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SethG

eG Foodblog: SethG - Brooklyn, Bread and Back to Business

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I'm it this week.

And who am I, anyway? You could check out my bio, if you really want to, but really all you need to know is that I'm not professionally involved with food, although more and more I wish I were. I have amassed nearly 1000 posts here in (I think?) pretty quiet fashion. I mostly take from eGullet-- I learn new things every day, and I'm very grateful.

I live in Brooklyn, with my wife Robin and our two children, Leah (2 years old) and Nate (almost 7 months). I am a lawyer, but for the past four months I've been on a leave of absence taking care of the kids. This leave of absence ends June 1. That's right, we are at the beginning of my last week of freedom. (Incidentally, I did a sort of half-blog for a while about new stuff I was learning to make while on leave. You can find it here.)

When my leave began, I wanted to tackle a bunch of disparate projects, but eventually I became primarily obsessed with baking bread. I began baking every day, and I eventually got my own sourdough starter (whom I call Ringo) up and running. This daily bread-making has become part of my identity now, and it's going to be tough to part with it. Once I return to work, my daily baking is going to have to end, so I've recently been baking more than ever, trying to cram in what I can before I go back.

So this week you can expect some bread from me. And I'll try to show you a few things about how we live here in Brooklyn, U.S.A.

We will be traveling later this week. We'll be leaving Wednesday night to go to my mother's home in Maryland. My mother knows not of this eGullet business (at least, so far as I know :unsure:), and it might be best if this remains the case. So you may not get much in the way of food photos while we're in Maryland, but I'll give you some reports that you might find amusing.

So, on with the blog already!

Oh, by the way, I've been instructed to tell you that if you reply to the blog, you're fair game to be tagged as the next blogger. And that you have a moral obligation not to say no! I was apparently the very last choice to be tagged for this week. (They said it was because I live in NYC, where so many of the bloggers have lived, but really...) I've always been picked last since I was a child, so I'm okay with it. :smile: But don't put some other loser in my position! Say "yes" when you're tagged! Take it for the team!

(Now will anyone dare reply? :unsure:)

Okay, so dinner this evening was (drum roll, please)....... tuna salad.

Behold, mortals!

i7356.jpg

See, I made this poached chicken with aioli on Friday, and there's just a ton of aioli left over, which I love, but I'm having a hard time getting rid of it. Yesterday I assembled a bunch of cooked and raw vegetables for a sort of veggie "Grand Aioli," and tonight I briefly entertained thoughts of a Bourride, but it was so hot out, and like a jackass I had the oven at 500 degrees already for some French bread. The thought of turning on a burner was just too much, at least until we put in our stupid air conditioners. (See Note 1, below.) So it's just a tuna salad sandwich, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's also got a little extra: it's made with homemade aioli on homemade bread. It tasted pretty good.

I also put together some Biga (a firm batter of flour, water and a little yeast that will bubble all night, creating flavor for future breads), which I'll use Monday and Tuesday. I got my hands on some actual Italian "00" flour (their white flour), so I thought I'd make a Pugliese and maybe some durum wheat bread with my "00" Biga:

i7358.jpg

For tomorrow: I dunno. I can never plan ahead. My wonderful wife got me this great gift for our anniversary:

i7357.jpg

It's the seven quart Le Creuset (we have an oval five already, I think). Give me some ideas. What should I make in this pot? If I like your idea I'll use it on Monday or Tuesday!

Also: I got these beautiful radishes at the greenmarket on Saturday:

i7360.jpg

I dipped some slices in aioli yesterday. What else should I do with them? Put them in a salad? I haven't the faintest idea. Help me out.

See you tomorrow (or later this morning, really). It's late.

Note 1: This is what most of us New Yorkers do, by the way. We take down our air conditioners in the winter because otherwise we'd freeze, and we store them in closets, or in the corner, or wherever we can, and then when it's hot again we risk our backs picking them up and we install them in our windows, blocking our pathetic views of alleys and neighbors in their underwear. Glamorous, huh?

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Welcome to blogland, Seth. You're certainly off to a good start!

It's nice to see you stepped up to the plate, I hope that the above forwarning does not ward off people from participating in the good spirit of the blog, it's nice to have support when we do these things. I love your avatar, I thought of you last weekend at the Chinese grocery!

I think I have a recipe for a provencal soup that incorporates aoli, a perfect dish to cook up in your new casserole. I'll dig up the recipe. Radishes are excellent with butter and salt, or dipped in onion dip. :biggrin:

NEED I SAY : YOUR BREAD IS AWESOME. :cool:

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after following your baking blog with interest I'm looking forward to this!

your casserole is gorgeous, I'd be tempted to do beef in guiness (but that's just me, anything with guiness is good) and make a beef pie from it... flaky puff pastry, tender beef and dark, thick gravy :wub:

edited for spelling.


Edited by binkyboots (log)

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As hard as it will be to tear yourself away from the kidlets, just remember: LUNCH! We might have to start the LMLC (Lower Manhattan Lunch Club) to welcome you back. :wink:

Fergus Henderson might call those happy radishes. I haven't received my copy of The Whole Beast yet, but as I recall he's got a multi-course "recipe" for radishes AND their tops. When the book comes (this week), I'll paraphrase for you.

PS: I'm not afraid of being tagged; I was one of the first bloggers. And I must say, the blogs now are definitely more interesting than mine was. :biggrin:

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Radishes are excellent with butter and salt...
Fergus Henderson might call those happy radishes. I haven't received my copy of The Whole Beast yet, but as I recall he's got a multi-course "recipe" for radishes AND their tops. When the book comes (this week), I'll paraphrase for you.

Funny how great minds think alike! I bought the radishes because I remembered that Fergus Henderson had some sort of radish recipe in his book. And I insisted that the guy who sold them to me leave on the tops. He looked at me like I was nuts.

And that recipe (for the bottoms) involves.... eating them with butter and salt, just as bleu' suggests. Which I've never done. So I'll try that a little later.

It will be hard not to be the kids' primary caretaker any longer. (We've hired a babysitter, who's just started. So I'm sort of on vacation. I'm trying to stay out of her hair as much as possible. It's very awkward. I've never been anybody's employer before.) But I don't think I'm the type to stay home with the kids. I used to think I was, but with two it's so much more WORK. I do less work at work.

Anyway, this morning my Biga looks good:

i7362.jpg

I'm having some Moka right now. I'm about to have my third little cup. I have a six cup model that I regularly drain over the course of a morning. My Moka habits are awful. I often leave the thing uncleaned until the next day. I keep drinking the stuff long after it's cold. Sometimes I fill a cup and microwave it. I hope Craig Camp isn't reading this. Craig, you've created a monster. But I love my Moka.

And after my daughter had some cereal this morning (she got up at 5:40 a.m., ugh), we shared a bowl of cherries:

i7363.jpg

It's so good to see them back in the stores, and their price dropped by half in the past week. Leah's been asking for them since last autumn.

More later. Beef and beer. Interesting. I was thinking maybe braised short ribs. Do you think that would work?

Edit: I forgot two things:

1. Of course, Suzanne, let's have lunch next week!

2. Bread is a great thing. If I can make it, anyone can.


Edited by SethG (log)

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Thanks for taking on the blog, it needs to continue!

Wait, you have a name for your sourdough starter? Does it talk back to you?? :biggrin:

Do you have a favorite baguette recipe? I'm looking for a really, crunchy, airy recipe. We have a family bet going on: the bread in Umbria is...best used as a doorstop. At least in my neck of the woods. I'm convinced that I can make good French bread at home, but my husband says its impossible. He blames the water. We attempted some experiments over the holidays, but I'm not much of a baker, and had trouble converting my recipes, so we either had no rise, or the amazing bread bubble that consummed the kitchen. Long story short: can I make French bread in Umbria?

And if the LMLC meets, I'l love to join you!

Ciao!!

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Dunno if you'll want braised short ribs in the next couple of days -- 90s and thunderstorms are still threatened. But wait: what about doing them "en gelee"?? Braise, debone, defat the juices, and turn into a terrine to serve cold with that great-looking bread? Now that sounds good to me, at any rate.

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With that weather report... I'd fill the pot with gazpacho! :biggrin:

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Hathor:

My sourdough starter sometimes gives me the silent treatment, but usually we're on good terms!

You know, my wife and I got engaged in Tuscany in 1999, and during that trip we just couldn't get used to the saltless bread. It always tasted flat to us, no matter what we put on it. Is it the same in Umbria? (We took a day trip to Perugia, which we enjoyed very much, but I can't remember if we had bread there.)

My own opinion, based on limited experience, is that an American baguette can be fine. It won't be exactly like the French version because of the flour. But there are numerous sources of good recipes.

The baguette I made last night was actually from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 2. I'd read many testimonials to the recipe, so I wanted to try it out. They created their recipe after some tutoring from Professor Calvel himself. I thought it worked fine (and the kneading and shaping instructions are especially good), but their recommended amount of yeast is too high for the slow rises they purport to prefer. I ended up throwing the dough in the fridge for a while to slow it down-- and actually, Julia et. al. give you very good tips on slowing down or speeding up the dough. The recipe I've tried that I liked the best was the Classic French Bread recipe in Baking With Julia, which was contributed by Danielle Forestier. What Americans call French Bread is just regular white bread, given two rises, a shaping and a proof, and then a baking in a steamy hearth oven. What makes it successful is controlled, slow rising and good shaping. And a baking stone helps.

Can you make French Bread in Umbria? I don't really know what the flour is like there, but "00" (Italian refined white flour) is weaker in protein than American flour. It might be close to French flour, but to get "French" results you might need to add some of the "improvers" the French add in minute amounts, like vitamin C or fava bean flour. The recipes I've used and liked were designed to work with American All Purpose flour, which is higher in protein than French and Italian flours, producing stronger gluten and absorbing more water.

That's a very long-winded way of saying I'm not sure! But I know you can do fairly well in New York.

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So..you are saying if I bring over the flour from here, and bake there, and don't tell my husband... I can win the bet? Cool. Much easier than carrying over the water.

I did use 00 flour, and that could be part of the problem. I'll have to keep experimenting.

Yes, Umbria subscribes to that salt-less thing. :wacko:

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Seth, I remember your demi-blog and can't believe that baby is already 7 months. Time flies. I'm glad to see you here for that last precious week of leave. Being at home IS harder with two isn't it? Holy moly. Funny how adding one more little body to a household somehow turns your laundry pile into K2.

The bread is beautiful. I'm looking forward to more opportunities to gush over your baking and your kids.

Love the giant pot, though if it is 90 outside and your air conditioners aren't in yet, I'd be just looking at it and thinking how purty it is for a while longer. Or maybe you could just serve lemonade out of it? You are going to make some kick butt meals in that eventually though.

(p.s. not it... I done blogged already)

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Huzzah, Seth. I don't mind spending another week in NYC.

Just to clarify: Does having already blogged NOT exempt one from taking up the mantle again? I've been tagged the past two weeks, but since I'd already bloviated my way through Thanksgiving week, I thought it best to decline. Uh-oh.

Blog on.

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Seth, I'm laughing my head off already, and I'm not even through my first cup of coffee. I'm so glad you're it! and that we can share your last week of culinary freedom!

How about a bouillabaisse to go with your crusty bread?

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So...

you said "2. Bread is a great thing. If I can make it, anyone can. "

I have a starter. Right now, its abused because I've rather given up. I've had it for close to three years now. I even moved it from Chicago to Dallas in its own little yeastie cooler. I do feed the darling, but I have yet to get it right. I feed it when I remember, or guilt gets the better of me. Every time I look at it, its like three years of experimentation..... laughing at me.

The first couple of loaves, three years ago or so, the crumb was pretty dang good. Wasn't so sour but the crust was ok. I baked every week, and got some decent bread.

