Instant Pot vs Breville Multi-Cooker vs my bank account

Since we still live a kitchenless existence I am always looking for ways to “cook up” without having to use the induction hot plate and filling the apartment with lingering food smell = something I despise. I have 2 slow cookers, a Breville toaster oven, an Anova immersion heater for sous vide, a rice cooker, the aforementioned induction hot plate and an electric kettle. So when Louis Anderman started going on about the Breville Multi-Cooker I was all ears. He had turned me on to the Anova – I used to sous vide in a rustic hodgepodge way (that yielded excellent results.) Louis also has the vacuum chamber sealer thing which makes me jealous AF. But I also have limited counter space so another gadget had better be really good.

The thing about the slow cooker is that browning is difficult to achieve. I’ve preheated the crock and been able to brown onions and such but it’s vaguely irritating. So I order the Breville from Sur la Table at the whopping cost of $280. It is also ENORMOUS so it sat unopened for about a month while I tried to justify its addition to the pantheon. At some point $280 back in the bank seemed the better part of valor so I took it back.

Fast forward to September. We’ve been doing an Indian Veg sort of diet and I am making dals and other bean dishes daily. All of the blogs for Indian cuisine have pressure instructions and I soon came to understand that cooking Indian daily makes a pressure cooker essential. I felt stupid about the Breville for about 15 minutes and then I discovered the Instant Pot.

To reel it back for a moment – I have always been deathly afraid of pressure cookers. My mom had a stovetop one with the whistle and the little bell and I can remember the drama around using it to make the occasional Osso Buco. It was sort of like having an unexploded landmine laying around. Tales of hideous steam burns and general fear of mutilation accompanied the mere concept of pressure cooking. Assuming that they are way safer than in the ‘70s and now come in electric, after the requisite internet research I went for the Instant Pot which I ordered from Amazon for a mere $89 with free shipping. $179 less than the Breville.

I LOVE this thing. It cooks potatoes to a silkiness for aloo gobi I have rarely experienced even in a restaurant. I’ve made dal makini, mixed lentils and chana dal – lightning fast. And now that I get the functions I’ve gone off book and finessed the manual settings. I did potatoes for 6, released pressure and added cauliflower and sautéed both in ghee then added a little water and pressure cooked it 3 minutes more.  It worked perfectly. I’ve sautéed at high heat. I even made rasmalai using the Pot to make the syrup and poach the dumplings.

Today I thought that a white bean with bacon soup sounded good (Indian Veg be damned.) I wanted to test the Pot in the field so I considered starting the whole thing from dry but opted to soak the beans for most of the day. Then once we got home I bet Frank that I could make the soup by the time he got out of the shower. So:

1lb Great Northern beans soaked

1 large can of chopped tomatoes

1 onion chopped

Couple cloves of garlic

Chipotle pepper flakes (nice and smokey)

Bay leaf, celery salt, sea salt

1/2lb smokey bacon – diced

Put it all in the Pot. Add water to the top of the veg. Set pressure high for 25 minutes.

Since I was racing Frank I only let it sit for 10 minutes to get things simmered down and then I did a quick release. It was a very nice looking soup – a little thin perhaps but the beans were perfect, the bacon unctuous, the seasoning sufficient. I think that long-cooked soups are more complex taste-wise. But for a hearty soup in 45 minutes (he likes long showers) it can’t be beaten. Next time I think I’ll smoosh the beans some and reduce it a bit.

UPDATE 10/20: Today the soup has thickened up nicely and tastes as good as versions I’ve made in the slow cooker. And it tastes very much like the Campbell’s bean with bacon soup I had as a kid. Next up – Progresso lentil soup.

time to get empowered

almost a year passed since the last post (again.) an it-was-a-hell-of-a-year posting is probably in order but i’ll wait until 1/1/2017 for that.

right now i am saying: i’m really back this time.

no more waiting – i’m all about the doing. maybe there will be some waiting – but not for other people. if i have to wait it’s because i am responsible for fruition – even if it’s about yeasts. there might be anticipation but waiting for the greenlight is about waiting for the moment of takeoff. time to get empowered.

