we're back!

So, as 5 of you noticed, VDuck went dark for a couple of weeks. I was applying for a job with a challengingly perky young vegan blogger whose public disposition is laughably far away from that of your beloved VDuck. The application process was lengthy and borderline arduous, and just before I clicked on Submit I thought "let's have a quick look at VDuck to see just how footshootingly counterproductive it would be to have a potential employer read it."

So I had that quick look, aaaaaaand the second post out here was about my balls, so I decided, yeah, ok, ok, let's put things on pause for a couple weeks.

But! Then I failed. Was not hired. And so here we are againnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

God, remember when a lack of punctuation at the end of a sentence was really mysterious and disturbing? I'm thinking of like the last sentence of a Jack Ritchie story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine or an Alfred Hitchcock anthology or something, both of which I was thoroughly addicted to as a small child. Jeez, I get the heebie-jeebies just looking at the lists of stories. Anyway I seem to remember being totally spooked by that no-punctuation shit. 



This is not two slices of the worst-looking pepperoni pizza ever made. It's an unexpectedly good snack of roasted homemade sourdough, hummus, and Momofuku sweet pickled radishes. I'd serve it to someone.


sour notes.

3/4 cup starter
1 and 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
3 cups all-purpose flour, unbleached
1 and 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  1. Get two bowls. Combine the ingredients in one. Let rest for 10-20 minutes. While it is resting, lightly coat another medium-sized bowl with olive oil. The bowl needs to be a big enough to allow the dough to double in size.
  2. Work dough the absolute minimum to get things into a ballish shape, for me this was like 1 minute's work. You are not kneading. 
  3. Shape into ball and put into the oiled bowl, smooth-side down, and then flip it smooth-side up so that all sides of the dough are covered with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise in a warm place at least 6 hours, folding every 30 minutes. 
  5. Form bread into a boule (a round loaf) and place on a square of parchment paper. With a wet serrated knife, cut a couple of slashes on the top. Cover loosely with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1½- 2 hours.
  6. In the last 30 or 40 minutes of the last rise, move your oven rack to the bottom third of oven. Put a cast iron Dutch oven with lid in the cold oven and preheat to 450º for 30 minutes. This temperature is a bit under debate, or our oven's ability to maintain this temperature reliably is under debate. Something is under debate. 
  7. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven and put the boule in by picking up the corners of the parchment and gently setting it in. Be very careful, don't forget that you just took the Dutch oven out of an inferally hot oven 10 seconds ago so it's probably still "warm". 
  8. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and bake for 12-13 minutes. Uncover and bake another 12-13 minutes.
  9. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. DO NOT slice the bread until it has set for 30 minutes, everyone insists that this is completely important, though it is wholly inimical to the enjoyment of bread.  


sev puri.

I've said it before in these pages, and knowing me I'll probably say it again. I mean who can really keep track of everything they've said over the course of 13 years of jotting down over 2,200 compulsively-rewritten notes to themselves. In public. Who can even count the number of years or notes properly (EDITOR'S NOTE: actually Blogger does a pretty good job of that last part, yes scroll down, it's right there in the right sidebar...but right that was probably rhetorical, anyway, carry on).

Indian food may be the hardest cuisine to replicate in the home kitchen (I say this without ever reaallllly having tried to cook with anything in that challenging-smelling Chinese medicinal herb aisle in the supertoko). I was just thinking. There are two components to the complexity: 1) exotic/authentic ingredients, without which you are not cooking the real thing. And 2) the sheer number of ingredients and techniques involved.

Japanese cooking, for example, also requires exotic/authentic ingredients in order to taste "accurate": miso, kombu, sake, furikake, etc. But once you're cooking, the ingredient list is totally manageable, six or seven things. It's the rare Indian recipe that doesn't involve at least two recipes within itself (I'm including condiments), and each one involves several ingredients, we're not even necessarily talking about curries from scratch yet.

But: I blather on about all this not only to unspool my mind into a text box in order to hopefully put myself back to sleep soon, which is why probably mm half of VDuck was written, but in order to proclaim into the void that I am currently "better at Indian food" than I've ever been in my life. In that what I cook tastes vaguely like the original thing I tasted that made me want to cook it in the first place.

Today's case in point: bhel puri/sev puri. Back in the day (I just spent 10 seconds deciding if quotation marks or italics more clearly indicated that that is not a phrase I normally use), I used to make the 35 mile (57 km) drive down to Indian Delights in Decatur as often as I could manage the incredible boringness of the scenery and the dent that the whole enterprise put in your day's productivity. OK, two hours, a two hour dent. Doesn't sound like all that much at the moment for a chance to eat at Indian Delights. Luckily they didn't serve alcohol or the dent would've been twice that and significantly more structurally damaging.

Annnywayyyy. That was where I first tasted South Indian chaat, special thanks to Cliff Bostock, who sent me into all the dark corners of Atlanta's 1990-2000-era exotic food scene via his column in Creative Loafing. Indian Delights is, of course, closed now, so I can't even find a menu to look at (although Chat Patti's seems to be very similar), but yes, their bhel puri was the stuff my dreams were made of. Crunchy, sweet and sour dreams.

This week, in an effort to re-locate the ever-elusive Pleasure Button, I started looking at chaat again, and thought that sev puri seemed like a slightly easier/more fun version of bhel puri. And, having made it, I can verify that it is. Once you 1) find some chaat masala (which is really nothing like any other masala, if you've been trying to substitute for this do yourself a favor and find the real thing) and black salt and papdi and sev, and 2) make the chutneys, the rest is just assembly.

Each one of these (as pictured above) is roughly the size of a light and crispy golfball.


sev puri.

1 recipe date-tamarind chutney
1 recipe cilantro-mint chutney
5 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed roughly
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chaat masala

1 mango, diced
1 cup chopped tomato
1 lime, juiced

1 red onion, minced
bunch of mint, leaves stripped, chopped

20-30 papdi (somewhere between a kroepoek and a pappadam and a rice cake, puffy and crunchy, the size of a Pringle)
2 cups sev (the chickpea vermicelli sprinkled on top)
1 tbsp chaat masala
20-30 dots of sriracha

This makes enough for at least 20 bites. So, you make the chutneys the day before, you boil and mash the potatoes with the cumin and chaat masala the day before but make sure they're back to room temperature before you try and serve. You can cut the mango and tomato the day before as well, I left them combined in the fridge overnight with the lime juice and a shot of agave because neither was very good by itself.

The last thing that should be done is dicing the onion. Then, assemble: on top of a papdi you put a tsp of potato, a tsp of tomato/mango, a dollopette of each chutney, sprinkle the onion on, put a dot of sriracha on top, throw a tiny pinch of chaat masala at it, and top with the sev and mint. Serve immediately or they get soggy. Apparently if you don't like cilantro, you can also just use a mint leaf instead of the green chutney.