Farmer’s cheese dumpling and strawberry textures

This idea came as a result of my love for farmer’s cheese which is the closest dairy product to the very popular Hungarian “tehenturo”. We, Hungarians love our “tehenturo” which, if I really want to try to describe, I would say it is more like a curdled soft cheese. We consume a huge amount in both savory and sweet dishes. One of its most popular use is to make it into a dumpling using wheat farina. It is almost like a gnudi which is ricotta, flour and egg but instead of the flour we use the creamy wheat farina. After cooking it in water it is usually drenged in toasted breadcrumb. Instead of the breadcrumb I used ground pistachio but you can also make it with toasted ground almond or a mixture of ground almond and breadcrumb.

To make it a fresh and summer-y dessert I served it with a thick strawberry sauce and summer fruit salad. You will have a well-balanced, light dessert with the sweet sauce, lemony cheese dumpling and a sweet-tart, bright fruit salad.DSC_4918

When you make the dumpling there is one important thing. You have to mix the ingredients well in advance and let it rest 3-4 hours in the fridge to make sure the wheat farina, which is coarse, will have time to soak the egg and farmer’s cheese mix so the dumpling will not fall into parts when cooking.

FIRST.    Start making the strawberry coulis. Chop 1 pound of strawberries and cook it on low heat with about 1/2 cup of white cane sugar, juice of 1/2 lemon,  1 T very good quality, thick balsamic vinegar and approx. 1/3 cup of water.  Feel free to adjust, you have to end up with a sweet, thick sauce. Cook it until you achieve a tick consistency, the strawberries are falling apart but you still have some big pieces.

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While the coulis is cooking prepare the fruit salad. Chop strawberries and white nectarines into similar size. (I chopped them small, bigger one is good, but not too big) Mix it with chopped lemon verbena and anise hyssop. In case you don’t have access to these herbs you can use mint and lemon zest.

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I also added finger lime. Inside the shell there are tiny lime caviar drops. Nature practiced molecular gastronomy, in particular spherification :). The reason I like using this because it will not make your whole salad taste lime but you will have the sweetness of strawberries and nectarine and you get the pops of tartness and fragrance from the finger lime when you bite on those caviars.

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Ingredients for the cheese dumpling:

  • 8 oz farmer’s cheese (1 box of Bellwether Farms farmer’s cheese)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 T creamy wheat farina ( I buy Bob’s Red Mill, available at Wholefoods at cereal section)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 T white fine cane sugar or caster sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon

Instruction and plating

  1. Mix egg yolk, lemon zest, sugar, salt and farmer’s cheese.
  2. Add creamy wheat farina
  3. Whip egg whites into hard peaks.
  4. Carefully mix egg whites into the cheese mixture.
  5. Cover and let it rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours so that the wheat farina can soak the moisture.
  6. Boil water with 1t salt.
  7. Wet your hands, form balls (not bigger than a golf ball) and cook them in the boiling water. They will need at least 5 minutes, do not take them out when they come to surface. Try one to make sure.
  8. Have your toasted breadcrumb/nuts ready, warm and while the dumplings still warm dredge them in it.
  9. Plate them on top of strawberry coulis with some fruit salad and some edible flowers and leaves of mint/anise  hyssop if you have these.

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Market veggies on a whipped farmers cheese, feta cloud with boysenberry droplets

This is actually a veggies and dip recipe. The only difference how it is plated and a little bit of extra tip I am going to share with you that will elevate the dish to another level.

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When I get some tiny and really pretty vegetables I always feel it is a sin to ruin them with any kind of cooking. I can highly recommend you keep them as well and enjoy all the benefits of raw vegetable. Unless you have some digestion problem and you do need to blanch them. So these are the vegetables and edible flowers I used in this dish to create a plate that you first eat with your eyes and then you immerse in the freshness of vegetables and herbs.

