Foodcrafting 101

breadinpot

I’ve been teaching bread classes for years now at the Institute of Domestic Technology. It’s about time I made note of this. The class I teach is part of a full day of classes that, in addition to bread, will show you how to make jam, cheese and ricotta. All this fun takes place in the haunted Doheny Mansion! There’s a class coming up in January. To sign up head over here. Gift certificates are available.

Sunday, January 4th, 10am ~ 4pm
Historic Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills

A 1-Day Workshop with 4 class sessions & lunch.

$195 {includes lunch, beverages, ingredients and supplies}

Unleash your inner foodcrafter. This full-day, hands-on workshop will prepare you to start making your own artisanal bread, jam, mustards and ricotta from scratch. Your d.i.y ambassadors/instructors will be some of the city’s finest food crafters.

The workshop includes four, 1-hour foodcrafting sessions, catered lunch and beverages. Each participant will be sent home with their very own bread, a take-home containers of cheese, bread dough, a jar of fruit preserves and a container of mustard. You’ll also receive the Institute’s signature instruction manual with recipes and materials/ingredient resource guide empowering you to recreate everything at home.

Foodcrafting 101 Workshop Schedule:

Bread Making:

Master the simple technique of bread making from scratch using the no-knead bread recipe from the Institute Director’s own cookbook. Learn about types of flour, where to purchase them, how to shape loaves and achieve the perfect crust. You’ll learn how to recreate a professional bread baker’s oven at home and produce loaves that rival accomplished bakers.

Cheese Making:

Get invited to better dinner parties with this easy technique to turn great milk into fluffy, creamy ricotta. You’ll be able to take home your cheese with some delicious recipes–if you can wait that long!

Jam Making:
Canning is back big time! We will peel, chop, dice and otherwise macerate whatever we find fresh and in season at the farmers’ market that week and learn how to turn it into jam. We will then learn how to can in a water bath and preserve our bounty for up to a year. After class, equipped with your newly-found knowledge, you’ll be well on your way to experimenting at home with other fruits. Besides, we all know someone with a tree of unpicked fruit that simply cries out to be made into jam.

DIY Mustard:

Good artisanal mustard isn’t necessarily something you’ll only find in a fancy jar from France. Crafting handmade mustard from scratch is as easy as turning on your blender. You’ll learn about different types of mustard seed, unique ingredient additions such as Guinness Stout, liqueurs, orange flower water, coffee or fresh citrus zest. You’ll have an entire flavor bar™ of spices, sweeteners and herbs to pick from as you create your own signature mustard blend.

INSTRUCTORS INCLUDE:

Erik Knutzen: Co-author of The Urban Homestead and Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World and a L.A. County Master Food Preserver

Joseph Shuldiner: Institute Director, and author: Pure Vegan: 70 Recipes for Beautiful Meals and Clean Living, Chronicle Books

Zach Negin: Co-owner of SoNo Mustard company

Talking About the Weather

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We have an informal rule around the Root Simple offices: never talk about the weather. Why? Most of our readers are not local and the weather here in Los Angeles is boring and predictable. Usually it’s sunny and mild.

Severe drought makes our weather newsworthy. California grows a lot of food. In an essay about talking about the weather, Samuel Johnson reminds us that “it is the present state of the skies and of the earth, on which plenty and famine are suspended, on which millions depend for the necessaries of life.”

Due to the increasing weirdness of our weather I nervously check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecasts with greater frequency than I used to. You would think that those NOAA forecasts would be devoid of humor. You would be wrong. As befits anyone who has to wrestle with a complex system, NOAA’s writings have a personal voice, especially when you click on the “Forecast Discussion” link to read a kind of raw discussion between NOAA scientists. Here’s a recent all-caps missive from a NOAA forecast discussion:

WOULD LOVE TO REPORT THAT THE LONG RANGE MDLS HAVE COME INTO GOOD AGREEMENT AND THAT THERE IS SOME SORT OF CONFIDENCE IN THE LONG TERM FORECAST. THAT…HOWEVER…IS NOT THE CASE. EC TOOK A TURN FOR THE WEIRD AND DELAYS THE STORM TO TUESDAY. GFS SEEMS A LITTLE SLOWER TOO. SO RIGHT NOW FEEL PRETTY CONFIDENT THAT RAIN CHANCES WILL BE LIMITS TO THE CENTRAL COAST ON SUNDAY. RAIN MIGHT DEVELOP MONDAY OR IT MIGHT HOLD OFF UNTIL TUESDAY OR IF THE NEW EC IS CORRECT TUESDAY NIGHT. REALLY GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE LIKE RAY GUY AND PUNT THIS FCST INTO TOMORROW AND HOPE FOR SOME KIND OF AGREEMENT. FOR NOW JUST CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY THAT MONDAY AND/OR TUESDAY WILL BE WET. BOTH EC AND GFS CONTINUE TO ADVERTISE A 6 HOUR PERIOD OF DECENT RAIN JUST NO IDEA WHEN.

