Sunday, September 25, 2011

Basil Harvest

We harvested our basil today, made a bunch of pesto. Post about pesto making coming soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sausage post on it's way...

As you can see, I've begun my adventures in homemade sausage. After a few botched attempts I broke down and purchased Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman. I enjoyed one of his other books (The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection) and I'd heard good things about this one. Needless to say, it's been fantastic so far. I'll have a full update soon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Headed to Michigan to learn to fly fish

We're off to Michigan this weekend to go camping and take some fly fishing lessons. Unfortunately that means no home cooked food adventures. Hopefully we'll have an opportunity to cook fresh caught trout over an open fire!

I'll have an update either sunday night or monday. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Drinking on an Airplane

Great article in Esquire about drinks on a plane. I agree with most of it.

via the german

Adventures in Cheese Making - Ricotta

I recently undertook what I thought was going to be one of the greatest culinary adventures of my life: Making Cheese.

As it turns out, it would have been quite an adventure if we hadn't decided to make the easiest cheese possible, ricotta. Here is the ingredient list:

1 Gallon of Whole Milk
1 Quart of Buttermilk

Mix well and heat slowly (to avoid scorching) to approximately 175 degrees. I used a digital thermometer. You'll notice as it gets close to this temperature the curds start separating from the whey. That honestly was the most exciting part. Remove from heat and let sit for ~5 mins. Separate the curds from the whey using a big slotted spoon (with small holes) into a colander lined with cheese cloth. Once you've got as many of the curds out as you can, let it drain for 10 mins. You can tie up the cheese cloth into a little bundle now, but be careful not to squeeze too much or your cheese will dry out, and trust me, you want it as smooth and creamy as you can get it. Let it drain for about 45 minutes hanging in the little bundle.

Congratulations, you have just made cheese! Kind of. As far as I can tell, real cheese makers don't consider this making cheese. But, impressive none the less. One thing to note; this produces a painfully small amount of ricotta, so be prepared.

I'm working on another post about how I used the ricotta, along with another culinary first for me (sausage), to make the most amazing lasagna ever.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Review on - Twisted Spoke

Pasta Fagioli and cooking dried cannelloni beans

A while back I decided that I wanted to make some sort of kale and white bean soup. I'm not sure what exactly prompted the desire, as it's 85 and humid here in Chicago, but I had the urge none the less. Being overly ambitious, I bought what must have been 4 lbs of dried cannelloni beans.

Back in my more pauperly days I had quite a bit of experience with cooking black beans for bean and rice burritos so I was confident in the procedure for dried beans. I put the beans in a pot with cold water to soak over night and within an hour they had doubled in size. I went to bed with the fear that I'd wake up with beans all over the floor and counter. Fortunately, the pot was able to contain them, but just barely. The following evening I was confronted with the task of cooking 7 liters of beans.

After some quick research on the internet, I decided that baking would yield the best results (as well as be an homage to my New England roots). When I bought the beans I amazingly had the foresight to pick up some smoked ham hocks to throw in with them. I roughly chopped some onion and peeled a few cloves of garlic. After a quick saute to soften them up a bit I tossed them in with the beans and pork along with some bay leaves and fresh cracked pepper. I had read somewhere that salt can mess with the consistency of the beans, so I left that out. Into the oven at 350 degrees for what must have been 3 hours and voila! I now had 2 gallons of perfectly cooked cannelloni beans.

The kale by this time was well past it's prime, so into the worm-farm it went (more on that later). What to do with the beans now? I had recently watched an episode of Masterchef where a contestant had been berated by Gordon Ramsey for making pasta fagioli with canned beans. Given that I had more home cooked beans than I could ever find a use for, it seemed like a perfect solution.

I like to use a number of different sources for reference when cooking a new dish to get a sense of the classic method of preparation and then take my favorite elements and make it my own. This dish definitely followed that course. I sauteed garlic, celery and a seeded red jalapeno in some olive oil. A couple of tablespoons of tomato paste (I prefer to buy it in the tube specifically for purposes like this) add a depth of flavor and help thicken the sauce. I follow Lidia's advice and saute the paste in olive oil whenever I add it to anything to cut the sharp flavor. I then added a can of diced tomatoes and seasoned with salt and pepper and waited for it to come together.

While I was making the sauce, I heated up a pot of water and cooked some campanelle, as I thought that they would be a good size pasta to go with the beans. By the way, I'm completely a convert to only using Barilla pasta, I never have any problems with it sticking and like the commercials say, it's always al dente. While the pasta was finishing, I added the beans to the sauce to warm them up.

I finished the dish with some chopped oregano, thyme and basil from our herb garden and topped with some freshly grated romano cheese. It turned out great, the beans were cooked well and the sauce had a nice subtle heat from the chili. The only down side is that I ate too much.

Any suggestions on how to make it better?