I made an amazing breakthrough

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get the free pasta rollers to work. Each one came with a roller portion on a stand, and a separate cutter portion. Without a stand, the cutter is nigh impossible to use.

Hold the cutter in your hands. Have a friend feed the pasta dough into the cutter, and have your other friend turn the crank.

Maybe you’re supposed to take the stand apart and replace the roller head with the cutter head? Except that the stand doesn’t come apart, and the head cross-sections are different. I thought that there were missing pieces, until…!

I was Googling pasta rollers last night (to verify terminology, e.g. “pasta roller” vs “pasta machine”) and discovered that some models let you mount the cutter on the side of the roller.

Indeed, it worked!!
There are these little tabs that slide together.

Wow! Now I only need one friend to help me make pasta.

Homemade noodles

A while ago, I acquired three manual pasta rollers for free on Freecycle. I kept one, I gave one to sibling C, and the last is in need of a home. The biggest issue with the pasta rollers is that they were previously used for polymer clay…

With C, the homemade noodle enthusiast, visiting, it was the perfect time to get out the noodle machine! We made two big batches of noodles with the fancy Grist and Toll flour + 00 flour to smooth out the whole wheat.

Rolling out the dough. Occasional clay bits appeared in the dough.
Hanging the noodles to dry in the oven, although they can be cooked and eaten immediately. Once dry, the noodles can be stored at room temperature!

SF and Cookin’

The day after the park walk, C and I went to San Francisco via the Caltrain, of course.

First we went to Rainbow Grocery to check out the bulk selection. We were actually too starved to shop, so first we ate our picnic lunch on the bench in front of the store.

At Rainbow Grocery, we bought 00 flour (Wikipedia on flour type numbers) for making pasta. C also bought some Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans (would not recommend) and some heirloom Carolina gold rice from Anson Mills (here’s a Serious Eats article on it’s history). C was duly impressed!

Then we went to Cookin’, a mid-century-European-cookware thrift store.

(stand for food mill, wok spatula)

Cookin’ was very impressive! They have a large selection of very niche items – not just one canning food mill, but 5! – and a large selection of vintage and non-electric cookware (e.g. hand-crank egg beater). The store is organized by type, so that all the wooden cooking spoons are together within the larger implement section, the copper pots are together within the larger pots and pans section, etc. Not everything is displayed, so ask if you’re looking for something specific.

I bought a canning food mill stand, which I haven’t even been able to find on eBay. C bought a wok spatula, which she’s been looking for at thrift stores for ages.

The triangle legged thing is the stand. Source.

Cookin’ is kind of expensive, but the prices are worth it for those hard-to-find items. The prices for popular items (vintage Le Creuset) are on-par with eBay, but the low demand items seem too expensive (worn plastic spatulas for $0.75). The store specializes in European cookware, so you won’t find a lot of specialty Asian items, e.g. (although C did get to choose between 3 different wok spatulas).

Darning eggs are used to stretch knit fabrics to make them easier to repair.

Oddly, they were selling darning eggs as pestles. They do look a bit like wooden pestles (see canning food mill picture above), but the owner obviously doesn’t do crafts. At least I know where to find darning eggs now 🙂

As some reviewers note on Yelp, the shop is like a display of the owner’s personal collection of cookware. The inside is an organized hoard – leave large bags and hats at home to avoid accidents! Enjoy!

Shoreline Park and baby squirrels

Sibling C and I went on a nature walk along the in Shoreline Park, a public park and nature preserve for endangered animals. It is build on an old landfill (and had problems with methane fires a few decades ago…) along the San Francisco Bay and provides habitat for burrowing owls, among other animals.

The main feature of the walk was a pack of baby ground squirrels on the side of the trail.

At first, we thought the babies were some type of tree squirrel, but they acted funny. They seemed really slow and dumb, for example. Great for photo shoots!

Ground squirrels are not quite as cute when adult, looking like a cross between normal squirrels and rabbits (I’ve seen what I think are black-tailed jackrabbits in the area too).

An adult ground squirrel we saw at the park.

We also saw ducklings!

C also took a lot of plant photos to try to identify via iNaturalist. iNaturalist features a plant and animal-identification algorithm that guesses the species featured in uploaded photos. Most of the suggestions are spot on! Other users can also help with identifications.

A generic lizard, for example.
And invasive English ivy.
Cute sedum-thing.

After the walk, we ate dinner out and visited a nearby rooftop garden (big enough for a basketball court)!

A visitor! and patching

My older sibling C visited a few weeks ago. We did tons of cool things, starting with… the public library! It was sewing night, so I worked on the never-ending supply of holey clothing. Here are some of my recent patches!

