One of the things the Accidental Locavore has always appreciated about France is the ability to get a demi-baguette at almost every boulangerie. Since baguettes are meant to be eaten immediately, or certainly by the end of the day, their shelf life is in measured in hours (not weeks, like some of our breads). While American baguettes have a slightly longer shelf life, you’re usually required to buy a whole one (and of course, ours are bigger…), so we generally have most of one lying around getting stale. If I remember to catch them before they’re so stale you could use them to hit a hardball, I chop them up and make breadcrumbs. All you do is cut (or rip) the bread into ½” slices, cut those in half and pop them in a food processor. Process until the crumbs are a size that you like. I keep mine in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, ready for action.
This morning, I started working on our leftover baguette from the great cheese and charcuterie board Frank put together for le 14 juillet. I had cut it into such perfect slices that it occurred to me that croutons might be a better use for this than the usual breadcrumbs. Here’s how they came together:
- 2/3 of a baguette, cut into ¾” slices and then quarter the slices
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large garlic clove, put thorough a press (optional)
- Large pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450°. Put the melted butter, olive oil, salt, garlic and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Add the bread and toss until well coated. Put on a cookie sheet or hotel pan and cook until golden-brown, about 8 minutes. Put on a wire rack to cool. Store in a Ziploc in the freezer or toss these in soups or salads and enjoy!
My verdict: True confession, when I make Caesar salad, I generally use commercial croutons. Not anymore! These were so easy and delicious, and a look at the ingredients on the back of the crouton bag just made me cringe. I would have liked a bit more salt in them, but I held back. You could also toss them in some Parmesan, herbs (I kept eyeing a big bunch of basil on the counter), whatever strikes your fancy. You can also flavor them to go with what you’re serving. Almost any type of bread will work, although I’m not a big fan of croutons made with soft white breads.
The other night, the Accidental Locavore was getting ready for dinner, which was going to be burgers on the grill, when Tasting Table posted a recipe for grilled bacon with steak sauce. Hmm, I thought, why not bacon burgers with steak sauce, so I made a batch of the steak sauce in question, which seems to originate from Peter Luger’s (an extremely overpriced steak house in Brooklyn, if you by some chance haven’t heard of it). Try it now and make it for your Dad on Father’s Day. Here’s my version:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup onion, minced (about ½ a small onion)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons horseradish
- ½ a chipotle (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan or sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onion.
Stir in the brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and add the tomato sauce. Simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add the horseradish and chipotle. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour into a blender or food processor and process until fairly smooth. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: This was really good and easy enough to whip up. I thought it was missing a little heat, so I added the chipotle. For some reason, we didn’t have any tomato sauce, so I used a half a can of diced tomatoes with the juice and that worked out fine. I’m sure it’s good over grilled bacon (that’s kind of a no-brainer), but it was also great with the bacon burgers. Later in the weekend we used it as a straight-up steak sauce, and it was a good if unnecessary addition to a beautiful porterhouse from Brykill Farm. We also thought it would be good on hot dogs, or as a marinade/glaze for pork chops (bacon, get it?).
I might be tempted to use apple cider vinegar the next time, but I’m not sure if that would make it too sweet (which was part of the reason for the chipotle – I wanted a little heat and some smokiness).
In the spirit of competition, or something, the Accidental Locavore decided to add homemade butter to the better butter comparison. Making butter is pretty easy, you just abuse heavy cream long enough and it starts to separate into butter and buttermilk. You may have experienced this if you’ve ever made whipped cream and let it go a little too long. The toughest part of the butter-making process is that you need to have heavy cream that’s not ultra-pasteurized and that’s become harder to find in your local supermarket. Luckily, and in the spirit of keeping it local, Hudson Valley Fresh has a heavy cream that’s not ultra-pasteurized. Unfortunately, three out of the four cartons I bought turned out to be past their expiration dates – not so “fresh.” However, they tasted fine so I proceeded on.
There are lots of ways to make your own butter, but they all end up being “beat it” or “shake it.” Taking the beating path: put four half pint cartons of heavy cream into a mixer and let it go on medium high for about 8 minutes until it starts to look like whipped cream. Then, turn it up to high and in a few more minutes it will start to separate into butter and buttermilk. You’ll know when this happens because if you don’t cover the top of the mixing bowl, buttermilk will start spattering all over the kitchen (there’s a lesson here…).
