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This is how it got started. OK, it actually got started when I realized that I had a cup of buffalo ricotta in my fridge that I needed to use. And some cherries. Oh, and a few apricots, yeah. OK, that’s where it got started.

So I rolled a quick dough and put it in the fridge to chill. Took the buffalo ricotta and added a couple of egg yolks, some sugar, and beat it to hell. Pulled out the pastry dough, rolled it out, and spread the ricotta cream.

Read the rest of this entry »

Is there something wrong with me?

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At a catered meeting today at work, I had a few extra sandwiches available, so I wrapped them up and brought them home. Dinner, one could easily think. Yet…before the day was over, I had my heart set on cooking up a Farro Risotto dish and, in the meantime, a Lyonnaise Salad seemed like an excellent side. French and Italian. I could’ve taken the easy way out with these prepared sandwiches, but…well, that was no fun.

Immediately, the evening got complicated. As this had been designated a ‘lets not veg out in front of the damned tv night,‘ I was set. Cooking these two dishes required a few extra steps…see below- Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve made plenty of tarts over the years but making a tart shell out of polenta is always a trick. It’s also a trick cuz wifey doesn’t really love polenta that much, particularly if the result is a grainy, toothsome result.

Not so this time. I cooked the polenta with low-sodium vegetable broth and after fifteen minutes I pressed it into a tart shell and let it cool for fifteen minutes.

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Then I shredded some of the St George cheese we bought at Matos Cheese Factory (4 oz) and layered it between thin slices of heirloom tomatoes on the polenta shell.

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Of course, this left a bit of a mess on the cutting board.

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About 25 minutes later the dish came out and, frankly, was pretty tasty. In this circumstance, as there was so little contrast, the tomatoes really popped out. I considered afterward now it might taste with onions or some charcuterie or longganisa, it would have made the tomatoes much less apparent and lost in the background. A good lesson to learn!

There was an additional sauce to dress the slices which comprised of a basil mayonnaise which, though I made it, didn’t really contribute much to the final result.

I might have wished that the polenta shell could have firmed up a bit more, or browned a bit more and crisped–which it didn’t. Regardless, it didn’t affect the flavor combination’s success. Good stuff.

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Found these two recipes in a magazine on the stands today. Recipe called for halibut or grouper but hey JEEZIS…expensive. I got some straight up cod fillets instead…which worked and didn’t work. More on that later.

The marinade is a mix of garlic, chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt, and a pinch of hot pepper flakes. Fifteen minutes later the fish is ready to be grilled in my cast iron grill pan.

While the fish grills, the coconut broth is prepared. Shallot and ginger is sautéed with a bit of lemon zest, then the coconut milk, a bit of lime juice, sugar, and chicken broth. While the broth rests and simmers, I turn back to the fish. Read the rest of this entry »

No picture.

I worked late till 8pm, and I didn’t have much time to consider what to make, but over in the butcher’s department, I noted that they had Mary’s duck breasts ready and not frozen. This means that bringing home a duck breast can be immediate– it’s relatively fresh and I don’t need to defrost.

I saw a package with two small duck breasts and picked it up immediately. My friend Peche at work had a couple of plums from her father’s tree, so as soon as I got home I dusted it with salt and pepper, slashed the skin, and threw it onto the heated skillet. At the same time I tossed on some fingerling potatoes thinly sliced into the pan with a bit of thyme and cooked it for about seven minutes. Meanwhile, I sliced up the plum, sautéed some diced shallots, and dropped in a dash of raspberry liquor (Chambord) and a half cup of vegetable broth and reduced it while the duck was being seared on the other side (five-six minutes).

I pulled out the breast and cut into it and saw that it could use another minute, then laid it to rest under a foil tent. I had already removed the potato pieces and then added a handful of arugula along with some garlic bits, salt, and lemon juice.

We then sat down to watch a Netflix documentary, have a small glass of Riesling, and to thoroughly enjoy my simple but delicious meal.

Half Duck Breast with Impromptu Plum and Chambord Sauce
Thyme-Dusted Fingerling Potatoes
Sautéed Arugula with Lemon and Garlic

It took twenty minutes, tasted as good as any French bistro would have made, and I?

Tonight, please call me chef.

