Monthly Archive for October, 2012

Ricotta, Ricotta, Ricotta! Simply made creamy RICOTTA

There is just nothing like it. Homemade ricotta. It takes hardly any time and there is never a doubt that your family and friends will be stopped in their tracks with this simple yet satisfying recipe. It is really a versatile cheese – for breakfast it can be served with a fresh jelly or honey and nuts, for dessert with fresh berries or a with a sprinkle of cocoa and vanilla mixed in, and as an appetizer the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Creamy Ricotta

Ingredients

4 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp kosher salt

3 TBS high quality white wine vinegar

Directions

Place a large colander over a deep bowl (colander should not rest on bottom of bowl as this will not allow the cheese to drain properly; if needed a conical sieve can also be used). Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the colander with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot (i.e. Le Creuset). Stir in the salt and bring mixture to a full boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally, ensuring that the milk does not burn on the bottom of the pot or create a firm skin on the top of the milk mixture. Once boiling, turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. During the first 2 minutes it will curdle and separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey). The mixture should rest for 15 minutes before transferring it into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Allow the whey to drain through the cheesecloth, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl.

(If you are like me and hate to throw anything out you can save the whey (liquid) for your pet).

The longer the mixture drains, the thicker the ricotta. For a moist ricotta allow 20-25 minutes; for a thicker ricotta allow to drain for 2 hours. Transfer the ricotta to a plate, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

Variations

There are so many ways to deviate from the basic recipe….

– lemon ricotta: using the above recipe, add four lemons zested and juiced when mixing in milk, cream and 1 tsp sugar

– herb ricotta: one the cheese has been prepared as directed above, add in 3 TBS minced scallions, white and green parts (approx 2 scallions), 2 TBS minced fresh dill, and 1 TBS minced fresh chives

Bruschetta in a Jar – Canning Goes Tomato

Canning tomatoes for the winter. As we are nearing the end of our summer tomato season there is no better time than NOW to package up all that fresh yummy flavor to savor for the winter. You don’t have to be a canning guru to have fun and spend minimal time doing this. Kids love to help with canning too and there is no denying how great a pantry filled with home made concoctions looks to passers-by.

A few safety cautions before we begin…

-Always use jars and lids approved for home canning use.

-If the jar doesn’t seal properly, refrigerate immediately and eat within a month.

Bruschetta in a Jar

Ingredients

2 TBS dried basil

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 TBS dried oregano

2 TBS sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup white wine vinegar

2 TBS balsamic vinegar

9 cups plum tomatoes chopped (1 inch), cored

Directions

Prepare canner, jars and lids. (If you’ve never canned, then let me give you a few more details: Prep the jars and lids for canning following the procedures for boiling water canning. Place lids in a small saucepan half full of water and place on low heat. Put the metal rack in the bottom of the stock pot or boiling water canner. If using screw bands, place them top up in the bottom. The purpose of the rack is to keep the jars from direct contact with the heated metal at the bottom of the pot, which could cause them to scorch or break. Place your clean jars into the canner and fill the container (and jars) half full of water. Turn on the stove to medium heat. Remove a jar from the boiling water canner, by this point the water in the canner should be pretty hot so use the jar lifter. DON’T put the jar directly on the counter as the change in temperature between the oven and the counter will cause the jars to break. It is best to place the jars either on a folded kitchen towel or a wooden surface.)

In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine basil, garlic, oregano, sugar, vinegars, water and wine. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 5 minutes, until garlic is heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.

Slice tomatoes and drain in a colander for 30 minutes to remove excess liquid. Save this juice as it goes beautifully into an oil and vinegar-based salad dressing.

Pack tomatoes into hot jars to within a 1/2 inch of top of jar. Ladle hot vinegar mixture into jar to cover tomatoes, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Creating proper headspace in each jar is essential to achieving a proper seal and being able to safely store your jam. This is where the clear plastic ruler comes in handy. Remove any air bubbles by poking down into the mixture with chopstick or skewer. Clean the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel to make sure there’s no stray juice to interfere with the seal. Center lid on jar. Cap the jar with your lid and tighten the screw band until it is fingertip tight.

Place the jar back into the boiling water canner using your jar lifter. Once all your jars are filled, make sure they are completely covered with water (you may have to add a bit of additional water to the canner). Bring the water to a boil and then set your timer for 20 minutes. (Add 1 minute onto this time for each 1,000 ft above sea level.) When the timer goes off, remove the canner lid and wait 5 minutes. Why 5 minutes? If you don’t wait a few minutes the jostling of removing them from the canner could keep the jars from sealing. Another important tip is to remember to keep your jars upright as you remove them, titling to the side can also interfere with the seal. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing “POP!” from across the room and knowing your jars are sealing, but you can’t sit around for a whole day for that sound.

In 24 hours go back and check all your jars. If you push down on the top and the lid gives, you didn’t get a solid seal. Immediately refrigerate or reprocess that jar. I usually take it one step further by taking off the screw band and holding the jar up by just its lid (with the other hand ready to catch, of course). If the lid doesn’t spring up and I can hold it up by just the edges of the metal lid, it’s got a nice seal.

Note: For this recipe, plum tomatoes work better than glove tomatoes, as their flesh is firmer and retains its shape during processing which is ideal for bruschetta. Plum tomatoes do not need to be drained because they yield little liquid. However, if unable to find plum tomatoes, glove tomatoes can be used.

Special thanks to Madge, my go-to canning gal, for organizing and hosting such a power house canning day. Jessica and I made a great team as we prepared over 30 lbs of tomatoes for an assortment of recipes. Stay tuned for more canned tomato deliciousness to be posted soon.

Musubi Breakfast – A Hawaiian Delight / Muir Glen Reserve Harvest Give Away

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I’ve always been intrigued by SPAM musubi. It’s just one of those foods that you associate with the Hawaiian islands, along with the likes of lomi lomi salmon, lau lau, huli huli chicken and kalua pig trailing closely behind. Musubis are so popular that they can be found at every convenience shop on the islands.

Hearing my interest in this local dish, Troy Lazaro was kind enough to make it for me to share with you. Taking some warm rice from the cooker, he cracked open the SPAM, squeezed the sides of the can of SPAM and gave a sturdy tap to the bottom of the can. I watched attentively as the pale pink solid mass plopped onto the cutting board, smothered in savory gelatinous goo. Admitting that he likes his musubi on the meaty side, Troy slices the SPAM into eight pieces, however he advises that if you prefer your musubi less meaty then it should be sliced into ten pieces.

The SPAM musubi is a ridiculously simple creation, composed of three main ingredients, SPAM, rice, and Nori. Basic staples of every Hawaiian kitchen. I can attest that despite its simplicity, this portable ‘on the go’ dish has an undeniably high rating on the scale of tastiness.

I imagine that you may be wondering, what the connection is between musubi and Muir Glen organic tomatoes…from a product perspective there is admittedly no connection.

Because Troy showed such wonderful hospitality in sharing some new dishes with me, I want to reciprocate and share my thanks with all of you. I have something that I am certain will be a unanimous hit…it one of my pantry staples – organic seasoned canned tomatoes. Our friends at Muir Glen are offering five lucky readers their delux Reserve Harvest Kit; these lucky five will be drawn at random this week. To enter see details below. Good Luck! Or as they say in Hawaiian Maika’I pomaika’I.

SPAM Musubi

Ingredients

1 can SPAM

3 cups uncooked sushi rice

2 TBS soy sauce

2 TBS sugar

Nori sheets

musubi-maker (this recipe uses a double musubi-maker)

Note: Before you begin, have all necessary ingredients at the ready as SPAM is at its hottest and crispest once it hits the rice.

Directions

Cook rice according to package directions and set aside.

In a small bowl mix equal parts soy sauce and sugar as a baseline measurement, then adjust to taste, according to desired preferences on sweet or salty.

Place the slices of SPAM in a pan on medium heat and begin to cook. After 2 minutes, pour the soy sauce–sugar mixture over the SPAM. The liquid will effortlessly soak into the crisping SPAM pores, making it more salty (as if that were even possible) and a tad sweet as the sugar caramelizes. Keep frying the meat until it reaches the desired level of crispness. Once done, transfer the SPAM to a plate and set aside.

Now, work quickly to assemble, otherwise the SPAM will no longer be hot and crisp by the time the musubis are assembled. (Note: If you are using a single musubi maker, cut the Nori strips in half lengthwise, and lay the musubi-maker — everyone has one, right? 😉 — on the middle of the Nori.) Use an ice cream scoop to quickly place four generous mounds of rice into the mold. Use the musubi-maker handle to press down on the rice. Press hard to make certain the rice is firm. Lay two slices of SPAM on top, and then add another layer of rice and one final press. Once you’ve given it a firm press, hold the handle down with one hand, and use the other to pull the mold upward, thus releasing the musubi.

Quickly wrap the Nori around the rice (use a few grains of rice or a bit of water to stick the Nori together at ends if necessary). Slice in half and serve. Individual slices can also be made to pass around to those who might initially be a bit hesitant to try this local fare.

There shouldn’t be leftovers, but if so, wrap each musubi individually in plastic wrap, so you may pop them in the microwave when desired.

Note: If feeling truly adventuresome for a completely different taste, li hing mui or furikake can be used on top of the rice before laying down the SPAM and then again before adding the second layer of rice. The li hing mui really ventures into the realms of tangy-sweet, and the furikake adds more crunch and hints of sesame.

MUIR GLEN PROMOTIONAL GIVE-AWAY

To enter simply leave a comment telling me your favorite way to use canned tomatoes or post a link to one of your favorite tomato dishes. The give away will run until the end of the week and I’ll announce the five winners on Monday, October 15th.

Each Deluxe Muir Glen Reserve Harvest Kit includes:

One 14.5 oz can Reserve Harvest Sunset Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes

One 14.5 oz can Reserve Harvest Sunset Organic Diced Tomatoes

One 14.5 oz can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies

One 14.5 oz can Muir Glen Organic No-Salt Added Diced Tomatoes

A recipe booklet featuring a variety of recipes created by award-winning chefs from around the country made with the 2011 Reserve Tomatoes

Fine print (dot, dot, dot). Retail Value: $10 excluding shipping. Contest available in the US Only (includes Alaska & Hawaii). I did not receive any compensation for this post, the views expressed are my own. Thank you to Muir Glen for providing such a wonderful foodie give-away. I look forward to sharing my Muir Glen recipe with you soon.

Hawaiian Stir Fry

There is just no way to conceal this recipe from my foodie friends. This post is going to blow your mind. While I am very aware that it’s fashionable to pontificate about fresh ingredients, grass fed meats and organic produce; the fact of the matter is, there is an entire part of our culture, our American history, when fresh ingredients were difficult to come by and processed foods became popular. Let me get straight to the point – Hawaiians have a love affair with SPAM – they eat it as a delicacy, adding it to soups and stews, treating it as a side dish for breakfast, and enjoying it as the main event for lunch and dinner.

For you youngins’ here is a bit of SPAM history 101. The Hormel Company, in Austin, Minnesota, developed America’s first canned ham in 1926. After the hams were cut, the company was left with thousands of pounds of nearly worthless pork shoulder meat. Jay Hormel, son of the company’s founder George A. Hormel, came up with the idea of using the pork shoulder in a new product called “Hormel Spiced Ham”(SPiced hAM). With World War II under way, sales of SPAM soared. In part because it requires no refrigeration, SPAM was perfect for the military and became a standard K-ration for U.S. soldiers. Military personnel introduced it in Hawaii and it quickly took hold to become a staple of the Hawaiian diet. To this day, residents of Hawaii consume more SPAM than populations anywhere else in the world: On average 12 cans of SPAM per person per year which equates to more than four million cans yearly. Typically when Hawaiian’s send care packages to their loved ones in the military the packages are filled with SPAM verses good ole’ American candies.

Having grown up spending many summers on Oahu with my grandparents, a part of me always felt a strong connection with the island. It was here, during my summers that I road the bus to the farmer’s market, ate poi and indulged in pineapple upside down cake and shave ice. What I somehow missed out on was experiencing a proper Hawaiian staple – SPAM.

That’s right, this post, inspired by Troy Lazaro, is about my first home cooked SPAM meal. I’ll admit, when I went to hear his presentation on SPAM I was both curious and apprehensive. (Sidebar: My mother claims to have discovered SPAM during her college years, brought it home to prepare for the family and was told it was not to be served at home again. No doubt this is due to the fact that it was judged as being a canned meat packed in a bit of gelatin; ergo, not very visually appealing until cooked. I am certain if my grandmother had tasted a morsel of this meat, once cooked, she would have felt differently.) Yes, it’s true, I am a new convert and I hope you will join me on this delicious SPAM-ified journey of Hawaiian Stir Fry and Musubi.

Hawaiian SPAM Stir Fry

Ingredients

1 can SPAM

1/2 onion (approximately 2/3 cup), diced

1 medium cabbage, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tsps soy sauce

olive oil

white sticky rice

Directions

Rice, cooked according to package directions.

Open can. Cut SPAM into strips. Heat olive oil in a high-sided pan. Add onion for 3-5 minutes, allowing it to sweat. Then add in SPAM to allow to brown. Add in cabbage and cook approximately 10 minutes, until done. Lastly, add in soy sauce and serve over rice.

Stay tuned for SPAM Musubi post next with Troy….