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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Dairy Diary

Well, the weather in New York this week hasn't been that great. It's been raining, the streets are full of puddles, there's a lot of humidity (therefore, my makeup turns into fat drops of the color I use to disguise my lack of natural epidermic pigment, and I constantly look like a clown after his circus performance, but that's another story). If all that complaining weren't enough, you have to watch out for self-centered umbrella holders at every step, so you don't end up with your eyes poked of completely beheaded.
Despite the cloudy days, I tend to love this time of the year (if it weren't obvious by my description above!). Especially this week, when the Jewish holiday of Shavuot is taking place. It's my favorite! It's the celebration of receiving the greatest of gifts and it's commemorated with dairy-based foods. I've already said how I feel about ice cream, but read this if you need me to refresh your memory. I LOOOOVE ice cream!
There's also cheesecake, and in my opinion there's no better recipe than this one.
True, I don't have anything new or tastier to offer you to compete with some of those delicious gelatos and ice creams in the market, nor with that Gourmet cheesecake I linked above. But what I do have to share, are some suggestions to use amazing dairy products in different ways. They are not as indulgent as a tube of mascarpone with 5 pounds of sugar, but they are delicious, innovative and very healthy.
Following up with my last post about immunity-boosting foods, I mentioned kefir. Kefir is a yogurt-like fermented drink traditionally made of cow, sheep or goat's milk cultured with various strains of healthy bacteria and yeast. The result is a super healthy product full of probiotics, calcium, vitamin D and protein. My son is completely addicted, to the point of my concern, as the Easter-European transplanted beverage is the very center of his diet. But thankfully, he's growing, running and coming up with mischief, so our pediatrician isn't worried.
We've been drinking kefir for many years already, but last week, while recovering from the food poisoning case, I decided I needed some extra probiotic help to try to restore whatever was lost in the process. I didn't want to go for cow's milk kefir, as I thought it could have been too much for my delicate gut at that point, so I opted for plain goat's milk kefir. There are water, coconut milk and other types of kefir, but I'm not the biggest fan of their taste, so I stayed within the original concept.
Goat milk is easier to assimilate than cow's milk. Despite scientific research and different theories, the exact reason for that is still unknown, but it is a fact that many people who can't tolerate cow's milk due to sensitivities or allergies, can drink goat's milk without any problems. I went for it and felt great, and then, just in time for Shavuot, I started coming up with a couple of ideas to keep using goat's milk products. 
You can use goat or cow's milk kefir. No need to go crazy if you can't find goat's, unless you have difficulty digesting cow's milk.
Goats are a more sustainable source of dairy than cows, goat's milk doesn't have to be homogenized (so less processing) like cow's milk, and since they are becoming the old-new "it" guys, let's enjoy and benefit from their milk, just as our ancestors did in Biblical times...
Here we go (I apologize in advance for any mistakes, as I'm trying to hurry to get you these recipes on time in case you want to make them this weekend):

GREEN CHILLED SOUP WITH KEFIR

Ultra creamy, with a mild and very refreshing flavor, this soup is full of nutrients from all the fruits (yes avocado is a fruit) and the kefir.
It's easy and quick to make and perfect for warm days.

INGREDIENTS
  • Vegetarian (contains dairy)
  • Free of: soy, eggs, nuts, wheat and gluten
1 honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and cut into 1.5inch cubes
2 avocados, halved and pits removed
3 limes, zested and juiced
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup plain goat's milk kefir
sea salt and black pepper to taste

METHOD
Reserve 1 cup cubed melon for garnish and place the rest in a food processor or blender.
Puree honeydew, avocados, lime juice and zest, and mint leaves (reserve 1 or 2 large leaves for garnish, if desired).
Once soup is completely smooth, add kefir and mix until blended.
Chill for a couple of hours and ladle into bowls and garnish with cubed melon, torn mint leaves and a dollop of kefir.
Serve.

Makes 8-10 portions


WATERMELON-NECTARINE SALAD WITH FETA

Use goat feta if you find it, otherwise, sheep or cow's milk feta work fine. The briny-salty taste of the cheese goes amazingly well with the crunchiness and sweetness of watermelon. The lavender gives it a lovely floral-minty touch.
This is a great salad by itself or delicious atop of pan-seared fish.

INGREDIENTS
  • Vegetarian (contains dairy)
  • Free of: soy, eggs, nuts, wheat and gluten
2 cups watermelon, peeled and cubed into bite-size pieces
2 small organic nectarines, pitted and cubed
2 plum tomatoes, cubed
12 large basil leaves, or to taste, torn into small pieces
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
a drizzle of raw honey (about 1 tablespoon, or to taste)
1 teaspoon culinary grade dried lavender
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

METHOD
Gently mix watermelon, nectarines, tomatoes and basil in a serving bowl. Squeeze lime juice and sprinkle feta cheese.
Drizzle with honey, sprinkle lavender, rubbing it between your fingers to grind it. Grind fresh black pepper on top, to taste.
Let the flavors mingle together for about 1/2 hour and serve or scoop over fish fillets.
Enjoy!
Serves 6

KEFIR-CHIA PUDDING ON POLENTA WITH ROASTED STRAWBERRIES

This tangy, slightly sweet and multi-textured dish makes a great light dessert. Looks really pretty made in individual ramekins and it's incredibly simple to prepare. Don't be fooled by the steps involved, they are fast and easy. Just plan ahead, as the kefir-chia pudding needs to set for about 8 hours to get nice and thick, but it doesn't need any attention while it happens.
NOTE: I use (and strongly recommend)"de la Estancia" brand organic polenta, because it's ready in 1 minute, although it's not an instant product; it's made without GMO corn and it's delicious. I've seen it in a couple of stores lately.

INGREDIENTS
Pudding
1 cup plain goat's milk kefir
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Polenta
1 cup water
1/2 cup goat's milk
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup de la Estancia polenta

Roasted Strawberries
8 ounces organic strawberries, stems removed, and halved
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey

METHOD
Pudding
At least 8 hours before assembling dessert (or overnight), whisk in a medium bowl the kefir, chia, honey and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Polenta
In a small saucepan, bring water, milk, honey, salt and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat.

Add polenta in a thin stream, whisking the mix with your other hand. Continue whisking for 1 minute, until polenta separates from the sides of the pan.

Remove from heat.
Place about 2 tablespoons of prepared polenta into each of 6 individual ramekins. Flatten with the back of a spoon and let cool.


Roasted Strawberries
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.
Cover strawberries evenly with oil, balsamic and honey. Spread on one layer in the prepared pan.

Roast until soft and a syrup forms with their juices, the oil, vinegar and honey. About 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool.

How it comes together
Just top polenta ramekins with some dollops of kefir-chia pudding and place a couple of strawberries on top of pudding.
Don't forget to add some of the juices, They are the best part!




Makes 6 portions.






  • Vegetarian (contains dairy)
  • Free of: soy, eggs, nuts, wheat and gluten

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