Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Great Scape

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Photo by Melissa Schneider.
As I delved into the arcana of hardneck garlic for an upcoming Art of Eating piece, I learned about scapes, the stem of a hardneck garlic plant.

When I spotted some at a local market, I decided to write about them for my SFist column. Check it out, and keep an eye out for these unusual veggies.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Old Wine Gone Good

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So much for a blind tasting
Photo by Melissa Schneider.

I have discovered an incredible red wine vinegar. Other vinegars in our pantry have a thin, orange color. This one is a deep red-violet. Other vinegars have faint floral or fruit notes. This one tastes like wine, fruity and complex. (Tasting notes to come.) This vinegar makes you wonder if the others are actually the same substance.

I'll tell you the name when I decide on one.

Ed Behr inspired me to make my own vinegar when he eloquently described the process in issue 68 of The Art of Eating. Ed doesn't use David Rosengarten-esque hyperbole, so the piece's title caught my eye: "The Best Red-Wine Vinegar You're Likely to Find Is the One You Make Yourself." When he followed that title with "you probably don't know how good red wine vinegar can be," I resolved to find out.

Homemade vinegar has automatic advantages even over the bottles you'll find in gourmet food shops. I use good wine (leftovers from tastings or, more rarely, dinner). Most companies use cheap base wine. I don't filter or pasteurize my vinegar. Commercial outfits have to go through these flavor-destroying steps. Want to have your own vinegar epiphany? Here are my thoughts after seven or eight months of experimentation. If you're serious about creating a red wine vinegar unlike any you've ever tasted, contact AoE and get a copy of that issue (and tell them I sent you, though they might think you want to read the foie gras piece I wrote for that issue).

Two Ways to Start
In theory, you can make vinegar by leaving wine in an open jar for a while. In practice, I find vinegar au naturel a risky proposition. I tried it and ended up with a flat-smelling liquid and some fuzzy, white blobs floating on the surface. You might have better luck with a low-sulfite wine. Sulfites protect wine against Acetobacter, the microorganism that eats alcohol and converts it to the same amount of acetic acid. (Since white wine tends to have more sulfites, it's harder to make white wine vinegar).

For best results, find some "mother," an active, healthy culture of bacteria. Often it will have "scum" on the surface, which is nothing more than cellulose. I found my mother at Oak Barrel, a top-notch Berkeley store that caters to wine/beer/vinegar makers. Order from them if you can't find a local source. Mix the culture with some wine, sit back, and wait for two weeks to two months. Start with a 1:1 mother:wine ratio, and then increase the wine as your culture becomes stronger. My current batch is roughly 1:4, and the transformation seems to be progressing faster than either of my previous batches. The warmer weather might be contributing to the increased speed.

Regardless of how you make the vinegar, dilute the wine to 10 per cent alcohol by adding water. Ed points out that this dilutes the flavor, but this level of alcohol neither kills the Acetobacter population nor allows it to flourish as it would in five per cent alcohol. The slow growth of the bacteria population demands more time for the vinegar transformation, but you get a more complex flavor in the final product. Acetobacter needs oxygen to work, so make sure there's plenty of air over the vinegar: Fill your container halfway and no more.


Vinegar barrel
Photo by Melissa Schneider.

Choose a Container
If you want to make vinegar via the simple and traditional Orléans method, let it sit in an open container. You can use a jar or crock. Cover the top with cheesecloth so flies don't get in, and then leave the jar exposed to air.

I use a two-gallon American-style oak barrel. The small cask takes some prep work: You paint the outside surface with a fungicide, fill the barrel with water for a week to detect leaks and swell the staves, add a strong alkaline substance to kill off any microorganisms on the inside, and then rinse with an acid solution to neutralize the base. (Oak Barrel sells kits with all the chemicals you'll need.)

Melissa's a woodworker, so I asked her to case mod the barrel based loosely on Ed's recommendations via email. She drilled a large hole in each end above the halfway mark to allow cross currents of air, and then she cut a large hole on the top side of the barrel so that I can use a ladle to pull off the vinegar. The big hatch also gives me space to get my tongs into the barrel to remove the thick, rubbery sheets of cellulose which can prevent air from reaching the bacteria. She fitted the hole with a lid to keep the flies away.

Naturally, the oak adds its own flavor to the vinegar, and the cracks and pores allow more oxygen to reach the liquid.

Bottling Your Vinegar...Or Not
Melissa teases me, but I sniff my vinegar once a day to check its progress. I taste it and check for overly thick cellulose every couple of weeks. Sometimes I get nail polish aromas from ethyl acetate, and both Ed and another vinegar-making friend have commented that their vinegars get this unpleasant odor from time to time. So far, the nail polish smell has always disappeared after a while, though Ed's piece suggests that sometimes it doesn't.

You can pull off vinegar as you need it, and refresh with diluted wine when you have some. I often add a lot of wine after a tasting, so space constraints force me to bottle one batch before I start the next. Leave a good supply of vinegar in the barrel to transform the incoming wine. Fill the bottles almost to the top and then stopper them to reduce the air supply and halt, or at least slow, the bacterial transformation. Once Acetobacter runs out of alcohol, it chews on the acetic acid it created, creating water, carbon dioxide, and a duller vinegar. As the vinegar ages, complex molecules will create a more flavorful (and less acidic) product. That's the theory; I haven't had any for a long enough time.

I don't pasteurize my vinegar, which means I get a cellulose sheet in my "active" bottle, the one I keep at hand when cooking. The film won't hurt you, and I ignore mine. I also don't filter my vinegar through anything more than cheesecloth, which means that my vinegar drops sediment the same way that fine wines do. Again, I don't worry about it, though I do warn friends about both these factors when I give bottles as gifts. You can pasteurize the vinegar and run it through a carbon filter, but at that point you might as well buy good vinegar and skip the hassle.

Using Your Vinegar
Any good ingredient compels you to use it more. I find myself reaching for my active bottle to spark sauces and soups, and I go out of my way to make dishes that would benefit from a vinaigrette or a beurre rouge sauce. I have grand plans to make more pickles this summer, just to take advantage of my flavorful house vinegar.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Fields That Dream at Cody's Tonight

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Sorry for the short notice, but if you've got the time, come to the Telegraph Cody's tonight to hear Jenny Kurzweil speak about her new book Fields That Dream. If you're local but can't come tonight, make sure to get to the Telegraph Cody's before July 10, when this historic location of the famous bookstore (and my favorite by far) will close its doors for good (note that Cody's itself isn't going under; the other two stores will stay open). Fred Cody watched Berkeley riots tear down Telegraph outside his windows, and the Cody's staff voted to keep their display of The Satanic Verses even after the bookstore was bombed for carrying the controversial book. And the Telegraph store has a charm and ambience you rarely find these days.

From the event description: There are more than 3,100 farmers? markets in the US, up 79 percent from 1994, and organic food is a $7.7 billion industry. That, according to Jenny Kurzweil, is the inspiration for FIELDS THAT DREAM: A Journey to the Roots of Our Food. Kurzweil tells the stories of the real people behind the statistics ? the refugees, immigrants, former chefs, and union organizers who are now small-scale organic farmers ? while she explores the history of how America moved from a country of family farms to a landscape dominated by large agricultural corporations. She asserts that the enormous increase in the number of farmers markets and organic sales reflects America?s increased health consciousness, and observes that when consumers learn about the dangers of pesticides and genetically modified food, or the power of international agriculture, they are often completely overwhelmed. Kurzweil hopes to demonstrate that by buying and eating organic food or food that is locally grown, readers can wield enormous political power and join a world-wide movement toward reclaiming the land and food supply. Jenny Kurzweil is a writer and editor for the Society of Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, and has spent ten years as an organic cook creating seasonally based menus in cooperation with local farms. 7:30 PM at Cody?s Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley

GnG Recap May 26, 2006

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Here are some of the tidbits we've covered on Growers & Grocers this week.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

2004 François Pinon, Cuvée Tradition, Vouvray, France

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The rolling hills and riverbanks around the city of Tours in France play host to beautiful chateaus and electric white wines. Head east from the city to Château de Chenonceau for sightseeing or to the town of Vouvray for wine tasting.

