Saturday, November 14, 2009

I have seen the promised land, and it is filled with corn tortillas

How is it that I have never before realized the wondrousness of the humble corn tortilla? I have owned packages of them, used a few as a poor alternative to flour tortillas (which are a poor alternative to home-made flat breads) and then thrown the rest out after several weeks of sitting in the fridge. They always have tasted kind of raw and mealy, and generally unappealing.

I have made a discovery - bake the little suckers until they're toasty and they turn out delightful, crispy around the edges, with a pleasant tortilla chip flavour without the deep frying. ALSO, if you sprinkle on a very minimal amount of grated cheese (minimal! I mean it, no big gluey globs) and some salsa (also minimal amount), pop it in a 400F oven for about three to five minutes (so the cheese is bubbling), and then use as a shell for enchilada/burrito/taco type dishes. I make a filling of carrot/celery/pepper/tomato/onion/garlic and some sort of meat, fish or tofu, seasoned with a bit of chili and cumin, and then topped with avocado, more salsa, lime juice, lettuce and fresh veggies. Really good, simple, and family friendly, and ten thousand times better than those hard taco shells that sit on the store shelf for a few years before blowing up into little pieces as soon as you bite into them.

This also makes good breakfast with leftover filling. Just pop the tortilla with cheese and salsa in the oven. When toasty, put on some of the filling and put it back in the oven to warm for a couple minutes while you scramble an egg. Put the egg on top of the filling and scarf it down. Yummy!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

more kitchen alchemy (or, my yeast pee was awesome!)

The mead is finished and it's really good. The blackberry batch turned out drier than I expected (additional yeasts on the blackberries maybe?) and the plain one is really nice - a different flavour than last time, despite using the same honey. (Well, from the same company - maybe their bees were in a different place?) Anyway, success!

I also recently tackled another alchemical hurdle - cheese! The Scholefield clan went away for 3 weeks and I was under orders to preserve their milk share for that time. They get 3 gallons a week, and my fridge operates at capacity most of the time, so immediate processing was necessary. They requested feta, so I made some using some "rennet" I found at Ambrosio and yogurt as the starter, and a recipe I found on the internet. It turned out ok, but 3 gallons of milk makes a decent amount of feta, so I thought I should produce something else the next week.

The following week I borrowed our cowshare administrator's book on cheesemaking and attempted a queso fresco. It was actually pretty fun to make - cheese curds are like a blend of jello and cheese, and enjoyable to cut and play with - but on further reading I discovered that the rennet I had bought was actually junket rennet, and largely unsuitable for cheese. Indeed, the cheese that resulted was edible, but didn't melt, and had some crunchy bits because I had no kosher salt, only celtic sea salt, which contains small particles of "minerals" (aka sand).

So I did some panicked ordering off the good old internet. Several days later, thanks to some speedy shipping by Danlac, I had proper rennet and some mesophilic starter. I had to do math to figure out how much rennet to use, and as it turned out the stuff I got was SO concentrated that the amount was on the order of milligrams and I had to use Stirling's powder-measure scale. But wow what a difference! The milk gelled up in an hour and was a much firmer set than with the junket rennet. Lesson learned.

The next batch of cheese turned out decidedly better, and I made some with garlic and herbs in it that was really quite tasty. I had another batch planned, but I got distracted while heating the milk and ended up scalding it, so I reduced it by half and turned it into pumpkin pie ice cream, which was also pretty tasty.

After all that I was a bit cheesed-out. But I've had a rest now, and it's colder so I think my pantry might actually be the right temperature for aging cheese soon, so I will attempt something more cheddar-like next.