Archive for the ‘author: Lenore’ Category

From a Seasonal Kitchen: Early December

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

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There are many ways to approach eating locally*, and this week we have a guest post from fellow Cheese Chick, Lenore. You may already be familiar with Lenore through her posts on home cheesemaking and other cheese-related adventures; the latest one was on Pumpkin Fondue. A New Hampshire native, Lenore now lives in the Seacoast with her husband, Mike, 2 small children, and one large dog. In addition to taking care of a 20 gallon fish tank, which Lenore says “…sounds easy, but actually takes more work than you realize!” Lenore also works as a dog trainer.

 

I love this idea — I think it’s perfect to show people how it’s done on many levels. By no means am I a true locavore, but it’s easy enough to make huge changes if you just take a second to think about it, right? I am game for anything! I learned how to cook just by trying anything and everything. Mike taught me how to best cook fish, I grew up making bread and baking, and everything else was just trial and error. I don’t mind a complex recipe as long as the result is something scrumptious!

 

As for style, we tend to eat light during the summer, using simple whole foods (grilling is definitely my weakness). I can’t tell you how many meals we have of just slicing up heirloom tomatoes from our garden, pairing it with our basil slivers, roasted garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and homemade mozzarella. We then add some cold, local chicken (or grilled if Mike’s around) and corn on the cob, and that’s our summer standby!

 

We eat a lot more meat during winter now, even though I was a vegetarian for 10 years. I came to grips with it during my first pregnancy when I just craved meat. Animal welfare is a huge part of it for me, so I stopped buying supermarket meat and I really research where my meat is coming from — if I can’t visit the farm, I don’t buy meat from it. During winter I also bake lots of bread and can get involved in more complex recipes.

 

We also love French cooking, which doesn’t have to be complex, but the flavors are heavenly! Many of my Provencal cookbooks match perfectly with NH’s summer cuisine. Of course, I also have to cook for 2 young children, so that’s a chore sometimes itself! I don’t cook separately for them, but I do keep in mind that they don’t like spicy foods, or foods that are hard to eat. They are always surprising me with what they WILL eat, like sushi and kale chips!

 

My menu for this week (it’s a pretty simple one because I’ve got 3 clients this week, in addition to gymnastics and Jump Rope Club meetings with the kids):

 

MONDAY: Peter Allen’s local chicken, roasted (because we miss having our own Thanksgiving-like leftovers to come home to!) with our own Desiree mashed potato stuffing (given to us by Audrey at Pickpocket Farm, from her Thanksgiving meal); and our own butternut squash with local maple syrup.

 

TUESDAY: Local cod (frozen from our CSF); our own twice-baked Green Mountain potatoes; leftover squash.

 

WEDNESDAY: “Polly’s Pumpkin Soup” (from Willow Pond website) made with Pickpocket Farm’s Fairytale pumpkin, Brookford Farm cream, and our own local chicken broth; homemade bread made with KAF bread flour and local wheat flour (from Peter Allen’s farm store this summer).

 

THURSDAY: Leftover chicken breast (with a Weight Watchers honey-pecan coating); our own sauteed swiss chard; and organic french fries for the kids:-)

 

FRIDAY: Whole wheat pasta with our own pesto; garlic bread with our own garlic and homemade French bread.

 

SATURDAY: 2 pizzas made with our own garlic scape pesto and tomato sauce; whatever leftover chicken we have frozen from the week; homemade mozzarella if I can get to it, otherwise we’ll use homemade chevre; our own kale chips.

 

SUN: Leftovers!

 

*Local foods are marked in bold to show what’s seasonal and how much we have available here. Thank-you, Lenore!

Cheese Chicks: Pumpkin Fondue!

Monday, November 29th, 2010

 This time of year brings with it one of my most loved vegetables:  winter squash.  It’s versatile, attractive, and quite delicious!  The variety I think is most versatile is the pumpkin.  I love most anything to do with pumpkins, be they in pie form, carving Jack O’Lanterns, used as decoration… they are beautiful and comforting and essentially usher in the last quarter of the year in one perfect package.

Last month, I headed out to Pickpocket Farm’s Harvest Potluck, bringing with me two Pumpkin Fondues.  Fondue is the perfect social food — everyone gathering around the pot (this pot is actually a baked pumpkin) dipping their fondue forks speared with pieces of baguette into a creamy, melty mess of comforting, warm cheese.  What could be better?  The pumpkins were met with rave reviews, and both were demolished fairly quickly.  One of the pumpkins was on center stage outside on that very cold day, and it stayed hot enough to keep the cheese melted until all of it was gone.  Perfect!

I made the fondue again for a group of friends helping us with our fall chores.  Once again, the pumpkin was hailed as “crazy good,” even by someone who hated fondue.  Enough said.

And now, some notes on the recipe before you actually make it.