red light… greenlight 1-2-3

  

 
was 2015 the three amber countdown? I think it was. 

this isn’t about resolutions this is just what I am going to do:

  • be much less cynical
  • have more fun*
  • slow my thoughts
  • have more faith in myself
  • write paper thank you notes
  • listen and don’t interrupt
  • become expert in 2 more things**
  • don’t be afraid to stay in touch with people
  • let that freak flag fly again
  • believe it’s amber and gonna go green and be ready

*this is really too general but I think it connects to believing that I can enjoy life and still be effective. that suffering doesn’t imply increased focus and therefore success. what’s the point if it sucks getting there? I’ll be sapped and bitter and hideous. nope. keep it light kid.

**this means drilling down on the specifics: GT cars btw 1963-1974, vehicle sales and marketing; recipe development….

  • blog it

 

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5 months later…

wow.  as i updated frank’s blog today,  he asked, “what about yours?”

right. i have a blog. who knows if i have any regular readers (besides engines hawking replica prada purses – btw REALLY? c’mon – prada hasn’t made a bag i’ve been interested in for years, fake or not.) but if there are – hi. i’m back.

so much to catch up on. sold the house – check. packed the stuff, stored the stuff. moved into a hotel – check. house sold in a week (what with silverlake being the hippest neighborhood in the USA and all) so we had nowhere to live.

bought a factory downtown – check. moved AGAIN – oy. check. and here we are: downtown. not sure what i’ll do when forbes dubs downtown LA the hippest neighborhood in the USA – we’re smack up against the river and East LA has already been through the hipness grinder – but we’ll cross that bridge etc etc. i’m v happy for the poor schmuck who bought the house. he’s already cut down the guava tree and painted the garage door graffiti bomb  a tasteful … greige. go crazy with your bad-ass  hipster self – i live in a factory downtown. Surrounded by some pretty good street art.

the primary feature of the factory (besides needing a MAJOR renovation on every level) is ahem… the lack of a kitchen. i shit you not. the cooking facilities have been entirely of our own ingenuity.

what does it take to prepare a meal:

  • a way to make heat
  • a way to keep things cold
  • some sort of horizontal surface
  • a dry place to keep stuff.
  • water

with a december solstice gift request of a crock pot it was decided that we needed to eat more soup. and for the month at the hotel we feasted on vegetable soups, bean soups and most deliciously: “french” onion soup.

crockpots are simplicity in action. i have yet to want to cook anything that cannot be prepared in a crockpot. i’m convinced i could make cornbread in a slow cooker. i’m going to try it one of these days.

since i don’t want us to get too comfy in these squalid living conditions, i refuse to set up anything more elaborate than a “pantry” shelf, a chopping block, the electric kettle, a microwave (the crappest microwave ever. more on that soon) a mini fridge and the crockpot.

UPDATE: i have since obtained an induction hotplate. this is my new favorite kitchen thing, not only in that it makes heat (see above) but it is also a 12″x12″x2″ obsidian square. i no longer want the Wolf. I’m thinking – keep 4-6 induction hotplates in a drawer. Whatcha cookin’? how many pots? you pull out the units you need and cook. then wipe them off and….you have your Poggenpohl wet dream fantasy kitchen porn.

 

I am not certain this sort of minimalist kitchen will work for me. Okay I am sure. It won’t. All of the downtown factory loft  coolness of it all can’t pull the messy cook out of me. And the above is not a kitchen for actual cooking. It is a place to set out Champagne and canapés. Maybe toss a salad (or get your salad tossed – a good kitchen for sex. Lots of flat surfaces and nothing to knock over.) But it isn’t alive. Food would run screaming for its mother (me) pleading to jump into battered Le Creuset dutch ovens and get braising.

[Full disclosure: I do tend to DRESS pretty minimalist. I’ve been trying for color for years but have only gotten as far as the occasional midnight blue.]

 

rick owens

 

I’m pretty minimal when it comes to cars too. My new fetish – a 1973 Lamborghini Espada. We saw one at an auction yesterday. Dios. I want  one.

espada

 

The induction hotplate can throw some BTUs – this is not your dorm room hotplate. It is a Duxtop 1800-watt Portable Sensor Touch Induction Cooktop Burner. Excuse we.

