Sunday, November 29, 2009


In the spirit of last week's electric didgeridoo I present the Eigenharp.


The instrument is a creation of Eigenlabs, and "allows the musician to play and improvise using a limitless range of sounds with virtuoso skill. It has 120 playing keys, 12 percussion keys, two strip controllers and a breath pipe." It costs nearly $8k. Still, damn cool.

As played by the Star Wars Cantina Band.

(The Cantina Song is now in your head.)

And it's one step away from the Holophonor.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oven Roasted Clams with Pale Ale, Pancetta, and Chanterelles

Ugh, getting behind on posts I had planned. Truth be told recently I haven't been feeling like writing, or shaving, or getting out of bed. Well, only one way to get back on the horse!

Most of the things I end up cooking follow this Order of Operations:
  1. What have I got? What is going to go bad if I don't use it? Can I make something without going to the store?
  2. What do I feel like eating? What haven't I made in a while? Do I have time or energy to cook something elaborate?
  3. Consult the cookbook rack for inspiration if I don't already have something in mind, or consult the books for their take on what I've already got in mind.
  4. Return to beginning, reassess. Cooking is an iterative process.
Oven Roasted Clams with Pale Ale, Pancetta, and Chanterelles

So this one started with me having some pancetta. And some tomatoes that were on their way out (the last of the tomatoes, picked as the rain and cold came in.) Feeling like shellfish tonight. Ok, recipes in Kathy Casey's Northwest Table and Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen for oven roasted clams, looks good. Casey uses beer and tomatoes, I've got my Fresh Hop Pale Ale on tap and the tomatoes. Douglas uses chanterelles and pancetta, I've got some partly cooked and frozen chanties from earlier Summer foraging, and the tail end of my pancetta. We can make this work.

No clams. No problem. Fresh Fish Co. is a 5 minute walk away. Run out, 2lbs Penn Cove Clams. All alive and healthy. They will not sell you a bad fish. Or um, mollusk.

Get to work.
  • 4 slices pancetta, maybe 2 oz, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1/3-1/2 lb. Chanterelles, torn or sliced. I froze mine in quart tupperwares, they range between these weights so I just popped one out of the freezer.
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced.
  • 2lbs clams. Washed, scrubbed, still alive, etc.
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Tomatoes. About a cup. I used a mix of cherry and heirloom, sliced in half or diced, big tomatoes seeded.
  • Rosemary. A teaspoon chopped and one sprig. Hooray for the rosemary bush.
  • 1/2 a lemon. Quartered. Or, um, eigthed I guess.
  • 1/4 cup Pale Ale. I used my own Fresh Hop Pale.
  • 2 T butter, cut into small chunks.
Preheat the oven to 500. Toss the clams, some pepper flakes, the tomatoes, and minced rosemary in a bowl. In a large oven-proof-skillet-type-pan cook the pancetta till browned. Then add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, the chanterelles and garlic and cook for a minute or two (they'll finish in the oven). Add the clams and tomatoes, stir around a bit. Squeeze the lemon pieces over the clams and toss them in. Pour the beer in. Scatter the bits of butter around over the top. Stick the Rosemary in the middle somewhere.

Pop it in the oven for 15 minutes or so until the clams are all open. Remove, stir a bit, remove any unopened clams. Serve with crusty bread for the awesome sauce.

All told this recipe is super easy, serves four as a light dinner, is five star delicious, and took maybe a half hour total. And because I grew, made or foraged most of the ingredients it cost maybe $12, most of which was the clams. And you can bet I'll make this next time I go clamming...

Leftovers. We had half leftover, being just the two of us. The next night I took the clams out of their shells, and discarded the lemons, shells and rosemary sprig. Cooked up some penne, heated the clam pan, added the pasta, added two beaten eggs and some parmesan. Stirred until thickened and delicious. 15 minutes. Lemony, creamy but also clammy and mushroomy. Very good for a day-old shellfish dish.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Neat! Electric Didgeridoo

Some of you know that among my many talents playing the didgeridoo is one of them. (Also awkward sentence structures, apparently.) So when I came across this I was floored.

Turn your subwoofer way up if you've got one.


He's got a blog here, with lots of technical mumbo jumbo for you electrical engineers out there.

