirvana. Lord Buddha describes porridge of possessing benefits known as the 5 endurances: Overnight digestion, reduced flatulence, the quenching of thirst, the suppression of hunger and reduced constipation. Interesting that flatulence is posed here as being a stumbling block to Nirvana.
- In old Scottish tradition porridge was stirred with an object called a spurtle usually a stick fashioned from a tree branch. One should always stir their spurtle in a clock-wise direction. To churn counter clock-wise would invoke the presence of the devil and bring on a spell of bad luck.
- It was also a Scottish tradition to eat your porridge standing up and with a bone spoon. Dan has been keeping his eye out for a bone spoon but no luck so far. We imagine suitable bones for spoon-making were more common in the days it was acceptable to harvest them from fallen enemies.
Every traditional culture that ate grains processed them in such a way that maximized their digestibility and nutrient absorption. They achieved this by soaking, sprouting, or otherwise fermenting the grain. Today we’re going to cover a savory porridge made with sprouted kamut wonderful for the most important meal of the day, breakfast.
Savory Sprouted Kamut Breakfast Porridge
It’s nice to have grains on hand that are already sprouted and dehydrated. It allows one to make a “heat of the moment” decision about having porridge for breakfast. The alternative requires the foresight of an overnight soak. We’re not often ones to make important decisions about breakfast without the benefit of a night’s sleep.
We grind our grains in our ever-so-useful Vita-Mix, but a grain mill is even better. The texture of the meal is up to you – a finer grind generates something akin to cream of wheat or polenta, and a coarse grind produces a more grit-like texture. Our Vita-Mix does not always grind evenly, so we sift the ground meal with a fine strainer to separate out the flour from the coarser grit.
(*Homemade chicken stock or bone broth instead of water adds wonderful depth of flavor to this dish.)
Bring water or stock and sea salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add kamut and stir with a wooden spoon. Lower heat, cover, and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Add liquid to adjust consistency as desired.
- soft-boiled eggs * : drop eggs into boiling water for 5 minutes 10 seconds. Remove and peel in a cold water bath.
- slow-roasted pork or lamb *
- miso butter * : Blend white shiro miso with unsalted butter to taste.
- cooked kale or collard greens
- raw cheese
- naturally-fermented soy sauce
(* We have swiped these ideas out of David Chang’s Momofuku.)
Since we can’t get enough porridge, tune in next week for another exciting recipe made with soaked grains!
This post was contributed to Fat Tuesday, Allergy-Free Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Pennywise Platter, Food Friday, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Friday Food Flicks, Foodie Friday and Weekend Gourmet.
Traditionally lacto-fermented foods should be a part of every diet. They aid digestion and contain tons of vitamins and minerals that are easier for your body to absorb. Fermentation is like having millions of friendly bacteria pre-digest your food for you. Yum right!? The value of lacto-fermentation can not be overstated, it will heal your stomach and through your stomach aid your well-being.
Now there are lots of different ways to get your fix. Nourishing Traditions is our favorite resource for lacto-fermented recipes for dairy, veggies, fruits, salsas, condiments, and tonics. In our tacos post we covered pickled ginger carrots which we like to have on hand because they taste great with everything. Today we’re all about beets. We always seem to be able to find beets at the farmers’ market, no matter the season. They’re inexpensive and taste great roasted or in a braise but even better is what happens after you turn your back and let lacto-fermentation have its way with those beets. You end up with delicious and salty- feel it in the pit of your belly like a shot of scotch – beet kvass.
Beet kvass is a Ukranian tonic made, very simply, by combining chopped beets, sea salt, whey, and water in a jar and leaving it out on the counter to ferment. After a couple of days the kvass will take on the deep color of the beets. According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions:
“This drink is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are just loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, cleanses the liver and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.”
And we couldn’t agree more. On more than one occasion, Dan has taken a 4 oz. shot of kvass before bed in order to stave off an awful full-body hangover.
