Archive for January, 2010

All Choked Up

Bag o' chokes

I love to try new foods. Even better I love to try new foods that my local farmers have grown. When the Garden Lady (Diann Dirks) announced via email that she was going to have Jerusalem Artichokes (aka sunchokes) at the Rancho Alegra farmer’s market, I was intrigued. I’d never had a sunchoke. I didn’t even know what it looked like.

So I showed up at the farmer’s market on a chilly Saturday morning, got the last bags of fresh salad greens before the bitter cold moved in and killed them all off and picked myself up some sunchokes.

Cleaned up choke

They looked a lot like fresh ginger to me. Once I washed them up some more and gave them a brushing with my mushroom brush they turned from golden to a more subdued peach color. (Still looked like ginger, though.)

Since I’d never eaten one, much less prepared one, I was grateful to The Garden Lady for an informational handout including several recipes. I decided to make the Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, a pureed soup which would go well with my greens:

1 onion

1 carrot

2-3 cloves garlic

1 celery stalk

1 1/2 pounds jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and chopped

1 cup milk

salt and lots of pepper

Pretty much, you chop and saute the veggies for a while, add water and boil for about 15 minutes, put everything in a food processor and puree. Then you add the milk and heat it back up until warm. Season to taste. I ended up adding some thyme because it seemed bland to me, but after I added some more pepper it really started popping. I don’t even think I needed the thyme. It was mellow and soothing. Even test subject Bill had positive comments, which was a suprise.

Sunchoke soup n salad

I served the soup with a salad made from those great greens from Stokes Family Farm with the few fresh radishes I had left from my last CSA delivery for the year. (As an aside, there were a few broccoli leaves and snips of broccoli in with the greens. I will never throw away broccoli leaves again. Please add them to your salads – yum!)

Sunchokes are rich in potassium, iron, thiamine, Vitamin C and fiber. Good stuff. But like lots of good stuff…um…gas. The first time I ate the soup I had no problems. However, the second time (and granted I did eat a lot of it) I could have tooted Jingle Bells. So I would say it’s a great thing in moderation! Don’t eat two big bowls of it unless you’re going to be alone for the rest of the day.

I bought some more sunchokes this past Saturday. I’m contemplating the sunchoke gratin…mmm, cheese šŸ™‚

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Yogurt Triathlon

Welcome to the frozen new year! I know I have been delinquent in recent months. The fall semester started and apparently zapped all my energy. Trust me, I would have rather been cooking and blogging than doing multivariate statistics.

Little Miss Muffett's curds and whey?

A couple years ago I procured a yogurt maker. I know Alton Brown would disapprove of this unitasker, but I like it. It’s convenient, simple and has those little individual containers that are both functional and cute. I used it several times with success. However, a few of the jars came out really separated and funky looking the last time I did it. I’m not sure why. So I successfully made yogurt cheese (more on that below) with the suspect containers.

But being me, I had to try making yogurt a different way. I mean, what if my maker broke?Ā  So I found a recipe in my trusty copy of Nourishing Traditions. The recipe called for using a dehydrator to warm the milk, but I was disinclined to purchase a dehydrator. After consulting with some of the helpful folks on one of my real foods Yahoo groups, I came up with and executed a plan.

Home made yogurt in a Mason jar

I warmed a quart of whole milk on my gas oven to just barely 110 degrees. I stirred together in a quart sized wide mouthed Mason jar (I love those things) a few tablespoons of warm milk and a big tablespoon of purchased whole milk yogurt. I poured the rest of the milk into the jar, lidded it, and stuck it in the oven which had been preheated to about 200 degrees. I shut the oven off and turned on the oven light. Then I said a small prayer and left it overnight.

After about 12 hours, I opened the oven. With high anxiety, I reached in and grabbed my jar. It was suprisingly warm for the oven having been off for half a day. The oven light really does a good job of keeping it just warm enough. I was relieved. It didn’t taste half bad, either. I enjoyed it over a number of days with raspberriesĀ and a littleĀ granola that I picked up at the farmer’s market.

I read somewhere that the longer yogurt “cooks” the more the cultures eat the carbohydrates in the milk. Therefore, the longer you leave it in the warmth the fewer carbs you will have in your final product. Since I was trying to trim a pound or two a decided to do the same thing again but this time I left it for 18 hours instead of 12. It turned out about the same looking and tasting. If it had fewer carbs I’ll never know, but I took another step toward diet yogurt by making yogurt cheese.

Yogurt cheese initial drain

I poured the yogurt into a strainer covered with cheese cloth over a bowl and let it drain for three or four hours. Then I tied up the cheese cloth around the handle of a spoon, ditched the strainer and let it hang in the pitcher until it had drained off all the whey (apparently a source of carbs). I squeezed it out a little bit and the resulting chunk of cheese kind of had the consistency cross between ricotta and goat cheese. Firmer than ricotta, but not as solid as goat cheese.

Yogurt cheese hanging in cheese cloth. You can see some of the whey draining off into the pitcher.

Being quite proud of myself, I added the yogurt cheese to my morning eggs in little dallops for about two weeks. It was creamy and satisfying. I salted it upon use, but you could probably stir in some salt when you put it in the fridge. That might even prolong its fridge life.

I later tried the same process with a larger batch and I think I either didn’t provide sufficient surface area for the draining or it was just really liquidy and I didn’t drain it long enough because it didn’t drain well at all. It ended up looking like thick store-bought yogurt. Not really a problem, but when I tasted it, it was quite sour…quite a bit like sour cream. So I proceeded to use it like sour cream for about three or four weeks. Awesome! Serendipity! I assume you could do the same thing by just draining the would-be yogurt cheese for a shorter period of time.

Finished yogurt cheese

So I made yogurt (two different ways), yogurt cheese and yogurt sour cream. Who knew milk gone bad could produce such smashing results? Now to try it with goat milk…

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