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I came to Fayetteville at the right time of year!

This is the first week of the season at the farmers’ market!!! I’m very excited!

Now if only I could find a local goat cheese producer (since neither Swede Farm nor Blue Heron have satellite farms up here)

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Ratatouille

Onions, Bell peppers, Crimini Mushrooms, Zucchini – No eggplant because they are super expensive in Fayetteville right now

Saturdays in Fayetteville

My goal as I begin a new chapter of my life living in Fayetteville, is to think about what I am going to eat in advance; that is, to be purposeful about it. It’s a novel thought, really. Actually, planning out something in advance so I won’t be scrambling at the last minute. – this whole work a full 8-hour day; get home after 5; then have to cook dinner thing isn’t that easy all of the time!) So, my plan was to cook a few meals on Saturdays to be ready to heat up during the week.

Of course, as usually happens when I plan the amount of time it will take to cook something, I underestimated (my family will probably laugh and confirm at this point!). So, while I did not get as much prepared as I hoped, I accomplished some of today’s cooking list:

  • Two spinach and feta quiches for breakfasting
  • Almond and chocolate granola for snacking
  • Gluten-free banana muffins
  • Taco meat
  • Rooibus iced tea
  • Toddy iced coffee

And now to relax.

~Nathan

Food shot for the week: Sweet corn

Sweet corn puree with white pepper, black lava salt, and feta from Blue Heron Farms

 

Next time I would roast the corn for the garnish kernels which would help tie the black lava salt into the corn puree from a taste perspective. This would also be great with Blue Heron’s or Swede Farm’s chevre.

Lemongrass: Rum

I am frequently at a loss as to how to use all the lemongrass which is growing in our flowerbeds. It has a great fragrance but it’s not quite like having peppercorns that you can put on almost everything. Tonight it found it’s way into my glass, muddled with some Cruzan aged rum. I like the flavor combo so an 8 inch piece is now in the bottle. We’ll see how the flavor develops:

 

Lemongrass marrying with Cruzan rum

 

Weekly food shot: Home Cured Bresaola

 

Cured with rosemary, juniper, salt, sugar, and curing salt #2. Hung in a wine cooler for 6 weeks; about 40% moisture loss

 

Almond milk

About a year ago I experimented with making milk out of almonds and pecans, separately. I soaked the nuts overnight, blended them in a high-speed blender (Vita-mix), and strained. I don’t remember what measurements I used, or how I strained everything.

For some reason, maybe because I keep hearing how good almonds and other nuts are for your health, I got the hankering to make almond milk again. Note: actually I was looking for how to make a super fine almond flour, got distracted by making almond oil, and ended up looking into making almond milk again. So, here’s what I did (skipping the whole distraction part). I

  • Turned to google to see what other people have done: 1st, there are very few journal articles about nut milks, their production, and nutrition. 2nd, everyone and their mother has a method for making nut milks.
  • Put 1 cup of raw unblanched almonds in 2 cups of water on the counter for about 12 hours.
  • Drained the water and placed the almonds in my vitamix with another 2 cups of water.
  • Blended for about a minute, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high speed over a period of about 15 seconds.
  • Strained the mixture through a fine mesh, metal strainer (same mesh as a tea strainer).
  • The mixture was so thick that I really had to squeeze the mixture against the strainer to get liquid to come out.
  • So, back into the blender went the thick mixture with another 2 cups of water; I stirred and then re-strained, being sure to press the solids against the strainer mesh with a rubber spatula to ensure that I got all the good stuff out.
  • Back to my original goal of making almond flour, I took the solids and put them on a silpat on a sheetpan in the oven with the light on. I hope to be able to pulverize them once dry.
  • The milk went in the fridge for breakfast.
  • To enjoy, I usually add a very small pinch of Celtic sea salt to enhance the flavor and just a bit of agave nectar to round out the natural sweetness of the almond.

Next time I will also filter the milk through cheese cloth because it has a fine grit that disrupts the smooth mouth-feel that you expect from a milk.

Heavy chocolate

Why is it that the majority of chocolate applications, solid or liquid, are heavy? I mean: “Death by Chocolate”? Can’t we have something that is refreshing and chocolatey?

I tried to solve this dilemma the other day. I wanted something wonderfully light, yet chocolatey. How do you lighten chocolate? It contains large amounts of fat (good-for-you cocoa butter, mind you, but still fat), which makes it heavy. Mousses are ok, but as light as you can get them, they still have the fat which provides the feeling of fullness. — As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that chocolate meringues made with dark cocoa might work well — As odd as it sounds, I ended up with tea!

Instead of brewing a normal pot of tea (it was cold outside at the time – Right now it is warm and humid), I put 2T of dutch process cocoa powder in my tea pot basket, along with a few pieces of dried ginger, ceylon cinnamon, and a crushed up pod of green cardamom. I poured boiling water in the top, just like brewing real tea, and let the mixture brew for about ten minutes. (Why not use milk, you ask, instead of the water? Well, milk has weight and a heavier mouth-feel than water. Plus, if I used milk, all I would have been making was spiced hot chocolate!) After it was done brewing, I poured it in a demitasse chocolate cup (yes, they used to make small cups just for drinking chocolate! I have a set from a great aunt; why let it sit in the cabinet and gather dust. I figured I might as well use it. It made the whole process more fun anyway!).

The taste was great, cocoa and subtle spices were all that I tasted. No heavy texture from fat coatng my tongue. The spices (and use of the demitasse cup) made it perfect for sipping, yet it did not linger long. You took a sip, reveled in the flavor, and then it was gone. The process certainly wasn’t perfect: it left a stain in my tea pot which I had to scrub out, the cocoa settle to the bottom of the pot or cup if left for very long, and it still needs a little work. Maybe a bit of xanthan gum, or such would thicken it slightly while  keeping the mouth-feel light. The other avenue to pursue is to brew it, then chill it and try it cold – that sounds like a variation on chocolate milk to me!

Food Pairing

There has been a severe dearth of posts in the past couple of months. I know. I’m sorry. My goal is one per week from now on.

If you are not familiar with the food pairing website, it is a resource for the culinarily inclined that uses databases on flavor compounds to suggest pairings and replacements for food items. (They also have added some tasty beverages, like brandy.) You can subscribe to their recently added items RSS feed here.

It was fascinating to look at the recent addition Jerusalem Artichoke. It has very few pairings (Not a single mention of potatoes of any sort or water chestnut), but what is fascinating is that the suggested flavor replacements (here) are primarily herbs and spices.  What does this mean for composing dishes with Jerusalem Artichokes? Maybe a soup made with a scented broth? or cryovac infusion? or an herb salad?

Complements: Roasted Hazelnuts

Liberally oil a cup or so of raw hazelnuts with coconut oil. Roast at 300 degrees F for 5 to 8 minutes i.e. basically roast them until they smell great and have begun to brown some. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt. I used Celtic sea salt, but a smoked salt or the Black pyramidal Baltic sea salt would also be great! Enjoy. (They’re wonderful while still warm!)

Note: while you don’t want to taste the salt in most dishes you make, these nuts gain much of their deliciousness and distinctiveness from  the grains of salt that cling to their exterior. Put a bowl of these out at your next cocktail party or game night and they’ll be gone quickly. – They’re also great as a late night snack, as evidenced by the time of day that I posted this. –

Cheers!