Sandor Ellix Katz and the Wild among us

May 18, 2009 in cookbook, Gardening, review

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Sandor cutting cabbage)

It is always inspiring to meet people who are passionate about food. Sandor (Sandorkraut) Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, spoke at BU’s “The Future of Food: Transatlantic Perspectives” conference and I snagged a front row seat.

Sandor was there a bit early (along with us early attendees) and chatted with us as he methodically cut up a cabbage and carrots, salting them as he went.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz


He then launched into an extremely well articulated and impassioned talk on his journey into wild fermentation, about why fermentation is such a powerful method of food preservation and transformation and how fermentation, especially lacto-fermentation, is really important for our health.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Talking about his love for fermentation)

Take home message 1: Fermentation is the OPPOSITE of canning.

Take home message 2: Fermentation is safe BECAUSE of the beneficial bacterial populations (lactobacillus) that create an acidified environment which suppresses the toxin producing bacteria.

Take home message 3: When canning fails it is dangerous BECAUSE it kills all of those beneficial bacteria and allows toxin producing ones like Clostridium botulinum (botulism) to thrive in the oxygen-free environment.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Pressing kraut into pint jars, showing how to get the juice going)

Here is some kraut I am making (red from red cabbage).

Wild Fermentation: sauerkraut

(Week old sauerkraut)

And here I am pressing down on the covering plate to get the juices up – to suppress molds on surface of the kraut.

Wild Fermentation: sauerkraut

(Pressing down on the plate to push up juice)

Sandor also spoke of other popular ferments such as kefir. In the image below he is showing us some kefir grains, necessary for making a sparkling kefir drink!

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kefir grains)

The wikipedia describes kefir as:

Kefir (alternately kefÄ«rs, keefir, kephir, kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milkkefir, búlgaros) is a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus region. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep’s milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.

kefir grains

(Kefir grains – wiki source)

Someone asked him about kombucha and he talked about its history and culture. Someone in the audience “just happened” to have some on hand so he got to show us the “mother” culture (called a mushroom by some but it is DEFINITELY not fungal in composition).

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kombucha mother)

Wiki describes kombucha as:

Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a “kombucha colony”.

Wild Fermentation: Sandor Ellix Katz

(Kombucha mother culture)

Sandor was of the opinion that you would be better served with whole food ferments like kraut versus a tea and sugar water one like kombucha.

There is SO much more to learn from Sandor about this lacto-fermented world! Pick up his books Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved – and also visit his site – Wild Fermentation.

If you get a chance to see him speak in person, you will not be disappointed!

I showed you my new sauerkraut above. I have also been starting a wild sourdough culture too.

Wild Sourdough starter

My first one got too stressed out and was harboring mostly an acetone producing bacteria, dumped it. I am now onto the second try.

Wild Fermentation: Sourdough starter

(Sourdough starter, day 1)

Wild Fermentation: Sourdough starter

(Sourdough starter, day 1)

Am crossing my fingers this one will take off!


April 3, 2009 in Behind the Scenes, cookbook, Food Porn


(Looks like a “tough guy” but he isnt! You should have seen the massive number of people trying to get his photo, overwhelming)

In the middle of March, I had the opportunity to go see Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto give the keynote speech at the International Boston Seafood Show.

The room was packed to the gills with people who were eagerly awaiting the start of his talk.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

One minute we were waiting for him to come and chatting with each other and the next, Morimoto is walking down the center isle, greeting everyone.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

The relatively dry and humorless guy who was interviewing Morimoto (a great shame) had to stop his odd monologue at the beginning as Morimoto had to reconfigure his traditional Japanese outfit.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

The interviewer proceeded to try to ask questions that were less than scintillating and asked with too much complexity.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

At times, thankfully, Morimoto’s interpreter would get up and help him understand the question and help formulate an answer.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

Despite the fact that Morimoto has lived in the US for some 20 odd years, his english is not yet perfectly polished. Even though, you can see his charisma and spark. He seems like a genuine authentic person.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

After the keynote session, Morimoto had a book signing out in front of the lecture hall but there were WAY too many people in line for the number of available books so I went down to the show floor where he would continue the signing with more books.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

Morimoto: Masaharu Morimoto

He is promoting his new and fantastically beautiful book –

Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking

I waited in that line, chatting with new friends from Chicago and Michigan, for more than an hour! When he came down to the booth, there was this enormous rush of people that surrounded us, standing there in line.

