Tag Archives: urban simplicity


I came across this quote recently and thought I’d share it. It’s by Bernard Dupaigne, Professor at the Museum of Natural History in Paris (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle), and author of The History of Bread; the quote is from his book.

“Bread is an object of unparalleled worship and decorum. It embodies the full cycle of life and seasons, from the death of the wheat kernel in the oven to the resurrection as a stalk, from its ordeal in the mill to its journey through the oven and its offering at the table. Bread is part of all major events in many lives, from birth, to betrothal and marriage, to death and resurrection.”

Bike Racks

I was in Toronto this past weekend, and as usual was impressed with the city for many reasons: its multiculturalism, it’s friendliness, it’s vibrancy and cleanliness, but mostly it’s robust bike culture. Toronto is a mere 100 miles from Buffalo and the climate is pretty much the same…snowy and bitterly cold much of the winter. And it is also a city where many of the cyclist bike year round…and the city seems to encourage it. The most obvious example of this are the prevalence of bike racks…there seems to be a bike rack every 50 feet. Most of them look like this, simple yet functional.

I’ve started to notice these, too. They’re attached to lamp posts.

But the best ones I saw were outside the ROM…bike racks as artwork. Here’s a few examples (click the pictures for larger views).

A lot of cities are (thankfully) installing bike racks these days. Buffalo is one of them…well, at least they’ve started to. This past year many of the parking meters were removed to replace an automated parking ticket hub. In the process the city is peppered with 3-foot metal poles sticking out of the ground. In this cities defense, they have, as promised, begun to convert some into bike racks. But as is more-often-than-not with the Queen City, things take time…a lot of time…a really long time. Sometimes the project never gets completed. I do, though, feel optimistic about this one. I feel confident that by this time next year we’ll have plenty of new bike racks in and around our city (how’s that for optimism). Anyhow, I did a quick search for pictures of Buffalo Bike Racks because I didn’t have any. It’s somewhat odd, I think, that I have pictures of all-things-bikes from many other cities, some that I visited and some that I haven’t, but I don’t have a picture of a bike rack in my own city and there is one less than a half-mile from my house. Anyhow, most of the bike racks are circles attached to the poles (similar to those in Toronto), but a few I’ve seen are shaped like Buffalo heads. Here’s a picture and story about them on Buffalo Rising.

Interestingly, another story I found about Buffalo bike racks was on the website of Environment News Service. The article is good. but the photo on the site frustrated me. Here it is:

Huh? Who are these people. Of all the cyclists in this city in the summertime the photographer had to take a photo of a group of spandex-clad-aerodynamic-helmet-wearing-super speed-weekend cyclists (sorry, no offense to you if you’re in the photo and come across this post). But I mean, come on…these people won’t be using those bike racks. Everyday commuters and cargo bikers use bike racks. Couldn’t they have used someone like this:

Just kidding, this photo is not of a Buffalonian (though he did spend time in Buffalo in the 1970’s), it’s a picture of Heinze Stucke, the inspiring German cyclist who hopped on his bike decades ago, started riding and has yet to stop. You can read more about him by clicking the link in the bike sections of this blog or simply click here.

Or they could at least have used a photo of this guy:

Again I’m joking, of course. Einstein was said to be an avid (recreational) cyclist, and was also born in Ulm, Germany, which incidentally I hope to visit eventually to see the Museum Der Brotkultur (Museum of Bread Culture).

Anyhow, at the very least the photographer, if they wanted to represent an everyday biker, one who rides as a mode of transport and as a lifestyle, could have taken a photo of these two guys. OK, I’m (somewhat) joking again, and patting myself on the back a little. This is a photo that was originally published in Buffalo Spree Magazine about a year ago. It’s a photo of my son and I on our tandem; the photo accompanies an article I wrote about biking. An archived link to the article can be found here.

He could have also used a cargo cyclist, and I use this term loosely because you see people hauling everything from laundry to television sets on bicycles in the city. You can see a few examples of me hauling stuff by bike (and trike) by clicking here, here, and here.

But I would have been really happy if they used a photo of a bike like this one. I don’t remember where this photo is from or where I got it, but they are literally carrying everything and the kitchen sink…and I doubt if the rider wore spandex.

Easy (and Delicious) Homemade Carnitas

Carnitas are a type of slow cooked meat, which is usually made with pork but can also be made with beef. It can be cooked either by roasting it slowly and pulling the meat (like you would with a BBQ), or by simmering it and shredding the meat as the liquid evaporates. I chose the latter method; I find it less trouble. Which ever way it’s cooked, carnita meat is delicious, tender and succulent. Here’s how I made it in pictures:

Put a couple boneless pork chops in a small pot along with onion, garlic, chilies, a little salt, peppercorns, and spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, and a pinch of cinnamon). Then cover everything with cold water.

