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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Next Challenge, Bagel with Cream Cheese, Lox, and Capers

I swear I'll get to the challenges I solicited for, but a friend of mine *needs* a good bagel for breakfast. The precise challenge is:

Well I looove Kornblatts in Portland. Problem is, I don't want to drive 2hours and back for breakfast. So Jeremy, if you would, Nova Lox on an onion bagel with extra capers, paper-thin sliced red onion and light on the cream cheese.

Even though I've never made a bagel before, I think I understand the basic mechanics behind it--the dough is low in hydration, boiled in alkaline water, then lastly baked with seasonings. Curing lox will be a lot of fun, I haven't done that in ages, and making cream cheese will give me another great excuse for more raw milk.

The only thing I can't really make from scratch at this point are the capers. According to the Internet about capers:

"The caper bush grows as a low mounding shrub to 2-3 ft tall with arching red stems and dark green, semi-succulent round leaves. From May until September plants bear a profusion of flower buds, which are the edible capers of commerce. Left unpicked these buds form delicately scented pinkish-white flowers, adorned with long lavender stamens, that open at dawn and close late in the afternoon."


"The caper plant is well known for the culinary properties of the caper, the immature flower buds which have been pickled in vinegar or preserved in granular salt...The smaller buds, called nonpareilles or surfines are less than one centimeter (~3/8 inch) in diameter and are considered a higher quality than the larger buds, called capucines or communes. Additionally caperberries (cornichon de c√Ępres), the semi-mature fruits, and young shoots with small leaves can be pickled for use as a condiments. The tender young shoots also can be used as a vegetable."


"The strong flavor of the caper, likened to a peppery mustard, is due to an enzymatic reaction with a mustard oil glycoside named glucocapparin (methyl glucosinolate) that is released from plant tissues when crushed. This reaction liberates the very pungent methyl isothiocyanate that gives capers much of their flavor."

So, I might be able to get some grown by next year, but that ain't happening this year. That is when it occurred to me to ask a chef friend, who I will call McKnight even though that is not his real name, what he thought I could due. Well, after a bit of research he came upon an article stating that nasturtium flowers and seeds have sometimes been considered the "poor man's caper", and a light went off in my head--why don't I harvest the nasturtium seed pods from my back yard, then brine and ferment them like you would do with capers! Viola! :)

I'll know in a few days how well it actually works out, but I'm excited about this substitution, and I'll keep posting pics about the other ingredients as they come online. Cheers!

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