Friday, October 21, 2016

Favorite Cheeses, Curdling Milk, and a Tasting #TrainingCaseophiles

This week kicks off my six-week cheese class: The International Cheese Board. No, I'm not taking a six-week cheese class. I wish!! I'm teaching a six-week cheese class - to a dozen fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh graders. Yikes. Wish me luck. Thankfully I have a co-teacher this term; that always makes life much easier. Susan wasn't here this week as she was off leading a teachers' workshop in Los Angeles. But, stay tuned for all our cheesy shenanigans.

As a little ice breaker, I had them introduce themselves and tell us what their favorite cheese is. I was pleasantly surprised to hear: "I like stinky cheeses. Whatever is the stinkiest is my favorite!" But they ran the gamut from goat cheese to brie and more. Thank goodness no one answered, "American" because, well, that's not real cheese.

Milk Curdling
I told the kids that cheese is simply milk that has been curdled, drained, pressed, and ripened. Four little steps. That's it. Today, we curdled...

  • 1-1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 to 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 T orange juice
  • 1 to 2 T vinegar (we used apple cider vinegar)
  • Also needed: 3 clear jars for observation

Heat milk to the steaming point. Divide the milk evenly into the clear jars. Pour lemon juice into one jar, orange juice into the second, and vinegar into the third jar. Observe what happens.

They discovered that lemon juice produced smaller curds than vinegar. Orange juice didn't curdle at all. And vinegar smelled the worst.

Cheese Tasting

Because we'll be making different cheeses throughout the next five weeks, I didn't do an exhaustive tasting. But they did try: Chèvre, Gouda, Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and Taleggio.

We discussed future week's lessons and they requested a week on American cheeses - you know, cheese from America not American cheese?!! - a week on smoked cheeses from different parts of the world, and a week on stinky cheeses. We can do that! 

This was a little bittersweet for me. It's the first time I'm teaching that I don't have R in my class...since he's graduated and off at high school.

During week one, kids are always a little bit shy. I'm looking forward to next week. I think we'll be making paneer. We'll see...

Oh, and I did get lots of comments about my cheesy shirt!!

Vietnamese-Inspired Roasted Pork Ribs

Every time we have ribs for dinner, we chuckle about this story. D was about three-years-old at the time, riding in the cart with me at the grocery store. He asked me about the rack of ribs in the cart, pointing, "Mommy, what are those?" 

Ribs, I answered. 

His chubby fingers went to his side and he declared, "These are my ribs!" 

Yes, that's true. 

Horror contorted his little face and he whispered, pointing into my shopping cart, "Whose ribs are those?!?" 

Not a person's, I assured him. 

"Then who?" he demanded. He knew meat came from a living animal. But, I suppose, ribs were a little too recognizable. Now he loves ribs, but we still tell that story every time they're on our table.

The marinade on these ribs were inspired by the flavors in some of our favorite Vietnamese dishes. Well, it has a lot of Asian-inspired flavors. It was tasty!


  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, smashed and very finely chopped (approximately 2 T)
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 to 2 T fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 t fresh turmeric, grated
  • 2 T gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 T hot sauce (I used our Homemade Hot Sauce)
  • 2 t  salt
  • 2 T organic dark brown sugar
  • 2 t Chinese five-spice powder (You can Blend Your Own)
  • 1 rack baby back ribs
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t rice vinegar

Slice your rack of ribs in half, if needed. They need to fit comfortably on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small mixing bowl, place the shallots, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, soy sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, salt, sugar, and five-spice powder. Mix well. 

Lay meat on a piece of foil (two, if you sliced the rack in half) and pour the marinade of the top. Let stand for 10 minutes. Flip it over and, using your hands, make sure the rib surfaces are completely covered with marinade. Let stand another 10 minutes. You can let the meat marinate overnight - and that's probably better - but I was pressed for time and the 20 minute-marinade was fine.

While ribs marinate, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Drizzle the ribs with olive oil and vinegar, then place another piece of foil over the top and make an packet. Roast at 300 degrees for 2 hours. Raise the temperature of the oven to 450 degrees and remove the top of the foil packet.