When it comes to a simmer there will be a lot of foam, this is natural. Simply skim it off with either a ladle or spoon.

Slowly simmer the meat for about an hour. After a while the meat will begin to fall apart. Further assist this by mashing it with a wooden spoon.

When all of the liquid evaporates it will begin to sizzle and fry in it’s own fat (if the meat was too lean you may need to add a little olive oil). Stir and cook the meat until it browns a little; this will offer layers of both flavor and texture.

Now here’s the best part (well, not really, because the best part was eating it). Heat a whole grain tortilla and melt cheese on it, and the rest is up to you. I stuffed it with the meat (of course), but also avocado, salsa, onion, and mesclun lettuce. Then, after rolling it, it was topped with sour cream, a little more salsa, and a drizzle of hot sauce…the final photo is enough to make my mouth water.

Snow, More Snow, a Peeve, a Link or Two, and Few Other Things

OK. I know I live in Buffalo, NY. I am fully aware of its reputation for snow, but enough already…it has been snowing for the past 24 hours. It’s not been full throttle–if it were rain it would be labeled as a drizzle–but it has been non-stop. Here’s a couple of photos; first daytime, then evening (when it finally stopped snowing).

Now for my peeve:

Walking home from work I turned the corner onto my street to be confronted by a pile of snow across the sidewalk, not a natural one but man-made. There’s a few apartment buildings on my block and this particular one must have a hired snowplow. Anyhow, as he plowed the driveway he apparently thought the most logical place to push the snow was onto the sidewalk, not giving concern for pedestrians or cyclists. This bothered me so much that I actually went down the street and shoveled off the sidewalk (throwing the snow back into the driveway…returning what was rightfully theirs). Here’s a couple photos; before looking north, after looking southward (I’ve been told, incidentally, that not shoveling your sidewalk in the City of Buffalo is worthy of a fine…whether this is true or not is debatable). As I was shoveling a guy walked by, thanked me, and said something about people shoveling their walks…it made it worthwhile.

On a different, and less sarcastic, note. I happened upon the website of Portland Design Works recently. I noticed they had an interesting sticker available. It depicts a guy in a chef’s uniform smoking a cigarette standing next to a cargo bike. The stickers, (they stated one their website), were free. I emailed them and told them that I would display their stickers on my bikes and they asked how many bikes I had…six, I told them (eight actually, counting the trike and tandem). A few days later six sticker arrived. I haven’t stuck any yet, but here’s a picture of one.

Lastly, I came across this video from a 1973 video of the British bakery, Hovis. It involves biking and bread…two of my interests. It’s only a couple minutes long and worth the time. If you want to learn more about Hovis Bakery click here and here.

Car Walking

Here’s a not-so-secret, secret: as much as I proclaim the many benefits of riding bikes and walking I still own a vehicle. It’s an old one (I’ll give you a hint…it’s older than my teenage son), but I still have one. And this winter I’ve been using it more than usual (is it the frigid winter or me just getting older…maybe it’s the combination of both). Anyhow, it has been so damn cold this winter that I haven’t felt like riding much. For short distances I’ve found walking much more pleasurable. Now here’s where I hop on my little soapbox: What’s the deal with people feeling it’s OK to block sidewalks with their vehicles. In an old city (relatively speaking) like Buffalo, there are many houses (most actually) in the inner city that were built without driveways, especially on the lower west side and Allentown. This city, like most, was built before the car…it was originally a pedestrian society. Over the years people put in pseudo driveways (parking pads) where their teeny front lawns used to be. And as is often the case, when a person parks on one of these pads they block the sidewalk.

Apparently I’m not the only person in this country (or world) that this bothers. Here‘s a manifesto on the subject by Michael Hartman, a German pedestrian and bicycle activist. One of the (many) things he describes is how to car walk, or to literally walk across cars that are blocking the sidewalk. He claims to have walked across thousands of vehicles, and on each one he leaves a little note stating the reasons he has walked across the vehicle (some vehicles still had people sitting in them). I first came across this in Katie Alvord’s excellent book, Divorce Your Car.

Anyhow (before I hop off my little soapbox), I’d just like to add that I don’t expect everyone to ride bikes and walk (wish, maybe, but not expect), this is, after all, the good ‘ol U.S. of A…everything in excess…whatever makes things more comfortable. I just wish driver’s would begin to take their fellow walkers and bikers into consideration, to consider them as equals.

OK, I’m finished…for now.

Yet Another Pizza (and loaf of bread)

If you’ve read any of my previous ramblings you’ve probably surmised by now that I like to make bread and pizza. Leavened dough products, in my opinion, should really be listed in their own food group. Pizza is a great way to utilize what you have in the fridge (or freezer). Unfortunately, I believe people are under the impression that making yeast dough is both labor intensive and time consuming. It can be, of course, but it needn’t be. If you make it enough, and get comfortable enough with it, you really can work it into the rhythm of your day.

