Using Sour Milk

  • September 25, 2011 9:00 am

Another post from Glenny!

How often do you find milk going bad in your fridge?  For me, its often.  I love milk in my coffee, but I only ever use a splash.  Cereal?  I eat it occasionally, but certainly not enough to merit buying anything more than a quart.  Still, I’m always frustrated when I don’t have any in the apartment and have to dash out and hope for the best at my local market.  (I’ve been drinking Hudson Valley Fresh Whole Milk, and am often reluctant to buy other brands.)  So, I find souring milk all of the time.

The good news is that milk that is going off is still usable!  It has turned into buttermilk, which is a needed ingredient in all sorts of biscuits, breads, and other baked treats.  When you find milk that is past its expiration, don’t throw it out!  It’s time to bake!  Not that you should need an excuse.

My favorite recipe using buttermilk is the very simple, very rustic Irish Soda Bread.  Consisting of few ingredients, this bread is a breeze to make, and is ready for noshing within an hour.  No rising, no kneading, no yeast.  If served with an easy soup of fall vegetables, you’ll impress your very satisfied diners.  And, voila!  No more sour milk!

Full disclosure: this is not my Irish Soda Bread, but I wish it was.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

14 oz buttermilk (just under two cups)

Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Sieve the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in all of your milk.  Using your hand and a circular movement, gently mix the buttermilk into the dry ingredients.  The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.  When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.

Gently form the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches deep.  Cut a deep cross on the loaf and prick in the four corners (the Irish say it is to “let the fairies out”).  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 400 F for another 30 minutes until it is cooked through.  If you’re in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: when cooked it should sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

If you’re feeling ambitious, try adding new ingredients like raisins, dried cherries, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, chocolate chips, olives, etc. etc. etc.

Found at the Market: Long Beans

  • September 17, 2011 9:37 am

Alexandra is out of town this weekend, so she requested that I post something food related for the weekend.  I happily obliged, excited to share a new discovery from last weekend’s farmers market.  Long beans!  They look bizarrely like some kind of aquatic tentacle, only barely resembling their well-known cousin, the string bean.  Intrigued by their funny shape and deep color, I had to buy some.

And am very glad I did – high in all sorts of vitamins and nutrients, these beans can be prepared just like green beans.  Used mainly in Asian dishes, they have a subtle beany flavor and a satisfying crunch.  Wanting to cling to summer a little longer, I used them in a colorful salad, spiked with a lemon and dill vinaigrette.  When served with grilled chicken and roasted tomatoes, it made for a lovely late summer meal.

-Glenny

SO LONG SUMMER SALAD

long beans, corn, olives, lemon, dill

Vinaigrette
3 lemons, juice and zest
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp chopped red onion
1 heaping tbsp mustard
lots and lots of dill
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together.  I used my immersion blender for faster emulsification, but a whisk will do just fine.

Salad
long beans
green beans
corn
kalamata olives
cheese*

After blanching the beans and chopping them into bite-size pieces, combine with cooked corn, chopped olives and cheese.  *I wanted to use feta, but didn’t have any at home, so instead went for the nutty, butterscotchy Roomano, a super aged gouda.  It worked very nicely with the salty olives and the citrusy dressing.  Pour vinaigrette over and mix thoroughly.  Garnish with more dill.

What You Don’t Know: Fat

  • September 7, 2011 10:32 am

When you’re cooking with meat, do you try to use every last morsel?  If the answer is no, you’ll be surprised by the rewards.  I try to waste nothing, whether I’m cooking with vegetables, fruits, grains, or meat.  I should say especially meat. I never forget that something has died for my dinner. Every last bit of that needs to be used. When I discovered, while reporting The Butcher’s Guide To Well Raised-Meat, how many ways fat could be used, I was delighted to also discover how easy it is to render, store, and eat.  Basically I’m talking about potatoes roasted in bacon fat. If you haven’t tried it, do.

Here’s an excerpt from The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat on many other kinds of fats and how to best use them. Do you use any of these? How? Let me know in comments.

Part of the nose-to-tail butchering is coming up with uses for fat, which makes us roughly 15 percent of an animal’s body weight.  Over the years we have gotten pretty creative – we have made beef tallow citronella candles (short-lived – they smelled like a barbecue gone horribly wrong) as well as lovely smelling tallow-based soaps.  But mostly we just make our fat into chunks of tallow, blocks of lard, and tubs of duck fat for our customers to (hopefully) cook with.  Here’s the skinny on what’s what in the world of fats:

Caul Fat is the fatty lining of a pig’s stomach, which looks like a sheet of diaphanous webbing.  It is used to wrap lean meats while roasting; this technique is called barding, and it imparts moisture into the meat as the fat melts.

