Open Letter to the DIY Movement

Hey guys, its great and all that you’re getting back to what it means to make a living. I love hearing about trial and error in the kitchen and places like Sacramento’s Bike Kitchen are living proof that teaching a man to fix his bike allows him to pedal for a lifetime. The New York Times is, as it often does, taking a movement to its logical end with this articulate yet ultimately self-congratulatory argument for working with your hands.

I find it fitting that this attempted return to self-sufficiency is being brought about by a group labelled “The Expectation Generation” in the echo chamber of newsmagazines. Regardless of the media’s overwhelming desire to label entire generations of people, there is a lot of validity to the argument that from kindergarten we have been raised to believe that we can do anything. We are all unique and if we put our minds to it, we will achieve our dreams!

So when I set out to make fridge pickles with backyard goodies the other day, I just knew that I was going to strike gold. As soon as the brine hit the pepperocinis and cucumbers my cell phone would ring and the Vlassic Stork would offer to buy the recipe to the world’s best pickle.

I assumed success and all I got was a stomach ache that makes riding a bicycle and going up stairs terrifying. I did it myself!

So I didn’t really eat yesterday on account of this here tummy beast and woke up this morning ravenous. I need fiber, and protein and no cheese and certainly no pickles. Determined to do very little of this breakfast myself, I turned to Everybody Likes Sandwiches, a blog that has never let me down.

Well, she is where I got the fridge pickle recipe, but I changed it up in a few fatally flawed ways. I have only myself to blame.

Toasted Oats with Yogurt and FROOTS
Adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tsp cinnamon
MIXED FROOTS to taste

I use my cast iron guy for this.Toss the oats into the cast iron and throw under a broiler for about 3 minutes, take out and mix the nuts and cinnamon in. Another minute or two and you should be golden.

Take it out and let it sit while you dump the yogurt and berries into a bowl. Cover with oat/nut mix and

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The Hissing of Summer Gardens

My first attempt at a garden has been peppered with some decidedly rookie mistakes. Short sightedly cramped planting has turned the tomatoes into a neck high and impenetrably dense hedge of fruit. Miscalculations in the lumber aisle have left only one side of our garden plot with defense only against an animal as dense as the tomato hedge.

Hedge Fun

I’ve always been a proponent of reasoned pessimism and never having gardened before I didn’t think it wise to assume a high bounty. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Vanagon; my morning inspection turned out to be, well, quite fruitful.

tom tom club

I have to say that gardening in Sacramento is like bowling with bumpers on- its pretty hard to fail completely. There is still a great deal to do; corn and leeks to plant, starts of radishes to transfer and sunflowers to sow, but the knowledge that at the very least I can eat fried green tomatoes from my own backyard I thought deserved something a little special.

Blackberry Kefir Scones

Preheat to 477 K

7/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry diced fresh berries
1/2 cup rasp/black/blueberry kefir
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp milk

My introduction to scones was as a baker of them, 6:00 a.m. in Salem, Oregon. I drew the employment short straw at the Bistro and once a week, with the help loud loud rap I made scones from scratch mix.

I didn’t know much about scones, anything really, besides that they were big, dense and usually drenched in frosting. Not my idea of breakfast fodder. However after making these little guys, my opinion has changed. These are moist, light and airy, chocked full of berry flavor and really receptive to being made healthy.

Did you notice theres very little butter? I was confused too and pretty inclined just to put more in it, but I placed my trust in the hands of the recipe I jacked from the internet and restrained my fat kid urges.

Start things off by preheating. What with the mercury pushing 90 recently I find the only time to bake is the morning. Bright and early with coffee in hand and nibblin’ on toast. Baking days are made for simple sustenance. Mix your dry stuff, the sugar, salt, flour and baking powder. Cut the butter into the flour with a fork and let it marinate.

Mix your kefir and sour cream and distribute your berries throughout. Blend with floured hands and split into two balls of dough. Flatten them out on a greased cookie sheet and egg wash for aesthetics. Egg wash is a little water and egg that, as the name implies, is just wiped on the top of a baking goodie to give it a golden top. Thats all.

Bake, baby, bake for about 7 minutes. Take it out and using a spreader cut the rounds into pie wedges, as big or as wee as you like. Throw it back in until the top is right golden. Then sit back, relax and eat your breakfast.

Mark your calendars for June 21st. We here at BB are teaming up with some blogosphere heavyweights to bring you the Sights, Sounds and Tastes of Summer. I’ll be throwing down a bunch of new recipes while blogs like thirtythirsty will be trotting out new mixes.

