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Archive for June, 2007

My buddy Casey who works at Sparrow Market slipped a piece of paper into my hand when I was walking through the market on Saturday–a long skinny flyer for an annual pig roast that he and a bunch of friends have been putting on for a good while. I’ll be on vacation, so I can’t go. It’s quite a shame, because I really like any event that involves roasting a whole animal on a spit. But I’m happy to share the details with our readers.

When: Saturday, June 30. Starts around 8 or 9. Ends . . . late.
Where: 2537 Platt Rd.
Details: There’s space on the grills and in the smoker for anything you want to bring. Vegetarians welcome.

If you do make it, let us know how it went!

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I know there’s a small subsection of our readers out there who have been wondering “so what about the cheese?” I have been lax about posting, but Jim has not been lax about producing. In fact, his nine year old son, Julian has expressed fear that “soon the house will be filled with cheese.” Jim actually sent in a very nice photo essay on the production process, but I’ve yet to master slide shows. So here are a few of the highlights. Just a little cheese equivalent of eye candy:

The culture at work.

Pressing matters

Et voila. Drying, prior to aging. No report as of yet on the results.

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We at G3 do little in the way of food activism on this blog–out of benign neglect rather than as a matter of policy. As far as I know, however, we are pro-taco and pro-Brooklyn street food. In that spirit, I share with you an urgent plea from a friend formerly of Red Hook:

I NEVER do this, but this is one of my favorite things about New York and if they take it away we’ll probably end up moving to San Diego or some damn place. So take action!

http://savesoccertacos.blogspot.com/

Please do your part to save soccer tacos, if you are so inclined.
If not, perhaps you care to sign a petition to create Ann Arbor’s first dog park?

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Two out of (G)three have been in San Francisco immersed in the wild and woolly world of scholarly publishing, so action has been a little bit slow here. But we have lots to report, so check back in soon. Meanwhile, to let you know we’re still here, a few reports from the home front.

The farm share this week had arugula, little carrots, garlic scapes, green onions, lettuce, potatoes, rappini, radishes, spinach and tatsoi. The potatoes (over-wintered) roasted nicely and sat well with grilled steak on Saturday and tatsoi quickly sauteed in mustard vinaigrette. It was also pretty tasty to mop up the excess vinaigrette with the potatoes. The carrots were good julienned and sauteed in way too much butter. My favorite farm share meal this week was our Sunday pizza with fresh mozarella, sauteed garlic scapes and green onions and toasted pine nuts. I am most daunted by the turnips. They’re billed as “salad turnips” but I’m coming to terms with that. Salad turnips?

In other news, tonight Nick discovered whipped cream. Tomorrow is Naomi’s birthday and in honor of the day we had quiche (thoroughly disappointing and a story for another day), farm-share salad, Avalon baguette, and, for dessert, shortcakes from the Produce Station (tasty and much less daunting than those huge things they make at Zingerman’s) with sliced berries and homemade whipped cream. I assembled a small plate for the boy and offered him a tentative taste of the whipped cream on my finger. He shook his head vehemently, so I left him to explore the plate on his own. After watching the big people eat for a little bit, he dipped his finger in the cream and ferried it to his mouth. A euphoric glow spread across his face. “Good?” I asked. He sighed and then said with excitement “Mama! Bite! Have one!” Good to know the boy too likes to share his gastronomical pleasures.

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Cheese, cheese, cheese

Did I mention my friend Jim is a dedicated man? The cheese report is in, and he’s been a very busy boy the past couple of weeks. Here’s the fromage report from Troy, NY:

I have learned much about cheese in the last couple of weeks, partly from books and partly from actually making cheese. One result of my recently acquired cheese knowledge is that I no longer feel quite so intimidated standing before the cheese people at the Honest Weight food coop in Albany (home of the widest cheese selection in the area, probably until you get to Boston, Montreal or NYC), who are all off-the-charts extroverts bent on finding out what you *really* want in the way of cheese today, even if you *really* just want to poke around. That, as it turns out, is the worst thing you can do, for it gives them the opportunity to point out and talk about ten different cheeses as you stand there, trapped and nodding. Now, when they’re going on and on about blackberry notes I can, if I so choose, shoot back “Mesophilic or thermophilic?”

The thing that continues to strike me is how similar the cheese recipes are, both in terms of ingredients and procedure. Yet subtle differences can apparently make a big difference in the final products. Here’s the basic outline of how it goes:

o curdle the milk
o separate the curds from the whey
o drain the curd
o optionally age

The curdling phase can be done through a variety of methods. You can just use an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar or you can use rennet. As it turns out, rennet works best in a slightly acidic environment and the way that has traditionally been achieved is through the action of a starter culture (usually particular to a locale). Optimal curdling and whey separation usually take place at quite specific temperatures. The draining off the whey can be as simple as fishing out the curd masses and hanging it all up bundled in cheesecloth. This is the method for fresh cheeses. Firm cheeses usually require the use of a cheese press. Both fresh and firm cheeses can be brined but only the firm cheeses get aged to any degree. Milk is composed of roughly 7/8 water. So if you start with 8lbs milk (1 gallon) you have about 1lb of solids in there. Therefore, firm cheese recipes typically yield about 1lb per gallon of milk, whereas fresh cheeses vary from 1.5 to 2lb per gallon, depending on how much you drain them.

I have to date only tackled fresh cheeses: lemon cheese, mozzarella, ricotta, fromage blanc and chevre.

