MacSal

I am a big fan of macaroni salad.  But I am particular – I don’t like it gloppy and overly mayo-d or sweet. And of course no one really needs a recipe for this iconic summer dish, just make it like your mother made it before you, right? Well, maybe I don’t need a ‘recipe’, but I do need some way to shake it up a bit, get away from the mayonnaise pickle relish rut. And finally I have found a recipe that works for me, which I am going to share now with you so you too can have life-changing MacSal any time you want.

The original recipe came from the NYT recipe section, which isn’t accessible without a subscription to that service, separate from the newspaper.  Luckily I had printed it out when it first appeared, and so we don’t have to suffer the frustration of trying to share it without being able to link to it.

Macaroni Salad with Lemon and Herbs:

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ⅔ cup minced bread-and-butter pickles
  • 2 large stalks celery, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill, plus small sprigs for garnish
  • ¼ cup drained jarred capers, chopped, plus 3 tablespoons caper brine
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest and 4 teaspoons juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optionalI didn’t use any)
  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni

Here’s what you do: the beauty of this recipe, to me, it that you pretty much do what you want to do.  The only important guideline is the use of equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk for the dressing: this is key.  But basically, the procedure is something like this:

  • Cook your pasta – I personally am a big fan of either cavatappi or even better, ditalini.  But elbows will do.
  • Mix together the buttermilk, mayo and mustard, lemon zest and juice.
  • To that, add everything else except the chopped herbs.
  • If you don’t have bread and butter pickles, obviously you can use any pickle you like – I’ve made it with cornichons as well as the b&b: both good.  Also, if you like pickles like I do, add more!
  • I’ve also substituted finely chopped red onion for the scallions, as much as I thought it needed.
  • As far as the herbs go, here’s where you can just do what you want to do.  Don’t have dill? Use cilantro.  Hate cilantro?  Use more parsley and maybe a little basil or tarragon.  Or equal parts parsley and tarragon.  Or all parsley.  Or, and this is where you can really go crazy – add shredded butter lettuce or chopped steamed spinach.  Add avocado – especially if you use cilantro as part of your herb mix.  Asparagus is great in it, and so would be fresh peas.  Monday I added steamed lambs quarter to it.  There’s no end to the madness!!  The only thing to consider is make sure the flavors you select go will together, that’s all that really matters.
  • And don’t let the measurements of the herbs threaten you – add as much as you want, I’d say up to a cup or two total, especially if you use any salad type greens.
  • Toss your selection of greens and vegetables with the cooked macaroni, then add the dressing.
  • Salt and pepper to season is your own preference.  (Don’t forget to salt your pasta water when you cook the macaroni!!)

It’s good right away and even better with an hour chill down in the fridge.

Bacon would be good…

Biscuits Lead to Shortcake

Of course this time of year – May, that warm, sunny month that welcomes summer, right? – biscuits are the gateway to Strawberry Shortcake.  Once you’ve got your biscuit thing down, you are on your way.

If your recipe calls for sugar, you are set.  If it doesn’t, add a tablespoon to sweeten up the biscuit for its dessert duty.  You can either pat your dough into one big cake:

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Or make your individual biscuits as usual.  We had planned to make a big cake, just for us! but common sense won out, so we made a big cake but cut wedges for each portion.  Either way, it is important, while the shortcakes are baking (if not before) to start your berries sugaring.  They need time to put off some syrup to juicy up those biscuits:

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These were the best strawberries we’ve had in a long time.  Probably since last May, at least.  They were offered as “seconds”, for 1.25 less a quart than the “firsts”.  Who cares if they are lumpy and misshapen?  You’re just going to cut them up anyway!  I’m not going to tell you where we get them, because they regularly sell out and I want at least two more quarts before this already short season ends all too soon.

The process for putting your strawberry shortcakes together is a simple one, but important steps must be followed.  You must split the biscuit(s) and spread them with soft butter.  Then, either heat them up in the oven, or place them on a griddle, butter side down, and toast them until they are golden brown and warmed through.

