Fresh Herb Chevre

February 15, 2011

Last weekend, I took my first cooking class! It was a  soft cheese making class taught by Mary Karlin, an expert in artisan cheese.  It was such fun to spend a day with other hungry folks trying to expand our culinary repertoire.  One of the cheeses we made was chevre.  It is incredibly easy to make by simply adding culture to warm goat’s milk and allowing the mixture to sit overnight so the curd can form.  I’ll admit my product wasn’t exactly as I dreamed, it was a bit too dry and crumbly instead of creamy.  Still, it was delicious.

I love the tangy creaminess of chevre.  I often serve it as an appetizer with caramelized onion relish or pepper jelly.  Another favorite preparation is simply rolling the log in fresh herbs, lemon zest, and ground pepper.  It is the perfect last minute appetizer because it is quick, inexpensive, and delicious.  It looks like something really special, even though it is incredibly easy to create.

Using fresh herbs for this recipe is crucial.  Fortunately, I live in a climate where my garden provides fresh herbs year round.  The following recipe is more of an idea and guideline than a recipe to strictly follow.  The precise mixture of the herbs is not crucial, but I like half of the herb volume to be parsley and the other half to be more intense herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, and the lemon zest.

The Fresh Herb Chevre is delicious with grilled or toasted bread.  I slice the bread, brush or spray it with olive oil, and then grill or broil until toasted.  Guests serve themselves slices of the herb cheese on the toasted bread.

Fresh Herb Chevre

makes one herby loaf of goat cheese

1 8-ounce log of chevre

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mince herbs and zest.  Mix thoroughly with black pepper.  Roll chevre in herb mixture.  Serve with toasted bread.

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe: Fresh Herb Chevre

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Weeknight No-Knead Bread

January 28, 2011

OK, so I finally tried it.  I know I’m a little behind the times and most of you have already made or at least eaten the reputable “No-Knead Bread”, but for me this was a first.   Back in 2006, when New York Times published a variation of this recipe it created quite a fervor.  Multiple friends shared their success with the bread, but I was home with a baby who was not yet mobile.  I had nothing to do but bake bread, the other, more time-consuming way, by kneading it.  Truly, I paid little heed to the recipe.  Then later, when Cooks Illustrated published another version, I ignored it again.  At that time we were blessed with bakery seconds delivered to our door each week from an amazing local bakery.  Now that I am back to work, the kids are beyond mobile, and the free bread has long since stopped gracing our table, it was time to dig out this AMAZING recipe and give it a try.

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Easy Cranberry Bread

December 23, 2010


How is it that cranberries have become the icon of the holidays?  Is it their crimson color or their relative scarcity throughout the rest of the year?  Whatever it is, they play a special role during this season.  For some reason, I have been craving cranberry bread.  When I set out to find a recipe, I was surprised that there are very few out there.  The recipe that follows is generously adapted from one posted on Everyday Food (that received mediocre reviews).

I was craving a bread that would celebrate cranberries rich color and tart flavor without distractions from nuts, citrus, etc.  To boost the flavor, I swapped out the whole milk for buttermilk.  The cranberries are chopped and sprinkled with sugar before folding them into the dough.  This sweetens the berries and prevents an overwhelmingly sour pop of cranberry when you bite into a piece.  The result is a quick bread that is perfect for breakfast or brunch during the holidays or any time of year. (Now is the best time to buy cranberries.  They freeze well!)

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Cardamom Bread

December 22, 2010

Every year when I bake Swedish Cardamom bread for our Christmas morning brunch, I wonder why I reserve it for Christmas alone. It is beautiful, relatively easy to make, and tastes so tender and delicious.  I love it!

Cardamom is not a spice that gets a lot of play in standard American fare.  I know it best through Swedish and  Indian recipes.  This bread features it prominently.  The key is to grind the cardamom seeds just before adding to dough.  (Do not use pre-ground cardamom powder, please.  It is not the same.)  I like to hull the pods, then grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle until they are fine, but still contain some larger chunks (think pre-ground pepper and course pepper ground in your mill for a size comparison).  The courser bits add a flavorful crunch when biting the bread.

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There comes a point at the end of every summer, when I yearn for the days to shorten and the nights to cool.  Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, but there is something so comforting about layering on sweaters,  hats, and eating SOUP!  Now that we are a few months into frigid and rainy weather (ignore the minor fact that it is clear and 60 degrees here today), we must break out the big guns: a rich bowl of Split Pea Soup!

This soup starts with a stock made from ham hocks and the old standby of onion, carrot, and celery.  Once that cooks down for a few hours, you’ll have a flavorful base for the other simple ingredients.    No time to make stock?  Your soup will turn out great with water too! Just add the ham hocks to the soup with the water and peas.  Looking for a vegetarian soup?  Leave out the ham.  You can use yellow or green split peas,  either will taste fabulous.  If you want to really make this meal memorable, be sure to bake the Beer Bread.  This recipe comes from Sunset (via my mother).  The bread is hearty, with a chewy bite and the perfect amount of tang from the beer.  Both the soup and the bread freeze well.  I find it best to freeze a family dinner portion of the soup and a loaf of bread for a busy weeknight down the road.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

serves 12

(enough for 2 dinners- one for now and one to freeze)

the Stock

2 ham hocks

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 2 inch lengths

1 stick celery, chopped into 2 inch lengths

Combine the above ingredients in a large pot.  Add enough water to cover by 2 inches.  Simmer for 3 hours partially covered.  Add one teaspoon of salt after 1 hour.  Strain out and discard the veggies.  Reserve the stock and degrease.  Reserve the ham hocks.  Pull meat from the bone and chop into bite sized pieces.

*This can be make ahead.  Just refrigerate the stock for up to one week or freeze for later use.

the Soup

2 Tablespoons of butter

1 1/2 cup diced onion

1 1/2 cup peeled and diced carrot

1 1/2 cup diced celery

Meat from two ham hocks, diced

3 cups split peas

3 quarts ham stock, water, or combination of the two

2 bay leaves

Melt butter in a large stock pot.  Saute onion, carrot, and celery until softened, but not browned.  Add reserved ham (or whole hocks if you skipped the stock step), peas, bay leaves, and stock or water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and partially cover pot.  Cook until peas are soft and meat and veggies are tender.  (Remove hocks and pull meat from the bone if not already done.  Dice meat and return ham to soup.)  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm with Beer Bread (recipe follows) and salad.  Feel free to make this soup a day ahead.  Refrigerate until cool, then cover.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Split Pea Soup with Ham

Beer Bread

Adapted from Sunset Magazine (via Mom)

makes 2 loaves

the Beer Mixture

2 cups flat beer

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 Tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup dark molasses

Pour beer into a small saucepan.  Heat to steaming and remove from heat.  Stir in next 4 ingredients.  Set aside to cool.

the Yeast Mixture

1/2 cup warm water

4 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (2 packages)

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine, stir, and let stand 10 minutes.

the Dry Ingredients

1/2 cup each wheat germ and wheat bran

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

Combine cooled beer mixture and yeast mixture in bowl of your stand mixer or a large mixing bowl.  Add wheat germ, wheat bran, and whole wheat flour.  Mix until fully incorporated.  Add unbleached flour, one cup at a time, kneading to incorporate fully before adding more.  Stop after 2 cups and test the dough.  It should be moist but not  sticky.  If it is still sticky, add flour cautiously, 1/2 cup at a time.   Avoid adding too much flour, it can become very heavy and tough.  Knead dough for 10 minutes by hand or in mixer (less time- 5 minutes or so) until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Place dough ball in an oiled bowl.  Cover and allow to rise 1 hour.

Punch down and let rise 45 minutes.  Sprinkle 2 greased cooking sheet with cornmeal.  Punch down dough, divide in half and form 2 8-inch rounds.  Place on cornmeal-topped pans.  Cover and let rise 40 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.    Brush top with egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water (for a nice shiny crust).  Use a sharp knife to cut a # shape on the top of the loaves.

Bake for 40 minutes until bread is browned and sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.  Place on a cooling rack to cool.  Serve with butter, Split Pea Soup, and salad.  Yum!

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Beer Bread

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