The Mockmill 200 And Starting Up Baking With Whole Grains

I recently purchased a Mockmill 200 as well as four varieties of wheat berries. I also got a couple of books so that I wouldn’t be completely reinventing the wheel while trying to learn new skills for baking breads.

For me, the purchase decision on the grain mill came down to the Mockmill 200 or a Komo. When researching the choices they seemed to be fairly even in terms of performance and quality — there are a whole bunch of sites that review and compare the two. I settled on the Mockmill partly due to appearance, and partly due to an aggregate of thoughts from reading about the “pros” and “cons” of each, though frankly there was a good amount of conflicting / contrasting information on both. My feeling is that they’re both quality products and I’m not sure there’s really a “wrong” decision.

A picture from the Breadtopia site.
Continue reading “The Mockmill 200 And Starting Up Baking With Whole Grains”

Pigs In A Blanket


I recently received Anthony Bourdain’s  –  Appetites:  A Cookbook.

There are some funny bits and some smart bits. And some stuff about his kid. In the “Party 101” chapter Bourdain shares some ideas from his catering background. What caught me was this:

…All that being said, the single most important lesson I learned over the course of many years, and many, many parties, is this humbling but inescapable fact:  that no matter what you serve, no matter how beautifully presented, strikingly garnished, exotic in flavor, or expensive …  what everybody wants, what they will be all over like a swarm, every time, is commerically made freezer-case-sourced pigs in fucking blankets. It doesn’t matter who your guests are. They will eat them, and they will love them. Whether this involves post-ironic posturing or just straightforward enthusiasm, they will love them just the same.

Well, I had to try that out.. didn’t I?

Grainy cell phone pic taken at a friend's house.
Grainy cell phone pic taken at a friend’s house.

[A few minutes out of the oven and about 25% have been eaten.]

The was a lot more food than there were people, but most of the pigs in a blanket were consumed anyway. Bourdain is probably 100% right, even adjusting for a home environment.

I’ll need to try this “test” again on a bigger, unsuspecting crowd and see how it shakes out.


Thanks to SeattleAuthor and spouse for the book.

Amazon link here.

Nobody Told Me “Enchiladas” Really Means “Leftovers”

by A.J. Coltrane

There’s a first time for everything, and last night’s first time was Enchiladas — the homemade, non-nuked variety.

It’s not like they’re hard to make, but I don’t think I’ve ever had leftover chicken, leftover spicy tomato sauce, cheese that needed to be used, corn tortillas … all at the same time. I’ve always looked at the ingredient list and said: “There’s no way I’m cooking chicken and shredding it just so that I can wrap it up and cook it again.

042815 enchiladas

To be fair, I also skipped the traditional “dip the tortillas in hot oil, then in sauce”. I just used a lesser amount of sauce to make it cleaner and faster. It seemed to work out o.k., and it occurred to me as we were eating: “This is just quick and easy stuff to throw together out of whatever’s in the refrigerator, along with tired corn tortillas.”

I now think Enchiladas were actually “invented” as a way to use up leftovers.



feast of santa feThe inspiration for trying to make Enchiladas came from this book:

It was published in 1985, and at least according to the reviews on Amazon the book features a fairly authentic collection of recipes from Santa Fe.

I wonder sometimes if it’s also “trapped in 1985”, though the reviews don’t seem to reflect that.

I’ve had good success with it, using it for everything from sauces to the enchiladas to homemade corn tortillas. It’s cheap, too.



Happy Too-Early Cinco de Mayo everyone.

Marcella Hazan Narrowly Avoids The Trolls

by A.J. Coltrane

Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is an excellent book. It’s a good thing though, that she wrote it before the internet existed. The trolls would have torn this humblebrag to pieces:

Pan-Roasted Breast of Veal

Although this had long been one of my favorite meat dishes, it was so simple and straightforward that I took it for granted, and it escaped my notice as a recipe to record. The late James Beard had it with me at Bologna’s Diana restaurant when he came, in the mid-1970’s, to observe the course I was then teaching. It was he who was so taken with it that he urged me to set the recipe down.


Breaking it down:

“Although this had long been one of my favorite meat dishes, it was so simple and straightforward that I took it for granted, and it escaped my notice as a recipe to record.”

“Twas but a piffle. I considered the recipe below my attention as anything of exception.”


“The late James Beard had it with me at Bologna’s Diana restaurant when he came, in the mid-1970’s, to observe the course I was then teaching.”

Where do I start? I didn’t go to see James Beard, he came to see ME! In Italy! To observe my cooking “course”. (Maybe it really was a “course” and not a “class”… *maybe*.)


“It was he who was so taken with it that he urged me to set the recipe down.”

He really liked it! ….no….. He loved it! ….no…. [In Master Thespian Voice]   It was HE who was so TAKEN with it that he URGED me….



