The last few weeks have been like a book tour – although I haven’t been able to write much on those I’m working on. Besides, as my friend and colleague Harry Rosenblum of Brooklyn Kitchen, Heritage Radio Network, Sumo Stew and Vinegar Revival fame said tonight nothing is ever really newly discovered in the world of food and brewing, just a repackaging and re-presentation of things people have stumbled upon in the last several thousand years.
One of my mentors when I was the Executive Chef of Bloomingdales Fresh Foods Department, Lester Gribetz taught me a great lesson when I was a very young chef who was allowed to cook 3 star Michelin Chef Michel Guérard’s food for their in house shop on 59th Street as well as to present my own line of tseukemono and freshly prepared foods.
Precious doesn’t sell well, and not at all if it requires too much customer effort.
I’d also like to take a moment to thank Bill Hyde. When he was the head of the Fresh foods department he always made sure I had access to gallons of fresh truffles, mushrooms, and rare items from around the world. Once a week Petrossian, another shop I oversaw but obviously had no input into the making of smoked salmon or fish eggs or foie gras, would send me a ten pound tin of Beluga, lots of foie gras and smoked salmon.
It helped me make friends with a large number of celebrities and socialites – because I wouldn’t eat any of it and that type of dealing was big in the 80’s.
Bill taught me about oil. Back then the concept of extra virgin olive oil was a big deal. Unrefined and non-chemically modified oils were pretty rare. Huge chunks of hydrogenated lard mixed with other oils and substances for deep fat fryers were common. He refused to authorize payment for any of it. He also made sure I had access to any natural lard. nut oils, rice bran oil, and a spectacular selection of olive oils from around the world.
Fats and oils are cooking mediums, or seasoning ingredients. The mold called Koji – typically Aspergillus oryzae in Japan where spore subspecies isolation was first initiated on a regular basis to make sake, shochu, soy sauce, miso, amasake, and pickles – can be used in the same way.
Koji is thought of as a live ingredient that can both create and act as an enzyme. Imagine being able to create exogenous heat from a dried inoculated grain. Like cooking on a stove you can control what amount of heat you want, and what you want your live mold to accomplish.
You can make miso, shio-koji, sake, shoyu-koji, shoyu, amasake, shochu, beer, and pickles with koji. Depending on what type of koji you have, you can create fish sauce or even cure meat with it.
There are hundreds of different enzymes that koji can create when interactiong with food, and even when just being grown on a carbohydrate substrate (the thing the mold eats).
This Saturday I will be starting a series of presentations to present ideas on easy, sane ways to use koji. A while ago a study came out – okay, perhaps a qualitative survey – about what people like to cook. Some don’t want anything to do with it. Some want fast and very easy. Some haven’t a clue what most ingredients even are.
Come this Saturday and we’ll talk about all those things and how koji might be the best thing since sliced bread. Or heritage grain sourdough wood fire oven baked miche that your tear apart with your hands. Either way you should know how to control the heat and power of koji.
All the details right here. FermentFerment 2017 this Saturday Nov. 17, 2017 in Brooklyn, New York.
Koji and its Decendents
Chef Ken will share a presentation on miso, shoyu, and shio-koji, and how you can use them to make pickles!
Chef Ken Fornataro has been fermenting and preserving fish, grains and legumes with A. oryzae for decades. Ken was appointed Executive Chef of The Hermitage in Boston in the 70s. He found himself ducking out the back door to Erewhon, where he befriended Aveline and Michio Kushi, Bill Shurtleff and other chefs who taught him traditional Japanese and Russian foods and fermentation techniques – including koji, amasake, miso, shio-koji, shoyu, sake, shoyu-koji and many kinds of tseukemono.