Well in the spirit of Friday we’re going to share a little cocktail recipe with you. A cocktail is certainly not a preferable way to maximize the benefits of lacto-fermentation, but here at the General Store we like to get down and sometimes the party don’t stop till 6 in the mornin’ and by then you’ve run out of traditional mixers but lo, you have plenty of kvass laying around. Honestly, if it’s 6am and you’re still partying, things probably started getting creepy hours ago so what the hell?
We fermented two special batches of beet kvass for this recipe using tonic water in place of regular filtered water. We opted for Fentimans Tonic Water because they do not use corn syrup and naturally ferment their sodas and tonics with botanical extracts. We also tried the brand Q Tonic but the flavor and quality of ingredients in Fentimans won out by far. We love Fentimans sodas, particularly their Dandelion & Burdock.
Anyway, if you *really* want to reap the full benefits of beet kvass, don’t make the following:
Foodsmiths’ Gin & Juice
- 2oz. Gin
- 1oz. Saft* or concentrated fruit juice of choice
- 4oz. Beet kvass (made with tonic water)
- Lime wedges
Combine all liquids. Pour over ice. Squeeze in juice from a wedge of lime and garnish with lime.
*Saft is a Germanic word meaning juice. It often refers to a syrupy juice concentrate made from berries and is meant to be diluted. We make ours by juicing fresh berries and/or stone fruit in our Champion. We sometimes cook the fruit in a pot over the stove before juicing to deepen the concentration. We made this drink with blackberry-plum saft, but feel free to experiment with flavors.
This post was contributed to Weekend Gourmet, Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Allergy-Free Wednesday, Frugally Sustainable, Whole Food Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday and Friday Food Flicks.
camel butcher next to two camel legs in front of his store off Rariq Magra al-'Uyun street in old Cairo by Paul Keller on Flickr
This morning we came down for breakfast to find a page of a newspaper on the dining table. Judging by the the circled headline, we suspected that a concerned relative wanted to grab our attention:
A blanket beef-bashing statement, nothing new there. Our first red flag that the article should not be taken seriously went up upon seeing that this article did not make the front page of the LA Times – it was in the EXTRA section, whatever that means. Considering how many individuals consume red meat you’d think a proclamation of this magnitude would command front page status.
We continued reading, finding ourselves increasingly pissed off by the continually vague, loaded statements. The article begins:
“Eating red meat — any amount and any type — appears to significantly increase the risk of premature death, according to a long-range study that examined the eating habits and health of more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years. ”
This is a bold statement for an article that goes on to provide no evidence to back up its claim. Instead the author opts to rattle off vague yet strangely specific statistics like “one 3oz. serving of unprocessed red meat – picture a piece of steak no bigger than a deck of cards – to one’s daily diet was associated with a 13% greater chance of dying during the course of the study.” No definition is provided for “unprocessed meat.” Is this blanket term supposed to encapsulate varieties of meat raised on healthy diets of grass and devoid of antibiotics? Are they really saying that when it comes to health, all meats are equal? The continuation headline reads: “Any way you cut it, meat’s a problem.” Now we’re getting cocky. The article is littered with scare-tactic proclamations. Just to make sure you’re properly spooked, the words “death,” “dying,” and “mortality” are littered throughout. Despite the overconfident tone, the article offers no evidence or theory as to what about meat consumption causes this Super-Death, just regurgitated tips on avoiding the stuff.
A scooter accessible butcher shop in the Ben Tre food market in Vietnam by nurpax on Flickr
Completely dissatisfied, we tracked down the original publication of the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (The LA Times article only linked to an editorial piece brimming with nutritional inaccuracies that accompanied the study.) As we suspected, the inconclusive nature of the LA Times article was indicative of an underwhelmingly inconclusive study.
From the “results” section of the study:
“Men and women with higher intake of red meat were less likely to be physically active and were more likely to be current smokers, to drink alcohol, and to have a higher body mass index. In addition, a higher red meat intake was associated with a higher intake of total energy but lower intakes of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Unprocessed and processed red meat consumption was moderately correlated.”
