Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tacos

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Tacos are a go-to meal in my house. Left-over meat, fresh avocado, onions, cilantro and a drizzle of hot sauce. That’s the quick part. I don’t like eating food that has preservatives and additives, so I tend to steer away from buying tortillas in the store. Making corn tortillas at home is pretty easy using instant masa and a tortilla press.  The most confounding part is trying to get the temperature of the pan just right so that the tortillas puff up while cooking. I haven’t mastered the trick. I find that some of my tortillas puff up, but most don’t. They all taste fine. They’re much more tender than tortillas from the grocery store. I always make a double recipe to have extras in the fridge.

For the very best tortillas, check out Baro in Fairfield. They make their own fresh masa from scratch. Yes, they soak the dry kernels in lime, and then they grind the kernels. Their tacos are outstanding.

Scrapple

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Scrapple’s a love it or hate it thing. I love it – but then my father’s family is from Philadelphia, and I have memories of waking to the smell of slices of it crisping in a cast iron pan. The peppery pork-and-cornmeal loaf gets brown and crisp outside and creamy inside. I recently returned from a trip to Philadelphia, where I was not so thrilled with a breakfast of deep-fried scrapple. It was crisp, but greasy. I think the best way to cook scrapple is in a hot cast iron pan. No additional oil needed. Wait until the slices are crisp brown on the bottom before flipping them. Don’t fuss with them. And watch out that the pieces don’t touch — because they’ll stick together and then your nice squares of scrapple get mangled. Scrapple is available frozen in grocery stores in Fairfield County. I’m intrigued by the idea of making it, with some good quality, pasture-raised pork. Marion Cunningham has a recipe in The Breakfast Book, made with bacon instead of pork parts.

Raising Pigs Right

Feed has been identified as a suspect in the epidemic diarrhea virus that’s killing industrial-farmed baby pigs. The feed? Pig blood. They’ve been feeding pig blood to piglets since the 1990s. It’s stomach-turning.
Compare that to this newletter I received from John Boy’s Farm about how he raises his pigs. It brought tears to my eyes.  John farms in New York State and brings his products to farmers markets in Mt. Kisco, and to the Farmers Table in New Canaan. Continue reading

Foraging for Dandelion Salad

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The first dandelion salad of the season! Picked from the pesticide-free backyard. If you revel in the fresh bitter flavor of this rite of spring, dress the leaves in a garlicy, lime vinaigrette made with good olive oil.  To mellow the bitterness, add diced avocado and red pepper and dress them in apple cider vinaigrette. It’s the healthiest thing you can eat today. (Dandelions are a very good source of dietary fiber and vitamins A and C.)

 

Cheesemaking 101

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Homemade aged whole milk ricotta

  The great thing about being a home cook is there’s always something new to learn. When my husband came home with raw milk, it inspired me to make cheese. I set out to make fresh cheese. Though ricotta is traditionally made from whey (the clear stuff that separates from the curds), making whole milk ricotta is one of the simplest ways for a beginner to learn about the steps of cheesemaking.
After the curds drained, however, I wasn’t thrilled by the bland white cheese. So I decided to age it. Ricotta salata is dry, salted ricotta. After molding and pressing the cheese to remove more moisture, I rubbed it with salt and placed it on a high, cool shelf in my drafty kitchen. I checked the cheese frequently, rubbing it with more salt.

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This was the first cheese I made. This is early on in the aging process.

At the end of a month or so, I ended up with a nice grating cheese. It had a pleasing texture, and round, rich, lactic flavors.
Making cheese at home reminded me that there is no great mystery to preserving milk into cheese, but it does require attention and patience. (And, as the books warn us, cleanliness.) The preciousness of homemade aged cheese made me realize why we’re willing to pay $26 a pound for raw-milk artisan cheese.

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A good book for beginners is “Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carroll. I picked this up at Maltose Express in Monroe, a wonderful shop for home fermenters of hops and grapes. The owners are Mark and Tess Szamatulski. They’re award-winning home brewers who know a ton about craft brews. (I’ve been in awe of Tess’s ability to describe flavors during Yankee Brew News Tasting Panels.)  Tess has made cheese too, and can offer tips. www.maltoseexpress.net

Who’s Hungry

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This sounds weird and interesting. “Who’s Hungry?” is an experimental table-top puppet theater play that weaves the real stories of five people in Santa Monica, California, who find they must choose between food and necessities. Angel tumbled into homelessness after a prominent career as an interior designer. Mike was evicted during a health crisis. Sharon stayed clean while working as an addiction recovery caseworker. All became hungry. The characters tell their stories through words, dance and music, and a range of puppetry styles. The audience are guests, viewing a banquet; the action takes place on a 24-foot dinner table. Each story has its own aesthetic treatment, and Delft china, Matchbox cars, televisions, rod puppets, Japanese Bunraku-inspired puppets are part of the visual feast.
Information from the press release:
Who’s Hungry is the brainchild of award-winning playwright, composer, choreographer and performer Dan Froot, an associate professor in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures / Dance. Working in close collaboration with Froot is Dan Hurlin, a nationally acclaimed puppet artist who designed and constructed the objects and sets, and directed the piece.
Performances will be Friday, April 4 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, April 5 at 3:00 pm in Sara Victoria Hall at the Silvermine Arts Center. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Reduced price tickets will be available for community partners. Tickets can be purchased online at www.silvermineart.org or by calling 203-966-9700 ext. 22.

Wasteful Fisheries

The by-catch numbers are staggering. According to a report by Oceana, a conservation group, U.S. Fisheries in California, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, dump more than half of what they pull up after dragging 160-foot wide nets across ocean floors, and baiting 50-mile long-lines with thousands of baited branches that catch tons more than the tuna and swordfish they want.
http://www.alternet.org/environment/9-most-wasteful-fisheries-us-revealed

For more information on eating the most sustainable fish, check out Monteray Acquarium’s Seafoodwatch.org.

www.seafoodwatch.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_gear.aspx

Best Pizza Stone

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Homemade pizza

We went through three pizza stones, those store-bought ceramic numbers, before finding an enduring solution. The ceramic ones cracked and broke. So, we went outside, found an unused granite paver and gave it a good scrubbing. It’s done us good for over 7 years now. Yes, it’s damn heavy. But it gets really hot and creates an excellent crust.

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pizza goes into the oven

Pizza stone

Baked pizza removed from the oven

My husband is the pizza maker in the family. He uses a slow-fermented flax seed-wheat dough. One of the best tips I’ve learned from him is about the toppings. Don’t put too much sauce and toppings on the pizza. They create moisture, and that can make the center of the crust soggy. It’s one of the things I notice when I eat pizza out. Whether the center of the crust is soggy. It’s about proportion.

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Cooking Sunday Brunch

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Start with potatoes.

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Add beaten eggs…and whatever you’ve got… leftover vegetables, fresh herbs, ham…… top with cheese and run under the broiler.

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Frittata (breakfast leftovers)

Got leftover mashed potatoes? Make potato pancakes.

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Add a poached egg and creamed spinach.

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Brunch is served.