Saturday, September 30, 2006

This Space for Hire?

I've been giving some great thought about The Sour Dough and how I use my blog to post about various aspects of my life, career, and one of my deepest passions, food. I love food and all aspects of food. I love looking at food, reading about food and writing about food. I love the cooking of food, the shopping for food and I especially love the eating of food. When I started this blog almost two years ago, the idea behind it was to give me a public outlet for my food habit, especially my bread baking. For the most part, I think The Sour Dough has succeeded. But, there are things I want to make better and do better.

I spent quite a bit of time the past two weeks during my vacation looking at the various food blogs I admire and the other types of blogs I read. I took notes about what type of layouts I liked and which one's I didn't. I even took for a test drive a few other blog formats like Word Press, Type Pad, and Movable Type. After quite a bit of soul searching and at much urging from MBH and a few of you, I have decided to make a few changes and now, as the seasons start to change in earnest from Summer to Fall around New England, seems like the perfect time to begin those changes.

One of the changes you will notice is that going forward, The Sour Dough will be all about food and food related subjects. This doesn't mean that I won't tell you about restaurants I ate at while on job sites or let you know what LB and MBH are up to because all those things are woven into my love of food. But what it means is that the rants and raves about my non-food life will not be found here (If you are interested in keeping up with my audio self, here is where you can go).

One change has already happened. A little over a month ago, MBH convinced me I needed a new digital camera and I needed to learn how to take good macro shots of food. I purchased a Fuji FinePix F470 and have fallen in love with shooting pictures of the food I make and eat using the macro setting to get "food porn shots" like this tomato and various herbs from my garden.

A few of you have told me I should do a podcast. I'm not sure if the world is ready to hear my "Minnie Mouse" voice babble about food, bread, and ramble on about anything yet. That will probably wait but, rest assured, I am mulling it over.

Finally, I have secured as a domain name (a test page is there right now). I'm in the process of trying to decide if I want to stay with Blogger to host this domain or move The Sour Dough and use other blogging software. I'm still debating about this so don't erase the Blogger bookmark just yet. MBH will tell you it is because I'm a luddite when it comes to computer things but we'll see.

So, as we move closer to the two year anniversary of The Sour Dough, keep your eyes peeled because just like the seasons, changes are coming soon...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Haymarket: A Boston Bargin Hunters Dream

On Fridays and Saturdays, just about every weekend of the year, rain or shine (or even snow), Boston is home to one of the oldest outdoor produce and fish markets in America, Haymarket. Haymarket has been in the same spot in Boston for over 140 years, at the corner of Hanover and Blackstone Streets near the oldest continuous operating restaurant in the United States, The Union Oyster House and across the street from the oldest continuous operating public house in the United States, The Bell and Hand.

At Haymarket, one can purchase at rock bottom and dirt cheap prices any variety of fruit, vegetable, fish, meat, nuts, and cheese from places as close as Concord, MA and as far away as Malaysia. The variety of produce and other goods offered is astounding. You will find plantains next to watermelon. Watercress sells beside heads of cabbage. You want to find the perfect poblano peppers for stuffing, there will be four stalls across from each other selling them and each will try to outdo the other in pricing. Berries and fruits that you have never seen before sit next to strawberries and blackberries.

The best time to go is early Friday or Saturday morning when the selection is the best and the vendors are the friendliest. Third and fourth generation owners who hawk their wares in the time honoured fashion of calling out to passerbys a steady stream of what is available run most of the stands. It is not uncommon to hear “Fresh tomatoes, 10 for a dollar” or “Nice green peppers, 4 for .50 cents.” You can actually hear the fishmonger yell out “cockles and mussels” if you linger long enough around where the fish stalls are located. Some of the vendors are what can only be termed as crotchety. During a recent visit a few weekends ago on a bright cool late summer morning, MBH and I witnessed what can only be termed a typical exchange between one salty New England green-grocer and a shopper when he assulted his customer with a sarcastic “If I wanted to cheat you, I’d charge you 1 for $4” and all the while pointing to a sign for summer squash showing “4 for $1” and filling a bag of fresh mushrooms for lady.

I like to go and pick up a variety of fruits and vegetables around which I plan the week’s meals. Our most recent visit consisted of purchases of cilantro, peppers in red, yellow and orange, shell beans, raspberries, peaches, plums, and an avocado. The cilantro ended up paired with my homegrown tomatoes, basil, garlic and garden chives to form a wonderful home made bruscetta. I roasted the peppers along with a bumper crop of my garden green peppers and have topped sandwiches for lunches with them all week. The fruit made a cobbler and provided a nice afternoon pick me up at work. The shell beans or “shelly beans” as MBH knows them as were made in the good old-fashioned Southern way of boiling them with chunks of salt pork and pepper, ala MBH Mother’s recipe. The only disappointing purchase was the avocado. It was not ripe and then went rotten before it ripened. But for 10 cents, I can’t complain and it was more than worth the price of admission to the circus.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Like I Need Another Hole in My Head...

More cookbooks in one week than you can shake a stick at

They say the first step to getting help for an addiction is admitting you have a problem. To paraphrase MBH here, "Hello. My name is Breadchick and I'm a bookaholic".

To be precise, I am a cookbookaholic and, as if you and I needed any further proof of my habit than the picture above, I have purchased fourteen cookbooks in the past six days. That means I have averaged 2.333333 ledgers of recipe-delight a day. I won't tell you what this little bender has cost me but, I should have made sure one of these books was "101 Things to Do with Ramen Noodles".

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #9: A Local Ingredient

This month's installment of Weekend Cookbook Challenge brings me back home, after several episodes of cooking using ingredients and recipes from far and away places, with the theme of cook using an ingredient found locally. I took this challenge to mean not only locally but also an ingredient that screams of where you live. Since I live in New England and more specifically Boston, I knew there was only one thing (besides Baked Beans which I already did here for WCC#7), I could cook, Boston Clam Chowder made with Cape Cod Quahog Clams.

Quahog (pronounced KO-hog) Clams are the largest of the hard shell clams found very abundantly from the coastal waters of Maine down to the New Jersey shore. Quahogs are known locally as "chowder clams" because these clams are so large (the size of a dessert plate sometimes) that the meat is tough enough to withstand a long simmer in the stewpot and not get rubbery. Early fall through early winter is the best time for clams and scallops in New England because the waters are starting to cool down and they are at their sweetest. There are several good recipes for New England Clam Chowder with the Legal Seafoods version probably the most famous (it has been served at every US presidental inaguration since 1981). Some of the recipes make a thick chowder and call for up to a cup of flour or other thickening agents but true New England chowders aren't particularly thick relying on the starch from the potatoes to thicken the chowder. I own several cookbooks with good recipes for New England Clam Chowder but chose to make tonight's chowder from the newest edition to my every expanding cookbook collection, The New England Cookbook by Brooke Dojny, "Thick and Creamy Boston Clam Chowder". I can see this cookbook quickly becoming one of my favourites to not only cook from but to read from as well. Each recipe is well written and includes not only a story about the history of the food as to how it relates to New England but has these wonderful sidebars that include quotes from famous and common New Englanders. My favourite quote so far is from a nine year old who told his mother the reason he filled up on Dilly Bean Pickles at a church supper was because it was the only thing he could find to eat he liked.

The Boston version is the thickest of the New England Clam Chowder because in additon to almost 5 cups of diced potatoes it also calls for 1/4 cup of flour added to the sauted onions and salt pork drippings to make a roux. The Boston version also calls for not only milk but light cream (or half and half). The traditional accompaniment with New England Clam Chowder is the Crown Pilot Cracker, which is basically hardtack, and was almost discontinued several years ago but was saved by the outrage of the normally reticent New England populace. But tonight I served it with another old fashioned New England staple, Anadama Bread made in my rarely used bread machine. Anadama bread is a hearty bread that uses corn mush as it's base. According to legend, a crusty backwoodsman was married to an awful cook named Anna, who could only make corn meal mush. One night, after a long, cold day in the woods, he came home to find yet another meal of corn meal mush, he grabbed the bowl, went to the cupboard and grabbed some molasses, some yeast, and some flour, stirred them into the bowl to form a dough, and placed the bowl into the coals. While the bread baked, he muttered under his breath "Damn you, Anna." over and over. Thus the name Anadama bread.

Thick and Creamy Boston Clam Chowder
from The New England Cookbook

1/4lb salt pork, diced (make sure the piece has a good mix of meat and fat)
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
4 cups clam liquor, juice or broth
5 cups diced potatoes
1 large bay leaves
2 tsp dry thyme
3 cups coarsely chopped clams
2 cups light creme or half and half
salt and pepper taste
1 tablespoon butter

Prepare the clams and set aside. Cook the salt pork in a large stock pot over medium heat until all the fat is rendered and the pork bits are crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork bits and set aside on paper towel to drain. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes until a roux is formed. Add milk, clam juice, potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme and cook for about 10 minutes at a simmer or until the potatoes are just tender. Add the clams and light creme and let simmer for 10 minutes or until the clams are heated through. Serve with crackers or a hearty bread.

Anadama Bread
from Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway

3/4 cup water (82 degrees)
2 cups bread flour
1/4 coarse ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter (softened)
2 tablespoon molasses (use any type BUT blackstrap)
1 1/2 teaspoon bread machine yeast (some machines, like mine require a bit more)

Add wet ingredients to breadmachine pan, the dry ingredients, adding yeast last in a little "valley" on top of dry ingredients. Use the Basic Loaf, Medium Crust setting on your machine. Makes a 1 lb loaf.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Five Things to Eat Before You Die

I was tagged today by the lovely Sara over I Like to Cook to participate in a food blogger project started at the The Traveler's Lunchbox: Things to Eat Before You Die. The premise of the project is for food bloggers to post five things they have eaten that everyone in the world should try at least once before they die. How cool is this?! I love the idea of sharing some of my favourite foods with people. It is one of the reasons most of us blog about food; to share our food experience and to expand our palette. MBH is always looking for a new food group, I'm quite sure we will find one in the list (it was over 1000 at last check) for him to try.

My List of Five Things to Eat Before You Die:
(in no particular order of preference)
1. Planked Lake Superior Whitefish from Audies in Mackinaw City, MI
2. Smoked Salmon Quiche on the Prix Fixe from La Reserve de Quasimodo in Paris
3. Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas from The Tea Clipper pub in Knightsbridge, London
4. Nantucket Bay Scallop Roll in October on Nantucket
5. Braised Beef Short Ribs from Oleana in Cambridge, MA

Fellow bloggers (including one travel podcaster who ALWAYS has a restaurant review and one daily photo blogger who has great cooking tips) I'm tagging:

1. Dan O' Leary over at Hotel Coffee
2. Maikopunk over at It's a Good Thing I'm Book Smart
3. Ham over at London Daily Photo and Gub-Gub's Blog
4. Clare over at
5. boo_licious over at masak-masak

Monday, September 04, 2006

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #8: Foreign Dish - Creme Brulee

Once again, it is time for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. This month it was co-hosted by Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast and our normal hostess, Sara from I Like to Cook. The theme for this installment is to cook a foreign dish from as usual a seldom or rarely used cookbook.
My dish: Creme Brulee. The cookbook: Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain.

I've had this cookbook for over a year but never cooked with it. It was holding up the nightstand on my side of the bed and I had frankly forgotten I owned it. This cookbook is full of Anthony Bourdain's cynical, funny but frank remarks and is surprisingly easy to cook from with step by step instructions, especially important if you are taking a first plunge into classic French Bistro cooking . The cookbook is the perfect size for my counters, has large print for my aging eyes, and a picture accompanies every recipe so you won't guess if you got it right. One thing that casual cooks may find daunting with this cookbook is that it doesn't use measurements for dry ingredients but rather weights. I have been wanting to have a good kitchen scale for some time (Note to MBH: hint, hint, hint) but MBH's postal scale works quite well in a pinch.

I chose to make creme brulee for a quite a few reasons. First and foremost, creme brulee is my favourite dessert. When I'm in Paris I'll have it at least once a day sometimes two times a day. I go out of my way anywhere my travels take me to sample this simple dessert. One taste of a well made creme brulee and the smooth, vanilla scented creme will transport me immediately to La Rotonde on the corner of Boulevard du Montparnarsse and Boulevard Raspail.

Another reason I chose to make creme brulee was it would provide me with a good reason to add a culinary torch to my kitchen gadget collection. I have read recipes that call for toasting the brown sugar that goes on top of the baked custard by running the ramekins under the broiler for five minutes. But, when I'm impatiently waiting to crunch my spoon through the carmelized topping, I want to have immediate gratification. Besides, how cool is it to own a mini blow torch??!!

The recipe in Les Halles is the classic recipe I found in several cookbooks calling for 10 egg yolks whipped until frothy, a quart of heavy cream, 1 vanilla bean (don't skimp here, part of the dish is the little black specs of vanilla bean on the bottom of the ramekin) split and scraped into heavy cream, and six ounces of sugar (split half between the cream and half into the egg yolks). The heavy cream, vanilla, and half the sugar are slowly heated to simmering/easy boil over medium heat. The egg yolks and other half of the sugar are slowly added to the warm cream mixture (use a whisk and stir constantly while adding the yolks or they will curdle). This creates a classic custard (if you can find them, fresh farm eggs will make the custard especially rich and yellow as fresh farm egg yolks are thicker in consistency and very yellow). Split the custard between six to eight creme brulee ramekins or custard cups. Place the ramekins in a water bath (water should be half way up the side of the ramekins) and bake at 300 degrees until the custard is firm but wiggly in the center (most recipes say 45 minutes or so, it took over a full hour for me yesterday). Let cool, top with brown sugar and using either the broiler of your oven or a culinary torch, toast the brown sugar until golden brown.