# Monday, March 12, 2007

Greek Gods yogurt is a fairly recent arrival at our local New Seasons, and I've got to say, it's the BOMB.  Wonderful texture, firm, not runny.  Not too sour.  I'd been impressed enough with the plain, but today I picked up a carton of the "fig" flavor.  Fantastic!  Honey flavored yogurt with a fig paste at the bottom.  Not too sweet, and very flavorful.  I have yet to try to pomegranate flavor, but I have high hopes.

Monday, March 12, 2007 6:28:15 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]

Another new Viking recipe I've been working on...

Saute some leeks in butter, along with diced carrots and rutabegas.  When just starting to soften, take off the heat.  When they are cool, mix with some sour cream. 

Very reminiscent of the modern Scandinavian beets in sour cream.  The rutabegas come out very sweet, and stand in well for the beets, which aren't Viking period. 

This was a big hit with pretty much everyone, including a number of avowed root-vegetable-haters.  It went well with the barley bread.

Monday, March 12, 2007 6:18:16 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

I'm going to be experimenting with dairy products as the Viking Age Scandinavians would have made/used/consumed them over the coming months.  I've been making a soft fresh cheese curdled with vinegar for years, but I think that's probably not the most accurate. 

For the first experiment, I made my first batch of skyr this week.  Skyr was once purportedly made all over the Viking world, but has only survived to the present day in Iceland, where it has remained daily fare.  We don't know how closely modern Icelandic skyr resembles Viking skyr, but it's such a simple process that I don't imagine it's changed all that much. 

To make skyr, you bring non-fat milk up to around 185 deg. and hold it there for 5-10 minutes, then let it cool down to slightly warmer than body temperature, around 108.  Take your culture (I've seen references to using sour cream or buttermilk, or yogurt of various kinds.  The Vikings would have used some skyr from the last batch.  I read a couple of references to the use of s. thermophilus and l. bulgaricus, which happen to both be in "Greek" or "Bulgarian" style yogurt, so that's what I used.  Greek Gods brand to be specific.) and mix it with a little of the warm milk, then add the result to the rest of the milk, along with some rennet.  I used Junket brand from the grocery store, but will soon be trying cheese-making-grade rennet, and I'll report on the differences.  Then let the milk sit for something between 6 and 24 hours.  I've seen various suggestions.  I let mine go about 24 hours. 

The milk-mass should start to pull away from the sides of the container, and you'll see clear-yellowish whey around the sides and over the top of the curd.  That's good.  Scoop out the curd with a ladle or spoon into a sieve or colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth, or better still, a nice clean piece of muslin fabric.  Let it sit until most of the whey has drained out, and it starts to firm up to somewhere between firm yogurt and soft-serve ice cream.

Store it in the fridge when it's done.  The result I got was not very sour, and has a very pleasant texture.  I've used it in crepes, and with granola so far with great success. 

Save the whey, which you can use in soups of porridge.  I have more whey experiments to try too.  The 16th Century Icelanders let the whey ferment until quite sour, and then used it as a refreshing drink, and also as a medium for pickling meat, eggs, and vegetables for long storage. 

Big fun...

Monday, March 12, 2007 6:12:58 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Over the next few weeks I'll be (finally) coming back to the Viking food topic.  I just finished entering a big competition with a research paper on reconstructing Viking cooking, and I've learned a lot over the last 6 months. 

After getting feedback from the competition, the paper needs some serious editing, but once that's done I'm going to try and make it available. 

In the meantime, I've been experimenting (as part of the research for the paper) with recreating some Viking bread, like those found in cremation graves in Birka and elsewhere.  One of the finds from Birka clearly shows prick marks on the surface, which hints at them being intended to keep a long time.  The prick marks are (I assert) similar to those on modern pilot bread.  They are intended to increase the surface area so that the bread will dry out completely, thus keeping longer.

In recreating them, I looked at some chemical analysis of the bread remains that suggest that most of them were predominantly made from barley, although oats, rye, flax, green peas, and a little wheat also appear.  They contain comparatively few fats, again suggesting that they were intended to keep.

I made mine with about half barley flour, and half a mixture of oat flour, ground flax seed, rye flour, and (in some) green pea flour.

The resulting mix should be about 2 cups.  Then I added a bit of salt, and mixed in some liquid until a stiff dough comes together.  I tried different combinations of water, honey, buttermilk, and goats milk.  Personally, I liked the goats milk ones the best.  I kneeded mine for a while to make sure everything was as together as it was going to get, then divided the dough into two pieces.

The pieces were then flattened into rounds.  Most of the archeological evidence suggests 8 -12 cm. across, and 1-2 cm high.

Then I pricked the surface, and baked them at 300° for around 30 minutes.  This results in a fairly soft bread good for eating fresh.  You'd have to bake them either quite a bit longer, or at a higher temp to get the to dry out hard.