I’m giving it a “tag” for Favorite Cookbooks anyway. So there’s that.

I’m reminded of this scene from the Big Lebowski, set at rich Lebowski’s mansion.


                                     YOUNG MAN
                         And this is the study.  You can see
                         the various commendations, honorary
                         degrees, et cetera.

                         Yes, uh, very impressive.

                                     YOUNG MAN
                         Please, feel free to inspect them.

                         I'm not really, uh.

                                     YOUNG MAN
                         Please!  Please!


                                     YOUNG MAN
                         That's the key to the city of
                         Pasadena, which Mr. Lebowski was
                         given two years ago in recognition
                         of his various civic, uh.


                                     YOUNG MAN
                         That's a Los Angeles Chamber of
                         Commerce Business Achiever award,
                         which is given--not necessarily given
                         every year!  Given only when there's
                         a worthy, somebody especially--

                         Hey, is this him with Nancy?

                                     YOUNG MAN
                         That is indeed Mr. Lebowski with the
                         first lady, yes, taken when--

                         Lebowski on the right?

                                     YOUNG MAN
                         Of course, Mr. Lebowski on the right,
                         Mrs.  Reagan on the left, taken when--

                         He's handicapped, huh?

                                     YOUNG MAN
                         Mr. Lebowski is disabled, yes.  And
                         this picture was taken when Mrs.
                         Reagan was first lady of the nation,
                         yes, yes? Not of California.

                         Far out.

                                     YOUNG MAN
                         And in fact he met privately with
                         the President, though unfortunately
                         there wasn't time for a photo

Dessert Island Cookbooks

By Iron Chef Lefotvers

I recently saw a list of the top 10 selling cookbooks for 2012 and it is a rather disappointing list, led by the Barefoot Contessa’s new tome. It got me thinking, if I were stranded on a dessert island (no that is not a typo, I really would love to be stranded on a dessert island; a desert island just doesn’t seem like it would be all that much fun) and could only have 10 cookbooks/food related books with me, what would they be? Let’s just assume that I, for some reason, have a fully stocked kitchen and pantry (just don’t ask me how).

Here is my list, in reverse order:

If you were to own just one book on cooking, this should be it.
If you were to own just one book on cooking, this should be it.

10 – Silver Spoon – it is generally considered to be the most complete Italian cookbook ever created and didn’t exist in an English translation until about 10 years ago. If you are serious about Italian cooking, you should own this monster.

9 – Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. If you watch No Reservations, you know who Ruhlman is. This is a survival guide to curing meats which would come in handy in a stranded situation. It is also an in depth read about the how and why of charcuterie.

8 & 7 – I’m Just Here for the Food / I’m Just Here for More Food by Alton Brown. More useful for why and how things work with cooking than for recipes, I can pretty much assure you that if you ever had a recipe fail, you can find out exactly why here. Be careful, these books are a gateway drug into the world of molecular gastronomy.

6 – On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. The book is incredibly long (800+ pages), very technical in parts and is not a quick read (it took me over a year to read it cover to cover), but it is probably the single most important book on food ever written. It covers pretty much every aspect of food and food science and you should have it on your bookshelf as reference even if you never read it cover to cover. I doubt there has been a food book written in the last 20 years that has not cited this one as a reference in its bibliography.

5 – Modernist Cuisine at Home. Another book that is more science than recipes, it is another one that you should own, even if you aren’t into the molecular gastronomy thing. Reading this book will make you a better cook even if you never try anything from the book.

However, if you were to own just two books on food, this should be the other one.
However, if you were to own just two books on food, this should be the other one.

4 & 3 & 2 – Bones / Fat / Odd Bits – by Jennifer McLagan. These books are really essential for understanding and cooking the rest of the animal and should really be looked at as 3 parts of a single book; the ultimate in utility – you realize after reading them, everything is useable. They really fill in the gap for all of the stuff that most other cook books don’t address. It doesn’t hurt the descriptions are well written and the anecdotes are funny.

1 – Joy of Cooking – there should be a law that every home cook should have this book on their shelves since it pretty much has a recipe for everything in it. It has been updated about 14 times over its 75+ years in existence, but have some fun and get an edition that is printed before the 1960’s just to see how cooking has changed.

Thunder Trade A Quarter For Two Dimes

by A.J. Coltrane

The trade:

Unable to work out an extension with James Harden the Oklahoma City Thunder traded the Sixth Man of the Year to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, breaking up the young core of the Western Conference champions.

The Thunder acquired guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick in the surprising deal that was completed Saturday night. Oklahoma City also sent center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston.

Functionally it breaks down to Harden for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and a couple of mid-first-round draft picks. The draft picks could be expected to return Vladimir Radmanovic level talent, or be flipped again for other assets.

