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Growing (and pickling) Mouse Melons / Cucamelons

31 Jul

Back in mid-February I started some mouse melon seeds indoors under a grow light. Within a few weeks:

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Six weeks later, they were reaching out to grab onto anything nearby:

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Finally in mid-April I was able to plant them out (after “hardening them off” for a week by setting the seedlings outdoors under an awning in partial shade, to acclimate them to the outdoor weather). A makeshift trellis made from wire mesh and pieces of bamboo, at the end of a raised bed with compost and some drip irrigation along the roots:

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They grew slowly and tentatively at first, only gradually climbing the trellis as single vines… but as the weather warmed up and they got their roots established, they exploded, covering the entire trellis edge to edge.

By July they’re pumping out hundreds of tiny, crisp vegetables that look like a miniature melon and taste like a cucumber injected with a bit of lime juice. There are several dozen in this photo alone if you look carefully:

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Close-up:

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We’ve been eating them raw straight off the vine (they’re especially good when picked just slightly below peak size), put some in salads, and I turned a few quarts into kosher-style dill pickles– lactofermenting them at room temperature in a 5% sea salt brine with dill and garlic from the garden as well as mustard seed and peppercorns (and in one case, some leftover brine from a previous Jimmy Nardello ferment). They worked well as pickles, keeping their crispness, and developing that nice half-sour pickle tang after 4 days fermenting at room temperature and a few weeks in the fridge…

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[the left jar is a new batch about to ferment, the right jar is pickled and ready to eat]

They work well as snacks, and I look forward to trying them as a cocktail garnish…

 

 

 

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.

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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:

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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.

New Year’s Day chilaquiles and carnitas

2 Jan

The best part of having leftover pulled pork and salsa from New Year’s Eve dinner?

New Year’s Day carnitas chilaquiles (tortilla chips soaked in tomatillo salsa, topped with fatty pulled pork that’s been crisped under the broiler and mixed with a little orange juice, and a fried egg):

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Quick Breakfast Tacos

26 Mar

Fried and braised a chorizo sausage to crumble, then scrambled some eggs w/ milk in the drippings. With homemade tortillas (Maseca, salt, water), quick-pickled carrots (cut thin, 20 minutes in vinegar) as a nice counterpoint to the fat, cheddar, and avocado.

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(more) Citrus Shrubs

5 Mar

Another winter, another bounty of local California citrus to preserve. I’ve made some marmalade, but shrubs (juice/oils from fruit+vinegar+sugar, shelf-stable) are my preferred form. Makrut lime, yuzu-chipotle-anise, and bergamot shrubs, all made with mostly rice vinegar to leave the citrus as the focus:

It was also a good excuse to strain, filter, and rebottle other shrubs from the past year with sediment that had settled out.

Mensho Ramen, San Francisco

27 Feb

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Excellent ramen– Tori Paitan– savory-umami rich broth from chicken bones with some fermented flavors, with pork and duck chashu and good toothy noodles. The Suntory Premium Malts on tap was good company. Worth waiting in line an hour.

Steak + Veg

5 Dec

How to cook thin ribeye steaks? Rub with salt, pepper, and juice from crushed garlic cloves, let sit 10 minutes, preheat a skillet over high heat with a little beef fat, then cook quickly (just over 1 minute per side), remove to a plate, and let rest under tented foil before slicing.

Melting a pat of butter + goat cheese on top is optional. As is eating with lentils and romanesco in front of a roaring fire and jealous dog.

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