Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pizza from last night

Asparagus pie w/ farmer cheese and shaved red onions

Last night's pie was a pretty spectacular spring treat if I do say so myself. I didn't grill it as I wanted to stick to tried and true method but it was certainly warm enough yesterday in the great PNW to have not fired up the oven inside but we got a late start so not too much heating up of the house. Anyway, as the above photo and caption tell the asparagus pie story visually, her is the recipe for this delight...

Asparagus pie
  • 1/2 Recipe pizza dough
  • 4oz Farmer cheese
  • 4oz Fresh asparagus
  • 1oz Thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Pinch gray salt

  1. Preheat oven & stone to 500F
  2. Snap the asparagus at the natural break
    Slice asparagus in half lengthwise
    Nuke asparagus for 45 seconds turning 1/2 way through
    Chill under cold running water to stop the cooking
  3. Roll the dough out very thin
  4. Top the dough with crumbled farmer cheese
  5. Arrange asparagus on top of the cheese
  6. Spread out the onion slices
  7. Drizzle with olive oil
  8. Grind the pepper over the pie and sprinkle lightly with the gray salt
  9. Bake for 6-8 minutes depending on the GBD* desired
  10. Let rest 2 minutes (if you can) then slice & eat

*Golden Brown Deliciousness

As expected, Henry went for the more traditional 1/2 cheese & 1/2 Salumi pepperoni then decided it too needed photographing so arranged the slices 1 cheese, 1 pepperoni, etc... Here is the outcome...

All in all a fine Friday meal with the lad and a fine start to another fabulous PNW weekend. Off to the farmer's market, the morels are in so maybe an asparagus & morel pie? Hmmm...


Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Evening

I've just put the pizza dough to rise, ground my Rwanda Nyamyumba for the morning and opened a beer so here I sit in front of the keyboard musing away.

First, the PNW weather holds and is supposed to continue on through the weekend and if the longer range forecast is to be believed, even into next week. The garden is going strong as I wrote last night, and the only thing it continues to want at this point is water; I need to water every day when it gets to these high temperatures of mid-seventies as my garden is in pots on my deck or next to the South facing wall of my house both of which tend to just radiate the heat and intensify the sun.

Pizza - Tonight will be fresh asparagus with my own farmer cheese and drizzled with olive oil plus a sprinkling of finely sliced red onions. I'm sure Henry will be a at least a bit more traditional in his choice when he gets home from assisting with the local Waterfront Festival going on this evening.

Coffee - The nyamyumba region is represented by Rwandan farmers with farms overlooking Lake Kivu. I've found this coffee to be lovely and round, rich and bold in flavor while lacking some of the distinctive "fruitiness" or "wine-like" flavors most often associated with African coffees. While there is some fruit deep down the overall velvety, full mouthfeel along with cocoa overtones with enough acidity to balance the cup; why this is some darn tasty brew. I'll need to try and find a bit more of this one but it's a rare find.

Beer - I've been buying quite a bit of Session lager from Full Sail Brewing in Oregon lately. It goes down smooth, has a lot more flavor than the typical American lagers but keeps the same refreshing crispness of NW hops and the lightness showing not too much malt. Also, it comes in "stubby" bottles and they just feel good in my hand. For those of you who still want to try and tell me after all these years that the shape of the bottle doesn't affect the taste, I cry a loud and hearty PSHAW! as in food, presentation is sometimes as much as 50% of the flavor, so goes it with beer and if the package feels good in my hand and the product pouring out of said bottle tastes good then it is just that much better. This beer has been going down nicely with the warm Spring weather of late and accompanied the ribs last night as well as I'm sure it will the asparagus pizza tonight.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Well I guess it's summer

