Years ago, during the 80s I met a Persian man and began a relationship. The cookbook, “Food of Life” by Najmieh Batmanglij allowed me to be fluent in communicating with his family. At least at the table. All of us thought this was extraordinary, magical even. Cookbooks can be magic. They take us to far-away cultures and sometimes re-orient us to our own. They are vehicles to explore nostalgia and to engage us in the now. Najmieh Batmanglij is THE leading authority on Persian cuisine outside of Iran. The fact that she isn’t widely known outside the Iranian community especially in Los Angeles a city of Iranian exile is inexplicable to me.
Sometimes the best book of the year is the last one we receive. For me, this year that book is Batmanlij’s newest book, “Cooking in Iran, Regional Recipes & Kitchen Secrets.” It’s a stunning regional tour of the country that is at once a celebration of the return of an exile and an investigation of unknown dishes by an author imbued with her subject. If you already own “Food of Life,” the book Batmanglij published in 1986 then you have what is considered to be the bible of Persian classics written by a cook of discerning palate, determined to communicate the traditional way of doing things in a gorgeously presented way. The cookbook allowed me to be fluent in communicating with my Persian boyfriend’s family in the 80s. At least at the table. All of us thought this was extraordinary, magical even. Her latest, “Cooking in Iran,” all 726 pages, are dishes Batmanglij found in travels spanning three trips over the past five years. She went to regions she had never visited before and found food she’d never tasted as well as variations of the familiar she never considered. She traveled with Persian news photographer Afshin Bakhtiar. His work of people, places and landscape are a perfect counterpoint to the gorgeous photos of recipes tested in the Barmanglij home kitchen.
This book must be Bamanglij’s coming out party, the work that introduces her to a large non-Persian audience. When I started devouring her books in the mid-1980s she quickly became another culinary “aunt”, a mentor who like Claudia Roden, Marcella Hazan, and Madhur Jaffrey, opened the door to a cuisine about which I knew nothing. These women were adventurous, independent, ambitious advocates for the cuisines of their hearts. And they could write in ways that would draw you into the meticulously researched culinary world they explored all the while sharing personal stories. Batmanglij took a cuisine from a country I had never visited and for political reasons would be unlikely ever to visit and make me love it, crave it, enjoy cooking it. But why hasn’t she received the same level of attention of these other giants of culinary mentorship? Clearly it’s the problematic political nature of Iran itself, especially during the 1980s, the years she first started publishing. Those images on every westerner’s television of the takeover of the American Embassy and the hostage saga led to this place from which so many Angelenos fled to be reviled.
Over the past three years I’ve received at least ten books that explore Iranian cooking, sometimes as the sole focus, often as part of a look at Central Asia, but this deep volume deserves a special place for those of us who relish learning through eating and cooking. And for Angelenos who have been eating stews and kebab and that glorious treat known as tahdig in restaurants for the past thirty years this is an opportunity to taste what you can’t get in local restaurants. There are some cuisines that translate quite well to the restaurant kitchen. Italian food for example is one. There are others where the difference between home cooked food and what is presented in the majority of restaurants is more than a gulf it’s a ravine. I learned this eating my friend’s mother’s cooking and at the table of his cousins and aunts. The variety of skills and flavors on offer in “Cooking in Iran” is like seeing a kaleidoscope where before you just saw primary colors. And it’s all filtered through Batmanglij whose palate is extraordinary. She’s the aunt you want cooking for you. “Cooking in Iran” is the next best thing.
Pumpkin preserves, Hamadan
So onto the food. It was in Persian courts that the combination of sweet and sour in a savory context was fully explored and exported to the world. I often explain to people to imagine the spice of Indian food and substitute a lavish use of herbs plus the addition of sour. Tartness can be in the form of unripe grapes, barberries, tamarind, vinegar or the famous dried limes. There are enough pickles and preserves in this book to make up a sub-volume.
From the town of Hamadan are pumpkin preserves, cut into flowers, soaked in pickling lime to keep the flesh crisp then candied in a rose water scented syrup with pistachios. There is a lavish dried apricot-nut pickle with almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts. There are braises like Baked Onions Filled with Rice and Herbs that are comforting but always with a brightening twist like the tarragon garnish here. I love porridges from many countries, but halim is next level. I can’t wait to try the green flecked Halim finished with saffron made with Mung Beans and Kohlrabi from Isfahan, photographed as a smear on a puffy flatbread or the Sweet and Sour Glazed Chickpea and Carrot Patties.
In short. this is a book that will keep you happily busy for years, while introducing you to a giant of culinary prowess.
I grew up in LA, in Silver Lake, and whenever Mom and I wanted deli we drove to Canter’s. At first, for Mom, it was Fairfax, a Jewish center of gravity a few blocks long that felt like home. But over the decades we created our own traditions and found comfort there. And we were not alone. Alan Canter, the owner of the famed deli, who just died at the age of 82, created an enviable institution whose embrace was wide.
There were folks like my mom for whom it was a daily anchor. For 20 years my mom walked through the doors at Canter’s to start her day with a burnt bagel with cream cheese and a cup of black coffee. Her relationship with Jeannie, who had been waitressing for at least 50 years, was as important as the meal that kicked off every working day. We developed a routine of feasting on generous smoked fish plates for any occasion, but especially on Christmas Day. And if one of us was feeling poorly the other would stop by for chicken or barley bean soup to-go. If we felt lazy we got a few pints and pounds of deli meat for sandwich making, always looking for the bargain bags of sliced rye that had gone wrong in the slicer that would occasionally appear on the deli counter. And yes, Mom revered Mr. Canter’s famed fruit cups.
But really what Canter’s was about for us, and still is for me, is that it’s a place to be reminded of what a wonderful place Los Angeles is. That wide embrace makes being in the space wonderfully entertaining. I recently wrote in the LA Times.
Every day, a parade of people of all ages and type walks through the front doors. Goths, punks, hipsters, grandchildren in quantity, Supreme heads, hippies, middle-aged writers still waiting for their first break, seniors eking out a day’s meal on Social Security…kids in their early 20s, accompanied by their bewildered visiting parents.
So thanks from my heart to Alan Canter, a man who created a place where waiters and deli men never want to move on and where regulars come to stay and new ones are minted every day. That kind of generosity of spirit is rare in today’s restaurant world. We need more of it.
Chef Sultan Hiwilla left his native Xinjiang, China in 2005. He now runs a halal Uighur restaurant in Sydney, Australia and speaks out about the mistreatment of Uighurs in China. Photo by Stan Lee/KCRW
In the kitchen of Tarim Uyghur Restaurant in Sydney, Australia, Sultan Hiwilla throws hand-pulled noodles, each of them a couple of feet long, into a pot of boiling water. When the chewy noodles are cooked, he arranges them carefully in a bowl and adds lamb and bell peppers sautéed in oil, garlic and spices.
“This is lagman,” says Hiwilla. “We make the noodles by hand with flour and water. That’s it.”
Most of the dishes on the menu here involve tasty homemade noodles. There is lamb square noodle soup. Dry noodles are fried with fragrant Sichuan peppercorns, onions and chives. Broad boiled flat noodles are served in a stew of cinnamon, ginger, chili peppers and chicken that is falling off the bone.
You won’t find pork and alcohol at Tarim Uyghur. That’s because everything Hiwilla serves is halal, prepared according to strict Islamic rules. The recipes and preparations come from his native Xinjiang, a region in western China that is home to more than 10 million Uighurs belonging to the ethnic Turkic minority. Most of the people who live in mainland China are ethnically Han Chinese.
Each noodle served at Tarim Uyghur is pulled from a batch of homemade dough. A single noodle is often more than a foot long. Photo by Stan Lee/KCRW
Besides being halal, Hiwilla says Uighur food differs from other Chinese cuisines because of its Central Asian roots. The ancient trade routes that make up the Silk Road pass through Xinjiang, connecting China to the Middle East. “We not only have different food, we have a different culture,” says Hiwilla. “That’s why China sees us as a threat. Because we are totally different people. They want to make us Han Chinese.”
There have been ethnic tensions in Xinjiang since China began governing the region in 1949. Anti-government protests have occasionally become violent. Now some separatists want to establish an independent state in Xinjiang called East Turkestan.
In April 2017, the Chinese government stepped up the campaign. Tens of thousands of Uighurs were swept up and detained in internment camps. Now as many as 2 million members of Muslim minority groups are being held in hundreds of camps in western China, according to recent US State Department estimates. The Chinese government calls these camps re-education centers that are aimed at stamping out terrorism and religious extremism.
Pretty things from Xinjiang decorate Tarim Uyghur Restaurant: Delicate hollowed-out gourds, tea sets with ikat patterns and colorful embroidered doppa hats. Photo by Stan Lee/KCRW
“My dad is in one of the camps … I don’t know why he was taken,” says one Uighur Australian woman who used to work at Tarim Uyghur Restaurant in Sydney. She spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation from the Chinese government.
