I love cooking for The Man on Saturday nights. After a fun day together doing whatever it is we do, I get to really pamper him and make something yummy. This week it was ribeyes the size of a baby. Yes, that is a regular sized dinner plate. With the bone, that puppy weighs 1.7 pounds. Grilled to perfection over hardwood, with grilled asparagus, a yukon gold potato and Gruyere gratin and pretty darn good GF biscuits (Bob's Red Mill mix), we are both in serious food comas, but fat and happy. He only ate about half of the steak, and I ate maybe a third, so tomorrow morning will be steak, egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches with fried cheesy potatoes and really amazing coffee from Cameroon. My god, I love good food.
It has been raining forever. I swear the last time I was in Home Depot there was an old guy in a dress and sandals buying lumber by the cubit. (If you don't get the joke, you obviously didn't go to Sunday school.) Its been a rough couple of days at work, moving every display that I put up just two weeks ago. Plus, damp weather makes me ache. I need comfort food. It's not a want, it's a need. Something that goes together quickly is chili. Fortunately, it is one of The Man's favorites. Ground chuck, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, red and yellow bell pepper, diced tomato, black beans, navy beans and kidney beans, seasoned with chili powder, cumin, coriander, mexican chocolate, coffee and a pinch of cinnamon. Served over a brown rice quinoa pilaf, sprinkled with GF corn tortilla chips and raw sharp cheddar, this is going to be a great way to chase that dampness away.
Tuesdays are supposed to be a somewhat quiet day; a couple of beer salesmen, lots of time to really check the cheese in the cold case, the opportunity to look in to new product and restock. Today was not one of those Tuesdays. Oh well, can't catch a break this week.
However, I do have a serious yumminess alert. Van's Say Cheese crackers. Holy schmoley! Real cheddar, multiple grains (oats, brown rice, millet, quinoa and amaranth), crispy and crunchy AND gluten free. Had them with tomato soup yesterday for lunch and didn't miss my Goldfish at all. I think they have other varieties, too, and I plan on exploring each and every one.
It's a beautiful day. The windows are open, the sun is shining and there is a light breeze. Kayo the Queen is on the window sill soaking it all in, and all seems right with the world. Except that The Man is sick again. Bad cold, a gift from his coworkers. Aren't they generous? Yeah, I thought so too. So today will be a quiet day for him, which makes him a little nuts. I've been dosing him with elder berry syrup for the cough, and a tea of ginger, honey and lemon, but he's still feeling icky and bored. Food helps this, so does a great selection of movies (thank you Toshiba smart DVD player and Netflix).
Another slight speed bump is that I woke up with an unbelievable urge to bake bread. No idea where it came from, but I needed to bake. Knowing that I have no yeast, I had to search for what I could make, and stumbled upon this recipe. I LOVE Mother Earth Living! I had all of the ingredients, except for chives, so I harvested some of my herbs (yup, they are still alive!) and made a lovely whole wheat quick bread. Studded with crisp nuggets of thick cut applewood smoked bacon, little pockets of a great local chevre, and minced rosemary, thyme and marjoram, this is a pretty amazing loaf of wonderfulness. The Man is on wedge two, along with a cup of chicken broth that is cooking on the stove, and is already looking better. I guess old fashioned remedies do work - good food and love.
Whole Wheat Quick Bread with Bacon, Chevre and Herbs
• 6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
• 2 cups whole wheat flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or flaky or coarse sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) crumbled fresh chevre (soft goat cheese)
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs (pretty much anything will work here - I used a mix of marjoram, thyme and rosemary. Sage and parsley would be great, too.)
1. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the diced bacon and cook until crisp. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and stir well to mix.
4. Mix the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add one of the eggs and beat until fully incorporated, then beat in the second egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually add the dry ingredients with the mixer at low speed, alternating with the milk. Take the bowl from the stand and stir in the bacon, 1 1/4 cup chevre and herbs by hand, just until incorporated. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chevre over the top.
5. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool slightly in the pan, then turn the bread out onto the rack to cool, inverting the bread so that the chevre topping is upright.
Remember those healthful recipes I promised you? Yeah, this ain't it. My new position has allowed me to have a weekend day off, so The Man and I get to play a little later on Friday nights than usual. We had a few drinks, watched a Back to the Future marathon and had a really good time. That being said, food would have been a nice addition but I was too tired to cook. So the drinks hit me hard and I was not feeling or looking my very best this morning when I rolled out of bed. To make it up to him, I made a great Irish brunch. Hand made Irish bangers started the plate, a pork sausage that is seasoned with a little mace (the outer papery covering on a nutmeg nut - it tastes completely different from the nutmeg!) and cinnamon along with fennel, sage and black pepper. Into the pan with the frying bangers went thinly sliced potatoes and onions, letting them brown in the fat that the sausages have released. Sea salt and cracked pepper go on the potatoes, which are turned to evenly brown. I tossed about 2 tablespoons of water in the pan and covered it, to make sure the potatoes were cooked all the way. Browned and yummy, the sausage and potatoes are removed from the pan, and scrambled eggs are added with sage derby cheese. A cheddar style cheese with dried sage added for both a lovely green color and a subtle sage flavor, it makes the eggs turn a little green but taste sooooooo good. The final result was a plate full of great hang over curing protein and fat, and paired with a pot of coffee, made a perfect brunch for an afternoon of napping in front of Netflix movies with the windows wide open. Tonight we go to see the local minor hockey team so I need all the rest I can get!
I love cheese. To be completely honest, I don't remember ever meeting a cheese that I didn't like. I like the mild ones, the sharp ones, the stinky ones, the moldy ones... even the ones that few people eat, like limburger. This is my first attempt at making ricotta, a fresh soft curd cheese used by Italians for sweet and savory dishes.
This doesn't get any easier. Four ingredients and about 30 minutes to a pile of yumminess that can be used in so many ways. Use whatever kind of milk you like - this is a regular full fat milk, but I think the next batch is going to be goat just for kicks.
Proportions are as follows: 1 gallon of full fat milk, 1 pint of cream (make sure that neither are ultra-pasteurized, it doesn't work as well), 2 TB good fine ground salt (pink Himalayan is awesome, because of its clean flavor), 1 cup of white distilled vinegar. That is it, my dears. This is all you need to make really really good cheese.
Pour the milk, cream and salt into a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Attach a thermometer to the side (I use the same one that I use for yogurt), and let it heat to 180*. Slowly drizzle in the vinegar while stirring gently until it's all incorporated. Stop stirring and let it sit for 20-30 minutes, letting the curds form and separate from the whey.
Line a fine strainer with a couple of layers of damp cheesecloth.
Once the curds form, gently ladle them into the strainer, leaving as much of the whey behind as possible.
Once it's all in the strainer, let it drain undisturbed for a few minutes. You'll know when it's time to move it. It goes from this....
... to this. Once it starts to look like cheese you can move it to the 'fridge to chill, or you can continue to let it drain. The more it drains, the drier it is. Yeah, I know that's a dumb statement, but it's important. For things like cheesecake you want it to be more moist. Lasagne? Dry. Experiment and come up with the right combo for what you are making.