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Kinda neat, huh? I selected some antibiotic free, hormone free chicken (forgive me) though it wasn’t organic. I think the chickens were sustainably raised and cruelty-free, other than they were slaughtered so we could enjoy them. But if you can’t afford this halfway measure of quality ($5/lb), don’t expect me to judge you if you get the commercial stuff. So knock yourself out however you like.

But as you all (should) know, chicken thigh meat is more flavorful than breast meat. Accept this and be happy. The sauce is the trick, though. After browning the meat in a bit of EVOO, remove the chicken to rest and sauté the leek. Add the pear and the chicken broth, cook it down, and add the chicken back to the sauce.

Sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Eat it and thank me for telling you about it. See the recipe here.

Add a nice grain or potatoes on the side. I chose to use quinoa with a bit of sautéed shallots. I added a simple garnacha red from Spain that worked adequately.

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This was pretty nice…and strange. Quinoa is a marvelous grain we’ve all heard about. A supposed ‘super grain’ but really…who cares? Its delicious, nutty, and it’s like eating tiny pieces of popped popcorn. But that is not the backdrop to the dish– the quinoa is cooked with scallion whites, EVOO, some toasted almonds, and as the original recipe called for blood orange (not currently in season), I substituted with mango… And frankly, it was an unusually good combination.

So here’s what you get: a crunchy, tasty quinoa blend base with a bit of fish protein in the form of quickly seared scallops…everything seasoned with all of Angela’s favorite seasonings: cumin, coriander, cilantro!

Well, she was distracted by the (ahem!) cumin, coriander, and cilantro–tastes that she definitely has less of an affinity for than anyone named Muhammed. I think I’ll give the dish a try again, though without the Middle Eastern flavor and see how it flies.

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When your daily work schedule is 11AM till 8PM and you don’t get home till about 830PM, putting together a fancy shmancy dinner on a weeknight isn’t the best idea. After our Cheese Trail adventure on Saturday, I had brought home a wedge of local farm-produced Saint George cheese, made by a third generation Portuguese family from the Matos Cheese Factory near Petaluma.

Made in about 10 Lb wheels, they are all aged about three months and make a wonderful, mild, yet flavorful table cheese. As it turns out, its a great melter and worked fine for making grilled cheese sandwiches, as well.

Starting out with some chopped shallots and fresh thyme, I sautéed these for a few minutes till nearly caramelized and removed them from the skillet. I added a couple of slices of fresh La Farine fougasse herbed bread and toasted these in the skillet. I put shaved slices of the St George on the slices, added the thyme and shallot mixture, and a dusting of pepper and a bit of salt. Topped them with the other slice and put them in the oven at 400F for about 8 minutes to complete them.

Note: the original recipe had called for a helluva lot more butter and gruyere cheese, both of which I had plenty of, and a calorie count of a bit over 1000 calories per sandwich. Much as I can enjoy an unctuous feast with the best of them, I cut back on the cheese and butter considerably.

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Accompanying this standard fare was an arugula and apple salad with a simple EVOO and lemon juice vinaigrette which contrasted nicely with the sandwich (I refuse to call sandwiches ‘sammies’ for no good reason other than the association it has with people I consider twits and idiots–apologies all around.

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Cooking Notes: wifey thought that there should have been more cheese as in my efforts to minimize calories the cheese flavor, mild to begin with, was lost to the bread. Sigh, she was absolutely right, but I need to drop at least 7 pounds so…

I had a three day weekend (hooray) and what did we do on one of those days? The cheesemonger blogger, his wife, and two friends went on a leg of the California Cheese Trail.

We started off the morning picking up Astrid and Bruno, a couple of globe-trotting friends of ours and brought fixings to make popovers. A few minutes after we were on the road to Marin for what turned out to be a slight re-run of our last Cheese Trail sojourn from last summer, but with the added pleasure of A&B along, it was all fresh and new.

Our first stop was the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company where my wife insisted on getting a wedge of their San Geronimo cheese. A big hit with her, and then we were off to Point Reyes Station where we would visit the relatively famous Cowgirl Creamery spot. Clean, public, and filled with not only their own cheeses but other local or California-bred wheels as well. Point Reyes is a beautiful, picturesque little coastal town with art galleries, cute shops, and all that is ‘precious’. Regardless, the day was sunny, warm and gorgeous and we traipsed about, had lunch at the Station House Cafe (breaded and fried oyster po’ boy and oyster stew)

Here are some of Cowgirl Creamery’s little discs in their aging room.