Once you’ve got separation, line a colander with a layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Pour the contents of your mixing bowl into the colander. You’ll end up with buttermilk in the bowl and butter in the colander. Pick up the butter in the cheesecloth and squeeze as much of the buttermilk as you can out of it. Store the buttermilk in a container in the fridge and use it for biscuits, salad dressing, or crème frâiche.
If you would like to salt your butter, put it in a bowl, sprinkle a little (1/4 teaspoon) salt on it and knead it until the salt is well mixed in. Now just form it into logs, wrap in plastic or waxed paper and foil, serve and enjoy. My 4 cups of heavy cream made about 12 ounces of butter and 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk.
My verdict: It’s certainly easy enough and it was tasty. Possibly better milk (i.e. cream) would have made a better product. However at $2.99 per half pint, my 12 ounces of butter cost $11.96 – almost a dollar an ounce, about what the expensive butters cost. So, in terms of time and cost, I think I’ll stick to Cabot for daily use and one of the “better butters” for the good stuff.
The Accidental Locavore has been meaning to make ricotta for a long time now and the ricotta ice cream was just the excuse to give it a shot. It’s always fascinating what “spoiling” milk does, from yogurt to ricotta and other cheeses. This is super-easy to do and tastes great.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (if using for ricotta ice cream, zest a lemon and set aside)
|Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and put in the sink. In a 6 quart pot (you need space for the boiling milk to expand) slowly bring the milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching. Reduce the heat to low and add the lemon juice. Stirring constantly, simmer until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. |
Carefully pour the mixture into the colander and let it drain for an hour (I put my colander over the pot). Discard the liquid. Put the ricotta in a container and chill until ready to use.
After being inspired by the ricotta ice cream at Junoon, the Accidental Locavore decided that the end of summer (sob, sob) deserved some homemade ice cream. Turns out that the ricotta version is much easier than making classic ice cream. You don’t need to make what is essentially a custard, let it chill and then freeze it, a two to three day process (if you have the patience and time) to do it right. With the ricotta, you just run it through a food processor and ice cream maker. This, I’m guessing, makes a little more than a quart
Ricotta Ice Cream
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- 1 cup heavy cream (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
|Place all the ingredients in the work bowl of the food processor and process until smooth. |
When it’s done, place in the ice cream maker and process until it’s frozen.
Put in a freezer container and freeze until firm. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: Super easy and delicious! Unfrozen it tastes like cannoli filling (which it almost is). I used this as an excuse to finally make my own ricotta (easy and delicious, give it a try) and used the whole batch of ricotta for the ice cream. Since I forgot to zest my lemons (used for the ricotta) I used the zest of ½ lemon and most of a lime, which was fine. I think the finished product is a little sweet and next time will start with ½ cup of sugar and go from there. You can add liqueur, rum to the mix and pistachios or chocolate bits at the end if you want. Next time, I think I’ll add some chocolate bits just for fun. If you’re new to making ice cream or are looking for an excuse to get an ice cream machine, this is a great jumping off point.
The Accidental Locavore loves harissa, a spicy North African condiment, usually red, so when I saw this recipe in bon appétit for a green version, I had to try it. I used it to make merguez, but if you’re not into making sausage, use it for lamb or chicken. It would probably work really well on zucchini too. Makes ½ cup and adapted from bon appétit:
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped ( I probably used 1 ½ cups because I love cilantro)
- 1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 jalapeno or serrano chile, seeded
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Kosher salt to taste
Combine all ingredients except salt in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add salt to taste and check seasonings for taste. If it’s too spicy, add more spinach, cilantro and a little more olive oil. Serve and enjoy.
The Accidental Locavore sometimes has leftover buttermilk from making biscuits and unlike my mother, drinking it, is not for me. However, crème fraîche is the answer and it couldn’t be easier. Makes a cup.
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- 1 cup of heavy (whipping) cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
Mix the buttermilk and cream in a glass container. Cover and let it stand at room temperature for 8-24 hours until very thick. Refrigerate. It will keep (and get a bit thicker) in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Serve and enjoy.
DIY bacon? Why not? Before there were supermarkets, and things came in packages, people made them themselves. Most of them weren’t terribly difficult to make, they just took time. Time to cure, pickle, ferment, age, and transform. For the next few months while New York is in the midst of winter, and the farmer’s markets become scarce, the Accidental Locavore is going to explore what I’m calling “Out of the Box”. I’ll show you how to make many things we just assume come in packages. You’ll learn how simple they are to prepare, and how much better they taste. Local products will be used whenever possible, and there will be how-to videos.
