How to Make Queso Fresco Cheese

How to maker Queso Cheese

How to make Queso Fresco Cheese

This week I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen making things that I had on my “list of things I want to make”–yes I actually have a list. This cheese has been on that list for quite some time.  It’s so unbelievably easy to make that now I am left to wonder why it took me so long to try it.  It’s also a great way to use milk that would not get used otherwise. This cheese was a great addition to  my Peruvian Chicken taco’s that recipe will be on the blog tomorrow.

Here’s what you need:

Ingredients

1 quart of whole organic milk

2 -3 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice–can sub with vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Equipment:

cheesecloth

Sieve

Directions: Add the milk to a saucepan,

Heat the milk to 180F whisking to prevent the milk from scorching.

Once the milk reaches 180F remove from heat.

Add the lemon juice or vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring gently until the curds separate from the whey. This happens almost immediately.

Allow the curds to continue to separate, let the mixture sit in the pot uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

 

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From here you can decide to just strain the mixture in a cheesecloth lined sieve, add salt to taste and be done–you’ll have a perfectly soft crumble cheese.

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Or you can strain, then squeeze out excess whey, add salt, form into a ball, and press into a firmer queso,

I placed my queso into a circular cookie/biscuit cutter, which I wrapped in my cheesecloth, and then placed a sealed water-filled 4-ounce mason jar on top for 5-10 minutes to squeeze out excess whey.  I placed these items over a sieve with a bowl underneath to collect the whey.

For a firmer paneer type cheese extend the time that the cheese is pressed from 10 to 20 minutes. Refrigerate if you don’t plan on using the cheese right away.  It will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

 

 

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Korean Barbecue Chicken

Korean Barbecue Chicken

Korean Barbecue Chicken

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I love Korean barbecue, what’s not to love?  Grilled meat, pickled and fermented veggies…mmmh it’s a veritable umami bomb on a plate.  The fermented veggies alone are enough to get me into the door of a Korean restaurant.  I love banchan, savory sprouts, kimchi, cucumber kimchi, and daikon radish make the heaviness of the barbecued meats lighter.  I remember my first experience eating Korean food.  The week of my wedding my best friend suggested that we go to a Korean bath spa together.  She said it would be a great mini break for me to table the stress of planning a wedding, and at the same time get my skin nice and polished for the wedding.  I happily agreed, we had gone to many a spa together throughout our friendship, so why not make another happy memory with my best friend before I sailed off into wedded bliss, I thought.  The day before our appointments my best friend called to say that something came up at work and she could not join me, but she insisted that I go alone because I needed to destress, so I did.  The spa was unlike any other spa I had ever been to. After checking in, I was led on a guided tour of the steam rooms, jade rooms, and showers.  Everyone within the walls, except for the technicians, was completely naked and Asian.  I stuck out like a sore thumb.   First of all, I wasn’t at all prepared to be completely naked in front of anyone other than a technician. At all the spa’s  that I had ever been to everyone wore something, be it a robe, or bathing suit, but not this spa.  I also was not prepared to leave without having had my body polish.  I had read the Yelp reviews and this place was the best!  I wanted to sparkle and shine at my wedding and the only thing standing in the way of that happening was me getting naked, so I did.  I was sitting in the sauna with three women, and they could sense my unease.  They were so kind, they chatted me up, and when I felt comfortable one of them asked me how I found out about the spa.  I told them and they laughed.  I’m guessing that the spa didn’t get very many non-Asian patrons, which is too bad, nakedness aside, it was a great spa. The spa lacked the more polished elegance of a Burke Williams, but what it lacked in elegance, it made up for it other areas, namely the food area.  After getting my scrub, and detoxing in the sauna, I walked over to the jade rooms, and just beyond that was a bar and the scent coming from the bar was intoxicating.  The bar/restaurant had a full menu of soups with fermented and pickled veggies, JACKPOT! I grabbed a folded robe from a pedestal near the entrance into the bar–you didn’t think they would make us eat naked did you?–and sat down to a deliciously healthy meal.  If only all spa’s included this kind of service.  That was my first experience eating Korean food, and since then I’ve fallen in love with it.  This recipe is my take on chicken Korean barbecue.  I have to say that this chicken is delicious!  Better than the chicken that I’ve had at most restaurants that I’ve been to.  This recipe requires Gochujang–a spicy fermented chili paste. You may need to venture into an Asian market for the Gochujang.  I purchased a jar at my local Whole Foods, they had several varieties of it, I chose a garlic Gochujang.

