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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Home-Fermented Ginger Ale

Good things come to those who wait...
Naturally occuring bubbles have always intrigued me, starting with Perrier.  I just can't get my brain around the fact that water flows from the ground already bubbly.  That is just insane!  To be fair, Perrier does reinforce the natural carbonation before bottling.. but if you did go to the source, it would be eyelashflutteringly bubbly.
Then there are the fermented drinks.  Then there are drinks like beer and champagne that start out flat and become bubbly.  That is equally insane, because in all my past experiences, I have only observed the reverse process.  The drink starts out bubbly and ends up flat.
Then one day, many many years ago in a far away family vacation home on the Normandy coast, my aunt opened a bottle of homemade "Limonade" she had stashed there from the previous year.  It was not too sweet, nice and lemony, and most importantly, BUBBLY!  She explained that she made it herself and the carbonation just naturally happened (but she was giving it to us kids, so it couldn't be like beer or champagne).
I was humored and a bit skeptical about the process, but was too young to actually pursue the curiosity.
Then, some 15 years later, I was gifted a bottle of olive oil with a flip cap.  That bottle made me flashback to that summer in Cabourg.  I decided I would try to make something that naturally carbonates.
As I looked through the different processes, it turns out that consuming fermented foods and beverages brings gifts to your body.  The probiotics in cultured food are a major cruise line all you can eat buffet for your flora.  Come to mama Lactobacillus!
I still would have done it even if there were no bonus points.  I wanted to do it because it's my little experiment at the moment.
For my very first try, I wanted to make ginger ale.  Because ginger is delicious.
You can't say the word "rhizome" in front of me without me yelling out GINGER!
Yes, it has accidentally happened before.
In order to make home-fermented soda, you need a culture.
Ok, everyone belongs to one culture or another, but I mean a pet living thing that you need to feed.  There are different types, but I feel the easiest to make (for me at least) is the Ginger bug.
The Ginger Bug is a mixture of grated ginger, sugar, and water left out at very warm room temperature until it ferments, then can be used as a base for a number of home-made sodas.
Mine spontaneously fermented in 48 hours.  So cool!
Follow Ginger Bug instructions from WellnessMama.
I'm also working a different type of ferment with "Limonade" which calls for rice, sugar, lemon juice, and water, but I'll get to that in a different post.  It's not quite ready yet.
I've made the ginger ale a coupe of times using the same ginger bug I've been keeping alive since the first bottle, so I'm confident in this recipe that has tested out quite well.
Yield 1 L or quart of Ginger Ale
1 inch piece ginger, grated
1/4 cup rapadura or cane sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup Ginger Bug
3-4 cups non chlorinated water (not direct tap water)
1.  Place 1 1/2 cups water with the rapadura, salt, and grated ginger to heat on the stove.  Simmer for 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves.  Let cool!  You don't want to kill your magnificent ginger bug now do you?
2.  Using a funnel, pour the ginger bug, lime juice, and stovetop mixture into your flip top glass bottle.  Top off with the non chlorinated water.  Make sure you don't fill it too high.  Do not close the flip top right away.  Cover with a cheesecloth or coffee filter along with a rubber band.
3.  Leave out at room temperature for 2 days before closing the flip top.  Then leave out for 3 days maximum after bottling.  During this time, it will naturally carbonate.  Check it everyday to see any bubbles.  Once you start seeing them, you can refrigerate, which stops the carbonation process.  If you leave it out too long, you will have a geyser when you open it.
4.  Serve chilled.

The taste is incredible.  It's not sweet at all although there seems to be a lot of sugar going in, very gingery, almost spicy, ultra bubbly, and a bit yeasty.  Everything I love and more...
My experimentation is going to branch out into a few different directions.. I'm so excited!

If this is the first time you are making a home-fermented soda, make sure you open it very carefully over the sink or even outdoors.  The first time, 3/4 of the bottle did an Old Faithful on me all over my kitchen.  I was left with only 1 little glass to taste and the rest to lick off the floor.  I had left it out 5 days instead of 3.. during a "heat wave".
The 2nd time I left it out only 3 days, but filled it just a bit too high.  I opened it outside and held the flip cap down to let some of the air out before totally opening it.  This time, it geysered out but I was able to catch some of it with my glass, and I was left with over half of the bottle + 1 glassful.  Not bad.
The 3rd time, I left it out only 3 days and didn't fill it too high.  The carbonation was strong, but I didn't make a mess.
Different room temperatures may yield different waiting times.

Be Patient...

