Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sweet Puptato Bones - Sweet Potato Dog Treats

Hunter, my 60 lb Standard Poodle, has to put up with a lot of delicious smells coming from the kitchen that he never gets to sample.  Usually, he just lays by the back door and watches me cook and, subsequently, eat whatever it is that I am throwing together.  Occasionally, he will regale me with his interpretation of Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy (he's quite well read) while he's lounging by the door, but for the most part, he watches in silence.

There is one thing, though, that will bring on a litany of grunts, growls, barks and various other vocalizations that I didn't even know were possible by a canine.  Sweet Potatoes.  Anytime I am slicing, dicing, mincing, steaming, baking, boiling, mashing, or roasting them, Hunter goes absolutely berserk.  So, in answer to his apparent love affair with this tasty tuber, I have decided to load up some Gluten-Free dog treats with fresh Sweet Potato.  And use the tiny little dog bone cutter that I found at Kitchen Kaboodle on NW 23rd and Flanders, in Portland.

After all, who could possibly resist this sweet puppy face?

 I know I can't...  :)

 Sweet PupTato Bones
350g (3 cups) (12.3 oz) Oat Flour
215g (1 1/2 cups) (7.6 oz) Brown Rice Flour
3 TB Golden Flax Meal or 3 TB Almond Meal
1 tsp Salt
1 large Egg
118ml (1/2 cup) Olive Oil
236ml (1 cup) Whole Milk
72g (2.5 oz) finely grated Sweet Potato (about 1/2 of a medium sized one)  OR substitute finely shredded Carrot

I need to go on record as stating that I originally measured the ingredients by standard volume, then weighed these amounts to come up with the gram and ounce.  Upon triple checking on the King Aurthur site and Aqua Calc, I figured I had done something wrong.  My weights were significantly heavier than theirs. So I did it again.... And again.... And AGAIN.   I kept coming up with the same weights, give or take a couple of grams.  I was extremely frustrated, to say the least.

I do not know how the conversion amounts are figured on those sites for non-traditional flours. I spoon the flour into the cup and level it off with a knife, and this is what I come up with.  Maybe they are sifting (several times) first, before measuring which, to me, is something you only do with cake.  I'm just sayin'.  Because of this, I have written the recipe in grams, which is technically the most accurate.  

Combine Oat Flour, Brown Rice Flour, Flax Meal (or Almond Meal) and Salt in a bowl, whisking well.

Add the Egg, Olive Oil, and Milk to the bowl.

Grate the Sweet Potato (or Carrot) with a zester (the finer the better).

Throw in the grated sweet potato.

Stir until a soft dough forms.

Let sit for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 225F degrees.
Divide the dough in 1/2.

Roll 1 piece out to 3/8 inch thick between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.

Cut small shapes with a well floured (rice flour) cutter. (the dough will still stick a little bit)

Place each bone on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Gather scraps together, re-roll and cut until you have filled at least 2 baking sheet. (they bake for a LONG time, so your gonna wanna bake as many as possible at one time)

Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 90 minutes, turning and rotating the pans every 30 minutes to ensure they bake/dry out evenly.

Cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.

Store in an airtight container.

Mangia!!  (Yes, they are safe for human consumption)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Florentine Facsimile - Nettle Quiche

It's time for another recipe with Stinging Nettles.  Woo Hoo!   I adore Nettles.  They are one of my favorite "Flavors of Spring", along with Asparagus and Rhubarb.  Normally I just steam 'em up and eat them or chop them into Nettle-Walnut Pesto, but I thought that I would do something special with them today.  Mainly because the season is ending and they are beginning to go "to seed".  Once that happens, they are no longer fit for human consumption. Well, I suppose you could still eat them, but the leaves get tough and sort of stringy.  So, yeah, no.... not tasty.

I had already decided to make breakfast for dinner, cause I am a rebel that way, but I was disconcerted about the lack of a vegetable to accompany my Hash Browns and Bacon.  Steamed nettles would have worked, but that doesn't sound very breakfasty.  Then I got to thinking about frittatas and omelets, which while very much a breakfast food, usually do not contain that much veggie.  Then it hit me.  Nettles are like spinach and spinach is a key ingredient in Quiche Florentine.   AH HA!  Breakfast conundrum solved!

