The Cheese or Charcuterie Board

Winter months give me the opportunity to preserve fall fruits.  My native state, Colorado, specifically, the Western Slope, produces, I think, the best apples.  Harvested in the fall, apples stay, wrapped in newspaper, fresh when stored in a dark, cool place about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (104 C).  I make four products from a nice bushel of those apples (other than Waldorf salad), 1) minced meat; 2) Fig Apple jam, 3) Fig Orange Jam, and Cranberry Apple Orange Spice (a.k.a. CAOS, as previously blogged). I tell you this, because the CAOS makes a splendid cranberry condiment (or is it a salad?) accompaniment to the Thanksgiving or Spring harvest turkey meal.  The fig apple and fig orange jams make the perfect pairings for a cheese or Charcuterie boards.

For this blog, I choose to call it “The Spread”, since one offers it to those at table as a “spread.”  Now, I do not doubt that you have not heard of the Cheese or Charcuterie Board.  I find them in many forms at restaurants, cafés, and bistros.  The hands that prepare “The Spread” takes what ever creative license they choose.  The mainstay of my Charcuterie Board, of course is cheeses and meats.  For the meats, I look for Italian salamis, Spanish chorizos (not to be confused with Mexican chorizo, which has the consistency of ground meat stuffed into a casing).  There is a pit smoked summer sausage that I use when available.  Occasionally, I use ham salad (as shown in the featured image).

The cheeses offer another avenue for creativity.  I like to fry Canela cheese.  Its texture squeaks against your teeth, and the browned parts give the cheese another level of texture and add a smoky flavor.  I love Brie in any form. Manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk with a firm and buttery texture and flavor.  Goat cheese goes well with honey and/or jams.  Boursin cheese is another I like to put on the Spread.  I like to make Boursin cheese from yogurt.  Here’s how:

  • I carton (32 ounces/907g) plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • Herbs to taste (I like to use a blend of dried basil, sun dried tomatoes, oregano, garlic granules, salt, and pepper)
  • Mix herbs, salt, and pepper in yogurt.
  • Pour all into a cheese cloth lined bowl.
  • Wrap and twist the top.  Bind with a clean rubber band or twist tie to make a bag.
  • Find a way to hang the cheese cloth bag (with yogurt mixture inside) over a container to catch the whey as it drips away.  I hang mine at room temperature during winter and hang it in the refrigerator in the summer months.  It takes a bit longer in the fridge.
  • Once you have a firm ball of cheese (think cream cheese or marscapone), then you have your very own homemade Boursin cheese at a quarter of the price!
  • Place the cheese ball in a ceramic bowl.  Serve with crackers or crostini.

Boursin

Other things to add to “The Spread”:

  • Toasted breads
  • Crackers
  • Nuts
  • Fruits (Grapes and apple appear to be my favorites
  • Pickles (I like to pickle okra, cucumbers, and pears)
  • Jams (This is where my Fig-apple and Fig-orange jams make their appearances!)
  • Honey
  • Olives
  • Be creative!

One of my all-time favorite “Spreads” was a time that my friend, Lynn, and I spent the afternoon basking in the shade on a sunny day while sitting in her make-shift wading pool (a galvanized steel stock tank used to provide water to livestock grazing in a field).  Before plunging into the water, we prepared a lovely spread of cheeses, meats, blue cornmeal muffins, sour cream, caviar, hummus, carrot sticks, Caprese salad (chopped), and gravlox. We paired the caviar/sour cream topped corn muffins with vodka served in chilled glasses.  To stay hydrated, we filled glasses with ginger all and limes.  We spent a lovely afternoon watching hummingbird moths gorge on the nectar of petunias.  Here’s our spread:

Snacks by the pool stock tank

Do you see what I mean when I speak of creativity?  On another occasion, my friend, Donna, and I offered plates of inspired canapés, to guests, which I think would go well on a cheese board.  We took grape tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and basil leaves all skewered onto toothpicks.  We dipped them in my homemade pesto.  On another dish, Donna took thinly sliced Spanish chorizo topped with shaved Manchego.  These paired well with a rich Cabernet Sauvignon or a sparkling Cava.  (Really, I am no expert on pairings.  I just know what I like).  I baked baguettes to go with this.