She says while her parents were on a business trip in China last year, the government took their passports away. Soon after, she learned her father had disappeared.
“I just want to go back to China now to see my mom to see how she’s doing and to know information about my dad,” the 25-year-old woman says. “But every time I bring up on the phone going back, my mom will say, ‘No way. Just stay there, don’t ever come back.’ You’re not allowed to speak about these things. You can’t tell anyone if any of your relatives are in the camps.”
A hearty bowl of lagman. The very long noodles are the vehicle for sautéed lamb, bell peppers, garlic and spices. Photo by Stan Lee/KCRW
“Praying and other religious practices are forbidden,” said Scott Busby, a senior US State Department official. “The apparent goal is to force detainees to renounce Islam and embrace the Chinese Communist Party.”
At the hearing, Colorado Republican Cory Gardner and Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey called for China to reverse its policies and release Uighur detainees.
“We are talking about one of the most significant trade partners this country and many countries around the globe have with over 1 billion people,” said Senator Gardner. “We’re not talking about some tin-pot dictatorship. We’re talking about a country that people look to more and more for leadership around the globe. What you have described are damning evidence of horrendous human right violations.”
The Australian government has also expressed concern for the growing number of Uighurs in camps. Increasingly, Uighur Australians are speaking out because the situation in Xinjiang is so dire. Several thousand Uighurs from China now call Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide home.
“What was their crime? Just being a Uighur?” asks Nurmuhammad Majid, a Uighur human rights activist who moved to Australia from China in 2004. “If you bring a human into the detention camps, you change someone by force. It’s not called a modernization. It’s called dehumanization.”
Nan is one of the mainstays of Uighur cuisine. Here, the goshnan, or “meat bread,” in Uyghur. Photo by Stan Lee/KCRW
Majid lives in Adelaide and travels around Australia to help migrants apply for visas and residency. He carries nan, a savory bread that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, on his travels and shares it with the people he meets.
“Nan bread. I have it in my suitcase in my car,” Majid says. “I always carry nan for my breakfast. Without nan, a Uighur doesn’t have breakfast.”
Back at Tarim Uyghur Restaurant in Sydney, Sultan Hiwilla brings goshnan to the table, its pretty fluted crust puffing with steam. Goshnan means “meat bread” in Uighur. Hiwilla’s version is two pieces of thin dough filled with minced lamb, onions, cumin and other spices, fried like a giant pancake over very low heat.
Finally, the lamb kebabs arrive, tender marinated pieces of meat that are grilled over charcoal and dusted with more cumin. They slide easily off skewers onto the plate. As we eat, we cast an eye around the restaurant, at the pretty things from Xinjiang: stringed long-necked lutes called dutars, delicate hollowed-out gourds, colorful silk ikat fabrics, embroidered doppa hats. There is also a postcard of the Id Kah Mosque mosque in Kashgar, which once held 20,000 worshippers and is now shuttered.
“Enjoy,” said Hiwilla. “The food is getting cold.”
Experts have long said sparkling wine belongs on the table just as any other bold red, buttery white or fruity rosé—and Americans are catching on. Domestic consumption increased nearly 6 percent in 2017, driving overall sales of wine. And as our thirst grows, so has the quantity—and quality—of what is offered. Gabriele Rosso, one of the lead contributors to Slow Food’s annual wine guide, Slow Wine, says, “We’re noticing a great resurgence of Italian sparkling wines. Not only those made in the most famous denominations like Trentodoc and Franciacorta, which are gaining a growing national and international reputation, but, year after year, we’re also tasting extraordinary sparkling wines coming from lesser-known areas.”
Sommelier Roberto Anesi raising a glass of Trentodoc. Credit: Simran Sethi
The quality of these wines is something we can only fully discern when tasting, but the information below can help. The regions listed are the main areas producing sparkling wine in Italy. The grapes may be endemic to place (such as Glera), or they may also be found in other sparkling wines (like the ubiquitous Chardonnay) but have a different expression due to factors such as climate, soils and terrain. Take, for example, Trentodoc: the sparkling wine I recently discussed with Evan Kleiman on Good Food. Tom Stevenson, the founder and head judge of the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships, shared this eloquent description: “Trentodoc’s secret is its mountain viticulture. The snow-capped Dolomite mountains represent the most influential factor in determining the quality and style of these sparkling wines. At night, chilly mountain air slides down the mountainside and over the vines. When the grapes are suddenly immersed in this chilly air, their metabolism stops dead in its tracks, preserving the acidity above and beyond the level found in the same variety at the same point of ripeness elsewhere. The reverse happens during the day, when warmer air rises from lower elevations, allowing the ripening process to continue.”