Mozzarella

This was my first culture/rennet cheese and I managed to screw it up. There are two general types of cultures: low temperature (mesophilic) and high temperature (thermophilic). Most Italian cheeses, including mozzarella, call for the thermophilic culture. The recipe I was following had two temperature ranges at which ingredients needed to be added. Well, in my disorganization, I managed to overheat the milk past the second temperature. Panicked, I pulled the milk (2 gallons!) out of the double boiler and weighed my options. I considered trying to cool the milk down but figured that I might have already changed it in some way so I resorted to just dumping everything — the culture, rennet and lipase powder (used to add some funkiness, mostly in Italian cheeses) — in at once. Mozzarella, along with provolone, is a cheese that gets kneaded toward the end of the process. But you have to knead it hot, like 145F, which is tough on the hands. I was never able to get a nice stringy consistency and finally just decided to roll it up into balls and throw it into some brine. The cheese was still good but way too dense. I’m pretty sure my initial screw up had a lot to do with that but his recipe, titled “30-minute Mozzarella” also called for microwaving the curd in order to heat it up and this gave me pause. I will try a more traditional method next time and keep a closer eye on the temperature.

Ricotta

Ricotta is usually made with left over whey so it is a natural accompaniment to mozzarella. This cheese is made the same way as lemon cheese; you heat up the whey (I added a quart of milk to boost the yield) and then dump in a 1/4 cup of vinegar. The curdling is immediate and you then scoop out the cheese. It was good, though much dryer than store bought. As a result, the kids wouldn’t go near it but I slipped some into the pancake batter the next morning and Xavie, our most finicky eater, actually liked them.

Fromage Blanc

Sure sounds nicer than “white cheese,” eh? It’s very similar to chevre, but made with cow’s milk. This batch I almost screwed up. Due to a reading comprehension issue and an oddly worded recipe, I ended up using many times the prescribed rennet. The ingredient list said to use 3 drops of liquid rennet diluted in 5 tbsp of water. So I prepared that solution and when the time came, I dumped it into the milk. Only later did I reread the text of the recipe and realized that I skipped over the part about how you should only use 1 tbsp of the diluted rennet. But the cheese was very good. This is why I say “almost” screwed up. I added a bit of salt and chopped chives after it was finished draining.

Chevre

The chevre came off without a hitch. I found a 1/2 gallon of goat’s milk at the above mentioned food coop. It cost $9. I was so shocked by the price that I went back to the cheese area and looked at the prices of the chevre. My rough calculations told me that I may be losing money making this myself. But I was determined to do it. For this recipe I had on hand a chevre culture, though I’m not sure how it differed from the standard low temperature culture I had used for the fromage blanc. After about 24 hours the goat’s milk was transformed into a delicious chevre. Although I can’t say it is superior to store bought, it’s certainly fresher.

So that’s my update. I’ve pretty much finished building and calibrating my cheese press and will probably attempt a firm cheese tonight. Did I mention that I bought a mini fridge for $40? Rita rolled her eyes at the news. But a “cheese cave” is essential for aging. Or maybe she’s prefer that I build a cave in the back yard.

I’m pretty anxious to taste that chevre. Also plotting about how to show up at Jim’s house with a couple of quarts of buffalo milk in hand. Until that time, I’ll have to content myself with dropping the words mesophilic and thermophilic around our local cheese extroverts.

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Before I go revealing recipe secrets from my 30th,* let me say that last night’s dinner was nice and simple and a wee bit elegeant, even. I was ravenous after meeting up with a friend for a drink, and armed with a baguette, some farmers’ market greens, and party leftovers, I composed a lovely meal for one. I sautéed some of the “mystery greens” Maria spoke of–a blend, I think, of mizuna and mustard greens–in olive oil very quickly. In the same pan, I heated some more olive oil and fried an egg on high heat. I slathered some fig jam on a baguette, laid on some prosciutto, topped it with the fried egg and another slice of baguette. There was some pavé sauvage with even more baguette slices, and the rest of a jar of cornichons, my secret favorite food of all time.

Now, on to the romesco. I first tasted this sauce on my first trip to Barcelona, a little over four years ago. I devoured it with calçots, a variety of scallion native to northern Spain. Even though I know it would go perfectly well on potatoes, any grilled vegetable, hard-boiled eggs, or toasted bread, I’m pretty tied to putting this sauce on green stalk-y vegetables like scallions or asparagus. After testing a four or five recipes, this one is closest to what I remember tasting in Barcelona. There’s a lot of fussing with roasting things ahead of time, but it’s worth it.

Romesco sauce

from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

1 slice country-style white bread

olive oil for frying

1/4 c almonds, roasted

1/4 c hazelnuts, roasted and peeled

3 garlic cloves

1 to 2 tsps ground red chile or red pepper flakes to taste

4 Roma tomatoes

1 T parsley leaves

s + p

1 tsp sweet paprika, though I’ve been known to use smoked Spanish paprika

1 red bell pepper, roasted

1/4 c sherry vinegar

1/2 c olive oil, preferably Spanish

First you want to roast the almonds and hazlenuts for about 15 minutes in a 300F oven. Then turn up the heat to about 450F and roast the pepper. I like to stack the peppers and cover them in foil, let them sit for a good 15 minutes or so–makes getting the skins off easier.

Fry the bread in a little olive oil until golden and crisp. When cool, grind the bread, nuts, garlic, and chile in a food processor. Add everything but the vinegar and oil and process until smooth. With the machine running, gradually pour in the vinegar, then the oil. Taste and make sure the sauce has plenty of piquancy and enough salt.

*Spring roll recipe to come!

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