 

You can add any kinds of vegetables to a crudites plate. Crudites is a French term and it  means raw sliced vegetables served with some kind of dip. I would suggest in this case definitely use radish, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and even california pepper. They are really good with this whipped dip. If you want to create a nice plate you need to cut and slice your vegetables into different shapes and thickness to give your dish a diverse look and texture. You can also serve it simply just cutting the vegetables into similar size and serve with a bowl of dip.

The vegetables, herbs, leaves on this plate

  • radish
  • carrot
  • cucumber
  • cherry tomatoe
  • salad brunett leaves
  • borage flower
  • tarragon flower
  • mixed micro greens

For the dip (not vegan)

In a deep bowl mix 2:1 portion of farmers cheese and really good quality strong sheep/goat feta cheese. Add 1-2 tablespoon of sour cream and with a fork mix it and try and whip it a little bit, giving it a fluffier texture which will work very well with the raw vegetables. Once it is done, season it with 1 clove minced garlicsalt, ground black pepper, ground caraway and hot Hungarian paprika f you like heat (or any other ground chili or paprika) Also add chopped chives, green onions and parsley and mix thoroughly.

To make your dip vegan the only thing you will have to do is to make a fermented cheese and that will replace the feta here. I made a fermented cheese using cashew and almonds and after fermenting in my kitchen cabinet for 2 days I let it age in the fridge for 5 days. Not longer because I didn’t want it to harden too much. This resulted in a stronger taste which made it more similar to a nice feta.

Ingredients and instructions for fermented, aged feta like cheese

  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews
  • 1/2 cup soaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 acidophilus capsule or replace the water with 2 tbsp rejuvelac

Mix all the ingredient in a blender. Place the mixture on a piece of cheesecloth and wrap tightly. Ferment in the kitchen cabinet for 2 days without opening the door.

After 2 days check if your cheese looks good and make sure there is no mold. It should have a nice crust and smell fermented.

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Put it in your fridge to age 3-5 days. Do not leave longer because aging not only changes the taste but also makes the cheese firmer. Here you will need a texture that can be spread.

After the aging take your cheese out from the fridge, put in a bowl and mix it well with

  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, or 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (or chili or cayenne pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or whole caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mixed, chopped chives and parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoon almond milk to adjust texture to spreadable (use any vegan yogurt if you have it)

To plate the individual crudite plates place a spoonful of cheese spread on the plate, with the back of the spoon spread it slightly on the plate. Place any kinds of vegetables, micro herbs on top.

And this is the point where my extra tip comes in. I actually really like fruit with savory dishes and vegetables. So what I did here when I was ready to eat, I smashed a few boysenberries, added a few drops of lemon juice and just sprinkled it over the veggies. You can use blackberries or youngberries instead of the boysenberries.

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youngberries

The dip and the boysenberry was just a real match made in heaven.

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Lemon verbena simple syrup

When I smelled lemon verbena for the first time a few years ago, I knew I had a new best friend in the kitchen. It will probably be very clear for everyone soon, how much I love everything that has lemon to it. Taste or smell. One of my favorite finds at the Santa Monica farmers market was the so many varieties of lemon and lime. At some point I will have a post about them for sure.

But for now back to lemon verbena. It is a very special herb, with a powerful scent of lemon and an added intense flowery perfume of its own that I can not even describe. I always buy a bunch at the market, and last time I even got one in a pot, so  now I can have it every single day!

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lemon verbena

Its leaves are a little bit rough, especially the bigger ones. As a result you cannot add them in whole to a dish to eat them as they are. You can steep the leaves in any kinds of liquid and make lemon verbena infused tea, syrup, sorbet, ice cream, creme anglaise, just to name a few.

If you use them as a herb make sure you remove them from the dish after marinating or cooking with it. In case you use it in a salad or garnish I suggest chiffonade cuts. Chiffonade means rolling up the leaves and cutting very thin slices of it.

So next time when you are at the market why don’t you buy some? It will definitely be a frequent herb on my blog and will have an appearance in sorbet, dessert and savory dishes.

