Archive for February, 2012

Pumpernickel bread with sourdough starter

Well, even if this gets filed in the ‘failures’ category, I have learned a few things from this bread-making process, one of them is a tip from “The Big Bang Theory’ episode last night. ‘Pumpernickel’ means ‘fart goblin’ or ‘fart devil’ in German. (see Wiki for more information on the nickname) While my bread didn’t smell like a fart, it didn’t smell like roses, either.

The process
1. Make a sourdough starter
-for 5 days I let a cup of flour and cup of water take in all the micro-organisms from my kitchen and ferment into a sourdough starter.

Kind of cute, right?

2. I then mixed the sourdough starter into a sponge which included carob powder, more flour and water. This sponge was stirred occasionally and let to ferment for 24 hours.

Making the sponge

3. Then I stirred in the remaining ingredients; the remaining rye flour, 4 shots of espresso, molasses and salt. The final texture was hard to get my spoon through but still sticky and moist. This sat for 8 hours.

yeah, I know what it looks like.

4. I poured the dough into a casserole dish and let it sit for 3 hours. Then I baked it at 350F for 2.5 hours. Once complete, the surface was crusty hard and the interior soft and porous.

Ready for heat.

It looks delicious, doesn't it?

The taste, however, ….weird. I originally thought to break out the espresso, carob powder, and molasses just so I could identify what tastes were from which ingredients, oh I wish I had done so.

It tastes bitter, a little dry, and overall…weird. It obviously needed more molasses or perhaps brown sugar. The espresso would make it bitter. I think the carob powder was the main culprit. …it’s not good. I’m not going to use it again. Also, this was a sourdough starter, not active dry yeast from a packet.

This recipe came from Katz’s ‘Wild Fermentation’. First recipe…good texture but I’m going to have to watch his ingredients carefully. In searching online, some suggested cocoa powder but no one suggested carob powder. Lesson learned.


Three Floyds Brewpub (Muenster, IN)

Breakdown of food: 3.5 stars, beer: 4 stars.

What more could I ask of a brewpub? I had a delicious, cozy meat trio of braised pork, pub-made pork sausage and duck confit over beans for lunch. Each piece of meat was cooked and seasoned perfectly. YAY!! That being said, my friends’ dish of mole braised chicken was under-seasoned and the picked cucumbers weren’t acidic enough. The slow roasted lamb bucatini was also tasty!

And the beer, made with care and skills. Our brewery tour guide, Phil, was knowledgeable and entertaining. I appreciate beer and understand the fermentation process much better now. We left with a case of Brian Boru, a refreshing Irish red.

If you go on a Saturday around noon, expect a 45 minutes wait at the brewpub. It was convenient to catch the 1pm tour while we were waiting for our table. You can put your name on the list once you arrive but obviously no reservations. The vibe inside the pub is Grateful Dead meets Bruce Lee…as in they had a Bruce Lee movie projected on the wall with loud rock music harmonizing to each table’s conversation. Cool place.

Food moment with sunflower seed bread

I bought a loaf of sunflower seed bread from my favorite bakery in Chicago, the Austrian Bakery and Deli at Clark and Deming. The richness of the sunflower seeds and the moist dough made the perfect platform for organic munster cheese and apple chutney. YUM!

Tasty bite

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

The author describes his love of fermentation as a fetish. He playfully explains his forays into all types of fermentation, including but not limited to; vegetables, beans, dairy, bread, and beers. He combines personal anecdotes about his fermentation trials with food history and recipes. I have yet to try many recipes but I’ll update this review when I do!

Antico Posto (Italian in Chicago suburbs)

This Lettuce Entertain You restaurant knows how to deliver on service but lacks character and memorable food. Tucked next to Macy’s in the Oak Brook mall, my family tried plates from ricotta gnocchi to cavatelli to angel hair pasta, all ‘homemade’. The gnocchi was the best dish as it tasted like cheese balls. Their mozzarella is also good. At the end of the day is was decent food at a good value.

Homemade sushi is fun!

