Archive for January, 2011

This week in Dairy: shake up some butter!

Here’s a project:  Let’s say you are stuck inside because it’s 6° outside and your children are climbing the walls with their endless supply of energy.  How to exhaust them?  Take a jar with a tight lid, pour in a cup of heavy cream, and tell them you are holding a contest to see who can shake the jar the longest.  After about 10 minutes, they will get sick of this and go back to flinging themselves off of the sofa, but by then you are almost halfway there.  Take over, keep shaking, and –  lo and behold – you have made yourself some butter.  No churn required.

Inside the jar, you will have a soft lump of butter surrounded by buttermilk.  You will want to drain the butter milk and rinse the butter a few times (leaving buttermilk in the butter can make it go sour).  Depending on its consistency, you can put it into a cup, or shape it into a log.  Add salt or herbs if you like, and refrigerate or freeze.  Or feed it to your children on toast as a well-deserved snack for all that shaking.

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It’s cold outside! Why not stay inside and make pretzels?

Inspired by Annie Novak’s lovely blog post on her site, Growing Chefs (the website for her organization that provides field-to-fork educational programs for kids),  we decided to stay in on Saturday and make pretzels. As promised, it is the perfect activity to do with kids.  All you have to do is mix a few basic ingredients together (flour, yeast, brown sugar, salt & milk) and knead for a short while:

Let the dough rise for about an hour and then divide it into 6 or 8 pieces.  Roll the each one out into a log:

Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes and then stretch it again.  Repeat 3 times if you can.  Then twist them into pretzel shapes, or any kind of shape, really.

Paint them with some beaten egg and sprinkle with salt (0r herbs, if you like):

And put them in the oven at 425° for about 12 -14 minutes.  Voilà!  You should have lovely, chewy, salty pretzels.

Full disclosure:  this cooking project was a lot of fun and perfect to do with my elementary school-aged children.  However, what I don’t have a photo of is the moment that I dropped the tray as I was putting it into the oven, spilling all our perfectly formed pretzels onto the hot oven door where they started to sizzle whilst I had a minor meltdown.  In a moment of clear-headed gallantry, my husband swooped down, grabbed the melting dough and immediately started to reform our pretzels and saved the day.  They were still delicious.

For a complete recipe, click here to visit the Growing Chefs website and find out about the amazing work they are doing!

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Hats and Scarves

When it comes to knitting, my goals are humble:  to finish a project in the same calendar year as I start it.  My skills do not range far beyond the simple baby hat and often I lose track of a project before I can finish it.  The few items (i.e. scarves) that I have managed to complete are completely unwearable (i.e. ugly), but yet I persevere because I actually like the process of knitting, even if I’m not always so happy with the results.  This year, I was determined to make winter hats and scarves for my daughters and I had the foresight to get started in early August.  A few flights to Los Angeles helped the project along and by early November, I actually had finished 2 sets, just in time for the cold.  At first, the girls were excited about the project and would constantly ask about the status of their hats and scarves.  And for the first few weeks, they were thrilled to wear them.  Until they weren’t.  Sigh.  In the meantime, I’m trying to find a good way to label them so they don’t get lost at school.  Any suggestions?

In the meantime, I’ve been lurking about on Ravelry, which is like Facebook for knitters, but actually useful and inspiring.  Of the eight or so people that read this blog, I know at least a few of you are experienced knitters – and I want to hear from you.  What are you working on at the moment?

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A visual library of food.

In the 15 years we have lived in New York, we have inhabited no less than 5 apartments.  None perfect, but each with their own special feature and random quirk.  Our first apartment in Brooklyn was sunny and spacious and even had a proper dining room, but you had to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen.  After that, we moved into an apartment with a lovely kitchen and a large walk-in closet in the bedroom (Oh closet! How I miss you so), but the livingroom/dining area – if you could call it that – was about the same size as the closet.  Thus, you could could easily cook a glorious meal, but it was hard to invite more than two people for dinner.  Our last three apartments have all been in the same building, the first was a one-bedroom, but with a proper entryway; the second had a beautiful window and open kitchen, but was still small for a family of four.  We now have ample space, but the trade-off is a small galley kitchen, clearly designed by someone who uses their own oven to store shoes.  With the help of IKEA, we did our best to maximize the space we have when we moved in and I consoled myself with knowing that none other than Mark Bittman suffered from the same problem.