So, hey – get this! Smoking, drinking, and being obese may increase your risk of death! We’re no scientists but even we know one of the first rules of scientific study is that correlation does not imply causation. We don’t know anyone who smokes more, drinks more, or is obese because they eat red meat. To the contrary, we and others we know have experienced physical improvement on a diet high in red meat. The sad fact remains that many “health-concious” people these days do avoid red meat to one degree or another. Just as in the Times article, the study makes no distinction between types of meat other than “processed” or “unprocessed.” We have no idea which participants in the study were eating grass-finished meat, or antibiotic-fed meat, and all factors regarding how the livestock were raised and fed are neglected completely – either due to ignorance or intent.
avedano's holly park market by bittermelon on Flickr
“In conclusion, we found that greater consumption of unprocessed and processed red meats is associated with higher mortality risk. Compared with red meat, other dietary components, such as fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains, were associated with lower risk. These results indicate that replacement of red meat with alternative healthy dietary components may lower the mortality risk.”
All of a sudden we’re not so cocky anymore, backpedaling with words like “associated” and “correlated.” As for evidence, well, there is none! The study throws out a few potential “explanations” as to why red meat kills, and, well, it’s The China Study all over again. Some doozies include “increased risk of coronary heart disease” possibly associated with “saturated fat and cholesterol,” dietary iron, and sodium content. That’s about as detailed as it gets.
Unsurprisingly, after looking into this study we are convinced it’s trivial. Almost every story in the so-called news is tailored to induce a specific reaction rather than to inform their audience.
Butcher reading a newspaper in Hong Kong, by Roger Walch on Flickr
If you would like to learn more about our stance on red meat, feel free to peruse the following links. And remember, a healthy dose of skepticism helps to keep you informed.
Myths & Truths About Beef
What’s Wrong with “Politically Correct” Nutrition?
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell: A Thumbs Down Book Review
This post was contributed to Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesdays, Pennywise Platter, Simple Lives Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Friday Food Flicks, Fight Back Friday and Freaky Friday.
There are certain recipes that you love – to death. You make them over and over because they’re such a pleasure to cook and eat. Here at the general store, Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for Jimmy’s Dutch Baby Pancakes is one of them. It’s loaded with butter and eggs. The pancakes puff and curl like magic, and, if that’s not enough, you spend more time waiting for the oven to preheat than you do making the batter.
The original recipe calls for a mere half cup of all-purpose flour. We try to avoid white flour due to its negative health effects, which, up until now, has conflicted with Dan’s desire to make dutch baby pancakes every single weekend. We finally decided to roll up our sleeves and do something about it.
For our first attempt at a nutrient-dense adaptation of our beloved babies we used the recipe from Nourishing Traditions, which, surprisingly, calls for much more flour (whole grain soaked overnight) and much less fat! It was a painful failure. The cakes came out dense with barely a hint of rise, but the flavor was calling out. We resolved to go back to the blackboard. This time we’d try Molly’s recipe as a base and swap out white flour for sprouted, adding a bit of Rapadura and salt like we usually do for flavor. How bad could it be? It certainly couldn’t be more of a disappointment than our previous attempt.
We used sprouted kamut flour that we make by sprouting whole kamut berries in a large mason jar, dehydrating them in a warm oven, and grinding them in our beloved Vita-Mix. The process takes a few days, but you are rewarded with nutritious flour that is ready to use.
Most whole grains need to be properly soaked, sprouted, or fermented to break down the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors they contain. Otherwise these agents interfere with our body’s ability to absorb and digest nutrients. Our flour is made of whole grains that are essentially pre- digested by sprouting, so all of their nutrients are readily available. After grinding, we like to sift our sprouted flour to remove some of the grittier bran and germ, which we do with our trusty double-rod strainer. More on that in a later post.