Buy some short grain Japanese sushi rice at the store and get cookin! Proper raw fish preparation is kind of intimidating for homemade maki and sushi so I decided to make veggie maki. There are many veggie options, tonight I chose avocado, cucumber and carrot. The wasabi powder I bought from the store is mainly horseradish so that is spicy but not authentic. I also purchased some pickled ginger that from the ingredients label sounds really easy to make at home. (label: ginger, rice wine vinegar, sugar…)

I grabbed the sushi rice preparation from Alton Brown and conjured up sushi wisdom from past teachers.

2 C. of sushi rice made in a rice cooker (thoroughly wash sushi rice under water before cooking. also made 2C. of rice to 3C. of water)
-added a heated mixture of 2T. rice wine vinegar, 2T. sugar and 1tsp salt to rice. Cut through rice with spoon to spread vinegar and let rice cool to room temperature

-Cut things thin and long. Cucumbers, avocado, carrots are pretty traditional for a good reason.

I own a bamboo sushi mat and cover with a layer of plastic wrap. I fry a sheet of Nori (dried sea vegetable) and then place on the plastic wrap with shiny side down.
-I spread around a thin layer of rice (leaving .5 inch space at one end), then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and lightly drizzle with wasabi.
-Added fillings in a compact strip near riced end, closest to you
-Then start the roll slowly, tucking the Nori tightly as it meets the rice on its first roll over the filling. Dip you finger in some water and lightly wet the riceless .5 inch of nori to seal the roll at the end.
-Cut the roll in 6 pieces and run the knife across a citrus fruit to quickly remove sticky starch.
-Done. So good and fresh and healthy!

Beginning of a roll

Bday sushi!

What is a truffle?

Vapid beauty

Black truffles are fruiting bodies of fungi that grow underground and are classified as Tuber melanosporum. They have a subtle mushroom smell and are shaved into classic French and Italian dishes. For 2lbs of truffle, expect to pay 1-4 thousand dollars. I do not recommend ordering them as they have no flavor.

Spiaggia (Italian in Chicago)

Tony Mantuano, the head chef, was on Top Chef Masters and referred to as THE master in Italian fine dining. Perhaps Sarah Grueneberg, the executive chef, was still competing in Top Chef Texas last night? Spiaggia is touted as Obama’s favorite restaurant. Perhaps too much hype?

4 stars for dessert
3 stars for dinner

Advice: Do not add truffles to dishes, they have a nice aroma but not a significant flavor.

Wood roasted winter vegetables with an egg over polenta – The polenta stick was tender and crispy, the bits of vegetables were well seasoned. The red wine vinegar beets were overwhelming.

Wood roasted vegetables, polenta, egg

Agnolotti filled with veal, topped with truffles – The little pasta presents were cute but the dish lacked the perfection I expected. The one-note sauce almost tasted like it was thickened with corn starch.

Agnolotti filled with veal

Wood roasted trout with abalone mushrooms, BASIL FED SNAILS, creamy white polenta – Yes, you read it correctly, basil fed snails. Most amusing part to my meal, and they did taste like basil! The trout was a delicious fillet of fish without need of any fancy complements.

Wood roasted trout with basil fed snails

Mint gelato – incredibly delicious. Every dessert ordered at the table looked and tasted extraordinary. I could be back just for dessert.

Desserts were a must.

Argo Georgian Bakery

A Georgian gem in the middle of Devon’s India-town. Thankfully I followed my spontaneous urge to stop by this bakery before hopping onto the bus. On first look, I spied fruit pastries, a freezer display of dumplings, a shelf of breads and one baker working hard in the back.

Overwhelmed by many novel choices, I left with a bag of frozen spinach/feta dumplings for $7. The loaves were all of the same kind and a little too large for one girl to finish quickly.

I boiled the dumplings for 4-6 mins at home in salted water and done! The dumpling dough is perfectly fresh and the filling is flavorful. These are perfect snacks.

Between La Boulangerie, Austrian Bakery and this Georgian Bakery, Chicago does indeed have some extraordinary bread makers.

Farmers market salad: apple, sugar-coated pecans, greens

While pondering what to buy at the winter farmers market, the idea of an apple, pecan salad came to mind. My mouth was so happy this morning.

-Finely sliced apples
-Finely sliced onion
-Sugar-coated pecans
-fresh greens
-roasted chicken pieces
-poached egg

-dressed with olive oil and seasoned, then drizzled apple cider vinegar over top

Cannot get over those pecans...

Apple from Nichols and Greens from Genesis Growers!

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