Tiny as our cabinets are, we somehow managed to cram so much into them we didn’t know what we had.  So over the recent holiday break, I decided to excavate.  I found no less than 4 small bottles of peanut oil, conjuring up the several moments in the recent past when – in a mid-cooking freak-out –  we couldn’t find it, assumed we were out, and ran to the store to buy more.  There were also many a bottle of random and expired condiments (apparently in the early 2000’s we once used a bottle of A-1 steak sauce and then kept it for posterity after it expired in 2008).  But the most surprising were the endless bags of legumes that emerged from the cabinet above the stove.  Once I got it all out, it was clear that it couldn’t go back.

Lucky for us, the previous tenants had addressed the small-kitchen problem by installing a large built-in next to it in the dining area, where I had a few jars filled with foods we use on a daily basis.  Foods we used because we could actually see them.

Before

Of course, the answer was there all along – more jars!  I set about trying for find more of what I originally had, when I stumbled across a set of stackable glass canisters produced by Anchor Hocking.  To my amazement, they fit our space exactly.  It took 48 jars to cover the entire space and I was worried about how I would fill them all.  Silly me.  Apparently, I had more than 48 different kinds of beans, grains, pasta, nuts living above my stove.  But now we can see them all and are actually using them.

After

Our kitchen has now been fully cataloged and is ready to take on our recent declaration that we are going to make a whole bunch of stuff this year.  In the meantime, our new dry-goods library has inspired us to eat more cholent.

So, for all of you out there with tiny kitchens, what clever tricks are you using to make them work?

Cholent

Adapted from “Quick & Kosher: Recipes From the Bride Who Knew Nothing,” by Jamie Geller (Feldheim, 2007). Via the New York Times, published November 23rd, 2010.

Time: 12 to 15 hours

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

1/2 to 1 pound boneless beef short ribs, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks

Pepper, to taste

3/4 cup pearl barley

1/3 cup dried kidney beans,

1/3 cup dried navy beans

1/3 cup dried cranberry beans

3 cups chicken or beef broth

2 tablespoons honey or molasses

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

Salt to taste.

1. Line the bottom of a slow cooker with the potatoes, the onion and then the short ribs, sprinkling the meat with pepper to taste.

2. Scatter the barley and the beans on top, then pour on the broth and the honey or molasses. Sprinkle with the paprika and salt to taste. Add enough water to cover all the ingredients. Cook on low for 12 to 15 hours, stirring occasionally (except during Shabbat, for those who observe it), adding more water if necessary. The longer the cholent cooks, the better it will be.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

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Domaphile resolutions

Happy New Year!  Can I still say that on January 9th?  We have had a slow start to the new year and a bit of a hiatus from Domaphile, but are back in the saddle again, full of anticipation for 2011.  This year, we spent New Year’s eve at our favorite place upstate New York enjoying Belgian beef stew and noodles.  On our drive back, instead of talking about all of our regular resolutions (let’s face it, they are the same every year: wake up earlier! Exercise! Floss! Be Better!!!), we decide to list all of the things we would like to make this year.  Various and sundry things we hope to experiment with and document here.  So far, our list is as follows:

  • Corned Beef
  • Root Beer
  • Tofu
  • Kimchi
  • Sourdough starter
  • Rye bread
  • Paneer
  • Goat Cheese
  • Ricotta
  • Mozzarella
  • Buttermilk
  • Butter
  • Granola Bars
  • Half-sour pickles
  • Chutney
  • Food dehydration
  • Canning
  • Hoshigaki
  • Bento

Aside from these culinary adventures, I am hoping to do some felting and hyperbolic crochet.  A tall order, I know, but it’s only January and I’m still feeling optimistic.

What are you hoping to make this year?  I’m still looking for ideas and contributors, so send along your projects! Better yet, let me know if you have any experience with anything on our list.  Most of the items we have never tried to make before.

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