So, I set out to make a Florentine-esque quiche with Stinging Nettles and Bergkase cheese (though Havarti or Grasskaas would have been nice too) instead of the proverbial Spinach and Swiss.
Nettle Quiche

1 10-inch parbaked Pastry Crust
12 oz (340g) fresh Nettles
6 large Eggs
1 1/2 cups (350ml) Crème Fraîche
Kosher Salt
White Pepper
Dash of Nutmeg
1/2 Shallot, minced
Olive Oil
4 oz Bergkase (Havarti or Grasskaas)

Once you have partially baked your pastry crust at 400 for 15 minutes,

Reduce the oven temperature to 325F degrees and rinse your nettles well.

After rinsing them, blanch them for 2 minutes in boiling water, then drain them in a colander and let them cool enough for handling.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended.

Add the Creme Fraiche along with the Salt, White Pepper and Nutmeg, then whisk well until smooth.

Once the Nettles are cool enough, squeeze all the water out,

and give them a rough chop.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil and saute the shallot until soft.

Add the chopped nettles and heat through.

Spread the warm Nettle/Shallot mixture over the bottom of the Quiche crust.

Sprinkle with 2 oz of the Bergkase.

Gently pour the custard over the Nettles.

Sprinkle with the remaining Cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center is just beginning to set.

Let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

A delicious, if rebellious, dinner.  :)


Monday, April 15, 2013

Loathsome Luncheon - The Classic Limburger Sandwich

I released the proverbial feline from the confines of my satchel the other day, in my post on Macaroni with Cauliflower & Taleggio, when I mentioned that I loved cheese with some stank to it.  I was not kidding.  So, I am coming clean about one of my food consumption habits of questionable social acceptance.

I love Limburger Cheese.  I don't get it very often, cause it's difficult to find, so when I DO find it, I relish every last slice.  And no, I don't wear a clothespin on my nose when I eat it.   ;) 

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Limburger use to be extremely popular around the turn of the century.... The other century, not the recent one. (which is technically the turn of the millennium)  My great-grandpa Wes use to eat it at the Round House in The Dalles all the time.  It was so popular back in the 20's that there were multiple manufacturers in the United States producing upwards of 10 million pounds every year; and they could barely keep up with the demand.  Sadly, only the Chalet Co-Op of Monroe Wisconsin remains.  Though they still make over 800,000 lbs of the stuff every year. So somebody, other than myself, is out there eating it too.

First made by Trappist monks in the historical Duchy of Limburg, which now days constitutes parts of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, it's name is actually derived from the town of Limburg where is was sold.  This washed rind cheese, similar to real Muenster (American versions are much more mild in flavor) or Appenzeller, enjoys extreme popularity in Germany to this day.  After the curd is formed, it is salted and placed out on pine boards in the aging room.

(Image courtesy of Farm to Table Wisconsin)
Then it is washed down with a bacterial solution of brevibacterium linens. (which is also used in making Raclette, Muenster and Port-du-Salut)  This goes to work on the cheese curd, turning it from a crumbly acidic chunk of something similar to feta, into a soft creamy unctuous block of deliciousness.  Sure is smells.  The bacteria used are the same ones that live on the human body and are partially responsible for body odor, but once you move past the smell, (which really isn't THAT bad) the flavor is so unbelievably mild that it's amazing.

Now I will warn you, that after the cheese reaches 6 months of age, it's a little to pungent for me as well.  My favorite age is between 4 and 5 months.  If you have an issue with the smell, you can greatly reduce the aroma by cutting off the rind as soon as you bring it home, and disposing of it in your outside garbage can.  Then you should be able to simply keep it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Me?  I like the rind, so I do what my Great-Grandma Ruby would have done.

Once I have opened the wrapper, and released the dogs of war, I simply place it in a sealed Mason jar to contain it's odoriferousness and prevent my refrigerator from smelling like the Chalet Co-Op's aging room. 

So how do I eat my Limburger?  I prefer the classic way.  Besides, it gives me an excuse to imbibe a good German Dopplebock.  :)

Classic Limburger Sandwich

Dark Rye Bread
Spicy Brown Mustard
Sweet Onion (be it Maui, Mayan, Vidalia or Walla Walla)
Chalet Limburger Cheese
German DoppleBock

Lay out your slices of Dark Rye Bread (you can use a lighter Rye, but "Dark" Rye or Pumpernickel are the best) and spread with Spicy Brown Mustard.

Lay out slices of Sweet Onion on one side.

