Saturday, July 7, 2012

yogurt cheese (not ewww, delicious!)

Yogurt cheese. It sounds kinda gross, but let me sing it's praises! Soft, tangy and spreadable, it can be made in the fridge overnight.  If you buy a large tub of plain, organic yogurt (Saugeen County Yogurt, for example), you can have a vast amount of yogurt cheese, for a fraction of the price of marscapone or cream cheese. You can add any number of flavours, via herbs, zests and spices. Yogurt cheese is also known as strained yogurt, and it's big in Europe. It's the main ingredient in tzaziki, the creamy cucumber and yogurt condiment from the Middle East.

Here's a recipe, plus two examples of yogurt cheese hard at work.

yogurt cheese
2 cups whole milk, plain yogurt (usually 3% to 6% milk fat, or M.F.)
cheesecloth or 2 large coffee filters
fine mesh strainer
deep pot

Line the strainer with the cheese cloth or coffee filters. Place over a pot (I use my rice cooker pot - it's nice and deep). There has the be space between the bottom of the strainer and the bottom of the pot, this is where the liquid will collect. Put the yogurt in the strainer, and set the whole thing in the fridge. Leave it for 12 to 24 hours. Discard the whey (the liquid in the bottom), or feed it to your cats (they'll love it!). Keep the yogurt cheese in the fridge for a few weeks (the same shelf life as the original yogurt).

lemon and herb yogurt cheese spread
1 cup yogurt cheese
handful of fresh herbs (I used a mix of chives, oregano, basil and mint)
juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and stir. Spread on toast, crostini, or serve on top of sautéed or steamed veggies. (Seen here in a tomato sandwich, and on top of a spring greens stir-fry of green garlic, green onions, asparagus and snow peas.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

lessons in the kitchen, and some adventures with chickpea flour

Today I tried two new recipes, with a common ingredient of chickpea flour. It's popular in many middle eastern recipes, and makes a nutty, protein-rich addition to your arsenal of flours.

You might think that everything that comes out of my kitchen is near-perfect, delicious, and that the new recipes I try always work out. You should not think this. Only the lovely, delicious, near-perfect looking ones make it to the blog. The rest are dirty little secrets that stay between me, my stove, and my cats, who see me swearing and complaining when black smoke is billowing from the stove.

The only way to become a better cook, like any other skill, is to make mistakes, and learn from them. These are the rules I try to convey when I'm teaching cooking to kids, but they are equally applicable in your own kitchen.

1. Everything will not be perfect.
2. You will make many mistakes
3. And sometimes, the most hideous things are the most delicious.

There are many examples of this last point. Raw hamburger meat looks disgusting, but I hear that hamburgers are one of the most delicious foods on earth. Another example: I let some kindergarten kids mash up an avocado, and they were like a flock of seagulls, yelling and screaming about how GROSS it looked. Then they tried it, and it was TASTY! Finally, sometimes what you think is a horrible mistake looks disgusting, but tastes delicious: for example, this Mark Bittman recipe I tried today, for Easy Whole Grain Flatbread.

The first is mine, the second is a photo from his website of what it's supposed to look like.

It's hideous. It's burnt. I can't get it out of the pan.

But then I tasted it (the bit I managed to pry from the pan), and WOW! The mustard and cumin seeds I toasted first in the oil popped in my mouth, the outside was crispy, and the centre was creamy and custard-like. At least, on the side that wasn't burnt to a crisp.

Final lesson: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

I definitely will be making this recipe again. But with a few modifications. And a closer eye on the oven.

Here's a recipe that did work (and looked beautiful to boot) - 101 Cookbooks Baked Sweet Potato Falafel. As Heidi says in her description, this is not your usual crispy, fried falafel. It's soft and light, and I ate them on top of a salad of mixed greens and cilantro. But here's an amazing sandwich I was imagining:

sweet potato falafel + whole wheat pita + hummus + avocado + cilantro + pickled cabbage + cucumbers

It's going on the "make me" list.