Duck Fat Is there anything better than duck fat?  Use it to panfry potatoes, like they do in French bistros, or confit a couple of duck legs.  Duck (and goose, too) fat is great, but often hard to come by.

Lard, or rendered pork fat, is nearly 100 percent fat, as opposed to butter, which is about 80 percent fat and 20 percent water.  Though animal fats have gotten a bad reputation as heart-stoppers and artery-cloggers, lard is still well loved among bakers and intrepid cooks who prize its ability to produce flaky crusts and silky sauces.  Lard has a high smoke point, making it exceptional for frying things like chicken.  It’s also healthier than manufactured hydrogenated  fats like most vegetable shortenings.

Leaf Lard is the dry, hard, crumbly fat cap that surrounds the kidney of the pig.  This fat contains the fewest impurities, making it the gold standard for baking.  Mix this with butter (a 1:1 butter-to-fat ratio is good) for the best pie crusts you have ever made.

Tallow is rendered beef, veal, or lamb fat.  It is used mainly commercially to make animal feed, soap, and cosmetics, or for cooking.  McDonald’s managed to piss off a lot of vegetarians a while back by cooking their fries in tallow without informing the public – no wonder they were so addictive after a long night of drinking.  We use lamb fat in our chicken sausages to get that rich, decadent taste that you just can’t get from plain old chicken.  And we also know hunters who add lamb fat to their venison burgers for a more fatty, luscious taste.

HOW TO RENDER FAT

It’s simple to make high-quality lard or tallow that can be used for baking, cooking, or soap making.  Fats should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will last for three months or can be frozen for a  year.  We like to cut our lard into manageable 1/2-pound chunks and freeze it – it defrosts quickly, and does not have to be defrosted in the refrigerator.

-Buy pork fat, beef suet, or lamb fat from your butcher shop or farmer.  Make sure the fat is fresh, clean smelling, and not slimy.  Whatever you render, count on getting a 75 percent return.

-Cut the fat into 1-inch squares and then finely dice it (we run ours through the meat grinder).

-Place the diced fat into a heavy-bottomed pan set over low heat.  Melt the fat, without stirring, until it is literally a pool of oil.  Alternatively, you can melt the fat in a Crock-Pot.

-Let the fat cool until it is still in liquid form but not hot.

-Strain the fat through a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer.

Labor Day Sauce Fest

  • September 4, 2011 9:20 pm

I’ve been trying to post recipes most weekends, but have been derailed lately. The weekend before hurricane Irene I was down on the Jersey shore with extended family. We had a blast smoking whole fish–even using pine branches from the yard–and I was eager to write up the recipe. Instead I evacuated the barrier island we were on, leaving the smoker behind.

This week’s recipe was almost derailed by Irene, too. My mother’s birthday falls every year on/around Labor Day weekend and we tend to spend it happily laboring over sauces that will sustain us through the winter–batches of pesto and jars of several types of tomato sauce. It’s a good (tipsy) time in her kitchen. The process helps ease the pain of summer ending, and I think of the silliness all fall/winter/spring long when we defrost the glass jars of sauce for meals.

But this year it was really hard to find a box of plum tomatoes; curiously the farm stands we normally rely on didn’t have any. The day before we wanted to make sauce I started to hear stories–mainly from my CSA farmer–that the FDA was saying no produce that had been under floodwaters was allowed to be sold. Irene hit the farmland in and around the Hudson Valley–where my mom has a house–hard. My CSA farmer had planned to harvest what she still could once the waters receded. But now that was no longer possible.

Knowing that Irene had ended the season for my CSA farmer of 11 years, I headed to the Saturday farmers’ market anxious–who would I see? Who would I not see? Would people be in similarly dire straights or did some survive intact? I was greeted with a better than anticipated market full of produce and farmers. I heard many stories, some of them devastating. And I loaded up on gorgeous produce, including a box of tomatoes.

Before lunch today we did the pesto process. Before dinner we did the two tomato sauces (one was carrot/onion/lovage, the other was basil/garlic). As I type, the freezer is full as can be. And so am I. It was a bittersweet moment in the kitchen–slightly less joyous than it normally is considering. But we were all glad to have it.

MY MOM’S PERFECT* PESTO (*UNBIASED! THIS IS A FACT!)

2 stuffed cups of washed basil leaves (preferably organic/local, don’t bother drying them)

3 heaping tablespoons pine nuts

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (depending on how salty you like it)

1 small garlic clove (go big if you like garlic)

1/3 cup olive oil (preferably organic/local though there is no local Hudson Valley olive oil)

Blend all of the above in a food processor. If not using right away, freeze as is. Defrost when ready to use.

Serve with 1 pound of pasta and tons of parmesan cheese. Tip: reserve some pasta cooking water to use as needed when mixing the pesto with the pasta.