Return the ribs to the oven to brown and char, approximately 15 minutes. Divide ribs with a sharp knife and pile them onto a platter. Serve immediately.

I served them with an Asian-flavored slaw and baked beans.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fideuà Negra for #FishFridayFoodies

It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' October event. We are a group of seafood-loving bloggers, rallied by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, to share fish and seafood recipes on the third Friday of the month. 

This month, Caroline of Caroline's Cooking is hosting. Here was her challenge to the group: "As fall is upon us and winter all too soon, let's create some pasta dishes with fish and seafood. Whether it's a quick midweek meal for a busy school day or a comforting weekend feast, pair together your favorites."

As I was researching possibilities, I came across fideuà which is essentially paella made with pasta instead of rice. Then I came across a Fideuà Negra and I was sold. I am more than a little enamored with anything that includes cuttlefish ink!

Oh, about the name - fideuà is usually made with short lengths of dry pasta called fideus. Since I couldn't find any of that, I opted for some gluten-free spaghetti noodles. I broke them into two-inch lengths. Also, I will be the first to admit that mine is not a traditional fideuà, but it was so, so tasty!

Ingredients serves 4
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced (approximately 1-1/2 C)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • ½ t fennel seed
  • ½ t coriander seed
  • 1 to 2 bay leaves
  • ½ pound shrimp, peeled
  • ½ pound squid, cleaned
  • ½ pound fish, cubed (I used a local, wild-caught rockfish)
  • ½ pound mussels
  • ½ pound clams
  • 2 T tomato sauce (I used some of my Roasted Tomato Sauce)
  • 1 to 2 T cuttlefish ink
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 pound spaghetti broken into 2" pieces (I used gluten-free)
  • 2 C water
  • 2 C stock (I used some homemade duck stock from the bones of my Spicy Braised Duck Legs)
  • lemon wedges for serving

In a large, flat bottom pan with a tight-fitting lid, melt 1 T butter in 1 T olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened and beginning to turn translucent. Stir in the fennel seeds and coriander seeds.

Add in the squid, shrimp, and fish. Saute until the the shrimp begins to turn opaque. Stir in the tomato sauce and the cuttlefish ink. Tuck in the bay leaves and sprinkle the saffron over the top.

Top the seafood with the pasta pieces. Pour in the water and the stock. Nestle the mussels and clams into the pot. Drizzle with 1 T olive oil. Bring the liquid to a boil. Cover and simmer for the length it will take to cook the pasta. Mine took 7 minutes, according to the package.

Uncover and cook until your desired soupiness or dryness. I left some broth because we love soup!

Ladle into individual soup plates. Traditionally this is served with a dab of aioli; we went with a squeeze of lemon juice instead.

New-to-Me Ingredient: Boiled Cider

I came across an intriguing recipe last night that called for "boiled cider" and the recipe included a link to purchase the boiled cider - at $13 for the bottle and $6 for shipping. First, I didn't know what boiled cider was; second, I was pretty sure I could make it myself for less than $19!

I did some reading and realized that boiled cider was nothing more than apple cider reduced to a thick syrup. So easy!! Done. And it smelled amazing the entire time it was simmering. It smelled like fall!


  • 1 gallon fresh apple cider

Pour cider into a heavy pot; I used my Dutch oven. Bring the cider to a boil. Reduce the heat and keep at slightly more than a simmer until the gallon of liquid is reduced to about 2 C. It took me 4 hours.

Pour into a sterilized jar and refrigerate once cool. It should keep refrigerated for several months! You will see this in some Halloween treats I'm making next week.

Uni (Sea Urchin) Handroll

We are huge fans of uni - sea urchin. So, when we have a chance to get it, we always do. I added these on to our CSF delivery from Real Good Fish the other week and asked D how we should prepare it. Last time we got them, we did a Sea Urchin Crostini and his Urchin Soup is a perpetual favorite. We settled on a simple handroll that would let the urchin shine.

