If you make this soon, it will be ready for your holiday cookies (and gifts!) It’s so easy, and so worth the wait. I just packed this one up for a friend so it seemed appropriate to mention it to you here again. Simply add the beans to the vodka, put in in the dark and shake it every once in a while. After a few months you have something really special. Buy a gallon of vodka while you’re out, and order the vanilla beans from Amazon now. Once they arrive it will take you 5 minutes. The original post is here. Make this awesomeness happen.
Lately most of the things I venture to cook in my tiny San Antonio kitchen never get talked about here. The oven is quick to go from almost ready to almost burned. And I have yet to find a nice “go-to” spot for taking pictures of what might be interesting. But I keep trying. For instance, yesterday while making ricotta I dumped a quart of warm whey on myself, the rug, and most of the cabinets. I bumped it while putting away dishes so I could wash dishes. (One counter top. A tiny 24″ of counter space.) It was a sad wet mess. There will be laundry!
I cheered up quickly because the cheese was delicious! I couldn’t wait for it to drain overnight, so after I cleaned up the floor I had some. Still warm, the creamy cheese sat on top of the most delicious easy little bread. I toasted the super grainy bread in the oven- I was recreating an herby tomato water, red wine vinaigrette. The whole dish was inspired by this recipe from Bon Appetit. I knew I would make my own version. It was yummy! Ripe tomatoes with fresh dill and basil go a long way these summer months.
And I’ll have the house-made ricotta on fresh bread whenever possible!
P.S. You can always pop over to my Facebook page, I will often post a photo there even if it never sees the blog.
The winner of this “bread off” is: (click play)
It’s the easiest cooking liquid ever. It’s tasty and briny-earthy. It’s not pretty but considering the process it’s one of those miracles that make me love cooking. Lush and simple. It’s liquid umani- not vegetarian, but not too intense. Dried skipper-jack shavings (bonito) and seaweed (kombu) broth. It’s a new flavor profile around here so it must be eased into the menu. With so many health benefits and the easy peasy intensity adjustments (just add water) it’s worth a close look. There are vegetarian versions with seaweed and dried mushroom broth. Easy. Believe me, it’s on the list!
Yesterday, it was cold outside and the broth made it warm and soupy inside. The steamy kitchen intensified the unfamiliar smell of the ocean in the house. The process went over quite well with the canine crew. They apparently already knew about bonito! I am fascinated with these ingredients, so curious to taste them!
Here’s what you do: Wipe the dry seaweed gently with a damp cloth. Bring some filtered water in a stock pot and soak the seaweed for a few hours at room temperature. Remove scum from the surface as it forms. After a while, bring the water and sea veg to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat and remove kombu. Reserve seaweed. Skim any scum. It tastes like it sounds.
Bring the skimmed seaweed broth up to a simmer and add the bonito flakes. Stir to incorporate them. When the bonito comes to a boil reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow fish to steep for 15 minutes. Remove any scum that forms on the surface. Pour broth thru a fine sieve lined with cheese cloth. Don’t squeeze the bonito. Tie the cheese cloth into a bundle. Use your bundle to make a second batch with the cheese cloth “tea bag” of bonito and the same seaweed from the first soak. The second soak is delicate and light. I can’t imagine a better go-to broth than this. It comes together quickly and is much more than the sum of its parts. Keep it in the fridge a few days. Freeze your leftovers. One day you might need magic in a hurry!
I am trying to think what I can’t do with it!!
It’s as if he’s here:
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody have got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody want a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose, everybody knows. -L.Cohen
The title of this post is somewhat deceptive, as my first semester winds down at the Culinary Institute of America I’m really having a great time. As I mentioned in my previous post there are some challenges, but I’m happy to report that in spite of my lifelong fear of “all things math”, classes are going quite well! As of today I’m sitting on a solid B in Culinary Math with high hopes of turning that into a real life A!! (after the final exam is graded) Of course there are lots of numbers and tons of studying to do for the final, but between my “team of tutors” and my collection of lucky pencils things look pretty rosy on the old culinary math horizon.
We have learned quite a bit in the kitchen since the last time I’ve posted. We continue to practice the classic sauces and “small sauces.” One that I have found the most fun to work with and of course the most challenging is hollandaise. While I don’t like the flavor by itself it does transform food into amazing delicious creations. Ohhh! And taking Béchamel into Mornay might be my favorite. There’s something about cheese…
There was also pasta day. I’ve made fresh pasta at home a few times but making it “the CIA way” always takes things to a better, more refined level. I adore learning the details- the small and sometimes large pieces I’m missing. I am (almost) always pleased with the results. The pasta was delicious! We ate a little at school, and I took the remainder home for dinner. YUMMMMM! It’s not all cooking in the kitchen-there are days when we spend a few hours on “product knowledge.” In the first semester this is learning all about produce; how to select it and what it ‘s uses are. Chef Sartory gathers us all around a huge farm table and we taste as he talks about each product and their varieties. It’s interesting to see how different students who have not seen or tasted some of the produce get excited (sometimes not so excited) to try what’s new to them, rhubarb (raw) offered a few particularly hilarious moments!
There were a couple of breaks from all of the studying and books, we took field trips! One of the most beautiful places that we visited was Bluebonnet Hydroponic Farms. We met with the owner David Anderson, “the gentleman farmer” and he took us on a tour of all of their greenhouses. If you’ve ever bought fresh live basil in the South it was probably from Bluebonnet Farms. They have an amazing operation growing basil, lettuce, micro greens. You can see in the photographs I shot there how incredible it is. I’ve never seen so much basil in one place! And you can’t even imagine the fragrance!
We also went to Sysco food services of Central Texas. Sysco is the distributing company for food and dry goods used by many commercial kitchens. It’s a massive operation. The New Braunfels, Texas location is the largest distribution center in the corporation. It was quite interesting; there were robots in HUGE warehouses, a couple of test kitchens, and I got to meet Robert Irvine of the food network! He’s much taller than I expected! ;-) We also visited Chef Sartory’s personal garden. It was wonderful to see how so much food can be grown in a small space and yield enough to feed several families. Urban gardening truly is the future of “eating local.”
I continue to practice my knife skills and a found the perfect at-home dish for doing so, TABOULI! I love the stuff and it’s all about the chopping. If prepared correctly it’s essentially a parsley salad with a little bit of wheat bulgur. I love the fragrant “green-ness” of the prep work. I usually sneak several bites as it all comes together. (no surprise there!) It’s delicious.
The last couple of weeks remaining are all about finishing up projects and reviewing for finals. It’s a little stressful, but I think our class will do quite well. The majority of my fellow students take the days quite seriously and we are all ready to see how this first semester ends. It’s been challenging and fun and often times filled with laughter. Mostly, it’s been an amazing experience. I anticipate next semester will be just as thrilling.