 

Here’s what you need:

Ingredients:

1lb of boneless skinless organic chicken thighs, cut each thigh into 3 or 4 pieces

1.5 tablespoons of Gochujang

2 teaspoons of sugar–can sub with maple sugar or syrup

1 teaspoon of garlic grated

3 green onions chopped finely both whites and green parts

1 teaspoon of grated ginger

2 teaspoons of sesame oil

1 teaspoon of olive or grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

sea salt to taste

Directions: Season the chicken with sea salt and set aside.

To a large mixing bowl or medium size bake pan add the remaining ingredients,

combine and mix well,

then toss in the chicken, tossing to coat the chicken completely in the marinade.

Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.  Grill the chicken on a hot grill, 5-7 minutes on each side, serve and enjoy!

 

 

Grilled Zucchini and Avocado with White Wine Vinaigrette

Grilled Zucchini with Avocado and White Wine Viniagrette

Grilled Zucchini with Avocado and White Wine Vinaigrette

T’is the season–for zucchini that is.  It is at almost every stand in my farmers market, piled into beautiful towers at my local Whole Foods, and in glistening plastic packages in my local Trader Joe’s.  There is no escaping it–not that I’d want to. Zucchini is one of those vegetables that if you plant it–you will be rewarded with an enormous bounty–so it’s no wonder that it is everywhere right now. So what do you do with an enormous bounty of zucchini?  Cook it. Pickle it. Give it away–even in secret as some of my neighbors have, by leaving an anonymous  bag full of zucchini on my doorstep.  It’s a good thing that I happen to like zucchini.  This recipe happens to be something that came about as an accident.  I was planning on making my favorite saute of zucchini and mushrooms but my plans and Page’s needs sometimes collide and I had to make an adjustment.  In this case, I had some deliciously ripe avocado’s that Page insisted that I serve her for dinner.  I had already begun to slice the zucchini so I had to cook it. So I decided why not just combine the two and make a salad of sorts. Boy, am I glad I did. I used a white wine vinaigrette, but this is great with a lemon garlic vinaigrette too!

 

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Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini, sliced

2 large avocados, sliced

1/4 cup of feta cheese (optional)

1 tablespoon of parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil or grape seed

2 tablespoons of butter or ghee

sea salt and black pepper to taste

For Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of olive oil

sea salt to taste

Directions: Mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the oil and butter in a saute pan.

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Once hot, add the zucchini slices to the pan and cook until brown–about 2-3 minutes on each side.

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Transfer the zucchini to a plate, season with sea salt and black pepper.

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Slice the avocado and arrange in a single layer on a plate.  Top the avocado with the grilled zucchini.  Sprinkle with feta if using, then sprinkle with parsley. Lastly top with vinaigrette, serve and enjoy!

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Sauteed Chard with Lemon, Garlic and Shallots

Sauteed Chard with Lemon, Garlic and Shallots

Sauteed Chard with Lemon, Garlic and Shallots

Chard is an under rated vegetable.  It’s one of those vegetables that doesn’t get it’s due.  Probably because it has to contend with other vegetables that hog the spotlight, like kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.  I think that if more people knew how easy it is to cook chard, and how delicious it is, it would be a star in their dinner line up.  This recipe for chard is one of my favorite chard recipes.  It’s super easy, quick, and oh so delicious!

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Ingredients

1 bushel of chard about 4 cups chopped roughly

1 medium shallot sliced thinly

4 small cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, more if you’re so inclined

2 tablespoons of cooking oil

sea salt to taste

Directions:  Heat the oil along with the garlic and shallots over medium heat.

