Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cheese Please

I have to say I had been looking forward to these next recipes as soon as I saw them. I mean, what could be better for a cheese lover like me than making their OWN CHEESE!!!!!! Almost as soon as I started reading the book I had already sent away for the cheese making supplies since rennet is impossible to find in San Diego. When it came I almost jumped for joy. Who am I kidding. I DID jump for joy!

As usual with my life right now - this chapter had it's ups and its downs. We'll divide it into "The Good" "The Bad" and "The Ugly."

The Good

Mozzarella Cheese (recipe available at
I got all my ingredients ready and went to work. The instructions indicate that you add the citric acid at 55 degrees. At 88 degrees the milk should begin to curdle and then you add the rennet and heat to just over 100 degrees when the milk divides itself into curds and whey. At 88 degrees my milk was just barely curdling, but I added the rennet anyway. As I stirred, I thought "there is no way this is going to separate in the next 12 degrees. I blinked my eyes and POOF I was staring into a pot of clear liquid with cottage cheese-like chunks floating around in it. I swear it was like magic - one of the coolest things I'd seen in a long time!

The curds are H-O-T. Even using the rubber gloves as recommended by the recipe my little hands were burning burning burning. But it was SO worth it as these balls came together in no time flat and it was just incredibly easy. Easy AND cool to watch make? How often does that happen?

Local ingredients used:

Summertime Salad (recipe available at
This recipe was fantastic, but then again - it's not much of a recipe. And you can't really go wrong with tomato, mozzarella, and basil, now can you? Thatboy decided salt is his new favorite condiment ever. The recipe really lets my homemade mozzarella shine through too so that gives it an added edge.

Local Ingredients Used:
Tomatoes (Oceanside farmer's market)
Basil (Oceanside farmer's market)

The Bad

Friday Night Pizza (recipe can be found at
I know what you're thinking - how can pizza be bad? Start with the crust. I'm no novice when it comes to pizza dough. I've made good dough, and I've made bad dough. This falls into the latter category. Now, I learned the hard way that pizza dough making is usually a weekend activity. (Anyone remember our midnight pizza dinner?) So to say I was a little skeptical of this 40 minute dough would be an understatement. My worst fears were realized when the dough baked and refused to get doughy....becoming more like a giant cracker. Which actually wouldn't be so bad if I were doing something like topping it with a salad, but not so fantastic when I wanted warm doughy pizza.

And once again we were met with a "looks can be deceiving" moment when despite the beautiful toppings, Thatboy declared the pizza bland and flavorless. Which tends to be the feedback I'm getting on a lot of the recent AVM recipes. He actually picked off the mozzarella and just ate that. Which is a testament to my mozzarella making skills - no?

Local Ingredients Used:
Tomatoes (Mira Mesa farmer's market)
Oregano (Oceanside farmer's market)
Rosemary (Oceanside farmer's market)

Eggplant Papoutzakia (recipe available at
In my book, this one already had one strike against it given that eggplant tends to upset my stomach. But Thatboy likes eggplant, so I figured he'd be able to give it a fair shake. The recipe was WAY off on this one. When I pulled it out at the designated time/temperature the eggplant was still raw. So back in it went...for another hour.....Considering it's supposed to take 20 minutes to cook, that seems a bit odd. And Thatboy couldn't take more than a bite. It wasn't good at all. Once again, the mozzarella was picked off making our dinner almost entirely mozzarella and tomato....

Local ingredients used:
eggplant (Rancho Bernardo farmer's market)
tomatoes (Mira Mesa farmer's market)
The Ugly

This dinner, combined with the disappointing dinner from the previous night prompted Thatboy to ask if I really had to cook through the entire book. Hadn't we been punished enough? And in truth, there's a big difference between these recipes and those in Garlic and Sapphires. Ruth Reichl lives and breathes food. She gets to sample the good and the bad. She's traveled the world. She understands complementary flavors. The recipes in her book are tried and true. The recipes from AVM mostly come from the head of an 18 year old. Her experiences with food are a world apart from Reichl's and her culinary ability is quite obviously still developing. She hasn't learned to play with flavors and spices, leaving a lot of the food bland and tasteless. She hasn't experimented with tens or hundreds of recipes to find just the right one to include.

So I'm taking a little break from AVM. I'll probably get back to it in a couple of weeks, but for the time being I'm back to cooking things both Thatboy and I enjoy. The timing works out well too, since this Friday we start our "month of vacations." Being out of town always makes it difficult to cook.


  1. I'm sorry most of this fell flat, but your mozarella looks divine!

  2. Homemade cheese! VERY impressive. It looks very yummy. I'm jealous!

  3. Bummer that the AVM recipes have been disappointing, but at least you are an awesome cheesemaker! That mozz looks so good!

  4. I am so impressed that you made your own cheese!! Wow, does the cheese melt as mozzarella normally does???

  5. I LOVE the cheese! I need to try yo make it at some point.

  6. I'm so impressed that you made cheese!

  7. I am so jealous of your homemade cheese! Very cool!

  8. holy crap. i just got over my breadmaking/yeast-using fear, and here you are making your own freaking CHEESE.

    i'm never gonna catch up to you.