Place the bottom biscuit half in a generous plate or shallow soup bowl, for maximum efficiency.  Spoon a bunch of sugared berries on top, place the top of the biscuit on the berries and ladle the rest of the strawberries and all of the juice over that.  Lastly, a mound of freshly whipped cream, very lightly sweetened, over all.  (Lewes Dairy makes the best cream for this purpose, hands down.)  Finally, dig in.

I recommend having this for supper at least once during the season.  Not for dessert after supper: For. Supper.  Life is short!

 

 

Biscuit Mania

Since the ShuTDowN, we have been enjoying Sunday Cocktail and Appetizer Hour with our neighbors, who also happen to be my brother and his wife.  We gather (safely distanced) in our respective yards, maybe with a fire going, maybe not, to drink wine and have an appetizer together, before departing back home for dinner.   (Sometimes dinner doesn’t happen but we plan for it anyway.)  My sister-in-law is a very good cook, who likes to try new recipes, so having a Chef for a guest gives her quite an opportunity to experiment.  She knows Kevin will try anything!

A couple of weeks ago she really raised the bar with a perfect campside snack of pizza dough mini-pies filled with hot dog, various condiments and tons of deliciousness.  With that effort the bar was raised considerably, and Kevin was on the defensive.  Then, last week, the bar went even higher as she threw down the biscuit gauntlet, serving us some of the flakiest little cocktail biscuits we’ve ever had, stuffed with ham salad.  Oh my.  It was all I could do to stop at two.

We were haunted by those biscuits.  We had to attempt to make some for ourselves.

I tried twice, with 2 different recipes and methods.  First, Monday night.  The Joy of Cooking classic biscuit recipe calls for working the fat into the flour in the same way you make pie dough, creating  dough-y clumps, which, upon the addition of the milk or buttermilk, come into a mass of dough with a little kneading at the end.  I used lard, which I love for the flavor.  Success was mixed – I think I overworked the (soft) lard into the dry ingredients, and then compounded the problem by rolling them out too thin.  Some people don’t even want you to roll out the dough, just pat it out, for that very reason.  Here’s the look:

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You can see they are kind of flat, not flaky.  Flavor wise they were fine, if a little “gummy”, maybe from less than desirable cooking time.  Anyway, we’re going to try again.

Tuesday night – a new recipe from a cooking magazine.  This recipe calls for grating frozen butter into your dry ingredients, tossing it together with a fork and then adding the milk/buttermilk.  I got worn out grating the butter after just a few ounces, so Kevin had to take over that chore.  Everything else remained the same, except I patted the dough out instead of using a rolling pin.  Also, you may notice our biscuits are square – that’s because we cut them with a knife into blocks, rather than cut them in rounds with a biscuit cutter.  Because, no matter what they say, re-rolled dough is never as tender as the original.  Cutting them eliminates the leftover pieces and you can get some weird shapes to boot – like the “boats” below – if your “rectangle” is a little “rounded” on the edges:

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A little taller and seemingly flakier, but in the taste test, they were still a tad underwhelming, a little of that “gummy” texture again.  Still not competitively flaky in texture.  We had to eat two each to figure that out.

So, the scale is not too friendly after two biscuit laden meals in a row – biscuits and butter! – so we skipped Wednesday for trials and went back to it on Thursday.  This time Kevin got into the act and went through his method of biscuit making, using the same magazine recipe for proportions of ingredients:

(FYI – click on the first image to start a slideshow of events, if you’d like.)

The only ding is that they are kind of unevenly shaped.  Chef  says the reason they are sort of rounded on one end is he should have brushed the flour off  before folding so the ends would have risen more evenly.  Flavor – check plus.  Texture – check plus.  Ease of production – well, maybe a little more complicated, but not terrible.

Next time, we are adding a little extra sugar to the recipe and having ourselves some strawberry shortcake for our biscuit dinner!!

 

Ricotta Cheese

In these days of panic buying and hoarding, you’ve got to wonder what are people doing with all that chicken, not to mention toilet paper.  And of course, my big question is, where are all the chicken wings?  Every restaurant in the country had chicken wings on their menu, so shouldn’t there have been a glut in the grocery store by now?