Blurry Cellphone Shot Of Sorting Pine Nuts

Pesto Filled Freezer

Recipe: Blueberry Ice Cream!

  • August 20, 2011 10:42 am

Glenny here!  Alexandra has been on vacation all week (I’m VERY jealous), so this week’s Saturday post is directly from me.  I decided to post a recipe, so got to thinking about do-it-yourself projects.  And about the shorter days and how the cicadas’ chirping announces autumn.  Although summer is waning, we can’t fret yet: the temperatures still merit an icy treat for dessert.  I ADORE ice cream and frankly, I believe that it can be enjoyed all year long.  There are so many variations that you simply can never be bored.  I was delighted with my birthday present from my father last year (a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker), and have furiously been making concoctions ever since.  No more of that store-bought stuff for me, no siree.

Summer IS coming to an end, but its fruit is still going strong.  Here is a very easy and wonderful recipe for blueberry ice cream to celebrate the season.  (Many thanks to the NYTimes article last summer about egg-free ice creams.  It got me hooked on the lighter, more fruit-forward and refreshing version of a household favorite!).

Blueberries and Cream Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups blueberries

1/2 lemon

2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, as needed

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons vodka

1. Mash the blueberries with a fork or a potato masher until slightly chunky.  Try not to leave too many berries whole, when frozen they can be a little difficult to eat.  Drizzle with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

2. Bring cream and sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Taste berries and if too tart, add 2 extra tablespoons sugar to the cream.  Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved.  Transfer to a bowl and add salt and vodka.  Place in the refrigerator or an ice bath to chill.

3. When cold, pour into your ice cream machine.  Add your mashed blueberries and churn for about 15 minutes, or until starting to thicken.  Make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for your specific machine. Transfer to a container and freeze until solid, about 2 hours.   Let your ice cream sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.

This is the most simple form of this recipe, but try adding your own spin.  Perhaps a dash of cinnamon or a few sprigs of mint?  The more the you play, the happier you’ll be!


Recipe: DIY Yogurt

  • August 13, 2011 10:20 am

What is more fun than a new DIY project?  And what is more tasty with summer berries and homemade granola than your own yogurt?  It’s very easy to make, you need neither a yogurt-maker nor a special culture.  Although the final product might be a touch thinner than commercial yogurt, the satisfaction of making it yourself is totally rewarding.  Think beyond breakfast too – what about homemade smoothies or chilled cucumber yogurt soups?  Perfect summer fare! I also love love love that making your own means avoiding plastic containers–big or small. You can store yours in endlessly reusable glass jars if you please.

Here is a recipe from from Sally Fallon’s cookbook Nourishing Traditions she let me reprint in The Conscious Kitchen. Fallon is the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Makes 1 quart

1/2 cup good-quality commercial plain yogurt, or 1/2 cup yogurt from previous batch

1 quart pasteurized whole milk, nonhomogenized

a candy thermometer

Gently heat the milk to 180 F and allow to cool to about 110 F.  Stir in the yogurt, and pour the mixture into a shallow glass, enamel, or stainless steel container.  Cover the container and place in a warm oven (about 150 F, or a gas oven with a pilot light) overnight.  In the morning, transfer to the refrigerator.  Throughout the day, use a clean kitchen towel to mop up any whey that exudes from the yogurt.  Keeps for a couple of weeks.

*Note: Although Fallon recommends leaving the yogurt in a warm oven overnight, Glenny, my fantabulous editorial assistant, says you can also leave it covered in a warm corner of your apartment. I’ve never done that, but she has. She also says it will take longer to reach yogurt consistency, maybe two days, but will save on energy usage, especially in the heat of summer. Enjoy.

Recipe: Chilled Summer Squash Soup

  • July 24, 2011 9:41 am

Earlier this week I said I had reached the point in the summer where I had had enough summer squash and asked readers how they were cooking theirs. I got great responses. Here’s what Glenny Cameron, my editorial assistant, is doing with her haul.

—-

Summer squash has been in abundance this season, and I honestly cannot complain.  I find this vegetable to be super versatile, and it keeps well in the refrigerator.  I’ve been eating it roasted, shaved raw into salads, and sliced atop a garden pizza (AKA put whatever I have in the fridge on some pizza dough and call it a night –wonderful and easy).  When the heat took a turn for the bold this week, I began thinking about chilled soups.  I’m not a huge fan of cold soup, but on sweaty days like these, they are a welcome relief and don’t require turning on the oven.  Totally satisfying.  Here is a simple recipe for my summer squash soup.  (Don’t forget that you can play with the seasonings!  Use your favorite spices and herbs and make it your own.)

