Saturday, February 28, 2009

One kick right after another

Okay, we all need to eat lunch every day, don't we?

Of course we do, but if you're anything like me, you could quickly get into a rut of having a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with strawberry jam and lettuce EVERY single day for months on end.  Not that there's anything wrong with said sandwich, but even people who like repetition can get bored after 3 solid months of the same lunch.  Believe me, I know. 

I lived the above scenario when I was working for a summer in New York City a few years ago at a business magazine.  As a lowly intern, I obviously couldn't afford to eat out every day, and with all of the work I had to do, I wouldn't have had time anyway, so packing my own lunch was the only option I saw.

With this recipe, I hope to introduce some variety into your workweek, or at the very least a delicious lunch or dinner to put together when you're not eating greasy hash browns on the weekend or have gotten home really late after work and want something quick and healthy.

Chicken laap (I've also heard it referred to as larp, but that makes me think of lard and that doesn't really conjure up the healthy delicious salad as well as I'd like) is a dish I first encountered on my SE Asia trip.  As I previously noted, I fell immediately in love with the strong flavors and crunchy textures on my trip, and have since made it for family and friends to critical (okay, maybe a stretch here) acclaim.

I first developed a crush on the fish laap that was available all over Laos, but once I headed to my cooking class in Luang Prabang and tried chicken laap...well, it blossomed into a long-term love affair.

It's quick (depending on the speed of your chopping skills), easy, healthy as all get out, incredibly delicious (the flavors take turns giving your taste buds one kick right after another) oh, and did I mention easy?  It's also easily adaptable to whatever spices you've got on hand, so no excuses about having to run to the grocery store allowed!

All you do is mince up some chicken and throw it in a skillet with a bit of water.  While that's cooking, you mince up some shallots, garlic, lemongrass, arugula, etc., then toss the whole thing together with a bit of fish sauce and chili.  Dump it out onto a plate, add some big crinkly lettuce leaves and/or cucumber slices and top them with your salad mixture, then eat away.  

Just remember to bring some napkins, oh, and to eat this at least a few feet away from your computer.  I'm not sure I want to know what fish sauce does to a keyboard.

Chicken Laap
Adapted from Tamnak Lao Cooking School

2 large skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 400 gms), minced*
2 medium limes or lemons
4 Tbs. hot water
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 shallots, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch cilantro/coriander, finely chopped
4 lemongrass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
2 handfuls arugula leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. rice powder, optional**
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. fish sauce

Juice the lemons or limes.

Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add half of the lemon/lime juice and the minced chicken. Stir frequently until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed, adding a bit of water if necessary.
Remove from heat and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add the green onions, shallot, garlic, cilantro, lemongrass and arugula to the bowl and mix well.
Add the salt, rice powder (if using), chili powder and fish sauce and stir to combine thoroughly.
Taste for seasoning. I often add a bit more fish sauce and lime juice at this point. Keep in mind "hot, sour, salty, sweet" when tasting, and add a bit more as necessary.

Serves 2 as a main dish.

*Place the chicken breasts on a large cutting board, then start chopping away with a chef's knife in each hand. Not only is this fun (just be careful not to get too overzealous!), but you'll find the chicken minced before you know it.

**Rice powder can be purchased at Asian supermarkets or easily made at home. To be honest, I just leave it out, and can't tell that much of a difference, but you're welcome to try it if you're not as lazy as I am: Toast raw rice until golden in a saute pan. Throw it into a blender/food processor and process until you get a fine powder. Store in an airtight glass jar.

Note: I have made this without many of the ingredients, such as arugula and lemongrass, thrown ginger into the mix, and never been disappointed. Play around with it: it's hard to go wrong.

P.S.  I am currently staying in Rennes with a good friend for a few days until I head to Louviers to begin working on Monday.  I had a lovely time in Paris last week, full of drop dead gorgeous food, and I promise to tell you a bit more about it soon--once I get settled!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

For your consideration

Today is the day before I leave for Paris.

(Insert copious swearing here)

Okay, now that that's over with, let's get to the good stuff.

