Thursday, July 20, 2006

La Naranja

Origionally posted in January of '06, this post has been updated with a musical soundtrack.
It is was citrus season (a few monthw ago) in California so we headed down to the Alemany Farmers Market in San Francisco to pick out some oranges for our marmelade.
-It is hard to make a decision with so much to choose fromWe chose a blend of oranges for a unique and personalized marmelade. (also because it is hard to choose just one variety) The Seville orange provided the classic bitter flavor, the Sicilian Tarocco Orange countered the bitterness of the Seville with its sweet juicy red tinted fruit, and the Cara Cara offered a unique, sweet grapefruit flavor to finish the blend. The Cara Cara originated at the Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela and was brought to Florida in the 1970's, now it also grows in the Californian San Joaqin Valley. The Seville orange does come from Seville but historians used to believe that it originated in China, now some say Northern India, some say South East Asia, and some even say it comes from Pacific islands like Guam, Samoa, and Fiji. Anyhow, we know for sure that the Moors brought the bitter Seville orange to Spain and Sicily where it grows very well as early as the 9th century. Seville was the center of Arabic culture in Al-Andalus (the Iberian penninsula, modern day Spain and Portugal) at the time and many trees were planted there. I bet it came to Spain with Ziryab. Ziryab was a freed slave from Bahgdad, which was also a cultural center of the Arab empire at the time. He studied with the most famoius musician of the day, Ishaq al-Mawsili, son of Ibrahem Al-Mawsili Ziryab's teacher beacame jealous and feared that his student was begining to grow more talented than the teacher so he chased Ziryab out of Bahgdad. Ziryab fled with his family and his specially designed lute to Tunisia, then across North Africa crossing the Straits of Gilbralter and landing in Algeciras, the birthplace of Spain's most celebrated guitarist, many centuries later, Paco de Lucia. Ziryab invented what we know today as the guitar. He had added a fifth string to the traditional four stringed lute and had designed a body with thinner wood to play his magical music on. Back in Baghdad when Ziryab was summuned to sing for the Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, the caliph was amazed and asked him to play some more songs on his master's lute. Ziryab respectfully declined the instrument. "I've brought my own lute," he said, "which I made myself—stripping the wood and working it—and no other instrument satisfies me. I left it at the palace gate and, with your permission, I'll send for it." Harun sent for the lute. He examined it. It looked like Ishaq al-Mawsuli's.
"Why won't you play your master's lute?" the caliph asked.
"If the caliph wants me to sing in my master's style, I'll use his lute. But to sing in my own style, I need this instrument."
"They look alike to me," Harun said.
"At first glance, yes," said Ziryab, "but even though the wood and the size are the same, the weight is not. My lute weighs about a third less than Ishaq's, and my strings are made of silk that has not been spun with hot water—which weakens them. The bass and third strings are made of lion gut, which is softer and more sonorous than that of any other animal. These strings are stronger than any others, and they can better withstand the striking of the pick." Ziryab didn't use a plain wooden pick like the other musicians, he used an eagle claw. Apon arrival in Spain with his guitar, Ziryab was hired by the Caliph of Cordoba in southern Spain, Abd al-Rahman to promote culture in the region. Ziryab was granted a palace and villas along with a salary of gold and wheat. The caliph wanted to bring refinement to the region which was once the wild west of the Arabic empire and at that time on the verge of a renaissance. It had been under Arab rule since 711 and was previously ruled by the barbaric Goths and previously the vicious Vandals. Unlike other European cities of the time, Cordoba had paved streets and streetlamps. There were fountains and gardens, bath houses, many beautiful mosques and street musicians. Abd al-Rahman wanted Cordoba of Al-andalus to be a cultural center to rival Bahgdad and Demascus. The caliph's views on arts and culture contributing to society are echoed today in the words of Govind Swarup, Principal Secretary of Cultural Affairs, Maharashtra, India, “Fine arts is not only a matter of self satisfaction or entertainment. It is also a major instrument for influencing the personality and inculcating values that are good for the individual as well as for the society. A sensitivity that is very much needed today comes only through fine arts" In Al-andalus Ziryab also became a minister of culture. He became a strategist for the region and an arbiter of fashion and taste, and a poet. He was granted money to start a music school which flurished for 500 years. Besides music he also had an interest in cuisine. Since the Roman empire food was piled up on bare wooden tables all together at one time. Ziryab changed all that with the introduction of course service and elegant and artistic plate and banquet presentation. He also introduced fine tableclothes and plate and glassware. He brought many recipes and dishes from Bahgdad and created many original dishes. One dish was meatballs and small triangular pieces of dough fried in coriander oil, came to be known as taqliyat Ziryab, or Ziryab's fried dish. He was also a great pastry chef. He invented the zalabia, fried dough soaked in orange flavored syrup. In India Ziryab's zalabia is called jalebi. You can see jalebis being made in the opening scenes of Heeraz Marfatia'a modern classic filmBirju. Jalebis are cousins of the rounder and fatter gulab jamuns we posted a few weeks ago. Ziryab was also the first to bring asparagus to the table. Ziryab also opened a beuty parlor/cosmetology school and invented funky haircuts. He became a fashion designer and imported fancy silk from India. As well as ideas from Bahgdad he also borrowed from Indian culture. He had Indians teach chess to the people of Al-Andalus and brought astrologers from India too.
So if Ziryab didn't bring the sour orange trees to Spain it surely must have been someone that he knew. He became powerful and influential even in political decision making in Al-Andalus.
Federico Garcia Lorca was another renaissance man of Andalucia. Garcia Lorca is amous for his plays and poetry about life in Andalucia, but he was also an artist and musician. He staged travellling roadshows for the villages of southern Spain, entertaining and educating the people through puppet shows, musicals, and story telling. He was a progressive free thinker and used creativity for personal and comunal growth and advancement.

