Friday, March 22, 2013

Culinary Discoveries

Last Saturday I expanded my culinary skills by taking a cheese-making class in downtown Spokane at a store called Sun People Dry Goods. The teacher, Trish Vieira, owns Spokane Family Farm with her husband Mike, which produces local and minimally processed milk. She was a kick! She talked a mile a minute and knew more about milk in all its complexities than I ever knew existed. The class had 19 people (17 women), and we got to watch Trish make yogurt and mozzarella. I took notes and listened until my head was buzzing with thoughts about milk, cream, rennet, organic, Darigold, and more.

The highlight of the class for me was watching Trish make homemade mozzarella. It seriously looked like the easiest process ever and in just 40 minutes, she was cutting off pieces of warm, stretchy, salty mozzarella for us. It was so fun to eat because it stretched like gum. Trish asked us if we planned to make cheese, and I enthusiastically raised my hand. I do plan to carry out the mozzarella making (and document it here), but I realized I would need to pick up a couple things before making it.

In the olden days, people used cheesecloth to squeeze all the excess liquid out of their cheese (the whey). But Trish and those in the class who had made cheese before said cheesecloth is no longer any good for making cheese because the holes in the fabric are too big! I thought that an interesting statement about something straying beyond its original purpose. In place of cheesecloth, Trish used a piece of a polyester curtain that she found at Goodwill. I figured I would just go to Joann's to buy a similar piece of fabric to add to my mozzarella-making arsenal.

On Thursday, I had tea at the home of an older friend. She asked me if I wanted some old curtains from her mother-in-law. I said sure, and she showed me the heavy floral-patterned curtains. I didn't think anything of it until she showed me the sheer material that hangs behind the floral curtains...the exact material I needed for making cheese! I was too chicken to ask my friend if I could use the curtains to squeeze whey out of my homemade cheese. This is obviously not the purpose for which these curtains were intended! But as soon as I decide to make cheese, I will investigate.

On Sunday, I went to Trader Joe's with a friend from church and only got four things (shocking, I know!): baby bok choy, fontina cheese, Brie, and blueberry freezer waffles. On Thursday, I made this fried rice, and it turned out wonderfully! Instead of cooking brown rice, I used Trader Joe's frozen brown rice/barley mix, which made it super easy. I microwaved three bags and added sauteed baby bok choy, green cabbage, onion, and carrots with bacon and scrambled eggs, mixed it all together with soy sauce, and voila! Anyone want to come for dinner tonight?

My final culinary discovery is totally wonderful. Berry compote. My friend and I meet for breakfast every Friday morning to talk, pray, and read Scripture. I found a recipe in a cookbook for berry compote, which seemed a great way to use frozen blueberries and to make a delicious topping for French toast. As I was eating the berry compote this morning, I had a wonderful revelation. This compote could work well with so many things: a mix-in for yogurt and warm steel cut oats, a topping for ice cream and toast, and so many uses that I haven't even discovered. And it's the easiest thing ever! You never have to buy flavored yogurt again!
Anyone want to come for breakfast tomorrow?
P.S. Here's the recipe for berry compote from this awesome cookbook: Mix 1 cup berries (straight from the freezer is fine) with 3 tbsp sugar (a little more or less is fine) and a dash of water. Bring to a boil on the stove in a small saucepan and boil for five minutes. In the meantime, mix 2 tsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp of cold water until all the corn starch is dissolved. After five minutes, add in the cornstarch and keep boiling and stirring for two minutes. Add in another 1/2 cup berries and stir for another minute. Remove from heat and serve right away or refrigerate and reheat later.   

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