National Pie Day

Today, January 23rd is National Pie Day

In celebration of this event, The Fearless Cooking Club will meet this weekend to celebrate Pizza Pie and Traditional Pie with a sweet and savory fillings.  Gabe “The Pie Man” will demonstrate the key to perfect pizza and pie dough.

In the spirit of my children and spouse who are engineers, the other Pi Day is March 14th (you know 3.14…….)

Stay tuned…..

Limoncello New Year

Remember last month when I went to my friend Phyllis’ home and made liqueur? Well the limoncello needed time to ferment. One month later, it has come to fruition.
Rosemary Limoncello

Italy’s Amalfi Coast and adjoining Sorrento Peninsula are the regions most famous for limoncello, an intensely lemony liqueur, traditionally served ice cold as an aperitif or digestive after-dinner drink. Some believe that limoncello  was used in the morning by fishermen and countrymen to fight the cold, since the invasion periods. Others, instead, believe that the recipe was born inside a monastic convent to delight the monks from prayer to prayer.

Rosemary Limoncello from Sunset Magazine December 2007

Ingredients:  18 lemons + 4 to 6 inch rosemary sprig + Two 750 ml 60 Proof Vodka + 4 1/2 C sugar + 5 C water

Directions:

Peel lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler, taking only the zest (top layer) and avoiding any white pith. Put rosemary in a 1-gal. glass or ceramic container with a tight seal. Add zest to jar.

Lemons scrubbed clean

Lemon peel

Pour one bottle of 750 ml vodka over rosemary and zest; seal container. Let sit undisturbed in a cool, dark place for 40 days.

In a saucepan, bring 5 cups water to a boil and add sugar. Cook, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Let sugar syrup cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Fermenting

Pour syrup and remaining 750 ml. vodka over lemon-vodka mixture, stir, and seal container. Let sit in a cool, dark place for another 40 days.

Pour limoncello through cheesecloth into a large spouted pitcher and divide among gift bottles.

Straining

Rosemary

Phyllis’ and Sunset Magazine Points:

1. Phyllis prefers this recipe to the traditional Italian Limoncello recipes. She likes vodka which she believes is less bitter than ones made with Ever-clear.

2. When peeling lemons do not include the white pith which will make the drink bitter.

3. This rosemary came from a ranch in Idaho and Phyllis gave it to me. It is nearly 3 months old and is as fresh as if it was cut today. This drink was a favorite of her late husband.

4. Either Meyer or Eureka lemons work in this recipe (the fragrant Meyer is especially good, though). To speed up the process, shorten the infusing time in steps 2 and 4 to 1 week each, and you’ll have a fine although less intense liqueur. Limoncello keeps indefinitely in the freezer.

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Marvelous Marscapone

My final made-from-scratch cheese this past month was luscious and rich marscapone.The recipe came from The Denver Post who took the recipe from “Artisan Cheese Making at Home” by Mary Karlin. Check out her fabulous website.

The equipment and ingredients required were low key and easy to find at your local grocery store.

Ingredients

2 C pasteurized heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)

1/3 C powdered skin milk

1 lemon, cut in half

Make a clean area in your kitchen counter with clean towels. Assemble equipment: 2 quart non-reactive saucepan, thermometer, butter muslin (or double length of regular cheesecloth) metal spoon and colander.  Whisk the cream and powdered milk together and heat slowly up to 180 degrees F. Stir constantly to prevent scorching. It should take 40 minutes or so, then remove from heat.

Squeeze in half of the lemon juice, switch to a metal spoon and stir constantly to promote curd formation. Do not whisk. The cream will coat the back of the spoon when it is ready. Then add the remainder of the lemon juice and stir to incorporate. Cover and cool the cream in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

The following day the cream will look like yogurt. Transfer the curds to a muslin-lined colander (check out the 10/29/12 Oh Cheez  post for pictures). Draw the ends together and twist into a ball to squeeze out the liquid. The marscapone will then be thick and ready to use in recipes or refrigerate for up to two days.

Patty’s Points:

1) Super easy.

2) Super creamy and versatile.

3) Very little liquid was squeezed from the mixture. It took less than an hour to drain into curds.

4) For recipes on how to incorporate marscapone into recipes, check out Food Network, under ‘marscapone‘. You’ll find that Giada De Laurentis‘ name pops up quite a bit. She loves marscapone and has a variety of sweet and savory recipes to choose from.

The Fearless Cooking Club members each received a jar of marscapone to take home. Many have used it in place of clotted cream, whipped it into mashed sweet or white potatoes, or spread it atop crisp thin bread, with a lovely jam. Marvelous.

Oh Cheez

October is American Cheese Month. I visited the land of cheese, Wisconsin, earlier this month and got in the cheese mood.

You’ll enjoy this picture.

The Splendid Table had a program on Cheesemaking with Janet Hurst author of the book Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers. She bragged at how easy Chèvre , French for goat cheese, was to make. It is one of my favorite cheeses and it is pretty versatile.  I’ve used it with chicken, appetizers, and salad dishes. I went to several stores on the search from Goat Milk and settled on powdered version. It was about $8 for a container that made about one gallon. It mixed easily and tasted good.

As per the recipe you need mesophilic and rennet to make the milk curdle into cheese. Mesophilic culture (far left in the picture) is used for most soft cheeses as well as any hard cheeses that are not heated over 102F.  ‘Meso’ means middle and these cultures are great for cheese making where the recipe requires ‘middle’ temperatures (between 68F and 102F). Rennet (middle in the picture) contains many enzymes, including a proteolytic enzyme that coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey).

In the picture above, far right, is penicillium candidum, which I used in another cheese I’ll blog about later.

The mixture should sit at room temperature for 12-15 hours in a container covered by a cloth to form curds. The next day, pour the milk,water and curd mixture through a colander lined with cheesecloth.

The goat cheese mixture should hang over the sink or on the handle of a cabinet for another 12 hours so the curds stay in the cloth and the whey is filtered out.

Add in 1/2 to 1 tsp of non-iodinized salt to flavor. Serve plain or add your own seasonings like chives, minced onion or garlic. I was excited to add my lavender to a part of the batch.

The Fearless Cooking Club (TFCC) gathered to eat cheese. I used the homemade goat cheese for my favorite recipes: appetizers using goat cheese and dates and Ina Garten’s recipe for chicken, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.

Cindy brought an assortment of cheesecakes

Char brought an oh so creamy, cheesy dish of chile rellenos.

We  were so ambitious, we thought about fondue, but ran out of time. Maybe next time when we think about having a raclette party

Patty’s points on Chèvre:

1. You can use whole milk or goat milk to make it depending on your taste.

2. It does not take very long to heat up the milk to 85 degrees F so watch the thermometer closely.

3. I found the powdered goat milk was more economical. Once I opened the container I put the rest of the powdered goat milk in the refrigerator.

4. The biggest issue was obtaining the rennet and the mesophilic culture. I was lucky that a cheese shop I pass everyday on the way to work had the items and were very helpful with my questions.

On my next post I’ll show two more cheeses I made including brie (if you can believe it). Until next time.

Vegan Chef Edu makes seitan

 The Fearless Cook Club gathered last Saturday to learn all about vegan cooking and celebrate vegetarian cuisine. Our guest chef was Edu, the boyfriend of Cindy’s daughter, Kara. Edu is from Basque country, the northern most border of Spain. He has experience as a cook in a friend’s Tapas Bar in Madrid.

He is a vegan excluding meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients. Many products, like wine, use animal parts in processing. For example, some wineries use animal parts to press down the grapes. That practice is not as common anymore, so many wines can be imbibed by vegans these days.

Edu was very excited about our cooking club and the blog. He was a natural at food demonstration and very relaxed. He suggested we get aprons or T-shirts with our cooking club name on them. What a fabulous idea, eh?

He taught us how to make “fake meat” also known as seitan which is made with wheat gluten.

The base of seitan is using equal parts wheat gluten to vegetable broth,1/3 part soy sauce, onion and garlic powder. From there you can add any flavoring you wish.

The key is not overmix it because of the gluten content (just think bread and over-kneading)

Then boil in water or vegetable broth.


Carve it in slices as below.

Fry in a pan with vegetable oil.

So we ate our seitan with Edu’s couscous vegetable dish, Barb’s mushroom barley soup, Cindy’s quinoa dish, Julie’s hummus, and my baba ghanoush. For dessert Char made almond flour chocolate chip cookies, without eggs but used almond syrup. I brought my grape leaf pie but with the yogurt, it wasn’t true vegan dish. Of course we had wine. Nice job by everyone.

The verdict? The seitan had a really good flavor; consistency was like Spam.

Seitan is all about the transformation. Kara reported there is a restaurant, City O City, that is famous for their Seitan Wings, in Buffalo or Barbecue flavor. It is one of the popular staples on the menu. Sounds like an outing.

Take a bow Edu. Thanks for expanding our culinary horizons.

A Blog Award

The Addictive Blog Award rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.Thanks to Mama’s Empty Nest for the honor.
  • Share a little bit about why you started blogging. On my 50th birthday party we went to the opening of the movie Julie and Julia.  After that landmark event in my life, I vowed that I would start a blog and a cooking club to celebrate cooking, food and friendship. In June 2011 that dream came true with The Fearless Cooking Club.My goal is to showcase our culinary specialties in our home kitchens. Because we are FEARLESS that means we will occasionally challenge ourselves to make dishes never attempted before.  The world of good cooking is a challenge and a leap of faith. It is always better to leap into the culinary abyss with friends than alone, don’t you think? “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” – Julia Child –
  • Copy and post the award onto your own blog.  Boom, done, finished!
  • Nominate up to ten eleven other bloggers you think are addictive enough to deserve the award.  Here are some of my addictions:

The Seaside Baker

Los Rodriguez Life

Jo the Tart Queen

The Hungry Australian

Marinating Online

Sugar and Spice Baking

Food and Fitness 4 Real

My Custard Pie

Boulder Foodie

Ladies Go First

Janna T Writes

Blogging is a journey and an expression of the inner voice. Thanks to all my fellow bloggers. Stay true to yourself.