Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day lunch

Santa Ana winds are back with bitter chill and everyone is sneezing and bundling up. Still recovering from the daylight-to-standard "fall back" and now Veterans Day has thrown off my weekday rhythm with school and government offices closed.

Hustling to get out of the house and off to the office I managed to water some of the more vulnerable plants and containers. Then it was back to the kitchen to assemble a quick lunch - toasted Teff focaccia with smoked Hungarian bacon, Harvard cheese, and red lettuce. How beautiful!

And starting work tonight on the curing the ~4 lbs of olives I bought last weekend at Super King market! Will posted a step-by-step once it's underway.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Shipkas Olive Tapenade

Back home from taking Grandma to her first West Hollywood Halloween carnival. She's been eager to attend one since seeing a slide show of grandson Elliott's success as Lady Gaga in 2009. Quite the trouper for someone in her mid-seventies - she hiked down from the parking lot on Sunset and almost the entire length of the event - and of course back up again.

And so October is now minutes away from exiting the stage. For all the experience of acceleration this year has entailed, this Fall has packed a lot in. For starters we rediscovered (recovered) a couple of seasons - just days apart - from blazing recording-breaking heat a few weeks back (the official weather service thermometer in downtown went offline or "broke" upon reaching 113F) to a 5-day patch of monsoonal soaks. And that's leaving out the gorgeous "segues" between these weather events - stunning skies that capture your attention when you least expect it.

Halloween is the bow on this package and I finally got around to making more black olive and Shipkas pepper tapenade. I finished a cache of a green olive version (a not unsuccessful experiment, but no rival to the original) a week or so ago and have made my lunches with German mustard and Avjar.

While pitting the semi-cured black olives I decided to "go large" and doubled the recipe. The orange and black was just so damn Halloween!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Brining, Curing and Smoking

The results of my third weekend in a row of brining and curing pork and turkey. Sunday's batch included a turkey breast (with bone) and drumsticks brined for 48 hours, and pork tenderloin with a dry rub for 56 hours, smoked for almost 2 hours at 230-300F. This was a little hotter than planned but they still came out juicy and tender. Previous Sundays saw brined pork tenderloin and turkey breast brined for 24 hours.

This weekend is "smoke free" as I need to do some more thinking about what meats to tackle next. I also need to order some "pink salt" aka "InstaCure" aka "Prague Powder" which contains sodium nitrite (6.25%) and is essential to many recipes involving curing and canning.

Teresa has been baking sourdough almost daily and is already maintaining 3 starters. The acknowledged favorite so far has been the buckwheat with it's wonderful grayish color. As with other living foods, experiments are essential and it being Fall pumpkin was an inevitable choice. Quite good! I've toasted and enjoyed slices of it with chunks of blue cheese as a rustic late afternoon snack.

Pumpkin sourdough bread - how can you tell?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Inaugural Salsa Verde - Happy Equinox!

Our recent Grassy Knolls harvest of Green Zebra tomatoes and Bulgarian carrot peppers (Shipkas) cried out for a fresh green salsa so it was a quick web search for salsa recipes resulting in the following lash-up. Oh, and buying a delightful salsa verde from Cam, the Eastside Tomato King last Saturday at the Silver Lake farmers market...

Green Zebra Salsa Verde
  • 2 Shipkas peppers (seeds and all)
  • 6-7 Green Zebra tomatoes
  • 2 smallish heirlooms tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of red onion
  • 7 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • salt & pepper to taste
The salsa is now in field trials with Enrique and results are expected soon.

The character of Shipkas peppers is fairly complex, hot but with a surprising twist at the end that's hard to describe. This is my third use of them and I'm sizing up my cache so I can have a few more recipes before they disappear for the season (and I'm moving the plant to a more sustainable pot and drying out some seeds for next year).

FOLLOW-UP: 2 days later I added more Green Zebras (this time seeded) and heated the salsa to reduce it a bit. Now in field testing at work, the salsa verde is greener, thicker, and less hot but still good and spicy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dog Days of Late Summer

Celebrating the end of the first week of high school and the fast approaching beginning of fall, end of summer, we ate a lazy Saturday afternoon lunch of Nathan's frankfurters topped with chopped onion, one of our freshly harvested heirloom tomatoes, Teresa's homemade pickle relish, and neighbor "Cam the Tomato King's" green tomato salsa.

Wow - these were great hot dogs!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Sandwich Moment

This is the "money shot" in the sandwich making process. The sandwich freshly cleaved, the halves revealing a glorious stratified view of the constituent materials.