This expression of terroir is also revealed through a wine’s appellation. In Italy, there are four categories, two of which are specific to the primary regions of sparkling wines. DOC—Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata or Controlled Denomination of Origin—are wines that have to be produced in a “well-defined area of origin, also with indication of sub-area,” according to strict rules around how the grapes are grown and processed. DOCG—Vino a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin—wines go further. They require two rounds of evaluation for quality and focus on smaller, more defined areas of origin.
Chardonnay grapes, the foundation of most sparkling wines. Credit: Simran Sethi
Processing is also critical—and has a significant impact on every aspect of our experience of the wine. The traditional method—a key component of the UNESCO world heritage designation awarded to Champagne—is the most highly regarded. It is, according to Wine Folly, not only “the most appreciated method for sparkling wine production in terms of quality, [but also] the most costly in terms of production.” Known in Italian as “metodo classico,” this process requires a secondary fermentation in the bottle and that the wine be aged with residual particles of yeast that sink to the bottom of fermentation vessels, known as “aging on the lees.” An October 2018 paper entitled “Study of the changes in volatile compounds, aroma and sensory attributes during the production process of sparkling wine by traditional method” explains that secondary fermentation and ageing on the lees “completely change the organoleptic properties of the base wine, and confer the sparkling wine its characteristic aroma, flavour [sic], foamability and roundness.”
And that leads us to the final bit of information below: flavor notes. “Trentodocs” Stevenson says, “have a much more linear taste profile. Their structure is more like a rapier than a broadsword, with a long finish that relies more on intensity than weight.” He describes the wines as “crisp and crunchy” while a wine such as Franciacorta—produced in a warmer region—offers a riper, fuller experience.
As I wrote in my book, what each of us finds in our glass is deeply personal and highly malleable, depending on external influences and the quality of the wine we’re actually consuming (which, as we know, is a dynamic product shaped by season, place and processing). For detailed information on Italian bubbles, check out Slow Food’s new guide to sparkling wines (only available in Italian). And read below for general hints of what you might discover when you pop the cork and raise a glass.
Trentodoc Region: Trentino
Primary grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Noir), Pinot Bianco (Blanc) and Pinot Meunier
Production method: Metodo classico
Flavors: Crisp yet rounded, with aromas of tropical fruit, apricot and vanilla, as well as spice and freshly baked bread
Region: Franciacorta, Lombardy
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco
Production method: Metodo classico
Flavors: Fresh and mineral, with notes of biscuits and bread crust, as well as citrus, almonds and dried figs
Grapes: Pinot Nero
Production method: Metodo classico
Flavors: Savory and citrusy, with notes of brioche and lemon
Grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Nero
Classification: DOCG for sparkling white wines
Production method: Metodo classico
Flavors: Delicate and savory, with aromas of almond and honey, as well as bread crust and dried fruit
Grapes: Moscato Bianco
Production method: Martinotti-Charmat method—a.k.a. the tank method or Metodo Martinotti, in which the wine’s secondary fermentation occurs in a closed, pressurized stainless steel tank. The process was invented in 1895 by Italian enologist Federico Martinotti for use in the production of spumante and then adapted to French production in 1907 by Eugene Charmat.
Sparkling wines fermented by the tank method are typically characterized as fresher and fruiter than those that used the traditional method, though “some may argue that the tank method is not as high-quality of a production method as the traditional method.”
Flavors: Floral and fruity, with aromas of Asian pear, honeysuckle, nectarine and honey
Grapes: Predominantly Glera
Classification: DOC and DOCG wines are available
Production method: Metodo Martinotti
Flavors: Sweet and fruity, with notes of green apples, peaches and pears
Region: Lambrusco region within Emilia-Romagna
Grapes: Lambruscos are made with two or more Lambrusco varieties (Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Montericco, Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Sorbara are the most common) and frequently blended with other grapes for color and body.
