Blog: Food

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Waste not, want not

A friend is recovering from surgery, so the gang organized a meal rotation. Our first day is tomorrow, to cover meals for a couple days. Our friend is a foodie, so we made something nice, which took a lot longer than we thought from reading the recipe. (James Beard's salmon tart. It started yesterday, because the dough wants to be refrigerated overnight, but most of the work was today, including rolling out a very stiff crust.)

We doubled the recipe, to make one for ourselves as well, which we had (part of) for dinner. The salmon is poached in wine, which left us about half a bottle. By definition, the wine you cooked dinner in goes with dinner, so that worked out. (Never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink.)

The recipe also called for egg yolks, which left me with a bunch of whites. I know exactly one thing to do with a bowl full of egg whites.

And that is how I came to be making meringue cookies after 9PM. If they're any good, our friend might get some dessert. Goofy-looking dessert, because I don't do this a lot and shaping meringues using a zipper bag with a corner cut off is...imprecise. But it's the taste that counts.

Sometimes the bread has plans of its own

This seemed like an unremarkable loaf when I put it in the oven.

loaf with large asymmetrical hump

Dani called it my dromedary loaf. :-)

I wondered if there were a large air bubble under that hump, but the inside looks normal. So, one of life's mysteries! But a tasty mystery, so it's ok.


Runaway levain

I made sourdough on Friday. On Thursday I already knew that my starter was especially enthusiastic that day, and the levain (the second feed, what actually goes into the bread rather than back into the jar for next time) bubbled up much more quickly than usual. This meant I made the dough at dinnertime, rather than around 9:30 or 10 like usual.

It filled the bowl and then some on Friday morning, but, as usual, deflated some when I turned it out of the bowl. After letting it rest I formed it into two loaves, which is what I usually do, and baked them a few hours later.

True to form, it expanded more than usual in the oven, too. It was light and airy and tasty, and I'm finally getting around to providing the photographic evidence. Read more…


Somebody on Twitter asked:

What did you learn in 2020 (besides how to make bread)?

I responded there:

  • To grow food in pots.
  • To cut men's hair.
  • To cook more new things.
  • That my cat loves me being home all the time.
  • More about community-building.
  • How to set up a nonprofit foundation.
  • To cut people w/no morals or human decency out of my life.
  • And yes, sourdough.

I was up against a character limit there, but I'm not here. Read more…

Odds and ends

I haven't been posting regularly. Oops.

I've been baking bread about once a week. This past week I finally scored some rye flour (that was not exorbitantly priced), so I made a rye sourdough for the first time. I think I prefer less molasses than this recipe called for, so I'll adjust that next time or try a different recipe. The bread is tasty, aside from the molasses overwhelming the caraway. Most "rye bread" recipes I've seen use rye for only one third of the flour, which sent me searching for "all rye" rye bread, which apparently works and tastes good but might not rise as much? I'll probably try it at some point, especially since I had to buy four (small) bags of rye flour to get it.

Dani and I play board games every Shabbat now, and occasionally we have two other friends (who are also careful, and I guess this is a "pod"?) over to play. We play Pandemic in every session because, well, pandemic. Yesterday we pulled out Kings and Things, a game we all had vague memories of, and by the end had concluded that while it's appealing it's also kind of tedious and maybe sort of a shorter Titan, a game I like in principle but dislike actually playing. Ok, now we've refreshed our memories...

A friend has a game called McMulti, which is an economic game (oil/gas theme)... in German. There are lots of places where text matters, so when we've played we've used cheat sheets since none of us read German. We recently became aware of an English-language derivative, called Crude, and got it recently. They've changed some of the mechanics and made one really annoying change to how the board is laid out, but other changes are positive and the game's a little faster. I like it, but am tempted to figure out how to print my own board. The game is really strongly designed for four players, but there are rules for a two-player version, which Dani and I have played once, which seen to work ok.

Codidact, the project that consumes most of my spare time, is in the process of incorporating as a non-profit. We've got our lawyer on our Discord server and having conversations about incorporation documents via Google Docs comments. It looks like we will be able to clear an important hurdle soon. Neat!

On the project front, I'm not writing code -- I keep feeling like I should learn Ruby and the dev environment so I can help, then concluding that I probably won't be helping because I'd be taking time and attention from the developers who are actually being productive. But I've taken over bug-wrangling -- some analysis and testing, clarifying vague reports, and, especially, triaging. I was surprised to find that GitHub counts filing issues as contributions. I think that's new?

We just had our first birthday, counting from when the project founder set up a Discord server to talk about maybe building an alternative to Somewhere Else. We've still got a lot of work ahead of us, both technical and community development, but I'm pleased with where we are.

I've been reading a lot of fiction, a mix of short stories, novellas, and novels, many through the BookFunnel network (and also StoryBundle). I'm "meeting" a lot of authors I didn't previously know. I should really write a separate post about that.


The temperature tonight is supposed to be below freezing, so today I did a final harvest. There are a few small green tomatoes that would need rather a while to grow and then ripen and I don't think I can keep the plant warm enough for long enough, so I picked everything that was larger even though it was still green, and I'll see if they ripen indoors. I've picked tomatoes before when they were orange but not fully red (to beat the critters to them), and I've had the occasional green one ripen on the windowsill. Today's are in a brown paper bag with a sacrificial apple. Even if I lose these last couple dozen, I had a pretty good bounty for the year, as best I can tell having never done this before.

