my daily bread: no work, no knead, no end to the compliments.

Bread! I’m so enjoying the no-knead, three years after I finally gave myself over to it, that I feel the need to repost the recipe with updated guidelines on how I’m making it these days.

Here’s the first thing to know about this bread. People talk about it being “five minutes of work.” That is complete crap. I just timed myself making it:

Three minutes flat.

So let’s not kid ourselves here.

I bought the book inspired by the recipe, My Bread (man, so possessive! I guess the dude got tired of everyone making it themselves and yelling from the rooftops “This is MY BREAD!!” like I do) by Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery. It was a quick, nice read, but nothing in it was as revolutionary as the basic, stellar recipe, the one so many of us know by heart now (when asked about the great crust on the loaf I brought over to my father-out-law, I repeated the entire recipe off the top of my head.).

Here’s how I’ve been doing it lately, and here’s the original NYT recipe, which also has an accompanying video.

It’s amazing that so many words seem to be necessary to describe so little work, but here we go:

Oh: Feel free to add in nuts, seeds, chopped olives, dried cherries and chocolate chips, etc. I’ve made a stellar chocolate-cherry bread, olive bread, rye bread—the sky is the limit, my friends. These days I exclusively weigh the ingredients (in grams), and I think it’s made a huge difference. A reliable electronic kitchen scale is cheap, and will make your bread better, trust me. I also usually replace a few tablespoons of water with good bubbly sourdough starter. It gives the bread a more complex flavor. If you’re weighing the water, remember that sourdough usually weighs more than water so you might need to add a little water back in.

Also: if the best pot for your bread (taller pots are better than wider ones, for nice fluffy bread) has a plastic handle, you can usually just unscrew it. And if your pot has a glass lid, do as I do in my little Hawaii vacation kitchenette and just use a sheet pan for a lid instead.

No-Knead Bread


Makes one 1 ½ lb loaf

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (sometimes labeled “high gluten flour”), plus more for dusting (430 grams)
¼ teaspoon instant or active dry yeast (it doesn’t matter what kind of yeast you use) (1 gram)
2 ½ teaspoons sea salt—if you have very coarse sea salt, grind it up a bit.
cornmeal or wheat bran as needed, optional—I almost always just use more flour.

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups (345 grams) tepid water (err on the side of cold, for a slower rise and better flavor)—just enough to make the dough slightly too wet to handle) and stir until blended; dough will be sticky and shaggy. (At this point flavorings such as caraway seeds, chopped olives, onions, walnuts, raisins, etc can be added.) Cover bowl with plastic wrap (I use an unused shower cap). Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, (as much as 20-22 is OK) at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice (realistically, this shaggy mass will not do anything like folding over on itself. Just do your best, it’ll be fine). Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to itself or your fingers (it will still stick), gently and quickly shape dough into a ball (or something loosely resembling one). Dust the bowl with flour and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Let rise for about 1-3 hours, depending on outside temperature (if it’s cold outside, it will take longer to rise). When it is ready, the dough will be about double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. (The dough will not really look like a ball, just a mass. This is OK.)
  4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees (up to 500 is OK for faster browning, but be careful). Put a 3-5 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats.
  5. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Carefully turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15-30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Adapted 12/2007 from the NYT November 8, 2006, which was adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery.

variations – replace some of the all-purpose or bread flour with no more than:

30% whole wheat flour OR
50% white whole wheat flour OR
20% rye flour (1/2 c rye flour and 1 1/2 Tb. of caraway seeds is great)

previousnesses: the best of the past.

Heya pals!

Here are a few links to recipes, food essays, rants, ideas, and inspiration from my old meal delivery site, as well as my personal blog. Enjoy!

Great essays, food talk, and pretty photos:

And a few recipes:

And finally, really pretty photos of cupcakes.

101 fast and quick–also good!–meals!

I wrote this a few years ago, inspired by an article in the New York Times with the same gimmick. This list had been hanging out on my old lagustasluscious.com site and the formatting was pretty bad, so here it is, all spiffed up. I’m looking forward to referring to it as I make meals for my sweetheart and me now that I’m freed from the shackles of the meal delivery service. My mom uses this list as a little mini-cookbook—I hope you like it too!

