Thursday, February 18, 2010


People make jokes about fruitcake. I know, I know. It's known to be heavy, over the top sweet, the thing no one wants to eat over the holidays. But...I don't give a damn about it's bad reputation. I think it probably IS gross when made with green and red maraschino cherries and sulfite-full candied pineapple.
That sort of fruitcake hearkens back to that weird, 1960's aesthetic of food. The one where it's supposed to look like not-food, when science was going to save everything and make food even better than nature did. Yuck.

Like most things, though, made well with real, really good ingredients, fruitcake is awesome.

Our fruitcake, in contrast to that bad kind of fruitcake, was made with delicious and naturally colored dried fruit--nothing resembled bright Christmas tree baubles. We also decided that since really all fruitcake is made of is fruit and cake, we could use whatever kind of dried fruit we wanted. So we took some liberties with the classic combinations, using our favorites; dried sour cherries--a northwest delicacy--and apricots, pineapple, black figs, crystalized ginger and prunes. Also, I hate/am possibly allergic to rum, so we used brandy and Grand Marnier instead, soaking all the fruit in the brandy for a day before baking. I did a lot of research and got used this as a composite recipe.

We made these decadent cakes in December, to give as gifts at Christmas.

3 c sugar 1 c raisins 1 tangerine 1 lemon 2 c dried apricots 3⁄4 c dried pineapple 3⁄4 c dried sour cherries
1/4 c crystalized ginger
1/2 c black figs 1 c pitted prunes
1 c golden raisins
1 vanilla bean
3 + c brandy 2 c walnuts 1 c butter, melted 2 tsp. vanilla extract 6 eggs, lightly beaten 4 cups flour 1 tsp. baking soda 2 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt
Chop vanilla bean and all dried fruit, excepting cherries, into varying sizes. With the raisins place the chopped vanilla bean. Place in bowls and divide the brandy amongst the bowls. Let soak for at least 4 hours.

Check the fruit intermittently and add more brandy if it looks a bit dry.
Zest and juice tangerine and lemon.

Combine all fruits into a big bowl and stir in sugar, lemon and tangerine juice/zest, butter and eggs.

Preheat oven to 325. Grease four tins, we found quirky molds at Goodwill for $.99.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the fruit mixture.

Pour batter into greased tins and bake for about an hour and a half (depending on how deep the molds are). Check intermittently with a toothpick. Cool for half an hour, run a knife around the edge of the pan, then carefully turn onto a plate or rack. Brush generously with Grand Marnier. Serve immediately or put in a tupperware or ziplock bag and freeze.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gluten Free Olive Shortbread

For the most part, I avoid gluten-free baking. I've found it in many cases to be sort of depressing, a sad facsimile of a sham, a shadow of the glutinous original. I just eat around wheat products, and for the most part, I don't miss it. But sometimes I get a craving for baking, not just for eating the sweet, but for the process. I miss pinches of baking soda and folding in eggs.

I've noticed, though, in the gluten-free baking I have attempted, that the results generally yield a fairly dense what-ever-it-is. This lends itself to some things. I once made a delicious gluten-free lemon olive oil provencal cake, with lavender frosting. It was flat and dense, but that somehow worked.

So... in these colder months I've been pining for a sweet smelling, warm house. I remembered these cookies my stepmother brought back from Paris once, I think from O&Co--black olive cookies. They were brittle and salty and sweet and olive-oily.

I discovered in the internets that they are a type of french cookie called Scourtines, typically made with niscoise olives. So, I amalgamated a few recipes and came out with this:

1 1/2 stick butter
1/3 c sugar
1 3/4 c Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour
a pinch of xanthum gum, just to be safe
3/4 c kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 c dry cured black olives, pitted and chopped
a pinch of xanthum gum, just to be safe

Preheat oven to 350, grease cookie sheet
Beat butter until smooth, combine sugar. Sift in the flour and xanthum gum, stirring until totally mixed. Stir in olives.
Drop a spoonful of cookie dough onto the greased cookie sheet, about one every two inches (they spread out a lot). Bake until a bit golden.

