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Ari's Top 5

Food and medicine are not two different things: they are the front and back of one body.
 —Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

1
Miso Butter
Miso Butter on Squash

Miso Butter Sauce from Miss Kim

A scrumptious sauce you can put to work in wonderfully easy ways 

 

Looking for an easy way to make your home cooking meaningfully more interesting? Here’s a wonderful one—its roots are in Asian tradition; you can order it up every day of the week from Miss Kim’s kitchen, and it’s easy to put to work in yours. Miso butter sauce is a staff favorite and one of managing partner and chef Ji Hye Kim’s most compelling go-tos: 

At Miss Kim, we use a variety of fermented sauces and pastes. They’re like magic potions packed with flavor, secret weapons for anyone who fancies themselves a good cook. We have what we call three Korean mother sauces: Korean soy sauce (ganjang), soy paste (doenjang), and chili paste (gochujang). Then we have fermented fish sauces: fermented anchovy sauce (myulchijut), fermented sand lance fish sauce (kanarijut), and fermented tiny whole shrimp (saewoojut). And last, but not least, we also have miso, the fermented Japanese soy paste.

Ji Hye’s not the only one who loves Miso. Sarah Jampel sang its praises in Bon Appétit 14 months before this pandemic set in: “Salty, earthy, and funky, miso is the fermented, versatile ingredient that we put in everything from pasta salad to apple pie.” 

Ji Hye continues: 

Have you seen the Netflix show and the cookbook by Samin Nosrat called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat? Samin’s premise is that these four things—salt, fat, acid, and heat—are the element of good cooking. It’s a succinct and skillful way of looking at cooking. The fermented sauces (like fish sauces and soy pastes) are basically the element of salt. They bring deeper savoriness and complexity to each dish. The only thing is that for a novice, it may be slightly tricky to use as the saltiness and the flavor can be quite intense. A good beginner sauce to bring “salt” would be miso. Here we use shiro miso, or white miso. It’s sort of a milder cousin of the robust and rustic Korean doenjang. Because it’s a bit less salty than doenjang and a bit rounder too, white miso is easier to play with and to incorporate into different dishes across cuisines, even in baking (think salty chocolate chip cookies or salty butterscotch bars).

Now, to be upfront about all this, I’m relatively new to cooking with miso. So if you’re like me, take note of what Ji Hye said: like a roux in Louisiana, the darker the miso, the bigger the flavor. Miso can move from white, to yellow, to red—all the way on to the biggest flavor, black miso. The lighter the miso, the less fermentation time, and a higher ratio of other grains like rice, barley, or soybeans. The white miso in the miso butter at Miss Kim is, as Ji Hye has said, is on the mellower end of the spectrum. 

One great example of how we use it is our miso butter. Butter certainly does not have a very long tradition in Korea, only having been brought into the country mostly after the Korean War. But that doesn’t mean butter is not well embraced.  People quickly found out that fermented soy sauces and pastes are delicious paired with butter. In fact, pairing a dairy product with a fermented sauce can be quite tasty. One of my favorite childhood meals is soy butter rice with an egg on top.  Korean teenagers often enjoy melted mozzarella on tteokbokki, made extra spicy with more gochujang and chili flakes. It was popularized in the U.S. by chef David Chang at his Momofuku restaurants. We pair the amazing local unsalted Calder Dairy butter with the white miso for its versatility and mildness, as well as for its lack of gluten.

Miso butter is great. (It is super easy to make—take 2 parts good unsalted butter and 1 part white miso, fold into each other until uniform in a mixing bowl at room temperature). It keeps well in the fridge.  It’s amazing on most things, but especially on vegetables. So good, that we have it all year at Miss Kim to serve on seasonal vegetables—asparagus and soft egg during spring; zucchini and pepitas during summer; slender Asian eggplants during late summer; butternut squash with toasted nuts during winter. At home, I spoon it over hot rice or noodles with a good pinch of black pepper for a quick and easy meal, like a grown-up buttered noodles.