When I make bread or pizza (or both) I usually double it, meaning I make enough dough for either either two loaves of bread, or 1 loaf and 1 pizza. There are plenty of recipes available, but pizza dough is basically a simple bread dough. This is basically the one that I use. If you are making pizza with this recipe alter the directions accordingly. If you have your own recipe for pizza dough that is just as well. Following the recipe are photos of the bread and pizza that I made using this recipe. Enjoy.

Rustic Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2-1/3 cups water

4 teaspoons instant yeast

6 cups unbleached bread flour, divided

2 teaspoons fine-grained sea salt

2 tablespoons cornmeal

In a large bowl combine the water, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour; stir until it forms a thick batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the sponge to ferment at room temperature for 2-8 hours.

Add the salt and the remaining 4 cups of flour to the sponge, and using a wooden spoon stir the dough until it is thick enough to handle. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it for 8-10 minutes by pushing it away from you and folding it back towards you. If the dough is too sticky dust your hands with the smallest amount of flour (too much additional flour kneaded into the dough will yield a heavy and dense loaf). The dough will eventually become smooth and supple; it will be able to stretch easily without tearing.

Place the dough in a clean bowl that is large enough to allow it to rise and set the bowl on the middle rack of your oven (DO NOT TURN ON THE OVEN). Place a small pan of hot water on the oven floor to create steam and warmth (with an electric oven the pan of water may have to be placed on an oven rack). With the oven door closed, allow the dough to ferment for 2 hours. The dough will double in size and become light and airy. For a more fla­vorful bread, and if time allows, deflate the dough and allow it to rise again, for an additional hour.

After the dough has risen once or twice, deflate it and turn it out onto a work surface. Cut the dough into two even pieces and shape them into round smooth balls. Sprinkle the cornmeal across a baking sheet and place the dough balls on the baking sheet, making sure that any seams that occurred during shaping remain on the bottom. For a more rustic-looking loaf dust each loaf of bread with an additional tablespoon or two of flour. Place the baking sheet in the oven (DO NOT TURN ON THE OVEN), and again place a pan of hot water on the oven floor. Allow the dough to rise for approximately 1 hour; it will have doubled in size, feel light for its size, and when two fingers gently press the dough the indentations remain and do not spring back.

Gently remove the pan of breads from the oven and set it on the counter; leave the pan of water in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a sharp knife, quickly but gently slash the tops of the breads. Place the pan with the breads on the middle rack in the preheated oven. Within the first 10 minutes the bread will rise considerably (this is referred to as “oven spring”). Bake the breads at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes (if the bread is browning unevenly the pan may need to be rotated once or twice), then remove the pan of water from the oven floor and lower the heat in the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the bread at this temperature for an additional 25-30 minutes.

The bread is cooked when the crust is crisp and a deep brown color, and it sounds hollow when tapped; an internal temperature will read approximately 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that all ovens are different and that breads bake at various rates depending on the accuracy of the oven.

Gently remove the loaves from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool, or lacking a wire rack rest the bread on several layers of kitchen towels. Allow the bread to cool for 20 minutes before slicing. Store the cooled bread at room temperature or in a freezer; refrigerated bread increases the rate at which bread stales.

Now here it is in photos:

Mix together some of the flour, water, and yeast; allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes, but as long as 18 hours.

Here it is after a couple hours. Note the bubbly, spongy consistency…hence it’s name, sponge.

Transfer the sponge to a mixing bowl with a dough attachment, add the remaining ingredients, and mix on medium for about 8 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead by hand for a minute or two (this step is optional, but I enjoy it).

A simple way to tell that the dough has been kneaded enough is to give it the window pane test, meaning stretch it between you fingers to check for its elasticity…if the gluten in the dough is not developed enough it will tear or rip easily; if it is developed enough it will stretch without tearing.

Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it, and allow it to rest for an hour or two.

Here it is after 1 1/2 hours.

A simple way to tell if it has risen enough is to gently press the dough with a finger or two…if the indentations spring needs to rise more, if the indentations remain then it is ready. Note the two indentations in the the bottom-right of the photo.
While the dough was rising I prepared the pizza’s topping: salmon, tomato sauce, broccoli, and cheese (items I found in my freezer).

With any pizza topping a key thing is to make sure the ingredients are not to wet, or you will end up with a sloppy pizza. For this reason make sure that you cook the moisture out of frozen vegetables. Note the minced garlic waiting to be added to the pan (I put garlic in nearly everything).

