Garlic Scapes from the Salt Lake Farmers’ Market

Garlic Scapes

Last Saturday I want to the Salt Lake Farmers’ Market for their season opener.  There were all kinds of great spring produce as well as artisanal cheeses, organic and grass-fed meats, soaps, arts and crafts, and a wide variety of prepared foods.  It was quite the treat and I hope to get up there often.  I just wish that we had this kind of variety and quality at the Provo Farmers’ Market.  Ah well, let’s keep supporting them and hope that it grows.

I had only heard of them, but never tasted them, so when I saw garlic scapes (pictured above) for sale at $2 a bunch I pounced.  When garlic grows it shoots up its green leaves (like a scallion) as well as the scape, which is the flowering stem of the plant.  Farmers cut off the scape as this prompts the bulb to grow bigger and gives them the added bonus of a delicious spring treat. 

Garlic scapes have a somewhat tamer flavor than garlic (especially when cooked) with an added grassy flavor that I find quite pleasant.  When eaten raw they are very spicy.

A Google search revealed that most folks writing about scapes recommended making pesto or stir fry, so I did both.  For the pesto I combined in the food processor:

  • 1 cup of scapes cut to 1″ segments
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the real stuff though)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste (don’t be stingy with the salt)

The pesto was overpoweringly spicy with the raw scapes and it occurred to me that some lemon would help to balance this, so I added some leftover lemon vinaigrette that had zest, juice, and olive oil.  It helped.  What really would have helped would have been blanching the scapes for a minute or so in boiling water and then putting them in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  With the raw scape pesto my wife and I were tasting garlic for the rest of the night, even after several brushings of the teeth.  The next morning I was still tasting it, but some aggressive Listerine therapy finally did the trick.  When we had leftovers I nuked the pesto on my pasta and the cooking seemed to tame it sufficiently.  I wish that my Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes were ready because they would have been the perfect balance to this dish.

 Garlic Scape Pesto

With my leftover scapes I decided to make a stir fry.  I fired up the cast iron skillet on medium heat and chopped up the scapes in 1 1/2″ pieces along with broccoli florets, chopped scallions, and sliced chicken breast.  I cooked them in high heat with neutral oil and then added grated ginger about a minute before cooking was finished (2-3 teaspoons).  Once cooked, I dressed the stir fry with soy sauce and dark sesame oil and served over rice.  It tasted phenomenal, but I could hardly taste any garlicky flavor from the scapes.  In texture and appearance they were very much like green beans.  How is that for two extremes of flavor?

 Garlic Scape Stir Fry

Sorry this photo is a bit blurry.  I really need a tripod.  The scapes are those green bean looking things.

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt

So the latest craze in frozen confections is frozen yogurt that actually tastes like yogurt.  It all started with Pinkberry in California and there have been a bunch of knock-offs.  Our local dispensary is the new Yoasis at the Hogi-Yogi complex on University Avenue.  Yoasis is okay . . . I’ve had better.  The best I’ve had is the frozen yogurt that I’ve made.  It is super simple and extremely tasty.

Here’s what you do.  To one quart of Greek style yogurt add 1/2 cup of sugar.  Mix it in well and then taste it to see if it is sweet enough to your liking.  You want the delicious tartness of the yogurt to shine here so don’t overdo it with the sugar.  I found 1/2 cup to be perfect, but you can add a tablespoon at a time, tasting along the way until you reach your desired sweetness.  Chill the mixture in your fridge for at least 4 hours and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions (but don’t be afraid to freeze longer than what the manufacturer advises—many underestimate the time).  When you start up the ice cream maker, put your serving bowls in the freezer to get them nice and cold for your frozen yogurt.  Chop up your favorite fruits while the yogurt churns.  The yogurt is best served soft, so I let it freeze as hard as it will get in my Cuisinart ice cream maker and then serve it directly into frozen ramekins.  Freezing the ramekins prevents the yogurt from melting and allows you to enjoy that soft frozen goodness all the way to the bottom of the bowl.  We found that it was nice to keep more chopped fruit close by than we could fit on top of the yogurt.  This allowed us to add fruit along the way as we made our way through it.

 Frozen Yogurt with Fruit

Seriously, you’ve GOT to try this.  It is fantastic!

Greek Style Yogurt

So this post is a follow up to my previous post on fresh homemade yogurt and you’ll want to check that one out if you haven’t already.

