Onion Scapes

This post is about the beautiful onion scapes growing in my garden.

Enjoy the photos.

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Refreshing Summer Beverage – Agua Fresca!

Ah, Summertime! Time for refreshing summer beverages and relaxation in the shade. This Summer, discover the simple pleasure of Agua Fresca.

Simple to make, tremendously refreshing, and limitless varieties.

Some varieties have pureed fruit such as cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon, others feature berries and herbs while others call for cucumber or carrot slices.

My favorite flavor is citrus so to make it, use 1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange and 1 grapefruit if there is one on hand. Additionally I add herbs such as mint, basil or sage on occasion too.

This one is citrus with mint.IMG_5627

Slice the fruit into thick slices, remove any seeds and place the slices into a large pitcher.

Add the mint leaves and a small amount of sugar (or leave the sugar out entirely).

Use a wooden spoon or a muddler to gently crush the mint leaves and the fruit. All you want to do here is to start the release of juice and essential oils.

IMG_5622Fill the pitcher with water, fill another glass with ice and pour. Garnish with mint leaves and a citrus slice.IMG_5626

Prop your feet up and enjoy!

If by any odd chance you have any remaining at the end of the day, remove the fruit to store the beverage overnight. If the fruit is left in, the drink will turn quite bitter from the pith of the fruit. Sometimes you can get a second pitcher out of the fruit too.

I do hope you enjoy this version of agua fresca.IMG_5628

Proud of Potatoes!

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A few of the potatoes, there are red, yellow fingerlings and Peruvian blue growing.

I harvested a few potatoes two weeks ago and was quite proud of my potatoes!

Somewhere, I read that they are supposed to dry a couple of weeks before you eat them so I put them in a bag and let them be until last night.

Look at the inside!

Look at the inside!

Scrubbed potatoes were cut and placed into a pot with cold water and put over high heat. Once the water boiled, salt and herbs were added to water to steep flavor into the potatoes as they cooked.

You can learn more about potato varieties on my post: All About Potatoes

Boil until the potatoes are done, drain and season with snipped chives and a small dab of butter  or olive oil if you like.

YUM!

YUM!

The Peruvian Blue Plant

The Peruvian Blue Plant

The flower

The flower

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So far, it has been quite fun to grow the potatoes. The Peruvian Blue potato plants are actually quite lovely. I’ve kept adding more soil to mimic “hilling” and hopefully, this will result in decent results meaning actually having some potatoes.

I showed the first harvest to Robert he said “looks like its going to be a long winter.” I do hope there are more potatoes to find when it is time! It’s like finding buried treasure when it comes time to dig them out of the ground.

I grew the Peruvian Blue in a 55 gallon purple Rubbermaid bin that I drilled drainage holes in the bottom to drain excess water.

Someone told me that the bags rotted, a pot would have to be quite large so since I had a bunch of bins, one became the container to grow Peruvian Blue Potatoes.

Someone else told me of a large garbage can with a door cut into the side so you could open the door, reach in and harvest a dinners worth of potatoes, close the door and the plant carries on.

How cool is that idea?!

I’d have to think of how to build something though as I’m not to sure everyone would agree on a garbage can with a door cut into the side, growing a potato plant as part of the landscaping.

Now if I lived on a farm . . .

My tomatoes are pitiful. Blossom drop plague. But at least we have a few potatoes.

Charlotte Cooks Wins a Telly Award!

We won a Telly Award for our Shrimp Creole show!

https://i0.wp.com/www.wtvi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Cooks_Orange_Chicken.jpg

While I can’t post the video yet, here is the recipe for the dish. I hope they release the video soon on You Tube. I think it is circulating now on the channel so I’m guessing when they air a new show this one will become available. When it does, I’ll update this post to include the video.

Until then, enjoy making this recipe which also features Raw Kale Salad.

Creole inspired by NOLA cuisine.

NOLA Style Shrimp Creole

  • 2 pounds Peeled and De-veined Shrimp, save shells to make Shrimp Stock
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons All- purpose flour
  • 1 Large Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Ribs Celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small Green Pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoon Creole Seasoning
  • 2 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 2-1/2 Cups Very Ripe Fresh Tomatoes, Diced
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Cups Shrimp Stock
  • 2 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Cayenne to taste
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon White Pepper
  • 1 bunch Fresh Thyme
  • 2 Tablespoon Tabasco or to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Green Onions, green tops thinly sliced, white part sliced into 1/4″ thickness
  • 2 Tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley, minced

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan with the vegetable oil over medium high heat.

Add the flour and stir so it looks like wet sand on the beach.

When the butter begins to froth add 1/2 cup of the onions. Cook until the onions are golden brown.

Add the remaining onions, celery, and bell pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium and season with 1 Tablespoon Creole Seasoning and a healthy pinch of salt.

Sweat the vegetables until soft.