My first didge was a piece of 2" pvc pipe, calculated and cut to produce a C sharp that I made for High School Physics. Now I've got an Australian Bloodwood one that is my didge pride and joy, as well as two bamboo ones of different lengths. Their chief use appears to be annoying dogs and neighbors, I imagine this guy's no different. At least mine aren't amplified...
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Friday, November 13, 2009


This one has been on the back burner for a couple weeks as Matsutake (Pine Mushroom, Trichloma magnivelare) season came and went. These mushrooms are seriously big business in Japan, where they can fetch ridiculous prices. A single good mushroom there can run upwards of $30, and I saw them for sale here at Uwajimaya last week for $50 a pound. Fortunately, we can forage them. Or at least someone can. I didn't find any this year... In the NW they grow under Doug Firs, and the other various pines and firs we have in our conifer forests. I also think they like the volcanic soil more near St. Helens or Rainier and we didn't hunt there this year.

But at least I had the chance to purchase a few from Foraged and Found at the Farmer's Market in mid-October. And such a deal, the grade A matsis (meaning the veil was still fully intact) were $25 a pound and the grade B (just fine, but due to damaged veils less aesthetically pleasing, apparently) were only $15. So I picked up three B's.

The first hurdle is cleaning them. The tops can be brushed off, but the base is thoroughly crustified with dirt and must be trimmed. Then you can slice them to your heart's content. Many people prefer to tear them by hand, arguing that the uneven cuts increase the dissemination of their flavor into whatever you are cooking.

And these guys are potent. Just smell: pine and cinnamon, and yes, maybe a hint of feet. They are usually sold separately, not just because of their price, but because one is usually enough to flavor most dishes. So here are two dishes I made with these three mushrooms.

Matsutake Gohan

This is a traditional Japanese use for the mushroom. It's basically steamed rice, infused with the matsi aromas and flavor while the rice cooks. There are a couple recipes online, and Lang Cook made one last year. So I started here.
  • Wash 2 cups of short-grain rice in the pot of a rice cooker a couple times until the water runs clear. Then add 2 cups water and let sit a half hour.
  • I added a packet of kokumotsu (15 grain type). It's a collection of grains and beans that comes in little packets you add before steaming the rice to make it more interesting and nutritious.
  • Add a diced carrot, a shredded matsi, and 4 T soy sauce and 4 T sake, and let 'er rip.
  • When cooked, mix everything up and let it sit a bit then serve.
The Pros: this dish is fast, pretty cheap, a one-pot cleanup, and easy.

The Cons: it's kind of meh. It needs something. The matsutake is there, but it's very subtle, and I'm not sure whether it's supposed to be more pronounced (use two mushrooms?) or whether it's just an instance of Japanese tastes being a bit more subtle than my jaded and burned-out pallet. I had planned on adding some dashi (bonito-flake and seaweed stock) but I lazed out and I now think it needs it. I went simple on this seemingly simple dish, but next time dashi is going in for certain. And frankly, shiitakes would work just fine in this dish, and they are whole lot cheaper.

Matsutakes with Clams and Leeks

From Christina Choi's excellent 2009 Wild Foods Calendar.
is how matsutakes are done!
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 leek, white and light green part, split, cleaned, sliced 1/4".
  • 1/2 lb Matsutakes (I used my remaining two, maybe 1/3 lb.)
  • 2 lbs clams, I got some Penn Cove Manillas.
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 Lemon
Sauteed leek in the butter with a bit of salt until softened. Added matsis and cooked a few more minutes. Heat to full, clams in, water in, stir and cover. Turn to simmer when water boils, steam until clams are open. Add a squeeze of lemon and serve.

The matsutake flavor is subtle, but goes very well with the oceany clams. Also, the matsis and clams have nearly the same texture, which is kindof interesting. Big fan. Serve with bread to soak up the delicious clam/matsutake broth!

Poking around in my copy of Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen I noticed that he has a recipe for a matsutake broth, Matsutake Dashi, that I might try next year. Otherwise these guys are being filed under "Good, but $50 good? Nope."
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brewday: Chanterelle Belgian Golden Ale

Last week I finally got around to brewing my Chanterelle mushroom beer. Wine and Cider occupied most of my time and carboys for October, so it took a while to free one up. The recipe is from Randy Mosher's excellent Radical Brewing. I decided to follow it more or less to the letter, because Chanterelle beer sounds weird and if he says it's good the way he makes it, well then I'll follow his lead. Small changes, for example, include using a bit of Magnum hops to make up for the fact that I use whole hops, not pellets. Fairly uneventful brewday. Gravity suffered a bit again, efficiency maybe 70%. Grrr.

