Pits and peels #1.

Pits and peels usually disappear down garbage disposals, decay in compost piles, and fester in the trash, but once in a while a few will have a use in the kitchen. Apricot pits can be split for the poisonous but heady kernel inside (it’s worth it). Oily citrus zest sprays more flavor onto your knuckles than the flesh squirts into your mouth. However, most pits and peels go straight into the waste bin, never to be seen again.

Frozen morning glory tendril

Food blogging isn’t that different. Photographs of dishes, various recipes, and half-written posts fill my folders, but most of them will never make it onto the blog. Sometimes it’s due to unacceptably bad photography. Other times it’s a copyright problem; the post screams out for a recipe, but until I truly expand or alter the original, merely rewriting it feels lame. Most of the time it’s blogger’s block—an inability to find an approach to a topic that’s novel, funny, or interesting.

Wine-braised garlicAll three problems struck me when I recently made Stracotto, an Italian wine-braised beef dish that took me three days to prepare and used an entire bottle of red wine. My photographs annoyed me, Molly Steven’s beautifully written and loooong recipe can’t be “adapted” (I’m not even trying), and I can’t think of anything to say about it except, “Oh yum! Meat and wine! Italians yay!” Not that those things aren’t true, just, well, I like to try harder.

Yet some of the odds and ends accumulating in my folders aren’t half bad. So to keep them from swirling down the drain, I’m starting a feature that will salvage random photographs or maybe share interesting tips, I’m not sure yet. I do know—in fact, I guarantee—that Pits & Peels will wander into non-food topics, lack a cohesive theme, and fail to make sense. But I can’t say for sure what the posts will be like because I’m making this up as I go along. Aren’t we all?

So for today’s edition, the first photograph is a morning glory tendril frozen from icy rainfall yesterday. No, it’s not edible, but then, most pits and peels aren’t. The second photograph is a head of garlic cut in half and braised in wine with the Stracotto. It was mashed into a paste and served atop the beef along with the reduced wine braising juices. Yum! Garlic and wine! Italians yay!

It takes a village to start a perilla seed bandwagon and make it drink.

Let them eat perilla seed cake.
— Marie Antoinette Kim

I’m predicting the Next Big Thing. In a year or two, big restaurants will pounce on deulkkae and turn it into the trendy new food ingredient of the decade. Why wouldn’t they? It tastes like nothing else, few in the west have heard of it, and it’s hard to pronounce. Uniqueness, obscurity, and built-in humiliation when ordering from the waiter—a hot chef could ask for nothing more.

Perilla seed pound cake[Pictured: Mini perilla seed pound cake]

Deulkkae is better known as the seed of the pungent perilla plant, which bears minty, highly fragrant leaves. The leaves of Japanese varieties known as shiso are often served with suishi or sashimi. We all know how sushi has taken off; it’s only logical that perilla seed will too. Then you can point to this post and say that I was cool before my time. That would be a great experience, because so far I haven’t even managed to be cool during my time. I blame the pastel lipstick in junior high.

Perilla seeds are poppy seeds on steroids, sesame seeds with balls, nuts with Kung Fu grip. The slightly bitter oil of the seeds is sometimes used like roasted sesame oil in Korea and prized for its healthy qualities. My mother says that like the perilla leaves, the seeds have a “cleansing” effect. Whether she meant toxin cleansing or bowel cleansing, I can’t say, but they definitely make me glow after I eat them. They have some traces of the leaf’s distinctive flavor, but mostly you taste the oils and feel the seeds crackle between your teeth. I use them whenever possible, like in this buttery, lightly sweet, moist-as-a-jungle pound cake.

Super moist perilla seed pound cakeFind perilla seeds labeled as perilla, beefsteak plant seeds, kaenip seeds, or deulkkae in Asian markets at reasonable prices. There’s a photograph of the seeds on a previous post here. (Note: That post inaccurately refers to deulkkae as shiso seed, which I’ve since learned is incorrect because the Japanese do not generally consume the larger, fuzzier, Korean variety.) Sort through the seeds to remove small leaves and twigs. If you find that you don’t like the flavor, you can always plant them and pickle the leaves. But really, that’s like, sooooo 1997.

Makes 1 bundt cake

· 1/2 cup perilla seeds
· 12 ounces unsalted butter (3 sticks), soft but still mostly firm
· 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
· 3 eggs, lightly beaten
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned lightly and leveled
· 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
· 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
· Powdered sugar (optional)

1) Toast the perilla seeds in a medium pan over medium heat. Stir and shake pan frequently until seeds start to pop and release their distinctive fragrance. Remove pan from heat and let seeds cool completely.

2) Preheat oven to 350ºF for light-colored pans, 325ºF for dark and heavy pans such as cast aluminum. Grease and flour a 10 to 12-cup bundt pan.

3) Cream the butter and sugar together, adding the sugar slowly until the butter is light, fluffy, plasticky, and almost mousse-like. If the butter warms too much, put the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes. More on proper creaming here. Drizzle the eggs in very slowly or just a bit at a time while beating to prevent curdling. Beat in the vanilla and the toasted perilla seeds.

4) Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add half of this flour mixture to the butter and beat gently until blended. Add half the buttermilk and fold until just mixed, then add half of the remaining flour and fold until just mixed. Repeat with the rest of the buttermilk and flour. Fold only until everything is well mixed and no streaks remain.

5) Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a long wooden or bamboo skewer comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool 15 minutes on a rack. Carefully invert the cake onto the rack and cool completely before storing. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

The best medicine.

Congratulations to Smitten Kitchen for the Well Fed Network’s Best Food Blog Award in Humor. It’s a beautiful blog with stunning photography and inspiring recipes, do visit and admire. In addition, visit the other winners, the nominees in every category, and other funny food blogs that I’ve listed below—some nominated, some not—but all more than deserving.

Food blogs that make me laugh have a special place on my counter, like black peppercorns. I constantly turn to them to add flavor and warmth to my day. Thanks to all who voted for me and for letting me sit on your counter alongside your other blogs.

The Humor nominees:

Acme Instant Food
Chef Manifesto
The Food Whore
Smitten Kitchen

Other funny blogs I enjoy:

David Lebovitz — Pastry chef…Americans…French people…it practically writes itself (also winner of Best Food Blog – Chef).
Fancy Toast — Imaginative, wacky, celebratory.
I’m Mad and I Eat — More angry tomato ranchers should write food blogs.
Lobstersquad — Original drawings and wry observations.
Matt Bites — I don’t know how I missed this one for so long. Don’t repeat my mistake.
The Traveler’s Lunchbox — So well known for quality that few point out that she’s also hilarious.