Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Magic Eggs

The egg has many uses. At Hands On Gourmet last week, we packed eggs for ricotta gnocchi, almond cakes, aiolis, tamago, and more.
Whole eggs or egg yolks create structure in cookies. We use eggs to enrich, thicken, lighten, emulsify, and to flavor.
Egg proteins change when you heat them, whip them, or combine them with other ingredients. Although eggs provide strength, they are delicate and fragile and need to be handled properly.
The shell membrane protects the egg from the air and once cracked, the egg should be used soon afterwards or it should be covered with plastic. Also, when eggs and sugar are combined they should be used right away. If uncooked eggs and sugar sit together for too long the sugar will "burn" the eggs resulting in a texture change in the eggs.

Egg Whites
There are three types of meringues that pastry chefs create. They all use the same ingredients: egg whites and sugar. These different types of meringues manipulate the egg whites and sugar differently to obtain a particular end result.
I use Swiss meringue to prepare coconut macaroons. Swiss meringue is made by heating egg whites and sugar over a water bath while whisking. I fold coconut into Swiss meringue and drop spoonfulls of this mix onto a pan to bake into golden coconut macaroons. They are more chewy than macaroons created with a French meringue.
I used Italian Meringue to create the Taj Mahal dessert.
Italian meringue is made by cooking sugar to the soft ball stage and then adding the sugar syrup in a slow, steady stream to the egg whites while whisking. Italian meringue is ready to eat after it is whipped with the sugar syrup. This meringue is used for baked alaskas and lemon meringue pies. Pastry chefs often torch Italian meringue to create a nice toasted flavor. Marshmallows are made from Italian meringe mixed with gelatine and vanilla.
French meringue is made by whisking egg whites and slowly adding sugar to the whites as they mix. The French meringue is usually baked at a low temperature to create goodies like Pavlova and French macaroons.
There are precautions that need to be followed in order to be successful in creating a successful meringue.
1. Always use clean utensils free of dust, flour, oil, etc.. and make sure that the whites do not contain any part of the yolk (this will prevent the whites to whip up to a nice volume).
2. Once the whites reach the soft peak stage, add the sugar a little at a time in a slow stream. (this rule is for the Italian and French meringues) Egg's protein is more elastic and will create more tiny air bubbles when at room temp.
3. Use room temperature egg whites. Egg whites will produce more volume when whipped at room temperature. Also, older egg whites (seperated the day before) whip up better than more recently cracked whites.
4. sing to your egg whites as they whip. Egg whites love melody and sweet sounds.

Egg protiens are shaped like cooked noodles, long and curled and bundled up. Egg white protiens become partially "unbundled" when they are whipped or cooked and they wrap around the air bubbles that are created by whipping. The proteins in egg whites contain two types of amino acids, hydropholic (acids that are atracted to water) and hydrophobic (acids that are afraid of water). Egg whites are comprised of almost 90% water and a little more than 10% protein. When an egg protien is wrapped around an air particle in a meringue, the hydrophobic part is attracted to the air and the hydropholic part is attracted to the water in the egg white. This transfer of energy is what gives the meringue its structure. These delicate air pockets are fragile and can be broken and deflated if other ingredients are not added with care.

Egg Yolks
Egg yolks were part of the orange soda sabayon recipe that participants in recent Hands On Gourmet events have prepared. Chef Stephen has a great recipe for deviled eggs. I think he tops his little treasures with pickled yellow bell peppers. They glisten on top of the flavorful egg yolk mixture that fills the boiled egg white "cup". It is impossible to eat just one. Egg yolks are also used to make homemade mayonaise. Egg yolks work as an emulsifier because they contain lecethin and they also have hydropholic and hydrophobic amino acids, as in the egg white. These emulsifiers allow for some ingredients to combine that would not be able to combine on there own like oil and vinegar.

I used egg yolks in the young ginger creme brulee I baked last week. The proper cooking time is essential in custards. Overcooked eggs create curdling and tough custards. Custards are often cooked at low temperatures or in a water bath. This helps slow down the cooking process and lengthens the window of time between being done and becoming overcooked. It also provides a more equal distribution of heat. With a waterbath, where the water is about the same temperature as the custard base, the entire contents of the pan will come up to heat at a steady rate. Without the water bath, the outside of the custard risks being heated at a faster rate than the inside. An oven set at a higher temperature is also likely to bake the outside of the custard faster than the center. Like meat, custards will also continue to bake from carryover cooking after they are removed from the oven. So to create a silky texture in custards, they should be removed from the oven before they are completely set.