DUXTOP

Portable cooktop, crock pot, microwave. It’s like Lars Van Triers THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS. Through restriction comes creativity. So this next phase is about adapting. And compromise. We’ll be fine. And in a few months we’ll be renovation-bound and have to eat tacos on the corner for every meal. Done it before, we can do it again.

We are eating well. barley risotto w/short ribs (crockpot) was a hit. Made Marcella’s bolognese in the MICROWAVE today. (She must be spinning in her grave. but it’s working so far.) Oh and I’m planning to get out of the &^%$%( business and detail classic cars for a living. Please stand by….

bye bye guavas… bye bye.

the guava tree went gangbusters this year so yesterday i went berserk and picked 17 pounds because… i’m selling the house.

yup. it’s time for reinvention once again.

away with the old and in with the new… and unknown. all i know is that the guava tree has given me at least two good preserve-making seasons in seven years. this time around i did habanero/guava jelly in addition to jam. i had to whip out mcgee and see what the deal is with pectin because i have never made jelly – i mostly stick to the fruit butters and conserves.

pectin and sugar seem to be best friends but there is something sort of appalling about adding 7 cups of sugar to ANYTHING. so i got ingenious. mcgee maintains that at 65% solution the pectin/sugar/acid matrix should gel. so i decided to add less sugar but cook it down longer – which is actually the same thing as adding a ton of sugar but it takes longer and adds (seems to me) a richer more caramelized taste to the whole proceeding.

the habanero idea came from the concept of mint jelly for some reason. i chopped three habanero chilies finely  and added the zest/peel of a couple of meyer lemons and let that  cook down until the guava juice (extracted the night before by adding water to the 17 pounds of fruit and cooking it.) the resultant juice was ruby colored and spicy. i strained it several times through a flour sack towel (i have always wondered what a jelly bag was for. now i know) and cooked it some more. mcgee says that once the solution reaches a temperature above 212 (217 and up) the sugar content is about 65%. i got it up to 217, added lemon juice and the liquid pectin.

i infused the guava puree with garam masala spices, star anise and allspice. i decided to just go pectin-mad and added some to the jam which i usually do not do.

now the jars are sitting there waiting to gel. i’m not going to freak out about whether or not they will gel for a week or so (freak out MORE than i am already what with the whole finding-selling-moving of it all.) I’ve also put up a gallon of guava mead and i’m soaking some fresh olives (which i have never seen in bulk) i found at super king. terribly exciting – went back – no mas. some armenian meemaw scored them all. olives are definitely on deck for experimentation wherever i land. if i have a kitchen of any size. here for the record is the kitchen i designed and built (i’m not exaggerating) with my own two hands:

 

sigh. okay i'm done. onwards!

 

and here’s the last project from said kitchen:

 

 

lunga di napoli

this is the offspring of the insane squash plant that is taking over the garden. a nice little winter squash you say?

italian pumpkins are similar to butternut squash and are good for making pumpkin fillings for pasta and gnocchi. i’m not a big pasta maker what with the wheatless-ness and all we eat corn pasta (like many italians apparently. the incidence of celiac in italy is one of the highest in the world. which should tell us something about the influence of wheat….)

even though it has been 95 degrees in los angeles, frank and i have been hankering for bolognese. so i made some.  the last batch of corn pasta i ordered from italy (la veneziane) but yesterday i found corn penne at trader joe’s so we’ll try that.

bolognese sauce

marcella hazan is the strictest cook i have ever encountered. that said, i am certain there are as many bolognese sauces as there are italians. i understand that emelia-romagna tried to codify the recipe some time ago AOC-style  but while sticking to the basic tenets i see space for some improv.  my brittle copy of THE CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKBOOK is usually my fallback when i want to do something by the numbers but in this case i have melded marcella with a recipe i once found in SAVEUR  years ago in which mario batali and a posse of foodies ate their way through italy (bliss.) his recipe was for spinach lasagna. i made it once and it was stellar.

1/2 butter 1/2 olive oil

one medium onion – finely chopped

2 carrots –  finely chopped

1 stalk of celery –  finely chopped

pancetta and/or ground pork

veal “stew meat” – minced (not too small)

whole milk

white wine

whole or crushed tomatoes

tomato paste

salt/pepper

dash of cayenne

whole nutmeg

saute the vegetables in butter and olive oil. season with salt and pepper and and a dash of cayenne which to me nicely offsets the sweetness of the sauce. add the pancetta and/or pork and the veal. when the meat begins to cook (but don’t let it brown) add a cup of milk or so. cook  this down until it has mostly evaporated. add a cup of wine or so and do the same. grate and add nutmeg (i like quite a bit so i use about one and a half nutmegs.) add tomatoes (with juice) and tomato paste to make it a light red color. cook over low heat while you preheat the oven to about 300 degrees. rather than slave over the hot pot for 5 hours, i put the whole pot in the oven, uncovered, and leave it there. it should barely simmer. check it occasionally to make sure it isn’t bubbling too hard or browning on top. i left mine in while we went to dinner and it was a bit brown and crusty on top. i could have scraped it off – underneath was amazing, sort of gelatinous bolognese sauce. but i mixed it in.

tonight i will get some fresh ricotta and throw it in with the penne, sauce and a good amount of reggiano. buon gusto.

yardgyal extra spicy

UPDATE: i have achieved fizziness. the plastic bottle expanded and was hard as a rock. i bunged it in to fridge #2 and in a few hours opened it up – fizzy, slightly boozy, delicious. i would like to know what the alcohol content is. the process seems wildly complex. investigating.

the ginger beer smells and tastes fantastic but it is not fizzy whatsoever. i am a bit confused about open fermentation vs closed fermentation. for some reason i thought that the ginger brew in the open crock would get all fizzy and boozy but no. what i am coming to understand is that to achieve CO2 and alcohol you need a closed vessel along with the sugar and wild yeast. this is called in beer-making circles “bottle refermentation” or “bottle conditioning.”

i’ve decanted a portion of the brew into a 3 liter plastic bottle (the contents of which had been generic tonic water  – i know – THE HORROR – poured it down the sink – how did it even get into the house??? whatever.) and have closed it tightly and stashed it in a dark corner. the plastic bottle technique seems much safer at this stage than the bail-top glass bottles i bought last week. who knew that this soda-making was so dangerous with the fizzing and the exploding in one’s face and whatnot. i also topped up the original brew with more ginger bug, a bit of fresh water (it was overly sweet, i have adjusted the amount of sugar in the recipe below) more lime, more black pepper and cardamom, some chunks of ginger and…. a dried habanero pepper from last years crop.

with this foray into beverage-making, frank and i have been discussing the idea of habanero soda. it will be the next project once i get more ginger bug going. i have to admit i have been considering boughten yeast. cheating, i know. i guess the ginger bug just needs to be stronger… yeastier.

i’m thinking of calling the ginger beer “yardgirl” as an homage to my jamaican roots (mon.) the derivation of yardie is all very sociological but in essence it refers to the housing projects in the kingston ghetto of trenchtown where people had nothing better to do than hang out in the courtyard. chav with more flavor. “yardwife” was also considered and discarded. seemed too much like “fishwife.” i picture a label sporting a big-bottomed girl in poom poom shorts: a bit r. crumb, a bit russ meyer, a bit bettie page as a dancehall queen. frank’s tattoo artist friend is contemplating drawing it for me.

dude had some serious mother issues.

i’ve also thought up a name for frank’s yet to be created beer: “silverlake peckerwood ale.” i nearly fell over laughing. oh come on, have a sense of humor. if i can be  a jamaican yardie in poom poom shorts, frank can be a peckerwood.*  this is actually how we plan to dress for our wedding.

 

 

* frank can trace his cracker lineage from the 17th century. “As early as the 1760s, this term was in use by the upper class planters in the British North American colonies to refer to Scots-Irish and English settlers in the south, most of whom were descendants of English bond servants. A letter to the Earl of Dartmouth reads: “I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by Crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode.” – wikipedia (which is always right.)