Production method: predominantly Metodo Martinotti
Flavors: Fruity and acidic, with aromas of blackberry, stone fruit, rhubarb and cream
Reprinted from Season by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018
Date and Tamarind Loaf
The inspiration for this cake is a sweet chutney made from dates and tamarind, which is commonly served as a dipping sauce with samosas and other fried snacks. I often dust this cake with confectioners’ sugar or drizzle it with a little Kefir Crème Fraîche.
makes 8 to 9 servings (one 8½ in [21.5 cm] loaf)
3¼ oz [90 g] sour tamarind pulp or paste (see note below)
1 cup [240 ml] boiling water
2 cups [280 g] all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp fine sea salt
16 pitted Medjool dates, finely chopped
½ cup [60 g] chopped walnuts, plus 6 walnut halves
¾ cup [180 ml] plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup [150 g] packed jaggery or muscovado sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup [120 g] confectioners’ sugar
Put the tamarind in a medium heat-proof bowl and add the boiling water, pressing down on the tamarind with a spoon so it’s covered with water. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 1 hour. Massage and squeeze the pulp to soften it, and press through a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a bowl, discarding the solids in the strainer. Measure out 1 cup [240 g] pulp for this recipe. Reserve 2 Tbsp of the pulp in a small bowl to prepare the glaze.
Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Grease an 8½ by 4½ in [21.5 by 11 cm] loaf pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, pepper, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Put the dates in a small bowl. Add the walnuts and 2 Tbsp of the whisked dry ingredients and toss to coat evenly.
Combine the ¾ cup [180 ml] olive oil, 1 cup [240g] tamarind pulp, and jaggery in a blender and pulse on high speed for a few seconds until completely emulsified. Add one egg and pulse for 3 to 4 seconds, until combined. Repeat with the remaining egg.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl, and pour the egg mixture into the well. Whisk the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and continue whisking until there are no visible flecks of flour. Then fold in the dates and walnuts.
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Arrange the walnuts halves in a straight line down the center of the loaf. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until firm to the touch in the center and a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, and run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake. Remove from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil to the small bowl containing the reserved tamarind. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely smooth. Pour the glaze over the cooled loaf and let it sit for 1 hour to set before serving.
A high-speed blender is a marvelous tool to use for olive oil cakes because it can quickly whip air and emulsify the liquids in the batter to create a delicate cake crumb. This cake is first spiced with ginger and black pepper and sweetened with jaggery, adding contrast to the tamarind and dates in the batter, and then finally drizzled with a tamarind glaze to add a pop of fruitiness. I prefer to use the sour tamarind found in the Asian grocery stores rather than the sweeter Mexican variety because its stronger flavor comes through better in baking.
Tamarind is a tropical fruit that’s typically used in African, Asian, and Mexican cuisines. Some producers label tamarind “sour Asian” or “sweet Mexican,” which refers to the stage at which the fruit was harvested. The longer the fruit ages, the sweeter it gets. I usually stick with the sour variety and then sweeten as needed. Tamarind is available in four different forms: the whole fruit in the pods (top left); a wet, seedless cake of pulp, which some producers call “paste” (top right); a dried
block of pulp with seeds (bottom left); and a liquid concentrate with a dark, molasses like color and texture (bottom right). The dried pulp and the wet paste are basically the same thing. You can use either one for the recipes in this book. Avoid the liquid concentrate, though, because it’s been cooked down, it doesn’t taste the same. (I find it a little off.) Working with the fruit or the seedless cakes at home, it’s very easy and requires only a short amount of time. If you buy the whole fruit in their pods,
remove as much of the shell as you can and follow the instructions in the recipe for softening it in boiling water and straining the fruit, which will take care of any pieces of shell.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s name is synonymous with impeccably made food, whether it’s out of a cookbook or off a menu at one of his restaurants. Now, his latest gift to home cooks is a cookbook called “Simple.” But there’s more to the name than meets the eye.
When the British-Israeli chef stopped by KCRW, he told Evan Kleiman that “Simple” doubled as an acronym to help cooks decide what to make based on their own constraints:
S — Short on time: less than half an hour
I — Ingredients: 10 or fewer
M — Make ahead
P — Pantry-led
L — Lazy
E — Easier than you think
Many of the recipes check multiple boxes, giving cooks a better idea of how complicated or time-consuming these recipes will be. But the following recipe is marked with a bright green “M.” Ottolenghi suggests making the chicken in advance if you want to work ahead. It can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. And if you aren’t interested in a bake, the chicken can be served as-is on top of rice, in a wrap, or with a buttery baked potato.
Slow-cooked chicken with a crisp corn crust
Yield: Six servings
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium-large red onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 Tbsp rose harissa (or 50 percent more or less, depending on variety)
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (9 or 10 thighs)
Salt and black pepper
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp passata (tomato puree)
5 large tomatoes, quartered
1½ cups water
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and cut into ¾-inch thick rounds
½ oz dark chocolate (70% cacao)
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
5 Tbsp 70g unsalted butter, melted
Scant 4 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen and defrosted (from 4 large ears corn)
3 Tbsp whole milk
3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
Build up sauce: Heat the oil in a large sauté pan with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 8–9 minutes, stirring a few times, until caramelized and soft. Decrease the heat to medium and add the garlic, harissa, paprika, chicken, 1 tsp salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently, then add the tomato puree and tomatoes. Add the water, bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while.
