I’m not doing great at keeping to my schedule. Last night I ate some expired salad dressing that may have gone off and some shrimp that might not have been fresh and spent the evening in a state of discomfort, trying to focus on The Voice and also complaining a lot about my bad stomach feelings. I did not have an enthusiasm-filled day today.
So, to compensate, I’d like to tell you about two books from two bloggers I love and think you’ll love too.
The first one is Hunt, Gather, Cook, by Hank Shaw.
Hank Shaw is so cool. He hunts, forages, fishes, cooks, and writes about it, which is basically everything I look for in a marriage partner. I like to live with someone who will bring me wild meat every so often, and who keeps me in fish all summer. Who doesn’t, though … right?
I was excited about Hank’s book because I knew it would contain recipes we would use. He’s got recipes for big game, like deer and moose, and for ducks and geese (which we get on occasion), and fish (though I had hoped there would be more on trout) and crabs, and since he’s from the west coast, a lot of what he talks about is relevant to our proteins of choice/availability. He writes about fruit and flower wine-making, meat curing and sausage making, and his chapters on foraging are the stuff of aspirations, at least for me. I long to trudge through the woods to find nettles and fiddleheads, which Nick calls “hiking” (and I don’t care for it).
You can read Hank’s blog at Hunter Angler Gardner Cook and if you haven’t already been reading his posts, you should definitely start, especially if you are interested in sustainable diets and interesting recipes for wild meats and vegetation. He was profiled in Field & Stream, which I think proves he’s legit. I’ve never read Field & Stream, but I assume it is to outdoorsy people as Bon Appetit is to indoorsy people. Gospel.
When we first started smoking fish, we turned to Hank Shaw first and he did not let us down. And what’s helpful about Hank’s blog is that when I need to learn how to do something, like butterfly a fish, the instructions are probably there. He’s like a really helpful friend you can call up anytime you have a weird question about animal parts. If only my IRL friends could do what Hank does for me.
The following recipe is from his section on wild greens, and the time is right to make this dish. If you have nettles nearby, grab some gloves, pick some weeds, and turn them into a creamy, extremely iron- and Vitamin C-rich risotto for dinner this week.
- 1 cup blanched nettles (about six handfuls of raw nettles boiled for three minutes)
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup Arborio rice (I use half rice and half pearl barley)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken, vegetable or beef stock
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
Once your greens are blanched and cool, drain them and roll them into a tea towel and squeeze out any excess water. Chop them as finely as you can.
Heat stock to a gentle simmer.
In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, melt two tablespoons of the butter. Once the butter is melted and has stopped frothing, add shallot, garlic, and rice, stirring for a minute or so until rice begins to look opaque and is nicely coated in fat.
Stir one cup of stock into the rice with the salt. Stir frequently, and when the first cup of stock has been absorbed by the rice, add the second cup. Repeat the waiting and stirring.
When it comes time to add the next round of stock, add your greens as well, this time with about a half a cup of stock. Your stirring should be more frequent now. Keep adding water in half-cup amounts until your rice is al dente and has reached the consistency you prefer. I always use all four cups, as I like my risotto loose.
Add the cheese and the last bit of butter. Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately.
The next blogger I’d like to tell you about is Alana Chernila of Eating from the Ground Up. I’ve been reading her blog since almost the beginning, marveling at how lovely her life seems out there in the Berkshires, wherever that is (I assume it’s like Narnia and I have to find a secret passageway to get there). Her book, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making has improved my life in simple, wonderful ways. I don’t buy ricotta anymore. There’s no need.
The best thing in this book might be the recipe for homemade instant oatmeal – ween yourself off that terrible-for-you sugary packet-stuff and start making instant oatmeal with rolled oats from your pantry – there’s a bonus recipe for homemade brown sugar, if you need it. This has been a life-saver for me with Toddler, who eats too much sugary crap but who can be tricked with better-quality stuff if you catch him before he’s formed a habit for the store-bought version. I’ve made it with Porridge Oats, which comes with bran and flaxseed in it, and it works just as well.
The recipe I’ve made over and over is her recipe for ricotta, which, if you leave it long enough, becomes paneer. A batch of ricotta is cheaper than the stuff you buy in plastic tubs from the supermarket, and it’s infinitely better and much more impressive when you serve it to friends. The recipe makes about a cup and a half, but I usually double it because why not.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Sea salt to taste
Add the milk, lemon juice and cream to a cold pot (with a heavy bottom) off the heat, and stir for a few seconds.
Affix a candy thermometer to the side of your pot, and warm the pot over low heat. You want to warm the milk mixture to 175°F, which at this low temperature should take somewhere around 45 minutes. After 30 minutes, be vigilant about checking. Stir a couple of times, here and there, as you putter around doing other things.
When you reach 175°F, turn the heat up to medium-high. Do not stir. Watch your pot, and wait for it to get to 205°F. Should take three to five minutes. Don’t let it boil.
When you reach 205°F, take the pot off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth, and strain your mixture. Strain it over a bowl or something, as you will want to save the whey that’s left behind – it’s beautiful in homemade bread, and I’ve also used it in muffins and soups. Leave the cheese for another 10 minutes, then sprinkle with salt. Serve warm, as is, with toasted nuts and honey, or chill it for later use, or use it as an ingredient for something else altogether.