Friday, July 11, 2014

Making yogurt.

I make my own yogurt.  I don't have a special reason to.  In New York State we have some sort of weird milk pricing system that makes milk almost as expensive as yogurt.  But it's fun to make your own, it's easy, and you can control how it comes out.  In addition to resulting in delicious yogurt it's a good experiment for young kids to teach them about microbes, fermentation, and experimental observation.

The complete instructions are below, but here's the TLDR version:

Heat milk to 180F.  
Quick-cool it to 120F. 
Mix in a little bit of room-temperature yogurt.
Store for six hours anywhere from room temperature to 120F.  Lower temperature equals sweeter, thinner yogurt, higher makes more sour, thicker yogurt.
Sample the yogurt and store for more time if desired.
Strain the yogurt to thicken as desired.

My highly sophisticated cooling bath.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Seared Salsa Negra Scallops and Guacamole.

I don't intend to make this a food blog, but this and my next entry will be food related because this recipe is so good that I want to share it, the subject of my next post is also fun to share and involves some kitchen science with observation, and it'll get me back on the blogging horse.  So here we go.

During the summer in a hot kitchen one goal is to have the oven running for a little time as possible.  This is an especially desirable goal in a small NYC apartment, where the kitchen can heat the whole place up.

Seafood cooks really quickly, can be delicious, and fits nicely with my new healthy eating habits.  Scallops are one of my favorite seafoods and this recipe highlights them beautifully along with fresh asparagus.  The recipe calls for white asparagus, which is a little sweeter and less bitter than the green variety, but green will substitute nicely so long as it's well-roasted and feels more summery than something grown in the basement.   Don't be shy; make sure there are some serious sear marks on the asparagus from the broiler.  It requires total oven time, including preheating, of less than 20 minutes.  If you have an outdoor grill, this is even better.  You can take the whole thing outdoors with your prepared guacamole.

Scallops are easy to cook.  There are three tricks.  First, dry your scallops as much as you can.  There should be no water apparent on the scallops' exterior.  Any exterior water will boil, steaming the scallops, and at the same time will take energy from the pan which should be going to sear the exterior of the scallops.   Here, that also means wiping as much of the marinade off as is practical.  The second trick is to get your grill or pan blazingly hot before adding the scallops.  The related third trick is not to overload your pan.  My 10 small scallops seared perfectly in a 12-inch tri-ply frying pan but if you have larger scallops, a smaller pan or a pan with less impressive heat transfer characteristics you may want to work in batches.  The goal of all three of these tricks is to sear the outside of the scallops to a golden brown before the interior overcooks.  3-4 minutes per side should get you that flavorful sear on the outside and a tender and sweet but not raw-tasting center.