Archive for April 2010
Funny I should run across two recipes this week calling for salty, crumbly ricotta salata, that somewhat perplexing pressed, dried cousin of regular ricotta, which is made from cow or sheep’s milk’s whey.I’ve pitched up wedges of ricotta salata over the years but never really felt inspired to do much with it. On its own, it tends towards unpleasant chalkiness, with the faint smell of sweaty gym socks. I’ve crumbled it in salads and that’s about it.
So a small hunk of it sat in our cheese drawer for the past month and a half. I sprang for it (not an expensive cheese) at the Kiva Grocery Store while in Eugene. But that forgotten wedge came in handy when I chanced upon these two recipes: Kim Severson’s Kale (or rather Gourmet’s) and Ricotta Salata Salad and Honey Paprika Potatoes. I substituted mixed greens for the kale in the former recipe and some feta when the salata ran out for the later, but both were still good. Anywhere else you’ve seen ricotta salata turn up of late? Or other whey cheeses for that matter? I still don’t quite understand how cheese is made from this watery milk byproduct. I’ve also once tried this Norweigian Geitost brown whey cheese, which tastes marshmallow-y and too sweet.
What a pleasure to receive our first milk delivery today. Like canning and knitting and other homey rituals of yore, milk deliveries are making a comeback. I knew the South Mountain Creamery we used to patronize at Baltimore’s Waverly Farmers’ Market delivered, but we never took advantage of that service. And here in Oregon, we’ve usually purchase local Lochmead milk (until learning their plastic containers might contain BPA) and then increasingly Organic Valley. But who knew we had other options?
It turns out local organic Noris Dairy, in nearby Crabtree (Scio area) delivers to Corvallis once a week. Our friend Amy in Eugene had raved about their milk. I even got to sample some steamed in a frothy cappuccino she prepared for me. But it was only at the recent Chef’s Show-Off and Local Foods Fair Ten Rivers Food Web hosted at LBCC that I learned about the home-delivery service. At that event, Noris kindly plied us with samples of cream-top milk, chocolate milk, and several cheeses (the mozzarella was good: perfectly salted). Then I called in a delivery.
When I returned home from teaching today, there the insulated bag sat on the front stoop, full of non-homogenized milk, blocks of cheese and salted butter and a container of ricotta. It’s less processed, and I believe pasteurized at lower temperatures, than your standard bland supermarket milk. They ran out of the fruity yogurts I ordered, but Noris left an I.O.U. to redeem with our next order. The butter added a lovely touch to the local sea bass (not to be confused with the over-fished Chilean variety) I sauteed up with some maitake mushrooms and leeks for supper.
Hello again, dear readers. I’ve been blogging lots in my head these past few weeks, but somehow between mother-in-law and parents visits, teaching, and then this week traveling to Portland for the radio show and the Who’s Who of culinary conferences, actually writing up the posts got away from me. It’s hard to know where to begin again. So why not with slugs?
The slimy mollusks plague our gardens out here in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. Though primordial creatures have devoured new cilantro and artichoke starts I planted. They really bring out your violent carnivorous side. En route to the compost bin at night, I’ve taking to smooshing any ones I find. I delight in their death. I’ve tried scattering gumballs in the beds, set beer-traps just this week and today finally resorted to Sluggo. If only we had backyard chickens. They would make good use of the protein.
But I have no interest in eating slugs. Apparently, you can eat them, if you first boil away their slime and then remove their digestive gland and some internal protective shell. I think I’ll pass. They might be served at this upcoming wild-crafted Slow Food Corvallis dinner that for some reason didn’t quite appeal to me. Sure, I’m a hypocrite. I’ll eat garlicky escargot (not that I do frequently). But I won’t touched slugs. Other than those I inadvertently consume while eating organic cabbage and salad greens. Consider them lagniappe that come with your fresh farmers’ market produce here.
La Grande Dame of food writers MFK Fisher perfectly captures my sentiments in her essay “Fifty Million Snails” in her first book, Serve It Forth.
I have eaten several strange things since I was twelve, and I shall be glad to taste broiled locusts and swallow a live fish. But unless I change very much, I shall never be able to eat a slug. My stomach jumps alarmingly at the thought of it.
I have tried to be callous about slugs. I have tried to picture the beauty of their primeval movements before a fast camera, and I have forced myself to read in the Encyclopedia Britannica the harmless ingredients of their oozy bodies. Nothing helps. I have a horror, deep in my marrow, of everything about them. Slugs are awful, slugs are things from the edges of insanity, and I am afraid of slugs and all their attributes.
But I like snails. Most people like snails.”
Happily, I was hungry today when I landed on The Sausageterian blog, maintained by fellow FOODday contributor Sara Bir. An intriguing string of ingredients in her “Bulgur with Cabbage, Onions, Feta and Walnuts” inspired my own lunchtime concoction. I sauteed a spring green leek with a pat of butter, melted, and then added the remnants of my home-fermented pink (resulting from a blend of red and green cabbage) sauerkraut to the pan. Then I chopped up my last long-forgotten, almost dried apple texture, freckled Goldenrush (my last one!) and added it to the pan. Meanwhile, I poured boiling water over the 1/2 cup of bulgur I had to use up and simmered a cup of quinoa on the stove. When the veggies had sauteed about 10 minutes, I added them to the cooked grains. I served it with some crumbled ricotta salata and a drizzle of a fig-infused balsamic glaze from some fancy foods store. And dotted it with some diced green garlic on top. What a tangy, satisfying dish that will still be difficult to recreate. Dan thought for sure it had pork in it. That’s probably just because we associate sauerkraut and apples with bacon, as I’ve braised them together before. The chicken broth I simmered the quinoa in was the only meat product involved. Now a little browned lamb or pork sausage could be crumbled into this mix. That’s something I bet The Sausageterian would approve of.
I’m so grateful for the burst of feathery, licoricey, green tarragon that’s sprung up in the garden. But at the same time I regret pulling up the horseradish root I planted. I feared the thriving thing would take over the garden. But had I let it overwinter, I would have had fresh horseradish this week. It was in short supply at the farmer’s market and food co-op. Luckily, I obtained enough to blend up some with cooked beets, vinegar, salt and sugar to make some festive horseradish to go with my salmon gefilte fish. It was especially a hit at the eclectic seder Slow Food Corvallis leader Ann Shriver and ag economist Larry Lev hosted Friday night. Now I have to see about digging up some horseradish from someone. I think the solution is to grow it in a barrel container, as I plan to do with potatoes, so the invasive root doesn’t overtake your bed. Here’s a helpful article on growing and cooking with horseradish, by garden writer Anne Raver, who I believe is based in Maryland’s Carroll County, where I worked for The Sun. She recommends grinding the root outside to cut down on its pungent mustard oil fumes. It made Dan and I choke and tear up when I went at ours indoors.
But back to the tarragon. It reminded me of to make my mom’s recipe for tarragon chicken salad, which I brought to an Easter potluck we were invited to today. The recipe couldn’t be simpler: poach chicken breasts, chop up and combine with chopped tarragon, rehydrated golden raisins, sliced toasted almonds and moisten with mayonnaise. Season to taste. To lighten it up, I used Greek yogurt instead of all mayonnaise and added some of my home-infused tarragon vinegar for a kick. I’ve still got a lot of leftover infused herbal vinegar I made last spring. Perfect for salad season!