Charles Trenet – Jardins Du Mois de Mai
Foster Sylvers – Misdemeanor (ripped from Soul Summer)

That’s Quacktastic

My laundry hamper reeks of Kingsford and the bathrooms of asparagus. Its undeniably grilling season and not a moment too soon. Figuring out how to translate barbecuing successes into morning glory has occupied a inordinate amount my time.

The last thing I’m looking to do as temperatures here push 100 is stand over my hotbox. That doesn’t mean that I have to give up eating painfully large breakfasts, it just means I have to think two steps ahead rather than one.

The Bee is devoting more and more column inches to profiling River City bloggers, and commanding the most space so far is Hank Shaw over at the very deserving Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. There isn’t much new I can say about his take on the intersection of food and internet besides that it got me thinking. While I sat around feeling sorry for myself for not getting invited to a Sacramento Food Blogger Party of the Century I actually said “fuck it” out loud and decided that for the night I would be embrace all my inner hunter, angler, gardener and cook.

Hunter, you ask? I’m a proud member of the California Waterfowl Association and ever since I was old enough to not be a danger to myself or others I have gone duck hunting with dear old dad. As I read Hank defend hunting as a locavoristic endeavor and a way to get closer to our food, I thought back on all the times I had to defend my hunting background from my hamburger chomping friends. Sweet irony.

Wild duck is unlike anything else to come across your plate. Domestic duck is much richer, lighter in color and in my experience is kind of porky. Wild duck, on the other hand is lean, gamy and a dark red meat. It makes sense that this skybeef is red, the Pacific Flyway makes I-5 look like a dragstrip.

In the course of housesitting I stole two of the early season ducks out of the freezer and immediately set them out to thaw. This is real food, with holes in it from where it was shot, and birdshot in those holes- dental insurance is a good idea when trying wild duck. I stuffed the defrosted ducks with backyard lemons, oregano and chives and threw them over red hot coals. Whenever I’ve had duck in the past its been charred to shit anyway so I’m used to it. Oddly enough after flipping them five about every two minutes or so, the outside was a deep brown and the meat felt, done but not dry.

I carved the bird and set aside one for the morning. I took some nibblets out the Second Saturday crowd that without fail develops on our porch and proceeded to convert some vegetarians. I then relished in the thought of a great big plate of duck hash while new friend Carly cried out, “Is this a fucking bullet?” Kinda.

Duck Hash With Garlic Quark

Serves 3 pretty well
1 duck’s worth of meat chopped and screwed
3 eggs
.75 cup chopped carrots
.75 cup chopped onions
3/2 cups chopped taters
1/2 cup green garlic cloves
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
coupla tablespoons chopped parsley

3 tbsp garlic quark from Spring Hill creamery in Petaluma. What’s that? Can’t get it? Well come down to the Sunday Farmer’s Market and pick some up from me as I recently got tapped to mong (yeah I made that up) cheese at the market.

I think you can see where this is going.

Hot fats.

Sizzlin’ taters. Hey now they’re browning. Might want to get water simmering for the eggs.

Onion carrot one two punch. Toss a little vinegar in your poach coach. And then your eggs, one at a time. Remember?

When adding the carrot I toss the honey in. I just think that carmelized carrot really can overpower and the sweetness helps balance it out. Hey the carrots are almost cooked, Throw the duck meat in.

Allocate the has in such a way that you get more of it than the people you cooked it for. Top with parsley and quark.

quacktastic

Bakin’/Bacon

The bacon gods have once again floored me with their providence.

Let me hit ya’ll with a lil preview to the remix…

Did simply breakfast ever do photoshoots on top of her washer because the light is better? I don’t think so.

I wanted to come back from my hiatus with a strong recipe, something that made the wait worth it. While I wanted to go all out and try to recreate the Bintliff’s eggs au beurre noir but it just didn’t feel right. I also am scared to death of trying to make black butter. How do you know if you screwed it up?

The answer of this morning’s “What’s for breakfast?” was given by the garden. While the peppers, tomatoes, and onions are all truckin’ towards a high bounty, our herb pot is already pumping out deliciousness. I’ve been laying into the oregano hard, but still had yet to touch the chives. That’s when I remembered my lady Paula Deen.

This venerable, unabashedly southern butter monger has become something of my id. In the kitchen her voice in my head is always pandering to my lipid instincts. And on this day, in front of my herbs her voice cut through the din of competing recipe ideas like a beagle getting its foot stepped on, “CHIVE AND CHEDDAR CORNMEAL MUFFINS, YA’LL.”

Sure thing, Paula.

I believe that Mikey was the first one to introduce me to chives in a baked good when he described the bacon chive biscuits that commemorated he and Meg’s first anniversary. I considered just making those, but Paula wasn’t having it. She wanted cheese.

