*This series begins as a means of me trying to understand and get a grip on the role social media (and the internet) has in my life. At the moment I think it’s taking up too much of my time & bringing very little positivity into my life. I’m taking a step back to rethink how I want these tools to be a part of me. I’m reading The Shallows (What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains) by Nicholas Carr as a part of this rethinking. This might be the only one of these posts I do or it could be just the beginning. We’ll see, thanks for reading.
My cooking life is directly influenced by my surroundings and everyday occurrences. I feel like I’ve done a pretty decent job at getting in tune with the seasons and celebrating the different bounty they offer. This isn’t a spiritual, hippy-dippy kind of thing, just an, “Oh, nature knows what it’s doing.” kind of thing. Seasonally Kenzie and I both travel for work. She usually jets off to Los Angeles, DC, or Oakland while I’m relegated to Norfolk, VA. We’re fortunate with this travel but I still say she gets the better end of it!
I discovered how to make a delicious beet pepperoni on one of Kenzie’s trips to Los Angeles. The pizza I baked with that pepperoni made it a really tasty week to be a bachelor, but I can’t keep good things to myself forever! Since it’s Spring we’ve got fresh, local beets and Kenzie was off to LA so I decided it’d be a nice thing to prep some pizza dough, beet pepperoni, and age some cashew mozzarella for her return. She got in later than expected on Friday the 5th but I made us a pizza anyway…and again the next day…and I froze some of the dough to make a pizza later in the week…pizza4lyfe.
All this work and waiting around sort of set my food-mood for the following week. Good food takes time…sometimes. Because let’s be honest that sometimes a bag of chips at 1AM is the best meal of your life.
Saturday’s pizza ended up being the best pizza I’ve ever had and I’ve had some good pizza (I like to think). Bon Appétit* recently had a feature with some rules for making the best homemade pizza and rule #6 took our pizza to the next level. Rule #6 says, “Treat your pizza like it’s pasta” and that means adding dry, aged cheeses plus drizzles of olive oil AFTER the bake. I’m telling you in case you don’t want to click through to that link because there’s a lot of gross animal products on it. Here’s how we topped ours:
Perhaps more than how we dressed these pizzas was just the feeling Saturday had. It was a beautiful day: woke up, jumped on the bike for a group ride to Maciel’s Tortas y Tacos downtown (they’ve got a great potato taco but happened to be out of potatoes so they hooked it up w/ lard free beans), back to Revolution’s Co-Op where Sylvia invited us over for a few beers, and then home. Kenz agreed to the beers on Sylvia & Teddy’s porch so we stopped to grab these delicious Abita Sweet Orange beers and spent the next hour or so on their porch. Then we headed downtown to and meet some of Kenzie’s friends who were in town for Beale Street Music Fest. We couldn’t find them but we did find a big tall beer that we polished pretty quick then added the last of our Sweet Orange to the empty cup. We’d worked up our appetite cycling around, day drinking in the perfect weather, lying in the grass watching kids do cartwheels & handstands that 40 year old yoga moms would KILL to be able to do…and that’s how to make the perfect pizza. Somehow Bon App forgot that rule.
Monday night I split my sourdough starter up and made two levains: one fed with a 50/50 mix of pumpernickel rye & type 85 flour, the other with a 50/50 mix of khorasan & type 85 flour. The pumpernickel levain went towards a beautiful marbled pumpernickel rye while the khorasan levain was for flatbreads. I really wanted to try something new with the khorasan flour so I jammed out some flatbreads using the stand mixer. They were wonderful and I joked several times about how this was likely the first type of bread eaten. More correctly I should have said, “This is likely very similar to the first leavened breads ever eaten.” I even told LuLu it was the first type of bread a dog ever ate then gave her a small bite 🙂 Khorasan flour (or Kamut as it’s known by brandname) only jumped out at me from perusing The Fresh Loaf for ideas on other grains to try. I had no real reason to try it other than it’s an ancient grain and has a funny name. It’s worked really well in my boule but I wanted to make something a little faster and easier with it. I threw together this recipe using the dough hook in my stand mixer.
For lunch I baked the khorasan flatbreads in a dry cast iron skillet and put together an Afghan kofta inspired coconut milk & tomato dish. There was some kale & tofu meatballs to be had too. I don’t have a recipe for the kofta inspired dish but here’s a quick rundown:
- Half block tofu, crumbled, with 1/2 cup bread crumbs, teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 flax egg. Crumbled all together, tossed in the fridge for a bit.
- Shaped into meatball size then sauteed over low heat until browned all the way around. They were good but the texture could be improved, definitely crumbly.
- Sauteed a head of kale in oil that was already cooking ground turmeric, curry powder, paprika, and a dried chili.
- Added a large can of crushed tomatoes and a can of coconut milk to let simmer and cook the kale down, added the “meatballs” when they were browned.
Check out the char on those flatbreads though! That’s the hotness my friend.
I should take a explain the Afghan inspiration real quick: I thought I’d be working with a new person, an Afghani refugee, on Tuesday night at the restaurant. My brain immediately said, “Hey, I should look up traditional breads of Afghanistan!” Turns out it’s pretty much naan, usually with black cumin seed (new to me!) atop. Traditionally cooked in a tandoor but I figured a cast iron skillet would have to work. Also, I’m not claiming to have any knowledge other than what I gathered from a few recipes and Wikipedia. I found out last minute that he’d decided not to take the job due to the language barriers and unfamiliarity with some of the foods. Bummer, I was really looking forward to that and learning from him. I hope Memphis treats him well and perhaps our paths will still cross!
Throughout Tuesday I worked on my pumpernickel rye, toasting caraway seed, adding cocoa powder and a little bit of the morning’s leftover coffee into the dark portion of the dough. The last time I made the marbled rye I mixed the two doughs too early and didn’t get any marbling. I’m not looking for perfectly distributed marbling, I want that rustic haphazard marbling…y’know, like a friggin marble. This time around that’s what I got. You can peep the recipe for the marbled rye bread here.
The wonderful thing about sourdough is just how forgiving it is. In the case of this rye bread we had to leave at 1:45pm for a 2:00pm appointment. Usually I work with my doughs until about 4:30-5:00pm, let them have a 12 hour cold, final proof and then bake around 5am…if I wake up because let’s be honest, I don’t always get up and sometimes a 14 hour proof is too long but you still have delicious bread, even if it’s a little flat. It felt like I was rushing through the bulk ferment but when I removed the cast iron lids around 4am I knew I’d done nothing wrong. I had incredible oven spring, beautiful shapes & scoring.
Fortunately after I pulled these loaves out of the oven I was able to go right back to sleep and by breakfast they’d cooled appropriately. We had stellar sandwiches with hashbrowns, pan fried tofu, Sriracha, and some arugula microgreens from Green Girl Produce.
Another beautiful thing about baking bread two days in a row is now there’s a constant snack available! Flatbreads were used later for a black eyed pea dip, rye for more sandwiches and plain snacking. It feels good to have that pumpernickel rye down. When I think of rye I think of marbled, pumpernickel, caraway seed. I know there’s other implementations of rye but this marbled version I just had to nail down.
So what’d you eat this week?
*Sidenote: anyone else just randomly started receiving magazines like Bon Appétit? Just us? Lemme know, it’s weird but I’ll take it (for free). They had a nice story from the dude behind Superiority Burger recently which was rather endearing and made me love their food even more. If VegNews wants to send me a free subscription I’ll become a shill for them too 😉