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Everything posted by Rien

  1. I'm not certain about other dishes which use coriander in this way, but I do know that ground coriander seed is common in Egyptian cuisine. If I'm not mistaken, caraway and cumin are also very common in Egypt. Roden grew up in Cairo, so it would make sense that she's putting an Egyptian twist on the recipe though she doesn't call out the region in which this is "authentic." rien
  2. One follow up to my previous post. I recently came across the Congo Cookbookwebsite and was quite impressed. rien
  3. Africa, other than the north, has been neglected in this discussion. In many ways I feel like African cuisine - again the north and, to a lesser degree, the west excepted - is fairly unknown. Perhaps a single dish is known here and there ... a peanut stew perhaps ... but whether this is hiding wonderful unknown treasures or is simply the cream rising to the top, I don't know. But I digress ... I recently came across a reference to "Sauce Cany" - a "Wolof Pepper Paste" - in the Senegalese section of Jeffrey Alford's "Seductions of Rice." He describes it explicitly as a relative of harissa. I cannot recall the ingredients or proportions of the top of my head but I do remember him calling for a scotch bonnet or habanero. I imagine these are replacing the kick of a different local pepper. In addition, the sauce contains additional peppers, shallots, spices that I cannot recall, and peanut oil. I have yet to make a batch, but perhaps this weekend. I've looked for other references but come up empty handed. In a Chicago area African grocery, I found a bottled pepper sauce from Ghana called Ghanian Spicy Shito. Shito being pepper in the local language. In addition to the normal peppers, spices, tomato, and oil, this contains ground fish and shrimp, giving it a me a vague sense memory of something Southeast Asian. Again, references are slim, though I have found comments that only the preserved variety has fish and shrimp. When made fresh in a mortar, it is peppers, spices, tomato, and oil only. Seems that Shito is served with pretty much everythin in Ghana - fufu (a thick, pounded mash of boiled starches such as cassava, plantains, and yams), fried plantains, Banku (cassava dumplings), kenkey (fermented corn dumplings), etc. I've seen some references that call for making this with black pepper ... which could be quite overpowering and interesting. Pili-Pili is a third variety. The differences here seem to be the inclusion of vinegar, sweet peppers or bell pepper, and sugar to temper the intense heat. In my experience, this is a looser sauce rather than a thick paste like the previous two and harissa. I'm no expert on African cuisine. In fact, I'm barely a journeyman. I'm sure I've made errors and omissions. Please fill in any blanks that you can. rien
  4. Rien