A thing of beauty - a rack and some grilled homemade baguette
I hope that doesn't jinx us here in the beautiful PNW as we all know summer doesn't actually begin here until July 5th as it is traditionally rainy and cold through June but lately it feels like summer and we're taking it...
A man on a mission
Anyway, tonight I grilled up some lovely baby back ribs, seasoned with a 50/50 mix of my all purpose grill spice and brown sugar; I made a 1/2 cup of it and used nearly all of it. After letting the ribs sit in the rub and bleed a wee bit of moisture into the spices the rack went onto a low grill for 4 turns of 10 minutes each and it turned out great. This was the first time Henry experienced Dad's ribs as he just discovered how good bone suckin' can be late last year and he proclaimed this one of the best dinners in a while. I love that he's getting enthusiastic about new foods...
Not sure but I think he liked the ribs
Gardening update
The spuds are coming along nicely, in fact possibly too nicely as I have not kept up on keeping them buried and the 1 box has 14" plants already so here is a photo pre-burial. We're heading out for more box material and will build some more of my manufactured soil. the plants sure seem to like it. I'll post a post-burial photo after I get this built up a bit but we did get them buried with the soil I had available this afternoon as well as getting yellow zucchini (I dug a hill in the middle of the lawn), yellow pear tomatoes, sweet millions tomatoes, bunching onions and haricot vert in today as well as a new (well new to me anyway) variety of thyme and finally got the basil in as I believe we actually are past the last killing frost finally.
Pre-burial spuds

Strawberry patch

One of the first 3 strawberries of the year (we ate the other 2 before I could get the camera)

I wish I could remember this variety of strawberries, this is about as large as they get but they are tart and sweet and they bear fruit all summer from late May all the way until the first frost and they aren't big but they are packed with flavor.

That's about it for this evening, cookies and ice cream while we wind down for a nighty night...


Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday, Monday

As Memorial Day weekend comes to a close, I sit and muse while suffering through yet another Oregon pinot noir; this time a 2006 Robinson Reserve. Lovely fruit, very "alive" on the palate with a hint of acidity and an almost effervescent brightness stirring it all together. Like a party in my mouth! however sad that party is to be ending now that Memorial Day is done, boo hoo!

Last night I grilled a nice top sirloin from Country Natural farms and it was by far the most tender of that cut I have ever had and the flavor was outta this world! I topped it with the Lime Riesling chimichurri from Sound Bites and accompanied this with salad of baby greens from my garden dressed in Bariani olive oil and Rosy Raspberry vinegar (recipe to follow) along with grilled croutons from my own homemade baguette and my farmer cheese. LOCAVORACIOUS!

Raspberry Vinaigrette
  • 1 Tablespoon GREAT olive oil of your choice - Mine is Bariani out of Sacramento
  • 1 Tablespoon Rosy Raspberry vinegar
  • 1 Scallion - White and light green part only sliced very thin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 or 4 grinds of fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 Pinch Sea salt of your choice

  1. Whisk together and toss in 2 handfuls of baby greens - mine were about 2/3 sweet and 1/2 bitter.
  2. Toss gently with your hands

Tonight I did the same dressing with my greens but topped it with my farmer cheese and went again for the Lime Riesling chimichurri marinated halibut I did a few nights ago. The first time I thought the strong flavors of the chimi might overpower the delicate halibut but the fish is fatty enough to shone through. Fresh line caught Alaska halibut is currently $7.98 a lb so I plan on eating far too much of it. In fact I'm eating pieces over 1/2 lb in size each time but what the hell eh? I believe this month won't be very frugal but I'm gonna blame Memorial Day weekend, the great weather and the fact that we have been very active. Big weather and big activity mean big appetites plus it's been a great grilling weekend; 67F each of the last 3 days with nary a cloud in the sky. Anyway, after laundry, long walks with the pooch, getting the lawns mowed, the kitchen through it's Spring cleaning and some plant shopping, I believe I do deserve it...


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cheesemaking x2 - Yesterday

Well here it is a lovely warm Memorial Day Sunday in the Puget Sound and with a fresh baked baguette and a long walk with the pooch behind me I can sit for a spell and get a little writing in. Friends Scott and Mackenzie here yesterday and we got talking about making cheese so I showed 'em how.