Century Egg
1000 year eggs are eggs that have been left in a mixture of paddy, tea leaves, rice straw, lime, clay, saltpetre, and aromatics for a few months. This produces a jelly like black translucent egg white with a rich flavorful egg yolk that is like an aged cheese. I learned a technique for creating tea marbled eggs that look a little like 1000 year eggs from Mu of Mu Du Noodles in Santa Fe. The flavor is different, but it could be an alternative to 1000 year eggs if you are not keen on eating eggs that are a few months old. Hard boil fresh eggs and then tap and roll them lightly on a table to slightly crack the shell, leaving the shell still covering the egg. Soak the egg in a brew of strong black tea, star anise and soy sauce for just under an hour. When you remove the shell it will be beautifully marbled and tasty. We also used to tempura whole hard boiled eggs at Mu Du Noodles.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Tune: Omelette au pastis by Fabulous Trobadors from the On the Linha Imaginot album
See Eggs in action in the video for Omelette au Pastis

Tune: Chicken Talk by Yma Sumac

Tune: The Stolen Chicken by Ebenezer Calender & His Maringar Band. Ebenezer Calender popularized the Palm Wine Music in West Africa and was influenced by Calypso from Trinidad. Palm Wine music has influenced other guitar based West African music like High Life and Soukous.

Tune: Chicken Rhythm is a cut by Soul Cocina favorite Slim Gallard.

Tune: C-H-I-C-K-E-N Spells Chicken by The McGee Brothers. Sam McGee on Guitar and Kirk McGee on Fiddle. They played on the original Grand Ole Opry in 1925 when it was called WSM Barn Dance Their band called The Fruit Jar Drinkers used to close each show because the creators wanted to end the show with "red hot fiddle playin'" As the Fruit Jar Drinkers they played some great food songs like Rabbit in the pea patch and Bake That Chicken Pie Kirk also played with Bill Monroe in the 50's
This song was featured in the record geek soundtrack Ghost World

Tune: Chicken You Can Roast Behind The Moon by Frank Stokes from the Creator of The Memphis Blues CD

Egg poetry: Eggs by Daiela Gioseffi

Tune: Egg Suckin' Dog by Johnny Cash

Tune: A Huevo from a mix CD from Chiapas. Not sure who the artist is.

Friday, August 25, 2006

header pics

Tune: Beatwalla's Afro Latin Mix is not a mix of Latin music with African roots, but rather, the other way around. African music with Latin roots to complete the circle. This mix features the music of African artists from Ivory Coast to Ethiopia. Heavy hitters include Laba Sosseh, Allah Wakbar, Mulatu Astatke, Orchestra Baobab.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Giotto's Circle and Inspirational Vibrations

You can hear vibrations in the air with the naked ear or with the help of the Aeolian Harp. You can listen to the sounds of the ambassador of vibrations, Sun Ra.
Tune: We Travel the Spaceways by Sun Ra from Space Is The Place (Original Soundtrack)
You can hear more of Sun Ra's vibrations over at Dr Aurautheft's hideout on the mix The Saturn Myth-Science Conspiracy that features the intergalactic sounds of Sun Ra & his Arkestra
You will find vibrations in a simmering pot of stock, or in a piece of chocolate. Vibrations make up the world and connect everything. Thoughts, sound, ideas, inspiration .... vibrations.
These two paintings were up at Canvas on 9th Ave and Fulton in SF. I forgot the artist's name. These are the instruments used for playing records and cooking food and creating vibrations through circles. It was very inspiring to see the two paintings side by side and I felt that the photo of the two paintings would be at home here at Soulcocina. The record player and the oven/stove are two of the tools that I use to express myself. South African Hannes Coetzee uses similar tools to express himself. A spoon and a guitar. He works as an aloe tapper when he is not playing this unique style of guitar that he taught himself. Watch the circles and hear the vibrations he creates.
Spoon Slide Guitar

by Hannes Coetzee
Find his music on KAROO KITAAR BLUES
(Thanks to The Singleman Affair for turning our attention to this artist who is right at home here at Soul Cocina)

El Inmagrante by Joel Bergner
The first time I saw one of Joel's murals was on Balmy Alley while he was painting Un Pasado Que Aun Vive. I like the straight forward idea of this mural and the use of colors. This piece is full of vibrations and circles. The warm earth fire tones of the motherland and the cold metalic blues of Babylon.