They were really very good. They did not have that "I am deprived because of food allergies and this is what it tastes like" flavor which I find so bitter; they were utterly rich and salty and brittle and everything I wanted them to be.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kim Chi

The newest edition to my fermenting repetoire.

Fermenting food has been a rather intimidating project which I have put off for a while, but have recently integrated fairly smoothly into my life. I think I was afraid of the idea of rotting food on purpose to eat, like, maybe if I did it wrong it would become deadly poison. But the few things I've made so far...have been very easy and imprecise, mostly assembled to taste and with whatever kitchen sink ingredients happen to be around. Kim Chi worried me a little, because it's so exotic, or something.

Probably also because Jean explained that we must use salt preserved shrimp, because vegan Kim Chi isn't truly Kim Chi, it's just pickled cabbage, a westernized facsimile. Ah, salt fermented shrimp...the strangest thing in my refrigerator right now. When Kate saw the jar last night at Dinner Club, she said, delicately, "is that....pickled maggots?!". Nope, just some tiny, incredibly salty shrimp in a jar. Duh.

It took a while to assemble all the ingredients for the Kim Chi, because, well, where does one find salt preserved shrimp? Jean found it at a Korean grocery store in Tacoma. And now we have a whole jar!

1 napa cabbage
2 daikon radishes
lots of salt
3 carrots
bunch green onions
head garlic
inch or two ginger
salt preserved shrimp
korean crushed red pepper
fish sauce

Slice the cabbage in half and lay it in a big bowl filled with freezing cold water, let it sit for a moment and then dunk it in and out several times. This causes the leaves to bloom a bit. Set to dry out in the dish drainer or a colander. Chop the radish into cubes and put in a large bowl. Throw a handful of salt onto the radish, and mix it around with your hands. There should be enough salt so that each cube has some on every side. Lay the cabbage halves, one at a time, into another large bowl, sliced side down. Rub salt on each side of every leaf, all the way to the center.

Through the magic of osmosis, the water in the vegetables is drawn out by the salt. They get pretty droopy and after about two hours are totally wilted and veritably floating in a puddle of brine.

Rinse the radish cubes thoroughly in a colander, return to bowl. If the bowl has a lid, so much the better, but we just used a plastic bad. Rinse the cabbage out very carefully, running water between each leaf. Gently squeeze the water out, and rinse again. Repeat once more. Lay the cabbage halves into a flat-ish container (we used a casserole dish with a glass lid).

Slice the carrots, green onions, and a few cloves of garlic into thin strips.

In a food processor (or else, maybe a blender), add the ginger, as much garlic as you want (we used a whole head for the recipe), a few tablespoons of salt preserved shrimp, and some splashes of fish sauce, about a quarter cup, and chop to a paste. Pour into a large bowl, and add the chili powder, again, to taste, and stir. The consistency will very based on how much chili powder you use, ours was kind of like thick pancake batter, and was just spicy enough for me, but Jean would have preferred it a bit spicier.

Stir the carrots and green onions into this spicy batter, coating them totally. Now the fun part. Smudge a dollop of the pungent mixture between every leaf of the cabbage. Don't do it with your bare hands or your skin will be burning for hours; I suppose if you were extremely prepared you'd use plastic gloves, but we just used recycled bulk food bags. Stir the rest of the paste into the radishes until they are bright red. When each leaf of the cabbage and cube of radish is coated, cover the dishes with a lids/plastic bags and put it somewhere not too hot and not too cold. We put it in the closet on the top shelf. Leave it there for two or three days, tasting every day, until it "tastes right", then keep it in the fridge until devoured.

We made our Kim Chi at night, and in the morning it greeted us with a robust, "Hell-llo! Kim CHII-III!!" smell. If I lived in a cartoon, there would have been bright orange clouds meandering down all the hallways. At first it was a bit appalling, but we all became accustomed to the smell and greeted it back. After the second day, the smell was associated to my body with the way it tastes, and I just wanted to eat it all the time. It didn't last long, we ate it all in about a week.

Jean said he thought it might be the best Kim Chi he's eaten.