January 23rd, 2013

olive oil production

The fascinating traditional process of making olive oil.

September 2nd, 2012

druze pita / kubbiz markouk

Druze pita or, in Lebanon, Kubbiz Markouk, made on a stove-top taboun. A recipe.

July 9th, 2012

tea eggs

Photo via globetrotterdiaries.

I just discovered the aggregatator/blog Tasteologie, home to some intriguing and experimental recipes. I have spent and will spend quite a while fishing for ideas here.

I will share two egg dishes that impressed me. One is the Chinese ‘tea egg’. Wiki:

Fragrant and flavorful tea eggs are a traditional Chinese food. The original recipe uses various spices, soy sauce, and black tea leaves. A commonly used spice for flavoring tea eggs is Chinese five-spice powder, which contains ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. Some recipes [1] do not use tea leaves, but they are still called “tea eggs”. In the traditional method of preparation, eggs are boiled until they reach a hardened, cooked state. The boiled eggs are removed from the water, and the entire shell of each egg is gently cracked all around. Smaller cracks produce more marbling when the egg is peeled for eating. The extra water from the boiling should be allowed to seep out of the eggs on its own. After about ten minutes, the cracked eggs are ready to be put into the prepared spiced-tea liquid and simmered at medium heat. The simmering allows the spiced fluid to seep into the cracks and marinate the eggs inside their shells. After about 20 minutes, the eggs and the spiced-tea liquid should be transferred to a glass or ceramic container for further steeping in a refrigerator. For best results, the eggs should be allowed to steep for two days. The dark color of the spiced tea gives the egg a marbled effect when it is peeled to be eaten.

The other recipe is simply an egg cooked inside a small courgette.

I would like to try the same but inside a small, white eggplant, like this one.

Eightball-Zuchinni Egg recipe

June 30th, 2012

the ritual of restaurant wine tasting

Having worked as a waiter in a restaurant, I sometimes wondered what was the point of allowing the host to taste the wine before drinking even when the wine came from a bottle with a rubber cork or a screwtop (therefore making it impossible for the wine to be ‘corked’).

Alex at Museum of Hoaxes points out that there is of course more to the tasting than the tasting itself. It is a ritual by which the experience of drinking wine is given more importance and meaning, and the host is honoured by being given the first taste. Alex refers the Encyclopedia of Esoteric Man:

‘Tasting’ used to be the common preliminary rite in ancient times. Generally the first drink was taken by the chief of a tribe because he had to be served first as the representative of the god. It also symbolically lifted the taboo that prohibited drinking on ordinary occasions, and neutralized the mana that inheres in sacramental drinks. It was also an assurance to guests that the drink was not poisoned.

Even today in western society the man ordering a bottle of wine for his companions, or offering wine to guests, often has the first sip from his glass and then has the other glasses filled. This is a survival of the old ‘tasting’ custom, by which the host ‘approved’ the drink, and ensured that it was free from poison. In Moslem countries the ruler had an official taster, and only after he had tried the sultan’s food and drink in his presence without ill effects, did the latter partake of them himself.

Encyclopedia of Esoteric Man

June 29th, 2012

tea caddy

Ornate tea chest for storing loose leaves. Image by Hans Grobbe via wikipedia.

August 23rd, 2011

how to cook a mastodon

A 1998 article from the Cornell University Chronicle:

Fans of hot, spicy cuisine can thank nasty bacteria and other food-borne pathogens for the recipes that come — not so coincidentally — from countries with hot climates. Humans’ use of antimicrobial spices developed in parallel with food-spoilage microorganisms, Cornell biologists have demonstrated in a international survey of spice use in cooking.

The same chemical compounds that protect the spiciest spice plants from their natural enemies are at work today in foods from parts of the world where — before refrigeration — food-spoilage microbes were an even more serious threat to human health and survival than they are today, Jennifer Billing and Paul W. Sherman report in the March 1998 issue of the journal Quarterly Review of Biology.