Remove the dough from the bowl, cut it into two pieces. Shape one into a loaf and put it in a bread pan, put the other one on a oiled pizza pan and push it flat.

Rub the dough with oil, then layer on your ingredients.

Add cheese; I used white cheddar, mozzarella, and Romano.

Bake it in a 450F degree oven for about 20 minute. If you have a pizza stone bake it directly on the stone for the last 10 minutes (this will make the crust nice and crispy).

By the time the pizza is done the bread should be ready to go into the oven.

Bake the bread for about 1/2 hour. Here’s the finished product…beautiful, if I do say so myself.

Snowy Ride on the Mule and Kidnapped Snakes

I love hauling stuff on bikes…it gives me such a sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction. For various reasons I haven’t been on any of my bikes for a few days and was determined to ride one today. Our meditation group met at at our church tonight, which is only about a mile from my house, so I parked the truck after work and hopped on the bike. I used my “everyday bike,” which is an old Trek, loaded with racks and baskets, which I fondly refer to as the mule; it’s probably my most stable and practical bike for this weather. The roads were pretty bad, it was cold and snowing, but I still wanted to ride (instead of drive), so I took it easy and went slow.

It happened to be garbage night so I was of course on the lookout for good stuff (something that is easy to miss if you are driving a vehicle). I spotted 4 pairs of shutters and hoped that they would still be there on my way home…they were. They fit nicely into the rear baskets and stayed firm with just a couple bungee chords. I’ll probably use them in my kitchen. They are solid wood and pretty heavy, which was actually a good thing because they added extra weight to the rear tire which in turn offered more traction. I only spun out and almost fell once, as I was taking a short-cut behind an apartment building and passing a women on a cell phone who I heard say, “some crazy white dude on a bike just passed me.” This stuff just doesn’t happen when you’re trapped in a vehicle.

On a completely different note, and I’m not sure this has anything to do with simplicity at all: There have been, it seems, a lot of notes and signs staples to trees lately advertising lost pets. Some are really heart breaking, such as the one I saw recently saying that their lost dog had a medical condition and needed its medication. But this one took me aback a little when I saw it tonight. Not only is it a posting for missing snakes…they were actually kidnapped (or should we say snake-napped). Apparently someone broke into this persons apartment and stole their two snakes (if I were a thief I believe that I would find something better, or at least less slimy, to steal). The other thing is that they stated was if the thieves are not going to return them to at least take into consideration that the snakes have always eaten “pre-killed mice,” and that live mice may harm them. This, to me, showed that the owner really does love these animals (no matter how slimy and scary they are to others). But the question I have is that if they only ate pre-killed mice does that mean that the owner purchased live mice, then killed them before serving them to his snakes? Click on the picture for a larger view and let me know if you are aware of the whereabouts of his slithering friends.

Whole Wheat Pizza with Multiple Layers of Flavor

As is often the case with me at dinner time, I’ll remember that I need to go grocery shopping. At any rate, I made this pizza for my son and I using ingredients that were on hand…and it was great. It’s simple to make, and you really can use whatever ingredients you have. This is how I made mine.

I used a whole wheat crust, which rose while I took my dogs for a walk. If you’re not sure how to make a whole wheat pizza dough click here.

I also found a small container of tomato sauce in my freezer, which was made from tomatoes grown in my garden last summer. I was originally thawing a pint of Bolognese sauce but forgot about it on the stove when I went out to split a few logs…the sauce evaporated and burnt to a crisp (yup…I don’t like to admit it but I make mistakes). Luckily I had a backup of plain tomato sauce, more of a coulis, actually.

There was also a frozen bag of (store-bought) spinach in my freezer, which I thawed and sauteed in olive oil with a little garlic and coarse gray sea salt. The key is too cook the spinach long enough that most of its excess moisture evaporates (it’ll start to stick to the skillet), otherwise you may end up with a pizza with a watery topping.

After pushing the dough onto a pan, and rubbing fresh garlic and a little salt into it, I spread a thin coating of tomato sauce. Then sprinkled on the cooked spinach, nibbling on it as I did so. Then I sprinkle on some mozzarella, Parmesan, and feta cheeses; after which I tipped it with 1/2 of a sliced onion.

After baking it in a preheated 450F oven for about 20 minutes I removed it an let it rest for another 5 before slicing it. The flavors were intense and delicious; the crust thin, chewy, and crisp…delicious. Now if you’ll excuse me I suddenly have the intense urge to have a slice of left over pizza, which is sitting at room temperature on my kitchen counter.

