Monday, June 20, 2011

Delicious things

I don't always appreciate the amazing food I have in my hometown. Like organic strawberries, soft as cream, only hours off the vine. Or Garlic scapes from--literally--my own backyard, the cut ends weeping garlic water.

But sometimes, I need an Ann Arbor fix.

In my current hometown, you must keep your eyes open to find the good things. But in Ann Arbor, you could put on a blindfold, spin around, go in a random direction, and find something delicious.

You'd even be safe from most cars, as the drivers are conditioned to avoid arrogant students.

We were in Ann Arbor on Saturday for aikido, so I convinced The Mister to take a side trip to Zingermans before we left. After all, I had a gift card to spend.

Zingermans lets you taste everything, and has plenty of people behind the counter to help you out. Poor fella, he offered to let me taste everything. I told him "I appreciate your willingness, but for both our sakes, I'm gonna stick to three cheeses and a couple olives."

I picked up several nice things, but my favorite was the Remeker, or as I like to call it, "Scotch Cheese." It's got a tangy, carmely, nutty flavor that reminded me instantly of a good lowland scotch. Because it was aged, it had that crunchy, crumbly thing going on that I usually equate with a good Parmesan.

I've got one more day of the cheese left. This is a beauty that doesn't keep terribly long, nor should it. Tomorrow, I'll be trying it with scotch after dinner.

So, I guess the moral of this post is to appreciate what you have locally, but don't be afraid to travel a bit to seek out new things.

Oh, and if you like aged cheeses, if you can afford it, and if you will be home to accept the delivery, get this cheese shipped to you.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Good morning, Sunshine - Smoothies

While I was at the farmer's market picking up some local honey, the honey evangelist (and I mean that in the nicest way) gave me a couple booklets with recipes in them.

This Apricot Honey Smoothie was a standout. I tweaked it just a little bit, to the recipe below.

Apricot Honey Smoothie - Thanks, honey evangelist!
1/2 cup dried apricots
1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple in 100% juice - no sugar added
1/2 cup honey (I used buckwheat, which was awesome)
1/2 cup orange juice (or the juice from one orange)
1/3 cup buttermilk

Dump apricots into blender. Add pineapple. Wait five minutes until the fruit is soaked and soft. Blend briefly. Add the rest of the ingredients, and blend until smooth. Stick in fridge for at least an hour until cold. Or, if there's room, stick a couple ice cubes in and blend. Blend again right before serving.

I didn't have any on hand, but I think this would be great with a handful of almonds. This reminds me of my childhood, and the hippie granola kids cookbook I used to love. Still do.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Another win for Martha's Gang - Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

So, I've mentioned before, I love the Martha Stewart Living: Food magazines. They're filled with proven recipes that are easy and fast.

I have been living off the buttermilk ranch recipe from the June issue all month. The base is just 2 cups buttermilk, 1 cup sour cream, a half cup of mayo, salt and pepper to taste. But then you add fun stuff, like Parmesan cheese, or fresh herbs, or avocado, or bacon, or whatever, to it, to make it your own.

I have been using this on every shred of lettuce in the fridge, coating cooked and cooled green beans with it, even dipping pizza crusts into it. What can I say, it's tangy, salty goodness.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The week in garlic - ending June 12, 2011

* I went out to weed my garden today, and I found a lovely surprise: The scapes are sprouting! Garlic scape pesto is mere days away.

* I was watching Chopped--don't judge me, and one of the basket ingredients was Black Garlic. This started out as a health food, but the trendy chefs found out about it and it's taken off as the must-have ingredient of the new decade. It appears to be a cross between roasted garlic and pickled garlic, where the whole heads are kept at high temperature, pressure, and humidity, until they turn black and (reportedly) tasty. When I can get my hands on some, I will report back. I have some very fun ideas how to use it. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Stock

It's 92 degrees, insane humidity, and am I churning out the sorbet with my Cuisinart ice cream maker?

Nope. I'm making stock.

Yes, I'm an iconoclast.

It was crock-pot stock, though. We'd been grilling, and I had a leftover leg of lamb and a chicken carcass, and I didn't want them to go to waste.

I have to say, crock-pot stock is the way to go. No stirring or skimming, the house didn't get too hot, and all the cooking happened while I was at work.

I suppose I should give you a recipe, but this is all estimate.

crock-pot stock
1-2 pounds meaty bones (I used cooked, but uncooked would work)
2 carrots, cut into large chunks
1 onion, quartered
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons of salt

The night before: Dump all ingredients into crock-pot.
The morning after, before you go to work:
Add water until everything is covered. Turn crock-pot on to low.
When you get home: Turn off crock-pot. Use a ladle to pour stock through a strainer into a shallow baking dish, 9X13 is good. The strainer will capture most of the solids and meat guts. You can throw the meat guts away, or pick them over and save the good bits for a casserole or sandwich spread if you are frugal.

You have two options now: You can salt the stock now, or later (before you use it). Either way, add salt a teaspoonful at a time and taste until you think it's salty enough.

When the stock is cooled somewhat, put into fridge or freezer. If you don't freeze, and don't use within a couple days, make sure to bring the stock to a full boil for 5 minutes before you use it.

CSA is a comin' so expect a more seasonally appropriate recipe soon.