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:



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.)


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



(one month later….)

remember the lupini beans? well i didn’t. but there they are in the fridge, presumably bathing in their own toxic alkyloidal juices, more than a month later. to be honest i did drain the brine and added fresh water about 3 weeks ago. i tasted one in the process: it was absolutely spit-it-out-in-the-sink disgusting. so back in the fridge they went. looking at the fridge today in preparation for the 40lbs of cucumbers i ordered from the csa (i know i know) i spotted the poisonous little bastards in their jars and decided to give them a rinse. this time they tasted… okay. bland and only very slightly bitter. so i’ve changed the water one last time and have started thinking about what to do with them.

from what i can glean from the interwebs, they are marinated and served as antipasti or as a snack with drinks. they will need a lot of flavor: probably marinated in some sort of vinaigrette for another month. this, perhaps, is the essence of food one must wait for: the emblem of my project, the ne plus ultra of… whatever. I’ll whip up an italianate vinaigrette and see what happens. maybe they will be delish. they certainly have gotten better with time, so that is a good thing as martha might say.

UPDATE: i threw these revoting and time-consuming legumes into the composter a few weeks ago. i mean really. and i needed space in the fridge,


i started another longterm project a few months ago when we got back from berlin: rumtopf (or rum pot.) in between movies and meetings at the berlinale, frank and i went for lunch at rogacki, the amazing deli in charlottenburg.

beyond the sausage and smoked fish porn, there are various stations where you can order food and a glass of wine as well as a cafeteria line featuring most prominently, big tranches of fried fish and three (three!!) types of potato salad. as you move along there are pickled cucumbers, “tartar sauce” (more like a dill-y quark) and an assortment of desserts. one of the desserts was a yellow pudding with a brilliant crimson sauce. the pudding turned out to be bavarian cream and the sauce was a mélange of red fruits. most interesting was the texture – decidedly seed-y, quite, in fact: gritty. i had no idea what it was until we were looking for dessert one night at diener and the brilliantly surly waitress suggested the only dessert they have: röte grütze. in a quick back and forth it was established that röte grütze is not rumtopf which is another german red fruit concoction that i learned about from a former german flame’s parents. a winter holiday delicacy, rumtopf is a crock into which all of the red fruits of summer are added along with rum and sugar. starting in the spring with strawberries and moving through the summer, raspberries, blueberries, red currants and anything else that looks good are layered into the crock and laced with rum and sugar. then it sits through the fall to be revealed in the days leading up to christmas. the boozy red syrup and fruit can be poured over ice cream and cake or as i intend: eaten deliriously with a spoon.

i made röte grütze when we got back and also took a foray into bavarian cream which is remarkably easy: gelatin-fortified creme anglaise with whipped cream folded in.  the “red grits” are comprised of raspberries, cherries, strawberries, blackberries and red currants cooked down with tapioca starch (some traditional recipes call for sago.) the “grits” are the seeds of the raspberries, blackberries and currants. i love the crunchy sensation along with the tartness of the pudding. frank hates it and keeps asking if i can make it without the grits part which is sort of not the point, but i will give it a try.

so i’ve put up a rum pot and it has been sitting since february with the occasional addition. today i added a bunch of pluots left over from last week’s csa. it already smells and looks pretty good: i tried a strawberry, it was intact, translucent, sweet and totally alcoholic. yum.


curds and whey

“it’s really good but it took three days to make,” opines frank from his post on the sofa blogging on HIS website. he has something like 1000 hits and 47 whole followers on twitter. i have six. one of whom is frank.

i explain that the whole dealie here is that i am making food that takes time to achieve in an effort to a) prove that good things are worth waiting for and b) distract myself from the hideous waiting game that seems to be the life of the hollywood producer. we had excellent indian food in a mini-mall in temple city with malcolm last week, so i was inspired to make paneer.

paneer is the fresh white cheese that comes prepared with spinach (saag paneer) or green peas (mattar paneer) among other veg. it is shockingly easy to make and while one is at it one can make chena which is a finer-grained version of paneer used to make sweets, specifically rasgulas, rasmalai and chum chums: essentially cheese dumplings soaked in cardamom and rose-flavored syrup or half and half. yum… syrup. i’ve eaten half of them.

take a gallon of whole milk and bring it close to the boil. add about 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice, stir and turn off the heat. in 15 minutes or so the milk curds will separate from the whey. strain it into a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth. save the whey. or don’t. i have two liters of whey sitting here. i thought i was being housewifely but who can handle that much whey? i’m giving it to the roses. hang the cheesecloth wrapped curds over a bowl for a couple of hours or overnight. i took about 1/3 out to make chena and pressed the rest into a disk and weighted it down between two cutting boards overnight. et voila: paneer. really only two days prep. frank decides it looks like tofu and begins to take umbrage but i explain that it is cheese and therefore acceptable for human consumption.

i’m thinking dal mahkini and saag paneer with rice pilaf for brunch tomorrow and korean bbq on monday. i wanted to do a clams and chorizo thing this weekend but there is so much $@#$%!^* food in the fridge (and in the pantry and on the shelves and on every available surface in the kitchen) that the clams will have to wait.

saag paneer

cubed paneer

spinach – a lot


garlic/ginger puree


garam masala


cumin seeds – fried in ghee or toasted


heavy cream

lemon juice

steam the spinach if only to get it down to a manageable volume. brown the paneer in ghee and set aside. it will probably stick, but will loosen up after it sits for a few. sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in ghee. add cayenne and garam masala, salt it and cook it down. when it looks correct add the paneer and the spinach. i use kitchen shears to cut the spinach up right in the pan. some like it pureed but i wanted to try for more texture. mix and fry and taste for seasoning. add salt and pepper. add heavy cream and cook it down some more. add toasted or fried cumin seeds and amalgamate. the cream will thicken, the flavors will take a second to meld. finish with a dash of lemon juice. i think it’s better the next day.



double double toil and trouble… fire burn and kimchi bubble

SCENE I. a conference room. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.

thunder. enter the three agents

First Agent

thrice the mini wookie hath yowl’d.