This time I did the same recipe as before; 1 gallon of whole milk & 1 quart of buttermilk heated to about 180F but added a couple big pinches or what I figure about 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt in just after loading it into the muslin lined colander. This was what made it this time, just enough salt to kill the flatness of the whole milk without adding any real "saltiness". I think it might be worth experimenting with other salts as well to give different mineral nuances. I'm also wondering if I could press this in a cheese press with some other flavorings such as chive flowers? I know I could make a lovely boursin style loaf with a pinch of garlic and roll in fresh cracked black pepper. I'm also thinking of rolling it in herb d' Provence, marigold petals, etc just for the ever slightest nuance type flavors so the creaminess of the cheese comes through. This is really a blank slate and it will take a bit of experimentation to see what all I can do with it. It is just so easy and so lovely.

I found that it lasted about 2 weeks in the fridge last time so it gives me a long time to work with each batch. I would have eaten it all well before the 2 weeks was up but I kept checking a small bit just to know the shelf life and it was still good at 14 days so I ate the last and it still tasted yummy and look, still alive so it must have been still safe.

I bought a new product from a local fellow at the farmer's market yesterday that I am going to try this evening. I'm quite excited about this lovely raspberry vinegar with some good olive oil on my home grown and musings to follow...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our Friday

Here it is, our Friday so we had to have pizza. Yes, I know it's really Thursday but Henry has no school and tomorrow is the annual Memorial Day golf tournament so as usual he is headed out with me (getting up at 4am) to help out selling tickets for the raffle. He gets up and ends up staying awake all day then snoozing in the car on the way home, I hope it is the same this year as tomorrow is also his Mum's birthday (40!)so he'll be heading over there and will be expected to participate in whatever festivities she and her cronies have planned.

Around here, Friday night means pizza night. I also had some chicken breasts that needed grilling so voila! BBQ chicken pizza!

I used my own grill spice blend on the chicken and some Trader Joe's all natural BBQ sauce (no HFCS!) with mozzarella and some chives from the garden and this is what I ended up with - not bad eh? For a thrown together w/o a plan meal I call this a serious success with minimal work and expense. Throw in a couple beers, early to bed and it time for some awesome Memorial Day weather (67 and sunny tomorrow), it's nice to need sunscreen in the Puget Sound after this past winter and spring.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Back at it...

Seems I've been away for a bit as I was under the weather and didn't feel like cooking at all then didn't feel like eating cuz nothing sounded very tasty for the past few days and I almost succumbed to really bad stuff for me but stuck to soul food; Pabst Blue Ribbon, Hebrew National hot dogs with plain ol' yellow mustard like at the ball park and cookies & cream ice cream. Food to feed the inner being.

By the time I started to feel like preparing my own food again, I decided i better cut off the end of my thumb so although right handed, my left opposable has been wrapped well in large amounts of gauze & tape for the past couple of days making cooking and cleanup rather difficult not to mention typing. Yes it's true, 90% of my day job is typing as well so I've just been puttering around at work as well. It gave me a good excuse to surf some recipes anyway...
Halibut with the chimmi just waiting for the grill
Tonight I am marinating a large filet of fresh halibut in some lime riesling chimmichurri which will be accompanied by grilled local asparagus and mushroom pilaf with red bell peppers. I think for a first meal back that will do quite nicely and it makes me wonder as I just put the rice in the oven; is there any better smell than that of mushrooms, onions and garlic sauteing away in butter and olive oil? Perhaps if it were going on a 40 oz porterhouse grilled black & blue but just by itself it conjures so many things. I couldn't wait and had to eat a few bites before I added the rice and stock. Damn that was fine!

Here's the recipe for my fall back mushroom pilaf...