The easiest thing you can do with lemon verbena is to make a simple syrup. Then store it in a jar in your fridge and make cocktail, spritzers or alcohol free drinks with sparkling water.

For making a simple syrup you will only need cane sugar, filtered water, a little bit of lemon and a small bunch of lemon verbena. Cook it on low heat until it thickens a bit and then you can store it in a jar in the fridge. To make it into a spritzer mix syrup, very cold sparkling water and some crisp, cold Italian Pinot Grigio. NO ICE!!!!!!!   Enjoy!

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lemon verbena spritzer

 

Sunday morning

Getting up early on a Sunday when everybody else is sleeping. It is only me, quietly making my capuccino to go and off to the market.

Freeway 134 from Pasadena to Hollywood is so empty, only a few early risers driving slow wherever they are going. Hollywood Blvd is showing its quiet face too, without that usual craziness that comes later. And then you walk into Ivar street and it is already buzzing. Food vendors getting ready, people queuing up at the coffee place, grills are getting cleaned and farmers still prepping their stands. It is only my second Sunday here, but I know so many of them. From other markets.

I engage in chatting. Always. Living in California totally changed me in this respect. I would never have started small talk with strangers. But here I do. With vendors, shoppers, everyone. I see the screen of someone else’s camera, while taking a photo of the exact same thing I did just minutes ago. Tasting peach at so many stands and then walk back to the very first one because that was the best. Happily sharing my recipe using duck egg and sorrel with a farmer. I so love this place.

And then I come home. My husband is still sleeping. Doggies greet me with big smiles, and off we go for a walk. But it is the photos I took at the market that is on my mind. So when we are back I turn on my computer and get lost in Lightroom and the photos.

Hope you enjoy them!

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raisins
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fennel pollen
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heirloom carrot
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tiny carrot
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radish
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chanterelle
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white peach
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boysenberries
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chamomille
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lemon verbena
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ramp

Morel and mascarpone omelette

Mushrooms were always taken for granted in my childhood. I lived in a small village and my father loved foraging. Although that time you didn’t really have to go to the forest for produce. We had everything at home in our vegetable garden which was really big. Taking center point a big walnut tree with my all-time favorite autumn welcoming green walnuts.

So my father went off for long searches for mushrooms. Seriously if you ask me about the most memorable thing from my childhood, I would say pickled mushrooms. I actually started not liking this whole mushroom thing because there was way too much of it. And it meant I had to help. Yes, your feeling is right. I was not the kitchen fairy when I was a kid. I was so not interested. I had more important things to do. Like taking dogs home from the street. Luckily our village was small. With not many stray dogs. But still, there were a few….

So back to the mushrooms. As I said in my childhood mushrooms were given. Plenty. Free. Not like today. They cost a lot. Especially morels. So when I buy them I make them special. Making sure to highlight them in a dish, and not to overcook and not to hide their taste and beauty.

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A really good way to use morels is in a rich, decadent omelette with herbs and serve it with some green leaves and a simple lemon vinaigrette.  I used micro herbs, arugula leaves and blossoms but you can have any kind of salad leaves. This omelette will be rich and creamy so you will definitely need a salad with vinaigrette.

When I went to culinary school omelette had a real importance to it. Being able to make a really good omelette will show your skill, understanding of technique and essentially will tell people that you are a good cook. I personally don’t think it is a difficult thing to make right but you definitely have to know what a good omelette looks like so you know what you are going to need to achieve. Omelette is not a scrambled egg or a frittata. You are not stirring it in the pan or baking it in the oven. It is a quick process, only a few minutes and you will have to end up with a bit of crust outside, wobbly center.

For a detailed technique and pictures visit this site, I think it will help in case you have problems.     http://www.incredibleegg.org/cooking-school/egg-cookery/make-an-omelet

I took this close up shot of my omelette so you have the feeling what is should look like.

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Ingredients

  • about 1/4 cup of whole tiny morels or chopped big one (you can substitute with other, strong, woody mushroom)
  • 2T butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1T mascarpone
  • 1/2T mixed chopped parsley and chives
  • salt, ground pepper

Instruction

  1. In a bowl blend eggs, mascarpone and herbs thoroughly with a fork and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 1T butter in a 6 inch pan. Once butter starts coloring add cleaned, dried morels.
  3. Sautee morels for a minute and when it is done season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour morels with the butter into a small bowl, ready to use.
  5. Put pan back on stove with the other tablespoon of butter.
  6. When butter stops sizzling slowly pour egg-mascarpone mix  into the center of the pan.
  7. Tilt the pan to spread the egg mixture evenly. Let eggs firm up a little and then gently direct the mixture away from the from the middle, making space with a spatula at the edges and to flow to the space on the edges.
  8. After this point let it cook and when you see the surface is 90% cooked, add filling and fold omelette very quickly.
  9. Slide omelette onto a plate.
  10. Serve it with a fresh green salad and lemon vinaigrette.

For advice on vinaigrette visit my previous post:  https://bornunderthesun.com/2016/05/11/215/

Why did I use micro greens and herbs?

For their look and nutrients. Microgreens are young seedling of vegetables and herbs and they come in all colors and shapes depending on the vegetable/herb and they are richer in nutrients than their “parents”.

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Strawberry tiramisu

 

It is strawberry and rhubarb season so I am sure everybody is making a dessert at some point using these fruits. Before getting into the delicious part let me remind you of something.

Always buy organic strawberries! Strawberry is on top of the list of fruits with pesticide residue. Considering how small a strawberry and how many you can eat of them, it would mean way too much pesticide for your body… Just saying.

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My kind of dessert is layered, has cream and fruit or meringue and caramel or cream and fruit, oh wait, I already said that…

Strawberry is perfect with cream. I remember when we lived in England, for the first year I never stopped eating scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. That clotted cream is the best creamy thing ever. Unfortunately I had to realize that my body is not responding really well for all that cream, sugar and carbs so had to really seriously cut back on it.

Strawberry is a great choice with any creamy dessert. The rhubarb helps to bring some tartness to the sweet, brightening it up a little bit. If you don’t use rhubarb you will need to add more lemon juice to the syrup.

Strawberry tiramisu is your easy late spring-early summer foolproof fruity dessert. To end your barbecue on a sweet, high note, or have it with friends over a cup of capuccino or  with your family for a  Sunday lunch.

You can simply add a layer of chopped strawberries in the traditional tiramisu. It does work, I tried it. However in this case I changed it a little bit and made it into a more fruity dessert.

The components are :

  • ladyfingers soaked in
  • strawberry-rhubarb-Limoncello syrup
  • fresh strawberries
  • mascarpone cream

 

Start cooking chopped strawberries, rhubarb, sugar in lemon juice and water. I also added lemon verbena I got at the market over the weekend. It helps to accentuate lemon taste in a different way than lemon zest.

DSC_4470Make sure to cook it on low heat and have enough water in there. When the fruit reaches mushy texture, you are ready. Turn off the heat and let it soak for 10 minutes if you have time. Strain the liquid, press on the fruit to get the last drop of nectar. At this point you can add Limoncello as much as you want, if there will be no kids eating the dessert.

 

While the syrup was cooking you can make your mascarpone cream using egg  yolks, sugar, vanilla, mascarpone and whipped cream.

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Finally start layering the tiramisu. Soaked ladyfingers in the bottom, top with mascarpone cream, then 2 layers of chopped strawberries ( I put only one, and it is so not enough….), mascarpone cream again, soaked ladyfingers and finish off with the mascarpone cream.

 

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If you feel that you miss the bitterness and cocoa from the original tiramisu (just like me), grate some very good quality dark, bitter chocolate on top. If you are happy with the taste of summer, cream, fruit, sweet then you can finish with fresh strawberries and mint leaves on top. Either way, it will be delicious.

 

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