Archive for the 'food' Category

Yak Shaving, part 2: Wikidata, Busiati col Pesto Trapanese, and Other Slow Food

Some time ago I celebrated a birthday in an Italian restaurant in Haifa, and I saw a pack of pasta of a curious shape on a shelf there. I asked whether they serve it or sell it.

“No”, they told me, “it’s just a display”.

This answer didn’t satisfy me.

I added the pasta’s name, Busiate, to my shopping list.

I searched for it in a bunch of stores. No luck.

I googled for it and found an Israeli importer of this pasta. But that importer only sell in bulk, in crates of at least 12 items. That’s too much.

And of course, I searched Wikipedia, too. There’s an article about Busiate in the English Wikipedia. There also an article about this pasta in Arabic and in Japanese, but curiously, there’s no article about it in the Wikipedia in the Italian language, nor in the Sicilian language, given that this type of pasta is Sicilian.

So I… did a few things about it.

I Improved the article about Busiate in the English Wikipedia: cleaned up references, cleaned up formatting, and updated the links to references.

I also improved the references and the formatting to the article about Pesto alla trapanese, the sauce with which this pasta is traditionally served.

I also cleaned up the Wikidata items associated with the two articles above: Q48852218 (busiate) and Q3900766 (pesto alla trapanese).

I also translated all the names of the Wikidata properties that are used on these items to Hebrew. I usually do this when I do something with any Wikidata item: I only need to translate these property names once, and after that all the people who use Wikidata in Hebrew will see items in which these properties are used in Hebrew. There are more than 6000 properties, and the number is constantly growing, so it’s difficult to have everything translated, but every little translation makes the experience more completely translated for everyone.

I added references to the Wikidata item about the sauce. Wikidata must have references, too, and not only Wikipedia. I am not enthusiastic about adding random recipe sites that I googled up as references, but luckily, I have The Slow Food Dictionary of Italian Regional Cooking, which I bought in Italy, or more precisely in Esino Lario, where I went for the 2016 Wikimania conference.

Now, a book in Wikidata is not just a book. You need to create an item about the book, and another item about the edition of a book. And since I created those, I create Wikidata items for the dictionary’s original Italian author Paola Gho, for the English translator John Irving, and for the publishing house, Slow Food.

And here’s where it gets really nerdy: I added each of the sauce’s ingredients as values of the “has part” property, and added the dictionary as a reference for each entry. I initially thought that it’s overdone, but you know what?—When we’ll have robot cooks, as in the movie I, Robot, busiati col pesto trapanese will be one of the first things that they will know how to prepare. One of the main points of Wikidata is that it’s supposed to be easy to read for both people and machines.

And since I have a soft spot for regional languages, I also added the sauce’s Sicilian name under the “native label” property: pasta cull’àgghia. The aforementioned Slow Food Dictionary of Italian Regional Cooking actually does justice to the regional part in its title, and gives the names of the different food items in the various regional languages of Italy, so I could use it as a reliable source.

And I translated the Wikipedia article into Hebrew: בוזיאטה.

And I also created the “Sicilian cuisine” category in the Hebrew Wikipedia. A surprisingly large number of articles already existed, filed under “Italian cuisine”: Granita, Arancini, Cannoli, and a few others. Now they are organized under Sicilian cuisine. (I hope that some day Wikipedia categories will be managed more automatically with the help of Wikidata, so that I wouldn’t have to create them by hand.)

Finally, I found the particular issue of the Gazzetta Ufficiale of the Italian Republic, in which busiati col pesto trapanese was declared as a traditional agricultural food product, and I added that issue as a reference to the Wikidata item, as well.

And all of this yak shaving happened before I even tasted the damn thing!

So anyway, I couldn’t find this pasta anywhere, and I couldn’t by it from the importer’s website, but I wanted it really badly, so I called the importer on the phone.

They told me they don’t have any stores in Jerusalem that buy from them, but they suggested checking a butcher shop in Mevaseret Tsiyon, a suburb of Jerusalem. Pasta in a butcher shop… OK.

