Thursday, April 14, 2011

10 food related things I want to try in the near future

I've had a laundry list of ideas I'd like to try out in the kitchen at some point rattling around in the back of my head. The problem is that I never really commit them to writing, and they often get lost in the shuffle between my demanding job, and the need for expedience in the kitchen so I can get the family fed while working on the myriad of non-food related projects around the house (including re-finishing the basement office room into an extra bedroom so we can give some relief to three young kids all currently crammed into one bedroom).

That said, I'm writing down some of these ideas in hopes that it will help get me on track to tackle some of these. Your comments and thoughts may help me refine some of these ideas, and/or encourage me to actually do them. Here they are, presented in no particular order.

1) Experiment with basic cheese-making.

I've had it in the back of my head that with a little care and effort, I could make my own ricotta with minimal equipment, time and specialty products. The "quick" methods start with whole milk, and actually make something that isn't technically ricotta, but is a good start. With a little more specialty supplies and more time, mozzarella and scamorza (and the whey by-products needed to make true ricotta) don't seem so far out of reach. I think it would be interesting to document my first attempts, success or fail.

2) Make my own pickles

This is another simple idea, all it takes is a mason jar, vinegar, salt, sugar, and a handful of spices/herbs. Cucumbers are the most obvious choice, but almost any vegetable can be pickled (pickled peppers is an attractive idea!)

3)  Moroccan preserved lemons

I've done this one before- a long time ago- It's fairly easy, and is similar to basic pickling, but with a very different spectrum of flavors. A mason jar and a whole bunch of lemons are the main requirements- plus a few weeks of patience. They taste great, and I've had the thought of doing them again some day.

4) Getting a vegetable garden going

My wife and I bring the idea up almost every year, but it's been tough with time constraints. Having fresh tomatoes all summer would be great, and I'd love to have fresh string beans, cucumbers, peppers, etc. I might be a little late to do it this year, but you never know. With the price of groceries rising, it may become a necessity soon, and I have a fairly large back yard to work with. I haven't done a garden on my own ever- as a kid I simply followed around my grandfather who seemed to be able to grow tomatoes anywhere there was dirt by simply willing it to be- so hopefully some of his green thumb has rubbed off. Besides- my diet has skewed a little too far towards meat and carbs... more veggies is a good thing.

5) Eat at an upscale restaurant.

With multiple young kids, limited time, and a tight budget, we really don't eat out very often, and when we do, it's usually somewhere local and/or inexpensive. About a week ago we ate at a very nice, tiny, local Italian place that makes great gnocchi, but problems with my phone kept me from getting a few snapshots. The last time we were at a high-end restaurant was for our first anniversary, and it was an experience. Of course with a tight budget, and major time restrictions, this is a very low-priority thing, but it's still on my wish-list.

6) Catch and cook up some Bluefish

I can count the number of times I've gone fishing in the past decade on one hand- but it's something I did as a kid often- Bluefish of various sizes were always the most commonly available fish- but they are considered to be very oily and gamey - not to most people's tastes. The smaller bluefish are much more mild in flavor, and are very easy to catch. The larger ones need either a little help during butchering and cooking to take away the more unpleasant flavors, or you just need to have a high tolerance for the oily flavor. Since they are so common in the coastal areas of the northeast, knowing how to handle and cook them properly can mean an inexpensive seafood treat.

7) Experiment more with my Linguini and Clam recepie

I've fooled with this old classic a few times in my past, but not in at least two years. I like to add in a little fennel, and use alternatives to white wine for the sauce- I've tried vermouth. I'd like to revisit this idea, and see if I can balance it a little better. My past attempts came out pretty good, but I think I may have overwhelmed the clam flavor, so adjustments will be needed.

8) Pasta with Calamari

This is a dish mom used to make that was always a favorite- squid pieces would go in the tomato gravy, and she'd also make squid bodies stuffed with breadcrumb braised in the gravy to go with it. It's fairly simple to do if you can get your hands on decent squid at a fair price.

9) Pasta con Sarde

Another favorite from mom - most pasta con sarde recipes use a combination of sardine, fennel, capers, and olive oil as a pasta topping. Mom used to make it as a red sauce- again in her sunday gravy. Most of my family isn't as crazy about sardines on pasta as I am, so I rarely get to do this one.

10) Broccoil Rabe and Sausage

I love this combination. It works great as a pasta topping, or even a pizza topping. I think I already have too many pasta dishes on my wish list, so perhaps I need to do something a little different with it- maybe a stromboli- or even a ravioli (can't get away from pasta can I?)

Have any suggestions, ideas, or comments? Please fill me in! I'd appreciate your feedback, and may even do requests. Thanks!

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