I'm not sure what kind of internet access I'm going to have for the first few weeks I'm there, but I didn't want to leave you guys completely defenseless. To that end, I have thrown together some links below to keep you all occupied and well-fed until I'm back online.

Besides, I've been cooking up a storm this past week and I want to share the fruits of my labor. I've been calling it my "Greatest Hits" week, and while it may not be a Beatles or Rolling Stones album, it's been pretty damn tasty, I must say.

In the savory corner, we've got slow-roasted tomatoes that we tossed with farfalle and a nubbin or two of goat cheese, my first but certainly not last foray into oven-roasted shrimp and broccoli, a glorious smothered cabbage and rice soup/risotto, an old favorite in the form of chickpeas and roasted butternut squash (make sure to really stir your tahini beforehand!), my new favorite "30 minute" meal and a lovely tangy pasta topped with a recent obsession: an olive-oil fried egg.

Also for your consideration, I offer the following sweet delights: a cake for busy days from Edna Lewis and an insanely easy apple tart.

I've even thrown together a couple of things to get Jimmy through the rest of the week without having to eat Subway twice a day.

Oh, and I also have this cooling on the stove as we speak.

See you back in this space soon!

P.S. I hope this answers some of your questions as to how I've been keeping busy while Jimmy studies day and night. ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A salt kick

Now, I know I was just mooning over rice pudding a few days ago and crunchy coffee bars before that...but I actually have another dessert for you.

And it's one of the most addicting cookies I've ever eaten.

I'm really not trying to make you curse me for forcing you to run out to the store to grab almonds and another carton of butter (though you really should, you really truly should). It's just all of the baking recipes I've tagged over, oh, the last hundred years that have been waiting patiently to be baked, tasted and devoured are finally getting their day in the sun (and snow).

This past Christmas was the first time in four (4!) years that my entire family had gotten together. While I was and will remain eternally grateful for it, the situation meant quite a lot of compromises and very little elbow room...oh, and a whole heck of a lot of cocktails.

Once Christmas, New Year's and a slew of wine bottles had come and gone, my dad got a little stir-crazy and decided that he wanted to take my little sister and I to Disney World. Great idea, right? Yes, except that he decided this on a Sunday, we would have to leave on a Monday to drive the 18 hour trip, do the parks on Tuesday and Wednesday in order to drive 18 hours back on Thursday so that I could catch my flight back to Chicago on Friday around noon.

Exhausting, I know.

We went ahead with the plan and I found myself just a few days later wandering around Epcot, and heading straight for the English pub where it was rumored that they had Strongbow on tap! I sipped my way through my beloved pint while my dad and sister dined on fish and chips.

We continued to wander around "the world", taking in the movies, cute shops and remaining Christmas decorations in each country.

I'd been drooling over Dorie Greenspan's classic Paris Sweets for quite a while. It seemed that all of my favorite food bloggers had included a recipe from her on their sites, and from this tome in particular. So imagine my delight when I found the book in one of the shops in Epcot's France and my dad offered to buy it for me. I spent that evening happily, annoying my sister, by burying my nose in yet another cookbook.

I brought the book with me when I came back up to Chicago from Houston, determined to make something, anything, out of it before I head off to Paris for real (!!!).

However, I was rather limited by the supplies that Jimmy has in his apartment. I just finally bought a cake pan for him (well, for me, really) the other day, so the delicious tarts that Dorie describes were absolutely out of the picture. Plus, my KitchenAid is in storage, so anything that involved an inordinate amount of egg-white whipping was also not in the cards.

I finally settled on some amusing-sounding cookies called Croq-Télé (essentially "crunchy TV") that required a food processor (which he has!) and a cookie sheet, nothing more nor less.

While not on the show-stopping gorgeous side of the cookie spectrum, these cookies absolutely make up for it in taste. The simple combination of almonds, sugar, flour and butter is elevated by the addition of a fair amount of salt, making them downright addictive.

The dough is made in 3 steps in the food processor, first making a nut-sugar, then combining the flour and butter in typical pastry dough fashion before throwing in the nut-sugar again. It creates a sandy mixture that you free-form into shapes and throw in the oven. Easy peasy.

