Instant Pot cottage cheese! Awesome.

I’m one of those people who grew up with homemade cottage cheese and everything out of the grocery store is a real washout after that.  I’ve made it at home occasionally, on the stovetop, but that takes more attention than I’m sometimes ready to give to it.

I just got my email from Taste magazine and there was an article on cottage cheese. It’s from the point of view of a “life-long southerner” (which I’m definitely not) but even some northerners did the homemade cottage thing.  Somehow I missed the concept that with the Instant Pot yogurt cycle I could make cottage cheese easily until I saw this article and the recipe.

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Eggs, egg salad, etc

It’s amazing what you find whilst skulking about on the internet. The latest “odd” thing was a novel method of making lots of hard-cooked eggs at one time: in the oven.  It sounds simple–I may have to try it just to see if the texture is as good as reported.

But one thing leads to another–I guess that’s why it’s called browsing. On a chilly, rainy day with a big mug of not cocoa in hand, it’s not possible to simply check one link, so this one relating to cooking eggs lead me to a link on pickled eggs and other eggy links, including “All About Eggs” which covers eggs other than chicken, as well as information about color and size, and printed stuff on the carton, just in case you want to know about cage free or natural.

 

6-Pack-Chicken-EggsEggs (and milk) seem to be among the necessities in my kitchen. Whether working–or have a lazy hiatus between jobs–eggs get used in so many ways. Some of the less frequent uses include deviled eggs and pickled eggs. If I’m in a mad rush to meet a deadline an egg (or two) are easy to turn into a quick meal in so many ways. Omelettes, scrambled, poached, egg salad, or just added to soup or as a “dressing” for veggies.

 

Although I don’t make deviled eggs often, I do collect recipes for those occasions that call for them. Mostly deviled eggs call for mayonnaise. I’ve got no problem using mayo in them but I like some options for flavoring.  Following the Food52 link lead me to a recipe calling for yoghurt which sounds kind of interesting (though it does include some mayo).

I almost always have mayonnaise in the fridge–but a recent reluctance to venture out in the rain to go to the grocery store left me without mayo and a need for some quick egg salad, which like deviled eggs seems to almost always call for mayo.  I had the onion and celery, and capers so I decided to “wing” it: chopped up my eggs, and carefully, bit by bit while tasting added Arbequina extra-virgin olive oil (again from Bull City Olive Oil–love that place) that is a medium intensity but still rather delicate, and then just (again by taste) a bit of apple cider vinegar, and finished with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Definitely not southern-style egg salad, but very good. It’s likely that I’ll do it again even if there is mayo in the fridge. (I did eventually find an egg salad recipe using olive oil.)

That little experiment got me looking for other recipes for egg salad made without mayonnaise–some recipes that I found just use mustard (I do sometimes put some mustard in egg salad), others used Greek yoghurt (though I don’t “do” non-fat–and I use Skyr as starter for my homemade). Another recipe that I found interesting was one using avocado for the “fat” part of the egg salad–so intriguing that I may have to try that when next I have a ripe avocado on hand. And then, the delightful post from Food52 on “How to Make Egg Salad Without a Recipe” which I think will elicit a smile (at least) if you’re an egg salad fan. If you want to really take your egg salad to another level, take a look at “Mediterranean Egg Salad” or “Egg Salad: The True Breakfast of Champions“.

Why my foray into egg salads? Well, hot weather is approaching, and I know I’ll be looking for more meals involving minimal heat–and I really like eggs, but always looking for new ways to use them–maybe even graved eggs!

Wondering about other things to do with eggs? Try here.  A son gôut!

from wikipedia

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Prime beef!

I did eat well over the Christmas-New Year holidays. Most of my fancy stuff was sale “finds” (pheasant and duck breasts), but I did have one splurge. The holiday season brings out USDA prime beef (without having to special order it) so I took advantage of that and treated myself to a steak. I guess you could call it a steak, but it was almost a young roast.

I’m enough of a carnivore that I like my meat rare to medium rare, it was cut thick enough that I could get a decent sear on the outside and still be rare inside. I cooked this marvellous hunk of beef in a combination of oven and stove-top as directed by Cook’s Illustrated. My first meal was a steak and potatoes meal (with the leftover cabbage and rutabaga from my Christmas dinner.

Obviously, there were some serious leftovers from a chunk of beef that big. Mostly I just enjoyed the leftover steak by making “roast” beef sandwiches of various sorts. After all, that’s a treat you don’t often get when you’re doing single-serving cooking.

In the process of eating up all that leftover beef I had lots of splendid sandwiches. But I did come up with one spectacular one. I love bleu cheese, and I think it’s excellent with beef. It’s not unusual for me to top a steak with gorgonzola dolce or even just Danish bleu.