So I took a bus to Mevaseret, and voila: I found it there!

And I made Busiate, and I made the sauce! It’s delicious and totally worth the effort.

Of course, I could just eat it without editing Wikipedia and Wikidata on the way, but to me that would be boring.

My wife and my son loved it.

These are the busiate with pesto alla trapanese that I made at home. I uploaded this photo to Wikimedia Commons and added it to the English Wikipedia article as an illustration of how Busiate are prepared. I wonder what do Wikipedians from Sicily think of it.

There is a story behind every Wikipedia article, Wikidata item, and Commons image. Millions and millions of stories. I wrote mine—you should write yours!

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How to make hummus

Preparation
Get a big food processor. A stick blender will work, but a big sturdy strong food processor that can work uninterrupted for a few minutes is better.

A cup of chickpeas

A cup of chickpeas

Get small chickpeas. (Big ones work, too, but the smaller they are, the softer they get, and it’s important.)
Wash with flowing water, and remove bad ones (black, stale, etc.)

Chickpeas in water

Chickpeas in water

Put chickpeas in water for at least 24 hours. Keep them in a refrigerator. Change the water every six hours or so. I usually have them in the water for two or three days. They will increase twice or more in size during this time, so use a large receptacle.

Peeling

Optionally, you may peel your chickpeas. It may make the final paste slightly smoother, but it’s very time-consuming.

Peeled vs unpeeled chickpeas

Peeled vs unpeeled chickpeas

Boiling
Boil the chickpeas in a pot on a small stove until they are soft. “Soft” means that you can crush them with your fingers or teeth as easily as a boiled green pea. This may take a few hours, depending on weather, water quality, type of pot, fire intensity, and of course the chickpeas themselves. Usually it takes me somewhere between two and four hours. I begin in the morning and it’s ready by lunch time. (Arabs frequently do it overnight and have it as breakfast.)

I’ve been told that using a pressure cooker can shorten the time a lot, but I never tried it. But covering the pot while boiling is certainly a good idea.
Mixing
For one cup of chickpeas you’ll need:

Salt, cumin, pepper, olive oil, tahini, lemon, garlic

Salt, cumin, pepper, olive oil, tahini, lemon, garlic

  • Half a cup or more of tahini. Try to get something produced in Israel or an Arab country – Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt. In Israel, Tahini from Nablus is very highly regarded. Uzbek or Turkish tahini may be OK, but I’m not sure. Get raw tahini: it should have nothing but sesame in the ingredients (and maybe oil, but even that is unnecessary). Don’t use “tahini salads”, “seasoned tahini”, or “tahini spreads” if they have anything except sesame.
  • Half a cup of olive oil.
  • Fresh cold water. Some people use the water in which the chickpeas were boiled, and it’s OK, but fresh cold water gives the final product brighter color. For the amount see below.
  • Squeezed lemon juice. Half a lemon may be enough, but it can go up to a whole lemon or even more if you like it.
  • A clove of garlic. Some people don’t use it – a matter of taste.
  • A pinch of cumin. Just a tiny little pinch – it gives enough taste. Too much of it won’t ruin the taste, but will darken the color.
  • Salt and black pepper to taste. Small pinches should be enough.
Put the garlic, the cumin and a couple of spoons of chickpeas (without water) in the food processor and grind for about a minute. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of tahini. Grind for a minute more. Check the consistency. It will still be far from the final product, but should start looking like a paste.

Let's start!!!

Let’s start!!!

Add a quarter of a cup of water and grind a bit more. From here on, keep adding chickpeas, tahini, water, salt and pepper. Be especially careful with water – too much of it will make the whole thing too liquid, so add it little by little until the consistency looks beautiful and tastes well. Adding a lot of tahini is usually a good thing, but also depends on your taste.

Adding tahini and pepper

Adding tahini and pepper

It may be a good idea not to grind all the chickpeas, but to keep some boiled ones and add them as a topping. In fact, many hummus restaurants serve plates of hummus with lots of non-ground chickpeas in the middle, but do make sure that they are very soft.