Once they emerge, looking suspiciously similar to how they looked when they went in the oven, you allow them to cool which in turns lets the edges crisp up a bit. The lovely almond flavor and buttery texture gets a little kick by the salt, turning an otherwise delicious but maybe slightly ordinary butter cookie into something altogether unforgettable.

In all honesty, I may never have made these cookies if I wasn't limited by my baking supplies. While they sounded good in the book, they didn't quite have the draw that so many of the other selections do. And what a near miss that was! These cookies will be made in my house for many years as an addicting tea time snack or a perfect movie-watching treat, as Dorie suggests.

I think Jimmy said it best: "These cookies taste SO much better than they look! Wait, not that they look bad, but...they just taste so good!"

Croq-Télé Cookies
Adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan

3/4 cup sliced almonds (she calls for whole blanched)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (just a smidge under)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
7 Tbs. cold unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the almonds, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse in 3 second intervals until the nuts are finely ground, about 1-2 minutes (depending on if you use whole or sliced almonds). Scrape down the sides periodically.

Turn out the nut/sugar mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Cut the cold butter into 7 equal pieces and keep nearby.

Put the flour and one piece of the butter into the bowl of the food processor (still fitted with the metal blade) and start the motor running. Drop in the other pieces of butter as each previous piece gets incorporated. Switch to pulsing in 3 second intervals once all of the butter is in, and pulse until the mixture looks sandy and there are no visible chunks of butter.

Add in the nut/sugar mixture and pulse in 3 second intervals until the dough starts to clump, about 1-2 minutes. When squeezed, the dough should stick together.

Turn out the dough into a bowl.

Pull off small pieces of dough about the size of a cherry or walnut half and squeeze them in your hand to form bite-sized pieces (they will look irregular, don't worry). Place the pieces on a lined baking sheet (aluminum foil, silpat or parchment paper works here), leaving about 1/2 inch in between.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, rotating the sheets from front to back to ensure even browning, until the cookies are set. They won't look brown on top, but when gently pushed, won't yield to your finger.

Allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a metal rack to cool.

Makes approximately 32 cookies.

*Dorie notes that the cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month...but Jimmy and I are already way over halfway through them and it's the 2nd day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

One bean, glory

Maybe I should start off this post by saying that I was never really a fan of rice pudding.

Bread pudding? Now, that's something I can get behind. My dad makes the most marvelous (and enormous!) version based on a recipe in the Joy of Cooking that will feed a family of five, even one with appetites as big as mine, for days on end.

But rice pudding always seemed kind of odd, and the texture ran to gummy the few times I did try a bite. I don't know, I just never understood the appeal.

Some of my earliest memories of the stuff involve a certain Indian buffet that my family frequented fairly regularly growing up. It was next door to the music shop where my sisters and I had our piano lessons, but since lessons were right after school and my family never ate before 8:30 at the earliest (and yes, that did make it hard to have friends over for dinner), it wasn't optimal eating time. So whenever we had a craving for Indian, we'd trek all the way across town, a good 30 minutes away, to gorge ourselves on naan and dals galore.

No matter how full we were after the meal, we always found a little room somewhere for dessert. I only had eyes for the gulab jamun, but my mom always went for the rice pudding that was sitting, a little sadly and dejectedly, behind my sugar syrup doused favorite.

Any time rice pudding has been on a menu, which hasn't been that frequently, come to think of it, I inevitably choose something else. I don't know, the stuff seems so creamy (I don't do well with creamy), so vanilla...a bit too plain jane, if you know what I mean.

But, as always happens when a certain food blogger is around, I found myself craving something I'd never before given a second thought.

And of course, yet again, whatever the lady touches turns to gold and I now have another dessert to moon and moan over.

The process is very easy. Just throw the rice and some salt in a pot with water, allow it to absorb, then dump in cream, milk, sugar and vanilla. Leave the whole lot alone for about half an hour and you have the most un-boring vanilla dessert imaginable.