Here is the flamenco guitar virtuoso Paco de Lucia at the young age of 17 performing one of many songs written by Garcia Lorca.
Tune: Las Tres Hojas performed by Paco de Lucia, and written by Federico Garcia Lorca.

Here is Paco a few yars later with the young Camarón de la Isla, one of the world's greatest singers of all time.
Tune: Te Vas a Conseguir Tres Cosas by Camarón de la Isla con Paco de Lucia
Tune: Anta Oumri by Lole y Manuel This is a beautiful version of this classic Arabic song written by Egyptian star Mohamed Abdel Waheb done by the flamenco duo who brought a touch of psychedelia to gypsy music in the 1970s and 80s. Their rhythm and duende is magical.
Tune: Tierra que Canta also by Lole y Manuel is a great example of how Andalusian music changes with the times while keeping its roots. Listen to the electric guitar as it zaps its way into this flamenco song with grace.
Tune: Romero Verde is a classic tune by Lole y Manuel in a true Andalusian Gypsy style.
Tune: Al Quivira is another example of Lole y Manuel's flamenco music with Arabic influences.

Tune: Turco Moro by Jalaleddin Takesh, another Bay area artist. This song brings together the Gypsy flamenco guitar of Andalucia and the Gypsy Kanoon of Persia.

Tune: Sueños de Cadiz by John Bilezikjian and Aziz Khadra presents the flipside of the Lole y Manuel formula again with masters of Persian and Arabic music playing a Flamenco influenced song written by oud maestro Bilezikjian.

Check out more orange songs and orange topics over at Locust St.
Sir Walter Raleigh took sour orange seeds to England; they were planted in Surrey and the trees began bearing regular crops in 1595, but were killed by cold in 1739. The British love the sour oranges for making marmelade and perfumes. It's a good thing that the orange trees didn't survive in England because the shipping process actually helps make better marmelade. A combination of the exposure to the salted sea water environment and the banging together in the wooden barrels help to tenderize the oranges as they travel by sea to Great Britain in the first step of marmelade production. The sour Seville oranges we bought grow right here in California so we have to blanch the skin a few times in boiling water to tenderize which also helps remove a little bit of astringent flavor too. In Seville, people don't even use the sour oranges that line the streets. They are picked by one family that has owned the orange trees of Seville for generations and are shipped to the UK for marmelade and perfume. But Sevillanos and visitors to Seville do get to enjoy the wonderful fragrance provided by the trees all over the city.
- Citrus season also means allergy season. Some people say that local honey helps with allergies. There are a few theories about local honey and it's benefits. There is even a brew that aids hayfever in England that is made from honey. We buy local produce whenever possible to support local farmers, cut down on transportation pollution and oil dependancy, and to promote regional cuisine with regional ingredients. We bought some local honey to use instead of sugar in our marmeladeMP3: Her Comes the Honeyman from Porgy and Bess, sung by Ray Charles.