We whipped up the batter, poured it into hot buttered cast iron skillets, shut the oven door and hovered anxiously around the kitchen. When Sarah could no longer sustain the suspense (about 12 minutes) we peeked in. God damn what an epic win this turned out to be. The rise was as robust as ever, and we could see the formation of a golden, buttery crust. They slid easily off the skillets, onto our plates and into our mouths. But there was something more this time. Underneath the crisp exterior the kamut lends a slightly sandy texture to the dutch baby, reminiscent of cornbread. Dan cherishes cornbread like he does a childhood friendship, so to add this into the equation sent him over the moon.
These babies are especially good topped with sauteed Pippin apples with cinnamon and sweet cultured whipped cream. Other great toppings include fresh berries, clarified butter, lemon juice, or whatever you damn well please.
We’re so glad to be able to share this recipe with you, which we will undoubtedly be making until the end of time.
Sprouted Dutch Baby Pancakes with Apples and Cream
Adapted with changes from Orangette. Serves two.
We used sprouted kamut flour for this recipe, but sprouted wheat or spelt would work equally well. You can make your own sprouted flour or buy it online. We usually make our cakes in two 8-inch cast iron skillets, but it’s also fun to serve in one big 12-inch one and share!
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sprouted spelt, wheat, or kamut flour
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup cup milk, preferably raw
- 3 Tbsp unrefined sugar such as Rapadura, coconut sugar, or maple sugar (optional)
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (optional)
- Pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide the 4 Tbs butter between two 6-inch cast-iron skillets, and melt it over low heat.
In a blender or bowl with a whisk, whip together the eggs, flour, cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
When the skillets are hot, pour the batter into them over the melted butter. Slide the skillets into the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, until puffed and golden-brown.
Remove the pancakes from the oven, transfer them to a plate, and spoon apples and a big dollop of cultured cream in the middle. Serve immediately.
Sauteed Cinnamon Apples:
Our mandoline makes slicing a joy, but this can be done with a knife as well.
- 1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Rapadura, maple syrup, or raw honey to taste
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the sliced apple, cinnamon, and sweetener, and stir to coat.
Continue stirring and flipping a couple of minutes until the apples are lightly cooked through and golden.
Cultured Sweet Cream:
We make our own yogurt cheese – from Nourishing Traditions – simply by straining plain full-fat yogurt through a dish towel-lined sieve overnight to separate out some of the whey.
- 1/3 C yogurt cheese
- 1/3 C heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup or raw honey, or to taste
- 1 tsp ginger juice or vanilla extract (optional)
- Pinch of salt
Whisk the heavy cream with a pinch of salt until soft peaks begin to form.
Add the yogurt cheese, maple syrup or honey, and optional flavoring. Continue to whisk for about a half a minute until homogenous and slightly stiffened.
This post was contributed to Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesdays, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food Flicks, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Food Friday, Wellness Weekend and Weekend Gourmet.
El Abajeño is a special place for the Foodsmiths. It would be no exaggeration to say we eat there several times a week, every week. Sarah’s dad has been patronizing the establishment regularly since the late 1960s and in all that time has never had cause to complain to management. If you knew John Jones you’d understand the magnitude of this endorsement.
There is an over-abundance of good Mexican cuisine in Los Angeles. If you search around long enough you’ll probably find a really good authentic spot in almost every neighborhood.
In the years before we met, Dan had already established another taqueria, Tacomiendo, as his local favorite. Coincidentally, Tacomiendo and El Abajeño are located directly across from each other. Getting Dan to try El Abajeño took a little prodding. He can be quite stubborn about these things. On that first visit though, El Abajeño won him over with their taquitos – won him over forever.
When you hear “taquito” you probably think of the more common rolled-up corn tortilla filled with meat, and then deep fried to a crisp. At El Abajeño though, a taquito means something completely different: It’s a gooey, oversized soft taco. They fill sweaty corn tortillas with a heap of succulent meat of your choosing, then cover it with grated cheese and a slice of avocado. The whole thing is wrapped up in aluminum foil where the heat from the meat and tortillas quickly melts the cheese. That first time, as you hesitantly unfold the aluminum package, you’re completely unprepared for this thing to make love to your mouth. But the best things are often a surprise.