I picked up the Gourmet Cookbook to get a basic cornbread muffin recipe and then figured that the addition of cheese would probably make the muffin a little moister as it lost some of its oil cooking. The result wasn’t bad, but I changed it up a little nonetheless.

Without further ado…

CHEDDAR AND CHIVE CORNMEAL MUFFIN’S, YA’LL


Makes 12 muffins
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar

Its a lot of ingredients. Don’t trip, just preheat to 420.

Remember the dry/wet approach I use for almost all my baking? Yeah, same thing here. Remember to let your liquid absorb into the dry goods. Give it a few minutes after addition. Throw the chives into the dry part and whisk, then add all of the wet stuff that was mixed together.

Now, here is the only part that is at all tricky. It isn’t even tricky; its a thing you have to do. It is not deceiving and complicated. It is simply a step. Spoon half of the batter into the buttered tins and spread the shredded cheese over the half and then put the rest of the batter over that.

Bake it. BINGO.

If you’re like me, you’ll throw throw this next to some Bacon smoked Bacon and an uncharacteristically cheeseless grape tomato cilantro omelette. BOOYAH.

Gloomy day music. Two of the three are reposts. Cry about it.
The Supremes – My World Is Empty Without You
Avalanches – Since I Left You
Beegees – Massachusetts

Eggs… For Birdie

One thing my kitchen is missing is sports metaphors. I’ve been trying to pepper my internal monologues with more analogies like “bacon is a five-tool player” and “cilantro is a threat off the tee and around the green.”

Spring is a wonderful time for upping your sports metaphors. I’ve never been that confident with my ability to participate in sports banter but I think I am pretty good at making my life sound more important by comparing my activities to those of professional athletes.

After a lunch/dinner double header in the kitchen yesterday, I was pretty sure I had found some players that were unstoppable no matter what time of day. Zucchini has never been on my breakfast radar, because well, its not immediately clear what to do with it. Unless you’re Bittman thinking outside of the box then its kind of a tricky one.

I first though it too wet to be a good omelette ingredient, but after seeing how it held up as a pizza topping when coupled with prosciutto and cotija I saw new possibility from this unassuming veggie.

This was also a thinly veiled attempt to involve prosciutto in my morning. I’ve developed an intensely strong bond with this variety of salted, cured meat and I’m always looking for ways to diversify my intake. Not to mention the fact that 16th street boasts one of the better delis in the grid, Sampino’s Towne Foods. Having a deli that good literally a stone’s throw away will be the end of me.

I’m already losing my ability to sports-metaphor. Dammit.

Okay, back to the omelette. I knew that if I wanted to keep the zuke crispy in its egg enclosure, I would have to fiddle with it beforehand. By sort-of marinating the zucchini in rice vinegar and a touch of olive oil, it kind of acts as a light pickling agent and keeps the moisture content up. But, that’s Inside Baseball and if you want to know more about it, I suggest America’s Test Kitchen.

The final product is sweet, salty, light and spicy. Basically a great way to start the morning. Admittedly a little ridiculous, but what is breakfast if not an opportunity to do yourself a favor? The name is the best part…

Omelette with pickled, shaved zucchini and prosciutto

4 ounces zucchini, shaved with a veggie peeler
2 tbsps rice vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt/pep

2 ounces prosicutto
2 eggs
ounce of shredded, mild cheddar cheese
tbsp oil

Put the zucchini in a cup with the olive oil, vinegar and spices and mix to cover. Whisk the eggs with a teensy bit of water and throw in the oiled up pan. Pull down from the sides and spread the liquid around in a circular motion. You know, omelette style. Get it. Once its pretty dry throw the cheese in there. On top of that put some zuke mix on it then the prosciutto. Fold over and let the cheese melt. Once its melty and everything else is nice and coheezed, eat it.

It might look like this.

It might not though. If it doesn’t, well, shit, keep trying. Prosciutto is not a bad trial and error ingredient.

In other news Phil Spector is going to die in prison. Some of my favorites.

George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

Big Gaye Pancake Day

Hi my name is Matt and I have a problem. I can’t stop reading the Gourmet cookbook. What started as an exploration of the “Brunch” section quickly escalated into reading it before I went to bed, and starting back up immediately when I got up. I’ve always been a big streak reader but this is ridiculous.

My return to Gourmet also means going back to recipes. I’ve been improvising lately but when it comes to anything involving baking powder or soda, hell flour for that matter my confidence level plummets. I think that its a sign of a truly remarkable home cook to be able to riff on batter based breakfasts.

So there I was, in the kitchen, thinking about hotcakes, a kitchen stocked with everything I need to make them, and freshly ground Stumptown Burundi making a special appearance in the french. The Obama of breakfasts, this guy had a lot of promise.