But it wasn't "sourdough" crust. So I tried ice in the oven, spraying the silly loaf with water etc. The crust now is thick, ubercrunchy and practically pain (pun) full to eat. I've not tried of late, I haven't had the patience to let it rise and rise and rise only to be so so. or too dang crunchy. Ok so the last time I tried to make a rye sourdough. That was when I decided I was pretty much a sourdough failure. No gluten formed, nothing rose, and I threw the dough out. Too much rye, I guess, but that was the final failure that took the wind out of my sails. Any advice on how to get good bread mojo, Seth? :wacko:

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Hey Seth! Great blog so far. And thanks for sharing your last week of freedom with us in glorious and gory detail.

Something I've always wanted to ask you...Is your avatar a smiling chayote? Is that pic from the Play With Your Food book by Joost Elffers? I've always loved that book...

If not a full scale boulliabase, perhaps a big pot of steamers or mussels to dip the bread into the leftover sauce? Yummy! That sounds like a perfect summer meal with a lovely bottle of wine and a crunchy salad on the side.

Bake on and blog on oh great one! Looking forward to hearing more about it. :smile:

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I went and checked the weather forecast for Brooklyn and I said to myself "Self, if I were in Brooklyn, I wouldn't want to put the oven on for the next few days."

So, I vote for cioppino for that lovely pot. In my house, we call cioppino "Ken's clam soup" after a friend's husband's recipe for it. Mmmmmmm. I can just taste it with some of that bread!

Great blog so far!

NB: I think that previous bloggers should go back in the blogger fodder pool after a certain amount of time. (I'm feeling fairly safe since I blogged less than two months ago.)

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For tomorrow: I dunno. I can never plan ahead. My wonderful wife got me this great gift for our anniversary:

i7357.jpg

It's the seven quart Le Creuset (we have an oval five already, I think). Give me some ideas. What should I make in this pot? If I like your idea I'll use it on Monday or Tuesday!

That looks like a gumbo pot to me. :wink:

I don't recall if you ever tackled a dark gumbo in your past adventures. You have in your Le Creuset possibly the most perfect tool to pull it off. The recipe includes the details of technique for making the really dark roux. We discussed it in the Louisiana Forum here. Making gumbo may not be a hot weather thing to do but I have to do it anyway from time to time or face a mutiny.

Note: I have done a blog. :raz: That was really early on. I am amazed at how the quality has improved and how much the pictures add. Isn't ImageGullet a wonderful thing? It seems like the bloggers build on the good things their predecessors bring to the table. That calls for a happy dance. :biggrin:

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Looks like this blog is a place where only previous bloggers have the courage to tread!

So many good ideas, and all of them solicited by me, but it's too late. I went shopping and bought short ribs. It looked like it might turn out to be cool and rainy there for a while, but then it turned sunny and hot on my way home.

I have purchased food and eaten food, but I gotta run. I'll be back in a while-- I have lots of stuff to say!

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Not all of the posters above are previous bloggers. :biggrin:

Incidentally, that pot reminds me a lot of the pots on Julia's show. (Can't remember whicn one.) The only difference is that hers were blue and that's a red one.

Soba

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So many good ideas, and all of them solicited by me, but it's too late.  I went shopping and bought short ribs.  It looked like it might turn out to be cool and rainy there for a while, but then it turned sunny and hot on my way home.

Hmm, I don't cook enough, so I'm audacious enough to suggest:

short rib gumbo.

NB: I think that previous bloggers should go back in the blogger fodder pool after a certain amount of time. (I'm feeling fairly safe since I blogged less than two months ago.)

Yea, I agree.

But I think the statute of limitations shouldn't expire until at least a year, probably 2-3 after the initial blog.

We have to give every Egullet citizen an equal opportunity to be punished/enlightened.


Edited by herbacidal (log)

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I want to hear more about your Pugliese. Do you coat it in sesame seeds?

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Incidentally, that pot reminds me a lot of the pots on Julia's show.  (Can't remember whicn one.)  The only difference is that hers were blue and that's a red one.

Soba

I used to have that pot in blue. The story of its demise is far to gross and gruesome for the likes of this site. Needless to say, I'm owed a similar pot.... It looks better in that red/orange color.


