A Cat of Many Moods, and Fromage Facile

Our cat Puff is a cat of many moods, and I  hope you enjoy these pix!

On an entirely different subject, I found the following recipe for “fromage facile” in a new book called One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero. These recipes are fun, quick, and the ingredients are easily available. I had already made a fresh chive cheese, from an African cookbook and really enjoyed the process, so I was happy to run across this book. “Fromage facile,” by the way, means “easy cheese,” and it is that!

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Fromage Facile

IMG_39181 quart (4 cups) whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pour the milk into a large pot. Then heat the milk to 175 degrees F. An instant read thermometer helps here, but if you don’t have one, heat over low heat for about 15 minutes until the milk steams, but is not quite simmering. Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking. Stir in the buttermilk and the fresh lemon juice. Take the pot off the heat and leave for five minutes. Curds will separate from the yellowish whey.

Have ready a sieve lined with cheesecloth, and pour in the curds and whey. Allow to drain for a few minutes, and stir in the salt. Have ready a small bowl (mine was 5″ across) that is lined with a square of parchment paper (I used an 8″ square). Pack the cheese into the paper-lined bowl. Turn out the cheese onto a plate, and peel off the paper.

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Cheese in sieve, ready to be packed into paper-lined mold.

Cheese packed into paper-line bowl.

Cheese packed into paper-line bowl.

Paper being peeled off.

Paper being peeled off.

Note: This is an easy-going recipe, and I think as long as the milk is very hot and steaming, even if it’s not exactly 175 degrees, the cheese will turn out. Milk simmers at about 180 degrees, so it will be right below a simmer. I used a large cast iron Le Creuset pot. This helps prevent the milk from sticking and burning. The above instructions reflect my own experience of the recipe–for more information, please see Claudia’s book.

Glimpsed in the garden, this cabbage white butterfly on a big leaf aster. Love his eyes! Have a good week. Fran

The Earth vs. Pluto

I know I’m not the only one awestruck by the pictures of Pluto–the sheer scientific achievement of the photos is staggering. New Horizons hurtled around a three billion mile roller derby, was violently flung outwards by the gravitational pull of Jupiter, and then picked its way through the rocky Kuiper Belt. Then, as though it were a walk in the park, it started taking pictures.

It is a scientific achievement–perhaps the greatest of all–but I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice that Pluto is cold, dead and rocky. On a good day, perhaps living on Pluto could be interesting, but on a bad day . . . we would be pining after the little glowing pinprick in the sky, our Sun.

So I hope that after a long look at the icy dwarf planet Pluto, our eyes return to our Earth, and we see it anew. We are living in Eden, and it’s so fragile.

Edible Daylilies

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My orange daylilies have come into bud, I had time on my hands, and I decided to cook up some buds and have a taste. Orange daylily buds (Hemerocallis fulva) are at the top of many foragers’ lists as being not only edible, but tasty, and I remember from long ago a family friend saying how delicious they were. So after some research, I picked some, got out my wok and some butter and olive oil and had a go.

Here are the buds:

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I’d read that the stems could be bitter, so I cut them off close to the buds.

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I decided to cook them with slivers of sweet red pepper and chives, and to throw in some hot pepper pods.

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By the way, I’d already eaten half a bud yesterday. Even though they are known for their edibility, and I had done some research confirming this, I just wanted to be sure! Also, if you do try this, be sure to use just a plain old wild orange daylily. Sometimes they are called ditch lilies. There are many beautiful, ornamental daylilies out there, but stick to the orange. Also, sometimes daylilies are confused with lilies. If you suspect you have such a confusion, skip this recipe!

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I added a pat of butter and some olive oil to the wok. When it was all bubbling and hot, I added the sliced peppers, daylily buds and the chopped chives, along with some salt, pepper and garlic powder. I could’ve–no, should’ve–used real garlic, but was feeling lazy!

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I had read that daylily buds should be cooked like green beans, so I sautéed them for about 15 minutes. They softened and browned, and smelled delicious. I had previously asked Jim if he would like to try the buds, and he had agreed, but meanwhile had mysteriously disappeared.

While waiting for them to cook, I noticed this butterfly on the Ballerina rose. (Fortunately, from my stove, I can cook and look at the garden all at the same time.)

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Here are the sautéed daylily buds.

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I have to say, they were tender and delicious. The raw bud had a definite garlic undertone, but the cooked bud did taste a bit green bean-ish–in a good way. I tracked Jim down, he had some buds, and all he said was “Mmmmm.”

Meanwhile, here is a gallery of some of the ornamental daylilies in my garden. Nothing like daylilies!

More daylilies and a bunny. Have a good week. Fran

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Wild Blueberry Cookies and a Little Brown Bird

IMG_3709These are the most old fashioned of old-fashioned cookies: soft, buttery blueberry cakes with explosions of jammy blueberry flavor in every bite. The recipe comes from John Hadamuscin’s Enchanted Evenings cookbook, a favorite of mine to dream over. In a better world, I would cook the elaborate menus and recipes from this book, and set the beautiful tables. In this world, I can barely manage this one cookie recipe. But it’s a good one! Also, I have a confession to make: Illinois not being the wild blueberry capital of the world, the above cookies are made with just regular blueberries. But the originals were made with wild blueberries, from Blueberry Island in upstate New York. So I am using my imagination. But if you do somehow have wild blueberries, by all means use them. The glaze is my addition. One bite and I knew this cookie was great, but needed a kick in the pants. So I made a glaze with confectioners sugar and fresh lemon juice, and it did the trick.