Mushroom Pilaf

Heat oven to 350F

  • 1 Tablespoon each olive oil & butter
  • 1/2 Large yellow onion
  • ~2 teaspoons Minced garlic
  • 8oz White or Crimini mushrooms - but oh so good when the wild mushrooms come in
  • Pinch each kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Cups Arborio rice
  • 3 Cups Chicken broth - I keep the packaged organic from Pacific Foods on hand

  1. Over medium heat, saute the veg & add the seasonings into the melted butter and olive oil
  2. Continue sauteing until the shrooms shrink and the onions are nearly transparent, stirring often
  3. Add the rice and stir well to coat each grain with the oil & veg juices
  4. Add the chicken broth and stir well
  5. Bring just to a boil, stir once more and put covered into the preheated oven for 20 minutes
  6. After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven but DO NOT remove the cover
  7. Let rest for minimum 5 minutes, more is fine as this stays hot for a very long time
  8. Remove cover and fluff rice mixing in all the veg that collected on top
Tonight I added a bit of fresh diced red bell pepper for a fresh taste and that lovely color & crunch but try adding raw just shelled peas, some blanched green beans or let your imagination carry you away, this is a really blank slate just waiting for a bit of artistry

Eat and enjoy

This fine meal was accompanied by a 2005 Witness Tree Chainsaw Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. A find for the palette if ever there was one. Year after year this fine example of the art of Oregon pinot delivers a lovely dried cherry fruit with a hint of plum and darker berries to round it out. With a very slight nose, the fruit in the palatte hits pretty hard but it is not a fruit bomb and has a lovely soothing quality and fine medium long finish. Life doesn't suck...


Monday, May 11, 2009

Spring Veg Tabouli

Spring Veg oiled up and ready for the grill

I'm trying to eat better. Although for breakfast this morning I had a serious hankering for soft boiled eggs on whole grain toast; not horrible I know but trying to cut out the animal products where I can but today, I just needed soppy egg yolks soaking into toast.

Keeping with my less-meatarianism (phrase courtesy of Mark Bittman) ideas during the day I came up with a lovely bulgur salad I decided to call Spring Veg Tabouli. I eyeballed most of it and it was most delicious...

Spring Veg Tabouli

  • ~1 C Steamed bulgur
    ~3oz Grilled asparagus spears leftover from Saturday evening
    1/2 Grilled baby leek leftover from Saturday evening
    1 Large scallion sliced thin - both white and green parts
    ~1 Tablespoon Fresh lemon juice
    ~2 teaspoons Walnut oil - the grill veg had olive oil on already from the grill
    Pinch kosher salt
    ~8 Grinds fresh ground black pepper
    ~1/2oz Pistachio nutmeats
    ~1oz Small diced red bell pepper
  1. Mix together and let sit at room temperature for a few hours to let the flavors blend. I just had it at room temp while on my way to work and sitting on my desk waiting to be eaten, it's probably pretty good with less time as well.

Anyway, this is what the final product looks like; colorful, aromatic and flavorful for a yummy less-meatarian lunch...


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Dinner

Since I'm not the Mom on this weekend, Henry has gone off to spend the day with his Mum. Although a very busy day, I managed to feed myself a bit along the way with some steel cut oats for breakfast that included the usual walnut oil for omega-3s, pecans, coconut, cinnamon and dried cranberries and it sustained me until late afternoon.

After breakfast a day of football with the Sounders as they tied the LA Galaxy along with friend Scott for his intro to MLS football. Although a solid American football fan he decided that he liked it and would be interested in another turn at the pitch if the opportunity arises. Stadium food is too expensive and we both had too much to do this afternoon not to mention the fact that plain ol' American lager style (read Budweiser and Miller) are $8, it just means beer is not really on the menu for an afternoon of football. Returning home I spent the afternoon with some full contact gardening taking down the 2nd of two this weekend 8 foot tall 6 foot diameter bush roses to the point that friend Susan remarked I was looking straight out of a slasher film as my arms and face were covered with scratches that were running red. In other words I was hungry but very nearly out of energy to make much so this is what I ended up with...
Salumi salami with pistachio meats and my cheese mixed with chives, chive flowers, olive oil, crushed red pepper, salt and fresh ground black pepper accompanied by a lovely 2004 Turley Howell Mountain zinfandel from the Rattlesnake Ridge vineyard. Although the vino was not along the lines of frugality, I have owned this particular bottle for some time and I opened it last night with New York steak grilled with asparagus topped by garlicky farmer cheese, grilled baby leeks and diced fresh red bell pepper. I decided it is time for me to start drinking down the cellar I have. although not gargantuan in size there are about 5 or 6 cases that need to be and will be consumed over the next few months. Summer is the perfect time to drink this down with the grill heating up most nights (I only grill 2 or 3 times per week in the Winter) and so these are lovely choices they would not be considered quite budget. Checking my records I paid $40 for this bottle; the current market rate is running between $70 and $140 so a perfect wine for school night of uncooked nibbles.
The wine is delicious and worth every bit of effort to let it lie down for 4 years. Brambly, with good jammy plum and a hint of fresh blackberry with peppery notes; it's a zinfandel that fits the classic descriptions. Although a bit on the spendy side it would be worth a splurge if you ever come across it. With the cheese and sausage it was delicious, with the steak and asparagus last night it was divine. The nose is huge, the finish long. Although I wouldn't break this out every night, for a lovely couple of Spring evenings it seemed just the thing.

Happy Mother's Day to all you Mums out there and happy Sunday evening to the rest of us...


Friday, May 8, 2009

Carnivore Nirvana

My youngling has discovered the joy of cured pork products. I am soooo happy, cuz he has determined these to be some of the finest foods he has ever put in his mouth and so today, I took it upon myself to take him to paradise...that heaven of cured pork and lamb set into a small storefront in Pioneer Square of which epicures dream, over whose porcine products carnivores drool...

That's right, I took Henry to discover and experience true Nirvana - Salumi Cured Meats

We stepped in and the first thing he said was "it smells really good in here" and then he looked into the glass side of the cooler and couldn't take his eyes away from the hanging chubs of spicy, porky goodness.

We tasted and tasted and walked away with two chunks totaling about 1.25 lbs of the signature Salumi salami and pepperoni and it being pizza night, Henry opted to include some of that same pepperoni on his 'za and declared it to be ever so delicious with the crispy edge and the explosion of spice and pork fat in his mouth.

Now although Henry decided to go with a somewhat traditional half pepperoni and half cheese for his pie this evening, I went a little different route and julienned some of the pepperoni and sprinkled that over some of my own farmer cheese that topped just a hint of marinara. I finished this with Mama Lil's Kickbutt goathorn peppers and a drizzle of the oil in which they were packed before baking to a lovely golden brown and delicious and washing it down with a few vodka & tonics with extra lime.

It seems I found a little bit of my own Friday night Nirvana...


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Food Matters & Stuff

As I sit here looking out the window on a lovely (relative) Spring evening here in the Puget Sound watching as the youngling attempts to mow the lawn, many things strike me about how lucky we are; I have a great job, we have a roof over our heads, fresh food to put in our bellies, a dog that loves us unconditionally, etc, etc, etc...

We live in the land of plenty and as Americans we tend to waste and / or squander a lot of what we have. Here are a couple that I think about...

  • Food - I have always felt we probably throw out 20% of what we buy for food just because it spoils and that may be a low estimate; land of plenty again.
  • Livestock - raising livestock in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), dreadful places where the animals we eat are made to lie and sleep in their own waste, made to breathe the dust from that same waste, where ruminants (animals with digestive systems built to eat grasses and weeds) that cannot naturally sustain life on grains are fed nothing but grains and then pumped full of antibiotics so they don't get sick from this unnatural setting and diet which then end up in our bodies as we eat these animals that lived an unhappy, medicinal life. All to fatten them up and make them more marketable for humans.

So I've been thinking about these for some time, the first was the reason we began to try and live on a budget and be more mindful of the food we already have and try not to throw out nearly as much (or if at all possible, zero). To eat well, eat everything we buy and stay healthy. As I began this project now becoming more of a lifestyle, I began to read more and more about natural, whole foods and knowing already that one of the keys to living well on a budget was to stay away from processed foods, it made me feel more strongly about what we put in our mouths.

Anyone who knows me understands that food and drink are very, very important to me; more important even than my health as I've let food get in the way of that and now suffer from some chronic conditions because of it. In the past few months I've learned even more about food and the relationship we (I) have with it; some of that from the recent exercise in empathy that some of you no doubt followed as part of the United Way of King County's Hunger Awareness Week. I eat too much, I like the act of eating, I eat for pleasure, I treat food as my best friend, I eat to relieve stress, or because I'm bored, or tired, or cranky, or well anything else. I just eat.

Earlier in the year I read "In Defense of Food" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" both from Michael Pollan. Now that is when I decided that although we love beef around our house, we would no longer consume feedlot beef (read CAFOs above just to get a better idea of why). Now we still buy chicken and pork from the regular grocers (baby steps) but we do our best to at minimum buy those products from the Pacific Northwest ranchers. I'm certain that eventually we will move away from factory farms altogether and buy only pasture or range fed chicken and pork as well as beef but for now this works. These books not only made me more aware of the state of agriculture in our great country and how it has progressed to get to the place it is now from the smaller family farms of yesteryear but it put me on the path to try and walk the walk as well. We vote with our dollars and I want better food for my son and your kids as well. Better food = variety, color, vitamins, minerals, taste. aroma; "the whole enchilada" so to speak. On the cover of and a number of times inside "In Defense of Food" Mr. Pollan writes three easy to remember "rules" that could easily be adopted by nearly all of us -

  • "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" - seems pretty simple, pretty economical and pretty healthy huh?
  • "If your Grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, it probably isn't" - Grandma didn't have a lot of processed food to cook with. Processed foods are broken down into the individual nutrients and the reconstructed into "food products" and real nutrition doesn't work that way. Our bodies were meant to consume and utilize for fuel whole foods where the nutrients interact with one another to make a healthy whole food.
  • "Don't buy any food with more than 5 ingredients" - This also speaks to the matter of whole, natural foods as after the first 5 ingredients in most packaged food, the ingredients tend to be fillers, emulsifiers, preservatives, etc.

Anyway, a few months went by and I picked up a copy of "Food Matters" by Mark Bittman, a researcher, food writer, cookbook author and enthusiastic cook. He took the whole idea of better food, CAFOs, global warming (livestock raised for food contribute more pollution to our environment than all the cars, trucks, trains and any other fossil fuel burning vehicles combined), natural whole foods and health and wrapped it all up in this easy to read, fairly short tome that also includes quite a few recipes to get us started. Now Mr. Bittman does not propose a diet necessarily but he does tell how he lost 35 lbs in a few months, how his pre-diabetic conditions went away, how he began to feel better and save money all while lowering his personal impact on the health of the planet. His method? He essentially eats a vegan whole food, whole grain diet until 6pm and then eats whatever he wants after that. He also understands this won't work for everyone but what he touts is essentially the same thing that Michael Pollan mentioned in his "In Defense of Food"; eat less quantity but better quality. He quotes Michael Pollan a number of times in the book and also uses some of what appears to be the same research but he takes this all a step further than just the research and reporting of it to all of us - he puts it into practical practice. His idea is to eat less animal products but when you do, eat the best quality you can and his diet has become mostly plants. Sound familiar?

Now, I've gotten a bit windy and I hope I haven't lost any of you to my ramblings and more than anything I hope this does not come off as preachy. I find the whole thing interesting and am learning that I can still love food if it's healthy, whole, natural just as long as it's tasty. Below is a recipe that I've come to really quite enjoy these past couple of weeks; it's tasty, filling and satisfies me all the way until lunch each day:

Breakfast Bulgur

  • 2/3 C Steamed bulgur (I add a pinch of salt to the water when I stir in the bulgur)
  • 1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbl Shredded fine coconut
  • 1oz Chopped pecans
  • 1oz Dried fruit (so far I've used both pineapple and cranberries but will continue to experiment)
  • 1 tsp Walnut oil
  1. Mix it all together and serve at room temperature or slightly warmed
That's about it for tonight, off to make some pasta with fresh cheese, grilled chicken, mushrooms and asparagus.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Asparagus & Yet Another Use for My Cheese

Alright, you may be getting tired of my writing about my cheese already however I have 2 pounds of it that need to be used by the weekend so you're stuck with my using it every day for a few days.

