Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making Your Own Sourdough Starter or Harnessing Wild Yeasties 101

So, we have a bit of an obssession for the microbes in our household. Jefferson is a killer home brewer (he brewed 30 gallons of beer for our wedding!) and now the (seven foot-tall, 2 ton) ManTastic Beer Cabinet is filled to the brim with brewing supplies and beer bottles. (This could be a guest post in the making....)
The ManTastic Beer Cabinet 
I make my own yogurt, mostly because we eat yogurt like its OUR JOB, and it made me die a little inside every week when I threw out those plastic containers.  I make my own sauerkraut, or should I say Jeff's sauerkraut, 'cause I don't touch the stuff.  And now, with our powers of wild yeast combined, I AM CAPTAIN PLANET.

Suffice to say, at one time, we had 4-5 different products fermenting in our house.  That's no big deal for the avid home-maker foodie enthusiast, but for your average American, that's "Whaa?!?"-inspiring awesome.

And when I first started the whole sourdough thing, I read the trials and tribulations of others about how onerous and horrible and difficult and persnickity those little wild yeasties are.  That they died really easily, that you had to feed them just right, that it was basically like getting a PUPPY to keep a sourdough alive for use.  (Not that I am against puppies. No. I have a solidly pro-puppy stance.)

Well folks, I am here today to tell you that all that microbe-fueled angst? Is a load of malarkey.

Sourdoughs are easy to cultivate, easy to use, and easy to keep alive. If you have a spider plant in your house, you can build, use, and feed a sourdough.  You know how hard spider plants are to kill, right? That's why we give them to college students.

'Kay. So, what follows is instructions to build your own sourdough starter, harnessing the power of the wild yeast that is present in your home at this very second! Amazing! In fact, so amazing, that that's how sourdough started in the first place.  Its how beer started, yogurt, and all those other good by-products that come from a food source (starches in flours, sugars in grain, lactose in dairy) meeting up with wild microbes, microbes party hard all night long, and hutcha-hutcha-hutcha: bread. beer. yogurt. So, if some Sumerian with no knowledge of modern science can do it, surely, we modern-day folk can manage.

One more note of awesomeness before instructions: what this means is that not only can you build a sourdough anywhere, the wild yeast present in the micro-environment of your kitchen will produce a slightly different sourdough than any other kitchen.  I have built 3 sourdoughs in 3 different houses, and they've all tasted different. From very subtle to extremely sour. So, starting your own sourdough is a very local action. In a way that makes you feel more connected and grateful for the uniqueness of your own place in the world. Plus the end product: looks like this ------>

I could continue to wax culinarily poetical, but I digress... Hit "Read more" for the Sourdough Manifesto.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Don't Tell Darlings release "Sugar for Sugar", or Sweet Potato Fries & Old-Time

Most of you know (all 3 of you) that I'm in a band.  And what's funny is that when you tell people that you're in a band, they're interested, in a curious, "oh, you're one of THOSE" kind of way.  You are suddenly a bit of a novelty, and suspect that your music is too. However, it has been as surprise to all those acquaintances, and frankly, to me, that I am in a GOOD band.  Like, when those folks finally come out to a show, they come up to me afterwards and, slightly starstruck, say "Wow! You guys are really GOOD!"

Yup. We know. (And are inordinately pleased with ourselves at regular intervals. Kinda like in this photo.)

So, its a rainy, gloomy Friday in Virginia, which means its the perfect time to get in yer truck, get yerself to the Blue Moon Diner in Charlottesville, Virginia and see the Don't Tell Darlings release our new CD, Sugar for Sugar.   We play a mix of old-time, bluegrass, early country, and western swing.  As the line goes, "harmonies so sweet, your teeth will ache".

Plus: signature cocktails. And sweet potato fries.  And these ladies.

Just TRY and say no. We dare you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Panzanella or How I Came to Love Running

So, let's be clear: I'm not a runner.

If you've seen me, you know this. I don't have a runner's body: there is nothing lithe about me. I weigh about 160 pounds at 5'8", my thighs are dangerous weapons that could crush a small kitten, and one would never describe my movement as "sprightly".  Punctuated by moments of grace, I lumber through a space on ponderous feet, making a lot of noise without meaning to, and probably accidentally breaking something in the process. So, how I came to take up running I have never understood, and yet, 10 years down the road I'm running more than ever.  What started as an extremely cheap way to keep my ever-growing bulk at bay has become a past-time of sorts.

Panzanella - Tuscan Tomato Bread Salad
Not only is my husband a runner, he is good at it, and he loves it. When he suggested early on in our relationship that I try and run the Charlottesville 10 Miler, my response was simple: "Uh, why?"  And yet, there I was trolling the Internets (perhaps at work) in January, looking at 10 miler training programs and thinking, "Well, I could do that."  And so I did. In March. Ran 10 miles. And then promptly signed up for the Richmond Half Marathon.

Okay, okay, but here's the SECRET that I've learned from talking to long distance runners and pretending to be one: when you're training for a race, when you're running 20 or 30 or 40 miles a week, when your long run is 7 or 8 or 14 miles long, you can eat whatever you damn well feel like eating.

Like this bad boy right here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Potato Galette or How Cook's Illustrated Makes Me Happy & Drives Me Nuts

La Galette Of My Dreams
Cook's Illustrated.

I know there are those of you who read this that just LOVE this magazine. The explanations, the food science, the perfect recipes.  I also know there are those who are IRRATIONALLY ANNOYED by the fussiness of these recipes.  I can't blame you. (Though in the interest of full disclosure, I *heart* CI.)  Those 12 extra steps in a recipe can take something so simple and make it into a huge, messy, how-did-you-dirty-all-these-dishes-honey ordeal.

But what a TASTY ordeal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Night Kitchen or How the Internet Can Teach You Everything

my Night Kitchen (apologies to Maurice Sendak)
I've sort of done it all, job-wise: education, non-profit, healthcare, nannying, retail, professional studenting, administration, secretarial.  Nothing was really my cup of tea, and I was always off chasing some artistic rainbow in the sky, like starting a theater company or getting an MFA at clown school. (Not. Kidding.)  I moved to Virginia 3 years ago on a similar whim, basically to start a band with my best friend.  Ah, the foolish ramblings of a young adult (nevermind that I was 28 at the time). But something aligned: in the first 6 weeks in Virginia, The Don't Tell Darlings played our first show and I met my now husband on the contra dance floor.  I moved to Virginia with the puppy-like excitement I feel about all new things. Because I am a puppy. Or, you know, my soul is a puppy. Whatever. I'm easily excited (sometimes to the deep annoyance of my husband, who was born an eighty year-old man.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Food from the soul, literally & figuratively...

Its finally happened: i've joined the blogosphere. If folks have to listen to my goings-on in real-life, why deprive the virtual world of my thoughts on food, old-time and traditional music, cooking, canning, handicrafts and all other kinds of nonsense that make my life worth living? How could you say no? Stay tuned to this station for more delights, delicious and devious, culinary and creative, very soon...