As per what Ji Hye has said above, miso—and miso butter—are, like a great olive oil, best when added at the end of the cooking (too much cooking will kill the microorganisms active in the fermentation that help make it so magical). In addition to all those great ideas she just gave you, you can put it on green beans, (corn when it comes in later this summer), potatoes. It would be good on that farina I wrote about last week. Terrific melted over just-cooked fish. You could put it on toast, and then pile on a good bit of sautéed fresh spinach or zucchini. Ji Hye adds: 

With our dining room closed and everyone spending more time at home, we’ve made some of our prepared sauces available for purchase and the fermented sauces make a prominent appearance. Along with the tteokbokki sauce (made with gochujang and used for our popular Street Style Tteokbokki and all our Bibimbob) and the galbi marinade (made with our house soy sauce, a wonderful marinade for meat, firm tofu, and vegetables), miso butter is on the menu and definitely one you should try. Go get it!

Order online from Miss Kim today!
2
A pad of paper with journaling notes written

“Dear Diary: Maybe I’ll Write About Journaling?”

Why 20 minutes of morning journaling makes all the difference

 

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the last four or five weeks comes after the conversation has already covered an update on the state of our business. The first things most people inquire about are sales, how our staff are coping, how we’re dealing with safety, the state of our cash flow. But when we’re done with that, what comes is something along the lines of: “What are you doing to take care of yourself through all this?” 

It’s a good question. And I’m glad they ask. This is, no doubt about it, an exceptionally stressful time to be in business. Or for that matter, just to be human. Everyone, everywhere, is stressed. I’m no exception—trying to figure out how to do the right things in the business; working to do the best we can for the greatest number of staff; owning that we furloughed over 250 people in two days. Trying to do right by customers, serve the community, take extreme care for the safety of staff, be present, while still conscious of personal safety, and help keep our 38-year old business in business so we can still be here when the world moves to the “next phase,” whatever that might be. It sounds like a lot when I say it, but really, almost every business owner I know is in a similarly difficult position. 

So . . . what am I doing to take care of myself? Although these are clearly completely unprecedented times, and none of us have any experience living through a pandemic, the answer for me is pretty much the same one I’d have given you a year ago. And the same response I’d have shared a year before that. And the year before that. (OK, granted, I’m washing my hands more than I ever have, wearing a mask out in public, and keeping my distance. That part is new.) I’m not being flip—really my routines for “self-care” aren’t any different than they’ve been for a long time now. 

There are four activities that I engage in daily, all of which work to help me hold onto some semblance of internal stability in, even this, the most uncertain of times. 

  • Tammie and I end every evening by cooking a good meal together (which you sometimes read about here). 
  • I run every single day. 
  • I try to talk to a fair few friends to connect, commiserate, listen, and learn. 
  • And, my subject here: I start almost every single day by journaling. 

Whether journaling will help you as much as it helps me, I don’t know. What I can say with certainty is that journaling has been hugely helpful to me! I’m not exaggerating when I say that when I started doing it 30 years ago, journaling changed my life. Nor am I exaggerating when I say that the 15 or 20 (even five minutes for me is meaningful and better than not doing it all) that I spend doing it every day, combined with the cost of the legal pads I use (yellow, detachable, fine-lined) and the pens (right now, it’s Pilot Precise, fine point) are one of THE best investments I’ve ever made in my whole life. The $10 or $15 a month it costs me for raw materials and the short bit of time I spend doing it pays for itself a thousand times over. 

What do I journal about? Whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it feels important, sometimes silly. Sometimes I write in whole coherent paragraphs, sometimes it’s one disconnected word. At. A. Time. Sometimes I swear up a storm. Some mornings I make a list of people and things I appreciate. Sometimes I journal about work. Other days it’s about the news, the weather, or what I’m worried about. Sometimes it’s about Tammie, or our dogs, or what we made for dinner the night before. I write about books and music, bread and coffee; memories and what I’m doing next Monday. Sometimes I just write “Breathe” to remind myself how much one meaningful breath can matter. Then I do it. It helps. 

