Month: April 2013

Quark (Soft White Farmer’s Cheese)

Quark is a type of soft white farmer’s cheese; it tastes sort of like thick yogurt, at least when it is made with buttermilk.  It is apparently very popular in Germany.  It is a good way to use up leftover buttermilk. You can use any kind of milk in this. Whole milk makes whole milk quark; skim milk makes skim milk quark. Source: Modified from “Quark” from “Homemade Summer” by Yvette Van Boven Some ideas for using quark are here and here.  We have mostly been using the plain quark as a spread for sliced bread, either on its own, with kumquat marmalade, or with nam prik pao. Advertisements

Oatmeal

When I was a kid, I hated hot oatmeal. I didn’t like the mushy texture combined with the overwhelming sweetness of the toppings that are often added to give the bland oats some flavor. However, this recipe changed what I think of oatmeal; it makes oatmeal that is slightly creamy, has texture, and a pinch of salt makes it just barely savory. The old-fashioned oats and a couple tablespoons of half-and-half give it a creamy base and the steal-cut oats add a chewy texture. Now I eat oatmeal regularly. Oatmeal is really easy to make and since oats keep well, it is easy to keep oats around for anytime that you want this dish. The amount of chewiness can be adjusted by how long you cook them; longer cooking produces softer oatmeal. The quantities can easily be multiplied to produce more than one serving. You can top the oatmeal with any toppings of your choosing, though I prefer oatmeal plain since I don’t like very sweet things. Source: The recipe is based on “April Bloomfield’s Porridge” posted on TheWednesdayChef.com; the original …

How to Open an Oyster

Preferably use an oyster knife, which is a stiff pointy knife with dull sides. The dull sides help to prevent you from cutting yourself if you slip. A table knife will not work–the oyster knife must be very stiff in order to give you leverage to pry open the shell. Many kitchen supply stores and supermarkets sell cheap oyster knives. It is also helpful to have a thick glove, preferably made of kevlar (for your left hand if you are right-handed or a glove for your right hand if you are left-handed) to help prevent injuries if your knife slips. Insert the tip of the oyster knife into the bottom v-shaped hinge of the oyster where the two shells meet. Wiggle the knife to wedge it deeper and to find the weak point of the hinge. Give the knife a few sturdy pushes into the shell. If you have found the weak point than the top shell will loosen. If not, then keep wiggling and pushing the knife until the top shell dislodges. The oyster …

Blanched Vegetables

Blanching is a simple way to cook vegetables. After they are blanched they can be dressed with sauce or dips, used in salads, stir-fries, etc. It is important that the vegetables are cooked in very hot water so that they cook quickly. When the vegetables are first put into the boiling water, it causes a temperature drop; if blanching lots of vegetables do it in small batches so that the water will quickly return to a boil and allow the water to return to a boil before adding the next batch. Cook only one type of vegetables at a time, since different types cook at different rates. A pasta basket, slotted spoon, spider, or tongs makes blanching multiple items easier because it allows you to re-use the same pot of boiling water. An ice batch or cold water rinse stops the cooking and helps to preserve the vegetable’s vibrant colors. Blanching Preparation Notes for Specific Vegetables: Asparagus: Before blanching, cut off the the fibrous ends of the asparagus. The asparagus can be left in long stacks or cut into smaller …

How to Toast Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds will have the best flavor if you buy untoasted sesame seeds and roast them yourself, because once they are toasted their flavor deteriorates. The Japanese markets that I have checked only had pre-toasted sesame seeds.  Organic and naturel food stores have been a better source for me to find raw sesame seeds.  If you live in San Francisco, then Rainbow Grocery is a good place to look for raw black sesame seeds (see Sources for Ingredients).  However, even if you are not able to find untoasted sesame seeds, retoasting will help to perk up their flavor. According to Hiroko Shimbo in “The Japanese Kitchen,” Japanese preparations always use unhulled sesame seeds.  If it isn’t marked, you may be able to guess at the type by color: hulled sesame seeds are usually white and uniform in color; unhulled raw white sesame seeds will contain many different off-white shades, varying from white to off-white to beige to tan.  Black sesame seeds always have the hull on, since the hull is what makes them black (the inside seed is …