Tapas

As I write this, I am sad that I did not take pictures of all the Cheese/Charcuterie boads that I’ve prepared in the past three months.  I did take pictures of some ordered in restaurants lately.

The first comes from a restaurant in Wichita, Kansas visited with friends Phil, Paula, and Lynn.  I ordered a burrata (delicious cream and curds surrounded by fresh Mozzarella).  I loved that they crushed pistachios on top of the burrata, and the figs added a rich and subtle sweetness.  It should have been shared, because this was too much for one person.  Take a look at this.

Sample cheese board for one

Finally, I had this little spread on Austin in a little river-side bistro.  Dale ordered avocado toast to accompany my cheese board.

Austin cheese board

The most important thing to remember about the Cheese/Charcuterie board – linger over it slowly with friends.  Remember that term, conviviality? Building your “Spreads” lends itself to building memories with friends and family.  Take time to smell the ingredients.  Aromas tend to connect strongly to memories.  Have fun with it, and be creative.  I leave you with another view of a recent cheese board.  We paired it with Manhattan cocktails.  That’s my crocheting hanging in the background.  Thank you for reading.

cheese board with manhattans

Four Nights of Salmon

About week ago, my co-worker, Mirta, told me her brother-in-law goes fishing in Canada.  Well, he gave her a halved salmon, which weighed about seven pounds (3.18 kg).  I wished I would have taken a picture of it.  Mirta told me that her attempts to cook any of the salmon provided by her brother-in-law have been disastrous!  Actually, her daughter told me that. So, I said, “Bring the salmon to me, and I will make dinner for you!” As you may imagine, seven pounds salmon provides more than one meal.

On the first night, I made salmon and pineapple, the featured image.  I should have taken the picture after it was baked!  I snapped this one just before baking. I does  not look as interesting.  My friend share this with me. Here’s the recipe:

1 pineapple cut into flat slices (or 1 can of pineapple rings)

Spread the pineapple on the bottom of a baking sheet.  Lay the salmon, skin side down,  on top of the pineapple.  Then mix the topping.

Combine in a bowl:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons (45mL) sweet chili sauce
  • 1 small handful of chopped cilantro
  • 3 -4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 teaspoons (15 mL) sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) piri-piri style spice (Pequin chilies, Spanish paprika, salt, lemon peel, and Greek oregano)

Mix well and spread on salmon.  Bake at 375 degrees (190.6 Celsius) until salmon begins to become opaque and shows a little whitish “ooze”.  It also begins to flake a bit.  Before I put the salmon on the table, I toss toasted, crushed sesame seeds and copped green onions.

Mirta, her daughter and two friends joined us for this meal.  I served it with a Sauvignon Blanc, sauteed green beans, and brown rice with a Waldorf salad made with Colorado honey crisp apples. We ate only one quarter of the salmon, which meant three more nights of “left-overs.”

Second meal:

Salmon Fried Rice for Breakfast

The next morning, since we had the salmon and the rice, we make breakfast friend rice.

I love to use my wok, so this is the perfect time for it.

Sweat green onions and celery.  Add two eggs. Cook until eggs are finished.  I used the left-over green beans from the previous night and a few chunks of the pineapple. Add cubed carrots and peas. Add cooked rice.  (Ours is cooked in a rice cooker, which keeps it at the proper temperature for two days).  Add the Salmon.  Season with soy sauce and Siracha. Cook it all well.  Serve hot!

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The Third night: Salmon and Rice

My husband’s mother grew up on Hawai’i.  She and her family came to the Islands from the Azores.  One of Mama Mathilda’s favorite dishes was “salmon and rice” which she made from canned salmon. for this recipe, I used another chunk of the fresh salmon from two nights ago.

  • Saute onion, celery until translucent
  • Add one can of stewed tomatoes
  • Add 1/4 cup (59 mL) white wine

Cook until sauce has thickened.  Then add 16 ounces (0.453 kg) salmon.  Cook until the salmon is cooked through and the sauce is rather thick.  Serve over hot rice.

