Great links!
I know, I know.  My recipe posts have been a tad thin for the last two weeks or so.  Truth is I've been cheating on you a bit, working with a few incredible food media cohorts.

I just wrapped an article for the upcoming winter issue of the gorgeous Green Door Magazine.  Green Door is a relatively new magazine published in the Hudson Valley, NY, but with charming rural/urban interest pieces that are a total joy regardless of your locale.  It "espouses the benefits of country living in a socially conscious society, while retaining an attachment to the realities of urban life. It is ‘a journal of comfortable living,’ as the magazine profiles artists, residences, food, wine, local farms, events and the evolution of transplanted city-dwellers." A pitchfork diary indeed.

Keep an eye out for upcoming issues, or subscribe, or follow them on facebook or their blog.


I also had the great honor of getting to be a panelist at my alma matter in Steven Shaw's outstanding food blogging course.  I took the course myself a year and a half ago, and well, the rest is history.

Most enjoyable was the chance to meet a bunch of new food bloggers, many of whom are just starting out with their first posts in this course.  Sharp and creative, with lots of super innovative ideas and delicious recipes, it was such a pleasure to hear their thoughts and see what they are working on and ideas they are working out.

With many of the blogs I look at, I love to go back in the archives and see their very first few posts and photos and get a sense of where it all started.  Here are the blogs from this group of new bloggers, all with great things to offer.  Catch 'em from the start.

Ingredient Studio

Frankie Cooks

Sweet Tea and Taters

The Traveling Gourmand

Amusing My Bouche

Nibbling Gypsy

NY Paladar

Eating in Your Underwear

High Self of Steam

Sweet Kitchen

Crumberry Bake Shop

Fun Fearless Foodie

Give the gift of cooking.
Here are a few of my favorite cookbooks ever.  And more than that, they are also my favorite cookbooks to give as gifts.  Each are beautiful to just read and admire the artwork and photos, but also offer unique information, recipes, instruction or skills, that sets them apart from the dozens and dozens and dozens I have on my shelves.

Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best, by Darina Allen.  Head of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork, Ireland, Allen, with completely charming text and gorgeous photos, walks you through a multitude of "wait, I can do that at home?!?" culinary projects in more than 700 recipes.  From how to make butter, pluck a chicken, cure bacon, or whip up homemade limoncello, this book has not left my bedside since I first received it and is by far one of my very favorite finds ever.  Perfect for so many, from locavore homesteader to DIY hipster to grandma, and everyone in between.

Stir by Barbara Lunch.  A stunning book from James Beard-award winning, Boston chef Barbara Lynch.  Just flipping through this book in the store made me go directly to the market to find ingredients just to experiment with.  Both incredibly inspirational and accessible, this collection of recipes are a total pleasure to read, but also ones that will have you cooking again and again.

Inspired by Ingredients, by Bill Telepan.  One of my favorite books for years now, by one of my favorite chefs, and school lunch champion, in New York.  Set up by seasons and menus, this book is a beautiful locavore cooking class, highlighting the best the markets, or our gardens, have to offer at that place and time.  I'm drooling thinking of the beet greens pierogi, pea pancakes, and lavender crepes with blueberries.  Also, the introduction is so thoughtfully written and full of incredible culinary wisdom, that it was the first time I had considered writing a food fan letter, when I read it 5 years ago.  I had the honor of getting to work with Bill later on, so got thank him in person instead.

The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.  Containing an unimaginable amount of work and research, this ingredient dictionary of sorts, catalogues almost any food or flavor you can think of, with a long list of flavors and ingredients that it naturally pairs with.  I picked this book up while in culinary school, as I was starting to develop my own recipes, but wish I had had it years earlier, for those evenings of excavating the fridge, and the "now how am I going to make dinner out of this?" moments.  It also lays out the flavor and spice profiles of most international cuisines.  FYI cauliflower has a natural affinity for achovies, apple, bread crumbs, brown butter, capers, cardamom, cheese (emmental, goat, gruyere), chile peppers, chives, cream, currants, dill, leeks, lemon, mint, mussels, dijon mustard, nutmeg, olives, orange, pine nuts, poppy seeds, saffron, scallops, white truffles, watercress and yogurt.