After all the citrus and honey adventures we decide to chill out in the shade and check out some of the street musicians. The steel drum guy was super funky and the lady with the electric washboard guitar also opperated a dancing wooden puppet with her foot.

The puppet contraption is just like the footdella that Jesse Fuller used to play his San Francisco blues back in the 50's (I wonder if the "Lone Cat" ever played at the Alemany Market?) The washboard-puppet-guitar lady played a great version of "Dinah" that sounded like something she learned back in 1911. She had all the toddlers' attention, and mine too. I hadn't heard the washboard and guitar compliment each other so well since I dusted off my favorite Big Bill Broonzy and Washboard Sam record,

Tune: Diggin' My Potatoes by Washboard Sam and Big Bill Broonzy

Tune: Mamma Don't Allow by Washboard Sam

Tune: Old Yazoo by The Washboard Rhythm Kings "If you don't like rice and beans, have some beans and rice"

After our musical break we came across the egg and poultry section of the market. They were selling live quail, chickens, partridge, and rabbit. I'm not sure if the rabbits were being sold as pets or for food. I guess it is up to the customer what they do with the animals. I was also unclear about the use of a certain type of egg they were selling called balut. I decided I wanted to have scrambled duck eggs for brunch so I pointed to the Balut egg, asked for two, and handed the lady $1.10. Since they cost 55 cents each I naively thought they were some fancy variety of duck egg. But the lady explained to me that balut eggs are actually fertilised eggs that are meant to be boiled and eaten. This Philipino delicacy seemed a little hard core for brunch, maybe next Saturday I'll buy some for dinner.
Anyhow, we bought some regular duck eggs for our brunch and had a good meal before we started our marmelade production.
-Veggies left over from Nori and Desi's sushi mise en place were great in our scrambled duck eggs. And the left over gyoza filling made great lil' brunch sausages.

Tune: A Huevo from El Chiapaneco Mix

Chocolate sucre shell filled with blood orange curd, milk chocolate mousse, and a potent earl grey tea whip cream. Orange you glad it's tea time?The Tarts were photographed 2005 in the pastry kitchen of Citizen Cake. I also did a similar tart with burnt orange pastry cream and earl grey milk chocolate pot de creme... then there was the "Venezuela Vacation" tart which featured cara cara orange, El Rey white chocolate and tonka beans, or maybe it was called the Venezuela Sunset. So many different pastries every week, I loose track. I have most of the plated dessert menus I have created over the years, but all the other creations are sketched out in random notebooks and in the deep corners of my memory along with song lyrics, melodies, flavors, visions, dreams.... Anyhow, orange and tea and chocolate make for a glorious ménage à trois.
The pastry cook in the photo behind the tarts is Luis V, a key member of the Tooth Decay Posse.

Tune: Bakershop Boogie by Willie Nix from Sun Records The Blues Years 1950-1958 (Disc 3)
The milk chocolate in the tarts comes from El Rey Venezuelan Chocolate. El Rey has over 75 years experience. They opened in Venezuela in 1929. They use only locally grown, high quality ingredients. All El Rey chocolates are made exclusively with a blend of Venezuelan beans from plantations south of Caracas, giving El Rey chocolate a unique flavor. Their white chocolate is also very good. It is one of the few white chocolates that is made only with non-deodorized cacao butter (deodorization is a chemical process that strips flavor) and it actually tastes like chocolate rather than just sugar, like most white chocolates. The dark chocolate used in the tart is from Scharffen Berger.
This is a pretty decent list of good quality chocolate from around the world. One of my favorites is Bonnat, a family business from France that dates back to 1884. They started producing dark chocolate bars from specific countries (Venezuela and Madagasgar) in 1902 and they were the first company to produce vintage chocolate, using beans from a specific plantation in 1994 with their unique Hacienda el Rosario bar.
Earl grey tea is a blend of black tea with dried bergamot zest and bergamot oils. When steeped in cream, earl grey tea pairs well with different chocolate flavors.
Oranges at the Alameny Farmers Market in San Francisco


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