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).

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.

The English Are Coming! With Rhubarb and Custard!

Rhubarb and Custard

The rhubarb is a vegetable most often used as a fruit – in much the same way that the tomato is a fruit used as a vegetable. But unlike the ubiquitous tomato, rhubarb sometimes stymies American cooks. What’s to be done with this briefly available, bitter, even poisonous plant?

Well, there’s pie. In the nineteenth century, rhubarb was so strongly associated with pie that it was commonly called pie plant. And then there are the many variants of pie: crisps, crumbles, buckles. Rhubarb is so very assertive that it was not much eaten until and unless it could be sugared; prior to that, it was prized only for its medicinal properties. But other fruits have a mellowing effect on rhubarb’s harshness. Apples, especially, soften it without transforming its flavor. Personally, I believe that it’s a crime against strawberries to pair them with rhubarb – and it’s underselling the rhubarb as well!

Kefir Fried Chicken

Kefir Fried Chicken

I remember — a few years ago, now — having a conversation with a friend on social media about whether it was necessary to soak your fried chicken in buttermilk before dredging it in flour and slipping it into your skillet full of hot oil. At the time, my position was that my mother’s dear friend from Oklahoma — the woman from whom I learned to make the stuff, whose fried chicken we all prized above all else — never soaked. Therefore I don’t either. And my position at the time was that if your chicken is fresh enough, and if it’s in fact a frying bird — young and small — it doesn’t need the extra help anyway.

Well today, I’ve changed my mind. I stand corrected — more or less.

Roast Chicken, Questions and Answers

Roast Chicken Questions and Answers

So I’ve been looking back at the Twice Cooked archives, folks, and here’s a thing that really surprises me: given just how much chicken I cook — and specifically, given just how many whole chickens come through my house — I am shocked to find that the only thing I’ve ever written about roast chicken comes from way back in 2009, from the Livejournal carry-over prehistory of the blog.

This is a major oversight on my part. And today, I intend to remedy it.

Fermented Radish and Cucumber Salad

Folks often ask me — Adam, they ask, it’s great that you make all of these lacto-pickles, or fermented vegetables, or whatever. But what do you do with them once you have them? And then they’re disappointed, and they make a face, and their curiosity kind of turns off when I tell them the truth — that mostly what I do is eat them for breakfast. Straight-up. Without any additional preparation at all.

So I’ve been thinking about other things I can do with lacto-pickles — or at least other things that I can tell people that they should do that won’t disappoint them, or weird them out, or abruptly end the conversation. And that’s how I came up with this salad.

Fermented Radish and Cucumber Salad

A little while ago, as you might recall, I posted this recipe for pickled watermelon radishes. They were the ones that smelled so — well, they stank as they fermented.

They’re delicious — sweet and savory and a little bit piquant — now that they’re done. And diced, and tossed with slices of seedless cucumber, they make a perfect salad. It’s invigorating, and cooling, and — once it finally warms up — it will be a great early-summer treat.

Here are the ingredients:

3 Seedless Cucumbers, sliced into discs
10-12 Slices of Pickled Radish (or other fermented root veg), diced fine
A Pinch of Nutritional Yeast
Olive Oil
A Thin-Sliced disc of Lemon, for garnish

No instructions necessary. Just toss, then plate, then eat.

My Favorite Mayonnaise

Here’s the deal with mayonnaise: it should not be shelf stable at room temperature. I stare out at a landscape painted gloppy white with Hellman’s, with Best Foods, with — *shudder* — Miracle Whip, and I wonder not at all why I’ve passed on the mayo for most of my life.

Mayonnaise is a raw egg emulsion. Raw. Egg. Emulsion. Nothing about those three words implies that processing it such that it can live next to the tinned beans is in any way okay. And whatever process gets used to make it okay, I imagine, must be the same one that drains it of all its joy and savor.

Mayonnaise is one of the classic French sauces, people. It should taste better than this.

And it can. Making it at home takes about ten minutes in total. You can flavor it how you want. And once you eat the real thing, you’ll never, ever want to go back.

My Favorite Mayonnaise

This is my favorite variation:

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1 Egg (fresh as you can manage — this is a raw-egg kind of deal)
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 tsp Dried Tarragon
Juice of Half a Lemon
Dash of Hot Sauce (it brightens the flavor)

To a four-cup Pyrex, add the egg, garlic, tarragon, pepper, and a little salt, and whip on high with an electric beater. While you’re whipping, very slowly drizzle in the oil, allowing time between each drizzle for it to fully incorporate. By the time you’ve incorporated about half the oil, you should notice the mayonnaise thickening. By the time it’s all in, you’ll find it has a slightly thicker consistency than what you find in a jar.

When all the oil has been incorporated, add the lemon juice and hot sauce, mix thoroughly, and then add more salt to taste. Cover, and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving to give the flavors time to gel.

Like I said, this is a raw egg emulsion. So while it will taste — like — a bazillion times better than the mass produced stuff, you may still want to skip it if you’re immunocompromised.

(I’ve offered a similar recipe before here.  But this one is better!)

Cumin Lamb for Passover

Cumin Lamb for Passover

Passover is coming next week, and it is about nothing — culinarily speaking, of course — if not lamb. Sure, the matzoh takes the prize as the most distinctive Passover food, all dry and crunchy — and delicious, so long as you don’t have to eat it exclusively for seven days. And sure, the horseradish wins in the category of “why is this night different from all other nights.” But before you go barging off to make your Hillel sandwiches, consider this: a seder isn’t a seder at all — literally — without the lamb.

Look at your bible. Exodus 12. It’s all right there.

Today’s Special, on YouTube

Back when I lived in Bloomington, one of my favorite lunch spots was an Israeli restaurant, not too far from the edge of the Indiana University campus, called Falafels of Jerusalem.  They were a hidden treasure amid the bars of Kirkwood Avenue, featuring killer sandwiches, lamb scented with cumin, and shakshouka so good that it was always a struggle to order anything else.

The owner was the husband of a fellow graduate student in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology — which, I admit, suggests a certain kind of bias in me.  But what I can say that I think will convince you is this:  after six years in Philadelphia, there are only two restaurants that I really miss from my time as a Hoosier; one is the Runcible Spoon — which is certainly the platonic ideal of breakfast places; and the other is Falafels.

At any rate, Shai — the owner — and his wife — the folklorist — headed back to Israel at about the same time that I left for Philadelphia.  And as these things go, I lost track of them for a while.  But today — oh, today — a voice from out of the blue (by which I mean Facebook blue) pointed me toward this:

This is vegan shawarma, the first installment of Shai’s new series of cooking videos on YouTube.  So far, he’s also got hummus, schnitzel, vegan spicy sauce (which seems very close to my very favorite thing at Falafels), and a few more.

Without reservation, I would recommend that you subscribe to his YouTube Channel, which he calls Today’s Special.  If you like Mediterranean cuisine — which, don’t we all? — it will make you very happy, and very hungry.