Monday, August 06, 2007

Today's Best 6 Things

1. Rodrigo y Gabriela

2. The chocolate pretzel doughnut from Primo's on Sawtelle

3. Perfectly ripe fruit from my uncle's surprise nectarine tree and super-cheap-and-tasty bing cherries from Vons all in the same mouthful

4. The Hudade Special at Rahel's in Little Ethiopia. It's injera-rrific!

5. Riding through our new neighborhood on the back of a tandem beach cruiser with my husband at the helm and the baby at her grandparents'

6. The smell of N's sweet delicious baby breath when she throws her tiny arms around my neck and squeezes, and then, with half-closed eyes, smothers my cheeks, lips and chin with slobbery toddler kisses and doesn't let go. She is everything.

Trying it again, for the first time

There's yet another new Clausen in Sourdoughtown (which is the region on top of our fridge where I keep the starter jar that I've just named Sourdoughtown). I killed the second one just a few days ago.

In talking with the Homegrown Revolution folk who had inspired my forays into sourdough cultivation, I discovered that it had been folly to try to create a whole wheat starter from scratch using whole wheat flour and that's what the problem had been each time (probably). Turns out you have to start with white flour, and then once it's strong enough, say in a couple of weeks, you just start feeding it whole wheat instead of white. Eventually, the white flour part of the starter all but disappears and then you've got your whole wheat starter. Conversion complete. Sweet!

So to speed up my process, the HGR homies provided me with a cup of their very own hearty white flour starter and I'm off and running. I even decided to splurge on a banneton/brotform/proofing basket from Breadtopia, which is a pretty cool site set up by this dude and his wife, who are really into bread and own a bread-making supply store. Check out the how-to videos on all kinds of bread-making techniques and recipes, including the "no-knead" recipes. I'm definitely going to try some of them once I'm in the swing of things.

That is, as long as I can keep this new Clausen among the living. Millions of little yeasty beasties in a mason jar just furrowed their brows, looked at each other and then crossed their fingers and bit their lips in hope. I'll try not to let them down.

Side Note: Thunderous thanks goes to the above-mentioned HGR coolkids not only for sharing their starter with me, but for linking to me in their post yesterday. That was cool.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I am not a foodie. I'm not! I'm not!

Damn, there are too many blogs out there.

I need to get dinner underway and happen to have the makings for a decent bread pudding, I think, but my bound Cook's Illustrateds are still in boxes (because we aren't unpacking books until we paint the living room in a couple of weeks), so I started looking for some recipes online just now to make sure I have the details right. And then "just now" turned into a 45-minute time-suck of blog-bouncing and now the baby's nap is half over and dinner isn't even half planned. AGH!

People, stop blogging so much. Your writing is getting in the way of my life. And the thing is, most of the stuff I read just now wasn't even very good but I kept reading and reading.

Take the cutesy home baker who belongs to some semi-cutesy online organization of other cutesy home bakers who photograph and post about their personal kitchen successes with butter and lavender and spun sugar and the like. OK, I will admit that the photos were decent--a little too food-porn-ish, but well composed, in focus and the subjects looked tasty enough--but the writing, eh, not so much.

So how come I couldn't take my eyes off it? Because I used to pretend I was a be a foodie, that's why and I can't help but indulge that side of me when I get the chance.

In college, I would gush over the cooking of a true foodie roommate or friend when I had no idea what I was talking about, and suggest the use of fennel or radicchio or salame di cavallo or praise the benefits of wheat grass juice and viognier when I had just heard of them all the day before. I suppose that we are all allowed to have been a schmucky food snob in college, a time when we're trying stuff out and discovering the world and ourselves. But we're also allowed to cringe when we think about pretentious food-related conversations and unnecessary astronomical dinner bills we can recall years later, and I fully engage in such cringing now.

Over the last 10 years or so, I've (d)evolved from a single gal food snob who taught herself knife techniques and wine pairings by watching what used to be called the Food TV Network (before Emeril was a failed sitcom star and when some of their best shows were called "How to Boil Water" and "Cooking Live with Sara Moulton") to an unemployed wife and mother who just wants to get a reasonably balanced dinner on the table before 9pm each night and use what's in the fridge/pantry before it gets moldy.

I used to long for every gadget and appliance in both the Williams-Sonoma catalog and the formerly vast aisles of Surfas, but now I work to perfect the art of paring down my culinary tool kit with frequent donations to Goodwill. (If only I could reduce my needs to a couple of knives and a mixing bowl, I'm sure I'd find internal peace.)

Admittedly, the true me lives somewhere between these two extremes, but definitely leans toward the more practical end of the home cook spectrum.

But the faux-foodie still rears her head. Did you notice that I just had to mention up above that I can't find my bound Cook's Illustrateds? Not just "my cooking magazines" or "my loose-flying-around-the-house subscription issues of the periodical," but the "I had to order this special and now I have two copies of each magazine but it's worth it" bound issues of Cook's Illustrated.

And who am I trying to impress? Who's even reading this, anyway? My husband, a few friends, maybe a random person who clicked the "next blog" link at the top of his own rambly and disjointed blog and landed here, and me (do you read and reread your already published blog posts incessantly like I do?).

The blogging thing, it's all so masturbatory. Ew. I'm totally humping the spacebar. Don't look.