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Cook the shallots and garlic until shallots turn translucent, about 1-2 minutes.

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Add in the chopped chard, season with sea salt and saute until wilted.

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Turn the fire off and add lemon juice, toss then serve.  Yup that easy! AND So, so , so delicious!!

 

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DIY Tater Tots–How to Make Homemade Tater Tots

DIY Tater Tots How to Make Homemade Tater Tots

DIY Tater Tots How to Make Homemade Tater Tots

How amazing are potatoes?  I love them in every form.  So does Page.  I have been wanting to do a tater tot for her for a long while now.  They are super easy to make, especially if you have a food processor.  You just throw the potatoes in, and the processor does all the work.  All you have to do is form the tots. If you’re not into forming a few hundred tiny balls of potatoes, this also works as a recipe for hash browns–yes a two for one! I’ve used potato starch in this recipe, but feel free to use all purpose flour if you so choose. You can also substitute almost any potato in this recipe.  Sweet potato tater tots are pretty awesome!

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Ingredients:

2 pounds of potatoes peeled–I used fingerlings and purple

1 tablespoon of potato starch (can sub for any flour you’d like)

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of thyme

1 tablespoon of potato starch

1 cup of high heat oil like safflower or grapeseed

sea salt to taste

Directions: Place the potatoes in a pot in cold water–enough to cover them, and bring to a boil–allow to cook for 6-7 minutes,

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then strain and allow to cool to room temperature.

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Once cool, grate with a box grater, or grate in a food processor.  Once grated, wrap the shredded potatoes in cheese cloth and wring out all the water that you can,  transfer to a large bowl, add seasoning, and potato starch, and form tater tots.

 

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TIP: If your dough is sticky wet your fingers, balls will be easier to form. Heat oil in a skillet. Once hot fry tots in batches until brown.

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Transfer to a paper towel lined plate, season with salt and  serve with my recipe for ketchup and enjoy!

 

 

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DIY Concord Grape Soda–How to make Lacto-fermented Concord Grape Soda

Concord Grape Soda--Lacto Fermented Concord Grape Soda

Concord Grape Soda–Lacto Fermented Concord Grape Soda

We took a short break/vacation to take Page up north.  By north I mean northern California.  We live in southern California, and don’t really travel up north often enough, as a matter of fact, my husband would love nothing more than to move up north.  It’s where his roots are, where his soul speaks, and ultimately where I think he’d like us to retire.  Up north people are much more liberal–I would venture to say that the people up north are the prototype for what people in other states consider Californians.  Socially liberal, tree hugging, animal loving, free spirited Californians.  Here in the south, we are still liberal, but much more superficial–I call it the Hollywood effect.  People in the north are street friendly, meaning they stop and talk to you, and are truly interested in getting to know you.  They know their neighbors, talk to them regularly even.  Here in the south, you’d be lucky to see your neighbor once a week, and talk to them once a month.  It’s a very different atmosphere. Everything is so green in the north–in spite of the drought–there are so many farms–yes I said farms–I know the image of our state is one of sunshine and beaches, but we grow a lot of food here in California.  We visited the Muir Woods which Page LOVED! Page really enjoyed San Francisco, she was especially fond of the steep hills. We especially loved the food.  I had so many restaurants on my list of must try restaurants but we only made it to a few.   I really wanted to visit State Bird Provisions, and Bar Tartine,  time just didn’t permit it.  On the road trip up, I brought along my Bar Tartine Techniques & Recipes book.  I came across a recipe for Grape Soda and knew it would be the first thing that I was going to make when we returned home.  Luckily for me, concord grapes just so happen to be in season.  I found them on sale at Whole Foods for $2.99/lb.  Not bad for organic grapes!  Since my ginger bug was active, this was a breeze to make.  If you can find organic grape juice then it will be even more simple, If not take the time to juice the grapes like I did–so worth it!

