Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wildness, Freshness, and other Culinary Adventures

I'm reading and adventuring, so that you don't have to. You can just read about my experiments and then decide whether you want to embark on similar ventures. It's a service I'm offering you. Really. It's kind of like Fear Factor. Dare me! I'll try it! I have no fear.
Unlike Fear Factor, however, I haven't been drinking rancid meat cocktails or diving into piranah invested waters. Instead, I've been trying out new stuff in the kitchen. Culinary adventures.
Here's an update of sorts:

Since I started making my own yogurt, I've been looking for something to do with all of the leftover WHEY. Homeade yogurt is a bit runnier than store-bought, so I like to strain my runny yogurt, which results in the awesomest, thick, rich, Greek-style yogurt. You can make your own Greek-style yogurt or even yogurt cheese by just plopping it in a strainer lined with coffee filters. A bowl underneath catches all the whey as it drips out. The longer you leave it straining, the thicker the yogurt gets until- VOILA- you have CHEESE! 
Anyways, I think it's a shame to just toss the remaining whey puddle. So I checked out a few books on Lacto-fermentation. That's where you use whey to ferment food- change it radically- and wonderfully.
Just think of all you love that relies on fermentation: WINE, BEER, CHEESE, BREAD!!!! But I wasn't familiar with Lacto-fermentation, so I decided to get me some edumacationz on the subject. If you're interested, check these books out (or don't, because I already did it for you, remember!):

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This book really opened my eyes. It's partially a very thorough textbook on nutrition, at times delving into biology. It's also a cookbook, with simple recipes on making your own mayonnaise and salad dressing, to more advanced stuff like pickling (with WHEY!). In the picture above, you can see jars of my own Lacto-fermented cukes and carrots. I'd like to report that they are as delicious as they look. But that'd be a bald-faced lie. Sadly, these were not what I'd hoped for. But I'll totally try, try again. The subtitle of Fallon's book is, The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. So it's partially a critique of low-fat, low-carb, vegetarian, and vegan diet know-it-alls. But honestly, I found Sally's tone to be a bit preachy and dictocratic herself. It bugs me when people speak with such aggressive certitude. But, le sigh, we all have our flaws, ironies, contradictions... With that said, I'll probably still invest in a gently used copy of this book because it is so chock full of information. And she quotes the Little House books! I will have to do a seperate post on my undying love for all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. Love you, Half-pint! Blowing you kisses, Michael Landon!

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz was right up my alley! Katz, an HIV/AIDS survivor who lives in a commune in the woods, began healing himself by incorporating wildness (in the form of live-culture food) into his body. From his website he explains what is so wild about fermentation, "Wild fermentation is a way of incorporating the wild into your body, becoming one with the natural world. Wild foods, microbial cultures included, possess a great, unmediated life force, which can help us adapt to shifting conditions and lower our susceptibility to disease. These microorganisms are everywhere, and the techniques for fermenting with them are simple and flexible." There are recipes for saurkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and plenty o' brews. A common theme between Wild Fermentation and Nourishing Traditions, is the connection to the past that we can rediscover through food by using these 'primitive' techniques. Nothing much more old-school than the slow-food movement.  

Canning and Preserving with Ashley English. Beautiful book! I mean it. If you like looking at fantastically ripe, gorgeous, seasonal vegetables and fruit, this book could very well be your new porn. She seperates the book by seasons and encourages you to can and preserve according to what is currently in season in your area. She explains and illustrates canning techniques thoroughly for the newbie. She has basic recipes for pickling and such, but she goes way beyond with recipes for exotic chutneys, marmalades, and sauces. Lip-smacking! She also has a great blog, another book on keeping chickens, and one about tending bees coming out soon too. In other words, I want to be Ashley when I grow up. Don't be misled, Ashley doesn't do Lacto-fermentation.

For Mother's Day, it snowed here in Syracuse. All. Day. Long. But on the bright side, my dear husband gifted me two wonderful books. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, which I've previously mentioned on this here blog. And Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll (this is the Bible for cheese makers!). Needless to say, I'll be busy in the kitchen.       

Monday, May 3, 2010

Should it stay or should it go now...

I've been going through the attic, basement, and shed trying to determine what to bring with us on our move.
We'll be renting an apartment in Takoma Park, MD for the first year there. The apartment is within walking distance to Michael's college, which is fabulous since Michael will not have to commute (which is a big pain in the boot-ay and the tookus -both-  if your in the DC area). We'll finally be able to take advantage of public transportation since we'll be a 10 minute walk away from the Metro station. Noah and I can hop on the train and within a few minutes arrive at the National Zoo (PANDAS!), or the Lincoln Memorial, or the Smithsonian, or the White House. I'm so excited that we'll be able to reduce our carbon footprint by living a more urban existence.
However, some of the good life we're enjoying here in Syracuse must be sacrificed.
Space will be limited. Even though the house we're living in was most surely built for hobbits or dwarves, it still has more space than our Takoma Park apartment will have. So I am trying to decide what is essential, and it is challenging- not because I'm some sicko hoarder- but because I'm such a nostalgic sap. Is there a difference? I hope so!

The attic is full of boxes of books. I open a box and find old friends waiting for me to pick them up again, authors from pre and post-high school, early loves of mine: J.D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, David Gerrold, and oh yeah, Piers Anthony! Needless to say, I can't say goodbye. They will join us to yet another home not quite big enough for all our books. What will I do with them all? Line every wall with bookshelves bursting full? Probably.

The basement is mostly full of TOYS. Goodness gracious. Noah is only 4. Where did all this primary-colored plastic, made-in-china junk come from? Note to any family members reading this blog: please no more toys...get the boy a membership at the zoo, science museum, or gift him with YOUR PRESENCE!
Noah and I were poking around in the basement yesterday, choosing the destiny of these toys- yard sale, goodwill, or moving to DC. It was pretty sad. Noah only wanted his play doh really, but I talked him into a few other things. I must admit I got a bit teary-eyed when Noah said he didn't want his Little People anymore. Not the Noah's Ark with all the animals that mom so loves to play with? Nope. Not the School Bus with the disabled girl wearing glasses? Nope. Nope. Nope. Apparently the Little People stuff is for babies, and I have a big boy on my hands.

The shed. Oh man. I have to leave much of that to Michael to sort through. When his father died, Michael adopted all of his father's tools, 2 shop vacs, a generator, ladders, work benches, tents and camping supplies, hammocks, bocce ball set, cross country skis, etc, etc, I could honestly go on and on...
There's no way we can take it all with us. Do we really need some of this stuff? But it is painful to let things go when they remind you of someone you love who you'll never see again.

Plundering through the shed, I spied a bright neon pinkish-orangeish ladies bicycle. One of those beach cruisers. It was Michael's mom's, but I can't imagine her ever ever being seen with it, much less riding it!
I've been wanting another bike ever since mine was stolen in Gainesville at the apartments across the street form Denny's. Well, here's a bike. It's back wheel is twisted and it looks like the worst of Daytona Beach- all drunk and begging for attention. I'm going to fix her up and spray paint her...
Maybe I can transform her somehow into the Trek Atwood (seen in all her glory directly below).
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Atwood is named after one of my favorite authors.
I'll definitely give ol' Daytona Girl a new name after her makeover. The Delillo? The Kingsolver? The Neruda? Billy Collins?

Atwood WSD | Bike Path | Trek WSD Bikes

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