Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ode to Buttermilk

So when my sisters and I were little I remember my mom making a big jar of ranch dressing with buttermilk. Man, I loved salads growing up and that was probably in part to the dressing. I remember making buttermilk pancakes when I was little as well but couldn't exactly tell you whether I loved them or not because I can't quite remember. Well, I have a knew vigor for the love of buttermilk, especially this week.

I have early mornings where I literally through on my workout clothes and leave the house at 5:30am with my bags packed the night before for my day. Due to he slight rush in the morning I like to have breakfast and lunch prepared and ready to grab on the way out the door. I also am trying to watch what I eat and incorporate more protein into my diet which can be limiting when you are a vegetarian who solely eats eggs and fish for protein. Well my CSA basket came in and among the contents were leeks. I immediately think of leek and potato soup and was going to make that for lunch when an idea struck me. I could make mushroom and leek frittatas ahead of time and take them for breakfast. Healthy, full of protein, and very convenient. After looking through a gaggle of recipes I noticed a few mentioned using buttermilk instead of heavy cream with all of those fatty calories. Buttermilk is surprisingly healthier and still has a great flavor to add to the complexity of the dish. Man oh man where those little frittatas great tasting and I got so many comments on, "what smells so good" "where can I buy some of those" "oh my gosh, do you have any extra? Needless to say, I am adding those little suckers to my standby recipes.

The weather has become cold, finally, with the exception that it is suppose to be 78 degrees this weekend at the beach (ah, Southern California), but while it was cold this week I took advantage and made some soup. Cauliflower soup. Simple. Easy. Delicous. Healthy. I basically took a box of veggie stock, good quality is the key, one head of cauliflower, 1/2 cup of , you guessed it, buttermilk, and salt and pepper to taste. If I hadn't promised my sister I would save her some I would have had the entire batch of soup. This was off the scale good. And just that hit of buttermilk added again to the complexity and flavorings of the soup. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese and serve piping hot.

So what to do with my leftover buttermilk, as there was still some left. Certainly not just drink it from the carton (Dad). So while at Costco this week with my sister I found a cookbook that had my hooked from page 1 and I had to buy it despite trying to pair down on my books. My sister said if I did not buy the book she would. It is called "Heart of the Artichoke" by David Tanis who also wrote "A Platter of Figs" and is one of the full-time chefs at Chez Panisse. What was that first recipe? Jalapeño Pancakes made with none other than buttermilk. Continuing my love for spicy food and of course utilizing my leftover buttermilk I decided this morning to make those pancakes. I must say I made them with serrano chilies because I had those on hand and I like to kick it up a notch. O...M....G... they were out of this world good. I could have eaten the entire batch but decided to share and had my brother-in-law and his brother try them out. We were all in agreement that this was a repeat recipe. We are thinking that next time we will top it with Mexican Sour Cream (also made with buttermilk) and perhaps some scallions.

As an aside, I highly recommend this cookbook. Not only are the pictures vivid and the recipes packed with flavor, but his stories and the way he expresses his food stumblings is captivating and invited you to read on and on. Here is just a little taste of the recipes he has to offer...

(sorry, I wish I had taken more pictures)

Jalapeño Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup all -purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1%)

1 egg, beaten

1 Tbsp melted butter or olive oil (if you have to chose between butter or oil, go with butter)

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion or scallion (next time I will add more for a little more texture)

1 or 2 jalapeno chilies, sliced thin (if you like hot go with serranos, 2-3)

1/2 tsp toasted coarsely ground cumin (I used toasted cumin seeds)

Directions:
Mix up the batter, and stir in the onion, jalapenos, and cumin. Heat up the griddle, and make your pancakes. (I might have devoured one before it could even hit the plate.)

Happy cooking....now go buy yourself some buttermilk!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lent in November

Okay, so Lent isn't officially going on but I am deciding to do a Lent-type project for the month of November. Why, you ask. Here is a prime example of why. Last Wednesday someone in my spin class brought muffins and really wanted us to take one. I tried to slip out without it but was caught. Fine, one muffin never killed anyone. Well an hour later and the same thing in my Italian class. Two muffins! But wait, that is not it. I get to work and a lady I work with just found out she is having a baby granddaughter and so made pink cupcakes for us all. Seriously?! Two muffins and a cupcake. I took the cupcake and when no one was looking I through it out. I was not about to pump that much sugar and calories into my body. Since when did a simple "no thank you" to muffins or other food offerings become an insult? But that is a topic for another blog post.

So do you see where I am going with this? My brother-in-law likes to call this time of year "Eating Season" and unfortunately that is what it seems to have turned into. There are candies and sugary things everywhere I turn and I want a strong and polite way to say no, hence Lent in November.

I propose a challenge of no sugary things, open for your own interpretation as I am still planning on eating fruit, until Thanksgiving where you can celebrate with a slice of homemade pumpkin pie. And really, is not eating sugar for 20 some odd days really going to kill you? The answer is no. And after a while you might just stop craving that white devil.

Day 1 begins today!