Second Agent

thrice and once the client hath whined.

Third Agent

producer cries, “no time, no time!”

First Agent

round about the cauldron go;

in the development notes we throw.

writer, that under cold stone

days and nights has one hundred and seventy-five….

swelter’d venom sleeping got,

boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.


double, double toil and trouble;

fire burn, and kimchi bubble.*

the kimchi is bubbling away nicely. i put in the fridge yesterday after six days in the pantry. i’ve also put up my second batch of half-sour pickles – the first batch had a mysterious soapy smell so i chucked them. do not mess around with the yeasts and the molds i’ve been told. the second batch looks gorgeous. i was much more specific and sanitary about the brine this time – i boiled it. and used about a cup of coarse sea salt to the gallon. they smell great – should be half sour by monday.

i decided to do bread and butter chips with the remaining cucumbers which i had left soaking in a saltwater bath overnight.  i love a sweet and spicy pickle. (i love a sweet and spicy anything.) i used the thai kom kom ripple knife to create the chips and the kyocera to slice half an onion very thinly. salted them and pressed in the picre for about a day and a half, releasing a lot of water.

what excites me most is the brine. on wednesday i hit super king and found a middle eastern spice packet called “pickling spice.” no ingredients on the label, but it looked amazing. i spotted bay leaf, coriander, mustard seeds, allspice, cinnamon, and dried red peppers. perfect for a sweet pickle (and completely inappropriate for a dill, btw.) i had a severe vinegar deficit in the house: half a bottle of bragg’s apple cider vinegar was it. strained that into a pot and boiled it (successfully murdering the nice yeasty mother in the process) added about 1/3 of the spice packet and sugar until it tasted right. i had seen a recipe that called for turmeric but having none i opted for some fairway hot curry thinking “well curry has turmeric in it so….” unreal. i will always add curry to my bread and butter brine – the flavor profile is perfect: coriander, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, paprika, garlic and pepper. and you get that nice golden turmeric-inspired color.


*with apologies to wm. shakespeare. nb – how many people go through life thinking the line is “bubble, bubble toil and trouble?”

prague powder #1

corned beef


this is the tiny little brisket that i snagged from a woman who was buying up all of the briskets at the market the other day. since i’m on a pickling jag why not “pickle” meat? the ingredients are remarkably similar to the half-sour pickles but with added sodium nitrite to give the meat its traditional pink when braised (not grey) hue and to prevent clostridium botulinium. it is a preservative and lends that particular “cured” taste to meat, sausages and patés/terrines. known as rose salt, pink salt and most interestingly, “prague powder #1”. it is usually tinted pink to distinguish it from regular table salt. i got mine at surfas. there is a way to braise meat without nitrites and keep it pink. it involves VERY slowly bringing the meat up to a VERY low braising temperature which gives certain enzymes an opportunity to develop which keeps the meat tender and its pigments intact. i think. must check mcgee on this. hold please.

yup – mcgee p. 149 discusses cooking methods that will keep well-done meat pink. i love mcgee. i have read it cover-to-cover. twice.

there is a jamaican version of corned beef called “bully beef” that my grandmother used to make. i cannot find a specific recipe for it. it was a spicy brined beef that was pressed after cooking into a neat oblong and then sliced and eaten between slices of hard-dough (hardo) bread: a tremendously dense, heavy white pullman loaf.  just the thought of hardo bread and coco buns sends me into a glutinous frenzy. i’m sure that just touching hardo bread would kill frank.


kimchi-making time

facebook cracks me up. i spent all morning “live posting” on the face – sharing my kimchi-making fun with my 170 friends. how much more fun would it have been to have simply invited the 4 or 5 who were paying attention to come over and hang out while i did my thing?

so starting at about 10:30 i dove into the kimchi situation. yesterday was all about prep: washing and salting. i did salt for quite a bit longer than most of the recipes i checked out suggested, leaving the three elements (radish, cucumber and napa cabbage) to salt overnight. i rinsed each once before i went to bed but they were still plenty salty and giving water this morning.

i decided to make three different kimchis: pogi baechu – a “white” kimchi with only jalapeños for spice; oi-sobagi – cucumbers stuffed with daikon and scallions in a red chili paste; and chonggak – young radishes and their greens in a fish-sauce-based red chili paste.

the most interesting element is a “paste” made from glutinous rice and water (or brine in some cases.) this is what binds the spice mixture and make it stick nicely to the veg. i used the hand blender in lieu of mincing because i was feeling shortcut-y.

now they ferment. the cucumbers for the least amount of time, the radish for the most (i’m guessing.) then it will be banchan time!