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On the fourth and final day of using Mirta’s salmon, my plan was to make salmon patties to be served with toasted sourdough bread and condiments.  However, after a long day at work, I got lazy and made salmon fried rice again!  I do not have the habit of preparing the same meal twice in a week, but we really like salmon fried rice!  Mostly, I followed my recipe, as previously outlined, but this time, I used the remaining roasted pineapple, which gave a wonderfully sweet and savory flavor.  We enjoyed this meal with sparkling water as our beverage.

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Even when the most horrid day at work happens, there remains the delights of creating something tasty for an evening meal.  It’s great therapy and good medicine!

My favorite cookbooks are those without measurements, like Pino Luongo’s There’s a Tuscan in the Kitchen.  He tells stories of the foods of his region in Italy.  He describes the history and the genealogy of the region, and outlines what you need to make these dishes.  Because he describes the emotions and the tastes, he leaves it to the reader to determine the measurements.  I’ve made some of my guests’ favorite dishes from that book.  As previously blogged, also I love Sean Sherman’s The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. It reminds me of my grandmothers’ cooking.  Experiment in your kitchen!

Thank you for reading.

Our Granddaughter, a Wonderfully, Gifted Soul!

When one thinks of an 11 year old female, one, often, does not think, “old soul.”  I find myself thinking that often, especially when she requested a weekend with “Grandma and Grandpa.”  “Can we have a, sort of, special Thanksgiving dinner with just the three of us?”  Of course I answered, “yes.”  It was the following  that surprised me.  I suppose I was thinking a traditional U. S. American Thanksgiving meal with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie!  So, I asked “Sammy” about her preferred menu.  “Let’s have grilled beef steak, fried potatoes and asparagus.  Also, I want root beer floats for dessert!”  That’s easy!

We just had one full Saturday with her, so we wanted to make it special.  We began the day with her requested breakfast of Honey Combs breakfast cereal.  I checked the ingredients.  Because of the name of the cereal, the consumer is led to believe that it has honey.  The product lists its ingredients as: corn flour, sugarwhole grain oat flour, modified cornstarchcorn syruphoneysalt, turmeric (color), wheat starch.  We were feeling indulgent, so we allowed her to have this allegedly healthy breakfast food.

After breakfast, we made our way to thrift stores (her old soul showing) and the mall (her pre-teen soul showing).  We followed that with lunch at an Asian themed fast food place having to do with a panda.  We knew we’d have a healthful dinner, so we moved forward.  Here she is by a colorful mural on a wall downtown. Getting both her face and that of the mural’s subject meant that I had to sacrifice a close-up.

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She actually tired of the activity, so we went home for a relatively quiet afternoon to prepare for our feast.

Menu:

Grilled Rib-eye Steaks

Fried potatoes (we mixed bintje and red gold potatoes, thinly sliced)

Buttered asparagus

Sparkling apple juice (instead of wine since the guest of honor is 11 years old)

Root Beer Floats

Grandpas purchased the steaks at a specialty meat shop.  He patted them dry and applied salt and pepper before landing them on the grill.

I sliced the potatoes (with skins) thinly and allowed them to sit in very hot water for 10 minutes.  I patted the tubers dry before adding them to hot sunflower oil.  Salt and pepper were applied along with a lid in order for the potatoes to steam for five to eight minutes.  I removed the lid after eight minutes to allow the potatoes to brown.  Once the potatoes began to brown, I added two pats of butter, which aided further in the even browning.  By the way, I fried the potatoes in a carbon steel wok, which aids in easy stirring.

The asparagus were simply steamed with added butter and salt toward the end of cooking time.

Here we are:

img_4242.jpg Here’s the happy menu planner, ready to tear into her special meal.

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Now, the root beer float has been a topic of discussion and debate.  Do you add the ice cream first or the root beer?  When you put the ice cream in the glass first, adding the root beer causes a great foaming!  Grandpa insisted that we pour the root beer in the tall glasses, first!  Then we added the ice cream.  It worked! No foaming!  Let me know your thoughts on this.  No matter, they were wonderfully creamy and delicious with the soda’s hint of allspice, ginger, sarsaparilla, dandelion root, and vanilla bean.   It foamed, but the foam never ran over the sides of the glass.  A great treat!

