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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Adam's (fermented) Sriracha recipe

Every year Adam plants a whole bunch of hard-neck garlic, originally sent to him by his dad in Pennsylvania, who's selected his favorite varieties over years of growing garlic. In another section of the garden, he plants lots and lots of peppers, all kinds of peppers, mostly hot but some sweet: cayennes, jalapenos, chilepenos, habaneros, Thai bird chiles, paprika peppers, Ho Chi Minh peppers, black Hungarian peppers and more. The list is different every year.

In this photo: Leeks, lettuces, radishes, ready-to-harvest garlic and teeny baby pepper plants (below the trellis)

By the time we harvest the peppers, the garlic has been hanging and drying in the garage for months. The peppers and garlic come together in Adam's fiery Sriracha, which I put on my congee every morning.

Towards the end of 2011--just a couple of months before we found out we were expecting Kamal--Adam and I went on a three-week road trip, in which we visited lots of good people, toured ten national parks, and cooked in a wide range of settings, from the well-equipped kitchens of our friends to campstoves set on bear lockers. On our very first day, driving up the coast on twisty Route 1, Adam suddenly gasped, then cried out, "Oh, God! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!"

Of course I thought something terrible had happened--that we were about to veer off a cliff, for example, or crash into a giant redwood. "What?" I squeaked. "What, what is it?"

"I forgot to pack the Sriracha!" wailed Adam. "What are you going to do for breakfast?" 

We debated getting some store-bought, but it really isn't anywhere near as good--I haven't actually touched the stuff since Adam started making his own. In the end, we called our housesitter and had some overnighted to us. It was totally worth it.

Sometimes Adam will draw me a Sriracha happy face.

Here's the link to the fermented Sriracha recipe Adam uses, as well as, in his own words, the adjustments he makes to it. (He's made the fresh version as well, but we've agreed--as does the author of the linked recipe--that we like the fermented better.)

Folks, here's my terrific Adam:

I started making this a couple of years ago to find a way to use up all our hot pepper. Now, it is the reason we grow so many hot peppers. I use a mix of peppers (typically 6-10 varieties), mostly hot, but will throw in a few sweet to provide balance.
I use the fermented version on Andrea Nguyen's blog found here
I add approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of fish sauce to it also.
Last year I ran the finished sauce through a food mill as it was super seedy (I used a lot of thai and cayenne peppers last year).
We just freeze it in 1/2 pint jars, but I'm sure you could can it also. IF YOU DECIDE TO CAN IT, PLEASE FOLLOW SAFE PRACTICES (such as from the Ball Book of Home Preserving).

Salt and pepper are important, but this Sriracha has my heart. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ending and beginning

So my Year of Congee ended on December 31st, and I've been thinking about where to take this blog. Because the thing is, even though we're in the second month of 2015, I'm still eating congee for breakfast, and I still think you should, too.

Bai zhou, kale sauteed with spicy Italian sausage, perfect medium-boiled egg

What did I learn from my year of eating congee for breakfast every day? Well, mainly that I feel a lot clearer, stronger and more effective when my body doesn't have to work really hard to digest its first meal of the day. Also that even though there are an infinite number of ways to prepare congee, I don't get sick of what's become my standby: bai zhou topped with an egg,sauteed kale and Adam's homemade sriracha. Also, I like white rice a lot better than brown rice in congee, and I'm okay with that.

To take along for a long day at the clinic: a jar of bai zhou with egg and greens, and two jars of farro and lentil salad

And also, perhaps most importantly, I've loved, loved, loved writing about something that speaks to health, to food as medicine for the body and soul, to traditional Chinese nutritional therapy, and to the Asian kitchen culture in which I grew up. I've felt so much joy in seeing all of your responses to this blog, and in seeing your responses to the congee you made for yourself.  Championing this humble, healthy, nourishing, elemental food has meant far more to me than I expected when this project began.

So I'm going to keep writing here. I'm going to write mostly about congee, and I'm also going to write about food as medicine in general; about my own approaches to health and the recommendations I make to my patients; and about the food industry, how it fails us and where it helps us. I'm going to write about the food we grow in our backyard and the food we cook in our kitchen. I'm going to tell you about how I manage things like colds and flu and body image and insomnia and being a working mother with a totally rad toddler and a busy little clinic.

Rad toddler dancing on 50 pounds of rice

And I'm going to talk about my parents, whose memory infuses every grain of rice I eat. There's no connection, for me, to food without both of them. For better or for worse, each coriander seed pressed between a mortar and pestle, each delicate sliced ring of scallion, keeps them close to me.

But mostly I'm going to write about congee, because, after all, that's where it all starts. Every morning.