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Senegalese Saladu Ñebbe

Since I've opened pandora's box concerning cold bean salads, everything keeps turning me on.
I mean, everything can be put into a bean salad, and almost any bean can be saladabled.  They can be served cold or warm, they make great leftovers since they don't wilt, they are delicious, and they are giving my go-to pakora making beans a new purpose!
I'm not going to say black-eyed peas are my favorite bean, because I could probably say that about black beans, black chickpeas, yellow pigeon peas, green split peas, and green mung beans as well.  Ok, then, black-eyed peas sit very high on my "favorite bean" list.  They are so distinct and earthy.  They hold their shape, yet have a creamy texture when you bite down on them.  They work well in Indian, Mexican, and American food.  Plus, they have their own band.  
You really can't beat that.
When I stumbled upon this Senegalese recipe calling for black-eyed peas, green chile, and avocado, I didn't even really have a choice.  My hypothalamus made me do it.  
And I'm glad it did... 
Adapted from CookieandKate
Serves many as a side, 5 as a meal
To cook:
1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, rinsed, and drained
2 bay leaves
2 dried red chiles (I used chile de arboles)
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp turmeric
6 cups water
To toss:
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 green chile (I used Moroccan), minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 bunch chives, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
juice from 1 lime
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
generous pinches of fleur de sel
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
few drops piri piri or tabasco
To garnish:
sliced avocado
1.  Place all the "to cook" ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-7 hours.  If you don't have one, the pressure cooker apparently takes 4 minutes under pressure, and normal stovetop takes 2 hours.  I have never tried either of those methods and have a hard time believing the pressure cooker time.. but hey.. maybe it's true!
2.  Remove the dried red chiles and set aside, discard the bay leaves, then drain the beans and let cool.  You can rinse them under cold water to cool them down faster.  I tasted the cooking liquid and it was so good I decided to freeze it for a future broth for a soup.  Do as you wish.. but still, think about it.
3.  Toss with all the "to toss" ingredients.  Taste and make sure the salt and pepper ratios are to your liking.  Let it sit for at least an hour, refrigerated.  This salad has more flavor the longer it sits.

Serve topped with sliced avocado and that chile de arbole you saved from the cooking water.
I was actually planning on only having this bean salad for dinner with maybe some shredded cabbage and rice.  This sea bass just jumped on my BBQ out of nowhere and begged me to join my colorful Senegalese party.  It's very hard for me to turn down BBQ sea bass (who in their right mind would??), so I aquiesced. 
Here you see the Saladu Ñebbe alongside some roasted sweet potatoes and BBQ'd sea bass.
It was a perfect match.

Since I have a large quantity of leftovers, my next meal will be with rice as a meal... and it will be just as perfect...

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Chickpea and Tomato Salad with Quinoa

They have declared a "heat wave" all over France.
It's true, it's hot.  It's officially a heat wave according to the government.  This means that for at least 3 days in a row, the highs have been over 32°C (90°F) and at night the lows haven't dropped under 20°C (68°F).  I have trouble calling it a heat wave because I grew up in Palm Springs, where these temperatures are relatively mild.  We call it springtime.
But to normal non-desert living people, yes, this is a heat wave.
So, the reason it is so "unbearable" here is that A/C is a rarity.  Some people have it, but most don't.  They don't even have it on public transportation.  The air is stuffy, and for those living in big cities, there is no air.  The buildings and concrete just make it hotter.
Also, not everyone has a pool here and people think drafts will kill you.  The lady sharing my office violently shut the window in the morning because I was letting a refreshing morning draft of 21°C into the office.
Running around in your underwear is not really a thing either.  It really should be though.
Anyway, it may go without saying, but I do not have A/C either, and my average indoor temperature is about 28°C (82°F).  To avoid making that number skyrocket, I've been avoiding the oven and trying to keep my stovetop activity to a minimum.
This is why having a crock pot is a blessing.  It doesn't add one degree to the indoor temp.. plus if it did, I could take it to the garage and run it down there.. which I can't do with my stovetop or my oven.  I also love coming home to a lovely wafting aroma.
This can only mean one thing...
It's bean time.

Serves 4-5
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and rinsed
2 bay leaves
few pinches salt
1 tsp ground cumin
2 dried chile de arboles (or any dried chile)
6 cups water for chickpea cooking
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 fresh chile, sliced into rounds (I used a red Morrocan chile)
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 zucchinis, sliced into rounds and quartered
pinch fleur de sel
few cracks black pepper
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water for quinoa cooking
3 large juicy tomatoes, chopped (or lots of halved cherries)
2 chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, grated
handful chopped parsley
handful chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
few pinches fleur de sel
1/4 tsp ground cumin
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
handful cubed feta (leave out if vegan)
1.  Cook the chickpeas with the bay leaves, some salt ground cumin, chile de arboles in 6 cups of water.  I used a crockpot.  It's the best hands off method I've found to cook beans.  I left them on low for 6 hours.  You can simmer for 45 minutes in a normal pot but I've never done this.  You want them to still hold their texture, but be creamy on the inside.  Do not cook them to mush.  When done, remove the chile de arboles (to add to your plate), discard the bay leaves, and drain the chickpeas.  Set aside.
2.  Prepare the good stuff.  Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a pot (the same one you will be cooking the quinoa in).  Add the fresh chile slices and fry for about 1 minute.  Remove the chile slices and set aside.
3.  In that chile infused oil, add the caraway seeds and cook for another 30 seconds, then add the turmeric and wait for it to fizz.  Add the zucchini slices along with the garlic slices, a pinch of fleur de sel, and some black pepper.  Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes.  Remove the zucchini mix and set aside.
4.  If no oil is left after removing the zucchini, add 1 Tbsp more olive oil and the rinsed quinoa.  Toast the quinoa for about 1 minute, making sure not to burn it, then add 1 cup water.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes).  Then remove from heat and set aside.
5.  Now you are ready to assemble your salad.  Toss the drained chickpeas with the tomatoes, shallots, grated garlic, herbs, lime juice, cumin, black pepper, fleur de sel, vinegar, and olive oil.
6.  To serve, put the warm quinoa at the bottom of the plate or dish, then top with the chickpea salad.  Add the cooked zucchini, chile slices, and feta as garnish.

