Originally—back when I gathered these chestnuts in October—this was going to be the sort of spot-on, autumnal af post that you’ve come to expect from this establishment. But the thing about fermentation is that it proceeds at its own pace. We can goose it by raising the ambient temperature (within reason) but any food that relies on the metabolic processes of a complex microbial ecosystem AND concurrent enzymatic chemical reactions is going to need some time to achieve the magical flavors we expect it to deliver. This is more true of miso than just about anything else.
Quite a long time ago, I read a post by Aki and Alex about making gochujang with their sourdough starter. Since at the time I didn’t have any experience with koji, it seemed like a great way to get some of the umami-dense, viscous, funky heat that gochujang is justly renowned for. But I forgot about it, because I am old and forget things, until I remembered it last year.
When I lived in Chicago, during my brief stint as an art handler one of my colleagues hipped me to Bari Italian Subs west of downtown. It’s an unassuming deli, with the usual assortment of Italian groceries and a deli in back. The thing that makes it so special, and the reason we would often drive many miles out of our way (on the clock, of course) was their hot giardiniera.
Front yards are overrated. Sure, it’s good to have some grassy space to kick a ball or toss a disc with the kid, but otherwise lawn is a waste of square feet and resources, especially water. Rip out the grass, run a nice fence around it, and build some raised beds, though, and you’ve got yourself a one-stop shop for food, physical activity, neighborly sharing, and epic curb appeal.
I decanted last fall’s vinegar crop over the weekend, and it was a good one. Three kinds, all fully fermented and super sour: straight cider, made from biodynamic apples, cider macerated with sumac for a few days and then strained, and blackcurrant. Half a gallon of each should last us a while. The cloudier bottle of cider was from the bottom of the jar; it has settled now and is quite clear.
Paneer is one of the easiest cheeses to make at home, and it’s superbly rewarding because A) there’s almost no waiting and B) if you live, say, in an area that has no good South Asian restaurants, you can make yourself a steaming bowl of saag paneer whenever the urge strikes. And you can make a lot of it, because as we all know Indian food is even better the next morning for breakfast.
Espelette peppers, named for the town in Basque France that made them famous, are a unique food. Dried and ground, they have a particular aromatic quality: earthy and yet bright at the same time, with a fairly gentle but insistent heat that represents (in general, based on my own anecdotal experience) the upper limit of most French palates’ tolerance for spiciness. The great hams of Bayonne are cured with copious pepper, and it gives them a gorgeous flavor and tint. It’s not really a cooking spice, but rather a finishing one, especially given how much money a small jar commands. A pinch sprinkled on top of fish, chicken, or potatoes (or a hundred other things) adds an irresistible trebly zing and a not insignificant coloristic bump.
For the last entry in this here contest, I received a bag of clams (already cooked and eaten here) and some ground lamb. Half the ground lamb became the kofta from a few posts ago, and the rest was the basis for this extremely gratifying dinner: 100% homemade gyros.