Monday, June 24, 2013

Cultured Honeydew Butter

Growing up in Wisconsin, there was an abundance of all things dairy, such as butter. My Grandmother and my Mother slathered butter on everything. I am a third generation butter slather-er. A slather consists of a generous amount of butter, no less than a tablespoon let's say. I will admit that I was a vegan once. For about five days. I couldn't live without cream in my coffee and butter slathers melting off of grilled sweet corn, warm bread, mashed potatoes, pancakes, and everything else that requires a slather of butter. You can imagine the conflict that went on in my head those five days. It wasn't pretty, but it helped me to find a more healthful balance of rations of butter and cream. My heart and general health can only handle butter in moderation. That said, I pick and choose those butter items carefully. When I came across this recipe from Heidi Swanson's website, QUITOKEETO, I knew I would have to plan accordingly. Cultured Honeydew Butter is one of the most floral, beautiful, and just darn right delicious things I have stumbled across in weeks!

The recipe is easy and old school which is something I cherish. In a world of so much factory made food, and so many food regulations, it is a nice change of pace. I could never make this recipe at work, as you are culturing the cream over night on a counter top, and that goes against all of the food safety training I've had to accomplish over the years. But at home, it's a different game. At home it's about simple pleasures; playing Frisbee in freshly mowed grass in bare feet, enjoying Sunday morning coffee outside while curled up in a quilt with my daughter, and of coarse slathering this butter. My Mother would be proud. My Grandmother would probably enjoy it too.


Combine 2 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk with 1 pint of the best heavy cream you can source. Leave out on a countertop for 12-24 hours. Then, if you have the time, chill the now-thickened cream. Use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment to beat well past whipped cream, until the buttermilk completely separates from the butter, ten minutes-ish. The butter should come together into a ball.

Reserve the buttermilk for another use, pressing as much of it out of the butter as possible. Rinse and press the butter with ice water until water runs clear of buttermilk. Fold one part honeydew into two parts fresh butter with a sprinkling of flaked sea salt.

Hope you enjoy!! Belly up!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Grilled Ramps & Smoked Salmon with Popped Capers & Quinoa

A lot has happened since I last blogged. I will report that the homemade chick feed was a hit, and the little rascals are growing right before our eyes. I whipped up that batch of chick feed just before I hit the road for my wonderful honeymoon adventure! By the way, I tied the knot at the end of May, so a honeymoon adventure was in order. We ate bison across South Dakota, and instead of hitting our final destination, Chico Hot Springs located in Paradise Valley just north of Yellowstone, we settled on wonderful hikes in and around the badlands and Custer State Park. We climbed the tallest summit in south Dakota, wandered old logging roads past beautiful ponds stocked with rainbow trout, and lingered in the prairie until the bison roamed through. South Dakota, who knew? It was spectacular. We drank rhubarb wine at the Prairie Berry winery in Hill City and then rode burrows after we panned for gold. Okay, we didn't ride burrows or pan for gold, but the rhubarb wine is 100% rhubarb-deliciousness.

Some time ago, before the wedding and the honeymoon, and before the chicks ran out of feed, Julie stumped me with a food challenge on our Tuesday radio chit chats. Make something with grains or legumes, and use citrus fruits or strawberries, Julie said. I got this, I said. Well, actually I became really busy, and then I hit the road, and so now I've got it.

This dish is more of a list of components that will really make your mouth happy when put together with a bit of love and served on a platter. Julie wanted me to use components that are more commonly  found in the cupboards of local folks. I consider my cupboard pretty down to earth, so when I came across quinoa, maple syrup, and capers I knew I was onto something. It's the cooking process that turns the quinoa and capers into something fun and unusual. When you pan fry the two, they "pop", sorta like popcorn, but way more fun, and not as much height. The maple syrup lends sweet and earthy notes to a vinaigrette, and the grilled ramps are a nice spring addition, which pairs well with the smoked salmon and the capers.

Grilled Ramps & Smoked Salmon with Popped Capers & Quinoa

1) a handful of ramps, rinsed and drained
drizzle the ramps with olive oil, place on a preheated grill, and grill until grill marks appear and the young onion is slightly softened. season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool to room temp.
2) smoked salmon, I used about a half pound, skin and bones removed
3) the "popped" capers and quinoa.
 in a saucepan of salted boiling water, cook 1/4 cup quinoa until just tender, 12 minutes. drain the quinoa through a fine mesh sieve and spread on a rimmed baking sheet to cool and dry completely. set a fine sieve over a heat-proof bowl. in a medium skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until simmering. add the quinoa and 2 tablespoons of well drained capers and fry over moderate heat, stirring, until the sizzling subsides and the quinoa is crisp and the capers have popped, 2 minutes. drain the quinoa and capers through the sieve and transfer to paper towels.
4) maple orange vinaigrette
whisk together 2 tablespoons maple syrup ( I use grade "B" for more maple flavor), 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper until emulsified. this makes a little extra for later use. you could spike this with 1 tablespoon bourbon if you want to 'wow' your father in-law.
5) assemble
by now you have completed steps 1-4, and you are ready for a spectacular show of ingredients. or you've just grown really impatient and are now eating an appetizer bowl of lucky charms. if the later is true, i apologize and i owe you a home brew.

 for assembling this dish place an assortment of fresh spring greens on a platter. i used baby kale, arugula, spinach, and baby beet greens. top the greens with a few shaved radishes for crunch. layer on the grilled ramps and the smoked salmon. sprinkle the popped quinoa and capers on top. drizzle with as much or as little of the maple orange vinaigrette as you'd like. done. belly up!!