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Archive for May, 2007

More Biscuits?

And we’re not done yet, my friends.  After trying the latest batch of pepper biscuits, my neighbor requested some made with rosemary and sea salt, and I was happy to comply.  I think she was envisioning the same yeasted-style sticks, but with my overabundance of whey, it’s buttermilk style. 

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Rosemary and Sea Salt Biscuits

2 cups flour

1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder

1 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

3/4 cup buttermilk or whey

1 egg

Sea salt

Combine the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter with a pastry blender or a knife until it resembles tiny pebbles.  Mmm, butter pebbles.  Add the whey and lightly beaten egg and stir until combined.  Knead briefly, then either roll out and cut into pretty shapes and perfect circles, or clump dough in your hand until it’s vaguely biscuit-like.  Guess which one I do?  Sprinkle each biscuit with sea salt, a little or a lot, based on your salt preference.  Bake at 425° for about 15 minutes or until golden.  Smear with butter straight out of the oven – these were great with our fresh herb egg scramble, but would do just as well with a dinner course.  They were a little crumby when they cooled off – I think I can attribute it to using whey in place of the thicker buttermilk. 

I’m running out of ideas to use the whey – I’m making cake today, and plan to whip up another batch of biscuits at some point this week.  I hope I don’t get sick of all the carbs – I can think of nothing sadder.  Any suggestions for my next variety?

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Whoa.  What a day of eating that was.  I’m taking a break until at least 10am.  With all the whey left over from my cheesemaking adventure I’ve got some cooking to do, so I figured a good place to start was brunch.  I still have two more jars full, so I’ve got to find some more recipes that use lots of buttermilk.  Any ideas out there?

Anyway, yesterday was the sunniest day we’ve had this month – perfect for a day of relaxing, gardening, and eating!  I made a huge brunch, assuming that one or more of the neighbors would be around to share with us – everyone slept in, so Chris and I were left with a large food challenge, which we gladly accepted.  The smells of light and fluffy ricotta pancakes (to show off my homemade cheese!) with fresh blueberry syrup, egg scramble with garden herbs, rosemary and sea salt buttermilk biscuits, thick-sliced bacon, sliced strawberries and fresh brewed coffee filled the air – what a way to celebrate a day off.

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Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

1 cup blueberries

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk or whey

1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries and maple syrup and heat over a medium flame.  Cook until the blueberries start to pop, and transfer to a pourable container.

Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wets and stir until just combined.  Y’all can probably take it from here – cook like pancakes.  These don’t take too long, so you’ll want to watch them closely so they don’t get charred.  What a feast, huh?

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I ordered a kit from The Cheese Queen at cheesemaking.com to make my own ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.  Inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I’m done with the plastic tubs and rubbery flavors of store-bought cheeses.  And as seen in my previous posts, cheese is a staple in this house.  I was shocked at how easy it was to make my own ricotta – I can’t see ever buying it again.  As soon as I can track down a neighbor with a microwave, I’m going to give mozzarella a shot.

Full instructions come with the kit (which I strongly recommend), and are also on the Cheese Queen’s website, but here’s a quick overview of what I did.  It’s so easy.  Pour a gallon of whole milk (just make sure it’s not ultra-pasteurized) into a large, non-reactive pot, stir in 1 tsp cheese salt and 1 tsp citric acid, and bring the mixture to 195°, stirring frequently to make sure the milk doesn’t curdle. 

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Because I used a slotted spoon and stirred like the dickens, my ricotta curds were pretty small.  I would imagine that less stirring would give me a thicker curd.  Next time!

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When the curds and whey begin to separate, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit untouched for 10 minutes.  Ladle the curds and whey into a colander lined with butter muslin.  Save the whey, as it can be used in place of buttermilk or sour milk in cooking – nothing goes to waste, and the pancakes tomorrow will be heavenly!  If you don’t use the whey in cooking, they say that it’s a good plant food.  Tie the cloth into a bag and hang it for about an hour, or until it drains to the consistency you’re looking for.

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Voila!  Ricotta that you can eat with a spoon – so good!  It keeps in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, and can also be frozen, so I divided it.  Some for tomorrow’s ricotta pancakes (made with whey), some for baked pasta later.  Hooray for DIY.

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Pepper Biscuits

2 cups warm water

2.5 tsp yeast (1 package)

1 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp salt

7 cups flour

1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

1 tsp fennel seeds

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand about 5 minutes.  Don’t be concerned if it’s not very bubbly, as there’s not much yeast for all the water.  A few bubbles should tell you it’s reacting.  Add the olive oil and half the flour and stir.  Add the pepper, fennel seeds and more flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is able to be kneaded. 

Place dough on a floured surface and knead the love into it for about 5 minutes.  Your dough will be slightly moister than normal bread dough.    Cover with a warm moist cloth and let rise in a large place until about doubled (I did the cheater version – placed the bowl in a warmed (about 150°) oven and speeded up the rising process.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Divide into three equal pieces and roll each one into a 1/4″ thick square.  Cut into 1-inch wide strips and shape as desired – I kept some like these twisted sticks, made some into rings, and crumpled a few together willy-nilly.  Place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Straight out of the oven with a pat of Earth Balance (or fake butter, as we call it), and you’re golden.  This recipe makes quite a few, at least 2 dozen biscuits.  Guess how long they lasted?  Ahem.  I think Chris liked these.  It’s been about 18 hours since they came out of the oven.  I’m still on the search for the perfect pepper biscuit, though.  I increased the amounts of pepper and fennel in this recipe, but mine were still not spicy enough.  I’d increase both significantly when making them again (which I will), to 1 Tbsp each.  Bring the spice!

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My neighbor once made a wonderful baked dish with tons of fresh veggies, and invited us over to share.  Never dumb enough to pass up an amazing homemade meal, Chris and I dug in with vigor.  A couple of seconds later,  I looked over at my man and noticed that he had changed color.  At that moment, the chef remembered her secret ingredient – coarsely chopped jalapenos.  I don’t know if I’m remembering the night correctly, but I’m pretty sure she called it the “sparkle” in her dish.  Lit him up like a firecracker.

 I think of this story every time I make the following dish, which is pretty often.  Again (and I realize that I’m a bit of a broken record with this), I’m all about the grain dishes that allow me to use up plenty of veggies and are throw-together easy, providing dinner that looks like more work than it is and leftovers for days to come.  It’s also (again?) one of those dishes that can be infinitely altered – change the grain of rice, the veggies, the spices, the sparkle, and you have a completely different but equally delicious dish.  Here’s my loosely Indian-themed version from last night:

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Rice Casserole

olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 small knob ginger, peeled and grated

2 or 3 medium zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 large carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 large head bok choy, cut into (you guessed it) bite-sized pieces

1 serrano chile (the sparkle), minced, or for extra surprise factor, coarsely chopped

1 cup long-grain brown rice

3/4 tsp garam masala

3/4 tsp cumin

1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes

1 cup water

3/4 cup shredded cheese (I had asiago)

about 1/4 cup pinenuts

The good old sautee and bake.  Here we go again! 

Preheat oven to 350°.  Sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet, then add the ginger and the rest of the vegetables.  Sautee until almost tender (they will cook more in the oven, so vary your cooking time depending on how al-dente you like it).  Add the rice and spices and sautee one minute more.  Add the tomatoes and water and simmer briefly.  Transfer to a 9×13 greased baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, cover with foil and bake until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 60-90 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with pinenuts.  Ignore mouth-scalding warnings.  Devour.

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I don’t remember where I got this recipe, so my apologies for the lack of reference, and our main camera was out of batteries, so my apologies for the fuzzy picture.  Sorry all around!

I still had some limes left over from our farm share box 3 weeks ago, and because they’re so picked-from-the-tree fresh, they were in fine form and aching to be used.  I could have always just juiced them and frozen the juice to be used at a later date, but I’ve been feeling very summery lately, and nothing is more summery than a fruit tart.  Yum city.

The recipe I had was originally to be made into tartlettes, then were to be stacked into a beautiful tower of tart.  I am a) not in the posession of tartlette pans, and b) lazy, so one big tart it would be.  Because of this, it was really thin, but garnished with fresh blueberries and strawberries, it turned out just perfect.  Chris was inspired to tell me about all the tarts he’s had (not like that!), then determined after much deliberation that this was, in fact, THE BEST. 

Lime Tart

For the crust:

1/2 cup softened butter

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix the sugar and butter together, then mix in the flour.  It will be crumbly.  Press the dough into a tart pan and press down until the bottom is level.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until the base is lightly browned and appears to have puffed up a little.  I underbaked mine, and am glad I did.  It turned out to have a shortbread-like consistency, a buttery crust that played up the tartness of the, well, tart.

For the filling:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

the juice and zest of 1 large lime, plus extra zest if you like it!

Mix the filling ingredients together in the order listed (the baking powder and lime juice will bubble a bit when mixed together.  You can see from the picture that mine is a bit pock-marked because I let the bubbles sit for a bit too long.  If you’re particular about that, leave the lime juice for just before you are ready to use the mixture). 

Remove the crust from the oven and fill with the lime mixture.  Bake tart for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top is puffy and golden brown.  Allow to cool, then slice, garnish with berries, and serve.  Accept compliments graciously.

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Hungry, honey?

For Jenny H: Lewd towels promised, lewd towels delivered – these are my latest creations…

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Designs courtesy the super easy, divine and addictive Sublime Stitching, writing courtesy me.  I’m so proud.  I may add to them soon, to cover up the line I accidentally transfered under the “dinner” girl, but they’ll do for now.

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