Chanterelle Beer

5.25 gallon, all grain
Est. OG: 1.074, Actual OG: 1.070
Est. FG: 1.019, Actual probably lower
ABV: 7% - 7.5%
90 minute boil

Grain bill:
  • 9 1/2 lbs US 2-Row
  • 2 lbs Maris Otter
  • 1 1/2 lbs Munich
  • 1 1/2 lbs Wheat Malt
  • 1/2 lb Melanoidin malt
The Mash: Originally I had a triple decoction mash scheduled, (113, 144, 156) but on the day of the brew I was feeling a bit tired and lazy, so I dropped it down to a single decoction. Mashed in at 122 for a protein rest of about 35 minutes. Pulled a decoction of 2 1/4 gallons and raised it (stirring always!) to 154 for a rest of about 10 minutes. Then heated it (really stirring now!) to boiling for about 5 minutes. Back into the mash for a hopefull rest at 154 for a half hour, adjusting with boiling/cold water to reach it. Iodine test showed full conversion at 30 minutes, so a final infusion of about 2 gallons of boiling water brought the whole mash to 168 for knockout.

The Boil:
  • 1/2 oz Czech Saaz (3% AA) at 90 minutes
  • 1/4 oz Magnum (14% AA) at 90 minutes
  • 1 1/2 oz Saaz at 30
  • 1 1/2 oz Saaz at 10
  • 1/2 oz Cascade at flame out for aroma
No finings, it'll be cloudy.

Yeast was two packets of dry Safbrew T-58, their Strong Belgian strain. Rehydrated with a bit of GoFerm in some warm water. Took off like a rocket, blowoff tube came in very handy. It's fermenting upstairs, covered with a blanket. The house is 65 during the day, so it should stay in a nice range. The basement is hanging around 62 and Belgian yeasts sometimes get sluggish that low. Some people ferment their Belgians at crazy high temps, but I have always had better luck in the high 60's. I'll rack it in a day or two, then bottle with the chanterelle extract in another week or so.

The Chanterelle Extract:

Chanterelles have a lovely mushroomy apricoty smell when fresh. To capture the essence of Chanterelle mushrooms you use vodka and make a sort of Schnapps. I used a half pound of chanterelles from the load that we foraged in the Olympics, chopped fine, and covered in Tito's vodka in a mason jar for two weeks. Then I strained it through a couple layers of cheesecloth. It smells and tastes like mushroomy vodka. It's weird. But it's going in at bottling and we'll see how it all turns out.

UPDATE 12/01/09

Popped a 12oz bottle. Nice yeast cake at the bottom. Fairly well carbonated for only a week. It will no doubt pick up a bit more in the weeks to come. As for the Chanterelles. Well. It tastes like a Belgian. A good Belgian. But nothing spectacular. Which is a bit weird, the vodka was certainly mushroomy. Oh well. Tastes good. Problem will be entering it in competitions. It's not noticeably mushroomy but is noticeably delicious. But a judge might have a mushroom allergy so I can't enter it as just "Belgian Golden". Also the color is a bit muddy, I'd drop the melanoidin by half next time and make it a bit lighter.

UPDATE: Gold and BEST IN SHOW at 2010 Cascade Brewers Cup!
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Your morning wake up: 'Mani Malaikat' by Arrington de Dionyso, animated by

A William Blake poem, sung by a Tuvan throat singer, in Indonesian, set to a distorted bass clarinet and rhythmic drumming. It's like Bill Laswell without the screechy discordant saxophone.

It's going to be in my head all day.
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Neat: Paper CD Cases

So I had need to send a DVD-R out today but I couldn't find a case to put it in. On further reflection I realized that it's been a long, long time since I've bought or received a CD of any kind. Time was I'd have a hundred old cases around from every CD I moved into my big old album or when AOL sent me the thirtieth CD that month. Now I feel old.

