Monday, April 27, 2009

Palak Paneer, Part One: Paneer

I LOVE Palak Paneer. I eat it at work at least once a week, and enjoy ordering it when going to Indian restaurants (though I am often tempted to try new things). I've been on a dairy kick recently (and by recently, I mean the past 27 years of my life) and have been itching to make some cheese. Paneer is just about the easiest cheese one CAN make as it requires only two ingredients, no thermometers, aging or talent in general.

Start with one 1/2 gallon of milk and the juice for 1 1/2 lemons. Whole milk is best for flavor, but I find 2% to be a good compromise in this situation.


I chose Cedar Summit milk as its un homogenized, which is the closest thing you get get to "real milk" in this country without owning part of the cow. Cow shares are an option to get raw milk (and may be in our future... I think I've caught the cheese making bug) but we haven't quite gotten there yet.

Bring your milk to a boil. Once it is at a full boil, slowly add the lemon juice and reduce the heat to low. Stir until separated (about 2 minutes). Turn the heat off and allow to rest for about 10 minutes .

Carefully pour your curds through a colander lined with 3 layers of cheesecloth (Save your whey to make homemade ricotta).


Rinse your curds under lukewarm water (while still in the cheese cloth). Grab the edges of the cheesecloth and twist to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from your curds.

Place your curds into a bowl and flatten then down to the bottom.


Weigh down the cheese with a plate, bowl or can (I had a big of a make shift method here, using the heaviest pan in our kitchen) for 1 hour at room temperature.


Pour off any liquid that has accumulated. Your paneer is now ready to be cubed and eaten!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

New digs

Yesterday I decided it was time to upgrade my gear... so I had a D700 overnighted to me


and then I went and shot the tree in our back yard. I'm sure I'll be going on a walk later today.

I'm soooo excited

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Two birds, one stone: Part 2

I just remembered I hadn't yet blogged about my rabbit experience. I have never been squeamish about eating rabbit (aside from when I was 12 and a vegetarian. Foolish child) and ate it all the time when living in Italy. They actually served ragu alle coniglie at the university cafeteria. I think UDS has something to learn from the Italians. But having never prepared the little guys myself I figured it would be a good learning experience. At first I thought we might roast a whole rabbit, as I know I've seen them available at Holy Land but we are terrible at eating leftovers and a whole rabbit would surely result in leftovers. I found frozen rabbit thighs at The Wedge and decided it would be the best to make a smaller meal


I was mostly inspired by this recipe though we used celeriac instead of the potatoes (and thus omitted the celery) , marjoram instead of thyme and used less of everything else since the recipe called for a whole rabbit.


Sometimes accidental photographs turn out cool looking

Preparing rabbit isn't unlike preparing any other small animal (ie, chicken). I'm guessing you could pretty much replace any chicken recipe with rabbit and be equally satisfied. Unless you overcook it. Then you'll have a nice piece of leather to choke down.

Other big news from the Sommers' kitchen:

Notice that this stove is not almond colored! In fact, it is a beautiful stainless steel! We're in the process of removing all things almond from the family kitchen, unless it is in the form of food.

Mmm, I love all things pickled... as long as they are vegetable based (eggs are a rare exception to this rule)

Kyle squashing the olives



Final product:

All in all this was a good meal though I'm not sure the price point would encourage me to make rabbit again anytime soon. It was fun addition to repertoire anyway.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Paired, Month 2

This was actually the 4th Paired dinner, but only our second opportunity to go. This time around Lauren (our host) instructed us to sit next to people we didn't know (oh, the horror!). There were a few familiar faces from the last time around: Jim Norton and Becca Dilley from The Heavy Table, the hosts (obviously), our friend Danielle, and a few others I haven't been introduced to. It was fun asking how people had heard about Paired and the food was another success story for Chef Chris Olson.


The location was a great juxtaposition to the last tiny studio space we ate in. A warehouse in the middle of Roseville that a local brewing supply company uses as its shipping and receiving department.


