Saturday, July 31, 2010

a daughter's request

The apple doesn’t seem to fall too far from the proverbial tree with regards to my daughter. I have to admit it gives me a certain pleasure when I see some of the similarities that we share. There are of course those characteristics that may not be so pleasing, and I find myself at those moments looking at my husband asking “what’s up with that?” He usually just smiles, and then I know. Ahh…yes, she gets’ that from me.

But for now, we will focus on the positive. My daughter who is getting ready to start her third year in college isn’t home quite as much anymore. But when she is and is needing to relax, she goes into the living room turns on the TV and finds one of the myriad of cooking shows that are saved on TIVO. Her favorite one is Barefoot Contessa. She loves Ina’s soothing voice, down to earth style and easy to follow recipes.

Recently she saw an episode in which Ina made a yogurt cheese and layered it with fruit and some additional flavors. It seemed so simple we didn’t even need to print up the recipe; we just decided to wing it.

In my version I made the yogurt cheese by draining a large container of plain yogurt in some cheese cloth that was folded over to make four layers.

I lined a strainer with the cheesecloth and set this over a bowl to let the liquid drain off overnight. In the morning there was about ½ cup of liquid in the bottom of the bowl and the yogurt was now much thicker in consistency. In Ina’s version she added some vanilla and a small amount of peach nectar. I decided to take the peach nectar (about 1 cup) and reduce it down in a saucepan until it was thick and syrupy, reduced to about ½ cup. Then adding the reduced peach nectar to the yogurt cheese until it was the consistency and flavor that I wanted.  I added almost the whole amount of reduced nectar to the yogurt. To serve, layer the yogurt with some sliced toasted almonds, some sliced peaches and fresh raspberries and you have a wonderful way to start your day!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

commander in cheese

Roquefort is renowned throughout the world as the “King of Cheeses”. It was named after a village in the south of France and is infamous for its pungent smell and characteristic blue veins of mold.

The story behind the origins of Roquefort blue cheese has been romanticized in an old legend. It begins with a young shepherd who was minding his flock of sheep in the hills of Roquefort when he suddenly sighted a beautiful maiden in the distance. Determined to find her he left his dog to guard the sheep and hastily placed his lunch-bread and ewe’s milk curds in the nearby caves to keep cool. The shepherd was away for days, looking for his maiden. Unfortunately, he never found her. The shepherd, dejected, returned to his sheep tired and hungry. When he took his lunch out of the caves, he found that the bread and milk curds were moldy. His hesitation was brief due to his hunger. With some trepidation, the shepherd took a bite and was pleasantly surprised to find that his moldy lunch tasted so good! Roquefort was born.

Whether this story is true or not, the fact remains that Roquefort is delicious. True, it is an acquired taste, and many are thrown off by its strong smell. But this is a pity, because Roquefort’s moist and creamy texture is a delectable experience not to be missed.

If you are on the fence about this cheese, why not give this recipe a try. It is the classic paring of a sweet tender pear with the salty pungent cheese. Put together in a pastry shell and filled with a simple mixture of cream and eggs. This lovely tart is a perfect lunch dish or served for a light dinner.


Pear and Roquefort Tart
Serves 6

1 recipe for pastry
6 oz. Roquefort
1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, and sliced into small dice
2 eggs
1 cup cream
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper

After preparing your pastry dough following the link above, place one round of the uncooked pastry dough into a 10” tart shell with removable bottom.

Scatter prepared pear onto the pasty shell evenly. Then using your fingers break off small chunks of the Roquefort cheese and place in between the pear pieces.

In a small bowl beat the eggs lightly, add the cream, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Mix together well. Pour mixture over the pears and cheese. Bake in a 425° preheated oven until set. About 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

preserving summer

If you’re anything like me, I find that sometimes the simplest things can be so satisfying. Whether it’s a perfectly pulled shot of espresso poured over a creamy frothed cup of milk in the morning. A handful of fresh fruit, bursting with juice and flavor that can only come after it has finished its course abiding on the vine. Or maybe it’s a crusty loaf of bread that has been doused in extra virgin olive oil and rich sweet balsamic. These are definitely some of my simple “food” pleasures.

With summer now in full swing, produce seems to be overflowing at the farm stands. Berries are plump, lettuces are lush and green and the root vegetables that are showing up are tender and sweet. But more than that, it’s the tomatoes that seem to grab me. As soon as I walk up to my local farm stand I can smell that earthy sweet fragrance that only comes from a freshly picked tomato. They are displayed on large rustic wood tables almost flaunting themselves; they seem to take center stage. Large beefsteak, heirloom varieties that hit a wide spectrum of color from golden yellow to dark purple, even some bright green “zebra” tomatoes boasting their white stripes.

One way to take a little bit of summer and stash it away for later in the year is to take some of those fresh off the vine tomatoes that are at the peak of the season and roast them for those times during the “tomato wilderness”- the long dark time between locally grown tomatoes. For roasting I prefer the smaller roma style tomatoes, their meaty, firm flesh are just right for roasting low and slow.

Simply rinse the ripe plum tomatoes and lay out on a clean kitchen towel. Slice lengthwise and lay in a single layer on ridged cookie sheets. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roast at 325° for about 1 ½ until the tomatoes have shriveled up a bit and are nicely caramelized. Once they come out of the oven drizzle with a little more olive oil and let cool. Once cool, put in freezer bags or other storage container with a bay leaf or two and seal tightly. These can be stored in the fridge for 1week or in the freezer up to a year.

These are a wonderful addition to sauces and stews, a topping for homemade pizza or even as a hors d’oeuvre served with some goat cheese on a toasted slice of baguette.



Friday, July 2, 2010

the journey

guilty pleasures.
and a love story.

These words could very well describe a new cinema production or be the “hook” on the back of a recently released novel on the shelves at the local bookstore. But in fact they are some of the titles and experiences I’ve had in my kitchen this past year.

This week marks the one year anniversay for the 5 foot gourmet. I’ve enjoyed this foray into the blogosphere. But probably even more, I’m pleased with what it has motivated me to do, with regards to cooking, recipe development, writing, photography and trying to figure out how to put an actual blog together (because I’m not very technical).

Looking back through the postings (all 92 of them) I saw that I tried some things that maybe, if I wasn’t blogging might just get put in the pile for “some day” or that I wouldn't have attempted at all.

I overcame my fear of the culinary torch, persevered in the making of quince paste and was determined (and probably a little insane) when I took on the challenge of National Blog Writing Month, posting everyday for the month of November.

Thankfully because there are so many wonderful resources available to us, I found inspiration on how to use passion fruit in cookies and a roulade.

I shared with you my obsession with squash blossoms

 confessed my compulsiveness at the farmer's market,

as well as a few guilty pleasures.

I invited you along on some field trips throughout the year, revealed things I’m thankful  for and even shared a love story.

This next year I’m hoping to explore some new methods of cooking and also to refine my skills in some of the classic techniques. I hope to synthesize the knowledge and proven wisdom from some of the great chefs past and present and hopefully apply it in a new way.

So I hope you’ll tag along on with me on this path…after all, it’s all about the journey.