Ken continues to study microbiology, food, and fermentation. He has served as Executive Chef, Sous-Chef and Garde Manger of numerous restaurants. Ken is the Executive Chef and acting CEO, pro bono, of culturesgroup.net
Donna Minkowitz is a friend, colleague, activist and food critic. She is giving a class in New York City. The five words that are the title of this post are the words under her blog. Yes. We’ll take that dish. You should take this class. Along with some other notables she will be reading tonight June 11, 2017 at KGB Bar and Lit Mag at 85 East 4th St. New York, NY 10003 (see below about this Zhencool production)
The real down low on the food scene in NYC. Well, maybe our national obsession with how we intimately relate to food and specific foods and other people’s food. These words from the above piece:
“It’s an odd time for eating out in New York. The places most likely to be reviewed by critics are restaurants where entrées cost $30 and tasting menus cost $100 and more. They are tiny food-temples and shiny mega-boîtes where most of us can’t go even if, by normal US standards, we are “upper income” — little palaces where, we, reader, certainly can’t eat if we are what the government calls either low income or middle-class. (Note that $55,575 is the median household income in the United States; median household income in the city is $67,201.) Reading the reviews has become an exercise in tantalized frustration: breathing in paragon writer Pete Wells’ description, in the New York Times, of the grated frozen foie gras appetizer at Momofuko Ko, you could be forgiven for feeling like the orphan cousin not invited to the party. “A cook behind the counter would rub a frozen cured brick of it across a Microplane held above a bowl with pine nut brittle, riesling jelly and lobes of lychee, showering them with falling pink flakes of airborne pleasure.” (The liver is part of the $195 tasting menu for lunch or dinner, the only way that you can eat at Ko.) The other spots in critics’ reviews – restaurants like Cosme and Blue Hill and even Contra and The Spotted Pig — are not for us, either, unless we’re in the top 5%, or interested in acquiring a load of debt that will cripple us.”
And it’s a restaurant review! For an eating establishment in New York City that recognizes that people with mobility and swallowing and metabolic issues need to eat as well : “Mekelburg’s, 293 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-399-2337, mekelburgs.com. Monday through Thursday, 8 AM-2 AM, Friday 8 AM-4 AM, Saturday 10 AM-4 AM, Sunday 10 AM-2 AM. Most fruits and vegetables served are pesticide-free; all house meats are hormone and antibiotic-free and pasture-raised. The extraordinary cheeses and creams served come from Lioni Latticini. Wheelchair access: the grocery and restaurant are down one flight of stairs, and an automated wheelchair lift is available, though it must be operated by a Mekelburg’s staff member. The scrupulously clean bathroom is accessible and has a lovely chalkboard covering the walls, multicolored chalk provided. On recent visits, there was lesbian love graffiti, anti-rape chants, and Black Lives Matter annotations on the walls. This was originally published in Gay City News, New York’s LGBT paper, on September 29, 2016.”
According to Donna :
I work with writers on their books of memoir and literary nonfiction and, on occasion, on their book proposals. In addition to my experience writing and teaching memoir, I have a deep background in English literature, including a BA in Literature from Yale University and an Andrew D. White Fellowship in Comparative Literature from Cornell University. For many years, I have also been a book critic for venues ranging from the New York Times Book Review to The Nation, Salon, Kirkus, and the Village Voice
And if you happen to live in Cleveland or want to help a really smart and lovely family open a very cool Eastern European Deli and Bakery send them some bucks here Larder that’s https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/844968869/larder-a-curated-delicatessen-and-bakery-in-clevel just in case. We’ve done a lot of consulting for hoped to be food services like restaurants, caterers, pop-up restaurants as well as done a lot of training and remedial work with chefs and staff when their business was just not working. The reason why this one will be successful is because three smart, talented and energetic people with a vision are involved. It’s based on a familiar precedent of a Deli and Bakery. This should allow them to introduce ideas and dishes that people will connect with and come back for frequently.
And after taking Donna’s class – read this Growing up Golem excerpt and you will not only have to read the entire book but see why you should get into her class – you’ll be able to write about Larder with clarity and passion. Or if you live too far away you could just watch an internet presentation by Jeremy when you donate about our favorite addiction which as you can see in our description below is our logo.
Celebrate pride month at the gay table with “Queering Food: Taste the Rainbow” readings at KGB Bar and Lit Magazine.
Featured writers: Anna Dunn, editor-in-chief of Diner Journal, Daniel Isengart from The Joy of Gay Cooking, and Donna Minkowitz, restaurant critic for Gay City News.