Essentially, journaling for me is a way to begin my day by doing what Julia Cameron (she calls journaling “morning pages”) suggests in her amazing book, The Artist’s Way: “Ask yourself how you are feeling. Listen to your answer. Respond kindly.”

How much difference can 20 minutes of free-form writing like that really make? It helps me stay sane. And I’m not exaggerating. It helps quiet the (often kind of crazy) voices that are almost always active in my head. It helps me reground and get centered. It helps me remember the plethora of positives by which I’m surrounded every day even in difficult times. It helps get me at the root causes of my consternation. It reminds me to be thankful for the people, dogs, food, ideas, books, and music I get to be with. It helps me to stay super appreciative of the moment. And to remember that ultimately, while I’m very high on long-term visioning, still, all we really have is the moment. As one guest shared with me about talking to his young son, the truth is tomorrow never really comes—when what we think of as tomorrow arrives, it will actually have become “today.” Journaling has helped me—no matter how I’m feeling when I sit down to do it first thing in the morning—to live each day to the best of my ability. To appreciate what we have, even when it happens in the middle of a global pandemic. 

At any time over the last 30 years that I’ve been doing this, if I miss a morning of journaling, I feel seriously off-center and stressed all day. And in the tension and uncertainty of our current situation, that makes my morning journaling all the more important. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big, big difference. As Julia Cameron writes, “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power . . . Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within. And right now, I think we can use all the help we can get."

Learn more about Managing Ourselves

P.S. There’s much more about how journaling has helped me in Part 3, Managing Ourselves, especially Secrets #31 and #33. And there’s more in Part 4 about how I came to shift my beliefs about it 180 degrees—that story is in Secret #43, “A Recipe for Changing a Belief.” ZingTrain is offering all of you a special price right now—25% off the retail price with the code COMMUNITY2020.

P.P.S. If you have more questions about journaling that I can be of help with, by all means email me at ari@zingermans.com.

3

True North Bread from the Bakehouse

The wheatiest bread we bake

 

Food and Wine magazine’s Anna Watson Carl wrote last year that, “There has never been a better time to eat bread in this country.” The fact that the Bakehouse’s breads account for six of our top ten selling items at Mail Order over the last month means that a lot of folks are onto that fact. The True North, which we just started making again, is further evidence—this special bread from the Bakehouse is one of the reasons that her statement resonates. 

This naturally-leavened whole grain bread is “pure Michigan” (only the sea salt is imported—it comes from Sicily). The True North is made from wheat we get from Eaton Rapids, milled at Grand Traverse Culinary Flours in Traverse City. The stone-ground milling process they use leaves 80 percent of the wheat kernel—the bran, endosperm, and germ in the flour for great flavor, texture, and nutrition. Frank Carollo, a friend for even longer than I’ve been journaling, and a managing partner at the Bakehouse for 28 years, says, “It’s the most wheaty tasting bread that we bake. All Michigan Hard Red Spring Wheat is now grown in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. Some sour, but primarily a wonderful flavor of the wheat itself in a dark crisp crust.” 

Frank and I both will tell you that we love the True North bread best when its crust is particularly dark. Why? Because when the crusts are a dark, dark brown (bordering on black in some spots, though, to be clear, never burned) we benefit from the flavor improvement of what’s called the Maillard Reaction. The name, I know, sort of sounds like a movie thriller on HBO, or a good name for a French heavy metal band, but in fact, it’s a chemical process named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard. Maillard first described the Reaction in 1912, five years after his British colleague Ida Freund came to teach her chemistry class with the now-famous Periodic Table of home-baked cupcakes. What is the Maillard Reaction? It happens between 280 to 330 degrees Fahrenheit when a caramelization takes place that brings out a whole bunch of wonderful flavors. The Maillard Reaction unlocks hundreds of flavors and colors. The same reaction takes place in the braising of meats, in cooking sugar for candy, or coffee roasting, nut toasting, and vegetable roasting. Here’s what Serious Eats says: “The Maillard Reaction is complex. . . . With the right amount of heat, moisture, and time . . . the result is an increasingly complex array of flavor and aroma molecules.” 