I think it all comes down to the use of a vanilla bean, myself. I'd never before sprung for one, but I saw immediately that without it, the pudding wasn't going to be worth its salt for a formerly ambivalent rice pudding eater such as myself. The bean infuses the whole mess with an incredibly intense vanilla flavor. Plus the little black specks make the nearly overwhelming whiteness of the dessert much more interesting visually.

I realize that vanilla beans are viewed as being costly, and they are if you buy them one at a time in a glass jar at your grocery store. However, if you look around online, I guarantee you can get a much better price. A simple Google search for vanilla bean landed me three different online purveyors with reasonable prices.

Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg
Bon Appetit, March 2009

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup long-grain rice (I used jasmine, Molly calls for basmati)
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk (I'd bet you could sub in 2% here to lighten it a bit)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean

Put the water, rice and salt into a heavy large saucepan (make it large or it will bubble over on you later!) and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Simmer until water is absorbed, 9-11 minutes.

Add the milk, cream and sugar to the pot and stir. Cut the vanilla bean in half and save the other half for another use. Split the half you're using lengthwise, then use the tip of your knife to scrape the seeds from the inside of the pod into your rice mixture. Toss in the now-empty bean and increase the heat to medium.

Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and the whole mixture has thickened to a creamy texture (it should look like most of the milk and cream has been absorbed), about 30-35 minutes.

Remove the pudding from heat and discard the vanilla bean. Chill pudding thoroughly overnight (my favorite way to have it, but you can try it warm as well).

Serves 6-8.

Note: You can grate some nutmeg over the top for another traditional, and I was itching to throw some cardamom in. I'll try that next time, I think, though I love the purity of that gorgeous vanilla bean. Play with it and adjust to your tastes!

P.S. Apparently, rice pudding is on the minds of many this time of year.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Very purpley

While I'm here in Chicago with Jimmy, I have the supreme luxury of being able to plan my menus for the week.

I didn't realize how wonderful this process was until I took the time to pore over my cookbooks (at least, the ones I'm letting Jimmy "borrow" for the year) and clippings, dig through the archives of my favorite food blogs and pick out seven delectable offerings for the week. I even get to write them down and put together a grocery list so that I can get everything I need when I have access to stronger arms than mine for carrying groceries.

I understand that writing the above may strike you as rather strange, but I encourage you to give it a shot for one week before laughing at me too heartily. Instead of rummaging in cabinets every night to throw together a nutritious meal, frantically calling your significant other to pick up chicken or endives at the store on their way home, you can arrive home, stroll over to your list and have all of the ingredients needed to prepare any of seven outstanding offerings at hand.

In its own way, it's similar to channeling Julia Child--having your mise en place all set out and ready to go before you begin cooking. Which is, of course, something that I'm still working on.

I don't know why they don't call red cabbage purple. I mean, look at that rich color!

The second I cut in to it I just stopped, then immediately went to find a camera to document its colorful innards.

It has been my personal goal to cram as many fresh vegetables into Jimmy's body as humanly possible before he goes back to his frozen dinner habits once I leave (happily, they're things like these burritos, which I can get behind). Accordingly, the vast majority of my dinners have come from Chez Panisse Vegetables.

I was looking for something quick and filling after an Argentine tango lesson one Thursday night and my eyes landed on the seductive-sounding Warm Cabbage, Apple and Onion Slaw.

It was the perfect thing to warm us up what with the brutally cold weather we were having. The crisp cabbage played against the silky texture of the onions, while the sweetness of the apples went perfectly with the vinegar's much-needed kick of acidity.

Pair this with a glass of bright white wine, and you're set, fortified and ready to pull out those cookbooks and clippings once again.

Warm Cabbage, Onion and Apple Slaw
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 medium head of red (or green) cabbage
2 large sweet apples (I think I used Fuji), peeled, cored and sliced thinly
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. white wine vinegar (to taste, I may have used a bit more)
1 Tbs. water (or more as necessary)
Salt and pepper

Tear off any of the loose outer leaves of the cabbage and discard. Cut the cabbage in half through the core, then cut out the white core section. Slice the cabbage as thinly as you can.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add the onions, and cook until they are translucent and just starting to brown. Add the apples and saute everything together for 1 minute. Add the cabbage, S&P, vinegar and water to the pan and stir to mix well. Turn the heat up to high and continue stirring until the cabbage is barely cooked through (it should retain a little crunch).