Anna Dunn has been the Editor-In-Chief of Diner Journal for over a decade, and a bartender at Diner, Achilles Heel, and Roman’s for almost as long. She is co-author of Saltie: A Cookbook and Dinner at the Long Table. Glowinglikeagaslamp.com
culturesgroup offers food preparation, preservation and fermentation education and information. We share and collaborate with individuals, other educators, and businesses through e-books and internet meetings, printed materials, videos, photos, and presentations on:
• the preservation and demonstration of food cultures and techniques
• wild yeasts, koji, grains and SCOBYs to create sake, beer and beverages
• fermentation and food history, culture and semiotics
• the use of aspergillum and lactobacillus throughout the world to create:
Miso • Sake • Mirin • Tseukemono • Koji • Tamari • Shoyu • Legumes • Cheese • Cultures • Fish Sauce • Amazake • Milk Kefir • Wild Yeasts • Food History • Kimchee • Whole Grains • Sourdough
Here is a recent interview with Chef Ken with brief bio:
For the last 40 years Ken Fornataro has been fermenting and preserving grains, legumes and other proteins with A. oryzae. Ken was appointed Executive Director of The Hermitage in Boston at 19 years old, and left both Brown University and Northeastern University. He found himself ducking out the back door to Erewhon, where he befriended Aveline and Michio Kushi, Bill Shurtleff and other macrobiotic practitioners and Japanese chefs, who taught him traditional Japanese fermentation — including koji, amasake, miso, shio-koji, shoyu, sake, shoyu-koji and many kinds of tseukemono.
Since then, Ken has continued his study of microbiology, food, 五大明王, and transformative processes including fermentation. He has served as Executive Chef, Sous-Chef and Garde Manger of numerous restaurants, and has engaged in other business development — including founding and directing a non-profit organization, which made a significant contribution to developing a cure for HCV and treatment advances for HIV/AIDS. Ken is the author of 32 publications on science and research primarily through the New York State Department of Health and The Kaiser Family Foundation. He is working on a book series related to food, fermentation, and aspergillus in conjunction with his role as founder, Executive Chef and CEO of culturesgroup.net, an educational venture dedicated to traditions in food preparation, preservation and fermentation.
The first interview ever with Chef Ken Fornataro on Brooklyn Heritage Radio. The last 50 years of his life including stories about everything from making beef sake to wild, Russian ferments, fish miso, sourdough bread and baking to hishio, jiangs, tamari, five element Chinese philosophy and the transformative processes of life, the ActUp years, microbiology, Erewhon, Aveline and Michio Kushi, the soyinfocenter created by William Shurtleff and colleagues and culturesgroup. Three books in process – and why they are important.
Tseukemono • Nukazuke • Miso • Sake • Tempeh • Mirin • Koji 麹 • Fermentation • Culture • Tamari • Preservation • Soybeans • Cheese • Cultures • Fish • Amazake • Wood • Milk Kefir • Raw Milk • Microbiology • Microbiome • Wild Yeasts • Consultation • Natto • Food History • Kimchee • Recipe Testing • Whole Grains • Sourdough
culturesgroup’s mission is to educate, support, preserve, research and share culture through traditional food preparation, gathering, farming and fishing, preservation and fermentation, and how individuals and societies survive, communicate, celebrate, address illness and health, and enhance their lives through food and water.
• To educate, share and collaborate with individuals, educators, businesses and students through e-books, printed materials, videos, photos, presentations and conferences
• Microbiology (especially Aspergillum) and lactobacillus – To create resources and training opportunities in the use of aspergillum cultures and lactobacillus through food microbiology, safety and history
• To document, celebrate, and market regional and ethnic cultures, foods and practices
• Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Indian fermentation research and education (including the study of Kanji)
• Probiotics, Dysbiosis, Dysphagia – To assist and support individuals of any age to deal with symbiosis, dysphagia and PEG and Tube feeding with enhanced taste, nutritional value, and provide a solid scientific output of reliable information on pre and probiotics.
We actively solicit donors, patrons and sponsors, and collaborations with other groups, organizations, institutions, artisans, small businesses and corporations for one or more of our programs. Our extensive network of consultants, educators, presenters, writers and communicators donate their services (pro bono), but are encouraged to present and promote whatever they are working on including their products or services.
Donations are accepted but not tax deductible at this point.
If you would like to be interviewed about your work, or have a product you want us to review or know contact us. Because our goal is to assist and support the members that work in our field, our policy is not to publish or communicate negative feedback publicly.