Ingredients makes 4 handrolls
  • 2 sheets of nori (seaweed sheets), cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 cooked rice (I used organic Jade Pearl rice)
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 8 pieces of uni

While the rice is still hot, mix in the rice vinegar.

Place the nori, shiny side down, on a work space. Place 1/4 C rice on the nori - in one corner at a 45 degree angle. Lay 1 or 2 pieces of urchin on the rice.

Okay, I drew a little diagram for you. Don't laugh!

The bottom right corner will be the top of your cone. Fold the top right corner down over the rice and filling. Then keep rolling until it is in the shape of a cone. Lay the seam side down. The moisture from the rice will seal the cone. If not, just moisten the edge a tiny bit and press down.

Repeat with the other three pieces. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Spicy Braised Duck Legs

I was on a deadline last night and the boys were coming home late anyway. So, I wanted a dinner that was mostly hands-off. This requires a little bit of active time, then it goes in the oven, and you don't have to think about it again for over an hour. It was perfect for me to get in some good, uninterrupted writing time.

And that crispy duck skin! It's amazing. 

The spice blend I used was an Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf special which means that I really have no idea what he put in it. But, from what was left out on the counter, I know it had juniper berries, cardamom, coriander, paprika, and some cayenne. It was deliciously spicy. Maybe use your favorite spice blend...

  • 4 duck legs
  • 1 T butter
  • splash of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cubed
  • 1 C chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 C red wine
  • 1 to 2 T spice blend (your choice - D whipped up something with juniper berries, cardamom, coriander, paprika, and some cayenne)

Preheat oven to 390 degrees F. In a Dutch oven, braiser, or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt butter in a splash of olive oil. Place duck legs skin side down. Sprinkle 1/2 your spice blend on the duck. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes until the fat is rendered and the skin golden and crisped. Flip to the other side and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the rest of the spice blend on the second side of the duck.

Remove the duck to a plate. Place the onions in the pot. Lay the browned duck pieces on top. Pour in the chicken stock and wine. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven. Braise for 75 minutes.

Raise the temperature of the oven to 450 degrees F. Return the duck to the oven, uncovered. Roast for another 10 to 15 minutes. 

The skin should be crispy and a deep mahogany brown. Serve immediately. 

I served this with a potato salad and carrot-bean salad. It was a great dinner...and I turned my article on time! Perfect.

Nutty Coffee Toffee

When you didn't plan anything for dessert and your Sugar Pig (yes, he knows I call him that) asks for something sweet...

Toffee is always easy. I always have butter and sugar in the house. Then I just stir in whatever else I can find and call it good. It's so simple. I don't event use a candy thermometer.


  • 1 C butter
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T finely ground coffee
  • 1/4 C pistachios

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, combine the butter and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until it becomes a dark amber. 

Note: If you've never made toffee, there will be times when it looks as if you're doing something completely wrong. It'll look frothy and foamy. But keep cooking and it will eventually look like a cohesive caramel. You cook it just until you start seeing dark streaks where the sugar is beginning to scorch. Remove it from the heat immediately.

Stir in the ground coffee and pistachios until well-combined. Work quickly as the toffee begins to harden as soon as you remove it from the heat.

Spoon the toffee onto the parchment paper, flattening it with a spatula. Let cool until set and hard. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container. 

Roasted Kabocha Fries

If ever I had to name a junk food that I love, it would be fries. Greasy, salty, delicious fries. But, I know they aren't good for me. So, I can usually stave off my fry-cravings with some oven roasted veggies. This time I had a kabocha squash from our CSA box. Awesome. I love that this only needs two ingredients besides the squash and is done in about an hour. This is one of my favorite autumn snacks.

  • 1 organic kabocha squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into half-moons
  • 2 to 3 T olive oil
  • freshly ground salt

Heat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In large mixing bowl, toss squash and olive oil together until well coated. Spread squash in even layer on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, then flip and roast another 20 to 25 minutes more.        
Increase heat to 500°F. Roast an additional 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on both sides.

Serve hot.

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