The Vouvray AOC allows the Chenin Blanc and Arbois grapes, but most producers restrict themselves to the former. They don't limit themselves in any other way: You'll find still and sparkling Vouvrays that range from dry to sweet. Few wine regions produce so many different wines from a single grape. The best of these wines quiver with acidity and flavor.

Tasting Note
Funky and alive, complex and well-balanced. This crystal-clear wine's potent minerality mingles with funky, musty notes and a hint of peppercorns. The wine tastes of apples and evergreen forests with a steely acidity and a long finish. Melissa and I enjoyed it with Vietnamese food, but the wine would complement any number of dishes. The price hovers around $15 and based on the older bottles I tasted that day, the wine will age for decades.

How much do I like this wine? Here's an idea. I found it at a Louis/Dressner tasting of biodynamic wines. The small tent was hot and overly crowded with amateur tasters: I noticed two women wearing perfume in the pressing throng, and no one seemed to understand why you might have spit buckets on a table. I sat through an hour and a half of traffic to get there. I was in a foul mood, and the constant assault of the drunken masses made it difficult to appreciate any of the wines.

This wine made up for the entire experience. Well, almost.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

WBW 21/IMBB 26: Merkelbach Riesling Kabinett

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Do I have a favorite wine? Something to use for the "Pair your favorite wine with food" slant of this month's joint edition of Is My Blog Burning and Wine Blogging Wednesday? My favorite wine varies with the week, but given my recent article and my upcoming class (there's still room, by the way), I figured I would disappoint my readers if I didn't choose a Mosel Riesling.

I've written of the Merkelbachs before. The two elderly brothers produce the last of the most traditional Riesling from their vines along the winding Mosel river. Clean and elegant, their wines lack the opulence of wines from other producers on the same slopes, but possess a refined quality that makes them just as desirable.

2004 Merkelbach Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Vibrant aromas of green apple, "Honey Nut Cheerios," and of course that telltale Mosel minerality. Bright acidity and vibrant Granny Smith apple flavors settle in for long finish. A wine that will age well, given the reputation of its site—one of the undisputed champs of the region—and the integrity of its makers. Mosel Riesling pairs happily with a zillion dishes. We drank it alongside steamed sablefish atop a bed of sorrel and spinach with a beurre rouge sauce.

IMBB 26/WBW 21: Duck Confit with Two Wine Pairings

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Duck Confit with Fava Beans,
Fingerling Potato Medallions, and Garlic Scapes
Photo by Melissa Schneider.

If this were a physical auditorium instead of a virtual one, and I asked you to name my favorite food, a few thousand hands would shoot up. When Lenn and Alberto announced a joint edition of the monthly food blogging community events Is My Blog Burning and Wine Blogging Wednesday, I knew what I'd make for the Favorite Food with Wine category.

An Obsession with Duck Confit
We almost always have duck confit in the refrigerator these days, as I try to reproduce Curt's version. For those keeping score at home, we're eating the third batch since my lesson in Jojo's back kitchen. I'm comfortable with the curing step, and I decided to try the legs from foie gras ducks. This did produce a more succulent leg, but I need to adjust the confit step for the new legs: Mine still aren't as flaky and tender as Curt's. Melissa assures me, however, that my current legs are noticeably better than even my good duck confit of the past.

Duck confit is meaty with a lot of fat and, in my case, an underlying spicy quality from the cure. You want a wine with a medium-heavy body to match the weight of the duck leg, pronounced flavor to stand up to the rich meat flavor, and a good acidity to combat the fat and refresh the palate after a somewhat salty bite.

WTN: 1996 Marchesi di Barolo, Estate BottlingLast weekend, I rummaged through our rack for an interesting bottle and extracted a 1996 Marchesi di Barolo from Italy's Piemonte region. We bought it on our honeymoon, and let it sit in our offsite storage until recently.

A good barolo, a tannic, meaty product of the Nebbiolo grape, benefits from a decade or more of age. This barolo, amassed from the glitzy winery's vineyards rather than one special plot, lacked that depth. The aromas of leather, sweat, and loam played against a backdrop of sherry-esque notes, suggesting oxidation. Notable acidity and modest tannins overshadowed the mild leather flavor and hints of anise on the palate, and one had to really look for the slight dark cherry notes on the medium finish. The wine was good enough, but lacked balance.



Photo by Melissa Schneider.

WTN: 2001 Ravenswood Cooke Vineyard Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley
With so much duck confit in the refrigerator, we tried a second wine last night. The volcanic soil of Sonoma's Cooke Vineyard produces an austere Zinfandel, relative to other expressions of the grape. There's not a lot of depth in this bottle—cherries, cherries, everywhere—but the vibrant fruit, light tannins, and good acidity co-exist in a well-balanced wine. There's a tiny bit of heat on the finish, enough to warm your throat as you sip, but not enough to overwhelm.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Schneider Household Math

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Photo by Melissa Schneider.
To confit 24 legs from ducks raised for foie gras, you need six pounds of rendered duck fat.

Trimmed fat from 24 foie gras duck legs yields three to four pounds of rendered duck fat.

Confit fat can be used twice.

Therefore, another set of 24 legs will be a financial wash in terms of duck fat.

Time to cook up another batch.

See how it all works?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Guilt-Inducing Plates

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Americans bombard each other with fear-inducing messages about food. Don't eat this. Don't eat that. This food causes cancer. That food gives you hives. Reporters exaggerate each new finding and smear it across the front page, to cries of shock and panic in the populace. No wonder so many people search for "food obsession" (and find their way here, which probably isn't what they meant).

But maybe it's not enough. Maybe you need to chastise yourself and your children while you eat, and the burlap sacks and scourges don't cut it anymore. Fear not! Check out these plates decorated with health information. Imagine the dinner conversations you'll have now. You can replace convivial suppertime banter with speculations about the disease and filth spreading through your body with each bite. As my friend Sabine said when I showed them to her, "those plates actually seem psychologically damaging."

Healthy eating: good. Constant fretting about nutritional minutiae: bad.

via boing boing

A Site For Sorrel Eyes

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Photo by Melissa Schneider.
I've been curious about sorrel ever since I read The Artful Eater, so I recently picked up a few bunches and wrote about the tart herb for SFist. Now if only I had a garden so that I could grow some.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Network Neutrality

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Save the Internet: Click here Food bloggers around the Internet are staging a protest today against the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006, a US bill backed by telecom and cable companies that could eliminate so-called Net Neutrality. Under the new law, if you wanted to guarantee high data throughput to your customers, you would pay your ISP more money. Big sites would pay to come up quickly, little sites like me couldn't afford the price, and we'd appear slowly in your browser. Click the graphic to go to Save the Internet and write a short note to your senator or representative.

This isn't about us. It's about you. Right now, you decide how you get your information. Whether you rely on Fox News, the New York Times, or blogs, it's up to you to shape your view of the world.

If COPE passes, websites would steer you not by providing compelling information but by ponying up cash to their ISP. With Net Neutrality, a website has to compete with content. You'd find that sites within your network would come up fast, while sites in competing networks would come up more slowly, giving you a narrow view of the Internet.

Of course, this isn't a black-or-white issue. Google and Yahoo profit when a telco pays for a faster network, and online video threatens to exacerbate the problem. Who can blame the telcos that want to recoup their investment? But COPE isn't the solution: It's just a bigger problem.

Friday, May 12, 2006

IMBB 25 Round-Up, Part 3

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And at last, here is the third part of my IMBB 25 round-up. In almost a week, the next edition—a joint effort between Wine Blogging Wednesday and Is My Blog Burning?—will be underway, so I'm glad I finished my host duties for this edition. Click here for the second part and here for the first part.

