The Joy of White Moustache Yogurt

sour-cherry-white-moustache-yogurt-side

For a little while now, I’ve seen this fancy-looking yogurt in specialty shops in NYC—White Moustache brand. It comes in glass containers, has a hip look (moustaches are big in NYC these days), and is made Persian-style, which is a thick, strained-type yogurt (think FAGE). While shopping at Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker Street, I came across it and decided to take the plunge—and boy, am I glad I did.

This is the best yogurt I’ve ever tasted—even better than the strained raw yogurt I make at home. It has a wonderful texture—smooth and creamy, yet light, and was perfectly balanced in the sweet/tang department. You’d that that even with sweetened sour cherries, the yogurt would taste more sour than most, but this did not have any harshness to it whatsoever. The natural sweetness of the milk is clear in the taste of the yogurt.

sour-cherry-white-moustache-yogurt-open

The yogurt itself takes three days to make, and is truly handcrafted. They fill each container by hand and make all the fruit/veg elements. A jar at Murray’s was priced at $5.99, and I think with all things taken into consideration, it’s worth it.  Continue reading “The Joy of White Moustache Yogurt”

Strained Yogurt

strained yogurt in the morning

Sometimes I find myself with very runny yogurt. Like, watery runny – sometimes yogurt just does that. Non commercial yogurt can be kind of temperamental, and since there are no gums or stabilizers involved, consistency is not always guaranteed. Runny yogurt can also be the result of user error, or wonky cultures, or temperature fluctuations. There are a lot of variables.

Since I’ve been eating raw yogurt, I have gotten used to yogurt with a looser texture. But sometimes this texture is even too runny for me. Early on, I just got kind of bummed out and ate it anyway (a shame to waste a whole quart of it).

However, these days I recognize that really runny yogurt is an opportunity for a truly delicious solution: strained yogurt.

Strained yogurt is everywhere in my neighborhood. Living in the most intensely Greek part of Astoria, Queens, I am surrounded by Greek culture, including Greek food culture. Dishes like souvlaki, donner pork, galaktoboureko, and frappes appear on diner menus, and no one considers this odd or unusual. Most people I know have a container or two of Fage yogurt hanging out in their fridge.

A couple weekends ago, I got my hands on some raw yogurt that was really runny, so I automatically took out my straining setup and poured the yogurt in it. This setup consists of a tall plastic container and a strainer lined with three or four layers of cheesecloth that I set on top of it. I put the yogurt in the strainer, then place the container lid on top of everything. I set it in the fridge on the bottom shelf and put it out of my mind until the next morning. Continue reading “Strained Yogurt”

Making Raw Yogurt

fresh milk with yogurt starter
Fresh milk mixed with yogurt starter

The other day I decided to make yogurt.

The last time I tried making yogurt was a lackluster experience. It was eons ago, in another life, and we had a Salton yogurt maker. It had 6 ceramic cups and made unremarkable yogurt  – it was extremely runny, even moreso than the raw yogurt I am accustomed to now, which is thin compared to commercial yogurt. We abandoned the project after a couple of tries.

after culturing
After culturing

Fast forward a couple of decades and to this raw milk yogurt tutorial. I was really inspired by it – it sounded so easy to make.  And it was!  Basically, I stirred a tablespoon of nice raw yogurt into a pint of fresh raw milk (I did not heat it), put the lid on, wrapped the pint jar in a towel around noon and set it in a cabinet above my fridge that gets nice and warm (but not too warm). I checked it around 10am this morning, and it was yogurt!

It had the curds that I’m used to, and the beautiful separation of cream and milk. It’s easily mixed back together, so no worries there.

yogurt texture
Yogurt texture

It’s fresh and tangy and lovely. I’m thrilled!  I’ll be making this regularly and experimenting with the recipe a little. I think I’ll try straining some at some point, which makes a thick, creamy wonderful product. Next time I might use cream as well.

A few things – from what I’ve read, the milk should not be older than 5 days to be effective in making yogurt. Also, I am not sure if this recipe would work with pasteurized milk. And with any kind of preserving/fermenting, make sure your jars and lids are sterile. If you have observations to share on this, please leave a comment!

This post is participating in Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Baked Custard

baked custard
Baked custard

A few days ago it finally cooled down a bit, so I decided to use the oven; I don’t like to turn it on when it’s hot and humid, for obvious reasons.  At the beginning of the week, I came across a recipe for baked custard, which sounded delicious – so much so that my mind wouldn’t let go of it!  I knew I had to make it.