Yuba Ride

The above photos are actually re-posts from this past summer/fall (and yes, that is corn growing in my front yard…for the newcomer to this blog you can see more about my front yard corn here). I was inspired to re-post them after coming across the below video. It’s an interview with Benjamin, the founder of the Mundo Yuba. It’s interesting in that I always (somewhat righteously, I suppose) think of how bicycles impact my life, but the sustainability of them, and more specifically the sustainability and mobility it brings to struggling peoples, is often forgotten (by me). 10% of your purchase from Yuba goes directly to supplying these cargo bikes to Africa. The bicycle is, without doubt, the most efficient mode of transport ever built. Click here, here, and especially here, to see testimonies and pictures. Click here to see a a brief but interesting story on the expense of owning a car today; it is from (of all places) the Wall street journal. And don’t forget to watch the brief interview below.

Mid-Winter and Lebanese Pizza

One of the things I enjoy about living in the northeast is our distinct seasons. Winter, for example, can be difficult for me at times, but it can also be a season of awe and beauty. I was in the backyard today splitting a few logs for the evening’s heat when I glanced at my grapevine. It caught me off guard…I was looking at the barren vine coming out of the snow and remembering planting it a few years ago. This past summer there were far more grapes on it than I could possibly consume, but to look at it now it looked as if it would never grow a single leaf, let alone a bushel of grapes. Then I remembered this quote about Brother Lawrence:

“The first time I saw Brother Lawrence was on the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me that God had done him a singular favor in his conversion at the age of eighteen. During that winter, upon seeing a tree stripped of its leaves and considering that, within a little time, the leaves would be renewed and, after that, the flowers and fruit appear; Brother Lawrence received a high view of the providence and power of God which has never since been effaced from his soul.”

Brother Lawrence, ironically (I suppose) was a cook in a monastery. You can read, download, and print his entire book here.

Here’s a picture of what the now-barren vine looked like last summer; it will even be more full and robust this summer…something to look forward to.

On a different note: For dinner I had a Lebanese Pizza. It’s a standard dough topped with za’atar seasoning, labna, olive oil, and onions. The za’atar and labna give it a sort of tart-and-salty flavor…it is (was) truly delicious. You can use the same method for the dough as this one (or the actual dough, if you want to make it a little more interesting). For a recipe for homemade yogurt and how to make labna (and other fermented foods), click here.

Julia’s Omelet and My Big Decedent Frittata

I spent much of mid-day today in a reflective mood…after dropping my son off at his mother’s house I had the morning and afternoon to myself, before a family dinner engagement. I managed to take a nap, meditate, go for a good steam and swim, and read half of this book.

As usual after a good swim I find myself hungry. I had come across this video of Julia Child making an omelet recently, and being Christmas I felt like having something a little special…but also something simple. I scoured my fridge and I came up with some gravlox, onions, broccoli, eggs, and feta. So I made a frittata, and ate it with toasted whole grain Monk’s Bread (yes, I do purchase bread now and again).

I don’t really care for many of the so called “celebrity chefs,” but I can watch clips of Julia Child…especially the old ones like this one. To some she may seem a joke, but she was classically trained, and it shows in her technique. It’s an interesting little clip and very French…to care so much about something as simple as an omelet to devote an entire episode to it…

At any rate, this is how I made my decedent lunch:

Preheat your oven to 400F. Gather the ingredients; par-boil the broccoli, then slice it along with the onion and salmon.

Mix everything together except the onion.

Heat an oven-proof skillet over high heat with a few tablespoons olive oil; when the oil is hot add the onion and saute them until they begin to brown.

Add the other ingredients and put the pan in the oven.

Cook the frittata for about 5 minutes, then carefully flip it over and cook another minute or two. Remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for a minute or two (while you prepare your toast).

After eating the entire thing it’s best to lay on your couch and take a nap (like I did).

Winter and Spicy Stew

Well, Buffalo’s climate is once again living up to its reputation. We got pelted with something like a foot of snow today (judging by the news, so did much of the rest of the northeast). I was out driving in it today (yes, I do use a vehicle now and again) and at points it was near whiteout conditions…traffic would come to a halt because the farthest you could see was maybe ten feet in front of you.

Here’s a shot of my backyard, note the Chinese trike buried in snow…I won’t be riding that any time soon (to read more about the trike click here).

By this point you’d think I’d learn to use the firewood in the backyard before the snow really hit, leaving wood on the front porch for times like this. Anyhow, I had to retrieve firewood from the backyard and had to shovel not only a path to the wood, but also shovel out a small clearing so I could split a few logs.

I was craving something hearty and spicy for dinner, so I scoured my refrigerator and freezer. In addition to leftover frozen turkey and turkey stock I had plenty of vegetables to work with. I also had some kim chi, some not-quite-ready citron confit (preserved lemons), and a can of white beans.

I used a basic stewing/braising method; it’s simple and can be done with most foods. This is how I made mine: Start by dicing the vegetables (note my two pugs in the background waiting for scraps to fall).

