I have a problem. I don’t know if it’s treatable, or if it’s just one of those lifelong maladies. When I am at a function — bar mitzvah, wedding, food blogger’s cocktail hour — I lose all sense of control and eat until I’m food-drunk. Literally, intoxicated. We once went to the Phantom Gourmet block party, and a few hours in, Rich found me stumbling around Landsdowne Street, Zeppy’s bagel in my left hand, and a chunk of chocolate in my right. I still don’t remember how we got home.
This is all by way of explaining why I have no pictures to show you from Beyond Bubbe’s Kitchen on Sunday night. Oh, I brought my camera, and even the tripod. But how can I take photos of food AND eat it at the same time?
Words will have to suffice. First, there was moist brisket, crowned with onion confit and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, cooked by Julio de Haro of Estragon. But I had to hustle, because rumor was Erwin Ramos from Ole! was about to run out of chocolate tamales! (Not to worry, they brought strawberry tamales as a back-up — vanilla custard sauce, people!) I may have had more than one bowlful of Tony Maws’ from Craigie on Main’s kasha varnishkes with homemade pasta and duck confit. Have I mentioned Michael Leviton of Lumiere‘s sweet, yet savory, Purim-inspired poppy seed “Oreo” cookies with poppy seed filling, which were served with a Bourbon-spiked milkshake? No? Oops, because I had three.
Somehow, I managed to stay lucid enough to meet Jewish cookbook writer extraordinaire Joan Nathan. But a funny thing happens to me when I am around certain cookbook authors. They are my version of rock stars, so I get really nervous, a bit giddy, and start talking really fast. Honestly, put me in a room with any of this year’s Oscar nominees, I’d be as cool as a bourbon-spiked milk shake, but put me near a cookbook author who has a section in my cookbook collection, and I’m a puddle. God help me if I’m ever near Mollie Katzen or Deborah Madison. This fall I met Mark Bittman, and I’m still not 100% sure what I babbled at him.
The recipes I have here, homemade ricotta and pickled beet salad, are from Jeremy Sewall of the Eastern Standard — sort of. His recipes were a bit sparse — Hemingwayesque, really — so I’ve added more detailed directions. Also, I couldn’t help but modify the beets for my favorite kitchen companion, the pressure cooker.
1 gallon whole milk
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon salt
A large pot
Thermometer (not necessary, but helpful)
Cheesecloth — The regular grocery store on the corner sells this, I promise. If you can’t find it, just ask.
Place milk and salt in the large pot, and bring to a slow simmer, making sure it doesn’t boil or scald. It should take about 45 minutes. Every so often, stir the milk, from the bottom, with the wooden spoon, to ensure the milk doesn’t brown and get stuck to the pot. (I speak from experience.)
While the milk is heating, line the colander, which should be sitting in your sink, with a double layer of cheesecloth.
When the milk reaches 175 degrees ( a gentle simmer) add the fresh lemon juice, and stir gently with your wooden spoon. Then, the most magical thing happens: curds and whey begin to separate in the pot. This should take no more than 10 minutes.
Next, take your pot over to your colander and spoon the curds and whey into the awaiting cheesecloth. Do not pour it, as that will destroy the delicate curds. Gently fold up the corners of the cheesecloth, and tie them up with the twine. DO NOT SQUEEZE. If possible, hang the cheesecloth above the pot as the whey drains.
In two hours, cut the twine, open up the cheesecloth, and gaze at your homemade, pillowy clouds of fresh ricotta.
Quick Pickled Beets
1 large beet, peeled, washed, stem and root removed.
(I had two small beets in my fridge, just hanging out — it is Cheap Beets — so I used those.)
Equal parts sherry vinegar and water, to one-half part sugar.
(Again, I wandered away from the directions. I used about a cup of water, 3/4 cups red wine vinegar, and a half-cup sugar.)
Preheat oven to 375
Place all ingredients in a small pan that is large enough to hold the whole beet. Cover with foil and braise in oven until you can pierce through the beet with a paring knife; it should take between 60 – 80 minutes.
(I used my pressure cooker, placing all ingredients in the pot and cooking for about 20 minutes. It was perfect.)
Sewall serves his salad with segments of a blood orange. I did not have any on hand, but if you do, I am sure it would taste delicious.