Not sure what “MAKE LIKE RAY GUY” means. Maybe it’s a typo? “Rain Guy” maybe? And I haven’t figured out the acronyms yet, but I love that the “EC TOOK A TURN FOR THE WEIRD.”

Dr. Johnson’s essay ends with a plea to take a stoic approach to unpredictable forces like the weather, “Every man, however he may distrust himself in the extremes of good or evil, might at least struggle against the tyranny of the climate, and refuse to enslave his virtue or his reasons to the most variable of all variations, the change of the weather.” Given that the weather here over the past few years has been oppressively hot, it may be time to start sewing up that caftan.

In the interest of breaking the Root Simple taboo about weather talk, where are you and what’s the weather like?

Saturday Tweets: Mini Gabions and Citrus Liqueurs

Compostable Holiday Decor

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Yesterday evening I was out in the back yard trimming our perennials (yep, it’s very California to be working in the yard the day before Thanksgiving) and afterward I twisted together a wreath out of what I’d cut: mostly lavender, with some strawberry tree branches, white sage and toyon berries. All I did was attach the green bits with wire to a thin branch I’d bent in a circle.

The wreath was spectacular last night. This morning it is a bit wilted, as the picture shows, but still nice. Properly, if a wreath is to last, it should be made of dried stuff and/or evergreen boughs. We’ll see what this one does over the next couple of days. I’m not bothered if it doesn’t work, as it only took about a half hour to make, and I made it more for the pleasure of the making than anything else.

It is worth remembering that you can throw together a wreath or swag or centerpiece out of whatever fresh plant matter you can find, and it will look fresh for the rest of the day. It’s really nice to have fresh, fragrant greenery on the walls and tables for parties. Here’s a thoughtstyling for you: maybe holiday decor should be as compost-able as the food, so we don’t end up burdened with boxes full of low-grade novelty holiday items which have no future outside a thrift store–kid art and family treasures excepted, of course!

026 Riding a Bike in Los Angeles with Colin Bogart

Colin Bogart of the LACBC. Image: Tropico Station.

Colin Bogart of the LACBC. Image: Tropico Station.


In episode 26 Kelly and I interview Colin Bogart, Programs Director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, about how to ride a bike in the city, commuting by bike and the politics of making our communities more bike friendly.  Colin shares his experience of growing up in the suburbs and how he got back into riding a bike. During the discussion (fueled by a bottle of wine, I’ll note) we discuss:

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

The Biochar Solution

Image: Wikimedia.

Image: Wikimedia.

I have a built in, knee-jerk skepticism when it comes to the “notions and potions” school of gardening–the idea that some special substance will magically transform dead soil into a lush garden. That was my first reaction to biochar.

But it turns out that there’s something to biochar. This informative research summary from the University of Washington, Biochar: A Home Gardener’s Primer, changed my mind. According to U of W, biochar can:

  • Improve soil texture
  • Upcycle waste materials
  • Increase microbial life
  • Bind heavy metals (this is a big selling point for me with our lead and zinc contaminated soil)

U of W suggests purchasing biochar rather than trying to make it yourself. According to the authors its not easy to achieve proper pyrolysis at home. And they caution that biochar can cause problems for acid loving plants and worms.

I’m interviewing a biochar expert for our podcast today. Look for that episode in two weeks.

Have you used biochar? What do you think of the purchased versus home brew options?

Garden Magician Jeffrey Bale

Jeffrey Bale Garden lr

Image: Jeffrey Bale.

Do yourself a favor today. Fall into mosaic and garden designer Jeffrey Bale’s blog and spend a few hours in awe of his work. He has a new post up showing a garden he built from scratch in Portland and a drought tolerant garden in Los Angeles. I’m especially fond of the fountain in the Portland garden.

Bale’s works is informed by his world travels. He creates spaces that invite contemplation and mystery. Join with me in imagining a world in which creative people like Bale could be cut loose to transform both our private and public spaces . . .