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Saturday, July 29, 2006

mailing it in: back to the pasta pin

all i can do is apologize for the crazy formatting blogger adds -- and for the stuff it strips out -- of these mail-in posts. if i have time i'll clean it up later.

thanks for your patience. anyway. . .long-time readers know i spent a few days acquiring the materials for and then making my own italian-style 32-in. pasta rolling pin to the exact specifications dictated by famed italian cookbook author marcella hazan.

now that i have this oaken beauty, i obviously needed to make some handmade pasta with it. which i did today. the continuing heatwave stretches from california thru new york and apparently as far as central europe! amazing -- the weather maps on cnn international will blow your mind.

thus i wanted to make a lunch that required very little cooking. gentle readers may recall that my husband has been keeping up the fight on the gazpacho front, but alas he's not like me: man cannot live on cold tomato soup alone.

so naturally i decided to make some handmade egg pasta with above handmade rolling pin and sauce it with likewise handmade spinach-walnut pesto from anna del conte's classic ligurian recipe.

this also involved the famous australian olive oil, the search for which devoted readers will also recall with deep amusement entirely at my expense.

as i was saying, i whipped out my favorite large maple cutting board, dumped out 5 oz. king arthur flour with 11.3% protein, made a mound with a well in the center, dropped into 2 large pasture-raised organic eggs i got from hudson farms via the csa, and mixed away.

a couple minutes mixing with the fingers, 8 minutes hand-keading, and wa-llah! lovely golden pasta dough.
just wrap that in plastic, let rest for 1-2 hrs., and start rolling! what's interesting about handmade pasta is that with this marcella-type pin you really can roll the stuff out thin enough to read through.

the magazine i tested my pasta with was an australian tourist promotion magazine called voyages. . . .

anyway, pasta is one of those things that books make seem terribly complicated and difficult to create. actually, it's even easier than ciabatta.

marcella herself somehow devotes about 12 pages to the process, making it seem rather like rocket science or nanotechnology or something. it's nonsense. making the darn pin is waaay harder.

marcella finally closes her tedious and off-putting account by warning that it may take practice before you produce something edible.

pish-tosh. it's delicious right away. there's nothing mysterious about it; it's almost embarrassingly straightforward.

so you roll this puppy out, turning and stretching it not unlike pie dough, it seems to me. it's just that with pasta you do it a while longer till the australian travel board can beckon you to perth.

at that point you drape a lightly floured towel over the back of a chair, hang the pasta on that as if it were handwashing, and relax for 10 minutes.

after 10 minutes, rotate the pasta, put the water on to boil, and after another 10 minutes you roll the pasta up into a loose tube. slice away into whatever thickness you please.

unroll your pasta slice to find lovely perfect long noodles and lay 'em out on the wooden cutting board. drop 'em in your boiling water, stir gently.

they take about 1 min. to cook. no problem.

drain 'em, divide 'em up onto plates -- i think 1 cup of flour serves 2 for lunch with a salad -- and gently toss with generous amounts of above spinach pesto.

make the recipe in this small amount a couple of times and then go for larger amounts. it's always 2 eggs per cup of flour, so double, triple whatever the recipe.

you'll be astonished at how toothsome handmade, handrolled pasta is. there really is a noticeable improvement in the texture when you make it on a wooden surface with a wooden pin.

plus it's a great tricep workout: that rolling pin gets a little heavy towards the end. delicious.

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posted by fortune | 8:30 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

through a glass darkly

so i brewed up peter g's kenya in my vac pot the other day, and then washed the thing as usual. i set it out to air-dry and as i went to pack it back up in its box, i noticed how strangely dull and murky the pot seemed as the rounded glass failed to catch the light.

it didn't have that clean glass sparkle, you know? even tho' it had been thoroughly cleaned with soap-n-water.

ah! coffee build-up on the pot -- a common problem. fortunately, the vac pot has two globes.

thus i hit upon the notion of comparing the 2 coffee pot cleaners i have around: long-time bbcy pal josh dick's urnex clearly coffee and joeglo's coffee detergent so kindly sent to me by another long-time pal, terry z's espressoparts.

the joeglo's a powder; clearly coffee's a blue liquid you squirt into the pot.

in the bottom, the joeglo; clearly coffee in the top, both measured according to the directions on their packaging. i let both sit for 5 minutes while i wandered around eating chocolate or whatever it is i do at home during odd moments.

but seriously, when i returned to the kitchen, the sight was pretty horrible -- the water in both globes had turned an ugly brown color, similar to, well, light lipton tea. yup, that was the coffee residue that had been clinging to the glass.

the top globe's color was actually a tad greenish, but that's because the clearly coffee's got a blue color to it.

anyway, i rinsed each section three times with hot water, let the pot air-dry again and was rewarded in the morning with sparkly glass.

how to compare these cleaners? well, they both work quickly. the joeglo suds up a little; clearly coffee doesn't.

the clearly's blue color helps you tell when it's all rinsed out -- if you see any hint o' blue, you know you need to rinse some more.

for this purpose, i think i might prefer the clearly, because you don't have to stir it to dissolve, and blue color gives you good warning as to its continued presense in the rinse.

however, i know a lot of people like to see suds in a cleanser, and honestly, the joeglo does dissolve pretty fast. so this may "clearly" be a statement about my own personal laziness!

on cleaning power, they seem equal. i think you could choose either product with confidence; it would just depend, dear readers, on how you feel about suds, stirring, and the blue color.