(Update: here’s what my mom had to say about it, via Facebook: I just printed it out and yes, the formatting is much better than the early version. For others who may be similarly inclined: I’ve made many of these meals & they are all delicious. The first page alone will get you through 2 weeks of great simple vegan meals (you just have to remember to take it to the grocery store so you can buy everything). #3 — addictive! #10 — easiest ever. etc. etc.) The mom seal of approval! (What etc. etc. means I am not sure. Maybe they are all “easiest ever.”?)

101 simple, tasty meals ready in about 10-25 minutes

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Açaí to Yuzu: my fruit life list

As we speak, my little vacation refrigerator is stocked with a fresh coconut, three mangosteens, eight star fruit (10 for $1 at the farmer’s market!), 10 tangerines, three meyer lemons, two limes, a few papayas and avocados, and weird unknowable plum/cherry/lychee things that I couldn’t finagle a name for from the seller at the Kapa’a farmer’s market except “plum. Don’t eat the skin.” They taste far from any plum I’ve ever had–they have lychee-like seeds and Concord grape-like sour skins. Someone else called them cherries. Who knows. Who cares. I’m just trying to eat them before they start to ferment. (But if they do, no worries. Fruit vinegar!)

photo

When it comes right down to it, all I really care about is fruit.

So let’s get serious about this. Let’s channel our inner David Karp. I’ve copied a list of edible culinary fruits from Wikipedia, and I’m going to start keeping track of, and making notes on, my fruit consumption. Here’s what I’ve got so far. Latin names are listed when possible and easy. All links are to other blog posts of mine with photos of or love poems to said fruits. I’m probably wrong about a few—beach plums, do I remember them from a book, or from actually eating them? Cloudberries I’ve only had in jam, but that counts, right? Sure.

My favorite fruit? Thanks for asking! It’s a two-way tie: mangosteen, the queen, represents the fruit I most love to eat (watermelon being a very close second), but my heart goes out to another, darker, fermented tropical fruit—one I don’t love to eat per se, but that nonetheless fuels my dreams. Number #22, baby, you’re my soulmate.

FRUIT LIFE LIST

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An interview with Sandor Katz, circa 2007: Sandor Ellix Katz and The Big Food Battleground

In 2007 I did an interview with the ever-amazing Sandor Katz, whose book Wild Fermentation inspired me to make my own pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, shoyu, tempeh, and much more. It was supposed to run in Clamor magazine, but it closed its doors just before the issue with the interview went to press. In celebration of the New Yorker article recently published about him, I thought I’d post it here. (Hey, Grist did the same thing!)

Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements more than exceeds its tagline as “an instant classic for a new generation of monkey-wrenching food activists.” Covering all areas of the under-the-radar food world, from urban guerilla farmers to radical seed savers and foragers of all stripes (mushroom hunters, weed-eaters, dumpster-divers) Katz – whose previous book, Wild Fermentation, is a strangely readable and fascinating guide to the pleasures of fermented and live-culture foods – makes the case that we can solve the problems of our corporatized and corrupted food system with creativity, community, and good taste.

(One note first: I loved the book, but I skipped the chapters about “food” that I don’t consider food—milk and meat. I don’t agree with Sandy’s views on these topics, but he’s such a wonderful sweetie-pie and I have so much to learn from him that I’m able to move beyond what we don’t see eye to eye on—and for a non-vegan, he’s extremely vegan friendly, always ready to tell a story about an amazing vegan yogurt he learned about at a Slow Food conference, or a fermented barley dish he heard about. He’s respectful, and thus so am I.)

I recently discussed the food sustainability movement with Sandor Katz.

Lagusta Yearwood: What is your sense of how “everyday people” – not people in the “foodie” world, not food activists, vegans, chefs, etc. – are thinking about food lately? As a society, are we beginning to have more of an understanding of food sustainability issues?

Sandor Katz: Many people in the mainstream are very concerned about food quality, from trans fats to artificial growth hormones to pesticides. That’s why we’re seeing all the policies banning junk food from schools, and that’s why Wal-Mart is expanding its offering of organic products. Neither of these examples really touches on sustainability, though. Centralized systems—whether government policies or corporate policies—won’t create sustainability. Centralized powers are invested in the model of commodity monoculture agriculture and globalized trade, which are antithetical to sustainability. Movements toward sustainability are happening everywhere—in forms such as community gardens, farmers’ markets, community-supported farms, and groups recycling discarded food resources—but they are still in the margins, not in the mainstream.