He walked up and got ready for this next hour of signing.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

I was second in line and a bit freaked out by the crush of the paparazzi behind me. Morimoto was as cool as a clam as he got settled in.

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

International Boston Seafood Show 2009

He was extremely kind when I came up. I had asked him during the questions after the keynote to consider doing a project with kids – teaching them about bento boxes. He and his interpreter recognized me from that question and smiled and laughed. I smiled and mostly remember still tweaking about the crush of people behind me and the security guys on their radios asking for more back up.

He wrote a lovely note to me in my copy of the book, in Japanese too.

Morimoto: Masaharu Morimoto

As I walked away, grown men (two asian fellows) asked to see my signed copy. I did and asked them to translate it. I vaguely remember that it says something like “Follow your big dreams” or something like that.

This book is simply stunning in it’s beauty. I shot a few pages for you to sample.

Morimoto: Masaharu Morimoto

Here is a page that shows what he did at the beginning of the talk!

Morimoto: Masaharu Morimoto

Morimoto: Masaharu Morimoto

It was totally worth the wait, I enjoyed my time there that day immensely!

Here are all the shots relating to Morimoto that I took that day.

Blue Eggs Yellow Tomatoes – A Beautiful Life

June 1, 2008 in cookbook, Local Food, photography, review

blue eggs yellow tomatoes cookbook

Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden

Eating homegrown food is not only good for you and your bank account but it can be fantastically tasty and quite photogenic.

I recently received a review copy of “Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden” by Jeanne Kelley (published in April 2008 by Running Press Books). Kelley has decades of experience writing for Bon Appetit, Cooking Light magazine and many of her recipes have been published in LA Times Magazine, Natural Health, Islands and Spa Magazines.

Her professional life and her home life come together in Blue Eggs Yellow Tomatoes as she writes about how she raises some of her own food (chickens, vegetables) at her suburban home in Los Angeles and shares recipes that yield simply delicious concoctions that should satisfy anyone, whether you are growing your own food or if you go to the farmer’s market.

The book includes a charming mixture of fantastic food photography and the author’s own photographic glimpses into her family and backyard. She is not a professional photographer but her images are candid and enjoyable.

egg still life

(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce Studios All Rights Reserved)

She covers various topics not necessarily found in your average cookbook, from how to garden in your own backyard to growing chickens to how to compost.

Nascent gardeners are given plenty of reasons to start growing their own food – 150 delightful recipes that span the range from salads to desserts in 10 chapters.

  • Appetizers and Small Plates
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches and Tartines
  • Pizza and Pasta
  • Fish and Poultry
  • Meats
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Desserts and Sweets
  • Breakfast and Brunch

I found her salads chapter to be particularly enticing. They are quite beautiful and diverse, many interesting ingredient ideas. My attraction to the salads is also fed by a hankering for the veggies that have not even sprouted in my garden.

I really enjoyed the craftsmanship of this book. It is a large book (3.8 pounds) with bright white pages mixed in with country-home pages featuring a sunny palette of colors. As I mentioned before, the food photography is quite enticing.

egg - soft lighting

(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce Studios All Rights Reserved)

Other attractions include a guide on pantry stocking and equipment choices, a kitchen garden primer, a section on how to use a recipe, and a guide for chicken keeping.

I am obviously biased positively toward anyone making an effort to grow their own food (veggie and animal). We have our organic garden, a flock of layer chickens, and a growing herd of dairy goats.

I would recommend this lovely cookbook to anyone who loves food and who is interested in pouring love and nurturing into their cooking.

Red bowl, egg, still life

(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce Studios All Rights Reserved)

Product Details:

My Whole Grain Manifesto – take back your inner grain!

February 23, 2008 in cookbook, review

Whole Grains: Bulgur wheat, roasted garlic, carmelized onions

Whole Grain Goodness: Bulgur wheat, roasted garlic, carmelized onions,
with a bit of liver on top

Today I am reviewing the cookbook The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook: 150 Recipes for Healthy Living by Judith Finlayson, a great resource for those who have already gotten the Whole Grain message and also for those who want to learn more about how to cook and use whole grains.

I think you would need to be returning from a 50 year roundtrip to Mars to not know that whole grains are superior to processed grains. We all must have gotten the news by now that our bodies experience measurable benefits from eating whole grains and NOT eating processed, depleted grains.

But, finding easy to eat, on the run foods made with whole grains is STILL a challenge.

One of the questions you should ask yourself is why we eat processed grains (think wonder bread, twinkies, white wheat pizza dough, “wheat” bread that is just colored and not whole, etc). Its not because we are stupid, ignorant, mean-spirited, or some how not living the right life.