I sauteed the harder vegetebales first in a little olive oil, then added garlic, a little curry, a couple chilies, cumin, allspice, cracked black pepper, and alittle sea salt.

Then I added the turkey stock, a couple preserved lemon wedges, a good scoop of kim chi, and the rest of the diced vegetables and potatoes. After simmering it for a few minutes I added the drained and rinsed white beans.

After simmering it for about twenty minutes longer, I ladled it into a bowl that I warmed over a flame (the rear of my house is cold this time of year). Not bad, I thought as I ate it…for being made out of leftovers and a few other ingredients I had on hand. It was perfect food for a cold winters evening such as this.

Backyard Bouillabaisse

I recently came across these photos on my old laptop and thought I’d post them. They’re at least a few years old pictures of when my son and I made bouillabaisse in our backyard. We basically dug a hole in the ground and started a fire. Then we put a pot on it and cooked a bunch of seafood. It was delicious…it reminds me of summer.

Snowy Ride

I knew full well what I was getting myself into when I rode my bike to work this morning…the newscasters have been telling of this storm for a couple days…schools were closed this morning before it even hit. When I left at 7:00am it was overcast with just a few flakes in the air. How bad could it get, I thought? I’ve ridden in snow before, I also thought. Well, it hit about 9:00am, just as predicted, and it let up about 5:00pm, just as predicted. By the time I left work there were about 10 inches of snow on the ground and because of the wind it looked as if it were snowing horizontally. The ride was a little treacherous, but I rode slow and put a lot of my weight on the front tire, which I’ve found is a good way to control steering in icy conditions. Most of the way home I was actually going as fast as the cars (probably about 10 mph), and only once did I almost fall (when I hit a small pile of snow protruding out of a driveway). I rode mostly in the middle of the street because the sides were not plowed, so when traffic would speed up I’d have to pull off to the side to allow them to pass. Side streets were, and still are, an un-plowed mess…I had to push the bike down my street. There was one point (about halfway home) when the snow was whipping in my eyes and I felt I had lost control of the bike when I thought that this was a really stupid thing to do, but at the same time I felt truly exhilarated…and it is just one more bit of proof that it is possible to navigate the streets and use a bicycle as your primary mode of transport even in the winter…even in Buffalo, NY. I was a teenager during the blizzard of ’77 and have loved these storms ever since (now I’m showing my age). Anyhow, here’s a few photos of my bike and the riding conditions. The first one is of the bike stuck in the snow, where I put it when I first arrived home so I could shovle the stairs to carry it up. Take note that the bike’s kickstand is not down…the bike just sort of stood there in the snow. The second photo is of the handlebars (my dashboard); the snow and ice buildup was about the same on the handlebars as it was on my gloves and helmet. The last is a photo of a handpainted Chi Rho that I painted on my top crossbar when I first got this bike. It’s what I see when I look down (as I have to do when riding in a snow storm); it guides me and keeps me centered.

Autumnal Food and My First Snowy Ride on the Mundo

Bread For Thanksgiving Dinner

I am truly blessed in that I have three lovely sisters who give me the day off on Thanksgiving. The only things that I am required to do are bring freshly baked bread and carve the bird. I know that my younger sister likes roast red pepper bread, so I usually bring that. But this year I changed it a little by making two doughs and combining them: one was the red pepper, the other was Parmesan. The outcome is visually stunning; the flavors aren’t bad either. Here’s the recipe in pictures:

I started by making two separate straight doughs, utilizing the sponge method (basic bread dough recipe), the difference is that I added pureed roast red peppers to one (you’ll have to adjust the recipe because of the moisture content of the peppers) and Parmesan cheese to the other (click on any of the photos for a larger view).

After they had risen, I cut each dough into 5 pieces, ten pieces in all.

After gently flattening each piece, I placed a piece of Parmesan dough on top of each piece of red pepper dough and gently rolled it into a loaf.

Then I put them in loaf pans, and placed a clean garbage bag across them to rise.

After they rose, I brushed them with an egg wash, sprinkled them with poppy seeds and baked them in a preheated 400F oven.

The finished bread:

Turkey Stock and Mashed Potato Bread

Each year after thanksgiving I always offer to take the turkey carcass(es) of my sisters hands. Sometimes they won’t give them up because they have plans for them themselves, and other times–like this year–they are glad that I am interested in taking it/them. Anyhow, we had two turkeys this year and my apartment-sized refrigerator is not nearly big enough to hold them, so I left them wrapped in plastic in the back of my pickup parked on the street all night. The temperature was hovering around freezing, but I have to admit that I was surprised to see them in the morning.

Here they are unwrapped…sort of gruesome looking, sort of like returning to the scene of a crime…almost enough to make a person go vegetarian. But with the resulting broth all these nasty thoughts were forgotten.