A great way to start the day, making lunches for my son and self, packing and cleaning up, ready to ride out to meet the day and whatever it brings.

This is a standard toasted focaccia*, with English mustard* and shipkas tapenade,* with German salami and Tilsit cheese and red and green lettuce.

* Home-made ingredients

Monday, September 06, 2010

Happy Labor Day - Lagom is best!

Not May Day (as in the 8-hour day 1886 version still officially observed elsewhere) but a 3-day brief from work and unofficial start of the school year and Fall semesters in the northern hemisphere.

It was stretch weekend for garden work - renting an truck and auger and picking materials for several home projects. The heatwave brought earlier and the weekend has been warm and mild.

As I've been meaning to snap a pic of this recent anonymous wall poster I detoured from our Sis Deli shopping errand to capture it in all the bleached-out glory of the midday late summer Los Angeles sun.

This simple, surprising sentiment turned agit-prop slogan resonates with my discovery of Lagrom - as in lagom är bäst. Roughly translated (as much as it resists translation) - "just the right amount" or "enough is as good as a feast."

After two days of errands, ground clearing, and pole hole digging we dined on a simple meal of BBQ chicken and sauteed trombetta fresh from the garden (with melted Tilsit for the adults). It's taken a few months to finally obtain a local source for Tilsit (aka Tilseter, like a stinkier, more flavorsome version of Havarti). Continental Gourmet Sausage in Glendale is worth visiting for their own sausages and cold cuts - so the Tilsit and other German and European food items are a just an added bonus.

Trombetta di Albenga - Winter squash

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Timely hot chili sauce with garlic

Seeking new ways to enjoy my crop of Shipkas (Bulgarian carrot) peppers I tried out a recipe for hot chili sauce recently published in the NY Times by Melissa Clark. The chief difference is my choice of peppers and a few extra garlic cloves.
  • 4 hot peppers (Shipkas)
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 7 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup of distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Roughly chop the peppers and garlic and combine with the other ingredients in small pot over medium heat.
Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the peppers are soft.
Puree in a blender and cool.
Refrigerate for 3 days before use - it will keep for several weeks.

I'll report back once I've used it - it does look a lot like the Tuong Ot Toi Vietnam chili garlic sauce I use for marinades and on rice and fish cakes, etc.

The cooled-down chili sauce ready for the refrigerator alongside some remaining shipkas peppers (I have plans for them).

Monday, August 23, 2010

BOSS Pate: Black Olive & ShipkaS Pepper Spread

Ingredients for a Shipkas olive spread
This a strong, hot, but still complex olive spread using semi-cured black olives, garlic, capers, and "Bulgarian Carrot" or shipkas peppers. I've already made it three times and have been enjoying and sharing it with friends over the last 5-6 weeks.

The semi-cured olives are ridiculously inexpensive ($2.59@lb at our local Sis Deli in Los Feliz) and the shipkas, a gorgeous medium-to-hot pepper that was allegedly smuggled across the Iron Curtain, are courtesy of Grassy Knolls - aka our hillside back yard garden.

Here's the recipe that I lashed up after researching tapenades:
  • 1/2 cup of semi-cured black olives (a 1/2 cup AFTER pitting)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium sized shipkas peppers (~2-3 inches long)
  • 10-12 capers
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
Pit the olives and roughly chop the garlic, peppers (do not seed until you've tried this recipe once full bore and want to adjust the heat), and capers and toss into a small food processor. Add a teaspoon of good olive oil and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (I use a dark cherry artisan vinegar) and chop/grind for a few cycles, just enough to make a thick, spreadable paste.

This will last for some time refrigerated and I've mainly used it as a sandwich spread with homemade focaccia and ciabatta (especially delightful on toast).

Shipkas aka Capsicum annuum aka 'Bulgarian Carrot' coming into maturity at Grassy Knolls

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

End of Mission

The Atlantis has touched down safely after 32 missions and 25 years, marking the end of the space shuttle era. Space camp will never be the same.

Heroic space exploration is mostly robotic now and we have new seas of methane to map. The Phoenix lander mission was officially terminated by JPL this week as efforts to contact it cease. Phoenix landed on May 25, 2008, and successfully operated for five months (two months longer than planned) until sunlight at its far northern location waned. New evidence from orbital observation indicate its solar panels have been crushed by the built of Martian carbon dioxide ice during the winter.

UPDATE August 30, 2010: Obviously I was somewhat premature in my assessment. The space shuttle flight program has been extended for 2 more missions (STS-133 Discovery November 2010, STS-134 Endeavour February 2011).

Classic socialist realist painting of Valentina and Yuri is courtesy of the Carpet Blogger.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sleeping Outdoors

No, there wasn't an earthquake, and I haven't started camping yet.

My mind has been wandering a lot lately, so much so I feel like I'm traveling. My overstuffed bags safely stashed away (or is it just a head full of run on sentence) I can lay out on the patio and read until I nap, waking and drifting back to sleep, listening to the wind come through the ravine, the staggered response of the wind chimes next door, light flickering through the leaves and branches, a burst of bird songs and a determined helicopter darting across the hills.

This is a gorgeous logo. Proof plunder that I'm still burrowing into things Ost and Ostalgie, a German portmanteau combining "ost" (east) and "nostalgie" (nostalgia), and turned up this interesting legal ruling on discrimination against Ossis.

And then this 'outsider' artist Miroslav Tichý that I stumbled upon last week. He is having his first solo show now through May 9 at New York's International Centre of Photography (ICP).

New York Times' Karen Rosenberg in her "An Ogling Subversive With a Homemade Camera" review of the exhibition: "His photographs may look naïve, but they’re the product of a carefully orchestrated series of missteps that begins with crude, homemade cameras. As he says in the film ("Tarzan Retired," a 35-minute film from 2004 by Mr. Tichy's longtime neighbor and biographer, Roman Buxbaum), "If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world."

Here is a video slide show of some of his work and a related photo blog post. Thanks to WFMU Beware of the Blog's Iowa Firecracker for tipping me to Miroslav Tichy and his "Dargerfication."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring break and random walks

Somehow I've managed to arrange a vacation this year, two weekends and a week of travel with family up north. It always takes days to get out of the work routine and to start experiencing things off that grid.

Match box cover
Our after work hikes are back on and this calls for more planning - San Gregornio, San Jacinto, and Mt. Whitney. Picked up Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust: A History of Walking and revisited the section on walking clubs, especially interested in the Naturfrieunde (Nature Friends, motto "Berg Frei") founded in Vienna in 1895 and today one of the largest NGOs in the world. Militant leisure, working classes' access to nature, socialism, sustainable development, and rambling... living threads offering much to the inquisitive. German, Austrian and other Alpine immigrants brought the Nature Friends to the US in the early 1900's and today there are 4 locations in California being operated by them including right one in Los Angeles (actually Sierra Madre).

Der Grosse Sprung
Coincidentally I've been on a Bergfilme jag, watching Der Heilige Berg (1926) and Das Blaue Licht, with a handful of others in the queue (Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü, Der Grosse Sprung). Just an mild obsession with a gorgeous, obscure micro-genre.

Match box cover

Monday, March 22, 2010

Back to blogging... Spring 2010

It's spring and this was the first weekend to enjoy the longer daylight thanks to the arrival of PDT. It was warmer than usual too it kept people guessing about the summer to come. But chores and errands called out so it was the long delayed haircut (I feel great afterward!), patio and yard clean-up, and a run to Sunset Nursery for herbs, vegetables and potting soil - all calculated to be completed BEFORE Sunday's LA Marathon and the anticipated disruption in local traffic.

It's been a busy year+plus since the last posting. My personal boiled-down power-point-bulleted resolution/mantra for 2009 was "Condition, Plan, Communicate." I definitely devoted time and made progress on the first two, not so much for the latter!

With all the opportunities to publish across multiple platforms (twitter, tumblr, facebook, etc) it's blogging diary style that still beckons and offers "long hand" thoughts.

Found a very, very long lost nephew in the last week and that increases a tiny family by another 5 so I can already declare 2010 a year of family. That plus multiple trips to Phoenix for a deathly ill cousin who is finally on the road to recovery.

Traveling across I-10 between Los Angeles and Phoenix exposes to some ample emptiness and draws me to maps. One such idle map exploration led me to Midland, CA, a ghost town to rival Trona (NOT a ghost town but candidate often enough). As with my general fantasy life about deserts, it's due to a childhood saturated with Twilight Zone episodes and B&W sci-fi movies like the Monolith Monsters. When I see roads heading off into the distance, distant desert peaks and a sprinkling of structures an image of the isolated desert town springs to mind. Check out this lovely still from the Monolith Monsters!

Top image by Eric Lusito from his book After The Wall: Traces of the Soviet Empire