We had an excess of milk.  Not hoarding or panic buying by any means, just bought a gallon of whole milk last week when a half would probably have been enough.  So, with half of it still sitting in the walk-in, and the expiration date being the 28th of April, what should we do?  At first we thought to freeze it to use in soups and such later, but then we read about making ricotta cheese!

There seems to be thousands of recipes for making your own ricotta, with three things being constant: whole milk, salt and some kind of acid.  We went with a version from the website “Master Class“, with, of course, a few tweaks from our in-house Chef, our very own Master.  This recipe calls for citric acid, instead of the more traditional vinegar or lemon juice, with the latter being an option they include as well.

It was not hard.  You heat the milk to about 180 degrees, some say higher, none say lower, add the acid, stir as it “curdles”, strain it through cheesecloth, let it drain and voila, fresh ricotta cheese!  The MC recipe adds a little heavy cream to the finished product, which makes (obviously) a creamier result. Other recipes mix milk and cream together in the beginning of the process.  That’s what I would do next time.

We had some commercial ricotta, so we tried the two side-by-side, and it was interesting how different they were.  The Bel Gioioso had a more ‘cheese’ flavor, while our homemade version tasted ‘milkier’, most likely due to the after-addition of heavy cream.  Textures were very similar, both creamy and spreadable.  Of course there is also economics to consider – our half gallon of milk plus about half cup of cream yielded 1 pint of cheese, which isn’t too bad, considering that #1 the milk was not going to last much longer, and #2 you got some delicious, freshly made cheese. The left over whey is not thrown out either; you can use it in soups, breads, pancakes, even potatoes, as a replacement for water in your recipe.

It was ridiculously easy, and we were so glad we didn’t lose the milk!  Spread on a crouton with a little sea salt and black pepper, very happy we didn’t lose the milk!

 

 

 

 

Who Knew?

When we realized in March that we would most likely not be able to honor our dinner events for the foreseeable future – basically the lifeblood of our business – we were pretty concerned about what that would mean for our bottom line.  We figured, well, we’ll set up a Market Menu – the Market being the lackluster little sister to the Dinners – that might appeal to the stay-at-home nature of life at the moment, not to mention the lack of restaurants to go to.  Kevin has the skills to make restaurant quality meals that our customers could easily reheat or finish in the oven at home.  The first week, after reopening the first of April, we sold out of practically everything on the menu. Well, we thought, we’ve been closed for a month, there’s some pent up demand.  The second week of the same response, we thought, well, it’s Easter, people want something special.  The third week, the same fantastic response.  It is just wonderful.  We thank you.

Kevin starts planning the menu on Saturday, starts ordering on Monday and starts cooking on Tuesday.  He might be putting in the hours, but in some ways he finds this less work than doing the dinners. And of course right now he doesn’t have to work on Friday or Saturday nights.  But also I guess it’s sort of the theory that if you’re going to make two you might as well make two dozen?   So more “bulk” cooking.  At this point, I think it would be fair to say we are transitioning okay in this new economy, with sort of a flip in the business model holding us up.  Something else to be grateful for these days.

Who knew?

The HighLight of meals at home this week was pizza on Saturday night.  In the past, we’ve rigged up a pizza “oven” in the fire pit, using old kiln shelves.  However, those fragile things did not last long, so it’s been awhile since we’ve had Pizza Night.  But the desire is still there, so, on Saturday, we tried it in the Big Green Egg.  Big Success!

This next topic has nothing to do with food or cooking but concerns personal hygiene, an equally hot topic in this pandemic era.  Now is the time to conduct an experiment on your hair. Stop washing your hair.  Stop using shampoo and conditioner.  I am telling you, I have not washed my hair in almost one year.  Definitely 10 months for sure.  No shampoo, no conditioner.  Just a hot water rinse in the shower a couple times a week.  If you are going to be shut in the house for a few more weeks, give it a try.  As they say, what have you got to lose?  Save money on shampoo; stop putting chemicals down the drain into the aquifer.  Here’s what my hair looks like:

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Of course, I’ve never been real fussy about my hair – long or short, that was about the level of my decisions.  Gray is gray.  But does that look like hair that hasn’t seen a lick of shampoo in over 10 months??  I can honestly say, it has never felt healthier.  It’s amazing.

Another who knew!

Wine has also been going out our door since the ShutDown began, which is also very  helpful.  Rosé season is beginning and again I am on a quest to try to stock a variety of styles.  It always seems like, at the end of the day, all of our rosés taste the same.   Part of the problem is our wine program tries to focus on “value” wines, and some of the more full-bodied rosés, like Tavels, are on the pricier side.  That being said, even if many rosés are light in body and pale in color, they have some amazingly different flavor profiles.  We tasted two this week – the Klinker Brick from California, and a German pinot noir rosé from Villa Wolf.  Both very light in color, but both full of fruit flavor.  The Klinker Brick was peach! and strawberry!  while the Wolf was sour cherry, with some kind of candy sweet flavor in the opening taste that became tart sweet in the next second.  Both really good, both what we want in a rosé.  As more of the 2019 vintages are released, we will continue to serve our customers by tasting as many as we can in order to have a mixed bag of choices for pink this summer.  It’s the least we can do.

A final note: we are so very appreciative of the support from our customers and their diligence at keeping us safe.  It is what is going to get us through this Global Crisis, and just one more thing that makes life in Kent County so special.  We are very happy to live here.

And, have you noticed, you don’t hear that steady hum of traffic anymore, coming from 301?  It’s back to being as quiet as it was when we were kids.  Of course, we do sort of want to hear that traffic sound, because that would be a sign of things being back to “normal”…

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Comegys Road

 

Weekly UpDate

We had a discussion about the masks.  The Governor’s mandate advises customers and employees to wear masks in public and frankly, I was a little bit conflicted.  I understand the mentality behind it, 100%, but I wasn’t sure how our customers would react, seeing us in masks in our own place of business.  I didn’t want them to think we were not doing every thing we could to keep them safe – all the sanitizing, the safe distance apart, the PL pick-ups, the reader velcroed to the tile – which wearing a mask might negate.  But finally a customer knocked some sense into me.  He said “I am wearing a mask to keep you safe.  You wear one to keep me safe.”

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Kevin’s been wearing a face covering for awhile now, to every trip to the grocery store, to Sudlersville Meat Locker, to the hardware store.  I haven’t been wearing a mask because I haven’t been going anywhere, except work.  But I had the wherewithal – a balaclava – so that is the plan going forward: we will greet you in your mask wearing ours.  It’s another new normal.

Food, of course, has been front and center in our small little world, as usual.  A little less cooking at home this week, because Kevin has been in the Kitchen at the Market 3 nights out of 5.  And when I am left to my own devices, there is very little cooking going on.  However, Saturday night was a celebration of the end of week 2 of Business-Not-As-Usual, and dinner was the event.  In the BeforeTimes, martini night was on Sunday, since that was our day off.  Now, however, since we are not working on Saturday night so much, that has become the new Martini Night.  And in case you are wondering: gin, sometimes up, sometimes on the rocks, 3:1 with a twist.  And generally shaken when it’s up.

BTW, I just finished my portion of said chicken a few minutes ago…

Spinach was a focus this week, along with Godfrey’s asparagus.  Owings and Sons gives Kevin a run of the spinach field – I guess they figure how much damage can one man and a pair of scissors do to acres and acres of spinach? – and he came home with supper: a recreation of one of my favorite meals from Luisa’s – pasta with spinach in a creamy sauce.  It was almost as good as Vinny and Mimmo make.

((I suppose it is a bit contradictory that while we are being so wonderfully supported by our customers ordering carry-out food, we have not done the same for our fellow members of the local Hospitality Industry.  Part of the reason, of course, is that we have an in-house chef.  A large part, I suppose.  But also, for us, going out to a restaurant was (is!) more about eating out as it was/is just simply being out.  We like sitting at the bar, chatting with the tender, chatting with the regulars, chatting with the boss, relaxing with some wine and oh, yeah, dinner too!  The social aspect of it was almost more important than the eating part.  So, since we can’t sit at any bars and talk with anyone, we have not done our share in supporting those who are doing everything they can do to keep their businesses afloat.  We are lucky, we know that, and we will do everything we can to support them when there is some modicum of normalcy again.))

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Lunch on Tuesday was an open faced spinach sandwich, which was the inspiration for the sandwich on this week’s Market Menu.

Spinach lasagna was a huge sell-out, with nary a scrap left over for the Chef and his dishwasher.  The same could be said for the sandwich, pictured before its layer of cheese on top.  I did get some of the asparagus soup.  And a tiny taste of the chocolate cheesecake.  However, don’t go feeling all sorry for me, heck, here’s what dinner was like last night:

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I’m sitting there at the counter, drinking wine, while dinner is plated.  The results?  Homemade gorditas, stuffed with spinach and cheese, served with refried beans (my job!), avocado, cilantro (still cutting from overwintered crop in the garden) and pickled onion.  The kitchen might have been in a bit of a mess when all was ready, but, small price to pay.

This crazy, crazy time is probably only going to get crazier.  We are completely aware of how fortunate we are, in the midst of everything that is going on all around the world.  We have our jobs, we have our home, we have our health.  And we have our little dog – Joey – who constantly reminds us that life goes on.  She is a survivor, and manages to not only give us great comfort but a lot of laughs too.  There is nothing better that watching a dog race around the yard, chasing a toy, barking with glee.  If that doesn’t make you laugh, nothing will.  She has three sets of toys, which change up every now and then, with the one set getting washed while the “new” set gets doled out as warranted.  Supposedly this keeps her from getting bored with the toys, and it seems to work.  Her most recent set of cleaned toys sat on the dining room table for a few days, just because they alone brought a smile.

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Spring is going to come eventually.  Nature doesn’t know about the pandemic.  Turkeys are calling, osprey are nesting, turtles are crossing the road.   Maybe a walk out to Sassafras Wildlife Area will be in the cards this weekend.  Or a bike ride around the farms of Kennedyville.  Whatever road you travel, make it a good one.  And perhaps dinner will be your reward.  It’s the little things that count, right?

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Has Anyone Worried About the Covid-15?

Remember the “Freshman 15”?  I don’t know about any of you, but I was a victim of that experience, back in 1973.  And I think it took about 40 years to lose it.  With all of this eating at home and not working on Friday and Saturday nights like we were doing back in the olden days, ie. two months ago, I am watching the scale carefully.  So far so okay, but I am glad I don’t have my normal stash of candy in the usual hidden locations right now…although I sorely want some!

Kevin has been working very hard in the Market since we re-opened on April 2.  He’s probably been cooking just as much as ever, staying here pretty late on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, to be ready when the Market opens on Thursdays.  The Menu email goes out on Tuesday and this week the orders started coming in within minutes of the email going out.  Two cases of chickens – gone.  38 crabcakes.  Over 4 dozen orders for the vegetable gratin.  25 requests for the lamb medallions. Two chocolate cakes.  He’s been a very busy chef and still manages to cook dinner for us, when he is there to eat it anyway.  I have been helping with the dishes at least…

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I did manage to make a Caesar salad the other night, which was fortified with our last ripe avocado, some roasted poblano peppers, pickled onions and sided with some cheese filled gorditos.  You can tell that I made the salad by the fact that the avocados are cut so raggedly – they would have been much more uniform and laid out much prettier if the Chef had performed that duty.  What can I say?

Last night it was risotto (again), with clams this time.  The picture doesn’t do it justice.  Tonight is Saturday night, we’re off (again) and the plan is to have an all-day fire on the patio and build up some nice coals for roasting a chicken.  And maybe eat this:

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Ha!  the first stalk from one of our two “wild” beds.  However, I understand that Godfrey’s is cutting asparagus now, and offering “curbside” pickup, if you prefer, as well as being open at the stand.  Nothing says Spring like asparagus, in my mind, and nothing says asparagus like Godfrey’s, since my big bed is over and done with this year.

This situation with the Chestertown Farmer’s Market is an ongoing controversy.  Apparently the switch in locations – from Fountain Park to Wilmer – will not meet the Health Department’s requirement that Vendors space their stalls 30 yards apart.  Some of the Farmers have set up stands on their own property – like Coops and Crops outside of Kennedyville – or are bringing their products to the Guernsey Depot on High Street in Chestertown.  But I imagine there are some crops that are not being brought anywhere, and that is a sad state of affairs for the Farmer and the Consumer.  I’m sure the Farm Market Committee will figure it out, maybe just say heck with being the “Chestertown Farmers Market” for now and become the “Kent County Farmers Market” and set up shop in the Parking Lot at the High School in Worton.  If there isn’t plenty of room there for vendors to maintain their distance, then there isn’t enough room  anywhere.  And the customer can just stay in their car, drive from vendor to vendor and have “curbside” service.