Last night I mixed some of the cheese with olive oil, crushed red chili flakes, pinch of salt and again lots of fresh ground black pepper with some fresh garlic. Now I am not one to believe you can really overdo garlic in any way shape of form but I may have done it on this one as that's all I could taste afterwards last night. I topped homemade demi-baguette toasted with this mixture and then topped that with Mama Lil's Kickbutt peppers for dinner with 1/2 bottle of 2006 Broadley Estate Pinot Noir and I was fat & happy with that but as I said, I think I overdid the garlic a bit.

So I had some of the cheese mixture left over from last night and after tasting it thought the garlic was still quite prevalent but it had mellowed a bit (ever so slightly but mellowed nonetheless). It needed a strong flavor to accompany and what other thing am I writing about a lot this week? That's right, my favorite spring veg, asparagus!

I tossed some fresh asparagus with olive oil, salt & pepper. Tossed it on the grill for about 3 minutes on medium flame and then small dollops of the garlic cheese. MAGNIFIQUE! I would have taken a photo to share but it was dinner time and although it was most beautiful as the cheese softened over the piping hot asparagus with lovely grill marks I wasn't thinking of you my readers but me and my belly. I'm almost sorry I didn't wait, almost...


Monday, May 4, 2009

Bruschetta or What to Do With My Cheese

So here we are at the end of a dreary Monday. Sun was out for a wee bit in the Puget sound area this morning but it ended up gray and rainy by the time I got off the train to walk home.

I thought I'd show you a couple of the things I did with my new homemade farmer cheese the past couple of evenings.

Saturday, I mixed a bit of the cheese with some lemon juice, salt & lots of fresh cracked pepper and after spreading it on whole grain crostini, topped it with Mama Lil's Kickbutt Peppers. Yummy!

Sunday evening, after a long nap I steamed some fresh asparagus and topped some more of the cheese mixed with a pinch of salt, some lemon juice, fresh chives and again a lot of fresh cracked pepper & drizzled a little bit of the oil from Mama Lil's Kickbutts. I even broke into the cellar for a fine Broadly Pinot from Oregon. Although it was a school night, I felt the first asparagus of the season was somewhat celebration worthy so a not so budget bottle was in order, yes?
It's a bit late and I need to go find something to nosh with a bit more of this red tonight, perhaps some more cheese, more asparagus? Why not both?


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fresh Ricotta & the Farmers Market

So today I made cheese. Not the traditional ricotta cheese but more of a farmer cheese as it was not made from the whey leftover from making another kind of cheese but from whole milk & buttermilk. It's fresh, beautiful, creamy, tasty (still a bit flat as I haven't added any salt but will do so) and best of all I made it with my own mitts. I are a cheesemaker!

Whole Milk Ricotta
  • 1 Gallon Whole Milk
  • 1 Quart Buttermilk
  1. Mix both the above in a non-reactive pan such as stainless steel.
  2. Heat on high while occasionally skimming the bottom with a heat resistant rubber spatula
  3. Stop stirring when the curds start to form - the curds will start to separate @ about 150F
  4. Reduce heat to medium and bring to 180F
  5. Remove from the heat and let rest for at least 5 minutes
  6. Using a slotted spoon then a small strainer remove curds to damp muslin lined colander
  7. Gather the corners of the muslin and tie over a bowl to catch the whey
  8. Let hang for about 2 hours

Done! You can add salt now or as I will do it when you use it so as not to have the cheese "weep" any more of the whey.