Greek style yogurt is deliciously thick and creamy.  You want to use whole milk for this yogurt.  If you’re worried about calories then exercise portion control, don’t sacrifice the quality of your yogurt.  Making Greek style yogurt is quite simple.  Follow the basic method for making yogurt. (If you want your whole batch to be Greek style and you aren’t setting some yogurt aside as a starter for your next batch, then you can incubate the yogurt right in the pot you used to heat the milk.  This actually minimizes risk of cross contamination and simplifies the process) 

Once the yogurt is finished incubating you want to strain it through a fine-weave cotton cloth while the yogurt is still warm.  Sterilize the cloth in boiling water (you can do this when you sterilize your utensils) and let it dry.  Line a collander or sieve of sufficient volume with the cloth, set the collander over a bowl and then pour your yogurt in the cloth.  What you are doing here is separating the curds of yogurt that have formed from the whey that is suspended in the gel structure of the yogurt.  In the photo below, notice the white “pieces” of yogurt curd beginning to separate from the yellowish whey.

 Straining Yogurt

For Greek style yogurt, you want to strain the curds until what is left in the cloth has decreased in volume by about one half.  If you continue to strain the yogurt until the curds are fairly dry you will have labneh, a.k.a. yogurt cheese.  If that’s what you are after, mix in a little salt and you’re ready to go.  Use it like cream cheese.

You can speed up the straining process by drawing the cloth together and hanging your “pouch” of yogurt.  If you don’t do this, then it is wise to fold the corners of the cloth over the yogurt to cover it.  To hang your straining yogurt, wrap a sturdy rubber band or some twine around the twisted cloth and then attach the other end to whatever you can find that will allow you to hang it over your bowl.  I used some metal rack shelves we have in the kitchen, attaching my rubber band to a chopstick set perpendicular to the rack, but you could also use the rack in your fridge or oven.  In fact, using your oven could allow you to continue to incubate the yogurt should you so desire.

 Straining Yogurt

Here’s the aerial view.

Straining Yogurt

It only took about an hour to reduce this batch (2 quarts) in half.  If you are unsure if the yogurt is done straining, take it down and open up the pouch to check the consistency of the yogurt.

 Strained Yogurt

As you can see in the above photo, the curds on the outside will be drier than what is in the middle.  Those solid bits on the edges are yogurt cheese.  Empty the contents of the cloth into a bowl and mix (I use a wisk) to restore an even consistency.

The bowl under the collander will be filled with whey.  You can use it as a replacement for water in bread recipes or follow some of the suggestions here.  Here’s a photo of the separated Greek style yogurt and whey.

 Curds and Whey

Use the yogurt just as you would regular yogurt.  My favorite application is simple frozen yogurt . . .

Fresh Homemade Yogurt

Finished Yogurt

Yogurt is an amazing food—it’s delicious, good for you, and a great ingredient with tons of applications.  The fact is that when you make it at home it tastes better, is even better for you, and you’ll use it more (because you have it).  I first made yogurt following David Fankhauser’s directions and I recommend that you check them out, but I’ve adapted the process as I’ll describe below.

The idea behind yogurt is controlled bacterial fermentation.  If you just leave your milk out on the counter, chances are that you’ll be infiltrated with bacteria that won’t be nice to your milk and they’ll crowd out any good bacteria.  So the trick here is to eliminate the bad bacteria and to give the good bacteria an environment in which to thrive.  The key to pulling that off is good sanitation of your equipment, heating the milk to kill the bacteria present, and then holding the milk at a temperature at which yogurt making bacteria thrive.

First gather all your equipment.  I use 4 quart -size mason jars (along with a 1 cup jar for starting my next batch) and make a gallon of yogurt at a time, but you could do this for a single quart (4 cups).  You’ll also want a pyrex liquid measuring cup (at least 2 cups), a spoon for stirring, a wisk, an a nonreactive pot with a thick bottom (if you don’t trust your pot to distribute your stoves heat evenly and gently then you’ll want to use a double boiler), and a candy thermometer (sensitive from 0 to 225° F [-10 to 110 C]).  Sterilize your jars, lids, and any metal or glass utensils by boiling them in a large pot with about an inch of water for five minutes with the lid on.  You can do this in batches if it won’t all fit.  Plastic utensils can be sterilized using antibacterial dish soap, or better yet with a soak in water with a splash of chlorine bleach followed by a thorough rinse.

 Disinfecting

The ingredients are easy: milk and plain yogurt with live active cultures listed on the ingredients.  Concensus on the web supports using Dannon plain yogurt as a starter, but feel free to experiment with what is available to you.  The best yogurt will list only milk and cultures as ingredients.  I used Mountain High yogurt which makes a fairly thick and creamy yogurt.  You’ll find that the types of bacteria from different yogurts will bring about subtly different results.  As far as the milk goes, I highly recommend that you use whole milk and not less than 2%.  The fat helps make a creamier yogurt and when it drops below 2% it will be grainy.  It should go without saying that you want the freshest milk and yogurt possible—don’t even open the containers until just before you are ready to measure them out.