Add the tomato paste mixing well, and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste begins to brown, add the fresh tomatoes. Stir well.

When the tomatoes start to break down into liquid add the white wine, bring to a boil and boil for 1-2 minutes.

Add the Shrimp Stock, remaining Creole seasoning, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne (to taste), and thyme.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer.

Simmer for 30-45 minutes.

Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire, and adjust seasonings.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add the shrimp.

The key is to not  to over cook your shrimp. Let them slowly simmer in the sauce until just cooked through.

If you boil them, they get tough so just simmer gently. They cook quickly!

Serve with boiled rice and garnish with the remaining green onions and parsley.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

I hope you join us in WTVI-PBS Charlotte Thursday evenings at 8:30 to see our new shows.

As always, thanks for watching Charlotte Cooks!

Things to Make with Mint

Mint Leaves

Mint Leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mint leaves.

Mint leaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh my! The mint in my garden has taken off! If you have an overgrowth of mint here are a few ideas on how to put the mint to good use.

  • Mint Pesto
  • Mint Mojitos
  • Mint Ice Cream

    A scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip, Baskin-Robbin'...

    A scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip, Baskin-Robbin’s most popular flavor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Mint Simple Syrup
  • Mint Liquor
  • Add mint to agua fresca
  • Make chocolate mint leaves by painting clean mint leaves with melted chocolate, let dry and peel the leaf away leaving a chocolate mint leaf!

These take more patience than I have, surely you have more than I do and therefore are able to make en entire tree of chocolate mint leaves.

Personally I don’t care for working with chocolate. I find it far more messy than  worth it. I’ll gladly pay for fine chocolates which are also far better than I would have the patience to make. Temper chocolate? Meh, I’d rather not.

  • English: Too young for mint sauce A very young...

    English: Too young for mint sauce A very young lamb in the wildflower meadow beside the church of St George. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Make mint sauce for lamb! Not mint jelly. Although that would be good too, but the vinegar, sweet mint sauce like Crosse and Blackwell make. I love this sauce on so many things – lamb, shrimp, pork . . .

  • Mint jelly

    Mint jelly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Make Apple Mint Jelly. Put that on a biscuit with some butter. Slap on a bit of salty ham, maybe some brie and chow down!

  • Make Moroccan Mint Tea – Make a large jar full because this will disappear on you so fast!
  • Mint Ice cream with chocolate shavings, or frozen mint chocolate yogurt
  • Rub your temples with mint leaves to help relieve headache and general stress. Breathe deep.
  • If you have large mint plants, cut long thick branches, tie them together and hang them in your shower. The scent will be released from the essential oils in the leaves by the warm water of the shower and be exhilarating. Best first thing in the morning as it can be quite stimulating.
  • Make Tabbouleh
  • At the end of the day make Mint Juleps!

Ah, an over growth of Mint can be heavenly!

Eating Local

This is my interpretation of “eating local“:

Local Fare

Local Fare

The multi-grain bread was made by me and cooked on the grill. The sourdough culture I use is nearly 2 years old and came to me from a friend.

I grew the lettuce.

I made the goat cheese from milk from local goats. I could find out the names of the goats if I wanted. I buy the milk from our organic farmers market who bring it in fresh. Low-temp pasteurized, yeah buddy!

The tomato is from a farm just down the road whose family has been growing vegetables and operating a working farm on the land since 1775. These tomatoes are the first to ripen with any flavor, just perfect for the goat cheese!

So there you have it. Local food for lunch.

A Basic Fresh Goat Cheese: Chevre

I made Fresh Goat Cheese!

Fresh Goat Cheese!

Fresh Goat Cheese!

Actually I was surprised at how quick and easy it actually was to make. Having the right equipment and getting good milk are key.

I get most of my supplies from The New England Cheese Making Supply which is a great resource for everything cheese.

Ever since I returned from the cheese making workshop a few weeks ago, my hands have been looking forward to getting into some milk.

First I had to find a source for good, clean, fresh goat milk for goat cheese and I still need to source Jersey cows for their milk for other cheese. For now, I have goat!

I LOVE the “barnyard” flavor of a strong goat cheese. While in France, I fell in love with Pouligny St. Pierre goat cheese which is a creamy smooth aged amazing bit of heaven to put into your mouth. It is my goal and intention to make some of that here, but obviously with the “terroir” of North Carolina.

OK, so here’s how I made this batch of Fresh Chevre:

I started with one gallon of fresh Goat Milk from Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain, NC. The milk comes in glass bottles, which I love!

Order a batch of CHEVRE culture from New England Cheese Making Supply. One packet will culture one gallon of milk, so plan what you want to make. I never seem to order enough.

Additionally if your milk is pasteurized (PLEASE find milk that is low temp processed as Ultra-Pasteurized milk does not work for making cheese) you will need 1/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride per gallon of pasteurized, cold-stored milk.