    Singha Beer

    I find Singha highly variable. Some bottles taste a lot worse than others. If you've only tried it once and strongly disliked it, perhaps try again. This may have to do with freshness ... and, perhaps, with the actual variables in the product. One thing to be said for Bud and other Macro-Brews, they have skilled enough brewers that they've got consistency down ... you could give them a bucket of raw sewage and stale wonderbread, and they'd turn it into Bud. Hell, that may be their secret. I also find Singha, like a lot of beers from countries hovering around the equator, benefits from an icy chill. In Thailand, in fact, it's common for people to drink their beer over ice. No kidding. I wouldn't say it's above average - what's the average? Are we talking quality divided by bottles consumed? If so, yeah, perhaps it is above average considering American macros and domestic product from most of Latin America and, I'm guessing, China. Cold, it'll do the trick ... though I'm with the concensus that it's not a particularly grand lager. rien
  5. This sounds great. Can you provide additional details? Do you cook the bulghur first, moisten it with hot water, or just use it dry? I suspect the second. And, as for the onions, to you cook/fry them first? Thanks, rien
  6. I have cooked new crop rice and I'm not really a fan. Here's the lowdown, heavily indebted to Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's excellent book, The Seductions of Rice. First, brokens. Yes, it's considered a low grade. However, as with many ingredients (such as olive oil), lower grades are appropriate, even preferred, for some preparations. While brokens are undesirable for "eating" rice they are preferred for preparations where you want the starches to come out into the water, "binding" the grains and/or thickening the mixture; think rice puddings and various porridges, such as jook/congee/etc. Next, new crop. I don't know if taste is really at issue; though some of the eGullet classes have troubled the distinction between taste and texture, I still say the main issue here is texture. After rice is harvested (and perhaps parboiled) it is dried so that it contains no more than 14% moisture. Further drying happens as it ages. That's why basmati is aged; it's highly prized distinctness of grain is emphasized by additional drying. New crop rice has more moisture, closer to the 14%. Yes, this means it cooks more quickly in less water but it also means that it is more fragile. This lack of stability means that the grains are easily damaged in shipment. Chances are good that you'll have more broken/damaged grains in the mix. These broken grains "leak" starches. Combine this with the fact that new crop rice is, by it's nature, softer and often more clinging, you often get soft, clumpy rice with less distinct grains. This leads me to think, if not really perceive, that the rice is watery and has less grain flavor. But, if you like really soft rice, by all means, give it a shot. If you're inclined to use extra rice in soups or to fry it, stay away from new crop. Again, I highly recommend The Seductions of Rice. It offers a great overview of the topography/geography of rice, the variant strains, the myriad preparatory techniques from harvest to bowl/plate, and a number of nice travelogue moments. The subtle distinctions in preparation are priceless. For example, I never new that Japanese rice is best prepared with a 20 - 30 minute pre-soak, yet it improves the rice immensely. rien
  7. So, based on this article I'm inclined to believe that the olive tree came to Italy from Tunisia and that perhaps later, during the expansion of empire, the Romans returned to use the olive orchards as a form of "peaceful" conquest. The article did remind me that, along with North Africa, the Romans got a lot of olive oil from Spain. I remember coming across the phrase "porto food" in a cookbook, though the cookbook escapes me. The intention was to create a category of foods that circulated around Mediterranean ports via trade and travel, creating slightly different versions and, quite literally, feedback loops everywhere. Seems that these questions of who influenced whom often turn into chicken and egg problems; who influence whom first? Thanks for the article. rien
  8. If I'm not mistaken, the Romans turned Tunisia into their oil amphora as well as breadbasket. I can't say for sure that the olive was introduced to Tunisia by Romans but I believe the mass of orchards and the early olive oil "industry" in North Africa was part of the Roman Empire's attempt to keep itself fed and fueled. My reference for this is Toussaint-Samat's and Bell's (caveat: often inaccurate) book, The History of Food. rien
  9. Sounds like Baharat ... which has perhaps as many recipes as people making it. Recipes often include black pepper, clover, coriander, cumin, cardamom, paprika, ground dried lemon/lim, rose petals, etc. Any number of cookbooks have recipes. I also found a number of variations here. Version #3, "Syrian Style Baharat," sounds like what you're describing. It's also like Clifford Wright's version. rien
  10. I'm not sure this is the right thread on which to ask this question nor am I sure if the question has been asked before. But, here goes. How should one age beers? Seeing as there's often no cork to deal with, does orientation matter? It seems that capped bottles would be better stored vertically than horizontally. Should corked bottled be stored horizontally? Does anyone have general guidelines for years to age? Of course, I imagine that keeping them away from light is a good idea. It doesn't seem, however, that temperature is as important since the number of years the bottles will be aged is considerably less than one may age wine. I recently purchased a couple expensive four packs - Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, Dogfish Heads's Burton's Baton Ale and Olde School, and North Coast's Old Stock - and I'd like to lay down a couple of bottles for years to come to see how they mellow. This got me thinking about laying down come other barley wines and barrel aged beers. Thanks for any advice. Sincerely, rien
  11. What? For real? I've seen Molokhiya (or one of the seemingly infinite variant spellings) referred to in many a cookbook as jew's mallow. Off the top of my head, I believe both Clifford Wright and Claudia Roden refer to it as such. Is this one of those pernicious mis-information memes? Seems like this can create a couple odd effects: 1) people are using mallow thinking it's Molokhiya; and the inverse, 2) Molokhiya is being labeled as mallow. I feel like I've seen frozen packages with both the words molokhiya and mallow on them. Interesting. rien
  12. Rien

    The Sidecar

    It definitely does change the nature of the drink. However, it's still a nice drink. I've passed Gran Gala "sidecars" off on some "experienced" drinkers and they've immediately noticed the difference but ackowledged it as a nice alteration ... though I'm sure it won't replace a true Sidecar in most people's pantheon of great cocktails. rien
  13. The Campari Group owns Cinzano, so why not use Cinzano vermouth? I actually use Cinzano sweet vermouth all the time ... with the perhaps dubious rationale that sweet vermouth was, to the best of my knowledge, originally an Italian thing. I believe dry vermouth on the other hand is French in origin. Might Noilly Prat be, more or less, the originator of dry vermouth as a mass produced product? The history on their site claims they're the original, since 1813. Anyway, for that also dubious reason I use Noilly Prat as my "house" dry vermouth. Ciao, rien
  14. Quality product is great. With French Press coffee, it pretty much gets you there. The only big variables left to work with being grind and water which are easy to "solve." Storage is a lesser concern. Espresso and espresso based drinks, however, are another story. Technique and equipment are far more crucial. How do you "solve" these in a dining environment where the turnover is very low in comparison to a cafe. Foaming milk to a perfect velvet consistency takes a lot of practice and pretty high turnover as does pulling perfect shots. Are you considering having a true barrista or at least someone with real training? I feel like this is something that many diners, even very "sophisticated" diners, do not have much experience with - perfect espresso. It could be a mind/palette opening taste phenomena on par with the cuisine. Ciao, rien
  15. Rien

    Vin d'Orange

    Aren't "seville" oranges bitter oranges? I see them around at specialty markets. You may want to ask specifically for Seville Oranges from a grocer that you suspect might be ok with special orders. rien
  16. Rien