Some of the things we’re going to be tackling, in no particular order, are:
- Sriracha hot sauce
- Worchester sauce
- Ricotta (and gnocchi)
- Ice Cream
- Salad Dressing
- Creme fraiche
- Vanilla extract
If you have experience with any of these, please let me know what worked, what didn’t, and what’s become part of your regular repertoire. What would you like to see out of the box?
As part of the most recent baskets, the Accidental Locavore had a lot of beans, both green and wax. Since it was a little cold for a Salad Nicoise, and I was in a pickling mood, I put up the beans with a recipe from an earlier Food and Wine. The recipe is really easy, no cooking involved, and you don’t need any canning equipment, just some one pint jars. It’s also a good way to take advantage of the last of the dill and tarragon in the garden. The recipe says the beans are good after 24 hours, however they weren’t. Be patient and give them a week for the flavors to develop.
For 4 pint jars of beans:
- 4 pint jars (run them through the dishwasher to prep them)
- 1 1/2 pounds of beans (I made 1 jar of wax, and 2 of green, you can also mix them)
- 8 cloves of garlic, cut in half (4 halves for each jar)
- 8 sprigs of dill (two for each jar)
- 4 tarragon sprigs (one for each jar)
- 4 teaspoons black peppercorns (one for each jar)
- 4 teaspoons horseradish (one for each jar) (loving heat, I used the hot horseradish)
- 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 cups water
Trim the stem ends of the beans so they fit in the jars. Pack them into the jars, tip side down. Each jar also gets two sprigs of dill, one sprig of tarragon, 4 garlic halves, a teaspoon of peppercorns, and a teaspoon of horseradish. In a large jar, or mixing bowl (I used a very large measuring cup), combine the vinegar, salt and sugar. Shake or stir until the sugar and salt is fully dissolved. Add the water, and mix. Pour over the jars until they are completely full. The beans need to be completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate. You can eat them after a day in the fridge, but give them a week, and you’ll be glad you did. They should keep in the fridge for 3 months. Enjoy!
This past summer the Accidental Locavore started making a lot of things that normally you just buy at a supermarket. The latest has been yogurt. It’s amazingly easy and the only “special equipment” you need is an instant-read thermometer (if you don’t have one, you must get one, it makes roasting meat and chicken a no-brainer), some cheesecloth (most good grocery stores have it) and a big strainer or colander. If you can boil water, you can make yogurt. (and if you can’t, check out this funny article from Serious Eats). The original recipe from Food and Wine was for a quart of milk, but we went through that in about a nanosecond, so I now double that and use half a gallon of milk (you’ll end up with about a quart of yogurt). If I had the refrigerator space, I’d do more. My friend Jeremy said to use Stonyfield Farm yogurt as a starter, so that’s what I’ve been doing.
- 1/2 gallon milk, take 4 tablespoons from the 1/2 gallon and put in a small bowl or measuring cup
- 4 tablespoons yogurt
Mix 4 tablespoons of the milk and the same amount of yogurt in a small bowl, or measuring cup. Put the rest of the milk in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it stand off the heat until it reaches 100 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. This takes me about an hour (I just keep resetting the timer to check it). A skin will form on the milk. Don’t mess with the skin! You will probably have a small opening in the skin where you put the thermometer, if not make a small hole in the center. Pour the yogurt/milk mix into the hole.
Cover with a clean dishtowel. Put the pot in your oven with the oven light on and the door closed for 16 hours (overnight and then some). I put a Post-It over the light button so I don’t turn it off by accident. You’ll be amazed by how warm your oven is with just the light on. When it’s done, take the skin off with a slotted spoon (or clean fingers). Ladle the yogurt into a sieve or colander lined with two layers of the cheesecloth (over a large bowl) and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. How long you strain the yogurt will determine how thick it is. For Greek style, 4 hours, for more normal yogurt an hour or two is fine. Discard the liquid in the bowl.
Transfer the yogurt into a bowl or container, serve and enjoy.
Notes: Once you start making yogurt, you can use your own as a starter. After about 4 batches, you might want to refresh it with some good store-bought. I’ve used both whole and 2% milk, both with good results. After scorching batch after batch on my electric range, I’ve started heating the milk in a big glass measuring cup in the microwave. 17 minutes seems to be the magic number for a half-gallon of milk.