Store in an airtight container but suggestions I read on the internet are to use anywhere before 5 to 7 days. I also read it makes great ravioli stuffing where the ravioli can be frozen and cooked straight from the freezer.
I saved the whey and used a bit of it for bread dough. I'll let you know how that one turned out with my next post.
In other news...
As I've posted before, the local farmer's market opened today and there was quite a crowd until most were chased away after about 3 hours when it started to rain in earnest. I was able to get local asparagus (As I try and eat locavoriously I have not purchased any yet this season and I am sooo excited!) and both baby leeks and organic bok choi for the sum of $9.00. Though not inexpensive I love the fact that it is all raised locally, organic when possible (but local is more important to me) and I can buy direct from farmers so I can put the $s back into their hands and support the little guy and not corporate farms wherever possible.
So far thee plans are to use these lovelies in the following dishes in the upcoming few days:
Bok choi -
  1. Stir-fried with sesame oil & seeds w/ soy sauce
  2. Added to Thai coconut chicken curry
Leeks -
  1. Added to steamed bulgur with scallions, soy sauce & sesame seeds for breakfast
  2. Sauteed in butter w/ lemon to sauce fresh steamed asparagus
Asparagus -
  1. Just wherever I want to have it. I will do my best to eat it about 4 days a week until the end of the season
In our garden -
Peas, radishes and lettuces are all coming up. I transplanted 6 new pineapple strawberry plants into a strawberry pot today (They look yummy, yellow and long berries; can't wait to try them) and a new artichoke plant as last year's died in the bad winter this year and I didn't mulch it.
Henry has planted carrots in 3 different sun exposures to try and "test" how they all do. I like that he is interested and curious enough to prepare such "experiments" to see how things grow.
So far we've been able to avoid any slug & snail attacks w/o the use of slug bait. I may set beer traps for them or put out copper tape and although I am not above the use of slug bait I want to wait until that is the only thing left in the arsenal.
That's about it for today and anyway the Sounders are about to kickoff against the Chicago Fire - GO SOUNDERS! so I'll be going now...

Friday, May 1, 2009

April Totals

We did OK for April. Here are our totals for groceries and booze -

Food - $187.90
Booze - $34.61

That end up being $6.26 per day for food at Casa Hunger. I'm embarking on a new eating plan that might save us even more during May but that will be discussed in future posts. Suffice it to say we're eating well, health is good (could be better so that's part of the new eating plan) and we came in under budget with minimal eating away from home (dining out). Even though we're not keeping track of that aspect we are still passing by most restaurant food and very nearly all fast food (I hanker for fish & chips now and again and Spud & Ivar's fit the bill on those hankerin' days w/o smelling up the house with fried fish aromas).

Still on track for the year so far...



So here we are in an exciting food month. One of my favorite holidays is nearly upon us with Cinco de Mayo where we can all celebrate the cuisine of our neighbors to the South. Here is Seattle we have a tremendous spot called La Carta Oaxaca that specializes in the food indigenous to the region of Oaxaca (funny huh?) and that means mole! Yummy! I also really like the tacos de chorizo available at the taco truck near work called Taco Gol; crunchy bits of spicy pork sausage wrapped in warm tortillas...bliss.

Also the Spring farmer's market opens tomorrow and as I've previously posted it makes me nearly tinkle in anticipation of being able to buy fresh, locally produced, straight from the farmer foods. oooooooooooooooooo...

Tasting weekends in both Walla Walla and the Willamette valley are in store for wine tourists, Spring and Summer beers are hitting the shelves locally, jugs of sun tea on mine and many neighbors porches... Is it too good to last?

I'm tucking into a bowl of bulgur with walnut oil, cinnamon, coconut and pecans this am and feeling like Spring may actually be upon us here in the PNW with sunny skies, a brisk morning outside, the lawn freshly mowed by Henry last night, the birds chirping and the weekend upon us in just a few short hours. Oh mama, life is bueno yes?

Just few ramblings for the am.