I'd like to thank all the participants for their efforts (and patience), and I hope all of you have gained an appreciation for the way stale bread can enliven a meal and stretch the budget. If I've made any mistakes, please write me and let me know.

Simple Bread Soup
Guest blogger Max at i was just really very hungry dove into the food blogging universe with zeal: His very first entry was the Simple Bread Soup his mother made with stale bread. The soup is similar to French Onion Soup, but different enough that you should take a look and welcome Max to our not-so-little community.

Broiled Balsamic Panzanella with Zucchini and Onions
Welcome Chanelle of Making Food. Eating Food as she enters her first IMBB with a broiled panzanella (Italian bread salad), an intriguing variant on the normal panzanella. Swing by her site and ogle her creation.

La Vida Dulce Bread Pudding
Christine of La Vida Dulce keeps her entry short and sweet, combining apples and dried cranberries for a traditional and heartwarming bread pudding.

Dinah D'Ditty
The unusual recipe name from Aoife at yumbrosia pairs nicely with the unusual dish. At first glance the dish seems straightforward, but Aoife's grandmother anticipated fancy platings at modern restaurants by putting the croutons underneath the soup. The dish features a seemingly odd mix of tomato soup, orange zest, and almonds, but Aoife makes a convincing argument for the combination's flavor.

Migas con Huevos
Few of Brett's readers will be surprised to hear that in praise of sardines featured a Spanish classic: bread crumbs mixed with a mouthwatering assembly of pork products and topped with shallow-fried eggs. I think Brett should make it for Melissa and me so that we can judge for ourselves if it's as good as he says.

Poor Knights of Windsor
Why stop with normal French toast when you can add booze and give it a charming name? Happily, Helen of Grab Your Fork provides a simple recipe for the sherry-spiked breakfast, but she leaves us hanging as to the name's origins. Maybe it was a popular dish for the pensioned veterans at Windsor Castle.

Stale Bread and Smoked Sardines
Anni worried that her entry at Life is a Banquet arrived too late, but she came in well ahead of my round-up. Well ahead. She added smoked sardines to a Sicilian-style bean salad, and placed that flavorful mix atop toasted bread slices to make bruschetta. A perfect dish for summer's looming heat.

Italian Bread Salad
Lynette intended to make Pappa al Pomodoro, but somehow her soup never made it to the food mill, or even the stove, and she ended up with a panzanella made from Pappa al Pomodoro's ingredients. The dish may be a new household favorite, but she's at a loss on what to name it. Head over to Lex Culinaria, ooh and ah over her recipe, and then suggest a name.

Pork Chops with Mole Sauce
I've tried to make mole a few times, but somehow I hadn't noticed that it uses stale bread. That's what I get for making up my own recipes, but Dejamo's version at Dejamo's Distracted will put me on the right path. She uses bread crumbs to thicken this traditional chocolate-based sauce, and then adds peanut butter for richness.

Linda's Bread Pudding
While most participants mentioned stale bread's usefulness for low-income budgets, Linda of kayaksoup experienced it firsthand as a child, when her parents made "bread pudding" from what they had on hand. Rather than recreate this childhood treat, she made traditional bread pudding, rich with eggs and milk and flavored with currants and brandy.

Pasta c'anciova e muddica
Alberto of il forno, on the other hand, delved deep into "la cucina povera," the cooking of the poor. IMBB's founder followed a Sicilian tradition and used bread crumbs as a substitute for the grated cheese that finishes pasta dishes. Flavorful anchovies fleshed out the dish.

The Slow and Difficult Bread Soup
My occasional instant message buddy Pim took time out from her superstar life to make a bread soup. Actually, she took a lot of time for this edition of IMBB, judging by the recipe. How slowly can you make soup? Very very slowly if you're at chez pim.