If you buy bread that came out of the oven before the Maillard Reaction happens, it’s like leaving the Grand Canyon to go back to the hotel five minutes before the most beautiful sunset of the season. Still a really great view but man, you’ll have missed out on all those nuanced reds, yellows, and oranges that appear on the horizon right before the sun retires for the evening. I’d say the same with artisan bread—while a light crust on a True North bread (or on the Farm bread, etc.) is gonna be just fine, when you find one of those really dark loaves (or order it and we’ll hold it), it’s just . . . extra special.

What should you do with the True North bread? Make toast. It’s great for grilled cheese—I like mine stuffed with sautéed spinach and the fresh goat cheese from the Creamery. It's awesome with a great farmhouse cheddar and a bit of mustard. It makes for a near-perfect pairing with the Swiss mountain cheese that you’ll learn about if you scroll due south on this page! I’ve also been using it to make one of the best club sandwiches I’ve had in a while—so good it’s going on the menu at the Roadhouse later this week. I made it with leftover smoked chicken from those terrific Pit-Smoked Chickens from the Roadhouse. Just toast the True North (which can make for a little more Maillard), spread with a good bit of mayo, pile on some nice large pieces of the smoked chicken, add some lettuce and tomato. Great too with some good bacon. And/or avocado. Don't forget to add sea salt and fresh pepper to the whole thing! Super good. 

So join me in a toast to True North? The wheatiest, wonderfulest bread we’re baking. And don’t forget to ask for the darkest loaf we have on hand! 

Call the Bakehouse to have True North delivered to your car!

P.S. If you’re baking at home, the recipe for True North is the wonderful Zingerman’s Bakehouse book.

4
The Fried Chicken Sandwich from Zingerman's Roadhouse

Fried Chicken Sandwich at the Roadhouse

A classic already in the making

 

Even in this challenging time, there are still positives that play out. I’ve started to build some rewarding relationships through my connection with the Independent Restaurant Coalition and all the good people who are part of it that are working so hard to help restaurants around the country get through this. At Mail Order, folks have made meaningful systems improvements. ZingTrain is learning about online training. We kicked off the new ZingShare collaboration. 

Another development that’s generating a lot of excitement—with staff and guests alike—is the new Fried Chicken sandwich that the Roadhouse has been offering over the last few weeks. In hindsight, I’m not sure what took us long to do it. What is it? The same super tasty, signature fried chicken from the Roadhouse. You’ve likely had it at some point. Amish raised chicken, soaked in buttermilk, rolled in flour that’s been seasoned with salt, a bit of red pepper and a whole lot of freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper, finally deep-fried until it gets that crunchy, spicy, savory, light brown crust. The fried chicken has been the biggest selling item on the Roadhouse menu for years now!

In this case, we take a hot-out-of-the-fryer, boneless chicken breast, put it on a lightly grilled Bakehouse challah bun that’s generously spread with a New-Mexico-Green-Chile-Ranch dressing. Add a little Vermont cheddar cheese, a couple strips of Nueske’s Wisconsin applewood smoked bacon, and, last, but not least, the ingredient that takes the sandwich over the top—a pile of sliced pickles from Don Hermann’s pickle farm in Ohio. The whole thing comes together into one holistically sound, wholly delicious, sandwich. The spice and crunch of the chicken; the cool but spicy tang of the Ranch; the calm mellowness of the cheese, and the sweet smoke of the bacon, all brought to their best by the contrast with the vinegary vivaciousness of the pickles! Is it good? Let’s just say that Tammie and I have shared one as part of our evening meal three times over the last week. 