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posted by fortune | 7:38 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 1 comments | leave a voicemail

Friday, July 28, 2006

the batdorf 20th anniversary blend

and yesterday jessica m. of batdorf was kind enough to send me their anniversary blend, along with a little batdorf button and a sweet note. thanks, j!

could this be because i'm addicting sweet and innocent coffee lovers to the seductive qualities of scott & jessica's fresh, fine coffees? however, stephen, i just don't understand why anyone would feel guilty about buying scott & jessica's beans.

they buy wind power as well as shade-grown and organic coffee, which are all great for the environment. they sell relationship and fair-trade beans, thus helping farmers.

plus, they are super-sweet people; i've known jessica for years now. and the coffee quality's fantastic.

what's the downside? where's the guilt? jessica sells what is objectively the most guilt-free coffee ever.

if you want guilt, stephen ol' pal, your "utility coffee" is filled with guilt.

it's the garbage that's destroying the environment, harming the natural habitat of rare songbirds, and cheating coffee farmers. if that wasn't enough bad karma, it's also contributing to the growth of illegal drugs and immigration both.

yuppers, that supermarket coffee is the evil stuff. . .not to mention that it's pure junk. if there was any justice in the land instead of mere sausage-making, the coffee purity law would have passed.

that statute would have required the commercial coffee moneymen to properly label those cans and jars "coffee by-products." trust me, stephen, you don't want me to tell you what's in that can.

let me just say: there's a reason its smell alone turns your stomach. . .so let's quickly change the subject. . .

jessica's anniversary blend is composed of her famed guatemala antigua finca el valle and her shimmering lavender ethiopian yrg. i brewed this morning in the chemex.

and i must say my immediate thought was: "this is cafetiére coffee for sure."

so you'll hear more about this coffee tomorrow afternoon. . .

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posted by fortune | 8:03 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 3 comments | leave a voicemail

Thursday, July 27, 2006

filth & brie

"research has not confirmed the link between unclean yoga mats and fungal, bacterial and viral infections better known as jock itch, plantar warts and staph infections. nor can dermatologists and podiatrists conclusively trace these ailments to dirty yoga mats.

still, some are making unofficial connections. a handful of dermatologists and podiatrists say that in the last two years or so they have noticed a rise in the number of skin infections in their patients who practice yoga and use public mats."

and here's a bccy shout-out to my long-time yoga buddy heather s., who's nicely quoted in today's nytimes article about the health hazards of dirty public yoga mats. the only reason researchers can't confirm this issue is because they ain't looking very hard.

long-time readers know i have complained about yoga hygiene here before, and even offered a link to a recipe for d.i.y. mat spray. i have also suggested that those who go to yoga carry baby wipes with them to wipe their hands and feet before and after class: before to remove city dirt and germs; after, to remove stuff you pick up from public mats.

but naturally i agree with heather -- the main problem isn't so much the mats as the blankets. the mats you can avoid or deal with if you carry spray or wipes. about two weeks ago i was moving from crow to tripod headstand in a friday class.

when my head came near to touching down on the blanket (i always use one as a crashpad in this vinyasa -- no need to break your nose, after all!) the most amazing mushroom-y smell ticked my nostrils. it was the delightful scent of warm brie, in fact.

and lemme tell you i stopped cold. dead cold with my head 1/4-in. above the blankie.

because yoga blankets shouldn't smell like moldy french cheeses. unh-unh.

i mentioned this fact to the yoga teacher on my way out, and to her credit, she must have told the studio manager -- because when i went into class on sat. afternoon, they had been washed.

as the red stripe commercial might say, boo smelly yoga blankets, hooray clean ones! because god knows there's no such thing as "yoga blanket spray."

unless we all wanna start carrying febreze. . .but does that actually disinfect as well? yes! it does!

hooray, febreze antimicrobial! but should we yoga students really have to lug a bottle to our classes?

let me once again encourage everyone to buy their own mat. long-time readers know i love the manduka black mat, and carry mine with me everywhere in a mat bag from bheka.

