Sunday, February 12, 2012

Truffle Tremor - Lots of It!

I've never bought a 3-pound wheel of Truffle Tremor before.

At it's usual price per pound, the cost of a wheel hovers around $75; more if purchased outside of Humboldt County.

The other day, however, our beloved, award-winning cheese company, Cypress Grove Chevre, which, by the way, is a mere 12 miles from my kitchen (oh how I love saying that), had a special sale of their  Truffle Tremor and I snatched up a wheel of it lickity-split.

 Do you see the price per pound, people?

What you see here on my kitchen counter is a well-aged wheel of Tremor; to my palate, the most perfect state this cheese can achieve.  The bloom is velvety and white, the ooey-gooey layer just under the rind (called the proteolysis - my favorite part) is thick and runny, the texture of the cheese is dense and crumbly. The taste?  You can read a review I wrote some years ago here.

So, why was it marked down?  I have no idea.

Maybe the good folks at Cypress Grove just wanted to give us an early Valentine's gift.

Well Cypress Grove, I love you too!

Copyright © 2005-2012, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, February 6, 2012

Kuri Squash Soup with Kale Pesto

February can bring many kinds of weather to us northcoasters:  The ubiquitous rain, of course; frosty mornings; sometimes snow, but also the occasional sunny day to remind us that spring is not far off, no matter what the groundhog saw in your neck of the woods.

So on a recent day, when the sun shone and the temperature reached a balmy 55-degrees, it occured to me that I should use up the remainder of the winter squashes whose presence on my kitchen counter throughout the winter months instills a sense of culinary bounty in my heart.

The squashes I used here were a combination of red kuri and one called Cinderella, which is a French variety, but you can use any orange winter squash that is available to you.  Mine were on the small side, so I used three of them.  I encourage you to use locally grown and organic if you can.

Got pesto?  Swirling a dollop into each serving makes for a nicely visual, and healthy presentation.

Kuri Squash Soup with Kale Pesto
Christine's original recipe
Serves 6-8 generous portions
5 lbs peeled and seeded deep orange squash, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
4-6 small cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1.5-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 very ripe Bosc pear, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc (juice of 1 lemon may be substituted)
1 1/2 to 2 quarts home made or low sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon porcini powder
1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
olive oil for the sauté (butter is optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Assemble and prep your ingredients as listed above.
In a large soup pot, add about 1 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter, or a combination of both.
When the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium and add the chopped onions, garlic, ginger and pear.
Stir well and adjust the heat so things will not burn; cover and sweat for about 5 minutes or until the onions are very soft but not caramelized.
Pour in the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any stuck bits, then add the stock, squash, porcini powder and Italian herb mix.
Bring the mixture up to almost boiling, stir, lower the heat so the soup is maintained at a simmer, cover with a lid and allow to cook until the squash is very tender and falls apart when stuck with a fork.
Remove the soup from the heat and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes then purée it with an immersion blender until it is very, very smooth.
Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper if you choose.  Stir well.
Serve with a dollop of kale pesto swirled in and enjoy.

The Italian herb mix that I reach for during the winter months is made by Frontier. It's organic and is available at many natural food stores and co-ops and also in my Amazon Store.
I use a locally made dried porcini powder from the Arcata-based company Hasta be Pasta and I just found out it can be purchased from Amazon so I've put it in my Amazon Store.
The bosc pear:  It had been left on the counter too long and was becoming way too soft for eating out of hand. And while the chickens would have thought it a great treat, it made a nice addition to this soup. What the heck: a squash is a fruit; a pear is a fruit. It worked. End of story.

Copyright © 2005-2012, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Kale Pesto

 My vegetable garden doesn't produce much during our winters, but I can always count on kale.
After a while though, too much of a good thing can wear a bit thin and I struggle to come up with ways to use it.
Over the years, I've made my share of basil pesto, arugula pesto, spinach pesto, and even cilantro pesto but, until now, had not thought to make pesto out of kale, until I made a batch of kuri squash soup the other day and craved a spoonful of home made pesto to swirl into it.
Now, I ask you, what is pesto but green leafy things, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil all buzzed up into a delicious paste?  You can add a bit of lemon juice or a pinch of red pepper flakes to spice things up a bit, but those are the basics.  So why not kale?
 Turns out, why not kale?  It makes a deeply green, healthful spoonful to swirl into your winter soups and stews. Plus, it tastes really, really good.  I think you should try it.

Christine's Kale Pesto
print recipe
4-6 cups (about 6.5 ounces) young kale leaves, ribs removed, coarsely chopped
1 large fresh garlic clove, smashed and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup olive oil or walnut/olive oil mix
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 teaspoon gray sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the kale, nuts, garlic and cheese in a food processor and pulse until well combined.
With the machine running, drizzle the oil(s) through the feed tube until the pesto is uniformly ground  and spoonably moist. You know, just like pesto.
Add the lemon juice and pulse a few times then taste.  Adjust the seasonings with the sea salt and black pepper, pulsing until incorporated.
Remove from the processor and spoon into a lidded storage container.  Use within a week.
Swirl into soups and stews, serve over hot pasta, shake into vinaigrette. It's all good and good for you.

I used both Russian Red and Lacinato kale for this recipe. Pick only the tender young leaves; the larger, older ones may taste too strong.
Tear the leaves off of either side of the central rib before using.  (My chickens love the ribs.)
I like to freeze what pesto will not be used within a week. Here's a method that allows you to control the thawed portions:  spray the cups of a plastic ice cube tray with a small amount of cooking spray, wipe gently with a paper towel then fill them with the pesto, pressing down to eliminate air pockets. Freeze until solid then pop out the frozen nuggets and place them in zip top freezer bags for freezer burn-free storage.

Copyright © 2005-2012, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved