Grilled Pizza

28 Mar

Still working on getting a pizza stone hot enough and where exactly in the grill it and the fire should go, but these were good…

IMG_20170327_192051

Using my father’s some-whole-wheat-flour high-moisture-content long-rising dough recipe:

IMG_20170327_200102Butternut squash, red onion, buffalo mozzarella, gremolata:

IMG_20170327_201437

Tomato sauce, anchovies, bitter greens, salted olives, chili flakes:

IMG_20170327_203839

Pesto, ricotta, asparagus:IMG_20170327_205546

Radicchio-Kale-Bacon Omelet

12 Mar

From the back yard garden, kale and radicchio that’s finally forming heads (planted last fall).

With fermented Jimmy Nardello pepper paste…

Fast Fajita Friday

5 Mar

img_20170303_211322

A excellent, relatively quick dinner– Grilled steak, onions, and peppers. A fiery, fruity salsa made from grilled/blistered rocoto peppers, olive oil, lime juice, and salt. And tortillas also cooked on the grill as an experiment….

Starting each tortilla on a cast iron skillet for a minute gave it a skin on the bottom that prevented the soft masa from drooping down through the grating– then I transferred each tortilla to the grill, making it easy to quickly cook 4-6 in parallel.

Preserving Citrus & Hot Peppers

4 Mar

Another winter weekend, another bout of citrus preserving.

First, citrus peels rubbed in sugar to extract oils and make an oleo saccharum, my favorite way to get flavor out of citrus. I tried both bergamot from Monterey Market and a mystery pomelo/citron hybrid(?) citrus from someone in our neighborhood. I was lazy about my usual careful cutting out of all pith inside the rind of the pomelo/citron since it didn’t taste especially bitter.

img_20170205_181912

I also wanted to try making black lemons / black limes— both whole meyer lemons and bearss limes from the back yard trees, boiled in very salty water for 10 minutes, then put in a dehydrator whole for 3 days (rather than sun-drying them over a month as would be more traditional– our rainy Oakland winter wasn’t cooperating).img_20170205_182004

The result, surprisingly, was very dry (almost brittle) limes and lemons with glossy black interiors and a slightly funky taste– it will be interesting to see if they are dry enough to truly keep without spoiling and add flavor to stews and cous cous…img_20170208_211200

Someone else gifted me some red and yellow rocoto peppers (capsicum pubescens), which were extremely hot but with a bit of fruitiness like a habanero. I dehydrated a few trays of them to grind into chili powder and filled another jar with them and a 4% sea salt solution, garlic, and mustard seed to see how they ferment:

img_20170205_182010

img_20170206_190836

The end result (including some whole limes packed in salt to make preserved limes, and a bergamot-rice vinegar shrub made from the oleo saccharum)– img_20170209_195354

Not shown, a “pomelocello” made with the pomelo/citron oleo saccharum, the juice, and cheap vodka.

Not bad for a weekend’s work. The dried rocoto pepper powder has already become a good go-to for chili, beans, and stew, and the bergamot-rice vinegar shrub makes a great non-alcoholic cocktail diluted about 1:6 with sparkling water.

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut

26 Feb

This batch of sauerkraut turned out especially good:

img_20170108_184132

I cut two heads each of savoy and red cabbage into long narrow strips, then sprinkled them generously with sea salt, let them rest, then kneaded them until juice was coming out and they were turning translucent. I added a decent amount of caraway seed and a handful of dried juniper berries, covered it with a few spare cabbage leaves, and weight them down with some ceramic weights– pushing the cabbage down into its own liquids. Then I just let it lacto-ferment in a crock on the counter for 3 or 4 weeks, tasting periodically.

The result was a moderately sour bright maroon kraut that still had some good crunch… I moved it to the fridge to slow further fermentation.

img_20170108_183800

So far it’s gone especially well with sausages and mustard, or with home-smoked brisket and fermented thai chilies on a taco…img_20170213_202350

img_20170207_204712

Fermented Green Chiles

12 Feb

My third, fourth, and fifth batches of fermented hot sauce:

IMG_20170108_171342_228.jpg

Two of them started as ways to preserve two bushes worth of green cayennes and Thai chiles (chilis? chilies?) from a back yard raised bed that got a later start in the season so didn’t turn red before the weather turned cool:

IMG_1864 (1).JPG

IMG_20161204_095049.jpg

I packed a jar full of green chiles with some mustard seed and garlic cloves in a 4% salt brine and let ferment for about a month at 60 degrees, then skimming off mold or anything floating on the surface, straining, tasting, and pureeing with some of the reserved probiotic brine to make a tangy, slightly umami hot sauce (no vinegar added). The cayenne in particular has more going on than just “hot”.

I do want to figure out a better blending / straining technique for the times I want a thin hot sauce that’s less like a chile paste.

Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce

5 Feb

After reading an essay about Tabasco sauce, getting a Sander Katz book as a present, and taking a class at Preserved Oakland, fermented hot sauce was on my mind, and I like how my first batch (a blend of 4-6 week fermented jalapenos, Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers, garlic, and spices) turned out. In photos:

Jimmy Nardellos submerged in an 4-5% concentration sea salt brine with a few hot thai chilis, garlic cloves, black peppercorns, corianted seed, and brown mustard seed:

img_8046

Jalapenos, a few cayennes, and garlic and peppercorns submerged in brine:

img_7816

I left some peppers at room temperature for a few weeks, but also put some peppers in one of my temperature-controlled “fermentation fridges” (a mini-fridge retrofitted with a temperature controller, allowing me to hold it at 55-60F for a slow, long, 4-6 week fermentation even during warm weather). Also shown: a hard cider aging:

IMG_3647.JPG

Blending the various peppers and garlic and a bit of the drained now-probiotic / live cultures brine to make a fermented chili paste (or in a few cases, to strain to make a thinner hot sauce):img_3674img_3687

My understanding in more detail:

Traditionally, many cultures’ hot sauces were made through lacto-fermentation, the same general process behind sauerkraut, kimchi, half-sour pickles, and other live-cultured foods. Rather that using vinegar, this involves packing vegetables and spices in a salt brine, and letting a series of wild bacteria (most commonly from the skins of the vegetables) multiple and progressively transform the food and environment over the course of weeks to a few months.

There are good and bad bacteria (and molds and other undesirable microorganisms), so the name of the game is all about creating environments (salinity, acidity, oxygen or lack of oxygen) that favor the growth of the desired microorganisms and shut down the undesirables.

There are plenty of books about this so I won’t recap all the details here, but I’ve always found it fascinating. There’s not just one bacteria involved– one bacteria may thrive in a salty but neutral-pH environment and as it multiplies lowers the pH of the environment, making it more hospitable to a new bacteria that will then start to multiply and further lower the pH (shutting down the previous bacteria).

These intermediate modest-pH fermentation steps may produce strong, funky, and occasionally unpleasant smells that make you think it’s spoiling (mine did for about two weeks but then faded as fermentation progressed), and white cloudy yeasts and slimy fluids may also form from this complex colony of microorganisms. It takes some effort to get past a reflexive disgust– but given the right time and environment and vegetables well-submerged under the brine away from surface mold, these fermentations generally all end up dominated by lactobacillus, an especially low-pH-tolerant bacteria that defines lacto-fermentation and the particular (good-tasting) fermented vegetable tang. This web page has a more detailed step by step of the phases of fermentation and the microorganisms involved, and highlights how lactic acid bacteria are only present in small amounts on vegetables, but through this progressive environment change are favored to multiple and eventually take over.

There are a number of ingredients that also help prevent formation of mold and preserve the sauce, including traditionally spicy ingredients (garlic, hot peppers) as well as juniper berries and grape leaves– so fermenting hot peppers should be a bit easier than some other vegetables.

I took the approach of submerging peppers in a salt brine of about 4-5% (for every quart of water I used 2.5 Tbsp of a mix of coarse sea salt and a Japanese “moon salt” (also presumably a sea salt), but this is based on an estimated conversion between volume and mass— for future fermentations I used a scale to weigh out 4% salt).

I went through this roller coaster of smells, textures, and appearance on the first two batches of peppers– at 2-3 weeks they smelled fairly unpleasant, and I had to skim off some significant surface scum (mold?) on the room-temperature bottles (this seemed to be somewhat less of a problem for the ones in the 60F fridge). But after 4 weeks the smell had mellowed out, and at five weeks when I took off the weights and extracted the peppers they had a intense but pleasant kick of funky fermented tang, and made a good hot sauce when blended with the fermented jalapenos and garlic. I kept this hot sauce in the regular fridge after this to slow down any further fermentation.