You can eat the Fried Chicken sandwich in the car right after you pick it up. It’s great while it’s hot, but it’s also still super tasty at room temperature (there’s something special about leftover cold fried chicken!). The sandwich comes, of course, with fries (try the Tellicherry Black Pepper Fries). Order one. Or four. Be safe. Carry out! And carry on!

Order your Fried Chicken Sandwich for pick up or delivery!
5
Bernhard and Marlies

Bernhard’s Bergkäse at the Deli 

One seriously fine mountain cheese from central Switzerland 


To my mountain cheese-loving mind, Bernhard’s Bergkäse is a serious showstopper. Top-notch. Aged for over two years right now, it’s got a buttery, nutty, beautifully salted, concentrated, a bit of umami finish that I can’t get out of my mind. It’s got a flavor that reminds me of Swiss Gruyere, aged Sbrinz, French Comte, fresh butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano all rolled into one cheese “supergroup.” 

Bergkäse simply means “mountain cheese” in German. This one is made at the Hüpfenboden dairy on the western end of the Emme valley in central Switzerland, about a third of the way from Bern to Lucerne. All the milk arrives daily from ten family-owned local farms, all located within a couple miles of the dairy. Master cheesemakers, and also husband and wife, Bernhard Meier and Marlies Zaugg still make their own starter culture (very 19th century) in order to best highlight the exceptional terroir of the mountain flowers, herbs, and grasses. The dairy is located at just over 3,000 feet up. When it snows in the winter there’s no way in or out—the roads become so challenging that even getting the milk to the dairy from neighboring farms can be hard to do. Probably very conducive to social distancing I suppose.

Bernhard and Marlies have also long been making a world class Emmental, a single 200-pound wheel per day—theirs is the only Emmental that Slow Food has certified their cheese for the Ark of Taste. Unfortunately, the Swiss government quota system severely limits how much of that cheese they can make. So to use some of the exceedingly excellent local milk, they decided to try making the Bergkäse as a second cheese. It turned out to be just as special as their signature Emmental. Bernhard and Marlies send the young (3 to 4 months old) cheeses to be aged in the Lagnau Gourmino cellars in the heart of the Emmental, in high humidity, for another 20 to 24 months.

The name “Hüpfenboden” translates as “jump floor,” which I’m going to take in this context to mean “jumping off point”—it really is a great entrée into the little-known world of small production Swiss mountain cheeses. You can eat Bernhard’s Bergkäse just as it is—make sure it’s at room temperature so you can access its full flavor. Grate some onto buttered noodles. Or better still make the pasta with Parmigiano Reggiano and soft butter subbing in the Bergkäse for the Parmigiano. Great grated on a vegetable soup. Or on salad. 

The other morning I cut a thick slice of the True North bread (very dark crust, of course), spread it generously with cultured butter, and then lay on hand-cut slices of the Bergkäse. I sprinkled on some of those wild cumin seeds we get from Uzbekistan, and they turned out to be a terrific counterpoint to the creamy milkiness of the cheese. (The Bergkäse is also great with caraway seeds or with Tellicherry black pepper.) It was a wonderful way to have breakfast! So good I journaled about it the next morning. In fact, I might just go make another slice like that right now.

Order fresh-cut cheeses from the Deli for pick up or delivery!

Other things I’ve had in my mind:

  • Henry Louis Gates’ powerful book on post-Civil War African American history, Stony the Road
  • This album that I love by Dani Rae Clark
  • The artwork of my friend Chris Antieau Roberts (Check out her free downloadable “Let’s Have Fun with Sequestration” coloring book)
  • Last, but not least, Maria Shriver writes a very nice weekly enews
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this enews and you know someone else who might like it, please pass it along. Have questions about Zingerman’s? Write us at info@zingermans.com.
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