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Ingredients:

2 cups of organic Concord grape juice

2 cups of water–filtered

1/2 cup of strained lacto soda starter–ginger bug

2-4 tablespoons of sugar–optional

 

Directions: Add the juice, water and lacto starter to a large mason jar.  Make sure the jar is large enough to allow for some head space, cover with cheese cloth and place in a dark area–out of direct sun light.

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Allow to ferment for 3-4 days or until the mixture is slightly foamy and releases bubbles when stirred.  It’s hot here so my mixture was fizzy and bubbly by day 2.

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Transfer the mixture to a flip top bottle or canning jar, making sure to leave at least 1 inch of head space–I’d say 2.5 inches just to be safe.

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Let this stand at room temperature for no more than 24 hours, to allow for pressure/carbonation to build,–my suggestion is that you allow this to carbonate inside of a dark cabinet.

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You do not want to run the risk of an explosion in an open environment–it’s dangerous!  Once carbonated, transfer to a refrigerator.  Once cool, serve over ice and enjoy!  Tip:  If using a glass flip top bottle, place the bottle in a tube sock, and then place that in a closed cabinet.  If the bottle explodes it will confine the damage.

 

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If you like this recipe,try my recipe for Lacto-fermented Strawberry Soda.

 

DIY Strawberry Soda–Lacto Fermented Strawberry Soda

DIY Strawberry Soda--Lacto Fermented Strawberry Soda

DIY Strawberry Soda–Lacto Fermented Strawberry Soda

 

So now that you know how to make a ginger bug, let’s put it to use.  I’ve been wanting to make this soda specifically for Page for a long while now.  The great thing about this soda is that it is full of beneficial bacteria, so it’s a soda that is actually good for you.  The directions I had for making this soda said to leave it out of direct sun light for 24 hours, so that it naturally carbonates and then move it to the refrigerator to chill and slow the process down.  I put the soda in a corner and left it to sit, about 15 hours later, I hear a loud explosion in my kitchen.  The bottle had exploded and my entire bottle of soda was lost.  There was glass everywhere! It made me so sad.  So the moral of the story is, don’t leave this out to carbonate more than 12 hours.  If you plan on doing that, then put this in a cabinet, close it so that the explosion is confined, and no one gets hurt.  Or place this in a plastic sterilized water bottle, that way you can clearly tell when the soda has carbonated, the bottle will expand and harden once the soda has been carbonated.  In the book The Art of Fermentation’ the author suggest placing a raisin in the bottle, once the raisin rises to the top that is a sign that the soda has been carbonated, and you can transfer it to the refrigerator. I juiced fresh strawberries in my juicer for this recipe.  There are many recipes out there that boil the berries with sugar to make a syrup, and then use the syrup as a base to make this soda.  I preferred to just use fresh juice–delicious!  Also the sugar is an optional ingredient, if the strawberries you’re using are already sweet then you don’t really need to add more sugar.

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Ingredients:

2 cups of strawberry juice

2 cups of water

1/2 cup of ginger bug

1/4 cup -1/2 cup of organic raw sugar –optional

Equipment:

Close top bottles

 

Directions: Remove the stems from the strawberries–about 3 pints and juice them.

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Strain 1/2 cup of the ginger bug.

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To a large bowl add the strawberry juice, water, ginger bug, and sugar if using,

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Stir well cover with cheesecloth and place out of direct sun light to allow the mixture to ferment over night.  If you’d like you could ferment longer–up to 3 days, but the flavor of mine was just perfect after 24 hours.  The bacteria eat the sugar, so the longer you leave it, the less sweet it becomes.  But be careful, the bacteria will convert the sugar to alcohol so you don’t want to leave it too long–unless of course you want to make this a mead–a delicious alcoholic beverage,  instead of a soda.  Transfer the mixture to an air tight bottle or mason jar to carbonate, store in a dark cabinet–or a safe area where if it explodes it will not harm you or your family members.

 

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Store for up to 12-15 hours before moving it to the refrigerator to chill.  Once chilled open the bottle over a sink–natural carbonation is a powerful thing!  Pour over ice and enjoy!

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