For extra heat and smokey flavor, add those chile de arboles from cooking the chickpeas to your plate.

When you start to interact with your dinner, you will feel several emotions at once.
The cold tomatoes contrasting with the warm chickpeas sets off dizzying hallucinations.  The quinoa cooked in in fused chile oil with caraway reminds you that life is beautiful.  The chile may be mild, may be not.  The uncertainty of each bite makes your heart skip a beat.
And then you remember why you love the way summer "heat waves" make you create.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Green Split Pea and Spinach Salad

To this day, I have only ever cooked split peas (green or yellow) to make Dal.  It's what they were put on this Earth for.  It's their primary mission.  
It always weirds me out to see recipes using bacon and ham hocks paired with split peas.. or even mashed split peas (unless it's a happy hour dip).  It's just as weird to me as seeing someone eating mussels with a fork and knife.
I was actually going to make dal last night with these green split peas when the melon I was munching on started putting refreshing ideas into my head.  It persuaded me to step out of my comfort zone and try them cold.
Cold?  Eww!
I let my heart take over my brain and added all the things that would make me happy at that precise moment.
It turned out to be a glorious event.  The little cold split peas presented themselves on a whole new level to me.  They explode in flavor when cold and paired with raw, dried, and pickled things!
A completely different experience than eating them hot.  I felt like I was being introduced to someone new.
Serves 2
To cook:
1 cup dried split green split peas, thoroughly rinsed
4 cups water
pinch salt
few cracks black pepper
To toss:
2 large handfuls fresh spinach, rinsed and dried
1 tomato, chopped
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 shallot, minced
2 Tbsp capers
6-8 pepperoncini (or as many as you're comfortable with)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
few pinches fleur de sel
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
nice handful cubed feta (leave out if vegan)
1.  Cook the split peas in the water with a pinch of salt and some black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the peas are tender (not mushy).
2.  Drain, rinse, and toss with everything but the spinach.
3.  To serve, place a handful of spinach at the bottom of the plate or dish, then serve the split pea salad on top.

Such simple things bring so much joy..

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Aloo Gobi with Broccoli and Mutter Sabzi

India has been calling me by my first name recently.
She's been putting ideas into my brain, marinating them all day, then releasing them on the weekend.
I never get bored chit chatting with the Ba's from different regions.. in my head..

Loosely inspired by TheChefandHerKitchen.
1-2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
pinch hing (asafoetida)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 green or red chile, slit
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated garlic
1/2 small head broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 medium potatoes, steamed, peeled, and cut into large cubes
1/2 cup green peas
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)
1/4 tsp chile powder
1 Tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
pinch salt
chopped cilantro for garnish

1.  Heat the oil in a wok or heavy based pan.  Add the cumin seeds and wait until they start to crackle, then add the hing and turmeric.  They should fizz.
2.  Add the slit chile and chopped onion and cook until onion is translucent, then add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute, stirring.
3.  Add the broccoli and cauliflower florets and stir.  Cook for about 5 minutes until almost tender, then add the potatoes and peas.
4.  Cook on high, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes, then add the tomatoes.
5.  Mix the ground spices and besan together and sprinkle all over the vegetables.  Mix gently, then remove from heat and cover.
6.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

I served mine topped with chopped cilantro with Kala Chana Masala, Basmati rice, and Rotis.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ginger Sesame Turkey Heart Skewers

Here's something strangely delicious to try out.
Go out and buy a bunch of chicken or turkey hearts, marinate them in some leftover Nuoc Mam Cham dipping sauce (or specially make a batch), add some sesame oil, and sesame seeds,
skewer them with cherry tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers,
and grill them alongside some corn on the cob on your BBQ.
It takes about 15 minutes on the grill, depending on the size of the hearts to get that grilled goodness on the hearts.
Have them with some hoisin dipping sauce and call it your own invention!
That's what I did anyway...

If the idea of eating hearts makes you somewhat squeamish, the real star in this is the marinade.
Nuoc Mam Cham Marinade
3 Tbsp nuoc nam (fish sauce)
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp shao xing
2 cloves garlic, grated
juice from 1 lemon
1 thai chili, chopped
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp chopped fresh lemongrass
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Think outside of the sausages and burgers...

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Golden Egg and Nem Ran Bun

The best things in life come in layers.

Each layer adds depth to the previous, with texture, freshness, crunchiness, color, or tanginess.
That is the beauty of the Bun salads.
That is the beauty of Life.

This salad is a Bun Bo salad without the Bo (beef), with an added topping of Golden Egg.
A meal with so many layers, I felt I was eating a story...

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