Well I was on the Internet and I found this... You tell it the name of your disk and any track info you want and it makes up an origami CD case you just print out and fold. Not a wildly new site but new to me. And neat!
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Monday, November 02, 2009

Punching Down The Cap - Sokol Blosser

So my vineyard guy sent me this link to a video of his son punching down the cap on some pinot for Sokol Blosser.

Contact with the grape skins is what gives red wine its color and tannin profile. But the skins will float to the top, buoyed on the carbon dioxide from the fermentation, and must be punched back down to increase contact with the fermenting must and prevent the top or "cap" from getting crusty and gross from prolonged air exposure.

Good toy. And an interesting peek behind the scenes at an excellent winery.
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I like Halloween. A lot. And finally we seem to be in a neighborhood that at least gets some trick-or-treaters and people, you know, put out a pumpkin or two. Also, we no longer have the Miami jungle miasma that visibly rots your pumpkins before your very eyes.

So I went all out on two pumpkin ideas this year.

First up, the "William Tell Missed Pumpkin". I was inspired by this 'Carrie' pumpkin by Rob Cockerham of the wonderful (check out his Halloween costume for this year!). But I wanted to do something different. So it began with a large-ish pumpkin. Rule One in proper pumpkin carving is to largely forgo the knife in favor of power tools. Jigsaws work great. Removed a big plug from the bottom to hollow out the pumpkin. Used paper taped on the surface, a sharpie to draw the design, and a push-pin to poke holes along the design, then the jigsaw to cut it all out. Cut some channels in the bottom of the pumpkin to let the pump cord out and water back in. The arrow hole was cut with a drillbit. Inside the pumpkin was a small fountain pump (145 GPM) that I had, and a length of tubing reaching to the arrow hole. In went an old arrow I had around, carefully chosen to fit in the tube. Set it on a cookie sheet and ran water through it... Success! Outside it went and the water was replaced with a fresh half gallon mixed with 2 packets of Cherry unsweetened Koolaide and one Black Cherry.

It was quite a thing.

When it got darker I stuck a candle in there, but it really is better in daylight. If I made the 'blood' any thicker I worry the pump might not handle it, but in the dark the koolaide was too transparent. Also, my pump was probably a bit overkill... I had it turned low as it could go but the added pressure of the arrow in the tube did spray some koolaide around and it took some tinkering to get the flow right. Actually, it worked pretty great without the arrow. But something about it just didn't sit right. Somehow the arrow to the head is cheeky and fun, while gunshots to the head are cruel and tragic.

Number Two: the Devil Pumpkin.

Here it is with a single candle. Fairly impressive. The horns were parsnips and there's a red jalapeno sticking out like a tongue. I was pretty well pleased with it but I thought it could do better.

Road Flares! That's more like it. The smoke and ominous hissing this thing made were almost as good as the flashing red light spewing out of it. Highly recommend road flares for lighting pumpkins. They last a good 15 minutes, they cost me $1.79 each, and they are just damn impressive. And since they burn bright but relatively cool, after all they are designed specifically to not light the side of the highway on fire, they will scorch the pumpkin but won't burn through it. Just get a pumpkin big enough to fit it. Also flares are just plain fun to light for some reason. This was pretty great but as the night wore on I thought we could do better.

There we go! The final fuel of the night is an old Boy Scout signaling technique: a roll of toilet paper that's been soaked in kerosene! This shot flames about 3' out the top of the pumpkin for nearly a half hour. I only soaked the roll for about six hours too, it might burn longer if soaked overnight. When the wind shifted it would belch flames out the eyes of the pumpkin.

It was quite a thing.

And now an appropriately timed word on Halloween Safety. This pumpkin was out in the middle of the lawn, away from the path the little trick-or-treaters would be on, and had no overhanging obstacles to, you know, catch fire and burn the place down. Also we had a fire extinguisher and hose on hand because if Boy Scouts taught me anything other than how to light fires, it was how to also put them out. These weren't needed, it didn't even scorch the grass around it, but better safe than sorry.

Also, we stayed outside to monitor it. Which was kind of nice actually, it was reasonably warm around the fire. I was worried that it would burn up within a few minutes but the pumpkin held its own. At the end it was somewhat worse for wear, a bit blackened with soot in places, but otherwise fairly undamaged. Pumpkins are mostly water after all. I bet it could have withstood at least another roll.

Next year: Angry Tiki God.
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