Anyhow, homemade broth is as simple as this: put the carcass(es) in a pot with any meat trimmings, scraps, juices, a few vegetables, and just enough cold water to cover it. Bring it to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. Simmer the broth for 2-6 hours, skimming any scum as necessary.

While it simmered I whipped up a batch of potato bread using leftover mashed potatoes. I used a straight dough method with the exception that I added an egg to the dough for a little richness and lightness in its rise. The rear of my house is cold so I rose the bread next to the simmering stock pot.

After it rose once, I shaped it into a loaf, put it in a loaf pan and let it rise again. Then baked it in a 400F oven.

After the stock had simmered for about 6 hours I strained it twice, first through a colander, then through a small fine mesh strainer; a china cap, or as the French refer to it, a chinoise

Freezer ready:

Pear Butter with Red Wine

Last week I was able to take home a couple dozen locally grown pears. They were already past their prime when I received them, that’s how I was able to take them home, but I still thought I would eat them before they were too far gone. Well, of course I didn’t. Instead of throwing them out I decided to make pear butter, which of course is a variation of apple butter. It is so easy to make. Basically you just cut up the fruit (with or without skins), add a little liquid (I added red wine instead of water), and if you want it a little sweeter, you can add a little sugar (which I did). You cook the fruit and puree it (at this point it will resemble apple sauce). Then return it to the heat to evaporate most of its moisture. The flavors will intensify and its color will darken considerably. The consistency will become spreadable (especially when it is chilled); it will have the consistency of butter, hence its name.

First Snow/Ice Ride on the Mundo Yuba

We got a couple inches of snow today, which by Buffalo standards is next to nothing. But because it was above freezing during the day when it snowed (slushed) and went below freezing this evening, what was on the street turned to ice. The Mundo is built like a tank, and probably weighs as much as one also. %The thing just plowed through. I used to make the comparison of the Mundo to a Hummer or other big SUV, but now I’m wondering if it shouldn’t be more compared to a bike version of one of the old Volvo wagons…it plows through anything, weighs a ton, makes you feel safe, and has a big cushy feel to it’s ride. At one point I wanted to test the brake on ice, to see how it would handle. I hit the rear brake and the bike fishtailed to one side a little, but the thing is so big and heavy I still felt safe…it were as if I was happening in slow motion. Anyhow, it looks like it will be a good “Buffalo bike,” meaning it should be stable enough for all weather conditions. It may not be fast, but it gets you where you want to go and you can carry a lot of stuff with you.

A Few Recipes, Thoughts, and a Couple Cartoons

100% Whole Wheat Bread:

I’ve been playing around with a variation (simplification) of Peter Reinhart’s whole grain bread recipe. I find the idea of home made bread being made without too much fuss and it not occupying your time and thoughts very interesting. I much rather incorporate it into the rhythm of my day. Many of my breads, for example, I’ll start the sponge before bed or before I go to work, and then mix the dough hours later, either retarding it in the refrigerator or baking it straight away. With this cold snap we’re experiencing in the northeast a refrigerator isn’t necessary…the rear of my house (where my kitchen is located) 9is like a refrigerator. I had to bring the bread to my living room and warm it next to the wood stove to speed the fermentation process. Anyhow, here’s my method, and it came out pretty good.

If I recall correctly Peter Reinhart uses milk or butter or yogurt in his dough (I may be wrong…I haven’t looked at the book for a while), at any rate, I used a straight-dough recipe, or one without fat (ok, I used a little olive oil). The thing that is key I think, and this is something that I picked up from Peter’s book, is that when making bread with 100% whole wheat flour it is essential to soak the flour before mixing the dough.

In the bowl on the left is a sponge with 2 cups of w.w. flour, a little yeast, and 2/3 cups of water; the mixing bowl on the right contains 4 cups of w.w. flour, 1 1/3 cups water, a little salt, and a tablespoon of olive oil (no yeast). I let these sit overnight. In the morning I dissolved a little more yeast in about a quarter cup water (the small container with the spoon in it).

Then I mixed them together, first in the electric mixer then by hand, and mad the dough.

Realizing the coldness in my kitchen (something like 45F), and not having the time to allow for a 12-hour rise, I sped up the process by warming the dough on a stool next to my wood burning stove. I had it covered (of course), but the real challenge was keeping my two dogs away from it.

I divided the bread into three loaves, let it rise again (this time in the kitchen…which was a bit warmer because I was preheating the oven). The outcome was awesome.

Remnants of Summer:

Then I found myself in a quandary…here I had these 3 beautiful loaves of bread, and I knew that I’d never eat them before they went stale. I gave one away, sliced into one, but still didn’t have enough room in my teeny freezer for the remaining loaf. In order to fit the loaf in the freezer I had to take some stuff out. And if I were to take some stuff out I knew that I had to cook it…so I made dinner. Actually, I only had to remove a container of broccoli and butternut squash, both of which I grew on my tiny city plot this past summer.

