Saturday, January 23, 2016

Foraging the Bay

Herring season is here! Since the boy struck out catching any herring (timing is everything, and we were out of town at the height of the local herring spawn), we decided that a consolation prize would be herring eggs. 

Herring eggs on seaweed

We now have a jar of brined herring eggs, and they are rad. Not surprisingly, they're crunchy, slightly salty, and mildly fishy. It's their crunch that makes me want to sprinkle them on everything I eat. I even mixed some in with mashed potatoes the other day.

Brined herring eggs - they should last a few weeks refrigerated

Still, as pleased as I am with our consolation prize, I wish he was able to score some herring. I had dreams of making pickled herring, but that is not to be. Our salmon supply is almost out, and I've become accustomed to having fish a few times a week. Even better is that I don't cook or clean any of that fish since this is the boy's thing.

If you'd like to chase herring, the best way to keep track of the spawns is by checking the CDFW's herring blog: The herring come to the Bay Area from November to February, and the chase is on when they get here because, as mentioned earlier, timing is everything. We were in town a few days after the big spawn in Richmond, and we didn't get squat.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy 2016!

Diwali Cow
Happy New Year!  Although it's been awhile since I've nurtured my blog, there have been many things happening that are worth documenting. Sadly, Instagram is so, well, instant that once I post something there, I feel like it doesn't need mentioning again.  But, as I found out last night when I wanted to make renkon kinpra for a dinner party, Instagram has it's downfalls. It's not searchable, and it's not the right format for more than a few sentences at a time.

Cow and dog on Goan beach
Last November, I spent three weeks on a food tour of India. What this trip did was make me and the boy go on an Indian cooking spree that still hasn't fully ended - and I hope it never does! It also made me hungry to visit the country again, because I only visited a handful of cities (Dehli, Agra, Bijapur, Udaipur, Jaipur, Mumbai, Goa). The regional differences surprised me. For example, even if I spoke fluent Hindi (one of India official languages), there would be people who wouldn't be able to understand me. To an American, that's such a strange concept because I can speak English anywhere in the USA and it would be reasonable to expect that the person I'm talking to also speaks English. Not so with Hindi in India. I met a women born and raised in Mumbai who couldn't speak any Hindi, but she spoke fluent English.

Since the trip, I've been immersing myself in Bollywood movies and music, Indian history (I finally broke down and watched the movie Ghandi, and am watching every food show on India that Netflix instant streaming has to offer. The more I learn, the more I find that I need to learn more. There's serious talk about going to India again this year, this time Southern India, and taking mostly cooking classes and maybe a few yoga classes. 

Remind me to tell you one day about how I almost tipped a raj - luckily , the crisis was averted by dumb luck.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tempeh for the People

Tempeh pan fried with chorizo seasoning
I've been on a tempeh kick for the past 3 weeks. And, as you may have figured out by now, when I get into something, I *really* get into something. So far, I've made 3 batches of tempeh, one with soybeans, another with soybeans and adzuki beans, and another with soy/adzuki/mung beans. All three have been delicious!

If you've every looked into making tempeh yourself, believe it when you read that fresh tempeh is nothing like the stuff you buy pasteurized and packaged in the stores. Fresh tempeh smells nutty, slightly sweet, and mushroomy. When cooked, which is the only way to eat it, the nutty flavor is intensified. I'm experimenting with different additions to my mixes, so far adding different beans. I want to try a batch with added sesame seeds and peanuts (not together, though).

For my first batch, I followed the known methods carefully, incubating my tempeh in a perforated plastic bag. It turned out delicious and was a good confidence builder.

For my second batch with adzuki beans and soybeans, I pressure cooked the beans together. This was a mistake because while the soybeans stayed firm, the adzuki beans disintegrated. Still, not wanting to throw away anything, I forged ahead and mixed in the tempeh starter, Rhyzopus oligosporus. I also used glass containers with no holes during incubation. The mycelium took off! I was so glad that I didn't dump that batch over a perceived mistake.

When you don't use a plastic bag to tamp down the mold,  it begins to look a little gnarly.

However, just cut the tempeh crosswise and you'll get the familiar form factor. I like how the jar made this batch of tempeh round, perfect for burgers.

