Jan

14

Tomatoes to die for!

Fresh locally-grown tomatoes are a thing of wonder. Red, round, juicy and delicious these farm-grown beauties are far superior to their hearty, travel-weary supermarket cousins.

 

Husband and I hit another local farmers’ market on Sunday and found both red and yellow tomatoes. Tonight I cut up the red ones and dressed them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, freshly ground pepper and basil. We served them with some broiled salmon and cous cous. I haven’t had tomatoes liked these in ages!

 

I can hardly wait to enjoy the yellow one that sits invitingly on my kitchen counter.

Filled Under: food

Jan

12

Zen and the Art of Cheesemaking

cheesemaking

Making your own cheese is a great way to eat locally. Some local milk and some very local labor and you’ll be enjoying homemade cheese in under an hour.

My first memory of homemade cheese is from my teen years when my dad started making cheese. I remember cheesecloth balls draining at the sink. And yummy soft cheeses served just as is without even crackers. This was good stuff.

Looking back, I can see that my dad was an interesting mix of hi-tech gadget geek and a man longing for the old ways. When we lived in California we had an olive tree. So of course my dad set out to cure his own olives. Now that’s cool! My dad also made his own pasta, his own bread and, later in life, his own wine. His geek side meant that we had the first microwave, first VCR and first computer of anyone I knew.

I’m a bit of a gadget geek myself, but it was my dad’s hankering for homemade novelties that I remember most fondly. A few years before he died, my dad would wow relatives with his cheesemaking abilities, making a  beautiful, glossy, delicious round of mozzarella cheese in under an hour.

I like to think I take after my dad. For years, I have made my own bread, baked most things from scratch and helped with the family winemaking. (My geeky side means I have an iMac, and MacBook Pro and an iPhone.) So making cheese seemed like the obvious thing to do! In the last year or two, I’ve made mozzarella cheese a few times. With mixed success.

When it became clear that my dad was really dying, I set out to garner whatever cheesemaking ability he could pass on. So while my dad lay in his hospice bed in the living room (holding court as usual with lots of family members around), I set up in my mom’s kitchen with pots and bowls, thermometers and milk. At one point I snapped a quick picture of the developing curd with my iPhone so that Dad could take a critical look. That photo is here in this post. Yes, the curd was ready. Dad pronounced it! My perfect batch of mozzarella was soon ready to be tasted. I feel certain my dad was proud that day of that glossy ball of cheese. I’ll consider his wisdom passed on. So now it’s me that makes the cheese in the family (with plenty of help from husband). Some day I’ll pass the skill on to daughter.

I look back now and realize that the photo here was taken October 18, 2008. My dear dad passed away on October 22 (just days later). The cheese wisdom was passed on just in time!

For great information on cheesemaking and a recipe for mozzarella (and many more types of cheese) follow this LINK.

Filled Under: food

Jan

12

Eating Out Locally OR Fried Green Tomatoes

Eating locally-grown foods at home is one thing. Eating locally out is another.

 

Husband and I try to patronize locally-owned businesses as much as possible, but it’s not always easy.

 

Using our funky restaurant-finding app on the iPhone, Urbanspoon, we decided on the Whistle Stop Cafe. Their menu says they buy locally as much as possible and serve some local brews. To start, we ordered the fried green tomatoes. More of a novelty than anything, they were a pleasant way to start the meal. Service was good and friendly but very slow. But no matter, the band was great! And sitting outside on a warm but slightly breezy January evening in Florida is no hardship.

 
My main course featured fish tacos. Excellent! Served with rice and beans, it was a filling and delicious meal (if a bit monochromatic).

Filled Under: eating Out, food

Jan

6

Homemade bread

Today’s lunch was a tasty sandwich on my husband’s yummy homemade bread. Sun-dried tomatoes paired with fresh rosemary from the garden gave it its nubbly orange appearance accented with tiny bits of green. It tasted even better than it looks.

 

In our house we love homemade bread. Our last (and pictured) sun-dried tomato bread was an inspiration had by me and husband Steve. Our 11-year old daughter Amina is planning some oat bread later this week. Her inspiration came from her own tastes and a picture in a children’s cookbook.

 

There was a time when I would lovingly knead, shape and bake my own bread. There’s little more satisfying than creating a beautiful loaf of bread from just flour, water, salt and yeast. But times have changed and I no longer have the time in the kitchen that I used to, so not only does Husband make the bread these days, but, owing to his busy schedule as well, the bread machine comes into play. Although it doesn’t do quite the same job as hand kneading (I’ve done a bake off between me and machine), it does a fine job for our everyday bread. 

 

We love to throw in all sorts of goodies to liven up our bread. Past favorites have been parmesean cheese (use LOTS), black pepper (freshly ground) and an assortment of nuts and seeds.

Filled Under: food