Add in additional ingredients: Add the peppers and chocolate and continue to simmer for 35–40 minutes, with the pan now uncovered, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and the chicken is falling apart. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro. If you are serving the chicken as it is (as a stew without the batter), it’s ready to serve (or freeze, once it has come to room temperature) at this stage. If you are making the corn crust, spoon the chicken into a ceramic baking dish—one with high sides that measures about 8 x 12 inches —and set aside.
Begin corn crust: Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Prepare batter: To make the batter, pour the butter into a blender with the corn, milk, egg yolks, and ¾ tsp salt. Blitz for a few seconds, to form a rough paste, then spoon into a large bowl. Place the egg whites in a separate clean bowl and whisk to form firm peaks. Fold these gently into the runny corn mixture until just combined, then pour the mix evenly over the chicken.
Bake: Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Keep an eye on it after 25 minutes to make sure the top is not taking on too much color; you might need to cover it with foil for the final 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes before serving.
Jack The Hippie, on his great waffle odyssey. Photo by Gideon Brower.
Contributor Gideon Brower describes his friend Jack as an “old-school hippie.” He’s also something of an unlikely food critic. Good Food listeners might remember the duo’s amusing quest last year to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie in Los Angeles. This time they devoted a full day to canvas the city in search of LA’s best waffle. The rule was that every waffle would be stacked up against something called the “Green-Sherman” waffle. The Green-Sherman is a creation of Jack’s friends in Seattle, and he calls it a legendary “hippie waffle.”
But he is open to trying LA’s waffle offerings. According to Jack, a waffle must have the following characteristics:
-Beautiful, dark color
-Tangy, hoppy flavor
-Light, not too dessert-ish
During their waffle tour, the duo stopped at The Waffle on Sunset Boulevard, Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles on North Gower, The Shaky Alibi near The Grove, IHOP, Hayden in Culver City, Bru’s Wiffle in Santa Monica, Poppy & Rose in the Los Angeles Flower Market, and finally G&B Market in Grand Central Market. Spoiler alert: Nothing could compare to the memory of Jack’s last Green-Sherman waffle.
Try this unparalleled waffle at home.
The waffle recipe, as told by creator Jane Sherman.
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
3/4 cup milk
1 banana, mashed
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup toasted pecans
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
Combine dry ingredients: In one bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Combine remaining ingredients separately: In a different bowl, combine egg yolks, milk, banana, yogurt, and butter. Mix until blended. All together now: Combine bowl #1 and bowl #2. Add some pizzazz: Stir in pecans and poppy seeds. Work the egg whites: Beat egg whites into soft peaks. Gently fold into batter. Iron time: Pour into a hot, greased waffle iron for about 3-4 minutes per side or per your iron instructions.
The “bionic turkey” experiment: Cook the bird from the inside-out. Bone the bird, replace the leg bones with aluminum tubes, stuff the carcass with aluminum foil (heats quickly, maintains structure), and pump hot oil through the tubes to cook the inside of the thigh quickly.
How to make a “bionic turkey”
Cooking the bionic chicken: Take the fully boned chicken, stuff the cavity with aluminum foil, and put aluminum sprinkler-tubes where the leg bones used to be. Pump 65 degree oil through the legs for 20 minutes then turn down the oil to 64 and immerse chicken for 40 more minutes.
1.De-bone the bird: We used a technique that avoids cutting the skin: Starting at the butt end of the bird you carefully remove the bones by slowly turning the bird inside out. Then you carefully remove the leg bones; the wing bones are left in.
2. Prepare tubing: Cut pieces of aluminum tubing to the same length as the leg and thigh bones. We cut slits all along the tubes so they would act like sprinklers. We made the knee joint by joining the tubes with rubber tubing. We attached these bionic leg bones to the pump output of an immersion circulator.
Bionic Turkey: two pieces of aluminum tubing are cut to the same length as the leg and thigh bones. Cuts are made in in the tubes so they act like sprinklers. They are joined at the “knee” with a length of rubber tubing.
3. Stuff the bird: We stuffed the inside of the chicken with aluminum foil and threaded the aluminum tubes into the legs. Then we trussed the bird — no one would suspect a thing. We put the bird on a cooling rack over a lexan full of oil heated to 65 C with an immersion circulator. We hooked up a second circulator and used it to pump hot oil through the leg tubes. The extra oil poured out of the bird and back into the lexan. After 20 minutes we lowered the temperature to 64C and dropped the bird into the oil. 40 minutes later we pulled it.