My third batch took longer than 48 hour to form because I filled an entire jar to the top with the bean mixture. After 2 days, only the top half had enough mycelium, so I cut off the good part and put the rest in a shallow stainless steel try. The change of container gave more oxygen to the tempeh, and it finally took off. So, if you don't use a perforated container, only fill the tempeh mixture a 2-3 inches high so moisture evaporates instead of condensing in the container.

Delicious tempeh sandwich
Between the tempeh I'm making and the fish the boy is catching, we really don't have a need to buy meat. It's pretty cool! 

So far, I've made a Rueben marinade and a traditional, Indonesian marinade of salt water, ground coriander, and crushed garlic. Both were delicious.

Tempeh hasn't really taken off in the US, although at various times, optimistic vegetarians predicted that tempeh was going to be the next big thing. One optimist lives near me in Lafayette, CA, and he co-wrote The Book of Tempeh (an excellent read). I think one reason that DIY tempeh hasn't taken off is because people get grossed out by mold. When I posted mold pictures on Facebook and Instagram, there wasn't a favorable reaction. What I though was cool, others thought was spoiled and gross. Does this look any worse than mold-covered hanging sausages, blooming cheese, or a dead meat animal? To me it doesn't. It's the reality of food. 

Lately, I've been thinking of tempah as tofu's wild, tastier, cousin. I love tofu, especially fresh tofu, but it's a bitch to make in comparison to tempeh. Plus, it's mild. Tempeh, depending on how long you ferment it, can have a blue cheese funk.

If you want to make your own tempeh, I got my starter from Cultures for Health.

My blog posts are infrequent, at best, so if you want to see what I'm up to, follow me on Instagram. My user name is sungoldtomato.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Preserving the Catch

Once a week, the boy has been kayak fishing. For the most part, he isn't catching that many fish and we can eat what he catches within the span of a few weeks. Recently, however, he brought back a ridiculous haul of rockfish and ling cod from Half Moon Bay. It was time to learn some different ways to preserve fish.

My first experiment was salted rockfish, fashioned after Spanish bacalao. I layered a couple of fillets with salt, and then let them rest in the refrigerator for 48 hours.

After a brief rinse, I dehydrated them at 145°F for 10 hours, at which point they were leathery. For now, I'm storing them in the freezer in a plastic bag, but I have a stainless steel airtight box on order that will hopefully be a plastic-free solution to storing the dried fish.

I have yet to cook with the salted rockfish, but I'll report back when I do. Hopefully, my NorCal bacalao will turn out delicious.

The second fish experiment was cured salmon. The boy's kayak fishing partner caught a 10-lbs king salmon off of Bodega Bay, and he was kind enough to share the fillets. We ate some right away with herb butter, and I chose one filet to cure with salt, sugar, peppercorns, parsley, and dill. I had to weigh the salmon down to press out the excess liquid.

It's good! I have a huge chunk of salmon to cook with or to enjoy as is - such a luxury. Usually, I don't even buy cured salmon because the local, wild-caught stuff is expensive (I spied it at $24/lbs at Whole Foods), so it's going to be fun figuring out different ways to use this. If you have a favorite recipe with cured salmon, please let me know!

Since we ran out of paper towels, I decided to put together a jar of rags that we can use in place of paper towels in an attempt to waste less. So far, this has been an easy transition with minimal complaining from the other occupant of this place, but nothing really disgusting has gone down yet (no puking animals). I have a feeling the second that one of us has to deal with something gross, we may cave and the paper towels will reside on the counter once again. But, for now, this works and is minimal effort.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

(Not My) Grandmother's Slippers

I'm still knitting! I know that it doesn't seem like it, but I do have some small projects that I'm clicking away on while watching American Ninja Warrior, a guilty indulgence that motivates me to climb harder routes at the gym.

These slippers are for a friend who fondly remembers getting new pair of slippers annually from her grandmother. Although her grandmother is no longer here, my friend did have her grandmother's pattern and the last pair of slippers (preserved in a  Ziplock bag) tucked away. With those items in hand, I was able to recreate the slippers - I'm a sucker for a challenge.

I love the way these turned out. They do remind me of something my grandmother or an elderly relative would knit for her beloveds.

These slippers were cool because they are knit flat and then seamed together. My project notes are here.

Does anyone know of a similar pattern? I was trying to find the original source, but no luck.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Vegan Truffled Mayonnaise Recipe

The aquafaba mayo obsession continues! A few beautiful artichokes made their way into my produce cart, and I just so happened to have some aquafaba on hand because I can't stop making curried chickpea rice pulao. Artichokes call for mayonnaise, and hence this recipe was born!

I have a stockpile of aquafaba and some freeze dried fruit to experiment with now (Safeway carries organic free dried fruit, and Trader Joes carries regular freeze dried fruit)! Powdered freeze dried fruits are a wonderful way to use natural flavoring and coloring to cakes, macarons, and other baked goods without adding extra moisture, so I'm excited to start experimenting! I really want to make a vegan mochi cake.

Although I'm an omnivore, I've found that creativity can be induced when I restrict ingredients. I've made the most amazing food when forced to cook from my pantry, and cooking this way gets me out of ruts.  That seems backwards, but cooking this way challenges me and makes me create instead of following along.

Vegan Truffled Mayonnaise

makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise

1/4 C      aquafaba
2 T         white truffle oil
1 T         white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp    homemade garlic salt (use 1/4 tsp if using store-bought garlic salt)
1 T         Dijon mustard
3/4-1 C   peanut oil (any neutral oil will do)

special equipment: immersion blender or blender

Blend together the aquafaba, white truffle oil, white wine vinegar, garlic salt, and Dijon mustard on low speed. After a few seconds, start drizzling in the oil until the mixture emulsifies. Continue to add at least 3/4 C oil. Stop blending and taste the mixture, adding more salt or vinegar if necessary

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Homemade Garlic Salt

For consecutive weekends, the boy has spent half his time kayak fishing. What this means is that, if we're lucky, once a week we have fish for dinner. Fish smells like, well, fish, so the best way to prepare it without being reminded that we had fish for dinner days later is to grill it outside. Especially since we're eating different fishes and want to compare their tastes, we're marinating them the same way with shake of salt, a grind of black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, a mince of garlic, and a squeeze of lemon. So far, we've had striped bass, rock cod, halibut, and skate (listed in order of my preference) prepared this way.

The boy has been asking me to pick up garlic salt from the store for ages because sometimes the fresh garlic burns on the grill, and I've hesitated because it seems stupid to buy something that I knew had to be easy to make, especially with our dehydrator. So, when we found ourselves in Martinez as the farmers' market was closing, we struck a deal with a garlic vendor and got 3 pounds of garlic for $3. Score! Now, it was time to figure out how to make garlic salt.

The hardest part is peeling the garlic, which is to say, making garlic salt is not hard. Once the garlic cloves are peeled and washed, it was quick work to chop it up and spread it out on a dehydrator rack. I put the temperature to 125 °F, the vegetable setting, for 8 hours.

It will smell like Gilroy in your house for the first few hours, so you and your roomies will be safe from vampires.

Once the garlic is dehydrated, let it cool to room temperature, and then pulse it in a blender 4 or times times and assess the volume - my blender has graduated markings on the side, so I saw that I had about 1 cup of garlic. I added 1 cup of flakey sea salt to the blender. If you want your garlic salt less garlicky. add more salt. Continue pulsing the blender until the garlic salt is as course as cornmeal. That's it! Now you have homemade garlic salt. For the quantity I processed, I ended up with about 1.5 cups of garlic salt.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Aquafaba Basil and Sherry Mayonnaise

After this week's success with the black bean aquafaba macarons, I decided to try my hand at mayonnaise. I've made egg mayonnaise plenty of times with my immersion blender, using one egg for a batch. I find that this is the perfect amount for my mayo needs, and this usually goes hand in hand with the asparagus and tomato seasons.

It worked! Other than substituting 1/4 C of reduced aquafaba for one whole egg, the recipe is the same as the non-vegan version.

A note about aquafaba: to use it as an egg substitute, the aquafaba should be reduced to the consistency of egg whites. When I first started experimenting with the stuff, I'd refrigerate it after reducing. If the aquafaba gelled in the refrigerator, it has been reduced too much and you'll end up with really dense macarons or mayo. No worries, though, because you can always think it out with a little bit of water.

Aquafaba Basil and Sherry Mayonnaise

1/4 C        reduced aquafaba (I used black bean water aquafaba)
1 tsp         sherry vinegar
1 tsp         mustard
1/2 tsp      salt
3/4 - 1 C  peanut oil (any neutral oil will do)
1/4 C        loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Special equipment: immersion blender or blender

Blend together at low speed the aquafaba, sherry vinegar, mustard, and salt. After a few seconds, start slowly adding the oil until the mixture emulsifies. This usually takes me about 3/4 cup of oil, but sometimes it takes a little more. When you get the desired consistency, add the basil leaves and blend until incorporated. Taste for salt and vinegar and adjust if necessary.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Black Bean Macarons

Since I am sick of eating chickpeas in any form, I decided to make vegan macarons using black beans. Black beans are way more tasty. (Have you ever tried refried black beans mashed with a fruity olive oil and chipotles in adobo? If not, hop to it!)

The black bean aquafaba did not look promising at first. I had whip it on high for at least 10 minutes before it got to the soft peak stage. Once I added the sugar, though, it whipped up just like the chickpea aquafaba. There is now way I could have whipped this liquid up by hand, though, because it was going for at least 15 minutes.

The resulting macaron shells were a lovely shade of light purple. I filled these guys with a pistachio/cocoa/chili ganache to play up the slight fruitiness of the black bean macarons.

I am so relieved that I can make macarons with other types of bean liquid because chickpeas were becoming boring! On the Vegan Meringue group on Facebook, others have reported that they can make meringues from lentil aquafaba, kidney bean aquafaba, and the water that's packaged with fresh tofu. This stuff is so fun to experiment with! 

Has anyone else tried making these and, if so, what type of liquid did you use?

Monday, June 15, 2015

BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich

In addition to all the aquafaba posts, vegan blogs have been buzzing about pulled "pork" sandwiches made from canned jackfruit. The canned jackfruit, I read, had to be young green jackfruit in brine, not the dessert jackfruit in syrup. I was intrigued. While in Sri Lanka, we made a jackfruit curry, and it did have a meaty texture.

I opted to use canned jackfruit instead of buying one (they are huge, although you can buy partial jackfruits at 99 Ranch) because I read about how sticky and messy they were. If I liked the BBQ jackfruit, I reasoned, I could buy one next time.

After I drained and rinsed the jackfruit, I cut out off the core of each segment, leaving the feathery part of the jackfruit and some of the rind.

After I prepared the jackfruit, I made a BBQ sauce, which I improvised starting with the Joy of Cooking's ketchup recipe. My sauce was like ketchup with a hefty does of liquid smoke, smoked paprika, worcestershire sauce (not vegan), caramelized onions, and brown sugar. Once the sauce was done, I tossed in the jackfruit and simmered it for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I shredded the jackfruit just like I would for pulled pork, using 2 forks.

Since I didn't have hamburger buns but I did have loads of flour, I made Taste of Home's 40-minute hamburger buns recipe. Unwillingness to drive to the store is the mother of invention, in my case.

The buns turned out beautiful, although the batch I baked with the Silpat were a little too brown on the bottom, so I should have rotated the pans 1/2 way through baking. Flavor-wise, they were simplistic when compared to Acme breads or any other bread with a starter, but for 10 minutes of work, I'm not complaining.

Will I make this again? Maybe. It tasted mostly like BBQ sauce since the jackfruit absorbs flavors. The texture was much softer than pulled pork, so if I do make these again, I will bake the jackfruit shreds first to firm them up or run them in the dehydrator for a few hours so they can have some chew. The boy thought they were pretty close the real thing. It is easier to keep a couple of jackfruit cans in the pantry than to go out and buy pork if the mood strikes for BBQ sandwiches, so there's that advantage. And, since I always have homemade canned tomatoes around, making BBQ sauce isn't a huge deal.


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