Everyone is learning as they go.  I know we are.  And I have a feeling some of this “new” normal will become normal eventually.  For instance, washing your hands. Of course everyone has always known how important it is to wash their hands – you see it posted in every public restroom in the country – but did we all do it after every trip to the grocery or hardware store, as a matter of course?  Maybe there will be fewer colds, let alone pandemics.  I don’t want to give up hugging or even handshakes, so cleaner hands would help there too, no?  I’m not sure I’ll get used to the masks, but wearing one in public if you have a cold, maybe that would be a good idea in the days to come?

Many, many things are being shaken up, besides public health issues, and we all are going to have a lot to grapple with in the weeks and months ahead.  A lot of suffering going on.  We are very lucky so far.  If my biggest problem, when this is all over, is that I’ll have to go on a diet, well, that will be just fine.

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Starter

There have been some serious glitches in the supply chain, as we all know, leading to toilet paper hoarding and hand sanitizer evaporation.  Grocery store shelves have been eerily empty of paper goods and poultry, canned soup and flour.  It seems to be easing somewhat – and man, isn’t there going to be a big sale on chicken wings soon, now that every sports bar is closed? – but yeast is one of those things still missing lately (although Food Lion had some yesterday…).  Very frustrating if you are craving a fit of dough kneading to vent all the frustration due to it all.  Well, just make yourself some starter!

Here are some pro tips on making a starter and keeping it alive from Chef Kevin and from Nancy Silverton of La Brea bakery:

  • Start with a very clean environment – bowls, gallon container, measuring equipment, hands etc.
  • Get comfortable with weights in grams
  • Get an organic apple from the market or one you find in that abandoned orchard and cut thick peels from it
  • Or use organic grapes (unwashed) about 1 pound
  • Put these peels (or grapes) in a net bag or cheese cloth
  • Make a slurry of flour and water – equal parts by weight (this is key) – with the water being slightly warm, about 78 degrees
  • Put the net bag of fruit peelings or grapes into the slurry and leave it out at room temperature, squeezing the bag to crush the fruit a bit, pushing it to the bottom of your container
  • Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap
  • Leave at room temperature – 70 to 75 degrees
  • Keep your eye on it for signs of fermentation – should happen in two or three days
  • On day three the batter should look foamy, with frothy bubbles
  • Open your container and smell it – it should smell fruity and yeasty
  • Cover back up and continue to Feeding
  • Feed the culture with about 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water (again equal parts by weight), mixing it in with your hands or a rubber spatula
  • Swish the bag of fruit around a bit but leave it in
  • Now just wait as the culture turns to starter
  • If mold appears, remove it promptly and add another 100 grams of flour and water as before
  • Soon the smell, which may have become a bit unpleasant after the 3rd day, should be more agreeably yeasty
  • Around day 10, remove the fruit (squeezing any juice into the culture) and begin the permanent feeding schedule
  • Stir the contents well
  • Pour off all but about 100 grams.  You can discard this culture, give it away or save it in the fridge or freezer in case your remaining starter dies
  • Transfer the remaining culture to a clean, seal-able but not airtight container (airtight might result in pop! goes the lid!)
  • For the next five days, to build up the bacteria and yeasts, feed the starter a few times a day, adding flour and water equal to the amount of starter you have, doubling every time.  For instance, if you have 100 grams of starter, you’ll add 50 grams of flour and 50 of water for your first feeding.  4 to 6 hours later, second feeding: 100 grams of each.  4 to 6 hours later, double the feed to 200 grams of each
  • No more than 15 hours of fermentation later, you can do one of two things: keep building the starter for stronger flavor and power, or start using it right now.  Nancy Silverton continues dumping culture and feeding three times a day for 4 days.  That’s a lot of culture to dump! Kevin says you can use the starter after the last feeding and just keep building it up; it will evolve with  time and use.  You can use the culture that you throw off in pancakes or muffins, it just won’t be as powerful.
  • To use your starter, since you know already it is equal part by weight flour and water, just subtract that amount of flour and water called for in the recipe and substitute your starter (and, after you use what you need, add 50 grams of flour and water to the remaining starter, let it build up for about an hour at room temp and then put it in the fridge for storage)
  • For example:  Your recipe calls for 1000 grams of flour and 800 grams of water.  Weigh out 800 grams of flour and 600 grams of water, adding enough of your starter to make up the remaining 400 grams
  • After the first feeding frenzy, you must keep feeding the starter.  After you use it, you feed it 50 grams of water and flour and put it back in the fridge.  When you are ready to use it, take it out of the fridge and feed it once or twice again, as you did before, to build it up before you use it