The recipe I ended up going with was Gourmet’s Whole Grain Pancake. I subbed the whole grain flour for unbleached whole wheat (can someone explain to me why there are so many different flours?) and discarded their syrup recipe in favor of something more buttertastic.

These probably were good for you at some point.

Whole Grain Pancakes with Honey Lemon Butter

For Cakes:
1.25 cups whole wheat flour
.33 cups cornmeal
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
.25 cups vegetable oil/canola oil/motor oil
1.5 cups milk, the richer the better to a point

For Butter:
Half stick unsalted butter (if you only have salted, neat, but just don’t add the salt)
1 tbsp honey
juice of .33 lemons

Mix your dry ingredients in a big bowl. For those of you who are intimidated by judging moisture contents, that is the flour, sugar, salt, cornmeal and baking powder. Quick tip, have a big sieve in the bowl, throw everything into it and bang out. It mixes more uniformly and provides an opportunity to use bang out in a kitchen setting.

Wet ingredients time. Mix the yolks, oil and milk. The milk won’t want to mix, but milk has always been a bit of a emulsive curmudgeon. Treat this goop like a salad dressing and emulsify a thin stream of milk at a time, whisking like a mad(wo)man. Once it is blended, mix into the dry batter and let sit. If you just immediately used that batter, your pancakes are going to taste awful. Let the flour absorb the goop. Very important.

Did you think I forgot about the egg whites? Nope. Time to get fancy. By beating them stiff it will make the fluffiest pancakes ever. If you have an emulsion blender this is a good time to use it. You want stiff peaks, and you get them by putting as much air in the whites as possible. I did this by using the Native American start a fire stick method wherein I spin my whisk between my hands a lot. This works just fine. Now, fold the whites into that soaky batter and prepare to griddle. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and hit it with a tbsp of the oil. A lot of people like to use butter, I’m one of them, but it does make the frying process quite a bit trickier.

While the first batch is going, prepare the butter. Find some way, any way to melt the butter slowly. Thankfully, we have an all but useless teeny gravy warmer that is perfect for this, you can use a bowl and your microwave. Combine all the butter things in the bowl and heat slowly. When the butter is melted, mix it up. Simple. By now your first batch of pancakes should be up and you should put them in a big stack and douse them in butter. Don’t wait, do it now.

In honor of Marvin Gaye’s birthday I have uploaded Mr. Gaye’s now famous declaration of his love for butter, at a time when margarine was beginning to seem like the future of fat consumption. Also, one for the enviros.

Marvin Gaye – Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Baby
Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)

Market Madness

I stopped paying attention the Dow Jones Industrial Average, well, okay I never really paid attention to it. I know its important, sort of an EKG for our economic health, but whatever money I did have in the stock market I have since squandered on records and fresh food. Investments of a different sort, you might say. The market I have been paying attention to is the Downtown Farmer’s Market under Highway 50 here in Sacramento.

This is the most badass farmers market in the US. Its grimy, underneath a freeway and flanked on all sides by streets that are fairly dangerous to cross. According to strong anecdotal evidence, Sunday market attendance is up considerably over the last six months. Theories abound to explain it, the two most prevalent being:

“Sacramento is becoming a new urban foodie center, people are realizing that this is a great place to be if you value freshness and local distribution networks.”

and

“It’s cheap.”

If there is one thing I learned in college, its that the easiest way out of deciding who is right is to say that both theories are correct, to a degree.

I personally subscribe to the argument that people in Sacramento are shifting their hobbies from complaining about how much Sacramento sucks to finding the silver lining. I am sure that the Downtown Market is probably one of the most oft cited “Best Things About Sacramento,” and the Slow-Food-Greenstainable-Grow-Your-Own Movement seems to really have taken hold here.

My brother and his wife are practically a case-study in changing attitudes about Slow Food being a luxury of the “urban haute bourgeois.” Alex is pumped for peppers, silly about cilantro, taken by tomatoes and I’m just going to stop. He still eats cereal two meals out of the day, but that third meal is increasingly locally sourced and fresh.

Even more dear to him than Cheerios is his hard-earned money, and after crunching the numbers the choice is clear. Spend more on processed, prespiced and sliced foods or put in a little more time and see the meal from beginning to end. Elucidating that choice is going to be what keeps foodie-ism from going the way of Pogs and Atkins and keep it informing our diets for the next generation.


15 bucks, little man.

Its all the same to the Downtown Market; it was here before Emeril went green and its not going anywhere. Certainly not an aesthetically pleasing dedicated space closer to the Capitol…

Amerie – One Thing (Siik Remix) Ripped hard from Soul-Sides