What the ESPN guys think of it:

Good or bad move for Oklahoma City?

Adande: Bad move. It’s not that Harden is the critical element to the Thunder’s success. (In their only NBA Finals victory against the Heat, he scored just five points.) But the familiarity this team had built was a big part of its identity. They were comfortable. They knew exactly what this group could do. Now they enter the unknown — and that includes the career of the promising Jeremy Lamb. Potential means you haven’t done anything.

Gutierrez: Good move. Kevin Martin might not be able to play point the way Harden did, but he’ll be just as aggressive a scorer when needed. Martin also has never played on a team this good. In the short term, it shouldn’t hurt their title chances. If Lamb or the draft picks work out, it could mean even better things down the road.

Haberstroh: Definitely a bad move for the short term, and potentially a good move for the long term. There’s just no two ways about it: The Thunder just lost an Olympian and got very little in return for this season. Kevin Martin is a brittle, one-dimensional player who might be the worst defender at his position. This is about a small-market team seeking future flexibility. Remember, the Lakers earn $250 million a year off their TV deal, but the Thunder make only about $15 million from theirs. Presti has to play a different game, thanks to the harsher CBA that was supposed to help his cause.

Stein: Normally I have nothing but praise for the most decisive of teams — and perhaps Presti will ultimately be proven to be a visionary for moving Harden out faster than anyone imagined — but it’s way too soon to throw out words like good. The Thunder undeniably got a lot here. Two future first-round picks, 2012 lottery pick Jeremy Lamb and an accomplished scorer in Kevin Martin is a legit haul. But the Thunder also just broke up a trio of All-Star-caliber kiddies that truly loved playing together. They had the option of playing this season out and then dealing with everything in July had they wished. That likely would have meant matching a max offer to Harden in restricted free agency and quite possibly waiving the likes of Kendrick Perkins via the amnesty clause, but isn’t that better than telling Durant and Westbrook that Harden is gonzo mere hours before opening night?

Verrier: Bad move. If the mandate was to avoid the new CBA’s more draconian luxury tax at all costs, kudos to Sam Presti for his guts and for positioning his club to be in the title picture long-term. But I don’t know how OKC can rip a piece away from a young core that was three wins away from a title — five days from its opener, no less. Decent return, but why take the risk?

My take:

On Harden:  I’ve never been as in love with Harden as most of the media. I think he played as well as he did in college, and thus far in the pros, mostly on guile and “old guy moves”. He’s not an elite athlete. He mostly creates his shot through misdirection against second tier opposition. I think that’s why he mostly disappeared against the Heat during the playoffs — the Heat had great athletes who knew what they were doing, and it left Harden “without anything to say”. In short, I don’t think Harden is a cornerstone guy, but he’s going to get paid like he is because that’s how the league works. Calling him “A Quarter” is being generous, though it makes the title of this blog post work.

On Martin:  Gunner without a conscience. Terrible defender. All the stuff mentioned above. Rental. I don’t think the Thunder are good enough everywhere on defense to cover up his weaknesses. Think Ricky Pierce, minus the divisive personality.

On Lamb:  I really liked Lamb in college. He’s a long shooting guard with lots of potential. I think the Thunder are hoping that he can take Thabo Sefolosha’s minutes, like real soon. Lamb took a backseat to Kemba Walker in college, and I’m not sure he can be assertive enough to have a big impact at the NBA level.

In summary:  The issue is that the Thunder are counting on Lamb to get good, fast, but he’s only 20 years old. Alternately they’re hoping to get lucky with one of the draft picks. They spent their money on Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Perkins and unless Ibaka figures out a way to contribute on offense the Thunder will likely come up short year after year.

Shortly after the trade Kevin Durant offered a one word tweet:  “Wow”.

Durant is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2015.

Yeast, Bacteria, Temperature, And Taste

by A.J. Coltrane

While browsing I’d been noticing a bunch of references concerning the effect that temperature has on flavor during fermentation, though I hadn’t been able to find real, concrete specifics.

While looking for that information and re-reading Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, I came across this [pg 30]:

…When chilled, the yeast goes into dormancy, slowing its activity and producing more alcohol. The decreased activity gives the bacteria a chance to feed on the sugar, develop more, and produce more acetic acid. Temperatures of 40F to 50F are ideal for the formation of acetic acid; 55F to 90F results in the formation of blander lactic acid. Acetic acid imparts a far more sour quality to bread than lactic acid. As an added benefit, acetic acid also strengthens the dough’s structure, although too much of this acidity would ultimately weaken it. Some bakers prefer the milder flavor provided by lactic acid.

Emphasis mine. The angels weren’t singing or anything, though right now I’m thinking it’s a key component of flavor development that I’d initially overlooked/undersold.