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By the way, the lovely dandelion, the featured image, was taken by Sammy while playing on her uncle’s farm.  She has a great eye for taking pictures.

Thank you for reading.

It’s Geography Awareness Week!

Every year, around the second or third week in November, National Geographic Society celebrates Geography Awareness Week (GAW).  As a National Geographic Society Explorer, I have made it one of my missions to promote the study of geography in the class room.  In the U.S., the study of geography is not mandatory.  This sad reality means that many young people, mostly our Anglo students in the U.S.  have no idea that they  possess culture or are part of the human continuum that we call, “diversity.”  Geography teaches us that our respective cultures become part of us as we mature from infants to adulthood, gathering preferences, inter-sectional identities, belief systems, and ways-of-knowing, depending on what part of the world we call home.

It’s a great honor to be part of National Geographic Society as an explorer.  While I don’t get to travel to the far reaches of the globe, I help students look at the world with geo-spatial lenses.  I teach them to ask questions, which we call, “geo-inquiry.”  I have an example:

  • Ask: Framed question from a location-based perspective so that you understand the challenge
  • Acquire: the resources needed to study the question further, such as research data
  • Examine your data, and watch for patterns that begin to emerge
  • Analyze the data to see which factors influence other factors
  • Act on your knowledge to determine a problem-solving approach

–Develop your message for your intended audience to create visuals to communicate information

Let me break this down even further.  Suppose I parachute out of a plane, and I don’t know where I am.

  1. Where is this place? (Ask)
  2. What is the topography? What is the climate?  Am I surrounded by mountains?  Can I see snow on those mountains? Why am I surrounded by a treeless sandy plain but I can see mountains about 25 miles (40.2 km) in every direction? What else can my surrounding tell me? Have I been to a place like this previously?  (Acquire data)
  3. After I take in all this data, I can begin to examine it to create a hypothesis on my location. (Examine)
  4. Analyzing my data, I begin to realize that I am somewhat familiar with the surroundings.  About 25 years ago, I remember that I climbed Blanca Peak, a 14,000 Feet (4267.2 meters) peak at my 11:00 o’clock as I face south.
  5. I can now act on my knowledge to find my way to the nearest town in this valley.  Where am I?  I am at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, United States.

Geography asks us to consider all our surroundings and to recognize how we humans interact with our environments.  It asks us to consider place and what makes place important to us.  Here are some other questions we ask through geography:

“What is?  or Which is?

“Where is?”

“What has changed?”  “Since when”?

“How has it changed?”

“Which spatial patterns exist?”

“What if?”

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My students pointing to their places of origin!

Here are some other geography “tid-bits.”

  • Did you know that Geography is considered the “Mother of Sciences”?  Geography’s study field embraced the entire universe and later bore many children, among them astronomy, botany, geology, and anthropology.
  • Did you know that Climatology is the study of how climates are created and what they do the environment?  Climatology is a long-term study of the geographic world.
  • Did you know that Human Ecology, the study of humans in their environments, is a unique field of Geography?  This form of geographic inquiry aims to clarify the relationships between natural environments and varying activities of humans.
  • Did you know that geography explores human systems, which include culture, economics, migration, and politics?
  • Did you know that geography explores physical systems such as land forms, climate, and rivers?

Geography is wonderful!  Some people think that technology, such as map programs, will do away with maps and atlases.  I hope not.  The joy of exploring the world through maps remains a great excitement for those of us who grew up with maps.

If you would like to hear geography linked  with music, listen to High Plains Public Radio, online at hppr.org.  Silver Rails: Music of the World in the Folk Tradition airs Saturday, November 9, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Central Time.  Lynn Boitano and I will be your host for music, geography trivia call-in, and lots of geography information.  We will be celebrating Geography Awareness!

Thank you for reading!