Tapenade Toasts
Gabriella may be a reluctant housewife, but she's not reluctant about enjoying tapenade and goat cheese crostini. Tapenade on the bottom, warm goat cheese on top, and stale bread underneath it all. What's not to like?

Grilled Fallen Bread
Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen used a grill and a smoked sausage tomato sauce to salvage a fallen loaf of bread. Though not officially an IMBB post, who am I to complain that someone didn't get something done on time?

Addenda
Taramasalata
Susan features her rendition of Taramasalata at Porcini Chronicles. I'm fascinated by this mayonnaise-esque sauce, which I had never heard of before this IMBB edition, but Susan's surprising revelation about importing tarama overshadows even her detailed pictures and instructions.

Savory Bread Pudding with Chevre
IMBB offers an opportunity to see new ideas, but I felt like hitting myself on the head when I read about Jason's bread pudding at Jason Truesdell: Pursuing My Passions. Why have I never thought of combining bread pudding, goat cheese, and asparagus? It's the perfect springtime dish. Jason jazzed up his combo by making individual puddings, another great idea I'll remember for the future.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Edible East Bay: Home Wine Making

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Photo by Melissa Schneider.
The latest issue of Edible East Bay has arrived on news stands, and it features my article about East Bay home wine makers.

This topic has fascinated me for a long time, so I had a good time learning more about it. Once we have a little more space, I intend to set up a small wine making area.

As an aside, work has settled down a bit, so I should be able to finish up the IMBB round-up.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

IMBB 25, Part 2

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Here's the second part of my IMBB 25 round-up. Sorry for the delay but things have been hectic. Read on to see what another batch of food bloggers have done with leftover bread. If you missed the first part, click here. Come back in a couple days for the third and final piece of the round-up.

Panade
You have to admire the thriftiness of Boots in the Oven's panade. Combine stale bread, cheese, and onions to produce a hearty casserole. This is one to remember when you're facing an empty refrigerator.

Pain d'Amandes
Candy of Dessert By Candy departs from her normal use for stale bread—pain perdu—to bring us pain d'amandes. Her recipe suggests a straightforward technique that produces a complex flavor.

Toast Eiffel
You could probably predict that Jamie of the breakfast blog would make a morning-appropriate dish. But you wouldn't expect the witty shape or the surprise filling. Visit his post to get a humorous look at his brilliant creation.

Yesterday's Brioche, Frangelico, Chocolate and Pear Cakes
I like to believe that I can present food elegantly. Then I visit a site like Bron Marshall's, and I admit defeat. Bron's decorative flair makes for a striking dessert. But this beauty isn't skin deep: The flavors suggest sophistication as well.

Nana Davies's Ginger Pudding...And More!
Mel of hecticium ground her stale bread into crumbs and then used them in three separate dishes. She dug into her family's arsenal of inherited recipes and found the "Queen of Puddings" alongside a more humbly named Ginger Pudding. But she also pulled the crumbs into duty as a coating for scallops, which she paired with a piccatta sauce and a vibrant green salad.

Individual French Toasts
The next time we host a brunch, I'm tempted to make an amuse-bouche with Nicole of bakingsheet's individual French Toasts. They're like breakfast snacks.

Pappa al Pomodoro
My friend Amy of Cooking with Amy looked back to her time in Tuscany and made Pappa al Pomodoro, a wallet-friendly tomato soup thickened with stale bread. Here's her take: "imagine a thick soup that is infused with ripe tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, basil, and flavored with extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese."

Chevre Toats
Anne of Anne's Food says she made "just toast." But who can argue with toasted bread topped with goat cheese and honey? Or goat cheese and tomatoes? I'll take her "just toast" any day.

Ekmek Asi
I have no clue how to reproduce the correct characters for Irem of café et chocolat's contribution to IMBB. But you don't need to master HTML to make this easy-to-assemble dish of lavosh ("If you use a leavened bread, it absorbs all of the liquid of dish with its spongy structure," he explains), tomatoes, and peppers.

