Archive for ‘Cheese’

June 23, 2008

Vermont Goat Cheese: Blue Ledge Farm

Our arrival at Blue Ledge Farm was dramatic, as all six of our carpools drove up at the same time, into the farmyard between a classic big red barn and a large, light blue farm house. As we got out of our cars, Hannah Sessions, who runs the farm with her husband Greg Bernhardt, came out to greet us.

Hannah explained to us that the farm was six years old, as old as their oldest child. She laughed as she explained that she gave birth to her daughter and was granted permission to make cheese on her new farm within a couple weeks of each other. It sounded like it’s been a whirlwind ever since!

June 21, 2008

Vermont Goat Cheese: Twig Farm

This spring I took a fascinating class on cheese for part of my master’s degree in Gastronomy.The celebration at the end of the class involved a road trip up to Vermont on a beautiful late-spring day to visit two goat farms: Twig Farm and Blue Ledge Farm.I’m going to post in two installments on this trip, as each farm and experience deserve a proper description.

May 31, 2008

Goats!

This is a picture of one of the new friends I made while up in Vermont visiting two cheese farms this week: Twig Farm and Blue Ledge Farm.  Twig Farm’s site has posted a bit on their blog about my cheese class’ trip.  I will update myself about it when I get back.

Back from where you ask? I am busy packing for David’s sister’s wedding.  It is being held on a whale watching boat, based in Anacortes, Washington.  I’ve always wanted to vacation in the San Juan Islands, and I’m very much looking forward to it – especially since it coincides with celebrating the end of my first academic semester in grad school!  (*few!*)

Along the way we’ll be visiting friends in Seattle, and basking in the comforting culture and climate of the Pacific Northwest.

In the meantime I am busy packing (including a last-minute race to CVS pharmacy for carry-on size shampoo bottles), and emptying our refrigerator.  Dinner was tasty – we had a green salad with bacon and peanuts in a light balsamic dressing, along with blue-corn nachos topped with ricotta and mango-peach salsa.  An incredibly under-30-minute dinner that was all from our fridge, nourishing, and delicious!  Among the other sacrifices I must make to empty the fridge is finishing up our latest bottle of 2006 Erath Pinot Gris made in Dundee, Oregon.  This has been my favorite wine lately, and the only one I’ve bought in the last month or so!  A great deal for the best American Pinot Gris (or Grigio for that matter) I’ve encountered so far.

I will be back in Boston in a week, so please stay tuned for more news on my adventures in Vermont and Washington!

Peace be with you.

June 26, 2007

Pizza!

David’s bag, which had somehow gotten lost among 18,000 other stranded bags in Frankfurt last Thursday, finally arrived in our apartment yesterday. It actually spent the night in my neighbor’s apartment, because Lufthansa had delivered the bag on Sunday when we were out to brunch, but only left a little note in my mailbox that it was there. I don’t check the mail on Sundays for internationally obvious reasons: it’s always empty on that day. Never mind that it’s often empty on other days as well, but that’s another story.

So, to celebrate the fact that David no longer had to live out of a complimentary toiletry bag we decided to make pizza. It turned into a Mexican-themed pizza when David removed a 2-pound loaf of Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese from his bag (I don’t care how many days it has been out of a fridge – I’m eating it because it’s yummy!). However, I digress. We also chose a Mexican theme because we had some corn meal flour in my cupboard, which we used to make the dough. We topped it with the pepper jack cheese, Saturday night’s leftover tomato sauce, some peppers, salami (they don’t have pepperoni here), tomatoes, and a sprinkling of parmesan – we couldn’t remove the Italian completely out of the pizza…

Which brings me to my next point. While shopping, David and I asked ourselves: what is the history of pizza? We decided it must be Italian, from Naples (I cringed as I thought about the sardines on a Pizza Napoli…). I took it upon myself to google the question this morning, for what other resource would a smart, college-educated girl turn to for such important questions?

I know you all could do the same thing as I did, but you didn’t and I did, so I will share with you my findings. Basically, what I could glean from the first five sites or so (and Wikipedia of course!) is that pizza actually has its origins in Greece. In ancient times they used flat breads to sop up gravy and oils from their food as a replacement for plates. We still have such breads today, namely the foccacia bread and the pita bread. Pizza floated to Italy, where peasants ate flat breads with various toppings on them. The introduction of the tomato to Europe through trade* as well as Queen Margherita’s discovery of this delicious peasant food in the late 19th century led to the popularization of pizza in Italy, as well as the Pizza Margherita. This was apparently the queen’s favorite pizza made by Rafaelle Esposito, a well-known baker in Naples whom she invited to her palace to make her three types of pizza. The Pizza Margherita as you may know has a tomato sauce, cheese, and basil topping.