Rummaging in the fridge, I realized that there was just enough beef to make one last sandwich–and it was time to use it or lose it. There was also a slice of Boar’s Head MarBleu cheese. MarBleu has (as you might guess) something to do with bleu cheese: it’s Monterey Jack with bleu marbeling. It’s got the bleu cheese tang, but not so strong that it is overwhelming, and it can be sliced (delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, too). A beef and bleu sandwich was just what I needed, but the real pièce de résistance was what I used for a condiment on this sandwich.

In the process of putting the finishing touches on my Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinner, I went to Bull City Olive Oil to get some balsamic vinegars to use with the duck breasts. While trying to decide what to do with leftover duck and pheasant, I made another trip to Bull City Olive Oil looking for inspiration. In a shop that allows tasting, I’m constitutionally unable to NOT taste. One of the oils that I tasted was a chipotle infused oil. That was just the thing to help me get rid of the leftover duck breast (later on that).

That bottle was sitting on the counter while I was making my beef and bleu sandwich. I passed on the mayonnaise, the butter, and the mustard that I had been considering. Instead, I drizzled some of the chipotle oil on my bread, stack on my thinly sliced beef, and the MarBleu cheese. Great combination–just a bit spicy, just a bit smokey. (I had the green stuff on the side as a salad.)

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(No pictures of that beautiful steak–they disppeared somewhere betwixt the smart phone and Google photo so all I have are the gustatory and olfactory memories.)

 

 

Steamed eggs?

Browsing through my email cooking subscriptions, I found an article that made me think of my egg cooker–one of my favorite small kitchen appliances is my egg cooker–yes, it’s a single-use appliance, but it’s worth the bit of space it takes up because it gets used often–to hard cook eggs that I want to have around for snacks and salads, to soft cook in the shell for breakfast, or to poach. It is so much easier than “boiling” in a pot of water; it eliminates cracked eggs, with funny alien looking growths. I can’t screw up the timing. Even in my minimally functional morning state, I can do the simple task of measuring some water in a Maveriick egg cooker IMG_3799specially marked cup to cook my egg. The buzz (truly obnoxious) when the eggs are done takes care of overcooking issues.

This is an inexpensive (under $20 even today and as you can see, well-used, Maverick) egg cooker–no fuzzy logic, nothing complicated. It’s just physics in operation. The eggs are cooked by steaming. There is an on-off switch, but otherwise, absolutely no controls to fuss with–except the cup to measure the water. (The cup also has a piercing gadget built right into the bottom of the cup so you don’t have to look for a thumb tack or push pin. So, you’re wondering why steam cooking eggs is better? A more tender egg white and a smoother yolk that is much appreciated by egg aficionados.

If you don’t have an egg cooker but would like to try steaming your eggs here is a link to an article from Bon Appetite on steaming eggs. You do have to watch the time with this method, but it would let you see the difference with steaming (which may lead to the purchase of an egg cooker); however, I not about to give up some other cooking methods like carefully scrambling in butter, poached in olive oil (video), or in Spanish potato omelette.

(Cook’s note: It would seem that the Maverick egg cooker has gotten more expensive, and a fancy version comes looking like a white hen; perusing Amazon.com for egg cookers, I see that there are still some basic cookers still available in that price range; given how happy with my Dash yoghurt maker, were I looking for a basic, inexpensive egg cooker I’d likely try theirs or the Better Chef.)

 

 

There’s an app for improvisation

Cooking for one? Frustrated with recipe adjustment? You want to improvise but not quite ready to just “wing it”?  You want a fritter batter (for one or two) but the recipe serves six?

Using something other than measuring cups and measuring spoons can give you a lot more freedom in the kitchen. How to Cook without a Book will help you get away from the frustration of looking at the recipe that serves six and wondering how to modify it for you (and the cat). If you know cooking techniques (e.g. sauté or braise) you are well on your way to using that recipe for inspiration and adapt it to your needs and taste. If you want a good start on learning techniques, I would recommend you check out Michael Ruhlman’s Twenty that includes not only the techniques but important ingredients as well: water, onions, acids, eggs, butter, and flour for a start.  Now to take improvisation to the next level of freedom from recipes: using ratios of ingredients.

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking Cover ImageThe Ratio (link below) is devoted to explaining and working with ratios in the kitchen.  Topics in this book include batters (cake and bread), stocks, roux, sauces, and even sausages. Measuring by weight  (though not required) does simplify this process–and eliminate washing all those measuring cups and measuring spoons. Adjusting the amounts of main ingredients is straight forward, but this approach does mean that you will need to adjust seasoning by tasting–rather than simply mathematically.

