Real Foodies Make Their Own Cheese

Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Aug 23, 2008 at 10:07am

I’m not a Foodie, not really. Oh, I love to cook and eat (and talk about it!), of course, but I’m way too lazy to be a real Foodie, the kind that strives for the very highest quality and most unique of food experiences. I’m much more likely to let someone else crawl the city for the perfect taco and then go check out the goods, ole! If I’m generous I could call myself a foodie (lower case). But in all honesty, I think I’m really just a Foodie Parasite, you know? Sigh. I guess I’m OK with that, if only because it’s such a comfortably delicious spot to be in. As in major YUM. In fact…

…I played the happy Foodie Parasite at dinner last night, at the home of John’s secretary Kris and her husband Harry. Now they are Foodies – and Harry’s a wine genius to boot, so not only was the food incredible but the wine pairings were lovely. Sigh. But let me back up a bit.

First of all, they have a beautifully laid out garden of flowers and vegetables. Many delicious varieties of tomatoes as well as peppers, herbs, beets, asparagus, peas, beans. All the good stuff, much of which went into the spectacular meal they prepared for us. And I’m not exaggerating – it was spectacular. At it’s core, a tomato feast, really, tomatoes three different ways. To open, a sliced-tomato salad, simple and clean with basil for garnish. Green, yellow, and red beauties, perfectly vine-ripened and bursting with flavor. Ah, but that was only the beginning. Thin strips of lightly roasted tomatoes followed, seasoned with garlic and herbs, jam-like in consistency and smeared on slabs of toast topped with…homemadericotta cheese. Oh, that cheese, I’m going to get the recipe, it was divine (Kris said it’s simple; just whole milk and buttermilk). But wait! Before taking a bite, a light drizzle of honey-balsamic glaze, just a few drops…now you can eat. Sweet, creamy-crunchy, tomato heaven, yeah.

And then. After a delicious bowl of chilled asparagus vichyssoise, more glorious tomatoes, this time little red-and-gold cherry jewels, tossed with garlic, herbs, olive oil, and bread, then baked into a sublime gratin. It’s a Jacques Pepin recipe so I was able to find it online, check it out here. If you’re lucky enough to possess garden-ripe cherry tomatoes, then you are set for dinner tonight. It’s basically a summer-perfect dish (I was even fantasizing a bit this morning about how good it would be for breakfast, alongside over-easy eggsmmm…).

We didn’t just have tomatoes, of course, although I would have been perfectly happy to, if you can’t tell. Yes, Harry also grilled a gorgeous piece of salmon and skewers of chicken, mushrooms, and zucchini, glazed until crusty-crunchy-browned. Rarrr…

For dessert, cheeses and biscotti, as well as…home-roastedcoffee. Yes, they roast their own coffee beans, in their garage, using a popcorn stir-pan – they said it’s super-easy, and since the results are of course incredible, I may be giving it a try. They served it with nut milk – yes, they make their own of that too, almond milk or whatever stirs their fancy. It was all so delicious and fresh I was inspired to kick my butt into all sorts of gears – grow more tomatoes, try my hand at cheese-making, as well as coffee roasting. (Check back for recipes… OK, recipes for garlicky tomato & bread gratin and homemade ricotta cheese are now posted in comments, below.)

A true foodie-feast my friends, fresh and healthy, beautifully prepared, I enjoyed it so thoroughly. What a nice start to the weekend, huh? And I’m not done, oh no. More Foodie Parasite fun tonight at Debbie & Stu the Wine Genuis’, with Rudy and Ana as well – Team Napa! Let’s hear it for Foodie friends! Woo hoo!

Moderate it: Kris and Harry eat a mostly vegan diet, although very kindly cooked meat and fish and served dairy for us. Given the quantity and quality of produce they grow, they could be my vegan chefs anytime!

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  1. By Stephanie on September 6, 2008 at 12:19PM

    Homemade Ricotta Cheese
    From Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking Cookbook
    Makes about 4 cups

    1 gallon whole milk
    1 quart buttermilk
    instant-read or candy thermometer
    cheesecloth or clean muslin, rinsed

    Select a sieve or colander with a wide surface area so the curds will cook quickly. Rinse a large piece of cheesecloth or muslin with cold water, then fold it so that it is 6 or more layers, and arrange it in the sieve or colander placed in the sink.

    Pour the milk and buttermilk into a large non-reactive saucepan. Place over high heat and heat, stirring the mixture frequently with a rubber spatula and making sure to cover the whole pan bottom to prevent scorching. Once the mixture is warm, stop stirring. As the milk heats, curds will begin to rise and clump on the surface. As the curds begin to form, gently scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula to release any stuck curds.

    When the mixture reaches 175-180 degrees F, the curds and whey will separate. The whey looks like cloudy water underneath a mass of thick white curds on the surface. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Working from the side of the pot, gently ladle the whey into the prepared sieve. Go slowly so as not to break up the curds. Finally, ladle the curds into the sieve. Lift the sides of the cloth to help the liquid drain. Resist the temptation to press on the curds. When the draining slows, gather the edges of the cloth, tie them into a bag, and hang the bag from the faucet. Continue to drain until the dripping stops, about 15 minutes.

    Untie the bag and pack the ricotta into airtight containers. Refrigerate and use within 1 week.

  2. By Stephanie on September 6, 2008 at 11:54AM

    Garlicky Cherry Tomato and Bread Gratin
    Serves 6

    One 5-oz piece of day-old French baguette with crust, cut into 1-inch cubes (5 cups)
    1 1/2 lbs. small cherry tomatoes
    1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
    3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    1/2 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley
    1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 10-inch ceramic quiche dish. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubs with the tomatoes, olive oil garlic, parsley, 1/2 c. Parmesan, and salt and pepper. Scrape the mixture into the baking dish and bake in the center of the oven for 35 minutes, or until the bread cubes are browned and crisp and the tomatoes are very tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.