It is a very simple recipe with minimal ingredients – whole milk, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m cutting out pretty much all refined sugars but partaking in a small amount of unrefined sweetener, and this recipe is a dream in that respect because it calls for only 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Split into 6 servings, this amount of sugar is well within tolerable limits.

It took about 5 minutes to measure and mix everything together, and about 50 minutes to bake it in the oven. I also chose to use ramekins instead of a larger single container in order to manage reasonable portion sizes. Plus it took less time to cook in ramekins than it would have in a larger dish.

The custard sets up beautifully, I must say. It developed a little bit of a skin on top, but I like it that way. You could probably put tinfoil on top of the ramekins if custard skin is unappealing. The texture of the custard itself is delicate and creamy, and the flavor is wonderfully milky and barely sweet.

I tried the custard in both warm and cold versions, and by far I prefer this custard chilled. This allows for the flavors to merge and set, and to me the flavor is more satisfying. However, some people do like these custards warm, so my statement really reveals simply a personal preference.

Although this custard is delicious on its  own, I think it would be good topped with macerated fruit. I look forward to using it as a base for strawberries especially. CSA strawberries are just around the corner!

For the full recipe for the baked custard, you can find it on the Real Food Houston site. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

 

Cream of Carrot Soup

cream of carrot soup
Cream of Carrot Soup

I love carrots – after parsnips, they are my favorite root vegetable (apart from potatoes, sweet potatoes, and those kinds of tubers) to roast. Whenever I see crudités, I head for the carrots first. I’ve eaten more than my share of carrots at recital receptions, and I never tire of them. I do find packaged “baby carrots” to be a bit amusing – big carrots whittled down to become small carrots (I have no idea how they do it exactly). Actual baby carrots right out of the ground are a totally different creature and are sweet like candy.

I made a carrot cake the other day, from Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks site. It’s a wonderful cake, very earthy and sweetened with bananas and dates – there’s no refined sugar (or unrefined sugar, actually – it’s just fruit sweetened) in this carrot cake. It’s one of my favorite things about this cake.

carrot cake
Carrot cake from 101 Cookbooks

I did make a maple syrup sweetened mascarpone frosting for it, but after tasting the whole shebang, I found it made the whole thing too sweet, so I scraped a lot of it off.  There’s only a thin layer now, and it’s perfect.

After I made this carrot cake, I had a bunch of carrots left over, so I decided to make soup out of them. I whipped up this cream of carrot soup the other day and it turned out to be simply amazing. It’s basically carrots and onions cooking in milk and then pureed. Cooking vegetables in milk and pureeing them is one of my base recipes – it works well with broccoli, cauliflower, root vegetables, and even dark leafy greens.

My bet is that one could make this dairy free by using homemade almond milk in place of the cow’s milk. Carrots and almonds go so well together. Maybe garnishing the soup with dukkah would be nice in that case, too!

Cream of Carrot Soup

1/4 white onion, preferably organic, chopped
carrots, preferably organic, washed and grated enough to make 1.5 cups
1 tbs unsalted grass-fed butter (I like using Kerrygold)
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 orange
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt/kosher salt
1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper/red pepper flakes
2 c. whole milk (mine is raw, but any kind of grass-fed milk would work just fine)
salt and pepper to taste
whole milk yogurt (I used raw yogurt, but regular whole milk yogurt would work, as would strained yogurt)
za’atar (optional, but delicious; fresh thyme leaves would be an alternative)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then add the chopped onion. Cook for a few minutes until softened, and add the grated carrots. Cook for a few minutes until they soften, too.

Add the olive oil and stir until combined. Squeeze half the juice of the orange (so, juice from 1/4 of an orange) onto the onions and carrots. Add salt and sprinkle on the Aleppo pepper.

Add the milk and combine everything in the pan together. Turn the heat down on low (do not let this mixture boil), put a lid on the pan, and simmer for 20-30 minutes until everything is soft. Note: you may have to place the lid on the pan at an angle if things are too hot, to let the steam out, and so as to not cause over-boiling (milk burns easily and smells terrible when it does).

Take the pan off the heat and blend everything in the pot with a stick blender (you could do this with a regular blender, too, but it’s just more work). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls and top with yogurt and za’atar (optional) to taste and squeeze a little more orange juice onto the soup.

Serves 1-2 people.

