Nobody ever asks me about the merits of toaster ovens relative to the pop-up variety. But it turns out I have an opinion on the matter. There is one key application that makes the toaster oven undeniably superior to its less capable cousin. And that is toasted cheese on bread.
By clicking through this site to Amazon.com, you too can be the proud owner of a proper, fully cheese-capable toaster oven. Which is a thing that I would highly recommend.
I have to admit: I have an ulterior motive in making this particular post at this particular moment. Red hot pepper sauce is yet another pickle — one last ferment in what, one month ago, I called a systematic exploration of the nutritionally rich, biologically diverse, sometimes slightly stinky genre of fermented foods.
I said then that the series was part of the run-up to my pickling workshop. And my pickling workshop, dear readers, is this Saturday, September 28.
Kimchi is extraordinary and complicated and vast, and it would be no less than hubris to imagine that I could do justice to so rich a tradition in one post, or in a whole blog’s worth of posts. When I started thinking about kimchi — quite a while ago, now — I assumed that it would be a little like making sauerkraut — possibly based on something that Sandor Katz had written in The Art of Fermentation (a book I highly recommend!):
“Kraut-chi is a word I made up, a hybrid of sauerkraut and kimchi, the German and Korean words for fermented vegetables that we have adopted into the English language. The English language does not have its own word for fermented vegetables. It would not be inaccurate to describe fermented vegetables as “pickled,” but pickling covers much ground beyond fermentation.”
In which I mostly make it up as I go
I was a great reader as a child. (Also, as one might expect, a maker of mudpies. But principally a reader.) Most of my introductions to the world came through books, and thus the first goats I met were Schwanli and Baerli, the goats kept by the Alm-Uncle in the book Heidi. They were kept for their milk. Through the lens of a novel written “for children and those who love children”, the goats seemed more like pets than livestock, and thus goats have always been to me, the most personable and most pet-like of farm animals.
People in Philadelphia! People who might have occasion to visit Philadelphia! You should all come out to this:
Saturday, September 28th, from 10 am to noon, I’ll be teaching a workshop on lacto-pickling and lacto-fermented vegetables, through the Mount Airy Learning Tree, at the Unitarian Society of Germantown on Lincoln Drive in Philadelphia. Participants will get a short presentation on the microbiology of fermentation. And then we’ll get our hands into the brine, and the shredded vegetables, and all the tasty spices, such that you’ll come away (dear readers!) not just with new knowledge and rich experience, but with one to two quarts of tasty living souvenir.
At this point, dear readers, you must surely already be aware of my deep and abiding love of Star Trek. But what you probably don’t know about me is that Star Trek is hardly the only shipborne drama that catches my imagination. I’m a sucker for all things nautical, too.
Wherever I travel, if my companions show even the slightest tinge of amenability, one of the first items on my touristy to-do list is to find the local maritime museum. In Reykjavik, it was a dockside exhibition showcasing the importance of fishing and whaling to the Icelandic economy. In Tallinn, it was a museum of nautical mines (the explody kind), followed by the Estonian Maritime Museum, nestled inside of a medieval stone turret named Fat Margaret. Blocks and lines, sextants, scrimshaw, or any other oceanic artifact instantly catches my interest. And especially if there’s a robust and well-sourced explanatory card attached, it’s difficult to drag me away.
I’m all alone this weekend. Sarah has gone a’visiting, and left me here to make my own fun.
I don’t actually much enjoy cooking for one, and usually, when this happens, my food situation quickly becomes more than a little bit dire. Either I revert to a state of stereotypical bachelorhood and subsist on boxed ramen, cereal, blocks of mediocre cheese, and the more nourishing varieties of beer. Or I decide to splurge and eat only the foods that I love, but that I know Sarah can’t abide: whole crabs, olives, and the occasional piece of steak.
Grilling time is here again, and I’ve been thinking a lot about something. I don’t know about you all, but when I’m getting ready to cook burgers outside, especially for friends, I put a lot of thought and effort into finding the right kind of pastured, sustainable, local meat. I am careful to gather and slice only the snootiest organic tomatoes and cucumbers to use as a topping. I go shopping at the fancy cheese store for the most complementary dairy accompaniments. And I’m even pretty careful about which lump charcoal I use.
But when it comes to the buns, it’s kind of a different thing. Though in other circumstances I am a total bread snob, often as not I end up using those horrible, squishy packaged jobs from the cut-rate grocery down the street. And it’s not just a matter of convenience. When I think about those buns at all, it’s with a little shot of pleasure.
When I was a child, steamed artichokes were my very favorite vegetable. Bitter and creamy, almost meaty at their heart, you could give childhood me an artichoke and a little puddle of butter, stand back, and watch in amazement as I picked it clean of all the parts you can possibly eat.
My mother made them on a fairly regular basis. Steamed artichokes were easy and could be done a day ahead. And my own partiality for them aside, both she and my father would devour them with visible pleasure, and sometimes go back for more.
When I lived briefly in England, more than ten years ago now, I used to love a wonderful Carrot & Coriander soup. It was bright and light and warm, like spring and fall in the same bowl. And it was everywhere: in the pub, at the sandwich shop, in cartons in the grocery store. And everyone made it well. At least, in my memory they did.
I miss it, on and off. I never see it on menus over here. I never see it in recipe books. I don’t know why my carrot soup hasn’t translated, when potato & leek is so common but so much less interesting.