Lacto-Fermented Green Beans

Lacto-Fermented Green Beans

This should come as a surprise to no one who has ever been there, but I’m going to say it anyway: hands down, New Orleans in my favorite food town in the United States. It exists at the cultural convergence of French, Italian, and down home Southern foodways. It draws on the best of Creole, Cajun, and Caribbean cuisine. In the past ten years, it has developed a strong link to Southeast Asia. And all of that while sitting on top of some of the best seafood on the continent.

It’s hard not to love New Orleans cooking, and when Sarah and I were down there last month — roadtripping and visiting my (too often neglected) family — we both fell in love with the food all over again. The fine dining, of course, is great. But we mostly went to in the other direction: po’ boy shops for fried oyster sandwiches (dressed); Mandina’s for trout almandines, sherried turtle soup, and crab parts buried in garlic and butter; into the French Quarter for raw oysters; and then out into (as far as I could figure) the middle of nowhere for some of the best phở I’ve ever eaten.

Zucchini Butter

They are large, lurking, and, frankly, annoying. I speak of the oversized zucchini hiding in your vegetable patch. It seems like no matter how hard I look I always miss a few zucchini or I see a small one and figure I’ll come back in a day or two and harvest it once it’s just a little bigger. The next thing I know it is the size of a Louisville Slugger and I’m cursing the thing and looking up zucchini bread recipes.

Here’s the thing: I’m not a huge fan of zucchini bread. But I thought that was the only thing these Godzilla squash were good for. And the texture and seeds do not lend themselves to my current favorite application: grilling with olive oil and serving alongside some halloumi and crusty bread (but that’s another post).

Tempering Chocolate Using the Seed Method

Tempering Chocolate Using the Seed Method

Tempering chocolate used to drive me crazy. There were several years there where I’d make chocolate dipped shortbread to send around to friends and family as gifts for the holidays. I would grit my teeth, pull out my electronic thermometer, marble slab, and heating pad, then fuss with getting my chocolate up to 130F, then down to 88F, then back up — just a hair of a hair, mind you — to the point of liquidity.

Achieving and maintaining those precise temperatures required constant vigilance. It always made a huge mess. And half the time, despite my best efforts, I missed my marks anyway, and my chocolate-dipped treats turned out streaky and waxy and gross, and totally unfit for service in yuletide care packages — or anywhere else.

Pal’s Sudden Service in Greeneville, Tennessee

Pal's Sudden Service in Greeneville, Tennessee

I had no idea that such a thing as a Pal’s Sudden Service existed, but apparently, they sell hamburgers, chili dogs, and sweet tea all over Tennessee.  I did not — alas — get a chance to eat at one of their establishments.  But the delightfully campy exterior of this specimen in Greeneville tickled my sense of Americana.  And when next I’m passing through the neighborhood, if I think I can stomach a dose of fast food, I might just stop.

New Look, New Business, New Offer

Welcome, dear readers, to the new new new Twice Cooked.

This seems to happen just about once per year, here. I get progressively more peeved with the clutter and crud that builds up around the edges of the site, and when I can stand it no longer, I go into a fit of web-coding berserker rage, bulldoze the whole thing, and install something cleaner, faster, and (I hope) a little better both to read and maintain.

Lemonade; or, When Life Gives You Lemons

Lemonade; or, When Life Gives You Lemons

Life, alas, handed me some lemons last week.

It is difficult for me to overstate just how disruptive it has been to have been without a working oven for a week and more. Oh, in part the disruption has been about the blog. Every summer treat I might want to show you all — from tarts and quiches, to simple roasted vegetables, to fine and fancy eclairs — all requires an insulated box full of fire to transform raw ingredients into food.

Walt Whitman, Now in 3D

There is no originality at all in this, but as part of a quick experiment, I’ve taken a stereo card from the 19th century, and turned it into an animated GIF.  I really like the effect.  It looks very much like a photo in three dimensions.  And seeing as how it’s the Fourth of July and all, the stereo card I cut up is both taken by a famous American, and of a famous American.

So without further ado:  Walt Whitman, by Matthew Brady.

Walt Whitman, Now in 3d

The file turned out to be a tiny bit large. And for that I am very, very sorry.

A Patriotic Moment with Melville

To all of you for whom it is relevant — I’d like to wish you a happy Fourth of July. I have no recipe for you (alas!). But I do have a (sort of) food-related quotation from one of my favorite American authors: Herman Melville. Just by way of warning, it is from Typee, his first novel, which indulges in an unfortunate appetite for the exotification of the “savage” other. But Melville is capable of such impressive turns of phrase that it is worth tolerating this shortcoming in order to share in his clear delight in language. So:

Their very name is a frightful one; for the word ‘Typee’ in the Marquesan dialect signifies a lover of human flesh. It is rather singular that the title should have been bestowed upon them exclusively, inasmuch as the natives of all this group are irreclaimable cannibals. The name may, perhaps, have been given to denote the peculiar ferocity of this clan, and to convey a special stigma along with it.

These same Typees enjoy a prodigious notoriety all over the islands. The natives of Nukuheva would frequently recount in pantomime to our ship’s company their terrible feats, and would show the marks of wounds they had received in desperate encounters with them…. It was quite amusing, too, to see with what earnestness they disclaimed all cannibal propensities on their own part, while they denounced their enemies — the Typees — as inveterate gourmandizers of human flesh; but this is a peculiarity to which I shall hereafter have occasion to allude.

I sincerely hope that whatever culinary issues you face today, one of them is not a propensity for the inveterate gourmandizing of human flesh.  But I do hope that the phrase, at least, will stick in your mind.

Have fun!

Sweet Cherry Tart

Sweet Cherry Tart

I like cherries. I like them a lot. They are, so far as I can tell, the smallest of the stone fruit — miniscule cousins to the plum, peach, apricot, and all those most cherished sweet drupes of summer. They are the harbingers and the advance guard of the season’s coming in earnest, which — as any of you who are regular Twice Cooked readers already know — might actually count as a strike against them in my humble book. But their flavor is so intense, and so explosive when encapsulated in so compact a package, that it is difficult to think of them as other than bearers of the concentrated essence of all that is good in this too-hot season of the year.

There are some classic, really fine cherry desserts out there. Clafoutis may be the most deserving of attention, with its delightful texture — somewhere between a custard and a cake — and whole cherries, unpitted, baked right in. The denizens of Limousin, the region in central France from which the dessert derives, say that the inclusion of the pits enriches the final product, perfuming the whole thing with a scent that is not unlike almonds. And they say (I would assume) that folks concerned about swallowing a pit or cracking a tooth should really be more careful.

Strawberry Shortcake, Without Pretense

Strawberry Shortcake Without Pretense

Strawberry shortcake is elegant, unpretentious, and simple. Yet so often it goes unbearably awry. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this thing that often lives near the strawberry display in the supermarket. It’s a little bowl-shaped golden cake, encased in plastic packaging, that bills itself as the shortcake component of the dessert, and sometimes makes the claim that it’s ready for reddi-wip, or some such other nonsense.

This is not a shortcake. This is an angel food cake — generously speaking. Or less generously — in Sarah’s words — it is a Twinky without the filling. Shortcake has a technical definition, and what it is is a biscuit. That simple. Sometimes it’s a biscuit of the same sort that you’d serve with fried chicken. Or sometimes it’s sweetened slightly — which it is in this recipe, here.