Babylon Tune: One Step Forward by Max Romeo and The Upsetters from the War Ina Babylon LP

Resident Soul Cocina DJ Beatwalla has been expressing himself with some funky global mixes lately.

Tune: Express Yourself Mix
This is a mix of different versions of Express Yourself by Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd st Rhythm Band. The mix starts off with a reggae interpretation by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires from the Reggay Splashdown LP. This record also has a nice version of George Harison's My Sweet Lord It is cool to hear a Chinese Carribean reggae artist sing praises to Lord Krishna in a song that was origionally written by a famous British rock star.
After the Dragonaires, the mix moves into the origional version, then onto a Brazilian version called Só d'eu ver(de) from a nice little 7" record from Echo Sound System. After Echo sound System we hear Dre, Eazy and crew bust out some rhymes over the origional chopped up beat. Then after NWA we hear Charles Wright and his band do a reprise, called Express Yourself pt II of of their 1971 LP You're So Beutiful, prized for the cut What Can You Bring Me?. Then the mix returns to Echo Sound System for the dubbed out version of Só d'eu ver(de), called I Thought U Really Could

There are a lot of great artists out there in the world that have been expressing themselves in a unique reggae style outside of Jamaica. The German soundsystem Seeed has been at it far a while. Their latest album Next is good but the real Seeed sound shines brightest on New Dubby Conquerors and Music Monks
On their record label Germaican they have produced some tight riddims. And even some JA heavyweights like Sizzla, Tanya Stephens, Anthony B, Junior Kelly, and Capleton (pretty much the best in the game) have sang on this German posse's riddims.
Tune: Electric Boogie Riddim Mix
The Electric Boogie Riddim is tough a Seeed production. This mix features vocals by Kip Rich, Cecil, and Seeed.
My favorite Seed riddims are Pharaoh and Doctor's Darling, which is loosely based on Gregory isaac's Night Nurse

Tune: Doctor's Darling mix starts out with Gregory Isaac's tune Night Nurse then Sizzla rides the mix with Seed's Doctor's Darling Riddim coasting off of the origional G.I. tune, next is Michael Rose with his tune Jah Love. Then we get to hear some German fire as bobo rasta Anthony B joins Seeed on the massive cut Water Pumpee. Next is Junior Kelly with Korruption, then on to some more german vocals by Nosliw before Tanya Stephens busts out her modern classic It's a Pitty
Tune: Doctor's Darling Mix pt II Next Nando Boom drops some early reggaeton on Noche Enfermra where he sings G.I.'s melody in Spanish and chats some origional Panama fire over the beat. From JA to Germany to Central America we move on to Liverpool, England where even the Fab Four sing on the Doctor's Darling Riddim. Eleanor Reggae! Hear Kim Weston's gospel soul version of Eleanor Rigby and a bunch of other Beatle cover songs over at Moistworks. All of these sounds have come from earlier sound insperations, What do artists create? Is all art just a big collage of past ideas? Reinterpretations? A hodgepodge of previous ideas borrowed from influences and experiences. Is a new dish created by a chef just bits and pieces of past dishes combined in a new way, a gastronomic collage? Is a painting just shapes and colors rearranged on a canvas? Can Originality exist without repetition?

San Francisco artist Nick Akerman was the one who first got me wondering about the sources of creativity. Is all art just a collage of the past? We would think about the vibrations of life that inspire originality and strive to present our own interpretations of the feeling of the vibrations in our own way. Simple and clean with skill, like Giotto's circle. Or spontaneous, offbeat, offkiltered and off centered, like the melodies and rythmes of Thelonious Monk and the far out sounds of Sun Ra.The perfect plate design, contrived and thoughtout verses the sauce and berries that fell from the heavens.

Nick and Christene are always crossing borders with there art with the incorporation of food, music, nature, intergalactic imaginary worlds, beauty, love, timelessness, urban jungles, and curiosity to create a unique view on life.

