Thursday, September 18, 2014

Buttermilk Honey Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta

At Brigham Academy in Bakersfield (grades 4-8) we were served lunch on those swirly green melamine sectioned food trays. You know the ones?

Among the all the desserts offered, my least favorite was warm pudding.

The vanilla was bland, the butterscotch more sweet than anything else – and the chocolate…?

Not to malign the hardworking lunch ladies or chocolate in general, but after the one time I got one spoonful of acrid, burnt, squishy brownness I never ate pudding again.

Then, my soon-to-be husband introduced me to crème brulee. It’s his favorite dessert.  

Meh, how hard could it be to make?

I won’t bore you with that peanut butter/chocolate disaster – only to say that it was horrible enough to abandon all future attempts.

Cookies are much easier.  

Twenty-odd years later, I figured it was time to try again.

I began with a simple panna cotta.  No eggs! No baking! No smoke or flames!

I had the farm’s dairy products, local honey and fresh-picked yard apples.

What could go wrong?


The result was silky smooth, not overly rich - and a bonus – no pudding skin! (I am firmly against it.)

I dialed back the sweetness of the original recipe by half, and infused a small amount of honey instead. The vanilla flavor came forward and my first (ahem, second) try at panna cotta became a sophisticated treat.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta
 Buttermilk and Honey Panna Cotta
Adapted from Saveur magazine
Serves 6

1 ¼ Cups Heavy Cream
½ Vanilla Pod, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
3 TB Raw Honey

1 ½ tsp. Unflavored Gelatin
1 TB. Cold Water

1 ¾ Cups Buttermilk, with the chill off

6 - ½ cup ramekins (canning jars, wine glasses, small cups)

Place cream and vanilla in a saucepan.  Heat on low for 3-5 minutes – until simmering.  Turn off the burner.

Stir in honey until dissolved, cover pan for an hour to steep.

Soften gelatin in 1TB cold water for about 5 minutes.

Reheat cream to the simmer, turn off the heat.

Remove vanilla pod.

Add gelatin and stir until dissolved.

Slowly stir in buttermilk.

Divide into ramekins.  Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First dish: Stuffed Peppers!

Stuffed Peppers
The first cook in the new pizza oven!  

Fresh peppers stuffed with homemade chili, topped with Willow Hill Farm Butternut cheese, some mozzarella and local heirloom tomatoes.  Baked until peppers went wrinkly (this took about an hour and a half next to the coals, turning the pan every 20 minutes or so).

Life on the farm 082814: What does the fox say?

The finished wood-fired pizza oven!
Yesterday my husband Dan asked, “Do you even know how to make a fire??”

Me: “I’ve been making fire since before we even met.”

True enough, we had a wood-fired furnace on the first floor of the house I grew up in, underneath the bedroom my sister and I shared.

It was the only heat source in that part of the house, which once served as post office for the town of Bakersfield, later as a consignment shop, and after that as an apartment for my Dad’s mom.

Last night I stayed up all night, keeping a fire burning inside of the wood-fired pizza oven in order to cure it.
Day One, 300f
The entire process takes seven days, increasing the temperature every 24 hours.

About 1 a.m. I went out to stoke it.

I noted the new solar lights that line the path were not working (bummer)

Threw a couple sticks of hardwood on the coals.


That came from under the fir tree four feet away. Not alarming, and oddly familiar.


This time it sounded from under the oven, near my ankles.

 Have a listen. (You will probably have to cut and paste, the link doesn't work for me.)

I ran back to the house– and if you know me at all -with the ticky knee, broken footitis, and general clumsiness – my version of running is – hilarious - if my husband is describing it.

Safely inside, a cat threw up somewhere in the dark.

Just perfect.

I took a look at the solar fairy lights at sunup and discovered: the on-off switch.

Not going outside in the dark, ever again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Gnocchi with smoked tomatoes, cheese and onions
First of all: Wow!

Pillowy gnocchi, Doe's Leap pancetta, Half Pint tomatoes, onions, Willow Hill Farm Butternut cheese - all local.  And all gone.

I realized after eating this that the dumplings didn't show up in the photos, but whatever.  I ate it.  Yumm!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Navajo Fry Bread, Gluten-free!

Fry Bread, Gluten-Free
During these blissfully cooler days, I make time to listen to the breezes sifting through the trees and rifle the cookbooks I received at Christmastime, which are still stacked under a plastic LED tree that I turn on now and then, because the twinkle lights make me happy.

I’ll read them all eventually, marking pages of interest, and file them in my office by subject – from left to right:

Cooking Techniques, Vermont, Grilling, Cheese, International - and nearest the window bathed in the light dancing through the trees, everything Julia Child.

It was on one of these indulgences that I discovered a simple recipe for Navajo “tacos”– which only required a pantry raid, resting period, and five minutes of frying.

I converted it to gluten-free using King Arthur multi-purpose blend.


It worked.  (Swapping out with GF can sometimes be a coin-toss.)
Look at how light and airy they are!
I used a tortilla press to make the flatbreads, but a heavy pan on the countertop will smush out a thin round just as easily.

How about the flavor?  This particular flour mix is made from rice and potato flours, which (in this recipe) tasted like a cross between potato chips and a fried-rice take-away.

The tacos were crisp right out of the oil but with fillings became pliable and did not break.

I used them to scoop up a hearty stew. Much better than anything else I can think of from a store.

Oh, and they can be reheated in the microwave, but will become very chewy.

Navajo Tacos
Navajo Fry Bread
Adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse
Makes 6 breads

1 cup Flour (I used King Arthur Multi-purpose Gluten-free)
½ TB Baking Powder
¼ tsp. Salt
½ TB Peanut Oil, plus more for frying
½ cup Warm Water

Whisk dry ingredients together

Stir in ½ TB oil and enough water to create workable dough. 

Shape into a ball, wrap well in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Divide into 6 smaller balls. 

Cover a 7-inch area on the counter with plastic wrap or waxed paper.  Cover each ball with additional wrap. and press thin using a flat-bottomed pan.

Repeat, and set the stack of layered disks aside.

Heat enough oil over medium heat to come up at least ¼ inch in your pan.  Heat to 360f (about medium). 

Test a small piece of dough. If it immediately puffs and browns you are ready to go.

Carefully peel the plastic from the top of one flatbread, and turn into your other hand.  Peel the remaining plastic away.
Puffy Taco Underway
Slip the disk under the oil.  It should and brown and bubble right away.  Fry for about a minute each side.

Drain on paper towels.

Repeat until all are cooked.

These may be served immediately or refrigerated once cooled.