LY: Do you think that there are an increasing number of the movements that you describe, or are they slowly dying out?

SK: I think grassroots movements for food sustainability are definitely growing. The numbers of community-supported farms and of farmers’ markets are rising fast. So are the numbers of schools, universities, and other institutions committing themselves to procuring foods locally. The raw milk underground is the most widespread form of civil disobedience in the U.S. today. Many people are being politicized as a result of their desire to feed their families healthy food.

LY: There is a lot of talk about how Americans are becoming more and more polarized and there is less conversation between different segments of society. Your book documents slivers of society that are very much on the fringe working in these “underground food movements,” yet the people you write about have so much to teach the wider population. I wonder if you think they are somehow pushing above ground and influencing how mainstream Americans think about food? Are we having a revival of caring about what we put in our mouths, or is it just the isolated pockets that you discuss in your book?

SK: Although these movements involve only a small minority of people, and exist on the fringes of society, I don’t think they are isolated pockets at all. For instance, the raw milk underground is populated by many totally mainstream people. These are people who have been compelled to circumvent the law out of concern for their health, or more often, their children’s health. Community gardens in many cities are tended by average working people, often immigrants, trying to raise some food for themselves and retain a connection to the land. Food activists come from every demographic category and are not a single isolated subculture. At the same time, many of the activist food movements have a narrow focus. We need to broaden this focus and build solidarity among the diverse range of movements that can be described as food activists.

LY: Do you have any ideas on how to bring this dialogue to the wider population?

SK: We need to keep on reviving local food systems and making them accessible. Food activists need to keep doing the work they are doing creating alternatives, while also broadening their agendas and their appeal. Everyone cares about food, and everyone hates to be judged. We can’t broaden the movement by shaming people for their food choices. We have to entice people by demonstrating how much more delicious, and how much healthier, locally-produced foods are.

LY: It seems that many of the stories you tell share a theme: how we can wrest control of our lives back from corporations. Corporations control and mediate almost all aspects of our lives, especially food, and, as you point out, organic food is no exception. The stories of the anarchist farmers, seed savers, “fermentation fetishists,” raw foodists, scavengers, and foragers in the book are stories of triumphs of creativity, local thinking, and the “small is beautiful” principle over the ease of buying our food at Wal-Mart. Can you talk about some very simple ways we can begin to get corporations out of our food?

SK: The first thing we can do to get the corporations out of our food is to start buying food directly from farmers. In the U.S., out of every dollar spent on food farmers receive about 19 cents. We can support farmers and stop supporting big corporations by buying food directly from local producers. We can also break out of the confining, infantilizing role of consumer and become food producers. Food activism isn’t primarily about protesting or boycotting; it’s about reviving local production and creating better food choices.

LY: Related to that, how can we expand this pocket of food consciousness that you describe without commercializing it and having it be co-opted by large companies, like the word “organic” has been corrupted?

SK: In the realm of food, we have to embrace an ethic of direct exchange, where people have relationships with the farmers who grow their food and the process of its production. This notion of local food production and exchange challenges and subverts capitalism’s tendency to market concentration and economies of scale. In computers or cars, those forces may arguably lead to greater efficiency. In food it’s leading us to ever-diminishing nutritional quality and resulting in disease epidemics and community economic disintegration. Every community needs a direct connection to farming and food production. It is the only true creation of wealth, and no community is secure without some direct connection to it.

LY: I enjoyed your critique of the Slow Food movement because of its upper-crust aspect and focus on “highbrow consumerism,” yet I also share your viewpoint that they are doing wonderful things to promote biodiversity and stimulate interest in “endangered” foods. I like Slow Food because it focused on pleasure – the idea that one of the main reasons we need to eat what is local and fresh is because it just tastes better. What do you think of the idea of a food revolution through the pleasures of the table?

SK: I absolutely agree. Food is largely about pleasure and gratification. Changes in people’s food behaviors are primarily motivated by the pursuit of pleasure. As I said earlier, shaming people about their food choices is not an effective strategy for change. We need to entice people with appealing alternatives. When Gary Paul Nabhan organized a 12-day, 220-mile native foods walk in the Sonoran desert, he and the other participants discovered that they had dramatically more energy from eating native foods rather than standard processed supermarket fare. Behavioral change comes about from positive reinforcement. Fresh food, and real food, tastes better than the products that fill supermarket shelves, and it makes you feel better.

