help is on the whey

Apparently I had another whey pun in me. I apologize.

Two nights ago I was invited to a dinner party for the following evening. Asked to bring a dessert, I knew I would need something easy to transport that could hang out in my office throughout the workday and still be ever as impressive as the night it was prepared.

Trouble is, I was home, didn’t feel like going out & hadn’t prepared for this entreaty. I grabbed a binder from my shelf. In it are collected recipes: things I’ve torn from magazines but never made, family heirlooms (cause recipe cards are totally heirlooms) scrawled from my mother and page upon page of other food and cooking related miscellany.

I thumbed through the dessert section and happened upon Raspberry Buttermilk Cake from Gourmet 2009.

Although I had no raspberries on hand, nor any buttermilk, I didn’t balk for a second. I always have blueberries in the fridge for my morning cereal & since I’ve been making my own yogurt, a container of whey is never far behind.

As I’ve said before, whey can be used in practically any recipe as a buttermilk substitute. My only other changes: an addition of lemon zest &  just 1 T of sugar in the raw to sprinkle on top. Delicious, spongy and light, it’s a great summer cake that leaves an almost refreshing lingering aroma on your taste buds.

The berries all sank to the bottom, but being a rather thin cake, that didn’t really matter. Plus it served to form a sort of blueberry crust–an unexpected circumstance, but a delicious one.


the road to the farmer’s market…

…is paved just the same as that other well-intentioned road.

So, yesterday I had a plan. Dinner was to be oven-fried fish n’ chips. I wasn’t entirely sure how I would go about it, but the idea had been planted and my mind was set. The night before, I placed the frozen haddock in the fridge to thaw. In so doing, I noticed the raspberries my roommate had leftover from the weekend–they’d been integral to the dog’s 10th birthday party. Knowing she’d never use them, and with memories of the market’s golden apricots floating in my mind, I knew that their powers–combined into a cobbler–was just what the heat wave ordered.

So, my mission was simple. Get to the market, get some baby potatoes, grab a few apricots & a pint of vanilla, head home and let the wonders unfold.

When I arrived, Ronnybrook Farm (dairy) was packing up; so, I grabbed my vanilla and then perused the stalls for the best apricots. It turned out, however that he best apricots were peaches. The peaches were riper (for a good cobbler you want supreme ripeness) and are the preferred stone-fruit of my roommate anyway. Once I’d scouted out the best, I noticed two other goodies at the same booth: the most beautiful okra the plumpest golden tomatoes ever. Ever. Just because I’d planned on getting only a few things, didn’t mean I couldn’t get a few more…Thus, I scooped some up & headed home.

Once home, I decided to knock the cobbler out of the way. For my two minis, I diced 2 peaches similar in size to the raspberries, a quarter pints worth, threw in a splash of bourbon, juiced half a lemon, sprinkled a wee bit of brown sugar and a pinch of salt & let it sit til it got super juicy. Then, I put 1T of butter in each serving dish & set them in the oven at 350 degrees. For the batter: 1/4 cup self-rising flour, a pinch of salt & 1/4 cup sugar, whisked with 1/4 cup milk & a splash of vanilla. Method: remove warm dishes with completely melted butter from the oven. Divide batter evenly into the dishes. Divide fruit evenly over the batter. Bake for 30 min or so. This is the best way to make cobbler. Any other way you’ve been told to make cobbler is wrong. Other methods will result in a crumble (flour & butter, crumbled on top of fruit), a betty (a crumble with oats) or a fruit pot pie (biscuits). Once it’s puffy and bubbly and a glowing golden brown, you’re ready to throw some ice cream on that pot of delicious and go to town. (Or you could set it aside and work on the rest of dinner, then throw it back in to warm up while you eat.)

Which is what I did.

First, the chips of my fish n’ chips: lovely, rosemary roasted potatoes…which I’d forgotten to buy. Damn the enchanting allure of okra and tomatoes! Fried okra would defeat the purpose of oven-frying the fish. I decided I would simply slice the tomatoes, top with a salad of mixed greens and let that suffice–after all, I had cobbler waiting for dessert. Just because I’d forgotten a key component, didn’t mean I would veer from the main event.

To tackle the fish, I wanted to stay true to its English heritage. Generally that means a beer-battered, tempura-like crust. While that wasn’t going to happen with oven frying, I wondered how to get similar flavor. Solution: for my dry/wet/dry dredging, I would make the wet component a wash of egg & porter. For my birthday, my brother had sent me a fantastic gift for any food minded (or suds minded) individual: A case of 12 select beers, local to my region. In my mind, summer is too hot for a porter, but it served as the perfect way to infuse some beeriness and malty flavor into my dish. As for the dry components, the first was a mix of self rising flour and flax meal, and the second, a mix of panko and crushed breakfast cereal (any amalgamation of chex or flake will work) plus a hit of cayenne, each station properly seasoned with salt and pepper. Set the coated fish on a rack over a sheet pan, into the oven at 425 for about 20 minutes and you’ll have a perfectly cooked piece of fish that you’ll wish had been deep-fried with beer batter. Just because something is delicious, doesn’t mean it will satisfy a craving…Sidenote: even though we’re in the middle of a heat wave, I still drank the rest of that porter. It was delicious. Thanks, bro.