Ration Cakes
Necessity is the mother of invention, as Kathy of Houska Child proves with the Ration Cakes she made from stale bread. An English friend told her about his mum's creative use of the sparse rations she got during World War II. Prepare the bread slices, and then just leave them out to "ripen" overnight.

DC Duby's Pan-fried bread pudding with orange-braised endive and chicory ice cream
Lots of participants made bread pudding, but I don't think anyone else had the brilliant idea to pan-fry it. And that was before Rob and Rachel of Hungry in Hogtown added the endive and chicory ice cream. What is it with Toronto food bloggers and molecular gastronomy and gorgeous presentation? Rob and Rachel need to hook up with Clement.

Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Fig Jam Panini
You need little more than that title to head over to s'kat's blog s'kat and the food. That classic combination of flavors gets fused under the hot weight of a panini grill to create a decadent treat.

Kirschenmichel
Nicky and Oliver of delicious days took advantage of the cold weather to put together a soul-warming dessert. The dish itself, brioche in a souffle-like custard, sounds like the perfect anecdote to winter's bite, but I was drawn to the syrupy cherry-cinnamon sauce.

Artichoke Panzanella
I wasn't expecting an entry from the ever-delightful Sam of Becks & Posh: Her busy schedule prompted her to write me early on and tell me she wouldn't make it. But then, lo and behold, she posted about her Artichoke Panzanella, which Fred declared "the best thing she ever did."

Salmon Cakes with Dill Breadcrumbs
Faith of mekuno cooking transformed a past-its-prime loaf of wheat bread into an herbed coating for salmon cakes. Sounds like she's an old hand at this stale bread cookery, so no wonder the dish came out so well.

Taramasalata
In the breadcrumb-as-thickener camp, Celia of English Patis used breadcrumbs as the base for a mayonnaise-like dipping sauce that hails from Greece and uses fish roe as a flavoring agent. Sounds interesting to me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wines of Germany and Eastern Europe - Still Time to Enroll

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I just assembled the reader for my UC Berkeley class on the wines of Germany and Eastern Europe, and it seems like a good time to mention that there's still room in the class, which starts on June 2 and runs for six weeks until July 14 (skipping June 16).

I'm also told the price will go up next term, so sign up now to get a deal!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

IMBB 25 Round-Up, Part 1

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I will never again toss out stale bread. And neither will you after reading this first serving of bloggers who participated in the 25th edition of "Is My Blog Burning," the Internet's favorite cooking exhibition. My theme of "Give Us This Day Yesterday's Bread" encouraged participants to use dried-up bread in a new meal. Food bloggers stretched their leftovers in many creative ways. Here's the first group, with more to follow in the next few days:

Baked French Toast and Simple Bread Pudding
Laura Rebecca of the aptly named Laura Rebecca's Kitchen recommends the Baked French Toast from Gourmet's Everyday Meals. It won her over, even though she's not a French Toast lover. Two weeks later, another rock-hard loaf inspired her to make a simple bread pudding.

Autumn Pudding
Bonnie from Daydream delicious got her site up just in time to participate in her first IMBB. Visit her blog, give her a warm welcome, and enjoy the description of the Autumn Pudding she made.

Southern Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
Tyler and Amanda at What We're Eating worked in reverse: They made bread pudding and then learned about IMBB. But I'm more than happy to include their traditional southern bread pudding and its accompanying whiskey sauce.

Zucchini Pudding
Marie-Laure of Ô Délices made a savory bread pudding with zucchini and a heady mix of spices.

Savory Spanish Bread Pudding
If Marie-Laure's savory bread pudding isn't enough, read about Kevin's Savory Spanish Bread Pudding at Seriously Good. Chorizo, manchego, paprika, peppers and garlic mingle with good bread for a dish that has his commenters swooning.

Tomato Bread Soup
Melissa said mmm,mmm after reading about the Tomato Bread Soup at Mary Beth's orientation::quiltr. Curiously, that was the same thing Mary Beth wrote about her soup, so you know it's got to be good.