Measure out your milk into your pot, attach your thermometer, and slowly heat over low to medium until the milk reaches 185-195°F.  Be sure to stir regularly to ensure that the milk does not burn and stick to the bottom of the pot. What you are doing here is scalding the milk, which kills any bad bacteria that might be present in the milk, improves the flavor of the finished product, and makes for a thicker yogurt.  I’ve skipped this step before and ended up with a tasty, but runnier yogurt that was less successful at propogating subsequent batches.  Be careful not to let the milk exceed 195º because if it boils it will make a mess and your yogurt will have a “cooked” flavor.  As you begin heating the milk, turn your oven on to 200°.

 Heating Milk

From here you want to cool down the milk to the temperature at which you are going to incubate the yogurt.  Do this by creating an ice water bath in your sink or a large container and set the pot in.  Stirring the milk and stirring the ice water will lead to faster heat transfer and cool the milk faster.  The yogurt bacteria die at temperatures over 130° F and aren’t very active below 98° F.  I recommend cooling just to 130° F because the milk will continue to drop a few degrees after you remove the pot from the water.  We’re shooting for incubation at 122° F. 

 Cooling Milk

Once you hit 130° F, take the pot out and set it on the counter.  Pour 1 cup of the milk into a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup and then add your yogurt to fill it to the 2 cup mark.  (This additional cup of volume goes into the 1 cup jar as a starter for the next batch)  Blend the yogurt with the milk in the cup with the wisk and then pour this into the pot of milk, stirring it thoroughly throughout the milk with the wisk.  Working quickly, pour the innoculated milk into your jars and put the lids on immediately.  Turn off the oven, place the jars in the oven, close the door, and turn on the oven light.  What you are looking for is to maintain the heat around the yogurt close to 122° F without exceeding 130° F. 

I find that by switching out my oven light with a 40 watt bulb and doing a preheat at 200° F it works out just right.  If you have a gas oven, the pilot light may complicate things.  You can test your oven by placing a jar filled with water in the oven and measuring the temperature of the water each hour for several hours (a remote probe thermometer is handy here).  Alternatively, you can follow Fankhauser’s method of putting the jars in a cooler and filling it to 3/4 the height of the jars with water heated to 122° F, checking occasionally and adding hot water as needed.  Absent these resources, wrap your jars in towels or blankets to insulate their current temperature.

Now you wait.  The bacteria are reproducing, consuming the milk sugars, and producing acid.  After 3-4 hours the yogurt should have gelled.  If it hasn’t, let it sit longer, up to 12 hours.  The longer the yogurt incubates the more tart it will taste.  The photo below is of yogurt incubated for 4 hours.  At this stage it is thick and creamy with just a hint of tartness.  The milk flavor really shines through.  6 hours takes you to the typical tartness you find in grocery store yogurt (but with superior overall flavor).  If I’m making it just for me, I usually go for 8-10 hours, but my wife likes it less tart.

 Finished Yogurt

It’s not a bad idea to let the yogurt sit on the counter to cool for about an hour before you put it in the refrigerator, since the jars would heat up everything in the refrigerator initially.  Remember that the bacteria will still be working during that time, so factor it in as you consider your preferred tartness.  Once the yogurt is fully chilled in the refrigerator it is ready to eat.

I highly recommend that you try it plain.  Discover what yogurt really tastes like when it is not turned into candy.  I’ve learned to love plain yogurt.  As you develop a taste for real yogurt, you will have a better gauge of how much fruit and sweetener you might add when you do use them.  A spoonful of jam is an easy way to do fruit and sugar thing.  A better way is to add your favorite fresh fruit and honey or agave nectar to taste.  I once added the juice and zest of an orange along with a teaspoon of honey to a bowl of yogurt and had one of the most sublime breakfasts in recent memory.

Later this week I’ll post how to make greek style yogurt, along with several other ways of using your yogurt.

English Muffins with Five Minute a Day Dough

English Muffins on display

This morning I was craving something more than cereal or toast for breakfast and it struck me that I had everything I needed for english muffins.  Here’s how you do it:

First, you want to check my post on Herzberg and Francois’ book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, where you’ll find their basic recipe. Cut off a hunk of dough (preferably dough that has had at least a day to develop flavor in the fridge), cut it into pieces, and shape them into 3-4 inch disks, about 1/4-1/2 inches thick.  Let them rise for about 20 minutes.  

Muffins shaped and rising 

Preheat a cast iron skillet, a griddle, or the next best thing you’ve got (everyone has a frying pan, right?) over low heat.  Sprinkle it with course corn meal (I used polenta), and get your muffins in the pan. 