 

Missing Riki on the Day of Her Birth

Today would have been our lovely Riki’s 38th birthday.  As I had written of a year ago, we lost her to an untimely death because of a faulty medical diagnosis.  We continue to hear her voice, and we see her ways reflected in her children, which is of great comfort.

Riki lived, loved, and worked intensely.  Whatever she did, she did it well.  Thinking back to her middle school days, she decided to be on the swim teach.  She received medals for winning competitions.  Once the season came to an end, she didn’t need to do it again.  Then she played basketball.  She was the lead point-maker for her team.  Once the season ended, she did not feel the need to go back.

Riki did maintain her love of cooking and being with her “village” of friends.  When I spoke at her funeral, I wanted to tell the story of her vivid dreams of driving a car.  She was only 11 years old when she told me of the dream in which she was driving a car from the town of Ingalls to Montezuma (about 17 miles of road or 27.6 km).  Along the side of the road was a raccoon.  She stopped, and opened the door, through which the furry critter jumped in.  As she drove along a little further, there stood a young fawn along the side of the road.  She stopped, opened the door, and the little guy jumped in.  Well, she had not driven but a few paces, and there was a big dog! Yes.  He jumped in the car through the door that Riki had opened. By the time she had reached Montezuma, she carried eight animals in the car! Once she stopped, she let them out of the car, and they ran to safety.  She loved that dream, and I loved hearing her story.

If we thought about what dreams meant, it would not be until well into her adult life that I began to understand.  She gathered friends in much the same way she was gathering those four-legged creatures.  Riki quickly made friends where ever she planted. Whether I visit her home town or the town where she and Jonathan raise their children, she made close friends, and they continue to love her to this day.  Alas, I didn’t tell the story at her funeral.  Perhaps I thought, in a split second, that it would have been a weird comparison.  Perhaps not, though.  My point would have been to describe a loving heart that beat inside her.  I leave you with some images of her.

Riki could be called mischievous!

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Here’s a goofy one of Riki and “the Village”.

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More than anything, we know that she loved her family, and she loved her friends, deeply.  She loved to have fun, and she continues to be an inspiration to each of us who knew her.  Meanwhile, we continue to remember what she believed in.  I leave you with a picture of her and our son, her brother, Stevie.  He carries on the tradition of fabulous cooking and sharing his food with loved ones.

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Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope to talk to you soon.

 

Foods Shared by Family and Friends

Food seems to be one of the easiest things about which to write, and it’s no secret that much of my socializing happens around food sharing, laughter, and the occasional drink.

Since we last visited, several months ago, I had the pleasure of partaking with several friends and our son, Stevie, each of whom are fabulous in the kitchen. I don’t know whether to call them “cooks” or “artists”. I’ll begin with the most recent and go backwards.

Our friends, Mark and Kathy have a cottage on a lake in New York. A most memorable meal was the evening that Kathy prepared the Walleye fish that Mark caught on preceding evening. Upon catching fish, Mark immediately filets the fish. I’ve eaten his fresh fish on the Gulf Coast, in Alaska, on a lake in Kansas, and now on a lake in New York. Kathy takes the freshly-caught fish, dips them in milk, rolls them in seasoned flour and then finely crushed saltines before placing them in hot shortening. The result is tender, flaky fish with a crunchy breading. Kathy served the fish with homemade tarter sauce brought by the neighbor, and I prepared corn muffins to go with the sour cream and Iceland caviar as an appetizer. The neighbor also shared his homemade white wine. I neglected to take pictures of the process, but I did remember to take one.

Here’s a fine shot of our fisherman as he launched on the successful fishing trip:

Before our trip to New York, we stopped in to see Stevie and Paige. Stevie’s innovative cooking was featured in this blog some months back. This time, he created a wrapped hamburger. He described the procedure as taking seasoned ground beef patties that he browned first. He had prepared his usual bread dough prior to preparing the beef (I realize that I am not writing the process in chronological order). He wrapped each browned pattie in a rolled-out round of bread dough. He place a sprinkling of baking salt before baking at 375 degrees (190.6 C). Also, he prepared thin slices of potatoes and lined them on a baking sheet sprinkled with the baking salt, too. He presented the tasty result to us, and we enjoyed with a glass of oatmeal stout. Delicious!