Grind, grind, grind, grind, grind!

Grind, grind, grind, grind, grind!

Serving
Most commonly, it’s spread on a plate and “wiped” with a pita, but knock yourself out and serve it any way that is tasty to you :)

Basic: with whole boiled chickpeas, parsley, olive oil, cumin and paprika

Basic: with whole boiled chickpeas, parsley, olive oil, cumin and paprika

Very often it is spread on the plate using a spoon in a few rounds so that most of it is close to the edges and the middle of the plate is mostly empty and filled with additions, such as:
  • Boiled soft chickpeas
  • Fried mushrooms
  • Fava beans
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Baked eggplant
The universal toppings are a bit of olive oil, black pepper, paprika and turmeric.

Another version - with fried mushrooms and the chickpeas mixed in

Another version – with fried mushrooms and the chickpeas mixed in

Variations
  • A lot of people suggest adding a spoon of baking soda while boiling. They say that it makes the chickpeas softer. I tried it a few times, and it doesn’t hurt, but not really necessary either.
  • It’s OK to cheat by buying a can of preserved whole chickpeas if they are sold in your area. They are already soft, so you only need to boil them for a few minutes. It saves you a lot of time and the taste is fine.

The first ten or so times that I tried to do it, it was very far from brilliant. It can take years to become good at it. Don’t let it discourage you :)

The Mozilla Firefox Hummus

a plate of home-made hummus, with seasoning in the shape of Mozilla Firefox logo / צלחת חומוס עם תיבול בצורת הסמל של מוזילה פיירפוקס

موزيلا فايرفوكس حمّص / Mozilla Firefox hummus / מוזילה פיירפוקס חומוס

I made this hummus, and my wife seasoned it in the shape of the Mozilla Firefox logo.

I’d like to use this opportunity to remind that Mozilla is not just a good web browser with a cute logo, but also a non-profit community of people who love the web and who work to keep the web free, open, standard and accessible to all.

Every now and then

Every now and then i listen to bad music. Every now and then i watch a bad movie. Every now and then i eat in a bad restaurant. Every now and then i read a bad book. And i love it. It reminds my that i do have a taste and that i don’t just think that everything that i hear, watch, eat and read is good.

Bakeries

People in North America have some weird misunderstandings about food. In North America a “bakery” is a place that sells sweet pastry, that was not necessarily baked at the same place or on the same day.

In France a bakery is a place in which various types of bread and perhaps also sweet pastry are baked and sold as fresh as possible. It is the same way in Israel, although in France there are probably many more of them. (The good thing about Israeli bakeries is that you can usually be sure that there’s no animal fat in the bread.)

In France they hardly sell bread in the supermarket – only weird and desperate people would buy bread in a plastic bag in a supermarket when such wonderful fresh bread can be bought near one’s home.

We traveled in many places in North America and hoped to find a bakery that sells fresh bread, but all the “bakeries” just sell sweet stuff. We love sweet stuff, but not too much of it.

But hey, that’s probably on of the reasons why so many Americans dream about going to Europe.

Towel Day 2010

I carried a towel around the campus all day. No-one noticed. I wasn’t disappointed and i’m going to observe Towel Day next year, too. You know why?

Went to the toilet? Washed your hands? You can use your towel to dry them!

Eating out? The waiter didn’t bring enough napkins? Use your towel to wipe your hands!

Too obvious? Here’s another one: Writing an SMS and the sun is bothering your screen? Use your towel to hide your phone from the sunlight!

Reality – Start-Up

Roladin - Start-Up

Roladin - Start-Up

Roladin bakery and cafeteria were building a branch on Habarzel street where i work. So they put up a teaser – “Roladin Start-Up”. Like, it’s a street full of start-ups. When they finally opened, it turned out to be more than a gimmick:

Roladin - Feminism

Roladin - Feminism

They have a business lunch for guys and a business lunch for girls! A brilliant idea.

Fuck feminism.


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