The resulting breads were very good with cheese or green pea spread.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007 7:11:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, February 15, 2007

Last night for Valentine's Day, I made Vikki a batch of tempura soba using (no kidding) pink soba noodles.  I thought it was pretty apropos.  The soba, as it turns out, is plum flavored.  Vikki was worried that they would be sweet, but they were obviously made using something like pickled plums, not at all sweet, but the plum flavor was definitely evident, and they were very fragrant.

The tempura to go with them included sweet potato, green and regular onions, mushrooms, and green beans.

The noodles were good enough that I won't wait until next Valentine's day to try some more. :-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007 6:01:36 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Thursday, February 01, 2007

For my birthday back in December, I got a new cooking gadget from my father-in-law (thanks Terry). 

It's an "indoor BBQ pit".  Hmmm.  Unsafe, you might think.  Can't possibly work, you might assert.  Actually, it's pretty cool. 

True, you won't get any smoke flavor, but there are creative ways around that.  My personal favorite is Spanish smoked paprika, or some chipotle chilies in the sauce.  The thing is basically a big crock pot, with some racks that fit inside to either hold ribs upright, or hold a roast, a chicken, or a brisket off the bottom.  I've done ribs, pork roast, and brisket in it so far, with (I think) pretty decent results.  It's supposed to hold two whole chickens, but I haven't tried that yet. 

The ceramic liner comes out, and is dishwasher safe, although my one gripe with the whole setup so far is that slow-cooked barbeque sauce is nearly impossible to chisel off the interior of the "pit".  Long soaking and serious scrubbing are required, but it's still fun to use.

Thursday, February 01, 2007 6:14:48 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

I had some leftover BBQ brisket (I'm a big Texas style BBQ fan) that I needed to use up, so a batch of frijoles borrachos (drunken beans) was just the thing.

I cooked up some pinto beans until they were mostly soft, then in a separate pan fried up some onions, garlic, a few pickled jalapenos, some chili powder, ground Mexican oregano, salt, and ground cumin.

When the beans were done, and the veggies soft, I threw the veggies in with the beans, a beer (hence the borrachos part) and a bunch of chopped brisket. 

That cooked down until it was saucy but not soupy, and some chopped cilantro went in at the last minute.  Served with quesadillas, it was a bit hit.

Thursday, February 01, 2007 5:46:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

Boy, it's been a while since I've posted anything here.  There's probably something I can do to fix that...

I've been craving the food of my youth lately, i.e. hippy vegetarian food.  I've been dragging out my original vintage copies of Moosewood, The Vegetarian Epicure, The Tao of Cooking, etc. 

In that spirit, I made a batch of tofu "egg" salad. 

Mash up some firm tofu, and add mayonnaise to your taste, a little curry powder, salt and pepper, celery, and a handful of cashews.  Tastes just like egg salad (only without all the egg peeling and cholesterol) and makes great sandwiches or cracker spread.

Thursday, February 01, 2007 5:42:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This delicious kimchee stew is one of my favorite winter dishes.  Last night I made a batch that even my wife liked (she usually doesn't) so I had to record the process for posterity.

I started with this recipe from My Korean Kitchen (an excellent Korean food blog).  I didn't have the mushrooms, so I left those out.  I used some kimchee that I made a few weeks ago.  The biggest departure from my usual procedure was than instead of cubed pork, I used bacon.  Any old bacon will do, as great bacon would be wasted here, I think.

I also added some little disk shaped Korean rice cakes right at the end, which made for a nice texture addition, and made it a bit more filling.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 11:05:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Friday, November 17, 2006

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted anything here.  I've been doing a fair amount of cooking, but none of it seemed interesting enough to post about.  That's probably not true, so hopefully things'll pick up a bit here.

Last night I had a craving for chicken, so I picked up a nice 5 1/2 lb. "Rocky" organic roaster at New Seasons, as well as some veggies to go with.  My wife gave me one of those stand-up chicken roasting doo dahs a few years back, so that's what I propped Rocky up on, in a roasting pan. 

I rubbed the outside of the bird with olive oil, coarse salt, rosemary, and some black pepper, and set him roasting at 350°, with me electronic thermometer/alarm in place.  I love those things.  Totally worth every penny (and they aren't very expensive).  I set the alarm for 180°, and prepped the veggies.

About an hour into it, I took some brussel sprouts, fingerling potatoes, carrots, and chopped rutabega, and mixed them with salt, olive oil, and some more rosemary, then popped them into the bottom of the roasting pan with the chicken.  About an hour later, the alarm went off, and dinner was served. 

I've just recently started roasting brussel sprouts like this, and I love it (as does Vikki).  They aren't mushy at all, and it really cuts down on the "cabbagey" smell of them. 

The chicken came out very moist, thanks mostly to the thermometer.  It really makes a huge difference.

Tonight, the leftover chicken and veggies will chopped up, gravied, and topped with biscuits for a chicken pot pie (one of my all time favorites).  I'll probably add some sage, which I really enjoy with poultry, but I didn't want it to burn on the surface of the bird.  The rosemary holds up better.

Friday, November 17, 2006 5:33:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]