Alas, with no apricots or potatoes and a half-heartedly eaten fish, I still thoroughly enjoyed the meal. And that’s because Cobbler. Is. Delicious. I also made a beet tartar sauce with home pickled beets, my own yogurt and a small squeeze of mayo–for the fish, not the cobbler.

The moral: Just because you planned for one meal doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the one you wound up with instead.

things i’ve made lately

I really thought this dish was going to be awful.

I mean, it’s basically a lamb meatloaf, so I’m not sure why I was skeptical. The idea of stuffing a meatloaf with the same basic mixture as the loaf itself did not inspire thoughts of amazing deliciousness. But, it was requested, so I made it (though I did add cumin & nutmeg, as per the reviews’ suggestions and I added diced celery to the filling.)

The results were far superior to my imaginings: bulgur in the outer layer gave the meatloaf a nutty, crusty exterior that gave way to the sumptuous lamby center, embellished by toasty, rich pine nuts. Served atop panzanella and topped with ricotta, mixed with mint and grated garlic–it makes a super-star summer supper. Baked Kibbeh

Next up: Whey biscuits. And because it would be frowned upon if I ate a meal of only biscuits, I tossed cantaloupe with dried cherries and labne bi zyat (an aged yogurt cheese, marinated in olive oil) and I tossed snow peas with olive oil and shaved garlic. Then I balanced the plate on a gated window sill to try and get a worthy picture (oh, the joys of NY lighting). Alas, for some reason, my biscuits look as though they burned.

Finally, a redemption of the flavorlessness that was. My ceviche consisted of lemon sole, lime zest & juice, grapefruit zest & juice, cilantro, oregano, mango, fennel and jalapeno. I served it in big scoops atop thick sliced yellow tomatoes and with slivered, toasted whole wheat tortillas.

A revelation, a redemption and a biscuit. All in all, a good week of eating.

by the whey

Remember that yogurt I made?

From all the things I’ve read, I’ve deduced that the whey byproduct of making yogurt is really a product unto itself. Most simply it seems that whey can be used in any application as a substitute for buttermilk. I decided to test this theory by making something with which my waistline is all too familiar: cornbread.

Here, I need to take a minute for a very important message: If you are making cornbread with yellow cornmeal, then you are doing it wrong. If you are making cornbread with more than 2T of sugar, then you are making dessert. Please, please only prepare cornbread with white cornmeal and with an appropriate amount of sweetener. Thank you.

served with asparagus sauteed with creminis and minced country ham and sliced tomatoes

Ok, so here’s the confession. The whey gave my cornbread a lift and a tenderness heretofore unseen by my noble cast iron. Dare I say it was the best cornbread I’ve ever had? No, b/c I’ve had a freaking lot of cornbread–far too much to recount every best; but it sure was damn good.

So now, I never have to buy yogurt again & quite possibly, I’ll not have to buy buttermilk either. Color me stoked!


alive & active

Today I made yogurt.

So here’s the thing, I love pie & I make a killer one, but whoever invented the phrase “easy as pie” was wrong, cause pie is totally hard. Yogurt though–completely easy.

The steps are these: warm some milk, add some culture, wait. Seriously, that’s it.; and if what you’re thinking now is, “well, where am I supposed to get culture?” Then I would tell you to go to an art gallery. Ba dum ching! No really, if you have a cup of Dannon in the fridge then you have live, active culture.

And now, I’ll explain the steps in a bit more detail.


Using 1/2 a gallon of dairy will result in about 1 quart of thick, greek-style yogurt. You could use skim milk, whole milk, goat’s milk–whatever floats your dairy wagon–and guess what, if your milk is starting to sour (you know when it’s not quite bad but just beginning to develop a questionable aroma), you can save it with this method. Using a candy thermometer and occasionally stirring, gently warm your milk to approximately 180 degrees–the magic temperature that will kill off any bad bacteria. If you’d like to perfume the whole batch you could throw in a cinnamon stick or lime zest. Once you’ve reached 180, pour the warm milk into a holding vessel and wait until the temp comes down to between 110-120 degrees.


So here’s the thing, to make yogurt you must already have yogurt. Counterintuitive, yes, but once you have the method down you never have to buy yogurt again, so stick with me. You can use virtually any yogurt available in the store–if you want insurance look for the phrase “contains live active cultures.” I recommend plain & I use nonfat; you’ll need about one tablespoon per pint of milk. When you’ve reached 120 degrees, just stir it in. Done. Except for the waiting.


You’ll want to keep your gestating yogurt in a warm place. I like to keep mine in a bowl, covered with a towel, on an eye of the stove with the oven turned to 200 degrees. Four hours later: yogurt. Although it tastes pretty mild at this point & I generally leave it out for a few more hours to develop greater tang, then strain through a cheesecloth or paper towel and refrigerate. You’re free at this point to add any flavoring: vanilla, jam, maple syrup, honey, pickled jalapeno…

There you go: yogurt, cheaper and more delicious than any you’ll buy–trust me. Plus, you’re left with all the whey that you’ve strained off & you’ll be surprised by all the culinary adventures you can have with it. At least I hope you will–I’m only just starting those adventures myself.