Muffins on the griddle 

Cook for about 10 minutes, turning them every few minutes.  They should be a deep brown on both sides and the edges should be clearly cooked.  As you can see, they get big and puffy as they cook.  Split them with a fork and slather them with butter.  They are superior in every way to the muffins you get at the store, and they’re super easy.  My wife thought she didn’t like english muffins until she tried these.  I don’t know why they left this one out of the cookbook.

Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding x2

What better to follow a post on homemade bread than a recipe for the very best use of day-old bread—bread pudding.  For this recipe alone I recommend that you make more bread than you need (but there there are also croutons, panzanella, bread crumbs, etc., if bread pudding isn’t enough to convince you).  Since it can be unpredictable how much leftover bread you may have or how many servings you want to make, I’m giving a recipe which you can adapt to your needs.

For every ~2 cups of bread cubes (or torn pieces):

  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, more for greasing
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (depending on your taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg

Possible extras:

  • Vanilla or other extracts
  • Dried fruit (raisins are traditional)
  • Chopped nuts
  • Candy sauce like fudge or caramel

Preheat oven to 350° and grease baking dish(es) (brownie pan, souffle, pie tin, small ramekins, large muffin tins, etc.).  In a small saucepan on the stove or a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave combine milk, butter, cinnamon, sugar, and salt and heat just until the butter melts.  If baking in a single dish, add the bread to the dish and pour the milk mixture over the bread to soak for a few minutes, gently stirring occasionally to ensure all of the bread soaks well.  For ramekins, do this in a separate bowl.  Whisk the egg(s) with any extracts you are using and then stir in with the bread (if the milk mixture seems too hot you can first temper the eggs with a few spoonfuls of the milk).  This is the time to add any fruit or nuts.  Portion into ramekins if using and then put in the oven for ~30 (individual ramekins) to ~60 minutes.  You know it’s done when a thin-bladed knife inserted into the center comes out (mostly) clean.  Serve hot, warm, or cold with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and topped with your favorite sauce.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

For Christmas Annalisa gave me a copy of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois and I love it.  It goes without saying that the very best bread is not going to come from this cookbook, but it comes close—really.  Hertzberg and Francois offer a wide range of bread recipes to meet all of your needs, but their basic recipe (and the place to start) is the boule.  First a few words about their technique and then on to the recipe.

The trick with this bread (as with Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread popularized by Mark Bittman) is a high water content and slow rise.  These two tricks make kneading unnecessary because the water dissolves the gluten in the flour and, over time, brings the gluten sheets into alignment the same as with kneading.  Likewise, the high water content creates steam in the oven, causing the slack wet dough to puff up with big airy holes as it cooks.  The very best bread is going to come when you use some version of a pizza stone.  When my old one broke after years of use I replaced it with the watering tray for a 14″ terra cotta pot for about $10.  I just turn it upside down in the oven and it works just fine.  It takes a bit longer to preheat, but it gets the job done.  If you don’t have a pizza stone then make the bread on a cookie sheet (but don’t heat the cookie sheet in the oven ahead of time).

So, off we go with the recipe.  You should get four 1lb. loafs from this recipe.  Get yourself a large (at least 5 quarts) container and measure out in this order:

  • 3 cups water at about 100°
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (that’s 1 T, 1 t, and 1/2 t) yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 1/2 cups flour

Mix it all together until the ingredients are incorporated and let it sit at room temperature, loosely covered, to rise for an hour or two until it has roughly doubled.  At this point you could take a hunk of dough and make your first loaf, but I recommend that you be patient and place the dough in the refrigerator at least overnight.  You can store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks and the longer it sits, the more flavor it develops (think sourdough). 

When you are ready to cook a loaf place a broiler or jelly roll pan on the bottom of a gas oven or the bottom shelf of an electric one and your pizza stone on the middle rack.  Preheat the oven to 450°.  Then get out your container of dough and flour, oil or dampen your hand so that you can grab a ball of the sticky dough.  Use a serrated knife to cut of a ball of dough about the size of a grapefruit (roughly 1 lb.). 

On a floured surface shape (don’t knead) the dough into a round ball with a smooth surface, turning the rough seams to the bottom.  Dust a bakers peel (or an overturned jelly roll pan) with coarse cornmeal, which acts as a lubricant for sliding the dough onto the stone, and place your newly formed loaf on it to rise for at least 30 minutes (sometimes I’ll go up to an hour). 

Just before baking, lightly dust the loaf with flour and then make three slashes with a good serrated knife.  I like to make these deep (~1/2 in.) since the bread really expands in the oven—the slashes give more room to expand.  Then slide the loaf onto the pizza stone and pour about a cup of water into the broiler pan (steam in the oven makes a better crust).  Bake for about 30 minutes and turn the loaf after about 20 to ensure even browning.