Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Q & A with Paprikahead: Peas and Grapes

Hey Paprikahead,

It's me, the fluffy hamster, wondering about some weird stuff. Really, really weird stuff.

Like Number 1: How come peas seem to be frozen or in cans? What would peas look like in a market? Where are they? They would fit so well in my pouches, making my cheeks soft to the squeeze yet textured to the rub.

OK, Number 2: Can I really use fresh grapes in my bread? I sure hope so. I have so few raisins and rumor is that raisins are really just dried out grapes. Maybe this is true? Oh Jeez. Better get rid of those seeds.

All right Paprikahead. These are just some small queries. I'm going to get back to nest building here in Portland and chasing the cat around.

I'm making a nice stock, by the way, and a soup shall follow. Directions courtesy of, of course.

Your faithful small woodland creature of the night,

Fluffy Hamster

Dear Fluffy Hamster,

I'm afraid I have sad news for you today.

1. Peas, it turns out, are one of the sweetest signs of springtime. In farmers' markets, you can find them inside their crisp green pods. You shell them with a little push to pop their seams and a zipper-like action with your thumb. The little peas roll out, so cute, so sweet. For the shelling, I recommend child labor. Tell them it's a contest to see who can find the pod with the most peas in it. That's how I learned. They don't keep very well once shelled, so that's why you really only see them frozen. See if you can wait till next spring, Hamster.

2. I would not recommend making bread with grapes in it. First, the seeds would be a bit of a pain. Second, grapes are very moist -- much moister than bread dough -- and they would turn your dough to mush. It is true, though, that grapes turn into raisins. You could, if you were patient, pick the seeds out of your grapes and spread them out on a rack set in a black cookie sheet and dry them for several days in the sun, bringing them in before dusk each night so they wouldn't catch a drop of dew. Or, if you're in rainy Portland, you could put them in a very cool oven -- no more than 150, or they'll get crisp instead of chewy, and dry them that way for several days.

Something altogether different, having to do with grapes and bread, is the delightful fact that the dusty bloom on grape skins is actually wild yeast. You can jumpstart a wild yeast sourdough starter by putting a handful of grape skins in it. My coauthor, Ken Albala, has some good examples on his site, but sadly, the wild yeast sourdough recipe is part of our cookbook(!) so it's not on the web anymore.

Happy nest buildling, Hamster!


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