    Vin d'Orange

    I've just cracked open the first bottle of my vin de noix and it turned out quite nice. It still needs more age for spicy flavors to come to the fore, I think. I just got the "Aperitif" book as well, after I'd made batches of vin de noix and nocino. I'm thinking of making some of the walnut rosemary biscotti from the recipe in the book to snack on with a glass of one or the other. When you make your vin de noix and nocino, definitely make enough that you can cellar bottles. Word has it that it can easily age for 3/4 years. In order to assist in this aging I bottled mine in 375 ml bottles so I could spread it out more (and give more gifts). I don't know how the smaller bottles will affect aging. I also split my batches of both vin de noix and nocino in half so I could infuse part of each with vanilla beans. To make the bottles look sharp for gifts in an authentically bistro way I cut out stencils with initials for type (VdN or NcNo - wanted it to look al/chemical), if it had vanilla (/Vn), and the "Vintage" and then filled it in with white paint. When I get my digital camera back, I'll post an image. Ciao, rien
  17. Rien

    Fennel Pollen

    I've heard reports that fennel pollen has a sandy/grainy texture that can be unpleasant. Any truth to this? If so, how does one cope with it? rien
  18. I just read that commodity prices of copper have been dropping. I believe they have been climbing for some years and have been at or near an all-time high. I wonder if this will eventually be reflected in cookware pricing. But, as previously mentioned, raw material costs are a small portion of the price, so any decline in material costs will only yield small savings. rien
  19. From my investigations it seems like most chicken sold as "Cornish Game Hens" are actually "Rock Cornish Game Hens" - a cross between the Cornish breed and the White Rock breed. They are a small breed and are slaughtered fairly young - 4 to 6 weeks. Though they can weigh around 2. 5 pounds, they rarely provide more than one "serving" due to a high bone to meat ratio. Though the name is gender specific, unlike with Capon, the bird you buy isn't. Ciao, rien
  20. I've never bought them - I've just let some limes sit on my furnace until they sound hollow. The dill aroma and flavor was a big surprise. Can anyone comment on the difference between the store bought and the "homemade"? The ones from the store definitely look more uniform ... home dried look rather wrinkled and mottled in a way that some find unappealing. My friends, which are used to discovering oddites sitting around my kitchen - a bowl with an octopus in it, a three foot long chunk of taro shoot, etc - have commented on how gross they look, assuming that I had just forgot about them and they were rotting over on the radiator. Rather fascinating that they don't mold. Does this have something to do with the acids? Why doesn't the same thing happen to lemons? I've whacked them with a hammer to crack them a bit and then poured near boiling water over them to form an infusion of sorts. Also good with a few lightly mashed juniper berries thrown in. I sweeten it a bit and drink it warm or cold. Sometimes I splash in a hint of orange flower water. I believe they're used in "lime rice." I believe they're just dropped in the water with the rice as it cooks. Best, rien
  21. Thanks for your answer. It sounds as if you came from the "bottom up" rather than "top down" - your desire to excel developed with your engagement with food ... it wasn't something you had planned out when you started. It's amazing to me how many people that really succeed at something find their way in rather casually, rather than starting with a determined purpose. It definitely is a big question. But, as one that considers himself a "seeker" - unfortunately, not always a "finder" - and one that demands a level of performance from himself, I'm always curious what drives the people that manage to achieve a high-level of success. Inevitably it is a very personal matter. That's fine. Piecing together what is common among them, or deciding that there is nothing common, is my interest. I'm also fascinated by what differentiates the very skilled, very inspired, and very successful from the "superstars." But that's another topic ... Thanks, rien
  22. OK, so that gives the five default flavors of: Sugar Salt Vinegar MSG & Poison Sounds like the recipe for the plot of a culinary whodunnit. rien
  23. Makes me think that, yeah, salt and pepper and garlic are a given in most people's world. And if you're counting garlic, why not onion? If you count fats, so are butter and olive oil ... maybe either/or since a lot of the world breaks down - pre everything available everywhere, that is - into butter eaters or oil eaters. Right there, you've got the inevitable top five for Europe, America, the Middle East, North Africa, and a good portion of Asia. At least India and China - although, historically, much of Asia didn't have "salt," per se, but salty condiments like soy sauce and fish sauce. Maybe you've gotta add in ginger. What's interesting to me is that the "base," the lowest common denominator, is pretty universal. The other thing that interests me is that there are a few offshoots that stand alone. Japan immediately comes to mind. Nix garlic, pepper, onion, butter, and incorporate salt via soy sauce. Is this the true global outlier? Funny that no one - or at least not many people - mentioned soy sauce. Or sugar. For my tongue in cheek response, I'd say my top five are: sweet salty sour bitter umami Think I covered all the bases there. Maybe that gives us a default five of sugar, salt, vinegar, (what's bitter?), and, hmmm, MSG? rien
  24. How would you have answered this when you were starting out? Has it turned out as expected or did your desires and expectations shift? How would you answer now? I can never ask just one question at a time. Thanks! rien
  25. You've mentioned the rewards of the career in several posts, but mostly in an abstract sense. I'd like to hear more. Money isn't enough, but I imagine it's necessary. You talked about satisfying customers and the establishing a trust based relationship by which you can subtly challenge them. Pride and prestige also came up. And then there is creativity - the inspiration and creation aspect - and craft - executing perfectly. Which of these really stimulate you? Has it changed over time as you've grown? Are there others that I've overlooked? Can you comment on the way some of the chefs you've worked with view the "rewards" of the profession? I hope that isn't too vague. Thanks, rien
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