The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine, from the French Culinary Institute. This 496 page gorgeous resource, from one of the top professional culinary schools in the country, is an excellent choice for a any cook who wants to expand their knowledge of basic culinary techniques.  From stocks, to pastry dough, to braising and filleting, all the fundamental building blocks are broken down in incredibly thorough description and photographs.  I received my chef degree from the FCI, and return to this book all the time, as it is step by step, exactly what we learned, from recipes to plating, in the first of six levels of the professional program.  Filled with accessible recipes, and teaching technique along the way, it offers guidance, recipes and instruction from our legendary culinary deans Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner, and Alain Sailhac.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois.  This book is currently covered in flour and has not been returned to my bookshelf since it arrived.  I love bread baking, and bread bakers, and have taken some incredibly inspiring classes full of slow rising and yeasty starters.  However, as life grows increasingly more complicated, I just couldn't find a full day to devote to kneading, rising and punching down as frequently as I craved to.  A super talented friend brought a crusty-chewy loaf of magic to a dinner party and my bread days were changed.  This book offers a new bread method, with a short cut that allows you to have fresh, crusty, artisan bread any day of the week with about an hour's notice and no schmancy skill needed.  I have given this book as a gift more than any other this year, and it has made dinner time very warm and happy at my house.

Bonus round!

Last fall was complete chaos in our home.  I was in the final weeks of getting my culinary degree, worrying more about my impending final exam than I had about anything else in my life to date, and was growing very weary of my year-long commute to the city, away from home and husband, for 5 nights a week.  Every other detail seemed to go out with the compost.

So it didn't surprise us much when a few months later, after a few good snowfalls, we both looked at each other and realized we had never harvested our second planting of our famed and favorite heirloom beets.  While not a huge amount, there was about a bed and a half of beets still in the garden, now frozen solid to the ground.  We treasure them, and were disappointed, and felt stupid and wasteful.

Fast forward to yesterday's magnificent first kiss of spring weather.  All I wanted to do was be outside, digging in something.  I walked through one of our gardens, with the ground now visible for the first time in many months---and low and behold, there were tiny sprouts of beet greens peeking up from a variety of leafy debris.  Further investigation, and a few dirty fingernails later, I discovered beets!  A lot of beets!

Our small second crop of golden, bull's blood, detroit dark red, and chioggia beets had successfully overwintered.  Protected enough somehow by the mulch on top of the beds, and apparently benefiting from some very extended root systems, these beauties made it though, and managed to do so well enough that they now had the energy to start sprouting leaves again.  Remarkable.  And fresh beets for dinner in March.

Homemade Fresh Ricotta

Lately we have been getting the most wonderful fresh milk from Dirie's Farm, a small family-owned dairy farm near us.  The milk has a whole melody of flavor, that clearly illustrates what people are talking about when they refer to the terroir in wine.  You can taste this area.  You can taste the differences in the seasons, and the grassy fields and hay on which these cows are feeding.

A few months ago I had an impromptu lunch out by myself (I mean, with my date, New York Magazine) at Veloce Pizzeria in the East Village of NYC.  They have a divine ricotta crostini "spuntini" (Italian snacks).  Superb rich ricotta slathered on crusty toasted bread with fresh black pepper.  Heaven.

So craving that, this week's farm milk became glorious ricotta.  It's easy, easy, easy.  There are many recipes out there, using several different acidifying agents (vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, and citric acid).  I learned this from my culinary school, and Ricki the Cheese Queen, both using the exact same method with citric acid, so I'll stick with that.  Citric Acid is pretty widely available.  It is often called for in canning tomatoes.  I have seen it in my grocery store near canning supplies or products like Fruit Fresh.  But you can also easily get it here, from the wonderful New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.


Makes about 2 cups

2 Liters whole milk

1/2 tsp citric acid

1/2 tsp salt (if you can get it, use cheese salt)

Combine milk, citric acid, and salt in a non-reactive pot (heavy bottomed if available), over medium-high heat.  Stirring gently, making sure nothing is sticking or burning on the bottom, heat to just under a boil, to 195° F.  At that point turn off the heat and let the milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Line a colander, over a large bowl (the whey that drains off can be used in place of buttermilk), with several layers of cheesecloth or a clean dish towel or floursack.  After the 10 minutes, gently ladle the ricotta milk into the colander.  Let drain for a few minutes, then carefully tie opposite corners of the cloth to made a bundle.  Let ricotta continue to drain in colander, over the bowl, in the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour to overnight.  If too thick for desired use, can be thinned with a little cream.  Season with more salt to taste.  Will keep for several days in refrigerator.

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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