4. Admire results: The bird held its shape even when we removed the foil. It looked like a whole, untouched bird. The meat was perfect all the way through.
5. Finish the bird: Ladling hot oil over the skin for several minutes worked great. Simple.
Here’s the conclusion to my turkey saga (read the rest here, here, and here):
To recap, I made a boneless bionic turkey with aluminum sprinkler-pipe leg bones and cooked it in duck fat and butter using a two-step process. I chilled it and brought it to my in-laws’ house three hours north of the FCI. All I had to do on Thanksgiving day was warm up the bird and crisp the skin.
Kitchen space was scarce, so I did everything on the grill outside.
Preheating. I removed the grates from the grill and put a hotel pan with oil directly on the burners to heat up. I put the bird on a rack above the hotel pan and partially closed and tented the grill to pre-warm the bird.
I took the bird out of the fridge, removed most of the aluminum foil from its cavity, and let it come up to room temperature for an hour. I turned the grill into a turkey-warmer/pour-over fryer by removing the cooking grates and putting a hotel pan with two gallons of oil directly on the burners. On top of the hotel pan I put a rack to hold the turkey. I put the turkey on the rack and closed the grill (as much as I could) to allow the turkey to warm up while the oil was heating. I couldn’t close the lid without mangling the turkey, so I propped the grill open and tented the lid with aluminum foil. The area where the turkey was sitting floated around 275 F –a good warming temperature.
Fat ladling time-lapse. 2 minutes.
When the oil was piping hot (around 375 F) I started ladling the fat, two-fisted, all over the top of the bird. It browned even faster than I thought it would. The whole bird was crisped up in about 2 minutes. Bonus: there were no spewing geysers of oil, no huge flames, no Thanksgiving-ruining clouds of choking smoke.
Closeup of fat ladling.
So far, so good.
Once inside, I removed the bionic leg bones and the rest of the foil. The bird didn’t collapse. Another win.
Bird on the table with bionic legs removed. Looks normal.
The moment of truth:
White meat. Perfect.
Dark meat. Perfect.
I was happy with the results. The family enjoyed the bird. Super moist but not watery. Tender. The taste of the herbs, duck fat and butter came through. Next year, I might increase the temperature a half a degree to make the breast meat look a little more conventional. There were also a couple of blood vessels that didn’t lose their red color. That didn’t bother me too much.
Folks around the dinner table kept asking me if it had been “worth it.”
Carla Hall outside KCRW’s studios. Photo by Christopher Ho.
As Carla Hall would discover later on in life, soul food was more than what she ate as a child at her grandmother’s house in Nashville, Tennessee. It was the passed-down genealogy of her ancestors, slaves brought to the United States, and Americans fighting for their civil rights.
The former co-host of ABC’s The Chew began the research for her new book “Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration,” by taking a road trip through the American South, connecting with black cooks and families. The recipes she gathered along the way inspired her to rethink her favorite soul food dishes.
For this recipe, Hall took the traditional creamed spinach instructions and replaced the central ingredient with sturdier, more textured kale leaves. Give the recipe a try this holiday season!
Yield: 8 servings
2 cups heavy cream
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 bunches Tuscan kale (about 2 pounds), tough stems removed, leaves cut into 1/4-inch slices
Reduce the heavy cream: Bring the cream to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Boil until reduced to 11/2 cups. Add the garlic, chili flakes, nutmeg, half the onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Prepare the greens: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium and add the greens, a handful at a time, stirring to wilt after each addition. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove excess water: Uncover and grab a bunch of the greens with tongs to squeeze out any excess water.
Combine and serve: Transfer to the cream mixture. Repeat with the remaining greens. Stir well to coat with the cream mixture. Serve hot.
Dunbarton Blue was a cheese that almost never existed.
Chris Roelli, fresh out of college and ready to take over the family business, looked forward to the challenge of making cheddar like his father and grandfather had. His dad knew about his cheese-making aspirations. But rather than handing over the reins, he shut down the family’s factory. Why would a multi-generation cheese maker do that to his son?
His reaction to Chris’s interest in cheddar-making can tell us a lot about the US food system, as well as about the newest chapter in the history of cheddar. Why are people eating a lot more cheese, made in fewer locations, from the milk of increasingly larger-sized herds? And why is it so hard for a small-scale cheesemaker to make a living—so hard, in fact, that Mr. Roelli felt the need to make sure his son pursued a different vocation?