We have eaten these taquitos for days. We never even considered trying to replicate it ourselves, until we tried the pork shoulder recipe from David Chang’s Momofuku, a book with which we are currently enthralled. The slow-roasted meat fell apart in tangles of juicy, tender salted pork. The taste instantly brought to mind the carnitas at El Abajeño. So we came up with this take on the El Abajeño taquito.
If you like tacos, meat, and cheese we insist you try this out. After you climb back down from heights of cheesy pork-addled ecstasy feel free to thank us with small gifts of cured meats.
tortillas: We had originally planned on using handmade corn tortillas made from sprouted corn flour, but they came out stiffer than what we wanted. It’s a shame, since we love our tortilla press. As a last minute compromise we popped over to our local mercado and bought some freshly-made tortillas consisting of corn (probably GMO), water, and lime (as in calcium hydroxide used to nixtamalize corn, not citrus). We steamed them briefly to get them properly soft and sweaty before assembling the taquitos.
If anyone has a method for making corn tortillas that come out soft with no sketchy ingredients, we’d love to try it.
meat: We slow roasted pork shoulder a la Momofuku with sea salt and Rapadura – an unrefined cane sugar that can be found at most “natural” food stores – instead of white sugar. The process is a breeze but lengthy – right up our alley. The end result is juicy and crackly, with deep salty caramel flavor. After pulling it apart and mixing the juices throughout, the pork resembles the most respectable of Mexican carnitas.
cheese: We grated raw jack cheese to pile over the meat. We’re not sure what El Abajeño uses, but this assumed the flavor and texture to our liking.
toppings: In addition to the small wedge of avocado with which El Abajeño adorns their taquitos, we opted to add some pickled ginger carrots for a bit of acidity and bite. As in the recipe for pickled ginger carrots in Nourishing Traditions (the holy grail of nutrient-dense cooking and never far away in our kitchen), we usually shred our carrots and pound them with salt, whey, and ginger until they release enough juice to form their own brine, but for this we decided to slice them with a mandoline and culture for a few days in a brine of filtered water, sea salt, whey, and fresh ginger juice. Although pretty, Dan was not a fan of the less intensely-flavored sliced carrots, and we’ll stick with our normal method next time.
assembly: We laid out rectangles of aluminum foil and stacked two steamed tortillas atop each, followed by a heap of meat and a little pile of cheese. We topped them with avocado and ginger carrots, then rolled them up in the foil burrito-style. Don’t worry if the tortilla doesn’t cover its contents completely – That means you’re doing it right!
We popped them in the oven to ensure they’d be all hot and melty and ate them by the fistful. These would be great for a party situation, as a large quantity can be made ahead of time and heated up when required.
Have you ever seen a line of recovering addicts outside a clinic waiting for their fix of methodone? Before this recipe, that’s kind of how we envisioned our post-LA life. Devoid of the rich landscape of Mexican cuisine, we’d be desperate for a fix but settling for ghostly memories of that former high.
We take a lot of comfort in knowing that when the day comes that we no longer have El Abajeño just down the road, we’ll still be able to satisfy our hunger for damn good Mexican food.
This post was contributed to Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2day Wednesdays, Allergy-Free Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesdays, Pennywise Platter, Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Food Flicks, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Food Friday, Wellness Weekend and Weekend Gourmet.
Sarah is a die-hard cheesecake fan. She’s had one for just about every birthday since her 5th. For her, the quintessential cheesecake is of the dense New York variety and is probably available in the freezer section of your local Smart & Final.
Thankfully, we’re not purists.
The raw milk cheesecake recipe in Nourishing Traditions is a godsend. We make it with Organic Pastures raw milk, homemade yogurt cheese, eggs from pasture-raised hens, local raw honey, grass-fed beef gelatin and homemade vanilla extract. And that’s it. Even with the nutrient-laden ingredients, the cake is pleasantly light in texture and flavor. It’s great for those of us who are gluttons for rich foods but just can’t put away the sweets like we used to. Ahem.