Slice the Limburger, as best you can, cause it can be REALLY soft, and lay them on the other side.

Bring both pieces of bread together and there you have it.

The Sweet Onion, spicy Mustard and Limburger on hearty dark bread just play so unbelievably well together.

But they are topped off by a nice dark German beer such as a Dopplebock.


If you will please excuse me, I must return to my Corrupt Canape, my Repugnant Repast, my Fetid Fodder, this most Malodorous of Meals....  Heaven on bread! 


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Capturing Sunshine in a Jar - Honey Blood Orange Marmalade (part 2)

I have decided that I am not going to break posts up anymore.  I have done it twice now, and while it worked really well the first time with Sauerbraten, this particular journey through preserving didn't turn out nearly as well. 

I had initially intended to use Honey in my Marmalade.  Well I did, but I only replaced half of sugar with honey because I was ill prepared and did not have enough to use ALL honey in my recipe.  On some level, considering the strength of the honey flavor in the Marmalade, I think I am glad that I did not have enough Orange Blossom Honey.  Even with only 1 1/3 cups of Honey in the recipe, the Honey is REALLY strong.

I first I thought it was a little strange that the honey should be so pronounced.  My parents ALWAYS canned their fruits and preserves with honey, when I was growing up, and the honey flavor wasn't this pronounced.  Then I remembered something.... Something deep in the back of my brain.  They didn't use Orange Blossom Honey or Clover Honey when they were canning and cooking; they used Vetch Honey.

(Image courtesy of The Peace Bee Farmer)

Vetch honey is extremely light and pale with little to no flavor other than "sweet".  It's perfect for canning purposes when you want the true flavor of the fruit to come through.  (Mom and Dad knew best)  Alas, it's almost impossible to find now days.  Which is a shame.  Vetch isn't being planted as a cover crop anymore, at least not here in the Pacific NW, so if you want it, you have to order it from a "Specialty Honey Supplier".  I hate ordering food products over the internet.  Besides, I am so use to using what's available in the store, that I didn't even think about it.  Don't get me wrong; Orange Blossom Honey is delicious, but I don't think it's a good Honey for canning.  Lesson Learned.

I suggest using the lightest honey you can find for this recipe.  Then it will be perfectly delicious!

Blood Orange Marmalade

Liquid, Zest, Membranes and Pips from Part 1 (that have been soaking all night)
Honey at the rate of 2/3 cup per cup of liquid
Sugar at the rate of 1 cup per cup of liquid

OK, now that the boiled mixture has sat overnight, it's time to remove the cheese cloth bundle.

Place it in a strainer and press out as much juice and pectin as possible.

Measure the liquid and zest you have.....  I had 5 cups, which you need to return to a large pot.

Now, if you are using Honey, I suggest a 2/3 cup per 1 cup of liquid ratio.  If using sugar, the standard is 1 cup Sugar per 1 cup of liquid.
I used 1 1/3 cup Honey, cause that was all I had left (I thought I had another jar in the pantry)

and 3 cups of Sugar.

Place the mixture over medium high heat and stir until everything is dissolved.

Place a thermometer in the pot and boil until it reaches 220 degrees.

While the marmalade is boiling, place your jars on a baking sheet and move them to a 225 degree oven to warm up. (I did 8, I only needed 6)

Place your water bath kettle over high heat and bring to a boil.

Boil your lids in a small amount of water in a sauce pan for 5 minutes, then remove from the flame and set aside.

Once the mixture has reached 220 degrees, remove the pot from the flame and skim the foamy goo off the top.

Remove the jars from the hot oven, carefully, and ladle the hot mixture into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch of room at the top.

Hold each jar with a pot holder, and wipe the threads of the jars with a damp paper towel before placing lids on top and screwing down the rings.

(See the mess on the pan in the back? That is where I forgot to grab the jar with a pot holder and spilled a whole jar all over the floor when I tried to wipe the rim - oops!)

Carefully lower the jars into the boiling water, bring back to a boil if necessary.

Process for 5 minutes, unless you are above 1000 ft, then process for 10 minutes, before carefully removing the jars from the hot water and placing them on a folded towel.... then wait until you hear a popping noise coming from the jars (they seal as they cool)

Store in a cool dry place until you are ready to pop open a jar,

and enjoy on a scone or, my personal favorite, Portland French Bakery's "Seeded Harvest".

A sultry russet sunset on toast!  Yum!