Tune: Pharoah Riddim Mix is another Seeed production on Germaican Records This mix features Tanya Stephens, Seeed, and Sizzla Kalonji Sizzla is CRAZY! Seems like he puts out a new song every day, and most of them are top quality. Kalonji is a cool name. It means nigella seed in Hindi which is a smooth dark black spice that is sometimes called black cumin seed or black onion seed (but it is actually neither of these). Kalonji is one of the five spices found in the bengali spice mix called panch phoran, which I like to use in a turka for dal. Sizzla Kalonji is one of the five artists that ride the Pharoah Riddim on this mix. Kalonji Sativa is also widely used in ayurvada. With a food name, Sizzla Kalonji is right at home here at Soul Cocina.

Another European group influenced by Jamaican music is Dusminguet. They also have a huge Latin American influence and a Middle Eastern feel in their music.
Tune: Mi Arte by Dusminguet from the Postrof cd

Melaaz uses great classic dancehall riddim and samples to complement her wicked flow on this song.
Tune: De Père En Paix

I picked up some nice Spanish Dancehall Lps in Barcelona a few years ago. Some of my favorites were from Daddy Maza
Tune: Rumores 2002 ft.Marcos Funktan from theRumores 2002 album by Daddy maza
Tune: Spanish Bandaloo with daddy Maza alongside the chatting of Jahnkonoo from the Fiebre Amarilla album

Tune: Reggae Fadolin by Massilia Sound System from their appropriately titled cd Parla Patois

There are hundreds of groups from around the globe (to cover in future posts here at the Soul Cocina) that play reggae music in thir own unique style. Many artists and chefs influenced by each other. Learning from each other, drawing circles.

This is how I expressed myself at a recent Soul Cocina meal.

I had planned on crusting the swordfish with epazote, but my favorite little herb stand at the Ferry Plaza farmers market in San Francisco hooked me up with some fresh papalo. Many sources said that it is best served raw and that it tastes like cilantro, but the flavor came through nicely seared onto the fish. It has a unique peppery, buttery flavor and to me resembles watercress or arugala more than cilantro.I served the fish with gazpacho made from heirloom tomatos at the height of their season, along with avacado slices, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil is a cold pressed pungent olive oil that tasted sweet next to the crispy papalo leaves. The garlic chive flower is edible, and has a light, fresh garlic flavor, perfect for this dish. I bought the garlic chive flowers from the same stand at the farmers market.
Some shoppers pick out the best of Knoll Farms 7 dozen cases of figs they brought to the market last week.

I found some champagne grapes at the farmers market too. I served the figs and champagne grapes with honey and wine like the Romans used to do. It made for a decadent Soul Cocina brunch.

There was a stall at the Ferry Plaza farmers Market that was selling "ginger blossoms". I had never seen these before so I had to take some home. I thought this pink "ginger blossom" was the part of the ginger plant where the root meets the stem, but then I found some in Japan town and I learned that it actually comes from a different variety of ginger that has a root that is not edible, but the "bud" that grows out above ground from under the soil before the flower blossoms is a delicacy in China and Japan where it is called miaga and it tastes like floral and spicy like ginger. I used these miaga buds to garnish one of the Indian curries I made with ginger root, tumeric root, and Gobi and later I bought some to pickle along with young ginger in my homemade plum vinegar from Santa Rosa plums. I also used miago to garnish young ginger creme brulee last week.

Local SF pundit, wiseman, and socialite Rana Mukerji (the son of a master of Indian gastronomy) even gave his wink of approval after tasting the gobi with ginger blossom. Or maybe his wink was for the circles and vibrations in the champagne.

Is this art?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Hot or Sweet?