LY: What are your predictions for how we will be thinking about food in the next ten years?

SK: I think in the coming decade we will be seeing devastating rises in cancer rates and other disease epidemics related to the poor quality of our food. I hope that more and more people will make the connections between these crises and food quality, and start seeking out and demanding real food unadulterated by genetic modification, artificial hormones, and chemicals. This means rejecting monoculture food systems driven by corporate profits and embracing small-scale local agriculture. Human beings, like all animals, are inherently capable of feeding ourselves. We do not need to be dependent on this profit-driven globalized food machine. We can liberate ourselves and take back our food, and we will.

big news

Hello, internet foodie pals.

Some big news for you today. Here’s the note I wrote to my clients about it, then let’s talk about what it means for this little blog, OK?

I write to you today with some big news. After nine years of running the meal delivery service, I’ve made the sad decision to shut the business down in 2011. I’ve so enjoyed the cooking for you all these years, but these days running two businesses is getting to be just too much, and something has to give. So, I’ll be focusing on chocolates full time starting in January.

I feel sorry to stop cooking for such amazing clients–you’re all so incredibly wonderful, it’s been an honor making healthy food for you and your families. Some of you have been eating my inventions (and occasional flops) for 6+ years, and that kind of loyalty–the fact that I’ve never put in one ad for the meal delivery and that over 60% of my business came from word-of-mouth advertising—is so heartening. However, it’s time to focus on new challenges.

So there we are. It’s all very exciting—sad, exhilarating, and liberating, all at once. The meal delivery service was my baby for so many years—I started it with negative capital (lots of debt, in fact) and it not only taught me to cook (I went to cooking school, but in truth I’m much better at teaching myself, so the first three or so years were serious on-the-job training—I still blush to think about some of the wrecks I sent off every week. At one point I had so few containers that when I ran out one time I gave a client an entree in a reused plastic take out dessert container shaped for a pie slice.), it gave me financial stability, confidence, endless challenges, discipline, hundreds of 12-15-hour work days, and, if I do say so myself, an astonishing amount of business acumen for a former English and Women’s Studies major who at one point couldn’t tell you the difference between gross and net income to save her life.

I also had the honor of meeting some incredibly wonderful, and, sometimes, wonderfully bizarre clients. I haven’t done the deliveries myself for about five years, but in the early years when I’d stay up all night cooking then make my shaky way into NYC for those hellish 20 deliveries* I got to know most of my clients. Most of them were true sweethearts (and in truth I kicked them off the schedule if they were not a good fit for the service–I almost always had a waiting list for the meals. It was just as important for me to enjoy cooking for someone as it was for them to enjoy my cooking.), but there were a fair amount of straight-up nuts mixed in too—the woman who had only nail polish in her refrigerator, the guy who told me he never refrigerated the meals (!!!!), the longtime client who was perennially two weeks behind with the meals (no preservatives! I shudder to think!). The supermodel, the political wonk with his own show on CNN, the actress, the famous painter, the hundreds of strivers and stressed professionals.

Oh, and all the trends: first the Atkins, then the wheat-free, then the gluten-free, and the Macro peeps, and the raw freaks, the beet haters, Brussels sprouts avoiders, and the fat phobic. I’ve really developed my e-mail diplomacy skills over these years, and I’ve turned almost all the beet and Brussels haters into devout fans.

I have dinner party stories for the rest of my life, that’s for sure. But what I loved the most were my core crew—those clients who truly understood and appreciated the quirky way I cook. It’s not for everyone, but it was for them, and for that I’m profoundly grateful.

This weird little made-up job carried me through my twenties, and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without it. After a nervous breakdown engendered by witnessing the events of September 11, 2001 at way too close range, I followed my sweetheart on tour in Europe (he tours with indie rock bands as a sound engineer and tour manager) and thought about what I wanted from my fragile little life. I wanted to follow my own rules, be my own boss, and make people happy with my cooking. When I got home I designed a flier and a website, and started with four clients. With no capital, even less business sense, and, to be honest, very little cooking skills, things went slowly. But in time I was able to quit my part-time job working at my old cooking school, and the glorious freedom of working for myself has never diminished. I became a much better cook, too!