Taste and correct for seasonings, adding a bit of vinegar or S&P as necessary.

Serves 4-6 as a main.

Note: I served this by itself the first night, and it was delicious. It was also lovely alongside roasted chicken the following night. Alice Waters suggests serving it with pork or duck and playing around with different vinegars. Balsamic seems like it'd be great in this.

P.S. For those of you out there who think I'm going about this backwards, that I should go buy what's fresh and then plan my menu accordingly, try not to think too low of me. I agree with that, and as such, am doing my best to pick out recipes featuring vegetables that are in season. We all do the best we can.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The way the cookie crumbles

If you have spent any time in the food blogging world, or even any time on my site, then you'll know the respect that everyone has for this lady. I've been following her blog for about a year and a half now, and my tastebuds have never regretted it. Of course, some of my cookbooks have gotten a little jealous of my devotion, but I pull them out often enough to keep them from threatening mutiny.

Molly has also had a column in Bon Appétit magazine for the past year that follows the same formula as her blog: beautiful story intertwined with heavenly recipe. Not a bad combo.

Because I've been traveling around so much and will continue to do so, my magazine subscriptions have fallen by the wayside, but I do keep up with my favorites online, or, if I need a little pick-me-up, sneaking one into the shopping cart at the grocery store (Jimmy's lovely that way by pretending not to notice). The February issue came home with me in the shopping bag, and I eagerly skimmed through to read Molly's column first thing. I was immediately intrigued by her cookie recipe and bookmarked it with one of those Post-It flags that I'm addicted to.

I was browsing around on the Bon Appétit website a few weeks later when I happened to notice that one of the most commented articles was the same one I'd marked. Confident that I'd read all kinds of praise, I clicked over and found mountains of comments complaining about wasted ingredients, burnt butter and terrible cookies.

Shocked, I continued reading through the comments until I caught sight of a note from an editor at BA--she had decided to post Molly's original recipe to see what people's reaction would be. The original recipe had been reworked by the test kitchen, as I'm sure is normal protocol for magazines, but in this case the new version hadn't gone over so well with readers.

I decided then and there to try the original recipe and soon.

Now, I'm not normally a crispy cookie kind of person. My personal preference runs much more towards ooey gooey insides. I am, in fact, deathly afraid of over baking anything, and therefore always start checking my cookies and cakes about 10 minutes before the recipe indicates.

These cookies made me a believer (and also taught me that I apparently can't cut in a straight line to save my life).

I started smelling brewing coffee, toasting almonds and melty chocolate about halfway through the baking time. After I pulled them out, cut and cooled them as instructed, I had to sneak one, though they were nowhere near crunchy. I thought they tasted all right, but the flavors didn't match up to the aromas that had been wafting towards me throughout the baking. I was a bit disappointed, can't lie.

However, the following morning, after leaving the cookies out overnight to fully crisp up, I was stunned. A rich smell of almonds combined with the smooth chocolate and crispy texture, while the undertone of coffee brought the whole thing together.

I brought them as a little housewarming gift to some friends and got nothing but widening eyes and "Oh my God, these cookies are amazing" over and over again. And when one of those friends went to culinary school and the other has been eating your food for decades, I consider that pretty high praise indeed.

Coffee Crunch Bars
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg, who adapted it from Leah Reich, who in turn adapted it from her grandmother, Mamie Chaiffetz
February 2009 issue of Bon Appétit

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup demerera sugar, pulverized in a coffee grinder a bit to get a smaller crystal (Molly calls for tightly packed dark muscovado sugar)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 Tbsp. high quality regular espresso, ground very finely (Molly calls for instant espresso)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together using an electric mixer or elbow grease and a wooden spoon, until the butter has lightened and the mixture looks a bit fluffy. (Molly's recipe says this should occur after 2 minutes with the electric mixer, while mine took about 5 minutes by hand).