Not too long ago, relatively speaking, things were quite different. Most cheddar makers in the immediate post-WWII period had made a good living selling to the large companies such as Kraft, Borden, and Armour. Those big national brands had regional producers, sometimes a lot of them, contracted to make their cheese to meet demand. Then came the “Cheddarpocalypse,” a day when somewhere between fifty and eighty small cheddar factories in the Midwest were told—with thirty days notice—that their cheese would no longer be purchased. This notice to small producers was repeated throughout the nation as national brands built large cheese factories. No longer could a family cheesemaker survive by making blocks of cheddar alone.
How did this happen? In the early 20th century, viewing the “farm as factory” was an obvious metaphor for improving the food system, designed to show that farmers needed to see the farm as an integrated system in order for it to work. In the era when “factory” did not evoke the image of ecological destruction, this made a lot more sense, and, if one can step back into those old shoes, it still does.
Cheddar production at Montgomery Cheese in Somerset, England. Photo by Simran Sethi.
But though the “farm as factory” was a metaphor at first, the “factory farm” would become a reality decades later. As every aspect of agriculture was subject to change in the name of efficiency, even the farm itself came under scrutiny. If the goal of the wedding of scientific management to farming was to lower the price of protein, that goal had been achieved. Ironically, the logic of “farm as factory” also led to the realization that farmers themselves—and the local cheesemakers—were expendable.
It’s not hard to see the economic problem that faced small cheesemakers like the Roellis. Unless they are farmstead producers, cheesemakers buy the milk they need to make cheese, but the cheese they make with it needs to age. So while the milk bill needs to get paid, the cheese sits around, costing money in utilities for refrigeration until it is mature enough to be sold. Many cheesemakers need to make young cheeses in order to get a quick return on their investment and pay off the bills that are owed. However, making a young, mild cheddar—a cheese that could be sold relatively quickly—became a volume game after the Cheddarpocalypse, when bigger, more efficient factories became the norm.
Since cheddar is traded as a commodity, producers became tied into the pricing system. If you are only making a penny or two per pound and only producing a thousand pounds of cheese a day, you are going to have a hard time feeding your family anything but cheese on that $10 or $20 a day. If, however, you are on the other end of the spectrum and producing one million pounds of cheese a day, you’ll probably be doing quite well.
Chris Roelli’s father and grandfather, not wanting to condemn Chris to a futile pursuit, made a clearly rational decision to stop producing cheese, one that many other cheesemakers had already made. There was no way to compete with the Krafts of the world, so instead of saddling his son with a business that was sure to fail, Chris’s father locked the doors. But Chris Roelli had other ideas. Slowly Roelli developed, through trial and error, one of the most original cheeses made in this country in the last century, a cheddar-blue that combines the best of those two worlds. One only made possible through the (re)discovery of the beauty of inefficiency.
The cows behind cheddar, grazing at North Cadbury Court, Somerset, England. Photo by Simran Sethi.
The Roellis use only milk from one farm for the Dunbarton Blue and pay a premium for its high quality. At large factories, the technology of today allows the process—everything from the pumping of milk to the packaging of the cheese—to be controlled by computers and button-pushers, never coming into contact with humans. But at the Roellis’ plant, they make cheese in the traditional way. As Roelli says, “Like it or not, my two hands touch every wheel.”
Dunbarton Blue is uncommon in taste but absolutely typical in the way it underscores the dramatic difference between traditionally made and factory-made cheese. On the one hand you have a family business, in the same area for 100 years, buying local high-quality milk that they use to make small batches of cheese that is then aged until deemed high enough in quality for sale. On the other hand, a large company buys milk as cheaply as possible and creates a huge volume of cheese using a pre-programmed, mechanical process that does not allow for individual input. The cheese is then sealed and sold as quickly as possible.
Of course, the cheese produced by machines and button-pushers is seen as the norm, and to most folks, spending anything more is seen as an extravagant indulgence. In a factory-food economy, many people simply do not have the choice to support people more like themselves—regular folks trying to make a living—because it would cost them money they don’t have. In a de-industrialized and de-agriculturalized nation, this irony is widening.
Still, despite his dad’s best efforts Chris Roelli has found a way to make a small-scale cheddar-style cheese in this day and age without going broke. That in itself is a remarkable feat in the 21st century.
Gordon Edgar is the author of two cheese books: Cheesemonger (2010) and Cheddar
(2015). He has worked behind a cheese counter since 1994. This excerpt is adapted
from Gordon Edgar’s book Cheddar: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese (Chelsea Green, 2015) and is printed with permission from the publisher.