There is an app that will put all this at your fingertips (links below). Let’s say your gardening neighbor has just gifted you a BIG bag of zucchini. You might think you can use some of them to make fritters as the main course for your supper. You can go the Google route–find a butt-load of recipes, most of which serve six, or you can use this app to check batters–and you’ll see a button for fritter batter. The “details” tab will give you more specific information: e.g. that each 4 ounces of flour and liquid will hold together two cups of garnish (your shredded zucchini) and that would make about eight nice, big fritters and some seasoning suggestions for both sweet and savory. This app is NOT free ($4.99 from Google Play via Ruhlman Enterprises); there are some issues with it–but I think it’s worth that small price.

The issues: The egg part of the ratio, since eggs come nicely packaged right from the hen. I learned the “ratio” approach from my grandmother she taught me to make a “pound” cake or “four parts” cake–since the egg was premeasured, we worked in egg weights and use an equal weight of each other ingredients–flour, sugar, and butter. This is easy if you use scales, but if not, then here are some ways to deal with the egg part of the ratio.

Weights of various grades of eggs for the USA and for other countries can be found in Wikipedia; additional volume information can be found on Get Cracking . Using this site you can find that a large egg (called for in most recipes) weighs 2.0 to 2.25 ounces (56.7 to 63.7 grams) and volume of 46 mL (3.25 tablespoons). Cup equivalents of eggs are found at The Incredible Edible Egg. Some recipes (custards and some sauces) will call for egg yolks only. To help on these calculations you need to know the weight of the yolk of a large egg is 17 grams or 0.60 ounces. Weights for other egg sizes can be found at  the {convert to} site. From this same  website you can convert that 1 yolk into cup measure: 0.07 cups, which is equal to 0.56 fluid ounces, or 1.12 tablespoons, or 3.37 teaspoons of egg yolk. (I doubt that you’ll be doing this kind of conversions–but it can be done.) Just to be complete,  the weight of egg white from large eggs is = 33 grams = 1.2 oz. The information for other sizes/grades of chicken eggs, as well as duck, quail, and turkey eggs, is also given.

Now suppose you want to make a small amount of custard (e.g. for quiche) you can use the calculator of this app to determine how much liquid you need. To do this by weight, enter 56.7 in the “eggs” and set units to grams. Now set the liquid units to grams as well–and the calculator will tell you to use 113 grams of liquid. (You’re saying you could have done that in your head–true, but now you click the “details” tab, and you’ll get a kind of “master” recipe with more instructions.)  Want Crème Anglaise using only egg yolks? Use the weight of the number of egg yolks, and the calculator will spit out the amount of cream and sugar you need, as well as the total weight. For two egg yolks, you would need 136 grams cream and 34 grams of sugar.

More on using ratios:

Happy improvisation with ratios! A son gôut!

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Homemade skyr

41ktixxzjwl-_sx425_I finally got a yogurt maker. I didn’t go for the Cuisinart with all the bells and whistles–just opted for the Dash which seems to do the basics.  I didn’t order hot pink, but that’s what I got; I can deal with that–I’m not going to be sitting around contemplating it–so long as it works–and it does do what it’s supposed to. I got the “Greek” because it has a strainer with it and it does bulk yogurt instead of little itty, bitty jars.

Of all the commercial yogurts I’ve tried, the Icelandic Products Skyr is my favorite. I looked at the cultures used in that: Streptococcus thermophilus Icelandicus™ and Lactobacillus bulgaricus bifidobacterium. These are noted as heirloom cultures. Since this is my favorite store-bought yogurt I decided to use that as my starter culture.

Most of the recipes that I found for skyr called for rennet but that’s not listed as in ingredient in the Icelandic Products skyr, so I’m not using it. The ingredients did say skim milk but since I’m still working on the Always Hungry? plan, which calls for whole milk products, I made mine with whole milk.

I used 8 hours 30 minutes for my first batch. The texture after straining was great but for my taste, it needs to be just a bit more tart so I’ll try using 10 hours next time. Perhaps after I get off the Always Hungry? program, I’ll try skim milk and see how that works.

I’ve used the whey that was strained off to thin the consistency of the power shake just a bit instead of pouring it down the drain since I’m adding whey protein powder to the shakes. Though it’s a bit richer tasting than most commercial yogurts, it seems to work fine in all the uses called for in the meal plan.Certainly much cheaper than buying Greek yogurt–and I know exactly what is in it.

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Butter

Margarine does not come into my kitchen. I would rather have a bit of butter in moderation, but the real thing. I was  skulking about on the web this afternoon I found this article on butter from Food  Republic and though I’d share it. There’s some fun browsing if you interested in fish eggs in Japanese cuisine, or whether it’s a food fad or trend.

There’s some fun browsing  on lots of other topics: fish eggs in Japanese cuisine, or whether it’s a food fad or trend, Filipino food, or maybe butchery or charcuterie questions.