A few weeks ago, we returned to the community in which we lived for 30 years (We moved to another town to be near my job about two months ago) for a wedding (Mark and Kathy’s daughter). We made good use of our time by seeing some of our best friends. It was impossible to see all of our best friends as the weekend was far too short! Our friends, Carole and Larry invited us to breakfast at their beautiful. Besides being one of my favorite artists, Carole is a wonderful baker and cook. Larry, retired from a career as an expert in all things electric, passes his retirement as a wood artisan. Larry has built wonderful frames for my art collection, some of which were created by his wife. He’s now creating rolling plant bases for large planters. I don’t have a picture of the one he made for me.

The breakfast began with a wonderful asparagus frittata accompanied by the most wonderful sour cream coffee cake. We had mimosas and coffee with a splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream. I’m not sure if I am allowed to share the recipe, but I want you to see the picture. You may notice that Carole possesses an artist’s eye even in setting a table. We visited and ate the lovely breakfast slowly so as to savor the occasion to the fullest. We took our coffee on the deck overlooking the prairie so famous in Kansas.

Finally, I leave you with one final meal for this blog entry: a first meal in our new home. I am sure I’ve written about one of our favorite breakfasts, “eggs and soldiers”. Nearly two months after moving in, we have plenty of unpacking to do. However, we found some of our boxes of kitchen dishes among which were the egg cups and my butcher block. Our usual practice is to have breakfast on the butcher block. Our previous house had a “breakfast nook”, a small space in a kitchen where a small meal was often served in older homes. In the new kitchen, there is a small dining space, which I will call a “nook”. We, happily, ate our eggs and soldiers with hot Earl Grey tea looking out onto the deck, and, thus, we came “home”.

I love making our meals special, and I like to savor our conversations as well as our meals. I wish the same for you.

Thank you for reading my blog posts. I always love hearing from you.

Changes and More Changes

We are in the process of moving. As of this writing, we have moved from our beautiful home to a town 4.5 hours away. I have been working in a different job, for the same university, these past four months.

We put our home on the market and finally closed on it this past Thursday. We loved our home. It was perfect for us, because we are consummate entertainers (so I’m told), and we have the absolute pleasure of having our grandchildren with us at least one month during the summer. We’ve had that pleasure since each was four months old.

I do realize that, it’s not the actual structure of a house that makes it a home. Though, that adds greatly to how one uses the structure. What matters most are the memories we build in our homes. Friends and families help us make those memories, so I have no doubt that when we find a new home, we will begin to build new memories. In some cases, with friends and family, we pick up where we left off, only in a different location.

For one month, until the house that we plan to rent while we make decisions on the purchase of a “new” home becomes available, we are sort of homeless. I will continue to stay at the AirBnB at which I’ve been housed since November, and my spouse will live in town from which we’ve moved, as he wraps up his job of many, many years.

The bittersweet process of selling our home last Thursday was compounded by another sad and heartbreaking event: the loss of our Scottish Terrier, Fiona. Here she is.

Fiona has just turned 14 years old. I wondered if the commotion and frenzy around moving confused her, but she became ill and died about fours hours later. Scotties are a special breed. They have wonderful behaviors and can be very possessive of their family members, a.k.a. “Owners”. We are crushed by her passing, but we have the fondest of memories.

Right now, I’m eager to find a home to call our own and to begin the process of settling into normalcy of cooking, entertaining, and sharing good times with my spouse and our dog, Jitsu. She’s a sheep dog: 3/4 Border Collie and 1/4 Australian Shepherd. Here she is:

Here, Jitsu, is pictured with a young admirer who will have nothing to do with me, but love my dog! Most people love this dog, because she is friendly, loving, and funny. She even smiles! Yes. Jitsu talks, too. Here’s her famous smile:

I have a lot to catch up with more writing about foods, intercultural relationships, and life. Hopefully, I will catch up with the bloggers who have been busy writing.

Back later…Thank you for reading.