Appropriately, the food was not only paired with art (paintings and tattoo portfolio by David Dettloff, owner of The Ink Lab) but also with the beer made by Kevin Horkenhimer, an employee of the warehouse.


David describes his background and how he got where he is today


Course one was a non-traditional beer cheese soup. Without a roux this soup was light and flavorful. You can't serve beer cheese soup without a pretzel.

The beer paired with this was Saison, Saison du Baud and was by far my favorite of the five we sampled. It was light and wheaty with hints of banana. I love hefeweizens. While I realize this wasn't technically a hefeweizen, the similarities were enough to please my palate. I'm not going to speak much of the other beers only because I wouldn't do them any justice as I've retired myself from beer drinking for the most part. I can tell you Kyle liked them all, especially the double IPA that was served with dessert.

Kevin describes his brewing techniques and how he approaches the process

The salad was my favorite course. The dressing had the perfect balance of flavor, acidity and salinity to accompany the Mizuna (a delicate Japanese salad green) and the tomatoes were divine. I only wish there were more of the little confit orbs so I could enjoy their flavor in every bite. They also made for a lovely presentation


The main course was a lovely dish of grilled lamb loin with reconstituted currants, roasted shallots and seared artichoke hearts on a bed of quinoa. I could eat artichokes and quinoa until the cows come home, and they were both delicious. The lamb was obviously of very high quality and the currants gave a nice contrast to the gaminess of the meat (yes, I actually enjoyed fruit with my meat. This counts as a milestone in my life).


The dessert was delicious, and being the sweet tooth I am I devoured the whole thing before even thinking of taking a picture of it. You'll just have to trust me. The lemon curd was awesome, and while I'm not normally an IPA fan (or a double IPA fan for that matter) I certainly appreciate how well it went with the bread pudding.

A dinner companion gets a whiff of the hops used as table decor

Chis hard at work while Peter enjoys a sip of his beer

Brooke with the 3rd course in tow

Our dining companions: Jesse

and Aubrey


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Brioche with Morel Sausage Cream Sauce

I can't resist online contests... but really only if they have anything to do with food or photography. When Marxfoods offered to send out dried morels to develop a recipe worth free FRESH morels I couldn't help but take the bait.

But then I had to decide what to make.
Risotto and mushrooms are so delicious, but way too easy for me. I've made risotto more times than I care to admit (once with brown carnaroli rice for a vegan friend. It took me 3 hours to get the rice to an edible texture) and I wanted the morels to really shine.

And then I thought about my morel experience. The only time I can recall having them was when I worked at Tria about, oh... 4 years ago? That brought on memories of working there and the other fabulous menu items we had when Tria was trying to be a gourmet restaurant in a gated community (the gated communities of MN are not exactly haute eaters and things have changed since then, though I still give them credit for trying. When we opened I recall an appetizer made with wild mushrooms and a cream sauce served over brioche.

Then I got to thinking. What if I made that concept but with only morels (instead of crimini and shiitake, hardly "wild" by my standards)... and then stuffed them with my homemade sausage...and added some sherry? Done! This would be my recipe!

If you know me professionally you know I'm a procrastinator (I try not be, I swear) and I didn't even get to edit my pictures due to my deadline (especially irritating since I spent 8 hours in a photoshop seminar today). I received my morels last Thursday and wasted my weekend on cooking pate and rabbit and cast aside my precious fungi until the realization hit that I had to have this blog post done by tomorrow! At noon!


Tonight I got down to business and created:

Brioche toast with Morel and Sausage Cream Sauce (an appetizer) Serves 2


1/4 lb free range ground pork
1 oz dried morels or 1/2 pound fresh morels
4 sprigs thyme
2 slices good brioche
1 cup cream
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 c amontiallado sherry

Marx Foods Contest

marx food contest

Rehydrate mushrooms in 1 1/2 cup of warm water for 30 minutes. Squeeze out additional moisture from mushrooms and reserve liquid. Rinse the morels and dry on a clean towel. Separate any large and/or very hollow morels from smaller and tighter versions and set aside.

marx food contest

Finely chop remaining small morels and mix with ground pork, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper and the leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme.


Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Soap was invented for a reason!

Heat olive oil over medium heat and add the sausage mixture.


Cook until just done and cool slightly.

Toss sausage with 1/8c sherry.

Using a dowel, skewer or the back of a wooden spoon, fill reserved morels with sausage being careful not to rip the mushroom.

Return the pan to medium heat and sautee your stuffed morels until browned on all sides.


In the mean time, heat a grill pan and toast brioche slices until just golden, then slice into quarters.


Remove the browned morels from the pan and add butter. Once melted add the remaining sherry and deglaze the pan, scraping up any remaining browned bits.

Add reserve mushroom liquid to the pan, being careful not to add the sediment at the bottom.



Reduce liquid by 3/4 and add heavy cream. Reduce by half.


Arrange brioche slices and morels on a plate and spoon cream sauce over both. Garnish with two sprigs of thyme per plate and serve immediately.


And that's it!


What do you think? I've made plenty of other recipes in the past, but I actually feel like this one is worth something. Also, I had it for dinner tonight, and I wish I could have had about 10x as many servings as I made. I'm also my own worst critic if that's any consolation to you. If you'd order it off a menu you should vote at marxfoods, starting tomorrow {04/16/09)at 12pm PST.

I'm sure I'll remind you to vote a few other times while the polls are open :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two birds, one stone: Part 1

I did actually make something I've never made before LAST weekend (that would have been the weekend of the 3rd). I made souffle. And then I lost my memory card. Why THAT memory card? And where the hell is it? I don't know, but I have gotten mad about it every hour or so for the past week. So I am declaring myself over it, and will be happy when I find it 10 years from now when we move out of our house.

To make up for it, I made TWO things I've never made before this past weekend). Rabbit and Chicken livers. I figured if I made them together it wouldn't count, so I made two separate dishes. Rabbit ragout and chicken liver pate. Today we'll focus on the Pate.

To see the original recipe on google books go here

I love pate, and Kassie declared her deep love for chicken livers on twitter, so in honor of you Kassie:

Chicken Liver Spread
(adapted from Fat: An appreciation of a misunderstood ingredient, with recipes)

1 lb chicken livers
6-8 tbsp chicken fat (substitute duck fat if desired... or butter if you can't get your hands on either)
1 spring marjoram
sea salt and black pepper
2 1/2 tbsp brandy
pinch of ground nutmeg

This has to be one of the cheapest sources of animal protein in the world. The pound of chicken livers I purchased came to under $2 at the wedge

Separate the livers into lobes of equal size and cut away any green discoloration (ew, didn't see any of that "discoloration... and am glad for that fact). Remove the connecting threads and any large bits of blood (I did have a few of those) and pat them dry

In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of chicken fat over high heat (I used butter, I tried to find duck fat and Surdyk's was out... fat is fat though right?). When hot, add the livers and marjoram, season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the livers are just pink in the middle, about 3 minutes per side.

Experiments in cooking volume III

Tip the livers and juices into a bowl and discard the marjoram. Return the pan to heat and add 2 tbsp of brandy deglazing the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits and pour the deglazing liquid into the bowl with the livers. Cool slightly.

Experiments in cooking volume III

This next part I didn't take pictures of, for two reasons

1) My food mill requires muscles and attention and I didn't have an extra hand to take a picture
2) It was not a pretty sight

Press the livers through a food mill or medium-mesh sieve to remove the sinew. Add remaining chicken fat to make a soft paste (again, I used butter). Add the nutmeg and remaining brandy if (obviously!) desired.

Experiments in cooking volume III
Pack into a small dish and refrigerate.

Experiments in cooking volume III