On a not-unrelated point, within the last year Iron Chef Leftovers and I attended a bread-baking class taught by a local professional baker. The guy kind of wrinkled his nose when one of the students expressed a high opinion of Peter Reinhart’s level of knowledge and contribution to the craft. (I don’t think it was one of us, though we had previously attended a class taught by Reinhart and learned quite a bit.)

Anyway:  a quote from Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday [pg 52].

Pain a l’Ancienne Rustic Bread

I first introduced the concept of cold-fermented wet dough in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. While the idea isn’t new or original, it has blossomed during the past few years into various no-knead, overnight rise permutations…

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels to me like Reinhart is taking credit in a backhanded kind of way for the no-knead idea and the general increase in popularity in the use of the refrigerator to retard fermentation. “it has blossomed the last few years into… (these other guy’s come-lately stuff)”. It’s a fairly common thread that runs through his writing — I can see now why the guy might have wrinkled his nose.

It’s just me, right?


Note: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is still highly recommended.

Mark Bittman’s Eggless Pasta And Crackers

by A.J. Coltrane

No, it’s not pasta with crackers, it’s pasta and crackers. What got my attention is that they’re basically the same recipe:

Eggless Pasta Ingredient Crackers
2 cups Flour 1 cup
1/2 cup (hot) Water 1/4 cup
2 TBP (Olive) Butter or Oil 2 TBP (Corn)
1 tsp Salt 1/2 tsp

These are both “4 servings.” I’ll rescale the pasta recipe so that the flour is equal in both:

Eggless Pasta Ingredient Crackers
1 cup Flour 1 cup
1/4 cup (hot) Water 1/4 cup
1 TBP (Olive) Butter or Oil 2 TBP (Corn)
1/2 tsp Salt 1/2 tsp

The more I cook the more I’m convinced that most recipes are just variations on a theme. For example, compare those two recipes to Ming Tsai’s shallot pancake recipe that I posted in January 2011:

1 cup flour:  Check.

1/2 cup (hot) water: This is the variation, it’s wetter, as it’s a bread/dough rather than pasta or crackers. Related sidenote – I’m beginning to think a key to making crackers may be keeping them as dry as possible without totally dehydrating the flour.

1 TBP Oil: Check again, in this case it’s sesame oil.

1/2 tsp salt: Check.

As far as the actual recipes go —

The pasta recipe recommends letting the pasta dough rest for at least 30 minutes after kneading, then rolling out and cutting the dough. (Again, the Ming Tsai Shallot Pancake recipe calls for a rest too, as do many recipes that involve hydrating flour.)

The cracker recipe does not specify a rest, though I’ve seen cracker recipes that do. Roll out the cracker dough thinly and cook in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Source for the Bittman recipes: The excellent “How To Cook Everything Vegetarian“, which also gets a “Favorite Cookbooks” recommendation.

Favorite Cookbooks: Little Foods Of The Mediterranean

by A.J. Coltrane

New category! Favorite Cookbooks. First up is Little Foods of the Mediterranean by Clifford A. Wright.

The book contains 500 recipes — tapas, meze, hors d’oeuvre, and antipasti from around the Mediterranean — everywhere from Spain, to Italy, Greece, Tunasia, France, Morocco and Egypt. Wright is a scholar as well as a food writer; the book contains historical information about the origin of many of the dishes. There is also quite a bit of text about the history of the region that the dishes belong to.

The Chapters:

Canapes, Crostini, Bruschetta, Little Sandwiches, and Croutes
Dips, Spreads, and Pates
Cheesy Mouthfuls
Frittatas and Other Eggy Delights
Saucy Little Dishes, Part I (Chicken, Meat, and Seafood)
Saucy Little Dishes, Part II (Vegetables)
Stuffed Vegetables
Salads and Other Cold Vegetable Dishes
Filled Pastries, Puffs, Pies, and Baked Turnovers
Pizzas, Calzones, and Empanadas
Fried Turnovers
Fried Tidbits
Roll-Ups and Wraps
Seafood Salads and Platters
Kebabs, Skewers, and Other Grilled Foods
Pickled, Marinated, and Preserved Little Dishes
Sauces, Condiments, and Spice Mixes
Pastry Doughs and Batters

There is some “weird stuff” in the book —  it’s helpful to have a fairly expansive pantry to call on. Overall though, there are hundreds of great recipes that can be done with common ingredients.

From the back cover:

This vast compendium encapsulates the type of Mediterranean food that I love:  simple, tasty, unpretentious, and easy to eat. Whether they are tapas, meze, or antipasti, they represent Mediterranean street food at it’s best. I especially applaud Clifford Wright’s great research into the similarities and the differences among the little foods of the eighteen countries of the Mediterranean basin.

-Jacques Pepin

That sums it up well. link here.