Monday, December 30, 2013

Toronto Cocktail

No pic cuz  its boring. Pretend your looking at an old fashioned. A lil different and very good.

Toronto Cocktail

2 oz rye whiskey
1/4 oz fernet branca
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 dashes angostura
garnish: wide orange peel

Stir in a mixing glass with ice then pour into a rocks glass and add an orange peel. DO NOT hack into your thumb with a vegetable peeler or it will bleed terribly and make you useless for 1.5 days. Or just build it right in the old fashioned glass.

I still think fernet branca is a little weird but I really like it in this tiny amount in this drink. Fernet branca is an Italian digestif that is most popular, oddly enough, in Argentina and San Francisco. Also, bartenders all like it for some reason. Its really bitter, herby and super minty. I've seen it described as the jagermeister that frat bros don't do shots of... I think I have only made this drink with Dad's Hat Rye. It's from PA and it's good.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Autumn Slumber Toddy

This is so good. Now you can drink gin in the winter!!

Autumn Slumber Toddy
by Colleen Graham

2 oz gin
1/2 oz creme de cassis
dash simple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
4-5 oz hot water

Boil some water. Wait for it to calm down a bit. In a mug stir all the other ingredients. Add water to taste. I've made this with Blucoat and Plymouth gins and both were delicious. 

I don't have a nice irish coffee mug to show the color so I am not posting a picture of this. I found out about this drink from about. com mixologist Colleen Graham, Im not sure if she invented it or if its a weird classic that I had never heard of.

LARAbar Copycat

cashew cookie larabar

I love lara bars. They are of the energy bar/ candy bar as food/ meal replacement category. However, unlike many of these items, they are made of simple, whole food ingredients with no added protein or vitamins. They are kind of similiar to an ayurvedic snack I used to make called date balls. Most flavors consist of dates, nuts, sometimes other fruit, and sometimes spices or chocolate.

My favorite is the Cherry Pie and the Cashew Cookie. This is my copycat recipe of the cashew jawn. I used fresh refrigerated medjool that still had the pits in them. This involved more work and more expensive ingredients than using dry, pitted dates. I think it would work fine with dry dates but having less moisture, you might want to reduce the amount of nuts or add a tiny bit of water while blending. I add salt and vanilla which I think makes these better than the original.

Cashew Cookie LARA Bar Copycat

120g cashews
320g dates
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla 
cashew meal, if you can find it

Blend first 4 ingredients in the food processor until a fairly smooth mass is created. Roll out on cashew meal or ground cashews or other slivered nuts or coconut. This makes them less sticky to the touch but is not essential. Freeze for an hour or refrigerate for several, then cut into portion sizes. They are dense, rich and sweet so you can make them small. I think I made about 16 squares from this batch.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Helianthus tuberosus (sunchoke, jerusalem artichoke...) is a false perennial, native to Eastern North America. It is a tuber forming member of the sunflower family. I call it a false perennial because it doesn't actually live from year to year. It is, however, quite persistent in the garden. Here's how it should work: You plant some roots from a friend that has too many (you always have too many if you have any), they spread out and establish themselves, grow big giant stalks with tiny little sunflowers on top, tubers form underground, the plants die off, you dig up the tubers.

Now, if you should happen to have planted them near anything, there comes a time that you realize they were planted in the wrong spot. So you dig them up and replant and they grow on happily. They grow in the place you moved them to and the original place you moved them from. They are kind of like horseradish in their persistence. If there is a tiny bit of root left in the ground, a whole new plant will form. 2 years later, I am still constantly weeding sunchokes out of the mint patch.

Some might view this plant with annoyance for its weed like nature. I embrace it though. I wish I didn't plant near the herbs but I embrace its persistence and its functional perennialism. If you have a good spot or even a crappy spot, they dont take much effort-sun, soil, or water. Sunchokes can fill them in with little effort, make pretty flowers late in the summer/early in the fall, and give you a root vegetable crop every year. All you have to do is dig them up once there has been a frost. They will magically grow back on their own next year. Even if you think you got every scrap, you didn't, they'll be back. On the internet, you will see this plant discussed in permaculture circles often for this reason. Truly perennial vegetables, in non tropical climates are quite rare or weird or bad tasting or involve much effort. Sunchokes are easy, pretty (sometimes at least) and tasty (also sometimes at least.)
jerusalem artichoke

Sunchokes are weird looking. They can get as big as a deformed, clenched fist. Most are way smaller and its exciting to dig up a huge jawn. Occasionally, they have knobby, branching sections like ginger; sometimes they look like turnips. They have a thin skin like a mix between yukon gold potato and ginger. They can be white or yellow or red though. Im not sure if it is species based or entirely random and wild still. I have two distinct looking varieties and I dont remember planting two different looking roots to start but I may be wrong. Some of mine are very small and round and red, like a new red potato. The others are various sizes, up to enormous and are really knobby and ginger like or turnip/ parsnip shaped with bulbous sections and long tails.

genetic diversity
purple and red radish pods
I had a similar instance with rat tail radish. They are such a novel weirdo crop that they havent been consciously bred and adapted over the years, resulting in distinct species like a tomato/ pepper/ any other even slightly common plant you might grow. Instead their genetic makeup is vast and varied and your not quite sure what you will get. I bought a pack of seeds for rat tailed radish from Baker Creek (and there are multiple varieties of seed pod radish, rat tail just being one type) and the plants looked the same in height and girth but the flowers of some plants were white and others were pale purple/pink. The purple flowers created purple pods while the white created smooth green pods. The seeds in the packet were indistinguishable from each other.