The pumpkin you need for this recipe will be any edible variety, and small — we’re talking 4-5 lbs.  I prefer a nice round pumpkin rather than a tall, narrow one because it lets more people get into all that melty goodness at the same time, rather than making people politely wait their turn.  Fondue to me says “DIG IN!”

Garlic is an important part of this recipe.  I grow my own, and the past two years have produced an amazingly pungent garlic.  I am usually forced to reduce the amount called for in dishes that aren’t really cooking the garlic much, but for the fondue I went full strength.  It is much better to go overboard here than not use enough.  If you are using small-cloved supermarket garlic, I would even double the amount. 

fannymason_2041_182779.jpg    And now the cheese.  I typically use Boggy Meadow Farm’s Baby Swiss, which is nutty and melts beautifully.  Sometimes you can only find the smoked variety, so when that happens I use any type of Gruyere, or maybe a mix of Gruyere and Fontina.  You could also try Jarlsberg, if that’s all you have hanging out in your fridge.  The recipe also calls for mozzarella.  If you can make your own like I do, do it!  Fresh, homemade cheese makes an incredible fondue.  Even if your mozzarella comes out drier than you’d like, it’s still perfect for shredding and melting.

Finally, you should make your own bread crumbs.  The canned or bagged supermarket variety will not produce the consistency you need.  Slice up some homemade bread (the recipe calls for white, but I’ve used varieties of wheat with no problem), toast it and process it and within seconds you have exquisite bread crumbs.

FONDUE in a PUMPKIN

1 pumpkin (4-5 lbs), washed and dried

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced (double if using a supermarket variety)

6 oz. Baby Swiss cheese, shredded

2 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

4 slices white (or wheat) bread, toasted and crumbled

1 pint half-and-half

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (Have you ever grated nutmeg yourself?  Heavenly!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cut a 2-inch slice from top of pumpkin (make sure you’re not cutting straight up and down — you want the top to rest on the pumpkin, shelf-like, as it bakes) and reserve.  Remove seeds and fibers.  Blend oil and garlic and rub into interior of pumpkin.  Place pumpkin in a large roasting pan.

Gently combine the shredded cheeses.  Alternate layers of toast crumbs and cheese inside the pumpkin.  Combine half-and-half, salt, pepper and nutmeg and pour over the layers.  Replace top, making sure stem will fit into your oven.  If not, slice it off.  Bake pumpkin 2 hours, gently stirring contents after 1 1/2 hours.

sel-blog-photo-of-fondue-11-21-2010-6-01-31-pm.jpg    If you can, make your own baguettes to dip into your pumpkin pot.  If not, try to make whatever homemade bread you can, but keep it simple.  You will want to savor every bite of delectable cheese!  The surprise ending to this dish is to make sure your fork scrapes the side of the cooked pumpkin.  Filling your mouth with this mixture of bread, cheese and pumpkin makes for a truly perfect meal — because you will eat so much of it, you will not have room for anything else.  Happy melting!

Cheese Chicks: Ushering in the New Year with Yogurt Pie

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

This Cheese Chick enjoyed quite a few excesses this holiday season — there were pies to bake and eat, cookies to bake, decorate and eat, all those pounds of local ham leftovers to finish, to name just a few.  It seems fitting that we welcome the New Year with something simple:  Yogurt Pie.  I’m talking about the Yogurt Pie of Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook fame.  It’s a gloriously simple recipe which develops into a sinfully rich dessert, reminiscent of cheesecake but not quite as frightening to your heart and thighs.  If you own one of the original editions of Moosewood Cookbook, you will find that this recipe was then called “Yogurt-Cream Cheese Pie.”  I have a revised edition, copyright 1992, for which this recipe is now named “Yogurt Pie.”  The original pie version needed a large amount of cream cheese to keep the pie thick and together.  Katzen now uses yogurt cheese in place of the cream cheese, which lightens things up considerably!

Yogurt cheese might be the easiest cheese to make, which makes it a great first cheese for anyone to try.  You may use grocery store yogurt or homemade yogurt (we will blog about how to do this later on) — I have used both.  When I first made this back in the early ’90s, my favorite brand for yogurt cheese was Dannon’s nonfat plain yogurt.  Stonyfield Farm made a good pie as well, though the results were slightly more tangy and less sweet than a pie made with Dannon.  The texture with Dannon was a bit silkier as well, which is always pleasing on your tongue.

The pie I made recently used Brookford Farm’s lowfat yogurt, which is now available in both quart and gallon sizes.  It’s been quite a while since I made yogurt cheese and I’ve never made it with Brookford’s yogurt, so there was some experimentation going on.  Surprisingly, I ended up using almost the entire gallon of yogurt instead of the 2 1/2 quarts nonfat yogurt the recipe calls for. I’m here to share some tips as the result of these experiments which should make your own yogurt cheese experience as positive as possible.