Wild Blueberry Cookies

IMG_37072-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups blueberries, wild or tame (1 pint)

Glaze: 1 cup of confectioners sugar, the juice of one lemon, and additional milk or cream to make a glaze.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, and then beat in the egg. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, and then gently fold in the blueberries. Don’t stir a moment longer than necessary.

Drop the dough on the lined baking sheet with a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop. Bake for about 16 to 17 minutes–the cookie should be fully puffed up and lightly browned on the top. While the cookies are still warm, make the glaze and spoon with careless abandon over the tops. Remove to racks to cool.

Baking notes: Wild blueberries are small, and the original cookies were measured out by teaspoonfuls. With the large blueberries, I made larger cookies.

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The gardening is exploding–with all the rain, flowers are popping open everywhere and everything is taller and bigger than usual. Even the hostas are shinier. That’s okay!

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I really loved seeing this little brown bird. Lately, I’ve been pretty tired of seeing politicians of all stripe–and I loved seeing this little creature who pretends to be nothing other than what she is–just a little brown bird. I love her for it!

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Toasted-Nut Shortbread and a Kitty

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The Toasted-Nut Shortbread is shown on a flow blue platter, in a bed of lemon thyme.

Since I like butter, in or on anything (unfortunately for my waistline), I am a big fan of shortbread cookies, which are basically butter in cookie form. Here is a recipe for “Toasted-Nut Shortbread,” from a cookbook called Gourmet’s Casual Entertaining. It’s basically a giant, crisp, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread cookie with a cute scalloped edging. The toasted nuts and toasty butter flavor of the cookie are. well, both toasty and tasty. This would go well with sugared summer fruits, such as nectarines or peaches, plus some whipping cream whipped with a bit of brandy and powdered sugar. The cookie could be made the day ahead. It’s so crisp, diners can just snap a piece off. Perfect for summer entertaining!

Toasted-Nut Shortbread

IMG_36521 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped assorted nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Blend together butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl with a large spoon. Sift in flour and blend with a fork or fingertips until mixtures forms a soft dough. Pat into a rough oval. Transfer to the lined baking sheet, and roll out into a 9- by 4-1/2 inch rectangle. Crimp edges decoratively and prick dough all over with a fork. Sprinkle with nuts and press gently into dough with your fingertips.

Bake in middle of oven until edges are golden, about 15 minutes.

Baking notes: The original recipe called for superfine sugar, but using regular sugar resulted in a wonderfully tender cookie. I used a ruler to check the measurements of the dough when rolling out, and recommend it. The one persnickety thing about shortbread is how soft the butter is–you don’t want it to be melted, but it should be just soft enough to cream with a spoon. Also, if your crimped edge has flattened out a bit when the cookie baked, quickly re-make the indentations with the back of a dinner knife while the cookie is still hot.

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And now I come to a bit of shameless self-indulgence. We have adopted a new cat, and have named him Puff. I took a few pix, and can’t resist showing him off! He’s a big cat, so the next photos show first his top, then his middle, then his paws.

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Lastly, it’s daylily season, a joyous time of the gardening year! Take care. Fran

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A+ Brown-Sugar Brownies and a Cute Goldfinch

IMG_3615A favorite cookbook of mine is called “The Picnic Gourmet,” published in 1975. One of the authors is Joan Hemingway, granddaughter of Earnest Hemingway. It’s nostalgic for me, from a time when all things seemed possible for me and for my generation. The cover is intriguing: The diners have apparently dragged a dining room table up the mountainside, along with a Persian carpet, a full set of china and an incredible feast, including a platter of roasted chicken, a carafe of coffee, three bottles of wine, and homemade bread under a starched napkin. Nowadays I feel lucky if we stop at the 7-11 and grab a submarine sandwich and some pop for a picnic. So it was a different world.

I got my copy second hand, and the previous owner has commented on many of the recipes: “Delicious!” “Vince & Susan picnic 4/01,” etc. This recipe for Brown-Sugar Brownies was rated A+, and I had to try it. My first surprise was that these brownies didn’t contain any chocolate. The definition of “brownie” used to be much looser than it is now–almost any chewy bar cookie was called a brownie.

A+ Brown-Sugar Brownies

IMG_36161/4 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 9-inch square pan and line with parchment paper. Grease lightly again. Cream the softened butter and sugar until light. Beat in the egg and the vanilla and beat well. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold into the sugar mixture. Stir in nuts.

The batter will be thick. Spread in pan and bake for about 18 minutes. The original recipe called for 25 minutes, but my brownies got golden brown at about 18.

Baking notes: Be sure to use real butter. This is a simple recipe, and every ingredient counts. The impulse to add chocolate chips to this recipe is almost irresistible, but the buttery praline flavor is perfect as it is!

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Seven Sisters climbing rose

I almost titled this post “A+ Brown-Sugar Brownies and a Punk Rock Goldfinch,” but I was afraid you’d be expecting a goldfinch playing a guitar. It’s his his feathery “do” that seems punk rocker-ish to me–he was leaning over into a bird bath drinking water before I took these pix.

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