Edited by nessa (log)

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Okay, questions and answers:

Hathor: I'm saying if you use American recipes, use AP flour. You'll get the right results, which will be good, but maybe not quite French, bread.

nessa: I hesitate to offer a bread advice clinic, because I'm still so new to this myself. The real experts around here are Jack Lang (Jackal10) and his evil transatlantic tenor twin Sam Kinsey (slkinsey). But I'd say if your crust is too thick, that usually means the bead was cooked too long. I usually get pretty good crusts if I preheat the oven to fifty degrees higher than it should be. Then I pour some boiling (or just hot) water into a broiler pan on the oven floor just after I put in the loaves, plus I give a few sprays with the plant sprayer in the first few minutes of baking. Then I turn the oven down to the proper temp. You lose a lot of heat when you open the door, and if the first several minutes are too cool in your oven, the spraying won't help you.

Of course, if your bread isn't rising all bets are off on the crust. Get it rising first. And here I can only counsel patience. I failed several times to revive a starter because I tried to use it as soon as I saw some bubbles. With some experience, you get a feel for when your starter is actually ready, and you want to wait until it's good and active. If I haven't used mine in more than three days, it usually needs a couple days of feeding. And don't give up based on a rye bread failure. Rye flour is very easy to overknead. If you go slightly too far, you lose the structure forever. I don't even have the beginnings of a feel for rye bread myself.

Bloviatrix: I've never made Pugliese! I make Ciabatta a lot. I'll make Pugliese tomorrow using Carol Fields' recipe. It doesn't call for sesame seeds, but I don't see why not.

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I'm so glad you're blogging, Seth, especially on your last week.

That last week of "maternity" leave is so bittersweet. Get used to being an employer. It is not that hard once you've figured out the employee. I've had several for Heidi, and haven't hesitated to let them know what right and wrong in OUR household.

Seems that I'm one of the few "haven't blogged yet" posted on your thread. I do ask that you do not tag me right now as I'm in the midst of yet another (second in less than 2 years) kitchen remodelings in our new-to-use house. But, I will do plenty of blogging over the course of the next few months on life at The Cabin.

Since it's hot out, another use for that new Le Crueset might be Carnitas. While you do use heat to cook them, there's something about them that is so appropriate when it is hot outside.

Enough frivolity for me. Back to the drywall trowel.

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Okay, moving on.

This morning I went out to get short ribs, and since I was going to a butcher on Smith Street in Brooklyn, I decided to take you to one of my favorite places in New York City: Sahadi's.

This store has been owned by the same Lebanese family for at least a generation. It isn't the size of Zabar's or Fairway, but it packs in a lot of good stuff, including so-so cheeses and pates, pretty good olives, a very good selection of nuts, dried fruits and coffees, and a wonderful selection of freshly made middle eastern foods.

Unfortunately, I'm too timid to take many pictures in the store, but here's one showing a part of the nuts/candy area with the coffee zone visible behind it:

i7368.jpg

And here's a slightly blurry view over the olive zone, towards the bins with the loose grains (bulghur, semolina, rices, polentas) and the spices behind:

i7369.jpg

There's a few other rooms I failed to photograph.

Today I was mostly grazing, but I wanted some stuff for lunch. So I got some baba ganouj, some pepperoncini peppers, and a bunch of small spanakopeta (filo pastries surrounding spinach). I also got a bunch of dried figs, some yummy sweet dried dates, a pound of Kenya AA coffee, and some dried Herbs de Provence.

Then I went to the butcher, which is called Los Paisanos Meat Inc., on Smith Street. This place is too expensive, but I love it. They have Prime beef, they always have shanks or trotters or whatever you want, they are a longstanding institution that keeps the area's Latino roots alive, and they talk to half the customers in Spanish. They have an ad which states "We Specialize in Whole Pigs."

Then I took the bus home, and had lunch: some baba ganouj, spanakopeta, and pepperoncini:

i7370.jpg

And some yummy dates for dessert. Then mixed up the dough for some durum bread (pics to follow), and ran out the door to meet my babysitter and my daughter at the playground next to her school.

Oy! I have more to report, but I'll be back later to do it.

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