In my next batch, I want to ripen it for a few weeks so I will be adding other cultures for different effects.

Equipment needed:

2 large pots; the small one holds 1 gallon easily. I can use the larger pot for larger batches. Just need to find a pot to nest it inside of for a reasonable price.

2 large pots; the small one holds 1 gallon easily. I can use the larger pot for larger batches. Just need to find a pot to nest it inside of for a reasonable price.

2 large stock pots: the one the milk goes into needs to be stainless steel (Non-reactive)

The second one needs to be large enough to make a double boiler or bain marie, the first needs to nestle into the large one so you can heat the milk easily and slowly.

A good thermometer: You NEED to be in control of temperatures, not too high or too low.

Cheese Muslin, butter muslin, closely woven cheese cloth– the normal loose woven is way too loosely woven. Invest in a yard or two, wash it and use it over and over.

Use cold water to remove any cheese particles, then hand wash. Rinse and boil it in a pot with some baking soda for 5-10 minutes, rinse and hang to dry. It will be fresh and good to go for the next round of cheese!

Here is how to make the cheese:

Wash and sanitize everything!! Have a pot of boiling/simmering water to drop cheesecloth, molds, tools into to sanitize them before they come into contact with cheese.

Pour the milk into the pot, place it over the water (about 80°F). Warm the milk to 72-78°F.

Please be aware that this will feel cold to the touch, this is not warm milk, just milk warmed from refrigeration to 72-78 degrees.

Open 1 packet of the Chevre culture and sprinkle it over the top of the milk. Allow it to hydrate for 2-5 minutes before stirring it into the milk.

Goat milkAdd 1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride is using cold-stored pasteurized milk.

Allow this to sit undisturbed for 6-12 hours. This is the hardest part as you want to go see what is happening and you want it to hurry up and do its thing. But be patient, it takes time.

This batch sat for 8 1/4 hours before testing the cleave of the curd. When it is ready to test, you should see a thin layer of whey over the curd and a slight separation from the sides of the pot.

Testing the cleavage break

Testing the cleavage break

Insert a knife or a spoon, slightly on the surface, the curd should cleave clean and the whey that floats into the separation should be clear.

Carefully lift the curds with a strainer into a colander lined with cheese muslin. Be sure to place the colander over a large bowl to catch the whey.

Gently fold the cheesecloth over the curds and allow them to drain for 6-12 hours again, depending upon your desired finished texture. Less time for sweeter cheese, more for tangy cheese. The longer the whey stays in contact with the curd, the more tangy it gets.

You must be very careful NOT TO PRESS the curds. Allow them to drain gently at this point. The whey should be clear dripping, if it is cloudy, you are losing milk fat and your cheese will be dry.

You can also put it into molds at this point if you are using a mold. It will result in a smoother sided end product.

Control the room temperature and the curd temperature to maintain as close to 72-78°F as possible. I let the curds form while still in the bain marie as the water in the host pot will maintain the temperature of the curd mass.

I usually let this happen overnight while sleeping. The next day is such a surprise!

Unfold the cheesecloth and reveal your fresh cheese! Now it is time to salt. For this batch, 1.5-2 teaspoons of non-iodized cheese salt.

You can consider the cheese finished at this point but this is also where you can be a bit creative.IMG_6161

As you fold in the salt, also consider adding other flavors like herbs, minced garlic or shallots or onions, crushed peppercorns, ash, use your imagination.

IMG_6171Store your fresh goat cheese in a bowl or tub and consume within 10 days. Refrigerate the cheese, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving to allow all the wonderful flavors to come through.

A Word About Seasonings:

Please use dried seasonings and herbs due to the risk of bacterial contamination that may be introduced by using fresh herbs and seasonings. If you use fresh, be sure to eat the cheese soon. It can’t hang out for a while like plain cheese.

A Word About Food Safety:

The temperature the milk gets processed is in a temperature range that is smack dab in the extreme temperature danger zone. Everything you use needs to be “sterilized” in the boiling water bath before it comes in contact with the curds or milk. I cover my curd formation and the curd draining with a glass lid (so I can see what is going on!) to prevent anything falling or flying into the curd mass.

Since my kitchen is FULL of wild yeast from all the bread I make, the introduction of wild yeast is totally possible. This could have a spoiling effect on the curd. This is another reason I boil things before they touch the milk/curds.

The hardest part is WAITING! I strongly suggest you get to a farmers market and buy some goat milk and try this. It is easy, very tasty and you will feel so good about making a tasty goat cheese you’ll make more.

If you do make any cheese, take notes on the temperatures, conditions, milk etc so you can repeat successful processes. Most of all remember DO NOT USE Ultra-Pasteurized milk!

So that’s Fresh Chevre in a nut shell. There is a lot of information out there on making cheese. I’m really just starting and am looking forward to making more!

Please let me know how you do if you make some fresh Goat Cheese!