I basically cooked the vegetables aglio e olio style (with garlic and olive oil) and tossed it with pasta. It’s a method for which I can cook almost any food, and a flavor I never get tired of. Besides the pasta and chicken broth, here’s the basic ingredients I used: squash, broccoli, garlic, and hot peppers.

I sauteed everything in a little olive oil.

Added enough cup or two of chicken broth, and allowed it to cook the vegetables and reduce to concentrate it’s flavor.

Then tossed it with whole wheat pasta and Romano cheese

What’s up with The Gas Prices?

Really? What is up? Two years ago we were at the very same price for gas per gallon as we are today (in Buffalo). Then we went on a roller coaster ride and we’re back where we started. Check out this chart I found at buffalogasprices.com:

Anyhow, I don’t care what the price of gas is I still far prefer my bicycle to my gas-powered vehicle. Here’s a few cartoons I came across that reflect this sentiment:

Super-Ripe Kim Chi:

Lastly, I had to include a few pictures of my latest batch of kim chi (cabbage and peppers grown in the back yard this past summer). It is by far the best batch I have ever made, and it is literally alive with flavor and probiotics. It has an effervescence the almost sizzles on your tongue. Check out the book and/or website, Wild Fermentation, if you want to learn to make it.

Pictures of Autumn

It’s easy to live simply in the city during the summer…there are no heating concerns, and vegetable gardens grow like weeds. But as the seasons march forward, things change.

Autumn has always been, and still is, my favorite season. I had a few days off this past weekend and used the time to ready myself (both physically and mentally) for the cold months…stacked some firewood, uprooted my remaining vegetables, and baked some sourdough. Here’s a few photos:

One of the first signs of Autumn (if you have a wood burning stove or fireplace) is the delivery of wood. Here’s a picture of some of it. My son is now a teenager and this is the first year I asked (made) him help me haul and stack the wood. He did a great job.

I’m a bad gardener. By this statement I don’t mean that I can’t grow things, because I do every year, but more that I let my gardens become sort of feral by mid-summer. Every year I say that I won’t, but I do. Thus, every autumn when I tear them out I am always surprised at what I find. Look at all of these tomatoes…and this is the second week in October in Buffalo!
There were also some swiss chard and cabbage (and peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli which are not pictured).

This teeny head of cabbage I found in a pot I forgot about…it was just the right amount I needed for a vegetable soup.

Three years ago I planted a grapevine that has literally exploded through the backyard (which only measures 25′ by 25′). This coming year I’ll have to trim it back. The grapes are delicious…they taste as good as they look in this photo.

There are, in fact, more grapes than I can consume. So rather than let them rot on the vines (I did give some away) I thought I’d experiment with them (I’m always game for food experiments…especially when it deals with natural fermentation). I’ve never made wine before and know absolutely nothing about it (other than a little Internet research), but I thought I’d try to make some the old fashioned way…crush some grapes and put ’em in a pot to ferment (along with a little sugar water, and yeast). Here’s my son picking some of the grapes from their stems.

I initially let them rest for a few days simply crushed with their skins, then I strained them and added yeast and sugar.

It only made a couple gallons of juice, which I wrapped in a towel (to protect it from sunlight) and put it on a shelf in my backroom where it is cool. This is the initial photo of it. After a day it was alive with action, it was circulating in a sort of vertical swirling motion, and eventually (after a few days) it stopped. It’s now crystal clear and smells like either wine or vinegar. I haven’t tasted it yet, but it will no doubt be vinegar (which is also great!). In another week I’ll decant it and taste it. If it tastes like something that is edible I’ll bottle it.

Another thing about the temperature change is that bread baking, especially naturally leavened bread (sourdough), altered. When the kitchen cools off naturally leaved bread goes from rising in just a few hours in the sultry dog days of summer, to anywhere from 8, 12, 18, even 24 hours when its cooler (depending on the temperature). Here’s a beautiful Pullman loaf I made and let rise overnight. The initial dough: 11:00pm.

Here it is about 8:00am, 9 hours later. It actually over-proofed a little…you can see where I had to trim it away from the edges where it was hanging over.

Here’s the loaf fresh from the oven…it’s beautiful and tasted as good as it looks. The thing about having it rise for so long is that the character of the bread becomes so intense…there are layers of flavors than cannot be achieved any other way than a slow rise. This loaf is called a “Pullman” loaf because of its shape, that it resembles an old Pullman railroad car. It makes an awesome sandwich bread.

Soup made with the last garden vegetables (and a few others that I purchased). This along with the bread made and excellent meal.