Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lime Curd: Sweet, Tangy and Versatile

Fruit curds are versatile and a little goes a long way.  This sweet and tangy indulgence is easy to make, but can also be a bit troublesome.  Incorporating the eggs correctly, cooking at a medium heat and constant stirring leads to a smooth and creamy curd with very few egg bits or none at all. If you have ever rushed making a curd by heating it too quickly or slacked when you should have been stirring, then you may already know scrambled egg enhanced curd is not what you are looking for.

Lemon curd always makes me think of my mom.  Mom loves lemon anything so lemon meringue pie showed up often when I was growing up.  I do have her recipe and I know it is good but it uses cornstarch as a thickener along with egg yolks and water (that's right water, I had to do a double take the first time she gave me this recipe).  No disrespect mom but I wanted to keep my recipe simple and focused on two techniques:  mixing the eggs and sugar with a whisk or mixer until well blended and the cooking method.  There are many recipes for making fruit curds. Some use yolks only or other additional thickeners or less butter or the addition of salt or more sugar and on and on (and water?!).  I am not saying anyone of these recipes is wrong or right because as long as they work, that is right!

Oh and don't be afraid of making a curd.  Once you get the hang of it, it is a cinch. Sometimes a little practice is all you need.  This goes well, like really well, with Coconut Bread that you can find here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Coconut Bread

This post was my first post on March 15, 2011.  I am very proud and honored to be contributing to this food magazine site that is headed by Kalle Bergman.  It has a flavor I have not seen before.  Go see for yourself and check it out.

On March 1, I was reading a New York Times article on coconut oils, Once a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World, which was stating how vegans and persons with specific dietary needs  had been using virgin coconut oil to make cakes and cake frosting, pie crusts, baked goods and sautes to achieve better quality and flavor.  It also mentioned that coconut oil is not the villain that it has been made out to be.  It was the hydrogenated version, along with all the other hydrogenated oils that have been produced, that was really bad for you.  Coconut oil got really picked on and tossed out of the party. There are other sources that suggest virgin coconut oil is a healthy oil and that societies that use them heavily in their diets do not have higher levels of heart disease than areas that consume a western diet like in the US, they are actually lower.  There have been some long term studies in the US that concluded coconut oil does not increase heart disease.  There is a lot of interesting science behind these results.  I think this is all fascinating since we have been told to stay away from these foods because they are evil and they will kill you. I should be enthralled, but instead of pondering this interesting nutritional information (info on saturated fats not being so bad for you has been coming out slowly for several years now), I had an epiphany, OK just an aha moment. Maybe coconut oil is exactly what that coconut bread that I made 7 to 10 years ago needed.  It was very lackluster in taste and I was soooo disappointed.  Would coconut oil add that extra level of flavor so the bread would taste like coconut, because why make a coconut bread that doesn't really taste like coconut?  That seems like wasted calories to me.

Amazingly. I knew exactly which cookbook of mine had the recipe (I have a few cookbooks!) and went right to it and then to the store for unrefined, virgin coconut oil.  It is now apparent that I never really gave up on this bread recipe, even though I should have after the first try.  It was really not good.  Maybe coconut has a "special place in my heart" and it was meant to be!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Limoncello: Part 1

Before getting started on this post, I have an announcement that I am thrilled about.

I have been asked to contribute to a new online magazine called Honest Cooking.  I gladly accepted and am very excited about this opportunity to be a part of this community headed by Kalle Bergman.  The site launched today.  I think the look and content is fabulous.  Go check it out and decide for yourself!

Now onto more fun stuff:

Part 1:  Infusing the vodka with lemon zest.

I love making liqueurs.  Lemon seems like the perfect way to bring in the beginning of spring.  Anything citrus works for me this time of year.  I have jumped into the cyber world of Limoncello recipes.  There are serious opinions about how to make this liqueur.  My first shocker that it was highly recommended to use Everclear which is very unavailable, as in illegal to sell, in Pennsylvania. In PA, our alcohol use must be governed because we the people cannot make responsible choices.

The second shock was that people use this stuff as a cleaner.  Wow, all this time I thought it was for spiking punch, so the spiker could watch the spikees hurl their grits at the end of the night and laugh their loser butts off.  Funny stuff.  Yeah, right!  Oh well, that was the good old days when we were immature and immortal.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Toasted White Beans and Greens

 This is a bowl of homemade white beans and kale.

I love sauteed greens so I am always interested in new ways to prepare them.  If garlic is involved, all the better.  Swiss chard and kale are definitely favorites of mine to cook with.  Turnip greens not so much.

Growing up my Granny used to make turnip greens or collards.  She boiled the stink out of them, literally.  I never really cared for them and don't really remember eating them very often, if ever.  It was the classic southern recipe of chopped turnip greens, ham hocks, vinegar and some sugar.  They always seemed so lifeless and unappealing.  I know some of you out there think, well she probably wasn't a good cook because turnip greens are awesome.  It's me, Granny was a fabulous cook.  I truly looked forward to our family dinners at my grandparent's house.  It was always a smorgasbord of southern dishes made with fresh garden vegetables from my Poppy's acre garden.

So one day I was putzing around at the library and I picked up a copy of Super Natural Cooking written by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks.  I found her recipe for white beans and kale and it looked interesting so I tried it.  I made it with Swiss chard and made a few changes to simplify this recipe even more.  It was so delicious that it became the main focus of the meal that night.  It is an easy, nutrient dense, delicious recipe that I have made many times since.

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