I think a similar genetic diversity remains in the sunchokes. I sorted mine between tiny red ones and big white ones and had about 6 pounds of each, which is too many. So, Im making pickles. Supposedly sunchokes are edible raw and cooked but they are not for most people. They wont kill you raw but your friends will hate you. Gerard's Herbal, printed in 1621 states that, "which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men." This is because they have a huge amount of inulin, a long chain polysaccharide sugar that our guts can not normally break down. The good and bad thing about that is that our body treats it as fiber, which causes less sugar in the bloodstream but more farts in your butt. In fact inulin from sunchoke and chicory are now being added to packaged foods as a prebiotic fiber. Probiotic foods, like raw fermented pickles and yogurt etc, contain beneficial bacteria for our guts; whereas prebiotics create ideal conditions in the gut for the probiotics. This makes me wonder two things: 1) If we increase our intake of beneficial bacteria, would sunchoke cause less gas? 2) If we ate sunchokes all the time would our bodies adapt to all that prebiotic fiber coming through, and cause less gas?

All of this is irrelevant, I just think farts are funny still. It is irrelevant because cooking sunchokes greatly reduces this trouble and I think Gerard is a fool and his quote of John Goodyer is hilarious. It commonly comes up if you read anything about sunchokes and I just wanted to keep it going. I have had them roasted and then pureed and they are nutty, rich and delicious. Also when  raw they are crunchy like a water chestnut and everyone knows water chestnuts are gross. Who wants farty water chestnuts? Gross! Not me.

I decided rather than just roast all of them it would be worthwhile to preserve some for the winter. I have had them pickled in a vinegar brine and they were wonderful tasting and caused no gastric distress. I have seen very little about doing raw ferments with them however. And, as earlier stated, if they contain prebiotic elements, perhaps we should include some probiotics as well? I also think, unsubstantiated by the internet, that the long cold fermentation process may help convert some of the polysaccharides into a more digestible form. Fermentation is a balancing act of time, temperature and salt. If its cold it will take longer, if it takes longer you should make it really salty to protect it from harboring troublesome bacteria, if its salty it will take even longer. Pickle catch- 22. My kitchen is only about 60 degrees in the winter so I expect it will take 2-6 weeks. Time will tell. I made two batches: a kimchi and a salt brined pickle. Here's what I did:

For the kimchi i sliced the sunchokes thinly, put them in a huge bowl and salted them.

Then in a food processor I made a paste out of onion, garlic, ginger, guajillo chili, fermented carrot pickle brine, and soy sauce.

I tossed the sliced sunchokes with the paste with a spatula because Im scared of spicy hand tiny cuts.

Then I packed a crock, stopping several times to really tamp it down with a potato masher.

Finally I scraped the bowl really good to make sure the top of the crock was covered in salty kimchi goo and no vegetables were exposed to air.

Then I also made a brined pickle. First, I sliced them up the same way as for kim chi.

Then I made a brining solution at a ratio of 4 C water: 3 Tbl sea salt.

Then I added some spices; mustard, cumin, caraway, coriander, fennel, black pepper, turmeric.

raw fermented jerusalem artichoke pickle

Pour all that into a jar, weight the top so the slices stay submerged under brine, cover and wait.

I just made all this so I dont know how it worked yet. Update coming once I eat it!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Best Thanksgiving Leftovers Recipe

deep fried mashed potato balls
The traditional Thanksgiving meal never interested me as a child. I would always prefer pizza or cereal even to roasted turkey and potatoes and stuffing and veggies. The days of leftover sandwiches never interested me either. I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Wawa made leftover hoagies and it was cool because it was ridiculous but it still never really appealed to me.

As an adult I have come to really, really love potatoes. I enjoy virtually every possible preparation. Like Wawa, I feel the need to do something special and ridiculous when leftover time comes around. So, instead of shopping on Black Friday like a fool, I had brunch with some friends. With it being once in a century Thanksgivukkah leftovers, we deep fried mashed potatoes.

My mother and her mother before that and her mother before would all make mashed potato pancakes with leftover mashed potatoes. There are recipes all over the internet for these. They are not as thin and crispy as latkes. They are a great way to reheat mashed potatoes if you don't have a microwave, which I do not. You basically add a little flour to mashed potatoes and pan fry them. When I made some the other day with really creamy potatoes, I was having some trouble with them sticking to the pan and had to add a lot of extra flour. They don't cook that long, so I was concerned about eating lots of fairly raw flour, which is hard to digest. I added a little panko bread crumbs to the outside to help them crisp up a little easier. (Panko is the very coarse, Japanese style breadcrumb.) Which gave me the idea to make them again in the deep fryer sometime.

We made Vada Pav recently, which is KJs new favorite, so I used a similar batter in testing out these fried potatoes. The all chickpea batter doesn't get that crispy but with an extra coating of panko its really crispy and great. I made some both ways. For the Vada, the potatoes are a lot stiffer so I dont think it matters that the coating isn't so shatteringly crisp, but the fluffy mashed potatoes need more contrast.

So if you have leftover mashed potatoes and a deep fryer you should probably try making this. They were really tasty. I made 2 versions so far, the one in the pictures had fried sage and spinach added into the mashed potatoes. I just winged it but here's basically a recipe:

Deep Fried Mashed Potato Balls

thanksgivukkah2 C leftover mashed potatoes

1 C chickpea flour
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C or more water

1 C panko bread crumbs

Make the batter. Add water slowly until you have a fairly runny pancake like batter. Put the panko on a plate. Scoop potatoes with a small ice cream scoop. Toss them until covered in the chickpea batter. Carefully lift and drain, then roll in the panko breadcrumbs. Deep fry until browned and crisp, just a couple minutes. Eat with gravy or ketchup or salsa or sour cream or whatever you might want.