After reading Skillet Doux's seventh chapter of The Great Chicago Beef Off I figured it was time to update my Johnnie's post with a soundtrack.
Even when it is 5 degrees F outside Chicagoans will line up outside the door of Johnny's for an Italian Beef, an Italian Sausage, a Hot Dog, or a Combo (the sandwich for the undecisive Chicagoan that includes both Italian Beef and Italian Sausage. It's the answer to the "Beef or Sausage" question, just like "Christmas" is the answer to the "red or green" question in New Mexico.) Johnny's Beef sandwiches come come with another question, "wet or dry?". Dry is not really dry at all, it is still quite a wet sandwich, it just isn't dipped in beef jus before being wrapped in paper like the wet Beef.
I usually get it wet. In fact, after reading some of the Skillet Doux Beef Off posts, I have been having visions of wet beef sandwiches.
Tune: Wet Vision by U Roy from the b side of the Hat trick 7", also on Trojan Box Set: Tighten Up

The last question about the beef is "hot or sweet?", meaning hot peppers, which is giardinare (vegetables, usually celery, carrots, and cauliflower marinated in oil with hot peppers to take on a hot spicy flavor), or sweet peppers, which is stewed green bell peppers.

Sweet Tune: Sweet Safronia (1938) by Slim and Slam, the duo who sang nonsensical songs that made a lot of sense. Hip cat, Slim Gaillard and bass virtuoso Slam Stewart had a knack for humorously covering a lot of racey topics in their songs. Their style of entertainment reminds me of Dave Chappelle. They celebrated and challenged stereotypes in thier songs (check out Matzoh Balls, African jive, and Chinatown, my Chinatown) and had clever commentary on pop culture and race in America all while grooving to the rhythm. Sweet Safronia is just a fun toon with a great band.

Sweet Tune: Sweet Dreams by De La Soul from the orange 12" vinyl More Supa Sweet Stakes, Baby
Buy De La Soul records and cd's here.

Sweet Tune: Sweet Home Chicago by Robert Johnson
Why does he call Chicago "the land of california"?

Sweet Tune: Sweetest Rocker in Town by The Wailers, aka The Wailing Rudeboys from the 7 Inch Auction Album

Sweet Tune: Sweet by Vybz Kartel on the Egyptian riddim

Hot Tune: Red Hott by Lil' Pocket Knife from Pants Control

Hot Tune: Hot Stuff (Nice and Tuff) by I Roy on the Mafia record label.
Also on Don't Check Me With No Lightweight Stuff LP

I usually go for hot. This is how I make my beef, above.
-note: this is not a traditional beef sandwich, I have added a little bit of the Spaghetti Bowl's famous red sauce and some mozzarella cheese to this sandwich. Also a beef sandwich usually has more beef (I just fineshed a whole pizza before making myself this sandwich) and gets less hot pepper (giardinare), this is a customized beef.
Another reason people line up in the cold Johnny's parking lot is for the charcoal broiled Italian Sausage.Then after a hot or sweet, dry or wet, beef or sausage, Chicagoans cool off (no matter what the weather) with an Italian ice. Johnny's serves a great Lemon Ice.Gina's is an old school Italian ice joint next to the origional Buona Beef.
-notice the barber shop and the Old Style sign next to Ginas, classic Chicago symbols.

Durring prohibition Chicagoans usually looked to the local bootlegger or moonshiner to cool off. This photograph is on the wall at one of the Portillo's restaurants.This Chicago hot dog has been "dragged through the garden". A real Chicago hot dog has a dill pickle spear, mustard, onion, florescent green cucumber relish, tomato slices, hot, cruinchy, little sport peppers, and celery salt. I wonder if they were popular in Al Capones day? Did the moonshiners like their hot dogs, beefs, and pizzas the same way Chicagoans enjoy them today? There may not be many speakeasies left in Chicago, but there are plenty of bars, and Chicagoans love to drink. One origional Chicago speakeasy that is rumored to have once been owned by Chicago Gangsters is still around today. The Green Mill is home to Saturday night Jazz with the Sabortooth Jazz Ensamble until 4AM.The beverage of choice for the members of Hummingbiird, Chicago's most cutting edge musical quartet, formerly known as Jesse Garon and the Pedal Steel Transmission, is beerSome people in Chicago like to drink this stuff. Anybody know what this is?
You can find anything in Chicago. In our last post about Chicago we discussed fried doughs and Chicago bakeries. We arrived in Chitown just in time to get all the St Joseph Day and Fat Tuesday treats!Paczki is another fried dough that is used to celebrate the last day before lent (Fat Tuesday) in Poland and in Chicagoland's Polish community.
Here is a Zeppole from Giardino's on Harlem Ave in ChicagoThey also produce some impressive looking marzipan.They make the best cannolis. Some chocolate coated and even some w/ pistachios.Here is one of our (Pastry Chef Sara Ko and mine) versions of cannoli, filled with homemade ricotta, and coco nibs, on chocolate mousse, w/ pistachio semifreddo and candied orange zest. The dark chocolate sauce spells TDP for Citizen Cakes infamous Tooth Decay Posse.