 

ginger bug aka the exterminator

here’s the pitch:

ok so it’s 2039 and the world is ruled by humans set upon exterminating what remains of a robot race. they are  controlled by a sort of sentient global defense system, earthnet. and like, one of earthnet’s human minions is sent to kill the mother of a girl who will eventually leads a resistence movement against the humans and destroy earthnet. at the same time a robot assassin is sent from the future to protect the woman and her unborn daughter. it’s called THE EXTERMINATOR. whaddaya think?

it’s not that i thought i was the only person interested in food, or blogging for that matter, but as they say, there is no story that hasn’t been already told.

with sandor’s book back in service, i’ve taken to reading it like a nightstand novel and became intrigued by the section on fermented beverages. frank bought a beer-making kit at whole paycheck as a part of our post-apocalyptic sustenance program. he hasn’t ventured into it as of yet but he’ll get there now that the pantry isn’t housing every pickle on the planet. at bäco mercat they have a bunch of great cocktails (not to mention the food which is amazing) that use a shrub. let’s just say i had no idea what that was until reading sander’s book. i also read about ginger bug: the base for lacto-fermented ginger beer. long story short: i made the ginger bug (which consists of ginger, sugar and water left to ferment) and it was fizzing and frothing away nicely until yesterday when i added some more ginger and sugar and somehow killed it. it stopped frothing and only has a light, sort of pathetic fizz about it.

with the festival of yeasts i have come to love all of my starters and cultures like pets. i feed them and shake them and decant them into clean jars when they get icky. but i seem to have killed or at least deactivated the ginger bug. so i turned to the interwebs and found that everyone and their mother is making ginger bugs, roots beers, fermented sodas, fermented everything, and generally living the post-apocalyptic sustenance program. there are oodles of  blogs concerning wild fermentation, home bread-making, cheese-making and general housewifery (which doesn’t mean they are all written by women by any means.) many of them are cute, a few of them highly irritating and twee. i really have no desire to be highly irritating and/or twee but i am afraid i am falling into a very specific category: the person-with-far-too-much-time-on-their-hands. i do have a bit of a twist with the movies and such but i really don’t want to become a sort of dog-lady of the interwebs.

i feel like every girl in eastern los angeles has got some sort of ferment going. or home farm. or loom or something. probably in venice too. the rest of the city is a hideous hive of slick consumerism, velvet-roped nightclubs and chain food. frank has a funny joke:

q: how many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

a: it’s a really obscure number and you probably haven’t heard of it.

this amuses me to no end for some reason. when i was a kid i always thought that a “hipster” was a person who liked jazz. a sort of bohemian, quintessentially cool and kind of classic in a miles davis meets the ramones, PORTRAIT OF JASON sort of way. wrong again marge. todays hipster is a post-post-modern creation, an aggregator, a co-optor,  a skinny-pants-with-a-low-crotch-wearing/chloe sevigny-looking ironic scourge upon humanity. they live in silverlake, echo park or downtown (guilty); they wear horn-rimmed glasses (x2 guilty ’cause frank has them too) they drive vintage cars, drink vintage drinks and are “locovores” (guilty on all counts.) thing is, both frank and i have been all of these things and more for YEARS (yes years, as in decades.) so what do we call ourselves? hipsters? i think not. we are un-definable, un-marketable to, un-catagorizable. we are generation x.

ginger beer

the juice of the ginger bug

ginger – a lot, sliced

peel of two limes

2 cardamom pods

2 cloves

2 peppercorns

water

sugar

make a ginger bug. try not to kill it. for a gallon of beverage, boil a half gallon of water. add the sugar (about 3 cups for a gallon) ginger, peel and spices. let it cool until tepid. pour it into a gallon jar or crock. top off with cool water. strain the bug into the jar, retaining the ginger (add water and start another.) give it a stir and cover with cheesecloth and set in the pantry. i want to see how alcoholic i can get it – a dark and stormy in a bottle. stay tuned for adventures in carbonation.