While pizza made it to the United States in the 19th century already, it stayed a tasty secret in the Italian-American population. It wasn’t until WWII, when American soldiers occupying Italy discovered pizza, that America’s love of pizza took off upon the soldiers’ return. Pizza was originally hawked by peddlers in Chicago on Taylor Street, who sold the pizza out of copper tubs. Famous pizzerias include Lombardi’s in New York where originally a whole pie was sold for five cents, but many people couldn’t afford to pay for the whole thing. Instead, they would name the price they could pay and get a slice accordingly. Ike Sewell opened Pizza Uno in Chicago in 1943 and invented the deep dish pizza. Domino’s was created in 1960 by Tom Monaghan and became the first delivery pizza.

Of course, a discussion about pizza would not be complete without referencing the word “pie.” In the Northeast, especially in some bakeries in Central New York, they’re known as “Tomato Pies,” actually put together backwards with the cheese first, then the toppings, and lastly the tomato sauce. Seems messy, but intriguing! The word “pie” actually comes from the Magpie, known in Italian as “pica” hence “pizza” in Italian and “pie” in English. The Magpie is a gatherer, similar to pizzas which have many different ingredients. Other etymologists claim that the word “pizza” comes from the Old High German word “bizzo” or “pizzo” meaning “mouthful,” or even from the Italian word “pizzicare” which means “to pluck,” referring to the need to remove the pizza quickly from the oven. There are many other etymologies of the word, seemingly hotly contested, but I would say as long as you’re happy with the pizza you have in front of you, all is well!

* Tomatoes, as you may know, are actually native to southern North America and Central America, aka Mexico – points for our Mexican Pizza!

“Mexican” Pizza

For the Pizza Dough:
1 Tbsp Yeast
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 cup warm Water
2 cups Corn Flour
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
ca. 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Toppings:
1 ½ cups Tomato/Pizza Sauce (vegetarian spaghetti sauce works fine)
2 cups Pepper Jack Cheese (grated)
Salami
or Pepperoni (as desired)
½ each of Red and Green Peppers (chopped)
1 clove Garlic (chopped or pressed)
1 Tomato (thinly sliced)

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in water until it foams. Stir in the flour ½ cup at a time. Knead about ten minutes on a floured surface, adding about a tablespoon of oil as needed. Let rise 45min to 1hour in an oiled bowl placed in a warm area. Punch down, let rest ten minutes, and pat into a lightly oiled (lined with parchment paper) pizza pan.

After the dough has risen, chop and grate the toppings. Sauté the garlic with the peppers for about two minutes on medium heat. Assemble the pizza as desired and bake*.

* I can’t give you a specific temperature or time, but a hot oven for a short amount of time is better than a cooler oven for longer. This way it will get nice and crispy. It also helps to make your dough as thin as possible.

April 25, 2007

Tomaten-Mozzarella Salat

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a Caprese Salad, and that’s not German, it’s Italian!” Well, caprese salad is perhaps as German as pizza or spaghetti is American. The first time I had this salad was at the Micha’s house (family friends of ours who are both called Micha, one short for Michael and the other short for Michaela, pronounced with the German “ch” in the back of the throat). It was summertime and they were putting together a light supper for us all. My whole family fell in love and we have eaten this salad ever since.

Like most things, it tastes best when its ingredients are in season. Thus we absolutely love it in summer when we can use our own garden tomatoes. I was excited when I made my first salad of the year today, though the tomatoes are still lacking in flavor and I look forward to better ones in the coming months! My family has used everything from tiny cherry tomatoes to roma and beyond. In Germany it’s very easy to find buffalo mozzarella; however, in the States this proves harder (though it can be found at Trader Joe’s and other specialty food stores if you’re willing to pay the price!). Therefore, my family often chooses to crumble feta cheese on top instead, which has a stronger flavor but still works very nicely with the other flavors.

We slice the tomatoes thinly and arrange them on a plate. Then we slice buffalo mozzarella, equally as thinly, and arrange that around the tomatoes. Next comes garlic, chopped in small slices as well (see a pattern?). This is spread on top of the tomato and cheese and sprinkled with ripped basil leaves. Top it off with a drizzle of quality olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and serve immediately!