Monday, July 23, 2012

Eating cheese by the lake...yes, please!

Last week, my cousin Mandi contacted me and asked if Cyd and I had any plans for Sunday. I thought maybe she and her wife, Ashley, might be returning to Plattsburgh to visit our Tar-ghay, as they don't have one near them in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. But as it turns out, they had two extra tickets to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival ("Blessed are the cheesemakers!") at Shelburne Farms. Can you believe that I've lived here for 12 years, and I've never been to Shelburne Farms? And this certainly seemed like the best of excuses; eating local artisan cheeses by the lake AND I get to see my beloved cousin, her wife, and their PRECIOUS baby, Andy, whom I've never met in person? Count me in!

It was a delightful day, despite being very hot and extremely crowded. And such a GLORIOUS setting along beautiful Lake Champlain! By the end of the day, we had spent way too much money, and had acquired approximately five pounds of various regional cheeses (=14 kinds!), one tub of sundried tomato and artichoke tzatziki, one jar of vanilla bean goat's milk caramel, five containers of artisan vanilla yogurt, and one bottle of ice wine. And honestly, I had tasted SO MUCH cheese--and I never thought I'd say this--if I had to eat one more even wafer-thin piece of cheese, I might have hurled. ;-)

Another fun thing about the event was that there were cooking demonstrations. One showed folks how to make ricotta/paneer/queso fresco. And another was about cooking with cheese, hosted by our favorite Healthy Living Market in Burlington. The chef prepared several dishes, but the one we all got to sample was a cheesy corn polenta topped with heirloom tomatoes. So seasonal and absolutely DELISH! So of course, I had to come right home and make it for myself. I think I even improved upon it a little (don't tell the chef!). In fact, Cyd raved about it, and she claims to not even like polenta! This is a great recipe to make at this time of year, to take advantage of the wonderful corn and tomatoes. And it's quick and easy, too!

Triple Corn Herbed Polenta with Marinated Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
(Source: adapted from Healthy Living Market, Burlington, VT)

3 large ears sweet corn, boiled/grilled/microwaved just until tender, then kernels cut from the cob and reserved
5 cups corn stock* (or a quart of milk plus a cup of water or 2 cups milk + 2 cups buttermilk + 1 cup water)
1 cup polenta
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup basil, chopped salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup Tarantaise (or your favorite hard, slightly sharp Alpine cheese such as: Gruyère, Comté, Emmental, or Beaufort), grated
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup chives, chopped

If you wish to make corn stock, cut the corn cobs into quarters, and add them and a few pieces of the cheese rind to the milk and water mixture in a stock pot over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes. Strain out the cobs and rinds, then proceed.

Or just bring milk and water to a boil, then slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly. Once the polenta comes back to a boil, turn it down to a low simmer. Whisking frequently so that it doesn't clump or scorch, cook the polenta until it looks like a thick, creamy porridge and the grains are completely tender, about 20-25 minutes.

While the polenta is cooking, halve the cherry tomatoes, drizzle them with olive oil and balsamic, and gently toss in the minced garlic and chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside to marinate.

When the polenta has finished cooking, remove from the heat, then whisk in the cheese. Fold in the reserved corn, the chopped parsley and chives, and some salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with a big spoonful or two of the marinated cherry tomatoes.

OH, and LOOK whose cheese I sampled! (I should have bought some to see if they wrapped the package in brown paper tied up with string. Tee hee.)

And I have one more recipe to share...something I found on Pinterest, naturally. I had yet to send a gift after Andy was born, because I wanted to make him some homemade baby food. I saw this great pin with instructions for making different fruit flavors of applesauce. I made five pints each of strawberry and blueberry, but I lost steam before I got to peach. So maybe I'll make a batch of that later, and perhaps some blackberry and/or raspberry, too, and save it until the next time I see them...hopefully very soon!

Applesauce Fruit Blends
(Source: adapted from Family Feed Bag via Pinterest)
Yield: I got give pints for each recipe

Blueberry Applesauce:
5 lbs. apples, cored, quartered (skins on)
2 cups blueberries
2-4 cups water*

Strawberry Applesauce:
5 lbs apples, cored, quartered (skins on)
3 cups strawberries, hulled
2-4 cups water*

Peach Applesauce:
5 lbs apples, cored, quartered (skins on)
2 lbs. peaches, pitted, sliced (skins on)
2-4 cups water*

bottled lemon juice

*The amount of water is variable depending on whether you like a thicker or thinner applesauce. Generally, you want the water to come about halfway up the fruit.

For each recipe, combine the fruit and water in a large stock pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and stir occasionally while the sauce simmers, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Each sauce is then ladled into a chinois (I used my tomato press!) and pressed using the wooden dowel. The sauce could also be pressed through a mesh sieve or run through a food processor, skins and all. The sauce is then ladled into clean jars with a teaspoon and half of lemon juice added to each, leaving a half inch of head room.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth, and secure the lids in place with the bands. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let cool for 24 hours to make sure they seal before labelling and then storing in a cool, dry place.

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