The original recipe is made with an almond and date crust, which is delicious, but we are all about variating. Other nuts, like hazelnuts, can be used in place of the almonds, or you could go classic and use graham crackers – We have a great recipe for soaked whole grain ones which we’ll have to share later. But this crust is extra special, because it’s made from one of our favorite cookies – Dorie Greenspan and Pierre Hermé’s salted chocolate sablés, aka World Peace Cookies.
The famed cookie recipe can be found in Dorie’s book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. Every recipe we’ve tried from that book (no small number) has come out perfectly, in large part because each one has been thoroughly tested before publishing. Her brioche is a blur of butter and air, and truth be told, impossible to resist. Her cream scones are the absolute best, and they’re equally wonderful when made with sprouted flour. The World Peace Cookies, well, they’re the showstopper.
World Peace Cookies by joyosity on Flickr
The first time Sarah made the cookies, she used carob powder in place of cocoa, and homemade carob chips (recipe in Nourishing Traditions) in place of chocolate. They were so delicious that she thought carob was the secret to her success. Turns out that the recipe is just that good – with carob and chocolate alike.
The cookie batter is rolled into logs, wrapped in saran, and refrigerated (or frozen) until ready to slice off and bake. We love being able to bake cookies only as we need them, especially since this recipe makes plenty. After a few days in the fridge the batter develops a glorious caramel-like complexity, but it’s really not necessary to wait that long. We baked and crumbled the cookies, pressed them into a handy 6″ spring-form pan, poured the cheesecake batter on top, and let it set up in the fridge.
We then made a quick cherry compote and allowed it to cool before spooning it over the set cheesecake. Before serving, we whipped up some cream with maple syrup to dollop on top. To unmold the cake, we ran a hot knife around the perimeter and wished we had had the foresight to line our pan with parchment or acetate. Being somewhat gelatinous, this cake has a tendency to stick, but we managed to coax it out without too much damage. The end result was as tasty as it was attractive.
The cheesecake itself was smooth, light and slightly under sweet, which complemented the richness of the cookies. The cherries added color, texture, and mild acidity. Our first inclination was to top it all off with lightly whipped crème fraîche, but straight whipped cream is a nicer foil to the cultured dairy in the cake.
The biggest issue we faced was the crust. It had become, essentially, a 6″ cookie that the cake happened to sit on. Although delicious, It was hard to cut through, due to the dark chocolate chunks and our tamping it down so hard into the pan. It also didn’t adhere well to the rest of the cake, which we had to keep from jiggling its way off its base. If we try the World Peace cookie crust again, we’ll cut down on the chocolate pieces and pack it in a bit looser.
Matters of crust aside, this is an important recipe in the expanding Foodsmiths canon. It allows us to carry on the cherished tradition of unabashed cheesecake consumption on Sarah’s special day without the necessity of feeling like we got punched in the gut afterward. Long live the raw milk cheesecake.
This post was contributed to Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Allergy-Free Wednesday, Healthy 2day Wednesdays,What’s Cooking Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Friday Food Flicks, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Food Friday, Freaky Friday and Weekend Gourmet.
Once upon a time we lived in a bed bug-infested low-income apartment building for the sometimes criminally insane called the Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
View from the Alexandria by C.M. Gonzalez on Flickr
We had one moderately-sized corner room on the 10th floor with a thankfully private bathroom. There was a kitchenette. The sink and two-burner stove top shared the same roughly 2-foot-wide counter top. It certainly wasn’t the ideal kitchen for two fledgling cooks but thanks to Sarah’s magnificent work table and the full-sized fridge we snuck in, we managed to churn out some good stuff without getting in each others’ way all the time.
The Alexandria Hotel, much like the rest of the old buildings in LA, was probably really charming and glamorous 80 years ago. However as the entertainment industry went about the business of creating a separate Los Angeles for itself, hidden behind the private gates of clubs, studios and mansions across the county, the old charm of Los Angeles decayed. Now it finds itself being over-developed into a tacky blight.
