Sunday, July 27, 2008

Green Coffee Beans

Sorry for the delay folks. Posts have been written, rewritten, and subsequently trashed. I blame it mostly on culture shock and boredom. The street food is lacking, I'm trying very hard to not turn this into a restaurant review blog, and many posts I've written turn into long winded rants critiquing the food culture in America. Another day perhaps.

M called the other night with news that he had picked up green beans in San Francisco. A roasting would commence on Saturday. I had been looking forward to this for over a year.

Coffee roasting can be as easy or as difficult as you like. First, you need the beans. There are a number of options, but for the first time I don't think it's very important. We used Guatemalan beans.

From there, you've got some serious choices. You can use a wok, a pan, a popcorn popper, or even a special roasting machine. We used a cast iron skillet because that is what we had at our immediate disposal.

The first trick was to get the skillet up to about 500 hundred degrees. We never had confirmation on our temperature, but boy did that skillet get hot. Once your beans are in it gets tricky. You want them to brown, but you want them to roast evenly. We tried using a shaking method to keep them evenly roasted. Our first batch proved very labor intensive. For our second, we just stirred with a spatula.

You want to hear the beans make popping sounds. I think this sound coincides with the husks popping off.

As total novices, we really had no idea how long or how dark to roast our beans, so we just eyeballed it. We settled on a lighter roast. We could do a darker one the next time around.

Once the beans are out of the skillet, you need to continue stirring to prevent over roasting.

Once the beans were no longer dangerously hot, we could grind them up.

Our chosen method of brewing was the french press, also lovingly and jokingly referred to as the Freedom Press.

The result? Not so good. We more or less under roasted our beans leading to a sour tasting coffee. Not really bad, just not as good as we'd hoped. A delicious fresh scone made it all better though.

Our second attempt was much much better. We simply roasted our beans longer, leading to a darker color, just to the point where the oil starts to show.

Do I recommend roasting your own coffee? Yes, of course I do. But if a perfect cup is what you're after, it might take some practice. It really is a lot of fun. Get together with friends, make a day of it, and then stay up all night.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sticker Shock

There you have it: Twelve dollars and fifty cents worth of produce from today's (Thursday) Berkeley Organic Farmers Market. I had a few breakdowns between the various produce stands.

I want to buy produce from good local sources. Can I put my money where my mouth is? After seeing vast quantities of cheap and very nice looking produce in Chinatown the day before, it seems very difficult indeed.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 232!

America just turned two hundred thirty two years old! Like other years, Americans all over the country celebrated the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and their beloved freedoms through massive over consumption of food and alcohol, along with the obligatory explosive hijinx.

Here's my celebratory soy hot dog. Hot dogs are a mystery, soy dogs even more so. Get your revolution on!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hello From Oakland, California

After months of traveling, visiting, and lingering, we've ended up in Oakland, California. Upon opening my long dormant check book and seeing the last rent check written, I realized the last time I had a home in America was five years ago almost to the day.

It seemed appropriate to do my first post in Oakland, all about Oakland. Maybe a trip to East Oakland for some taco truck action. Or maybe track down the beloved roving tamale vendor who is taunting me. Or maybe hit some of the famous dining spots that reflect the diverse community of people. But: it seemed that adventure was right out our back door. The building we are living in has a garden, and not just any garden. For reasons that are only beginning to make sense, it's full of food for anyone, and not a lot of people are eating.

After being in the building for less than an hour, a chat with our gardener lead to an introduction:

"What's that?" I asked. S picked one of the more mature looking pods to reveal a ground cherry.

Now this was exciting: a new fruit in my own backyard. Ground Cherries are a member of the nightshade family and are mildly reminiscent of cherry tomatoes, although a bit acidic. After one bite I knew we would be having salad as soon as possible.

More digging around provided us with more discovery.

Here's New Zealand Spinach. It's kind of like the spinach that many of us eat but with somewhat thicker leaves and an earthier flavor.

We also dug a few potatoes, picked plain old spinach, borige and nasturtium flowers, yellow beans, and one lonely artichoke.

Not too shabby.

Ground cherries littered the ground, so I did my best to clean them up.

Dinner was fresh and colorful. We look forward to spending a lot of time in the garden in the near future.