CUMIN SPIKED SUMMER SQUASH SOUP

3-4 medium assorted summer squash, diced

1 medium onion, chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper

4 cups vegetable broth (or water)

1 generous cup chopped cilantro (plus more for yogurt)

greek yogurt

1 lemon

Sautee garlic and onions in a large pot over medium heat.  Add salt, pepper and cumin and continue to cook until onions have softened and garlic is slightly brown.

Add diced squash and vegetable broth.  Make sure to add enough liquid to cover the squash.  Bring to boil.  Cook until squash is very tender (about 20 minutes).

Remove from heat and add cilantro.  Using a blender or an immersion blender, puree (carefully!) the soup until very smooth.  I added a little more water at this stage to reach my desired consistency – thick, but not dense.  Put in the fridge to chill.  (This will take a few hours, so plan ahead.  If you don’t have enough time, you can always put it in the freezer or in an ice bath.)

Meanwhile, mix greek yogurt with a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro and salt.

Squeeze a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice into your cold soup.  Taste and adjust the seasoning – chilled soups tend to need more salt and spice than hot ones, so keep that in mind when flavoring.  Serve with a dollop of the yogurt and more cilantro for garnish.

To make it a more substantial meal, I served mine with spicy shrimp and roasted tomatoes on skewers, but you could add anything.  Croutons?  Feta?  Corn salsa?  Keep experimenting and you’ll be surprised by how exciting summer squash can be!

–Glenny Cameron

Glenny's full spread, a simple summer meal.

Recipe: Lamb Meatballs

  • July 10, 2011 10:19 pm

Everyone has things they do and don’t love to eat. So I’m willing to admit lamb doesn’t do it for me. When writing The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat, Jessica Applestone raved about her lamb meatballs (lamb really does it for her) so much we decided to include the recipe (below) in the book. I knew I’d never make them myself, but was looking forward to at least trying them at some point. I got the chance a few weeks ago at an event for the book at The Brooklyn Kitchen. You know what? They were as delicious as Jess said they would be and I don’t even like lamb! Here’s how to make them:

Quick Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients
1     pound ground lamb shoulder
2     garlic cloves, minced
2     tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2     teaspoons harissa (may substitute a mixture of ground cumin, ground chile and smoked paprika)
1     teaspoon kosher salt
1/2   teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine lamb, garlic, cilantro, harissa, salt and pepper. Roll 1-tablespoon balls and place on a baking sheet. Heat ovenproof pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add meatballs and sear on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes total. Transfer to the oven and cook the meatballs for 4 to 6 minutes, until the insides are pink and the outsides are golden brown. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle yogurt sauce over the top.

Yogurt Sauce: Stir together 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or mint, 1 teaspoon harissa, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Happy Father’s Day: Make Dad The Perfect Steak

  • June 19, 2011 3:37 pm

This is Fleisher’s perfect steak recipe, directly from The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat. Make sure to cook well-raised meat only. You’re welcome!

Unless you pay close attention, grilling is perhaps the quickest way to ruin pastured beef.  It is always leaner than its conventional cousins, requiring a delicate balance of heat and timing, and a lot less latitude as far as cooking times go.  You can’t throw it on the grill and walk away.  Grilling may be sexy, but we beg, we plead, we cajole customers to follow our instructions: pan-sear and finish it in the oven.  Our favorite steak is a dry-aged top sirloin at least 1 1/2 inches think.  With a thinner steak, don’t transfer to the oven.

-Preheat the oven to 300 F

-Bring to room temperature, then salt each side of the steak and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cooking.

-Heat an ovenproof pan (French steel or cast iron is preferred) over high heat until it starts to smoke (oil is not necessary, but add a tablespoon of organic canola oil if you like).

-Sear the steak in the hot pan for 2 minutes per side.  (Never use a fork to turn the steak, use your fingers or tongs.)

-Put a splash of olive oil, a pat of butter, a dollop of bone marrow, or a mixture on top of the steak.

-Transfer the pan to the oven.

-Cook for 4 to 8 minutes to desired doneness (it depends on the steak, so go by internal temperature, not time – we recommend 120 F for a perfect medium-rare).

-Take pan out of the oven, place the steak on a cutting board, and let it rest for 5 minutes.

-Slice and serve.

Enjoy!

The Butcher’s Guide To Well-Raised Meat In The News

  • June 12, 2011 10:22 pm

Feeling grateful for all of the mentions of The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat in the news and on the web! Here are a few recent articles and posts:

Thanks The Denver Post for reprinting the Quick Lamb Meatballs recipe.

The Butcher Blog has a great write-up on their website, including this tidbit I love: ”It’s neither cookbook nor reference book nor memoir nor treatise, but the sum of all these things, making it much more.”

For more reviews, check out Bamboo Magazine, Errant Dreams (who gave the book a 5 out of 5!), Uncrate, and Urban Daddy.

Thank you, thank you!