But there was something special about the Alexandria that gave it a leg up on more newly renovated buildings in the area. The Alexandria was home to The Gorbals. The food and atmosphere there were always a comfort to us in times when we really needed comforting. Like the time we left the door unlocked and someone came in while we were sleeping and helped themselves to Dan’s phone and wallet or perhaps we missed moving the car for a street cleaning, or maybe we were just unsatisfied after a meal at that pop-up restaurant that everyone was raving about and we needed to remind ourselves why we love food. It was always the Gorbals.
One of our favorite dishes was the bánh mì poutine. When they first started serving poutine at the Gorbals the fries were big and fluffy and wonderful. The cheese and pork and pickle and gravy were a magical gooey mess of wonderful. But dishes change and Foodsmiths move.
Bahn mi poutine @ The Gorbals by Ed Kwon on Flickr
Sarah recently read about fermented french fries and the first application that came to mind simultaneously was a riff on poutine. We discussed what flavors we’d like to see in a poutine and came to our second Gorbals inspiration for this dish: Another of Ilan Hall’s stand outs, the fried broccoli. It’s crispy and swimming in a chile-infused soy sauce which it sops up in a way we didn’t know broccoli could. We’ve been perfecting our own version of it for some time now, and it’s pretty great. With steak, it’s one of our very favorite go-to quick meals.
We start with broccoli that is pretty dry – in other words, it hasn’t just been rinsed. We chop it up into large bite-sized florets and stems and deep fry it in coconut oil and/or lard until the florets start to darken and crisp and the stems are flecked with brown. We season a hunk of steak (flank, rib eye, or whatever we have on hand) generously with salt and pepper, and cook it to medium rare in bacon grease in a cast iron skillet. While the steak is resting, we make our sauce. To the pan juices from the meat we add our favorite chili garlic sauce, a hearty glug of homemade chicken or beef stock, a bit of fresh ginger juice, and maybe a sprinkle of fish sauce for that extra funk. We boil this down for a couple minutes until the sauce is just slightly thicker than we want it to be, then we add a healthy dose of naturally-fermented unpasteurized soy sauce to taste. We slice the meat thinly against the grain, and we’re done. In all honesty, you could stop reading right here. Fried broccoli, steak, sauce, and you’re set for good times. But that’s not all we wanted to share with you today.
Our beef broccoli poutine.
When we read KerryAnn’s article about fermenting fries, we were on board with the idea immediately. Usually, prior to frying, you want to soak and possibly parboil your fries enough to break down some of their water-retaining cell structure without cooking them so much that they turn to mush. If you skip this step, they might brown and burn or get soggy. It seems so logical to ferment them that we wished we had thought of it before. We cut the fries fairly thick, and set them to ferment for a few days using a half gallon jar we rigged up with an airlock and the aforementioned method.
They certainly smelled pickle-y when we opened the jar, and were completely limp. We recommend drying them off immediately before frying, as the ones that sat out air-drying for a bit began to brown. The browning may have been discouraged with a post-brine soak in water, but we didn’t want to risk losing any briny flavor. They fried up beautifully golden and stiff. The flavor was spot on – They required no salt, and the pickled flavor was barely noticeable, if not pleasant. We used russet potatoes, but the texture of the fermented fries more resembled that of yukon golds: They were fairly waxy and not starchy in the least.
We read somewhere that The Gorbals uses mozzarella in lieu of cheese curds for their bánh mì poutine, so we figured we’d follow suit. The mild cheese proved to be a good flavor match with the salty and deeply-seasoned sauce, but we failed to achieve the gooeyness and stringiness that we were after. We probably spent too much time fussing over the food before eating. Next time we’ll be more generous with the cheese, and everything is getting a good broil right before being served. We topped our “poutine” with scallions, because if Ilan Hall has taught us anything, it’s that scallions are almost always a good idea.
This post was contributed to Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Allergy-Free Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Healthy 2day Wednesdays, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesdays, Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Friday Food Flicks, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Food Friday, Freaky Friday, Wellness Weekend and Weekend Gourmet.