“The proximate reason for spice use obviously is to enhance food palatability,” said Sherman, an evolutionary biologist and professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell. “But why do spices taste good? Traits that are beneficial are transmitted both culturally and genetically, and that includes taste receptors in our mouths and our taste for certain flavors. People who enjoyed food with antibacterial spices probably were healthier, especially in hot climates. They lived longer and left more offspring. And they taught their offspring and others: ‘This is how to cook a mastodon.’ We believe the ultimate reason for using spices is to kill food-borne bacteria and fungi.”


August 21st, 2011


I found this poppy spread at the Turkish shop near my house. Ingredients: Poppy.


In India, Iran and Turkey poppy seeds are known as khaskhas or haşhaş and are considered highly nutritious, mostly added in dough while baking bread, and recommended for pregnant women and new mothers.

I haven’t experimented much yet. I think it would probably make an interesting alternative to tahini in hummus. It’s nice on a beschuit with hagelslag on top.

Incidentally someone made an experimental tune called beschuit met hagelslag.

August 3rd, 2011

polystyrene foam macaroon of ginger with smoked coconut butter

The restaurant El Bulli is cataloguing its dishes online. I can’t stop looking and marvelling.
Above: ‘polystyrene foam macaroon of ginger with smoked coconut butter’.

More here.

July 30th, 2011

lively cuisine


A live squid with its head removed is served on top of a bowl of sushi rice, accompanied by sashimi prepared from the head (usually sliced ika (squid) and ika-kimo (squid liver)) as well as other seafood. Seasoned soy sauce is first poured on top of the squid to make it “dance”.

Possibly the creation of a chef who was chastised in childhood for playing with his food.

via kottke

June 13th, 2011

seeing red

Nearly all blood is removed from meat during slaughter, which is also why you don’t see blood in raw “white meat”; only an extremely small amount of blood remains within the muscle tissue when you get it from the store.

So what is that red liquid you are seeing in red meat? Red meats, such as beef, are composed of quite a bit of water. This water, mixed with a protein called myoglobin, ends up comprising most of that red liquid.

In fact, red meat is distinguished from white meat primarily based on the levels of myoglobin in the meat. The more myoglobin, the redder the meat. Thus most animals, such as mammals, with a high amount of myoglobin, are considered “red meat”, while animals with low levels of myoglobin, like most poultry, or no myoglobin, like some sea-life, are considered “white meat”.

Myoglobin is a protein, that stores oxygen in muscle cells, very similar to its cousin, hemoglobin, that stores oxygen in red blood cells. This is necessary for muscles which need immediate oxygen for energy during frequent, continual usage. Myoglobin is highly pigmented, specifically red; so the more myoglobin, the redder the meat will look and the darker it will get when you cook it.

misconceptionjuncton via 3qd

February 23rd, 2011


The radio show This American Life presents a fun, journalistic exploration of the history of Coke’s “secret recipe” and the process of making it. They find an old recipe for Coke and try their best to recreate it for a taste test.

They also put the recipe they found online with instructions if you want to try it yourself. Snip:

For a home recipe, you can get an eyedropper and count drops the old-fashioned way, but if you want to be more precise, Steve Warth at Sovereign Flavors says he estimated each drop was .025 grams, which means you want 0.5 grams of Orange Oil, 0.75 of Lemon Oil, 0.25 grams of Nutmeg Oil, 0.125 grams of Coriander Oil, 0.25 grams of Neroli Oil, 0.25 grams of Cinnamon Oil (historian Mark Pendergrast says the original Coke recipe was made with a kind of cinnamon called Cassia).

Combine those with 8 ounces of food grade alcohol. This ingredient, we’ll be frank, will be kind of a pain in the ass to find. Important: Do NOT use Ethyl Rubbing Alcohol or Rubbing Alcohol or Denatured Ethyl Alcohol. These will make you sick. You need food grade ethyl alcohol. Sometimes people swap Everclear or other neutral grain spirits for this, and our beverage guys suggest this as an easy, cheap substitute.

Recipe. Listen online.

I want to try Coke’s predecessor: French Wine Coca, a wine, caffeine and cocaine drink. Sounds too weird not to try. From Wikipedia:

French Wine Coca was marketed mostly to upper class intellectuals, afflicted with diseases believed to have been brought on by urbanization and Atlanta’s increasingly competitive business environment. In an 1885 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Pemberton claimed the drink would benefit “scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion.”