Any questions?  Call Kevin!

PostScript: Here’s an interesting story in the NYT about a collection of ‘mothers’.

It’s Been Over a Year

I don’t know why I stopped with the Blog Posts, but now, in this age of Covid-19 and all the eating at home, it seems like time to get back to it.  If nothing else, it will serve as a food journal while I wait for what else gets thrown at us.

I have never liked the term “the New Normal”, ever since it began to become a part of our vernacular years ago.  How can something that is “new” be “normal”?  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms??  But now I get it.  Now I know what it means.  Because eating at home every night of the week is it, the new normal.  And as most of you know, if you have read any of the previous posts on this Blog, Barbara doesn’t do much cooking.  But, never fear, she does live with a Chef, who loves to cook.  Thank goodness for that.

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Does that picture make you want a focaccia sandwich?

Since the shut-down, with all restaurants shuttered, our credit card company has taken a noticeable hit, since we are not using it to dine-out, which granted, had already slowed up but now was completely kaput.  (Okay, is that a silver lining I see – less credit card debt??)  However, of course that means more money spent at the Grocery Store.

Well, maybe not everything is available, but our pantry is pretty good on dry goods and condiments.  And luckily, we recently received an order from Rancho Gordo for 6 pounds of dried beans.  Lucky,  because they too are running low on supplies.  And also lucky – well, maybe luck isn’t the right word – we have a food business which means we can order from our purveyors the things that may have not yet made their way through the supply chain to the local grocer, like flour and yeast.  ((While our dinners for the month of April (at the least) are cancelled, we still have the Market to provide for and, well, a cook’s gotta cook, so when the Market re-opened this week after our well-timed seasonal shut-down, we were stocked and ready.  We sold out of everything Kevin made.))  So, cooking at home, every night, with a Chef, seems to be the New Normal.

Each morning, while we are drinking our tea and discussing the approaching day, we muse about what we will have for dinner.  We might have to take something out of the freezer – is everyone pretty much emptying their freezers recently?  another silver lining maybe? – or maybe we have some produce in our “cooler” that needs to be used.  I say cooler in quotation marks, but it really is a cooler, on the porch, where we’ve been storing our winter produce.  It keeps things very well, we don’t have to store things in the unusually crowed refrigerator and the produce seems to last a lot longer at that not-so-cold temperature.

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It’s not a Yeti guys, but it’s a pretty good knock-off.  And who doesn’t have plenty of ice packs in the freezer, taking up valuable space?  There used to be a lot more stuff in there, but I think Kevin robbed it to use at work…  Anyway, we start talking about food – dinner mostly – before we finish our tea.  Maybe everyone does this already, but our life has not involved dinner at home every night for about 47 years, so it is a sort of new routine for us.

One of the best things Kevin has made so far is a fresh pasta that we learned about on the wonderful PBS show, “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”.  Last weekend they had a marathon on MPT2 (our main source of screen entertainment, being without internet at home, which is maybe kind of a drag right now??), which, during the Italian Episode, had a segment on this cool looking pasta called “umbricelli“.  It looked like something we would like to eat, so, Kevin went to work:

It was delicious!  Maybe next time roll it out a hair thinner, since it really did swell in size a bit.  We used a pint of our HM tomato sauce from the freezer (yay!) and had a little Caesar salad (my contribution to the meal) on the side.

