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Flirt

As a kid, you might say I was a flirt with vegetables.  We’d bat our eyes at each other and then I’d push them away.  Oh, there were a few that I’d devour, like corn, broccoli, and frozen string beans, but for the most part I had to be coerced in to eating them.  Artichokes, however, were never on my “bad” list.  They’re a fun finger food.  You practically have to play with them to eat them, and plus, there’s the whole dip thing…melted butter, mayo…mmm.  My current favorite dip is good ol’ Best Foods mayo, thinned with lemon juice and spiked with Tobasco (thanks to many artichoke extravaganzas with the Shim family- thanks Tommy!).

But oh….the hearts!  They are the lovliest of all.  The reward at the end of the adventure.  Always leaving me wanting just one more. I like to cut the heart up into at least four bites (no matter the size of the artichoke), just to make sure that I have as many mouthfuls of that lovely heart as I possibly can.

And on that note… Eat Your Heart Out! and have a happy Valentine’s Day.

P.S. Don’t know how to cook an artichoke?  Oh dear.  It’s just so simple.  Trim the stalk to a length of about one inch.  Use a sharp kitchen knife to trim the top inch off the artichoke and then use pair of kitchen shears to trim the thorns from the remaining leaves.  Run under cold, running water, spreading the leaves slightly to rinse out any dirt that may have collected.  Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer and add the chokes.  Simmer until a knife can easily pierce the underside of the choke (where the heart is).  Remove from the boiling water and place upside-down on a plate to drain for 30 seconds or so.  Dig in!

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I buy my yogurt culture from the Dairy Connection. It comes freeze-dried and must be stored in the freezer to remain fresh.  I usually only make a quart at a time. They have a couple different strains and I’ve only used the one that produces thicker, milder yogurt.  Next time, perhaps I’ll try the one that produces thinner, more tart yogurt to see how I like it.  I’ve always used Strauss milk, and believe it or not, I prefer using low-fat milk because Strauss’  whole milk just produces a yogurt that is too rich.  However, I usually do use the whole milk since that’s what I keep on hand. Using a candy thermometer- the kind that clips-on to the side of the pot- is the easiest way to do it. By the way, I’ve found Harold McGee’s (On Food and Cooking) insights on yogurt making very helpful…

As for eating it….even SCOTT likes this yogurt, and he’s been a hard-core yogurt hater his whole life.  Most often, I stir in home-made jam to flavor it, but in the spring and summer, I stir in fresh fruit and some honey for sweetness.  I also love to use it to make creamy salad dressings, mixed with good extra-virgin olive oil and a little vinegar, black pepper and salt (try adding some herbs too)

Homemade Yogurt

In a small sauce pot, gently heat 1 qt milk to 180 F, stirring frequently.

Hold at 180 for a 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently…I find that they best way to do this is to turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, and put a lid on it.  If your stove setting won’t go low-enough, you may need to play the “on-off” game.

Remove the pan from the heat, place on a rack, and cool to 115 degrees.

Stir 1/8 tsp culture into a small amount of the cooled milk to make sure that it gets distributed evenly. Then stir it all into the milk.

Hold temperature at ~ 105 F for 6-ish hours…to do this, I wrap it- baby bunting style- in a dish towel and set it on my stove near a pilot light.  It never stays at 105 for the whole time, but after about 6 hours it’s always thick enough.
Transfer into the container of your choice, and refrigerate.

Supposedly, you can add ½ cup non-fat powdered milk before heating for extra body, but I’ve never done this.

For enhanced flavor, add a few drops of vanilla when adding the culture….lemon zest might work nicely too, though I’ve never experimented with it.

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