Friday, May 29, 2009

Homemade goat cheese

It's almost June and this is high-milk season.  Also considered the best milk because the animals are grazing on fast growing green grasses.  We got 1 1/2 gallons for our weekly share...way more than we can drink.  So I'm trying my hand at goat cheese with the simpliest recipe I could find online.  

Half gallon of milk heated to 185.  Let cool and then add 1 tblespoon of apple cider vinegar.  The milk very quickly breaks into curds and whey of Miss Muffett fame.  Strain the curds and gather into a ball to strain further in the fridge and voila...Goat cheese.  Don't throw out the whey though...this is gold in therapetic circles.  "The Whey Cure' seems to be anohter one of those all-purpose cures-what-ails you from believers. 

Now given what we pay for our goat share probably not any cost savings but ofcourse better because it doesn't have any funky stabilizers and whatever else thrown in :-)

Lovin' Lentil Soup

Russo's has this wonderful dish called Keofta that our 6 year old begs for. Really. Think lentils shaped like sausages. Turns out they are made at a Middle Eastern market in Belmont where we get a lot of our pantry supplies from. They graciously gave me the recipe and it's on my culinary to-try list.

Lentils are inexpensive, easy to find, easy to store and packed with nutrients.  Here's a basic spring lentil soup.

So with the left over fat from our lamb sausage from last nights dinner, I sauteed some onions and garlic. The trick to lentils is to soak them in water with a big spoonful of yogurt mixed in. This makes the lentils more digestible.  Add the soaked lentils and a couple of cups of homemade chicken broth to the onion mix and cook until the lentils are tender.  At the end I added some frozen chopped up spinach and left over fern heads. Just before serving  a spoonful of creme fraiche and pesto to each bowl. Chris loved it and Julia had thirds! The fern heads, however, not a big hit :-(

Cuisine de Misere. Take One: Garlic Soup

The French are famous for a lot of things but also notable for being frugal. In a French kitchen nothing goes to waste.  Maybe it's my New England upbringing or maybe it's because most of my adult life I've been on my own but this characteristic resonates with me, especially now.  I love the idea of not wasting anything.  And there has never been a better time to resurrect that French ancestral  cooking of hard times know as Cuisine de Misere.   The French, like the Italians and so many others, have suffered through periods of restrictions and want.  CdM elevates cooking into an art form of turning little or nothing into something a bit wonderful. Think Stone Soup and Loaves and Fishes for the home cook.

Today I'm making garlic soup.  Two large bulbs of garlic roasted with some onions carmelized in bacon fat from this morning's breakfast, chicken broth made from the bones of our store-bought broiled chicken, left over whipped cream from a family cookout this weekend [unthinkable but true] and grated cheese.   And a squeeze of lemon in each bowl.  Oh, left over greens from the Natick Farm from Tuesday for a salad and voila!  Dinner for way under $10. 

Garlic of course is good for just about anything.   Nature's panacea.  This recipe is good enough to serve for pleasure alone.

Loved by all especially the 6 year old.  Truth is, think Chris, being a guys's guy, would rather sink his teeth into some big-agra beef but lovingly applauds my efforts.  

Butter vs Books and the Google

Two culinary heros, Anthony Bourdain.. and Alice Waters, recently clashed in what became the 'books versus butter' discussion. Anthony, or Tony, as his peers call him, exploded over the costs of organic food and rightfully so. Alice, to her credit, countered with a lively discussion of upfront vs backend vs hidden vs true 'costs' of inexpensive food. I think Alice's idea to feed school children breakfast, lunch and dinner is a noble one and probably a very good one IF and only IF she is the designated cook. Otherwise you'll just end up with all the same old politics with nutritionist and dieticians serving the same old stuff. But I digress.

They both had their points but failed to see where they are in agreement. Literacy and good food work well together. Really well. Kids, and anyone for that matter, think and learn much better when well fed. It seems ridiculously self evident that good food optimizes learning and behavior. Having a 6 year old reminds me of this every day. It would be a whole lot easier to give her 'regular' food but we would pay for it in increased irritability, tantrums, meltdowns not to mention sick days and doctor visits. So imagine what a classroom of well-nourished children could look like and what that classroom looks like today in every classroom in the country.

This is one of the great lesssons from Google. When Google was just a struggling company of 50 or so people, they hired a chef. Not just any chef, but a whole-real-organic-food lovin' guy to feed everyone in the company for free!

Bottom line: Good food is good brain fuel.