French Wine Coca at Wikipedia.

February 12th, 2011

Parsley Seaweed Soup

A recipe I wrote for parsley and seaweed soup. The parsley soup element is based on various recipes I found online, and the seaweed was just an afterthought that actually works very nicely. If you like seaweed.

February 1st, 2011

flowering kales


Many varieties of kale are referred to as “flowering kales” and are grown mainly for their ornamental leaves, which are brilliant white, red, pink, lavender, blue or violet in the interior or the rosette. Most plants sold as “ornamental cabbage” are in fact kales. Ornamental kale is as edible as any other variety, provided it has not been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

Kale is undervalued.

January 1st, 2011


Koupepia is the Cypriot name for stuffed vine leaves or what the Greeks call “dolmades”. Yesterday I tried a variation on the traditional recipe, using apricots instead of raisins, and it was very successful. So I typed out the recipe for future reference.

December 17th, 2010

evolution of a book

I’ve been working on a translation of a poem into sounds and smells. The sounds and smells are released in synchrony by a machine (made with help from my engineer friend Brecht) that selects scented beakers using the turntable of an old record player.

You can download an excerpt from the audio track here, smells not included. This one is the translation of the second stanza, which begins “fondants, fudge, caramels, taffy brittles”, and lasts one and a half minutes. The whole piece is approximately eleven minutes long.

I may improve upon the audio, smells and machine over the next weeks. This is a sort of work-in-progress or, I suppose, the continued evolution in my mind of the original text.

November 14th, 2010

so that’s why they’re called eggplants

Aubergine at wikipedia. (via reddit)

November 7th, 2010

sugar corn sirup butter milk

If truth is more beautiful than the contrived, then the most beautiful kind of poetry is perhaps the entirely accidental kind… The kind that comes into being with no aesthetic intentions attached and sleeps until the perfect alignment of observer, time and space.

Take this digitized recipe book “experimental cookery from the chemical and physical standpoint” — its contents pages are dripping with divine word combinations. A choice selection:

sugar corn sirup butter milk
sugar cookery
sugar cookery classification of the carbohydrates

fondants, fudge,
caramels, taffy, brittles
stages of cookery of sucrose solutions

classification of ice creams
ices and sherbets

plant pigments part 5
crisping pickles

meat. grading and stamping of meat.
definition of meat and flesh
federal inspection of meat

breaking mayonnaise

I feel like I found a €50 note on the pavement. For more unintentional poetry, see this spam poem I found in 2008.

Incidentally, some of the experiments in this book sound fun/interesting. I found the book when googling for information about boiling vegetables in milk.

Addendum: Another food science word I discovered recently and developed affections for is farinaceous, describing a mealy, floury, starchy nature (from farina, latin for flour).

September 21st, 2010

see vitamin c

WHFoods.com on lemons:

For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened lemons and limes:

Research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as fruits fully ripen, almost to the point of spoilage, their antioxidant levels actually increase.

Key to the process is the change in color that occurs as fruits ripen, a similar process to that seen in the fall when leaves turn from green to red to yellow to brown- a color change caused by the breakdown and disappearance of chlorophyll, which gives leaves and fruits their green color.

Until now, no one really knew what happened to chlorophyll during this process, but lead researcher, Bernard Kräutler, and his team, working together with botanists over the past several years, has identified the first decomposition products in leaves: colorless, polar NCCs (nonfluorescing chlorophyll catabolytes), that contain four pyrrole rings – like chlorophyll and heme.

After examining apples and pears, the scientists discovered that NCCs replace the chlorophyll not only in the leaves of fruit trees, but in their very ripe fruits, especially in the peel and flesh immediately below it.

“When chlorophyll is released from its protein complexes in the decomposition process, it has a phototoxic effect: when irradiated with light, it absorbs energy and can transfer it to other substances. For example, it can transform oxygen into a highly reactive, destructive form,” report the researchers. However, NCCs have just the opposite effect. Extremely powerful antioxidants, they play an important protective role for the plant, and when consumed as part of the human diet, NCCs deliver the same potent antioxidant protection within our bodies. “

Actually that excerpt didn’t have much to do with lemons specifically. But there is some juicy info here.

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