The last of the rosemary and basil are currently drying. I had two different rosemary plants -- no idea what the difference was, but one is lighter than the other and they smell a little different. I decided to oven-dry one and hang-dry the other, to see how the methods compare. It's not true science because there's a second variable; I didn't split each variety into two groups. So I won't really know if any differences are due to the type or the method, but oh well. The main goal is to get dried herbs.

The lunchbox peppers were a disappointment. The peppers I got were nice, but I only got a total of 15 between the two plants. I will probably skip those next year and use the pots for something else.

I think next year I want to add some oregano.

Garden thoughts

This year I tried my hand at a little container gardening. I have nine pots: two cherry tomato, two lunchbox pepper, two rosemary (different varieties but I don't know which), and three basil. I'm enjoying having truly fresh food available (harvesting herbs as you prepare dinner is great). I'm not sure what yield I should be getting and some of it's been surprising. I've identified some things I did wrong. Read more…

More sourdough science

The friend who gave me the sourdough starter recently gave me a copy of Classic Sourdoughs, Revised: A Home Baker's Handbook by Ed Wood and Jean Wood. This is the book she learned from, she speaks highly of it, and she was tired of having to look things up in it when I asked her questions so she got me my own. :-)

The basic recipe in there (the authors recommend that you get this one down first before moving on to others) calls for feeding the starter to make it active, then feeding (part of) it again to get what they call a "culture proof", and then using that to make the bread. My earlier attempts didn't include that step; I was feeding the starter, waiting for it to expand, and then using that to bake with (and keeping the rest as starter). I'm getting better rise now.

There were two other differences I wanted to test (well three, but I didn't formally test the last):

  • The book says to feed the part of the culture proof you don't use in bread again before you put it away. That seems wasteful, so I wanted to find out if it makes a difference. Last week I divided my leftover culture proof, feeding half and not feeding the other half. (Remember, it's already been fed twice on the way to getting here.)

  • The book recommends putting the loaf in a cold oven and then turning it on, baking at 375F. The authors say you'll get a nice "oven spring" that you can watch happen suddenly, except that covering the bread with a bowl for humidity defeats that. (I left an earlier loaf uncovered, trying the pan of water instead for humidity, but saw no sudden spring (though it did expand) and was not happy with the resulting crust.)

The third item was using bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. The book actually uses all-purpose in its recipes, and that's what I used in my previous two loaves with this book.

Today (and yesterday, because sourdough requires time) I filled out a little two-by-two matrix: without the extra feed ("1") and with ("2"), crossed by cold-start ("C") and hot-start ("H") in which you preheat the baking sheet, deposit the dough onto it, and bake at 450F. I made two dough batches (for the different starters) following the same recipe, processes, and timings until we got to the baking stage. I divided each into two at the dough-proof stage. I baked the two "C" variants together and then the two "H" variants, which means that within each pair the dough for one had a little more pre-cook time than the dough for the other, but I'm prepared to call that not significant.

All loaves were made with bread flour. All loaves were brushed with olive oil right before baking. All loaves were covered with inverted metal bowls for the first half of their cooking time.

Also, all loaves held their shape better than in the past. I found myself adding some flour toward the end of the kneading (last night); possibly the bread flour makes a difference here too. Read more…

Garden thief!

On Tuesday I hit peak tomato, harvesting 22 (!) cherry tomatoes. There were several more that were almost ripe that I expected to pick the next day.

But the next day they were gone, all of them. I found the half-eaten carcass of one green tomato on the ground. I couldn't tell what ate it. I wonder if it was the rabbit I saw when I went out Tuesday evening to harvest some basil.

rabbit on steps

Read more…

Weekly garden report

During 2020 I posted near-weekly updates from my first vegetable garden. I have not imported all of them here, but you can see them on the gardening tag on Dreamwidth.

Last Sunday I noted that the peppers were still green but looked like they were starting to turn yellow. By around Tuesday we had clear signs of yellow, and I thought I knew what kind of pepper plants I had. (These are "lunchbox peppers", which come in any of yellow, orange, or red; any given plant produces one color.)

Ha ha no, that was just stage one. The peppers that have developed color are all solidly orange now. I don't know if this is, in turn, a step on the way to red, or if orange is their final color. I'm also not sure when I'm supposed to pick them.

For the past couple months these plants have been showing four peppers each, and I've been wondering if I was going to all this trouble for eight peppers. Finally some small green ones have appeared farther up on the plants. I don't know what the seasonal yield is supposed to be.

Meanwhile, I've been picking 5-10 cherry tomatoes a day. The plant on the left doesn't have any more green ones, while the one on the right is continuing to make those. These are supposed to be "tidy treats", which are supposed to be indeterminates, which I understand to mean "makes fruit all summer". But these are also clearly different varieties despite the labeling, so perhaps I've now identified which of the two plants is the variety I ordered. The one on the left, whatever it is, started producing earlier, by maybe a week or a week and a half. It also has the smaller pot. (It was, originally, the larger of the two plants originally sharing a pot, before I realized just how much room cherry tomatoes would need.)

Pictures follow. Read more…