Back in October I went out to interview the Jensen family at Golden Glen Creamery for the Nov/Dec issue of Grow Northwest magazine. You can read the original article here, but I thought it would be fun to post some of the other photos I took.
The Jensens don’t actually own the creamery any more, but the family is still very much involved in running the place. All the folks I talked to were exceedingly proud of their milk, the quality of their cheese, and their rather snazzy cheese room. When Vic opened the door and let me peek in, a vast waft of garlic hit me in the face from the fresh wheels of dill-garlic cheese resting on the racks. If you’ve ever had that stuff as fresh cheese curds, you may agree with me that it’s one of the more addictive dairy products out there. I also got a glimpse of the aging room, which happened to be a trailer parked behind the farm store.
I did not get to meet any cows. I was informed that they were off being milked (something they spend quite a bit of their day at). No cheese samples, either. But I got to have a large dog lean against my legs while I took notes, and the view from the farm was nice.
I used my trip out to the dairy as an excuse to drive around on the Skagit flats at dawn and take pictures of the autumn fields in the morning mist.
(There are, by the way, calendars of my photographs for sale over at Qoop. Just thought I’d mention it.)
This week has been crazy busy, but we did make time to get down to opening day of our local farmer’s market. It was a classic Pacific Northwest Memorial Day weekend, which is to say it rained every. single. day.
Fortunately there were plenty of vendors and customers, and the hardy Prozac Mountain Boys managed to keep the music playing without floating away.
We bought leeks, fingerling potatoes, asparagus, hothouse peppers, and butter, which seemed like a pretty good haul for the season (thank goodness for Hedlin Farms’ greenhouses). Then we checked out Gothberg Farms’ stand. A local goat dairy, they’re newcomers to the Mount Vernon market, and we’re really excited to have them here. I expect we’ll be eating a lot of their cheese in the months to come, but for now we limited ourselves to a tub of fresh ricotta and a block of Queso Blanco.
Stuffing cheese into a chicken thigh doesn’t necessarily sound like a wise idea, but when the cheese in question is panir, a dry non-melting Indian cheese, all is well. We found this dish in a recently acquired cookbook, Modern Spice (on clearance at Village Books!), which is full of wonderful recipes that fuse Indian flavors with the American pantry. In this case bone-in chicken parts are stuffed with Indian herbs and spices mixed with Indian cheese, but baked in the oven instead of being simmered in liquid on the stovetop, as with so much Indian cookery. The chicken gets crispy on top, and the stuffing takes on the flavor of the bird as well as that lovely cheesy toastiness and a kick of chile heat.
Panir is crucial to this recipe, since no other cheese behaves quite like it (maybe halloumi?), but if you can’t find panir you could still make all the other ingredients into a rub for roasted chicken parts. What’s not to like about butter, chiles, ginger, garlic and cilantro?
A fusiony sort of dish like this didn’t seem to need a traditional Indian accompaniment, so we recreated a salad we invented on our Paris vacation, caramelizing finely diced fennel in a skillet and stirring in chopped ripe tomatoes. Pure essence of summer, it played beautifully off the spicy cheese and chicken. With a bright Sangiovese rosé, this was a very successful summer-to-autumn transitional dinner.
A number of years ago, my husband and I took a trip to France for our anniversary. We hiked across the Vaucluse wine country in ninety-degree weather, got sunburned and exhausted, and developed plenty of blisters. We also ate splendidly. I fell in love with the Provence countryside at the same time as I was discovering dry rose, salad with a poached egg on top, hot milk for coffee, and fresh soft cheese. Oh, the cheese!
The French waiters always looked at me funny for this, but when they would come around with the cheese tray and offer me several wedges, all I ever wanted was a spoonful of the freshest goat cheese, more like ricotta than regular chevre. The flavor was fresh and milky, the texture slightly grainy. I had never had cheese like it, and after we came back to the States I never had it again. Until… Continue reading
A couple of months ago we had a nice splurge at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks. One of our more exciting acquisitions was a copy of Greg Malouf’s Turquoise, a gorgeous production that immediately made me want to go to Turkey (not something that had ever happened to me before). Despite its beauty, I had completely failed to make anything out of it until this week, when I was suddenly feeling adventurous.