How to make Yogurt Cheese for Yogurt Pie (or any other recipe you can dream up!):

  1. Choose your brand of yogurt, or make your own.  You will need a minimum of 2 1/2 quarts of whatever yogurt you choose.

  2. Next, get yourself some cheesecloth.  The size of your colander will determine how long to cut your cloth, if at all.  Katzen calls for 16″ of cheesecloth for a 12″ colander.  I’ll clarify that you will need enough to line your colander using 6 layers of cloth.  Using less will make you lose too much yogurt through uncovered seams, instead of just liquid.  Using more will allow you to have enough to fold over on top of the yogurt once it’s in your colander, and then a little more to tie it off.

  3. Next, find a place to put your cheesecloth-lined colander.  This is where the liquid will drain out, so you can use your sink, or put it in a large bowl on your counter if you need to use your sink while your yogurt drains.  Personally, I am a big fan of using the bathtub for hanging and draining cheese, so don’t be afraid to use yours!

  4. Place your yogurt on the cheesecloth then fold it over the top and tie the cloth.  You can use the corners of the cheesecloth and tie them together, or you can twist the cheesecloth around and secure it with a clothespin or baggie tie.  Whatever you do, you’ll need to make sure that the yogurt is securely encased within the cheesecloth, with no gaping seams for the yogurt to leach out from.

  5. Next, choose an item that will act as a weight to be placed on top of the yogurt, allowing its weight to press liquid out of the yogurt.  You can throw beans into a Ziplock bag, use frozen vegetables, or do what I do: put enough water in a Tupperware container roughly the size of your colander and seal it.  I think it allows the cheese to drain more evenly.  Whatever method you use, you’re looking for a 3 or 4 pound weight.

  6. Let the yogurt drain for roughly 6-8 hours.  The brand of yogurt you use, and its fat content will determine the exact amount of time.  With Brookford’s yogurt, I drained it overnight since I was short on time, which was roughly 10 hours.  The end result looked good, but the texture was a little too dry, so next time I will back off to 8 hours and see what I get.  This extra time is also what probably led me to have to use more yogurt than was called for, though I believe that 3 quarts is still closer to the amount I would use for Brookford’s yogurt.

  7. Don’t be afraid to check on the status of your yogurt cheese during the process.  Open up your tie and poke a finger in to see just how thick it’s getting.  The more liquid that drains out, the thicker (and drier) your pie will be.  The goal is to achieve a perfect balance of thickness while still maintaining a creamy, moist texture.  You can stop the process whenever you feel your yogurt cheese is “done.”  Ultimately, you should end up with about 5 cups of thick and creamy yogurt cheese!

The rest of Katzen’s ”Yogurt Pie” recipe goes like this:

Ingredients

  • One 9-inch, baked and cooled, graham cracker crust
  • 5 cups of yogurt cheese (this is approximate)
  • 5 Tablespoons of sugar (or more, to taste)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Katzen includes optional toppings like fresh berries (something juicy, like raspberries, on this pie are my favorite!), her Berry Pudding, and Berry Sauce.

Place the yogurt cheese in a medium-sized bowl with the sugar and vanilla, and beat lightly with a whisk until completely blended.

Spoon mixture into the prepared crust. Katzen offers the option of using any leftover crust mixture to sprinkle on top of the yogurt if you have made your own graham-cracker crust.  Cover lightly and chill.  Serve plain or with a topping.  

Enjoy — and if this was your first attempt at making any type of cheese, I hope you are hooked!

Cheese Chicks!

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Welcome to the first installment of “Cheese Chicks!”  The actual “cheese chicks” would be Debra (who already writes wonderful blogs here on how to cook all your fabulous, locally produced food) and myself, Lenore.  We are both home cheesemakers and want to share our experiences, experiments, and recipes with others who love cheese just as much as we do.  You don’t have to want to make cheese to enjoy our installments, but you do have to like eating cheese!  We will also be writing about local, fabulous cheese finds as we eat our way through the region.  Someone has to do it, so let us save you the calories!

Debra and I met several years ago during one of Northwest Earth Institute’s sustainability workshops, called “Menu For the Future.”  During the last session, the group comes together to celebrate the experience, and I decided my contribution would be a homemade mozzarella cheese braid.  Now, I knew that Debra was a professional chef, so I was pretty nervous about bringing food in, but it turns out that she, and the entire class, loved it!  I learned that she had tried cheesemaking as well, and so our friendship began.  We have since shared many cheese successes, failures, and discoveries and we even began teaching cheesemaking together through the Kittery and Exeter Adult Education programs.  The classes sell out, they’re a blast to teach, and we’ve loved watching our students see the “magic” of turning milk into cheese.  We hope our students, and you the public, enjoy the upcoming installments of “Cheese Chicks!” as we continue to learn and discover all that is cheese.