This post is participating in Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Spinach by Yotam Ottolenghi

ottolenghi spinach

I first came across the name “Ottolenghi” on the 101 Cookbooks site, where Heidi featured a recipe from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.  The recipe consists primarily of Bhutanese red rice and quinoa, along with aromatics, pistachios, dried apricots, and arugula.  I remember making and really enjoying this dish, especially entranced with the red rice, which was unusual to me but so delicious.  FYI, “Ottolenghi” is the last name of Yotam Ottolenghi, who with Sami Tamimi are behind Ottolenghi, a very popular food shop and catering company in London, UK.

Last month, I discovered another Ottolenghi recipe that looked fantastic.  It’s very simple – spinach, pine nuts, ricotta, and some aromatics and spices.  I was particularly intrigued by the use of sumac, which I’ve only come across in middle eastern restaurants here in town (most notably at Kabab Cafe).

Sumac spice, not to be confused with the more toxic sumac like poison ivy, is a dark red spice derived from a wild bush in the Mediterranean.  The spice has as tart, lemony flavor.  It’s really delicious, and since I have so much of it left over, I look forward to trying other dishes that require it.

So, this lovely spinach dish.  I thought it was very good, really tasty, and easy to make; and I’d make it again in an instant.  I loved the use of fresh, mild cheese alongside the tart sumac, plus the cheese and nuts boost the protein content. I was happy to be able to take advantage of buying fresh, locally made ricotta at my neighborhood salumeria.  This cheese is so fresh and clean tasting, it’s a joy to use.  This dish is also good the next day.

You can find the recipe for Spinach with Sumac, Pine Nuts, and Fresh Cheese over on Design Sponge.

Omelet – a Quick and Delicious Dinner

omelette

I don’t remember how I came up with this dish, but it was probably inspired by having a bunch of leftovers combined with my love of eggs. Basically, “omelet”, as I call it, is vegetables and meat sauteed in a pan, topped with uncooked scrambled eggs and cheese, and steamed until the eggs are cooked through. It doesn’t sound exotic or fancy, and isn’t the prettiest thing around, but it is tasty, nourishing, and easy to prepare. It’s an excellent dish to cook when you have little time or are just plain tired and want something to eat fairly fast. It’s also a great canvas for improvisation.

I mentioned leftovers above – it’s a great dish for leftovers – greens work especially well, as do onions, potatoes, carrots, summer squash, and tomatoes. You can mix in some pesto with the eggs, add diced or ground meat, sausage, or cured meats. You can also make it very simple with just onions, potato, egg, and cheese. You can even add a sauce you like at the end. This dish is incredibly flexible, which is one of the things I like about it.

Last night, I used half a white onion, leftover garlic lemon greens, chopped cooked chicken, pesto ricotta, eggs, and grated Locatelli (a salty hard cheese). In this case, everything but the eggs and cheese were leftovers from last week. It was a very tasty combination.

So, what I did was:

  • Diced up the onions and sautéed them in olive oil (about 1 T) until they became translucent.
  • Added the chicken and cooked that a little bit.
  • Then came the greens, and I cooked everything together until it was heated through.
  • I also made sure that the pan was completely covered with this mixture, so that eggs would not leak through to the pan surface; it’s best if they sit atop the vegetables.
  • Scrambled the eggs and poured them on top (I used 5 eggs this time, which was perfect)
  • I then put small dollops of pesto ricotta across the top of the mixture, and sprinkled on the grated cheese.
  • I put a lid on it, turned the heat down to low and let it steam. I’d check on it from time to time to make sure the eggs were cooked through. It took about 10-15 minutes for the eggs to cook and the dish to come together.
  • I only salted the onions a little bit, as the leftovers had all be seasoned when I cooked them originally, so extra salt was not needed.

If I were skipping the pesto ricotta, I’d probably use a sharp cheddar in place of the Locatelli and eat it with hot sauce!

So, in general, the order of ingredients would go as follows:

  • aromatics (e.g. onion, garlic, bacon)
  • ground/chopped meat (if using)
  • hard veggies (e.g. carrots, potatoes)
  • soft veggies (e.g. greens, summer squash, tomatoes, sauce)
  • herbs
  • eggs (solo, or combined with sauce like pesto, tomato, or salsa)
  • cheese
  • The order of things can even be re-arranged if it works better for you.

Like I said, there is room for improvisation and the dish is extremely customizable.

It’s been a quick and delicious dinner staple in my household and has provided us with delicious and nutritious meals numerous times. I hope you find it a useful and enjoyable dish as well.

This post is participating in Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.