Add the almond extract and instant espresso (or coffee) and stir for 1 minute to combine thoroughly.

Using a wooden spoon (if you weren't already), add the flour mixture in in three stages, taking care to mix just until the flour is absorbed. Add in the sliced almonds and chocolate chips and stir to evenly distribute them throughout the dough.

Turn the dough out onto an ungreased rimmed cookie sheet (about 12 inch X 17 inch), and use your fingers to evenly press the dough into a 12 inch by 12 inch square (Note: I totally missed this step and spread the dough out to fill the entire cookie sheet, and they turned out beautifully).

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edges have browned and the dough in the middle looks set.

Allow to cool in the pan for one minute, then immediately slice the cookies into 24 equal pieces and place them on a cooling rack (preferably overnight). The bars will crisp up as they cool.

Makes 24 bar cookies.

Note: These cookies taste even better the day after you make them, which is why I recommend making them right before bed and allowing them to crisp up overnight.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The other half

Just over a week ago, I teased you guys with the story of a homemade yogurt that wasn't.

I tried this yogurt at a friend's "eat up the contents of my fridge" dinner party. The food was all deliciously spicy Indian and I was looking for water to cool my slightly burning tongue when I spotted the yogurt in a silver metal container across the counter. I grabbed it, and dolloped a few scoops onto my plate before eagerly tasting a spoonful.

It was lovely, with just the right amount of sugar and tang to counterbalance the spices of its neighbors. I quickly helped myself to more, and I have to admit hoarded the container rather greedily.

I asked for the recipe before I left, and Neel (the friend) was a bit surprised, but happy to provide it, and a starter, nonetheless.

When I fouled up the recipe the first time around, I was more than a little disheartened. Luckily, the kind soul who gave me the recipe provided me enough starter for two tries. I was confident that I wouldn't need them at the time, but am now ever so grateful that he bet on my failure.

I've successfully made this yogurt twice (I wanted to make sure that my success wasn't a fluke, but the norm), and it's as delicious as I remember.

This yogurt is not the dense stuff you'll find in grocery stores. The texture is altogether different--much closer to softly whipped cream. A bit runny, so that it pools around your slice of apple tart (that's how I first had my batch), but in a good way. It's also delicious mixed with a bit of last summer's jam and a smattering of granola. Or you could have it the way I first tasted it: alongside spicy Northern Indian food, taken in slurps to cool down your tongue.

The recipe is incredibly easy, so easy that I was kicking myself for screwing it up. In my defense, I tried to create a makeshift double boiler to keep from burning the milk and ending up with that slightly brown colored stringy milk solid at the bottom of the pan. Well, that "ingenious" idea utterly failed, as my version of the double boiler never brought the milk to a boil. If you have a proper double boiler (or a successful makeshift version), I encourage you to give it a shot. If you don't, then just do as I did--use a normal saucepan and strain out any caramel-y solids with a slotted spoon before adding your sugar and starter.

If you don't have a nice friend around the block who already makes their own yogurt and is willing to lend you a few scoops, then just turn to your grocery store. Find the best plain organic yogurt you can, and use that as your starter.

Oh, and if you're interested in a detailed breakdown of homemade yogurt, and specifically the kind that can be made with a proper yogurt maker machine, then have a look over here.

Homemade Yogurt
Adapted from Neel

4 cups lowfat, preferably organic, milk (I've used 1 and 2%)
6 tsp. sugar (more or less to taste)
2 Tbs. organic yogurt (this will be your starter)

Set the yogurt out on the counter and allow to come to room temperature.

Heat the milk in a double boiler (if you have one) over high heat just until it comes to a roiling boil, then immediately remove it from heat.

All the milk to cool to room temperature, then add the sugar and mix thoroughly.

Thoroughly mash the yogurt until smooth. (I like to put the starter in a small bowl and go at it with the back of a spoon, smashing it against the sides of the bowl.)

Add the starter to the milk and sugar mixture and combine thoroughly.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let sit in a non-drafty place for 6-8 hours or overnight, until thickened.

*Note: The yogurt's thickness will depend on a variety of factors, not least of which is the consistency of your starter.