Hungry for Chicago style pizza and over 1000 miles from the Spaghetti Bowl, we stopped in at Zachery's Chicago Style Pizza in Oakland last night. After waiting for a table for 30 minutes, we ordered the spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza with sausage on half. I never realy understood the philosophy behind the stuffed 'za. It is just a deep dish pie with a useless, non functional, gummy layer of dough between the cheese and filling with the sauce on top. I have tried and have baked a few stuffed pies where the cheese and filling is topped with a thin layer of dough and baked until golden then topped with a chunky sauce and finished in the oven untill the sauce boils (and continues to boil for almost ten minutes longer as it sits on the table) This kind of pizza is great. But filling the pie and covering it with raw dough, then topping with sauce seems pointless. The dough gets lost in the pie and it just seems like doughy cheese. I was excited to see pieces of sausage in the filling in ununiformly, odd shapes, like the pizzaiolo just picked the raw homemade sausage from a tub and added it to the filling to bake along with the pizza, Chitown style, not precooked sausage in casing. But where was the fennel seed? The sausage lacked the Chicago kick. Also the sauce was too chunky. Chicago style deep dish is topped with chunky sauce, but the sauce is cooked down a while before it is baked on the pie. It should be a homogeneous sauce with a few chunky pieces, not tomato water with half pieces of tomatoes. This sauce seemed like it went straight from the can to the pizza. Some Chitown pies have cornflour in the dough, some are buttery, they are all tastey (if they want to survive). Zachery's dough was none of these. It was kind of bland. It had a great texture, the right amount of salt, but it lacked pizazz. The thin crust pizzas are not chicago style. They are cut in triangles and it was not thin. They looked great and everyone in the joint wore a great pleasurable smile, but are not Chicago style. The stuffed pie was actually very good, but it wasn't comparable to Chicago style. In San Francisco, I prefer Little Star deep dish (who doesn't claim to be Chicago style, just good pie), Arinelle's NY style thin crust, Pauline's Pizza (they grow their own vegetables and make great salads and homemeade ice creams), or even Marcello's across from the Castro Theatre. When we went to Picco in Larkspur in Marin across the Golden Gate Bridge we sat at the counter right next to the wood burning pizza oven. The pizzaolo was not from Napoli, but a young Latino chef, but he had crazy pizza skills. We watched him stretch the pizza dough and place it in the oven while he tended the flames. Our pie only took a few minutes to bake a golden crust on the bottom, and then the pizzaiolo piked up the 'za with the peel and held it on an angle next to the open flames to blister and char the top in a few spots. Beautiful! it was a very stunning pie, asthetically and the flavor was great. They pull there own mozzarella daily, but you don't get much of it on the pizza. They go very light on the sauce and too. I also hear that the pies at Picco can be a little inconsistant. The crust was good but a little too chewy. It was by no means soggy, but it was a bit of a strain on the jaw to eat. It seems like the dough may have been worked too long in the mixing stage. Pizza dough, for me is best when crispy like a cracker, not chewy like good bread. Call me a whako, but I like to use all-purpose flour and knead the dough for only 2 minutes by hand. Many chefs use bread flour and knead the pizza dough in a machine for ten minutes. It's a different slice of pie like that. Good, but different. Anyhow, the real reason to visit Picco is for the soft serve ice cream. Scharffen Berger chocolate or vanilla made with organic dairy and served with extra virgen olive oil and sea salt or served with local, organic fruit compote. The salads were great too. Pizetta 211 bakes excellent pizza with the highest quality local, often organic ingredients, truely wonderful, and they have a fun web site. A16 serves pretty good pizza if you can put up with the crowd. Berkeley's Cheese Board Collective serves only one kind of pizza a day that is always scrumptous, especially if the little jazz trio is there to help the pizzas bake with the sound of heartfelt standards. But once again the best pizza is always homemade. Check out what Bay Area Bites has to say about Bay Area pizza.