We decided to try two new side dishes during the week: a salad of grated celery root, peppers and mint, and a dish of baked mushrooms and chiles in a paprika sauce. I thought they both sounded interesting, and used vegetables that are at least somewhat in season.
We were able to have dinner outside again last weekend, only by dint of rubbing ourselves with mosquito repellent wipes and setting citronella candles all around the perimeter of the patio. Even so, I got three bites on my feet and one on my hand. Blech.
Still, it was nice to sit out in the yard and drink splendid rosé and eat halloumi, hot off the grill. If that’s not what summer’s all about, then I don’t know what is. Continue reading
It seems like this has become such a hackneyed combination of late – in the past year it seemed like every restaurant we’ve visited has had a beet/goat cheese salad on their menu. But you know what? That’s because the flavors are PERFECT together.
Oddly enough, though, I don’t think I had ever combined them at home. We eat beets fairly frequently, since I discovered the glory of roasting them in olive oil until they get soft and caramelized, but we usually just eat them straight and blazingly hot, or mix them with other roasted vegetables. I also once made a beet salad from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook where they were marinated in black currant vinegar and mixed gently with walnuts and watercress, but somehow beet salad never made it into the regular home repertoire.
A few days ago, though, I was shopping for something to go with a steak from our freezer, and I noticed bunches of baby beets from one of the local farms. As I was picking out a bunch, I suddenly remembered the half-round of Bucherondin chevre lurking in our fridge – we had eaten some of it along with good bread and the shrimp gratin earlier in the week, but then run out of bread – and it’s much too good of a cheese to allow to spoil. So I picked up a head of redleaf lettuce as well, hauled my goodies up the hill and plopped the beets into a pan of water to simmer. Once they were fork-tender, I ran cold water over them and slipped the skins off, cut up the beets into thick slices and drizzled a little walnut oil over them. The chevre I cut into small chunks, which went into the bowl with the beets. Then I tossed the lettuce with a dressing of olive oil, Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar, and took it all to the table so we could compose our own salads.
It was a thing of beauty alongside the steak, with an Oregon Bordeaux-style wine (Cana’s Feast Bricco Two Rivers – delicious) and a good pan sauce. Why don’t I do this more often?
I may have mentioned my deep and abiding love for the book Flatbreads & Flavors by Toronto-based husband-and-wife team Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It introduced us to cooking all sorts of ethnic cuisines that we might not have attempted, by making the recipes simple yet authentic. Each chapter has a limited number of recipes, but they fit together perfectly – there might be two different breads, a beef dish, a chicken dish, a vegetable and a condiment. So just from this one cookbook, you could make a feast from Georgia, the Middle East, India or Italy!
I had fallen in love with Ethiopian food from the first time I had it, at a restaurant in Minneapolis, of all places. It never occurred to me that you could make it at home – then I got this cookbook. When I made the chicken stew from it, with its simple combination of chicken, butter, cardamom, berbere paste and red wine, it was like an Ethiopian restaurant had opened in our kitchen. We’ve also made injera at home (with mixed success, frankly) and tibs wett. But our favorite go-to dish is definitely the partially-cooked beef tartare, kitfo lebleb. It’s fast, rich, and very very spicy.
For this dish J defrosted a sirloin steak and chopped it very finely. You could certainly use ground meat but we’ve always preferred the texture of chopped. The original recipe calls for onions, but we usually leave them out. Adding mint is great if you have it, but I don’t think dried mint is a good substitute – leave it out if you don’t have fresh.
I was on my own for dinner last night, a rather unusual event. I like cooking for myself, although I tend to gravitate towards things like noodles or sandwiches, or interestingly reconstituted leftovers. This time I decided to purposely keep things simple and cook myself an omelet for dinner, something I almost never do when we’re both home.
On the way home from work I talked myself into stopping at the co-op to get a small piece of cheese and a baguette to flesh things out, and when I got home I opened a bottle of white wine, a verdejo from the Spanish wine tasting last week. It was lovely with the faint sourdough taste of the bread.