Sweet Bruschetta
I love bruschetta, a thick slab of bread piled with flavorful ingredients. Haalo's Sweet Bruschetta at Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once is a creative variant. Serve this after dinner, and your guests will be in heaven.

Caramel Bread Pudding
Babe_KL from Babe in the City - KL adds to the bread pudding pool with a caramel bread pudding. She found this "Recipe That Time Forgot" in a food magazine, and pulled it out just for the occasion.

Caesar Salad
A good Caesar salad requires good croutons, which is how Zorra from 1 x umrühren bitte decided to use leftover bread. I love the crunch of a good toasted crouton, and I'm sure they boosted Zorra's gorgeous salad into the stratosphere of taste.

Tarragon Tomato Soup With Olive Oil Croutons
Melissa was happy to hear that her Flickr friend from Bea's Kitchen had contributed olive oil croutons bobbing in a bowl of tarragon tomato soup. The combination of flavors intrigued me, but the dual-language post made me jealous: I barely update in one language.

Napkin Olive Dumplings
Ulrike of Küchenlatein contributed dumplings made from a torchon of bread cubes, milk, and savory ingredients poached gently. His post reminds me that it's been too long since I've made Serviettenknödel.

Roti John
We don't always crave a dish just for its flavor. Lisa of Lekker Lekker Lekkerste made a Malaysian dish for her friend G, en route to her farm to celebrate his 40th birthday. Read her touching post, a tribute to her friend as much as the dish he taught her.

Pain Perdu Panino
French toast + grilling = crazy delicious. That's what I thought when I read Matt Kerner's multilingual combo of Pain Perdu Panino at kerner.net. Follow his lead and add ham and cheese between the slices of French Toast. Oh, yeah. That's all kinds of good.

Baked/Fried Stale Breads
Gemma of Part-Time Pro Bono Baker swaddled an egg in a piece of stale toast, and offered two different preparation methods. Though given a choice between baking and frying... Wait. Is there a choice?

Roast Chicken with Bread and Spinach Salad
Whenever I host one of these blog events, I have to resist the urge to run into the kitchen (or the wine store) after I read each post. Michelle of Je Mange la Ville strained my feeble powers of resistance. I love a good roast chicken with crispy skin and deep flavor. Stale bread? Oh, right. I almost forgot. Cubes of bread soaked in the chicken's juices and wilted spinach make a welcoming bed for the lusty bird (her photos suggest the metaphor).

Stale Bread Three Ways (Baked French Toast, Sicilian Blood Orange Cake, and Asparagus, Crab, and Cheese Strata
Each of the three bloggers at Peanut Butter Étouffée contributed an entry to this round of IMBB. I often make strata for brunches, and doodles's combination of asparagus, crab, and cheese will stick in my mind for a springtime feast. Unless, of course, I opt for Moonchild's baked French toast. Maltese Parakeet's (I love these names) blood orange cake featured one of the more unusual entries for this round of IMBB. Other bloggers used stale bread crumbs as thickeners, but the blood orange cake features bread crumbs and almond meal in place of flour. Fascinating. Be sure to welcome these first-time participants!

Strawberry Bruschetta
I'm glad the army of bloggers at Slashfood didn't follow the fine example of Peanut Butter Étouffée: My fingers would fall off after typing in all their names and entries. But Nicole's strawberry bruschetta serves as the perfect ambassador for the site. The pictures and the description make me eager for the good strawberries we can expect soon in the Bay Area.

Quiche in a Bread Crumb Shell
I hoped Carolyn of 18thC Cuisine would be able to participate in this edition of IMBB. A peasant in New France would need to be frugal, and Carolyn's bread-crumb crust offers a brilliant solution for stale bread. An 18th-century lifestyle doesn't seem so difficult after she mentions a quiche filling of smoked salmon, onions, and dill.

SFist: Chevre Chase

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Photo by Melissa Schneider.
Spring has sprung, and I celebrated May's arrival with an ode to goat cheese on SFist.

IMBB write-up coming soon. I promise.