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Then a long and leisurely drive up the California coast skirting Tomales Bay, carefully avoiding all the middle-aged bikers in their bicycling finery and togs (they might look silly to me but at least they’re out there exercising), and decided to hit Matos Cheese Factory on a long, lonely country road. Our GPS unit made short work of any confusion and the occasional wooden signs posted with nails on a fence or tree helped us to find the spot with minimal difficulty.

We left the main road and bumped along a rutted dirt path lined with trees, went past a vineyard or two, and then found ourselves…in what seemed to be someone’s back yard. Off to our right was a barn full of recycled cans, a dog roamed the yard, and…we realized that we had arrived.

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The unprepossessing spot initially filled me with some confusion but when I saw ‘duck eggs for sale’ below their ‘open’ sign, I was the first through the door. And Sylvia Tucker, the manager of the operation, was charming and utterly delightful. Matos Cheese Factory has been selling cheese for three generations, mostly via mail order to Portuguese throughout the area. They make only one cheese and one cheese only: Saint George, a wheel aged about three months. Mild but very flavorful and a great melter. Many local chefs from restaurants in the area now regularly buy their cheese, and well…so did we.

Interesting factoid: though they have about 250 head of cattle, only about 35 or so are currently giving milk. Obviously, milk comes from cows who need to feed their calves and not all cows will be pregnant or nursing (so to speak) at the same time. Moreover, the area is experiencing a severe drought which affects production a good deal. I believe she said they had their own well which allows them to get through this current water crisis with some ability, but its tough all over.
The cheese aging room, the sales room, and Sylvia and I deep in discussion about something to do with cheese. Where my wife’s hand is attempting to reach I won’t begin to contemplate.

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There was a nice little video of the cows going off to be milked but WordPress wants $60/year for the privilege of doing this. Considering how often I might do this, I’m sorry, folks–you’ll have to imagine a couple of dozen stinky cows with swollen udders jouncing along a fence toward their afternoon relief.

I mentioned duck eggs. Their prices were great, given that typically at our own retail grocery they range about $11-12/dozen. Here? $6/dozen. Sylvia’s daughter who is training to be a pastry chef decided to raise a few ducks for their eggs (duck eggs are marvelous in pastry making) and her mom handily sells them through their cheese selling outlet right there on the farm. She raises a variety of different breeds, and in the image below you can see that the mallards’ eggs are larger and ever so slightly green in color.

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A bit later we ended up at Marin French Cheese Factory outside Petaluma where we made no purchases but sat by the large pond to relax and enjoy the scenery– which included a solitary duck foraging for food. Included also my wife and our friend Astrid and two pair of reclining legs in the grass. Not to mention a view up into the trees and skies above us.

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The following morning I shredded a single potato into shoestrings and along with a bit of shallot, dried thyme, and a pinch of kosher salt, I prepared some morning fries to be the bedding for a couple of freshly poached duck eggs. With a final, light dusting of fleur de sel salt I found that three minutes in the shell was perfect timing to create gently, soft boiled eggs with the yolk ever so slowly flowing out when cut.

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Today Sunday will prove to be a leisurely day, running some boxes to the storage locker, taking items to a recycle depot, and doing a bit of reading, a bit of chilling, and maybe some drawing.

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On July 4, everyone might be outside grilling away, but here in our humble household, I was busy cutting up scallions, a tomato, romaine lettuce, a red bell pepper, and plucking a lemon or two off of our lemon bush to make the vinaigrette for Fattoush, a classic middle eastern salad.

With some gyros meat leftovers from our lunch at Troy today, I mixed it all together, added the garlic- laden oil and lemon dressing and we hoped for the best. Sadly, while I think it would have satisfied most anyone, due to my wife’s curious oral condition (I can’t pronounce the immune-deficient condition that causes acidic foods to play havoc with her inner gums), she queried about what the ‘spicy’ element was, and a quick reading of the ingredients revealed nothing suspect.

Not so with the delightful attending cocktail, July In Talisay (or
April In Paris); seemingly one of the most perfectly balanced alcoholic concoctions we have ever discovered.

In any case, the challenges of cooking for my wife’s constrained palate remain so– a challenge. While one could look at it as a limitation, I view it as an opportunity to further my craft. I won’t be, nor am I ever, locked into a situation where I only have to cook for my wife’s palate. Honing my skills with her savory requirements will only make me better when it comes to serving all others who are not so afflicted.

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