kitchen aid

the oven is kaput . she will not start. she beeps forlornly at me, patently ignoring my need to bake the loaf of all-rye, whole grain, essene-style sourdough bread that i just invented because these freaking starters are beginning to drive me insane.

sander’s book is almost fully dry, if a bit… puffy. the freezer schtick worked. as expected he had sage advice on sourdough starters which in essence is: don’t freak out, they just need to be fed regularly and discard more than you think you need to discard before feeding. he does a bit of the measuring and weighing but nothing extreme. i think of the prospectors heading west during the california gold rush and cannot imagine that they spent time weighing and measuring and marking their mason jars with tape. the starter probably lived in a can in some hairy old codger’s spare boot in a cool spot in a filthy wagon. so i’m not overly fussed.

a bit of research reveals that the famous san francisco sourdough DOES stem from the gold rush era and that boudin bakery can trace its starter back to 1849. sourdough has been a form of leaven since the dawn of time – or at least the dawn of bread. in france pain au levain has been made by the poilâne family since 1932. (another fine example of a family craft business.) rye bread has traditionally been leavened by sourdough because rye lacks sufficient gluten and the acidic nature of the starter does something or another to do with amylase that allows the dough to gel and therefore rise more effectively.

the whole thing started with the idea of adding sprouted rye berries to the eventual rye loaves for which i was making all of this @#&%@ starter. having gone through a raw phase that involved much sprouting and fermenting and dehydrating (way too much. four days to create a meal…. hmmmm. hey! no.) i am familiar with sprouting grains. so i soaked and sprouted a mass of rye berries. lovely. this is when the starters began to look a bit peaked. so i gave them a big fat feeding in preparation for using them…. and then the oven went down. so the rye sprouted a bit more than i actually intended. remembering my raw days and… rawing… classes, (at OHI in lemon grove, ca – perilously close to san diego) i decided to make rejuvelac, a probiotic beverage made by adding water to rye (or wheat) sprouts and letting it ferment for a few days. it is apparently quite good for you but somewhat nasty tasting however it is…. essentially a starter.

i decided to add rejuvelac to one of the starters for giggles. et voila, it went berserk. so now i have two starters going, one rejuvelac-based and one conventional one. oh and the one in the fridge made of the leavings from maintaining the other starters. the house is a fiesta of yeasts.

while waiting for the kitchenaid oven repair guy who is conveniently scheduled to come between 1 and 5PM today i decided to just make a bloody bread, in a quasi-essene (look it up) style. which is to say, i ground up the sprouted rye berries with rejuvelac. then i created a dry mix of 1 cup rye flour with 1/2 cup flaxseed meal, 2 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt, one teaspoon of xanthan gum and two teaspoons of tapioca flour (the latter two for stretchiness in the absence of the tons of gluten from wheat.) into the wet i dumped half of the rejuvelac starter from the fridge (after warming it up) a glob of barley malt, some soaked golden flaxseeds (for more gooey-ness.), a bit more salt and i chickened out an added a packet of yeast. mixing it by hand and adding rye flour as needed it became decidedly… stretchy! and it is proofing really nicely! huzzah.

an all-rye, mostly sourdough, whole grain, essene style dough

i’m thinking it can proof for a couple of hours and then i can form and rest the dough and maybe even shape the loaves by which time the oven will be fixed and we will have bread for dinner. if not i will have to make it into crackers and dehydrate the fucker. stay tuned.

the bread came out well. i like the nutty chewiness of the rye berries. it is truly a peasant bread of the old world – one slice is pretty much a meal. frank has asked for a non-grainy one – more like the rye bread of his childhood. i’ll indulge him. meanwhile here are the first loaves:

a meal in a slice

 

an update on the rye bread mission. i made two plain rye loaves a few days ago and they got the frank’s-childhood-seal-of-approval: moist, dark-crusted, pale grey… it too is really good. and all without a recipe. i am pretty psyched.

i love anything that comes in a tube

we had ham and rye sandwiches last night after we got back from the la cienega gallery scrum. and luckily the german mustard arrived last week. all is right in the world.

the lion of mustards