Pocket was tearing off.
Back of patch.
Highly sophisticated machine darns where the corners of my wallet have started to wear through my jeans. I discovered that setting the stitch length to be the same length as the carries in the weave makes the patch blend in a lot better.
That linen shirt (homemade!) that continues to fall apart. I patched a huge worn spot where my backpack rubs.
Inside of the shirt. I’m trying to use up scraps of cloth first.

While I was patching, C looked at books, getting cool ones like:

Edible and Useful Plants of California by Charlotte Bringle Clarke, written in the ’70s for the back-to-nature movement, and

Handmade Pasta Workshop & Cookbook by Nicole Karr, which shows you how to make a dazzling array of pasta shapes, many of them machine-free!

Wisdom tooth removal!

J had the rest of his wisdom teeth and second molars removed yesterday. (Keep your wisdom teeth after removal – apparently they contain stem cells!) They were all impacted ’cause J’s mouth is tiny. J is in much better shape than I had anticipated.

Since J is supposed to eat soft foods (only Soylent and Pedialyte so far), I took the opportunity to make chocolate pudding! I’m probably going to eat it all myself, since J doesn’t like pudding…

I used this recipe in combination with this recipe. The main change I made was to decrease the amount of bar chocolate and increase the amount of cocoa powder, which we have in abundance.

Making olives

Last fall, I made olives from fruit gathered from a neighbor’s tree. As it turns out, this neighbor had been interested in making olives for a while, but never looked into it. He was very excited about the project and readily let me pick his olives.

I hadn’t cured olives before, but I’ve did some research on it (and have a lot of experience with other niche food projects!). As it turns out, it’s pretty easy and makes an item that is relatively expensive to purchase, so definitely worth it.

There are four basic ways to cure olives: in water, in salt brine, in lye brine, and in salt (dry). The lye method is the fastest- it can take less than a day, but lye is rather dangerous, of course. Curing in water is also supposed to be relatively fast (a month), although it seems of questionable veracity to me. Dry-curing takes 1-2 months. This method is also called oil-curing, since these types of olives are often marinated in oil after being cured. The low water content makes them taste richer and oilier. The slowest, but one of the easiest and most common, methods is brining. It takes 6-12 months and produces a “normal” olive.

The salt-based methods rely on lacto-fermentation for flavor and additional preservation. The salt prevents the wrong types of bacteria from growing (which is why it’s important to use enough salt and why I’m dubious about the water-only method!); the fermentation adds flavor and acidity.

All methods can be used on all types and ripeness of olives, but there are combinations that are more common. For example, dry-curing is more common with ripe olives. Brining is more common with green (unripe) or half-green olives. Unripe olives tend to have a stronger taste, since they start off more bitter.

Here’s a review of the process, plus improvements:

  • Collect olives by shaking branches towards a tarp. Gather olives from the tarp (e.g. pour into a bucket). Picking by hand is laborious and bumping the tree as you pick causes nearby olives to fall off and be lost.
  • Many (~75%) of the olives I collected had been impacted by the olive fruit fly, which lays its eggs in the olive meats. Impacted olives are safe to eat, but may be more acidic and have a shorter shelf life. I didn’t use any of the impacted olives this time, but would in the future since I was left with so few olives!
  • I dry-cured the olives, leaving them in a jar of salt for ~3-4 months. Turns out this was too long, as the olives were overly salty and desiccated, so make sure to taste-test periodically. I rehydrated and de-salted by soaking in plain water for a few days, then put the olives in a brine (because they started getting moldy…).
  • Dry-curing works best on ripe olives. I cured some green and half-green olives that turned out kinda hard and bitter, so I would avoid those in the future.

I was impressed with how easy the process was and how olive-like the finished product was.

Leftover salt. I still have it. Maybe I can use it in the next batch of olives.
The finished olives! I eventually put them in a brine (sniped from some commercial olives) for storage. I intend to give some to the tree-owner.

Dumpster diving

Expired snacks put out on trash day. I got a previous load of food from the same house last year. I’m really enjoying the fruit leather. Everything else is meh.
Preserved lemons made from dumpster-dived lemons from an Austin Råndålls.

And the newest acquisition:

From the local CeeVeeSss’s dumpster. Includes some weird sauerkraut-tortilla chips. Other stuff I didn’t get: diapers, makeup sponges, shower scrubby.

New hat

I lost my hat on the train back from LA a few months ago. 🙁

In my defense, I don’t usually lose things. I was distracted by another train passenger being disruptive. He had had the police called on him for “acting threateningly” towards an Amtrak employee. I was eager to disembark.

Me in my old hat (source).

The new hat is distinctly less cool, and cost $8, twice as much as the old one. At least it has a wider brim!

I look like a gardener now. Picture is from an ocean-side hike in spring.