Not at all.

Its because we live far from “real” food (have for more than 50 years, more like 100 years) and we have ready access to mostly industrial, High Throughput Food.

That High Throughput Food REQUIRES that the food is STABILIZED (think xantham gum, think methylcellulose, think high fructose corn syrup, think red dye # 2, think wonder bread and twinkies, think power bars).

Watch any one episode of “Unwrapped” on the Food Network and you will see what I mean by High Throughput Food (HTF) .. the ingredients and the recipe must be scaled up 1000% or more, it must be formulated so that ingredients can be pumped through plastic tubing (think xantham gum again, any thickening agent), mixed by drums (think edible wax), fried instantaneously (think acrylamide), temperature and photo-stable, etc etc.

Now, regarding whole grains, there is very little place in the HTF paradigm for them. In a nutshell (or grainshell as the case may be), there are three general parts of a grain – the bran, the endosperm (starchy party) and the germ (the embryonic plant – it’s the protein component that lies inside). It is the nascent embryonic plant that uses the surrounding starch of the grain to sprout and begin the next part of it’s lifecycle.

The bran and the embryonic part of the germ spoil very easily. They do not play nicely with machines, they are not shelf stable, they are not photo-stable. They are picky cranky bits of fluff that are banished from processed grains (like polished white rice).

Whole grains are the enemy of the High Throughput Food (and mass, long term storage) paradigm and so we have been served up depleted easy-to-use processed grains for a long time.

In some ways, some of us never had a chance.

Take back your grain!

Use this cookbook to acquaint yourself with the ways of cooking whole grains. Its not hard.

Your body and those of the people you feed … they will benefit dramatically for it. Their blood sugar will not spike, they will get actual food-derived folic acids and other vitamins and trace minerals. They will learn to feed themselves and their future families whole grains.


You will be the revolutionary that cared enough to start it all, nothing less than that.

In this cookbook, Finlayson presents delicious recipes such as:

  • Wild Rice and Smoked Turkey Salad with Dried Cherries
  • Asian-Style Beef and Wheat Berry Salad with Arugula
  • Amaranth Banana Walnut Bread
  • Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup
  • Moroccan Chicken with Couscous and Cinnamon-Spiked Prunes
  • Mussels in Spicy Lemongrass Broth with Chinese Black Rice
  • Peppery Shrimp with Couscous
  • Best-Ever Buckwheat Burgers with Bulgur in Tomato-Mushroom Gravy
  • Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies with Cranberries and Pecans
  • Barley Pudding with Cherries and Almonds
  • Oatmeal Shortbread Squares

They sound like pretty spiffy recipes huh? This book is more than a grouping of tasty recipes. Finlayson ENABLES you in your Whole Grain conversion by telling you in simple language about the various types of whole grains you can get (I get mine from Bob’s Red Mill) and how to cook them. From those basic concepts, you will be jumping into those recipes and making your own right away. Each recipe comes with a handy table that tells you what nutrients you are getting per serving.

She even covers some more esoteric grains such as:

  • Amaranth
  • Job’s Tears
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Sorghum

The recipe I tried was the basic preparation for bulgur wheat pilaf, page 244. I didn’t have many fancy ingredients on hand and I really wanted to start from First Principles, get to know the whole grain for itself. I could not stop myself from embellishing the bulgur with carmelized onions, roasted garlic cloves and some sea salt. I was making chickens livers at the time that I did the shots for this post so I added that too.

Bulgar Pilaf (From the cookbook)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coarse bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste – optional
  • 1 1/2 cups water or stock


In a saucepan with tight lid, saute onion in the oil for 3 mins. Add the garlic, salt, pepper to taste and saute 1 more minute.

Add the bulgur, the tomato if using, and water. Stir, bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover, simmer 10 minutes, remove from heat. Stir, cover tightly, let stand until liquid is absorbed, likely about 10 minutes.

It could not be easier!

Whole Grains: Bulgar wheat, roasted garlic, carmelized onions

Whole Grain Goodness: Bulgur wheat, roasted garlic, carmelized onions,
with a bit of liver on top

How did I like it?

It was flavorful, hearty, tasted full bodied, and was very filling! I didn’t experience my usual blood sugar issues like I do with white rice (though I adore white rice – its like candy, literally).

Next, I am going to experiment with quinoa and amaranth! I will let you know how it goes.

Please let me know if you use whole grains and what your favorite recipes are!

Book Details: