08 July 2011

easy peasy lemon squeezy

Fresh thymeThis afternoon, my kitchen counter became a laboratory as I tried two new things. First I made goat cheese. Then I invented a sauce out of the herbs taking over the garden. The milk cost me less than a dollar, and parsley with Parmesan can't possibly taste bad, so what did I have to lose? Well, both projects succeeded, with a minimum of mess and time.

I am finding that good food is so often easy. Or if not easy, at least simple, once you have a few basic skills down: mince an onion, scramble an egg, whisk up a white sauce. Thanks to my patient mother and an array of helpful blogs, I've picked up a few such skills in the past 23 years, and it certainly makes cooking a lot easier! A new bread recipe doesn't scare me now. Haven't I watched Mom knead and roll dough a million times over? Hasn't she (repeatedly) shown me just the right texture it ought to have? Why yes, and so away I go.

It is exciting (to my dorky mind) that I still have so much to learn and experiment with. Someday I'll make my own pasta and stuff sausages. Someday . . .

Anyhoodle. The recipes.


Fresh Goat Cheese
(from Kiss My Spatula, which also has pictures)

1 quart raw or pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) goat's milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
salt to taste

1) On medium heat, stirring frequently, slowly bring milk to 180 degrees. If you don't own a candy thermometer, not to worry! Neither do I. I heated the milk until it was steaming, barely starting to bubble and had formed a little skin on top.*
2) Remove milk from heat and pour in lemon juice. Stir briskly until milk curdles, separating into small clumpy curds and clear, thin whey. Let sit for 30 seconds.
3) Line a sieve with a double thickness of cheesecloth** and ladle curdled milk into sieve. Once most of the whey has drained out, gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and tie a knot at the top. Suspend the cheesecloth from a long wooden spoon, set over a deep bowl or pot, for 30 minutes. (Reserve the whey. It's useful!)
4) After 30 minutes check the consistency of the cheese. If it's to your taste, season it with salt and anything else you please. If you would like it drier, keep draining; if creamier, stir in a bit of the whey. Refrigerate. Makes about 6 ounces of cheese.

Emerald Pesto

2 lightly packed cups parsley
1 lightly packed cup thyme***
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1) In bowl of small food processor or blender, chop herbs finely. Add cheese, garlic, zest, and salt; pulse a few times to combine.
2) Add in the olive oil, blending thoroughly. This is a brilliant green and has a stronger flavor than basil pesto. If you too are rolling in the parsley, make lots and freeze it-- a single batch is approximately one cup. I am sure that other herbs would be great in this too, so experiment and tell me what you come up with!


*Of course, I knew what it should look like from making yogurt, so if you aren't confident in your estimating skills just buy a thermometer. I really should, especially if I plan to make more cheese . . . which I most certainly do.)
**I'd rather not keep buying cheesecloth though. I wonder if there are cheaper substitutes? Muslin or even thin cotton?
***I took out the large "woody" stems from the herbs, but left the more tender stems. Thyme especially is a pain to de-stem, and well, I'm lazy.

{image credit: pieceofcakedesserts on Flickr}

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