Anyway, enough sappy rambling.

This change doesn’t mean I’ll be going away from this blog–far from it. Though I won’t have weekly menu photos, I will be be doing lots and lots of chocolate testing which I will be sharing, and, after nine years of cooking in quantity, I’m really excited to cook for my my sweetheart and myself every night (and since 2011 is going to be a big touring year for him I’ll probably be eating alone a lot too)–I’m planning on posting all about the little excitements of cooking for two (or one) after so many years of cooking for 20. We rarely ate anything except what I cooked for my clients, so this is a whole new world for me. If anything I’m sure I’ll be posting here more, since it will feel less like work and more like foodie fun.

(Also, I still have a lot of meal delivery photo posting to catch up on in the next few weeks!)

Yours,

Lagusta

*Driving through Times Square on no sleep? Not the best idea in the world. The BQE? Downright suicidal. I used to take naps on the Thruway rest stops on the way home–one time I woke up to find a grizzled old trucker staring at me drooling from about one foot away. “Howdy,” he said, politely. That’s when I decided I needed a delivery person (actually—I think I decided that the day I got **three** parking tickets in a row, one for pulling over to ask a cop a question which I prefaced with “Can I stop here to ask you something really quick? I know it’s a bus stop but I am so incredibly lost.” She very kindly gave me directions to get me out of the tangle of Queens I was in, then casually wrote me a ticket. “You can’t park in a bus lane, honey, what were you thinking?” I wasn’t parked, I was stopped for 30 seconds!), and I’ve been blessed with amazing ones ever since. Except for the one very easy-going and perhaps overly relaxed pal of mine, who returned from his first day with shaky hands and that look in his eyes of one who has never truly looked Manhattan traffic in the eye before. “I…might have….underestimated how…ah…stressful that was going to be.” He said. You and me both, honey. I learned after that to only hire women delivery people, and they’ve never failed me.

the last week of the year

Hello everyone!

It’s the last cooking week of the year! I’m just going to toss up the menu then tell you that I have roughly 1,000,000,000 foodie photos to catch you up on, so keep checking this space in the weeks ahead, after the December chocolate madness calms down a bit. Oh, speaking of chocolate, here’s a glimpse into the LL kitchen and the madness of my own mind: a video of me pulling sugar! Good times.

Making pumpkin seed oil truffles!

On to the savories!

  • Broiled tofu pockets stuffed with greens and marinated with pumpkin seed oil, garlic, ginger, and cilantro: how can I explain this meal if you’ve never had it? It sounds so weird. I make it for the meal delivery four times a year, each season, and people can’t get enough of it. Tofu + greens  + deep dark roasted pumpkin seed oil + mountains of garlic and ginger + cilantro + shoyu??? So weird! But one of my clients once summed it up perfectly: “I can’t explain why I like that meal so much…it feels like home to me, even though my family has never cooked with any of those flavors.” Yes, that’s exactly it. It’s weirdly homey. All I know is that I don’t really like tofu yet I could eat this meal pretty much every day of my life.
  • Rice noodles in pumpkin seed-oil sauce: the pumpkin seed oil sauce is so addictive, we make it work twice this week. You will not get tired of it, promise.
  • Herbed artisanal calzones with pesto: homemade calzones! A use for the pizza oven in the kitchen which mostly just sits there, all black and huge and powerful, eavesdropping on all our conversations. These freeze well, if you want to hoard a little LL for the coming month.
  • Red pepper tofu salad with caramelized onions, garlic chives, and roasted garlic
  • Middle eastern lentils and rice with caramelized onions and 2 kinds of paprika: mujaddara! The middle eastern classic and another super homey food, packed with sweet, deeply caramelized onions and lots of beautiful paprika: homegrown local organic paprika (made from paprika peppers from Ray Bradley over at Bradley Farm), sweet smoked paprika, and a bit of spicy smoked paprika too.
  • Brussels sprouts and beets braised with dijon mustard and walnuts: why is this dish so good? It’s one of those things you can’t stop eating. Brussels sprouts with beets and walnuts and mustard and miles and miles of winter yum.
  • Soup: Spicy peanut soup with mustard greens
  • Salad dressing: Raspberry-rosewater vinaigrette: with homemade raspberry vinaigrette!