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Saturday, April 19, 2003

what took me so long?

few things in life are as simple and full of joy as making your own mozzarella. i mean really -- why has it been all these years before i made my own mozzarella?

it does only take 30 minutes: 1 gallon of milk, food-grade citric acid, rennet, a microwave, an instant-read thermometer, a nice big pot, and your favorite wooden spoon. amazing: and it tastes better than you can imagine.

it's delicious. you can't mess it up. it's so much fun it's probably a sin. it's easier than boiling water, since you don't have to boil anything at all.

what's great is that you are left with a huge amount of whey. and whey, we all know, is perfect for bread. yeast loves whey. thus i immediately made some pizza crust with whey. and i still have lots of whey, which i could theoretically re-cook into my own fresh ricotta.

maybe i'll do that tomorrow. . . but mozzarella. it's a must. you are depriving yourself of possibly the most amusing event ever in your kitchen if you don't immediately begin making your own mozzarella. 1 gallon of milk yields about 15-1/4 oz. mozzarella (or since i'm using plain old US$2.50 a gallon supermarket cow's milk, fiori di latte.)

what's great is that i can't think of a single other bit of cooking that creates as much reward for so little work. make some; impress your friends, delight your family, and revel -- absolutely revel -- in the lazy ease of cheesemaking. . .

posted by fortune | 4:14 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Friday, April 18, 2003

true comfort

what do people crave most in uncertain times? a red cross official sez bread: flour and yeast.

today finds a wonderfully thoughtful article on bread, along with a home recipe derived from the great food writer -- make that literary stylist, impulsive actress, cranky woman of fashion, and sort-of diplomat -- elizabeth david. all good. (david fans with broadband will love this homage. . .)

what's most interesting is not only the amusing review of bread customs around the world, but also a nice timeline of bread events in history. . .

posted by fortune | 4:34 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Thursday, April 17, 2003

easter candy

you can't ignore the easter-chocolate connection. the problem most people have is finding quality chocolate to give at easter.

but this is no difficulty for long-time readers because i've always taken pride in pointing out where the quality chocolate can be found. plus i'm not shy about telling you who the truly great chocolatiers are.

and so today i'm just thrilled to see an article on cnn that discusses many of my favorite chocolatiers: donnelly, dagoba. . .all sourced to bccy pal clay gordon of chocophile.

meanwhile, as the easter bunny hops on by, we shouldn't forget that other popular holiday, passover. passover doesn't have a lot of traditional chocolate associations, with perhaps the exception of the flourless chocolate cake so often served for dessert during this time.

the most interesting version i personally have eaten of this delight is a recipe created by a really a nice girl, who was kind enough to share the recipe. you'll find this awesome flourless chocolate cake here. she blithely departed from a standard-type recipe, adding extra liquid, which made this cake moister and soft in the center. sort of pudding-y.

anyway, go to it, see how it comes out for you. . .

and finally, long-time readers remember my interest in regional coffee and coffehouse cultures. here's a great article on the growing latino coffeehouse culture in southern california.

posted by fortune | 4:33 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

cantaloupe flavored coffee?

as usual, i can't make this stuff up. nestle is attempting to launch exotic fruit-flavored instant cappucino products onto the market as part of its nescafe brand. sadly, germany is the target for testing this new horror.

let's take a moment and talk about -- if i can stop gagging long enough to do so -- instant coffee, especially these "international" house of whatever flavored stuffs on the market. we see them advertised to women in gauzy, feel-good commercials that attempt to instill the notion that a cup of instant coffee is better than even a bubble bath.

but what's in that instant cappucino? nothing you really want to drink! instant coffee is made from the lowest-grade of coffee beans, almost always robusta. unlike the high-quality arabica coffee beans that smell and taste delicious, these inferior robustas taste like burning tires smell. yuck! many say that these bottom-of-the-barrel beans contain "insect parts" and even mold.

(not to gross you out, but here in the u.s.a, the food and drug administration rules essentially permit unripe or moldy beans, gravel and other junk to constitute as much as 30 percent of a cup of "pure" coffee, industry experts say. that's why we consumers need to support the scaa's coffee purity initiative. i'll rant about this another time.)

to make this nastiness palatable, the mega-corporations that sell this stuff have apparently invented a special steaming process whereby they remove the flavor(s) from the beans. so they have this bit of tasteless vegetable fiber left over. however, due to lax laws here in the u.s.a, this is still technically coffee.

which they roast and grind. then they add water to make "coffee." they dehydrate ("freeze dry") this liquid into crystals or powdery stuff. then they take this cellulose "coffee" powder, add chemical flavorings, chemical perfumes, chemical "milk" powder (a.k.a. "coffee whitener" or "nondairy creamer"), foaming agents, anti-clumping agents, fake colors. . .ugh. only the sugar may be real.

no wonder they are scrambling to make this stuff taste like something, anything. . .even melons.

this is why it is so important to buy high-quality specialty coffee from a local independent roaster or coffeehouse. from someone you can get to know and trust, from someone who cares what they're selling.

coffee designated "specialty" approaches zero twigs, bugs, and moldy bad beans. only this is should be allowed for sale as "pure" coffee. and this is the stuff you really want to drink. . .

posted by fortune | 4:49 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

2 great articles. . .

the first: a really superior discussion of the world-price depression known as the coffee crisis, with some nice figures that are hard to obtain elsewhere.

long-time readers know i've been worried about bankrupt coffee farmers resorting to illegal drugs to make ends meet. every time i've talked about this, however, i've been pish-toshed by by strident readers.

finally however i can quote an excellent source: the head of the i.c.o. himself. " 'itís a crisis with a social dimension that is politically explosive,' [nestor] osorio explains. on a recent trip to colombia, for instance, osorio says he saw aerial photographs of coffee farms planted with new coca crops."

the plight of the coffee farmer and worker isn't a distant one, dear readers. unlike situations where celebrities call for help for those far away, those who honestly may have little or no discernable affect on your life, the coffee workers are with you every day in your kitchen, your office, your car, your favorite cafe.

the beans you are drinking are the direct result of their labor, which comes straight to you in the cup you're holding. thus i urge everyone to learn more about the great work done by coffeekids. . .

but further, i hope you will realize how both you and the coffee worker are being totally ripped off by the large multi-national corporations named in the article, corporations that work to depress prices for farmers while selling you inferior coffee at ever-higher prices.

which is also why i encourage everyone to support high-quality fresh specialty coffee from your local independent roaster or coffeehouse.

the second: a truly charming story about how a group of sweet nuns are using the internet to promote and develop their traditional handmade chocolate business.

as the article notes, new technology has allowed them to be more efficient on the business and paperwork side, leaving "more time and energy for the spiritual tasks: prayer and making chocolate."

chocolate as a spiritual task: that's an approach to life even we worldings at bccy can appreciate! no one will mistake the nuns' humble fudges for the sensual delights offered by jacques torres or richard donnelly. but i can say that i know both donnelly and the nuns do consider their art in this same way. . .

posted by fortune | 4:15 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Monday, April 14, 2003

here comes the cheese. . .

long-time readers know i'm a pizza fanatic. mr. right loves pizza, and he gets what he wants!

i make the crust; i make the sauce -- but i'm still buying the fresh mozzarella cheese. why? because for a long time i have been repeatedly told that making mozzarella in small batches useful for the home was just too difficult, even tho' i know italian peasants have been doing it for centuries. . .

i was told wrong. inspired by this article on making cheese at home, i have now purchased the mozzarella kit from new england cheesemaking.

i will make fresh, organic mozzarella. it will taste good. it will probably cost less than the US$7 a pound i now pay at the gourmet store, even if i use high-end organic milk. (snob note: actually, since i will use cow's milk, it won't be mozzarella, which requires buffalo milk, but rather fiori di latte.)

i will be laticini elkins! the fresh ricotta i so enjoy for breakfast should be gravy. . .

posted by fortune | 4:31 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

Sunday, April 13, 2003

my kingdom for a tinsmith. . .

tinsmiths seem to get a bad rap in this sad world of ours. however, a good tinman is a necessity in life, as i have learned!

those of us fortunate enough to possess beautiful hand-crafted copper cookware, lined with tin, will all face the day when you just can't patch it up yourself any more. (hand patches for small bits can be done with the "tin lizzy" kit you buy at zabar's famed 2nd floor housewares department.)

nope, eventually, large patches of copper are going to come through, and you need the pan professionally relined. but where do you find the skilled artisan who will treat your lovely pans with care? i faced this dilemma myself yesterday with my much-beloved 2-1/2 qt. copper saucepan. . .

as far as i can tell, only 2 places in all of new york: mrs. bridge of bridge kitchenware will accept your pans and send them for repair, or jaime cooper of atlantic retinning.

jaime's just left chelsea's gallery district for newark -- the curse of gentrification. but you can still drop pots off in chelsea and he will pick 'em up once a week. . .

either way your beloved cookware will be gone a few weeks, so prepare. . .prepare. . .

posted by fortune | 12:18 PM | top | link to this | | email this:   |

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