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posted by fortune | 10:32 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

another crazy mail-in post

yeh yeh yeh. so forgive the formatting in advance.

what's awesome about peter g's counterculture kenya aa nyeri, the thangathi, in the vac pot is that the black currant aroma comes clearly out in the cup. it's plainly there towards the coffee's aftertaste.

you'll have to take a gander at the scaa flavor wheel for yourselves on this one. . .both flament (in his coffee flavor chemistry, which you can find on google books) and lenoir (in his nez du cafe) talk about this delightful flavor, which is based in one of coffee's many natural components.

specifically, this fruity sorta taste is caused by a sulphur compound, one of the many mercaptans that can appear naturally in coffee. it's important to remember that much of coffee's delicious flavor is based in fragile sulfur compounds, which is why coffee stales so quickly in the open air -- oxygen just eats away at all these sulfur-based stuffs that makes coffee taste fresh and yummy.

lenoir loves this black currant flavor and praises it highly, noting that it's commonly found in kenyas. and i did find it today in peter's coffee when brewed in the vac pot.

i made this bean at 60g fresh ground coffee to 1 liter water, or about 2 oz coffee to 33 oz water. total up-n-down time was 4:35.

another interesting thing about this coffee is that the vac pot, which normally attenuates body, didn't lighten the mouthfeel of this kenya very much at all. a little, but i wouldn't call it marked over the chemex.

in other news, i've mentioned off and on my various adventures with the csa, picking up the local organic veggies. every week they toss something strange at ya -- but this week it was all good.

i mean, beets. specifically, heirloom italian chioggia beets -- ring-striped white and red! these from the csa are extra sweet and yummy too!

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posted by fortune | 6:26 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

early notes on peter g's kenya thangathi

as promised, i leapt outta bed and brewed this fine kenya aa in the chemex. because i wanted to make the most of the body, i used the so-called oren proportion, 2 oz. to 28 oz water.

inspecting the beans in the cool light of day, i'm calling peter's roast level city. i didn't see even a smidge of oil anywhere; peter definitely took care not to over-roast this baby.

the bag was stamped with a jul. 18 roast date, so i think the coffee is now 7 days old.

the fragrance of the dry grounds is definitely cardamom. beautiful, green spicy smell; cardamom is one of my favorite sensations, whether in pastry or in coffee!

when the water hits the coffee and it blooms, a lovely malty smell wafts about. and at the first sip, you're smacked by a pink-grapefruit citrus, which is followed by a lovely honeyed feeling.

this full coffee is all about grapefruit, and that's a good thing at breakfast. long-time readers can just close their eyes, imagine the scaa flavor wheel, and whisper wine-y.

in fact, as soon-to-be-cqi chief and long-time scaa head honcho ted lingle would say, this kenya aa is the very example of the term tangy.

as i brewed it, it had a wonderful body, a little beyond medium. if it were cloth, i'd call it thick linen.

can't wait to see what the vac pot picks up tomorrow. . .

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posted by fortune | 7:54 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Monday, July 24, 2006

surprise from peter g!

ah! and what arrived this morning but a kenya aa nyeri from peter g. at counterculture? peter has this habit of selling single auction lots, and this is no exception: it's lot #3934.

this refers to its number during the weekly auctions the kenyan government coffee board holds. this lot happens to come from the thangathi farmer's co-op.

i don't know if all the farmers in this co-op live in thangathi or are just nearby, but the area sure seems one close-knit community.

anyway, this coffee will hit the chemex tomorrow, and the vac pot the day after. . .thanks peter!

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posted by fortune | 8:16 AM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

Sunday, July 23, 2006

flour change & la vignarola

devoted readers know that every sunday i make pizza at home according to the recipe of the blessed st. hamelman, whose recipe my husband adores. for the past long while i've been using the king arthur organic artisan flour.

however, this morning i ran out, and so today i'm switching to the french-style flour, just because. . . that's what i have around the house.

also in this spirit, i'm altering the recipe for la vignarola (fava, artichoke and pea stew) somewhat. yes, that's what i was peeling all those favas for!

i just don't happen to have any more white wine already open, so i'm substituting dry marsala of good quality. in the same vein since i couldn't readily acquire any guanciale this afternoon, i'm going with some diced prosciutto end.

as i always say, this is part of the core idea of italian cooking -- going with what ya got and making it great. which is my intention today.

i have 3 recipes for la vignarola: one by marcella hazan, one by anna del conte, and one by suzanne dunaway. the first two ask you to cook the veggies to death; while i understand that "crisp-tender" is not the italian way, i loathe mushy veggies.

so i'm going with the dunaway recipe as that seems to have a time and technique that might not utterly destroy the freshness of the ingredients. . . .anyway, the french flour seems to be rising gangbusters already, so i think this substitution will be fantastic!

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posted by fortune | 12:12 PM | top | link to this | links to this post | email this:   | 0 comments | leave a voicemail

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