The other dish we’ve had a few times lately is a vegetable gratin, made with any vegetables we can find, mostly root, cooked together with a tiny bit of cream and some stock and topped off with a Parmesan cheese and bread crumble.  Eat half for dinner and save the other half for the morning repast.

This version consisted of parsnips, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery and onion, with a couple leftover burger buns for the crisp topping.  Oh, and lima beans, from, you guessed it, the freezer!

Avocados are generally a staple in our house, and last night were what’s for dinner: the Comegys Road tostada bar.  Take two avocados and make your usual guacamole recipe; set out your favorite nacho condiments like pickled onions, cilantro, sour cream, maybe some queso fresco, Cowgirl Candy and what ever else you like.  Put a couple tostadas out, some broken, some not, it doesn’t matter in this case, and make yourself a custom tostada.  A little Maldon sea salt on the whole kabang does no harm.

Of course dinner isn’t the only meal of the day.  We generally eat a sort of “brunch”, too late to be considered ‘breakfast’ and too early for lunch.  This usually consists of leftovers from the night before, as previously mentioned, or something scraped together from leftovers.  For instance, a sandwich with day old focaccia, trimmings from the rib eye Kevin broke down for the Market and a couple of slices of cheese.  Or beans!  Beans are a great start to the day; they hold you for quite a while, they are very satisfying to eat and you can do so much with them.  You can make basic brothy bean soup, with your carrots and onion and celery, maybe a little bacon or ham, and once you’ve enjoyed them as soup, you can take a cup or so and mash them up in the frying pan with some garlic and maybe hot pepper, spread them on a tortilla or tostada and breakfast is ready!

One thing I can make is Fried Chicken, which is what we had for Kevin’s 65th birthday on day 10 of Isolation:

More limas!  And the biscuits were a riff on a food magazine recipe that called for buttermilk and onions – we traded that partly with some tarragon butter that we had made a bunch of and stored in the you-know-what until needed.  Like now.  Making that tarragon butter from our quite healthy tarragon plant last fall was one of the best things we put in that freezer last year!

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling quite overwhelmed by recent events.  Physical distancing, ultra hand-washing, even masks, I can do all that, and I will until it’s over.  But to not get together with people at a table over a meal and wine and conversation, that is still really hard to take.  My whole life as an adult has revolved around feeding people as a social event.  I guess writing this stuff about food and eating is a sort of panacea for me right now.  Sharing somehow.  A cook’s gotta cook and a share-er’s got to share?  Anyway, enough for now.  Thanks for listening.  Now I gotta go walk a couple miles to work off all this food!

 

 

I Cooked Dinner Last Night!

Probably in most households, this would not be headline news, but at our house, it is.  Particularly since I performed this duty all by myself.  All. By.  Myself!  And it took me about 90 minutes to do it…

I made Pati Jinich’s Macaroni and Cheese, Mexican style.  This is the second time and it is still a keeper.  Here’s the link to the recipe.  I made very few changes – I halved it, I didn’t use the optional bacon, and I used asparagus instead of zucchini.  Oh, and we had no whole milk so I had to use 2%.  Next time I would use whole, but otherwise, not a bad job Barbara!

For those who don’t look at the recipe, it’s green because you puree poblano peppers with the milk before you make the bechamel.  Bechamel!  For the second time in my life, I made a roux and then a white sauce!  I was a little puzzled by the roux’s behavior, since I really don’t have a lot of experience with that, but it seemed okay in the end.

Tuesday night Kevin grilled chicken for us, over a live fire, which we ate with the neighbor’s green leaf lettuce.  Grilling chicken is very difficult, in my opinion, often yielding chicken that is black on the outside and pink in the middle.  Or worse yet, sawdust on the inside.  This week Kevin got it just right.

As far as the promised pix of Staycation Meals, here are a few that made the way to the camera:

Food.  It’s really what we are all about.  I mean, in some ways, it’s ridiculous – just this morning, while I am reheating Mac&Cheese for our breakfast, I ask Kevin “What are we having for dinner tonight?”!!  Really?  Can you not even make it through breakfast before you start thinking about dinner??

No.