This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited over to my friends, Evan and Leo’s for a deli tasting. Moishe and Leopold as they sometimes refer to themselves are living the dream. They quit their jobs and are on the path to revitalizing Jewish deli in San Francisco, by opening a true delicatessen dedicated to high-quality meats and baked goods that are worthy of the San Francisco foodie palate . To help get their recipes down, they cooked up a storm and fed about 40 people house-made pastrami, corned beef, pickles, and coleslaw, all on fabulous rye bread. Leo made 14 loaves of rye and even threw in a chocolate chip challah toward the end of the evening. He’s turned into a master baker and showed me with great pride his rye starter that he brought with him from LA when he moved back to the bay. Evan is the meat man, and spend most of the evening slicing pastrami and corned beef, but thoughtfully smoked some shiitake mushrooms to make veggie reubens for the few vegetarians who dared to venture into the house of meat. The whole apartment has been taken over with bins of pickles fermenting, crates stacked with bags of flour and curing salts and cooling racks waiting for bread and rugelach. Evan’s roommate Robby may soon be up for an award for being the most tolerant house-mate in San Francisco, but I suppose the constant supply of food makes its easier to deal with.
Monthly Archives: October 2010
Hummus is one of those things that 20 years ago most Americans would never have even heard of it but today you can find 10 different varieties of it at Trader Joe’s and at least one bowl of it at any party. Within the Jewish community there is a fascinating phenomenon that seems to become more prevalent the more common place hummus becomes: as soon as an American Jew has spent more than a day in Israel, when the come home, they develop a compulsion to pronounce hummus and pita with an Israeli accent. It comes out “hoooomus and peeeeta”. I find this infinitely annoying for some reason. Gordon is actually one of the worst offenders of this and we have gotten into stunningly long debates over it. I used to just shake my head and roll my eyes when people did it but now I find it much more amusing to pretend like I can’t understand them … “what is it you’re saying?” are you trying to say hummus and pita?”
This debate pales in comparison to the proxy that hummus has become for the entire middle east conflict, wrapped around who actually invented hummus. Additionally, the Lebanese and Israelis have been continually out doing each other to get in the Guinness Book for the biggest batch of hummus. I’m not kidding. For a great parody of this I recommend watching the short musical film “West Bank Story”, which chronicles the romance of an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian girl whose families run competing falafel stands.
One thing I think everyone can agree on is that hummus is delicious and versatile. It’s a great appetizer dip when served with raw veggies or pita and its a great condiment for falafel, grilled meat or any kind of sandwich.
I suppose this is only not safe for work if you work for a Jewish institution or have an aversion to knowing where your meat comes from (yes Krista, I am talking about you). In my grand tradition of trayfing it up after the long stretch of the High Holidays, I decided to go whole hog… literally. I couple of Tuesdays ago I got a facebook message from Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats, that he had gotten his hands on a pig and would be teaching his highly sought out Whole Hog Butcher class that Friday. Ever since Gordon and I took his lamb butcher class I had been wanting to get into the hog class but he hadn’t held one in months so I jumped at the chance and hit redial until I was enrolled.
I really cannot type the word potato without thinking of Dan Qualye. For those of you born after the Reagan years, he was the Vice President for Bush I (aka Old 41 or George Herbert Walker Bush). He was doing a school visit and conducting a spelling bee type contest for elementary school kids when he suggested that a child needed to add an E to the end of potato. Now, in his defense the cue card in his hand apparently had a typo but let me tell you, it did nothing to improve his intellectual gravitas.
Meanwhile back here at dinner we need a starch to go along with all of the roast chicken, grilled meat and pot roast. I grew up with baked potatoes, and it wasn’t until I was older that I discovered the joys of a good mashed potato. As it climbed in popularity in my repertoire I set out to perfect this deceptively tricky dish.
There are two aspects you want to get right. One is the mouth feel of the potatoes. They should be moist, not sticky or clumped. The second is a consistent flavor profile. There is nothing worse that a dish that tastes like garlic, only when you get a chunk of garlic. Fortunately the answer to both problems lies in the use and introduction of fat. By steeping the aromatics in the fat we get an even distribution of the flavor compounds. By adding the fat to the potatoes before adding other liquids (this is important) we allow the fat to bind with the starches and prevent any clumping or lump formation in addition to spreading the flavors evenly.
Last week we were contacted by Alicia from SBS Food, the Australian public television network, to be their “Featured Foodies”. Since we will do just about anything to get readers beyond our own family, Gordon and I eagerly agreed to be interviewed for a tie-in to an episode of Food Safari focused on Jewish food. I am secretly hoping we become a phenomenon among the Aussies and I get to make regular trips down there again, but even if that doesn’t happen, we had a lot of fun doing the interview.