Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It’s (Now) Easy Eating Green

For anybody who is interested, today I received an e-mail letting me know that Snow’s Bend Farm will be accepting new applications to join their CSA starting this Friday!! Wooo Whoooo!!! I am pumped!!

What is a CSA you ask??? Rachel Zoe Insler (via the AG) gave a pretty good run-down last fall, but basically, if you live in or around Birmingham, Snow’s Bend will provide (and even deliver!) fresh, farmed fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. all year long (ok, about 40 weeks long) for a (very reasonable) flat fee!

And since we learned in Food Inc. that all commercialized/industrialized food is sending us straight to Hell in a Corn-fed Hand Basket, a CSA like Snow’s Bend will help us do a better job of eating fresh and in season!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Never Learned to Read

As if we don’t have enough things going on right now, my dear wife pointed out to me the other night that I’m currently “reading” A LOT of books (I had just received my preview copy of Linchpin by Seth Godin). I think I just get excited about starting a new book, and before I know it, there is a stack of four of five books on our bedside table. I guess this post is to call myself out (and hold myself accountable) that I will have all of these (non-cookbooks) finished by July 1st.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters – The LOML gave me this for Christmas, and although the beginning was kind of a downer, I think it will have some good points/perspective.

Kitchen Confidential – Robbie just finished this and mailed it to me. I started it yesterday, and I really think I’m going to want to quit my job and go work at some dive in Williamsburg after finishing it.

What the Dog Saw – A great book to start and stop. A collection of Gladwell’s stories that have previously appeared in the New Yorker over the last 10 years. "The Black Swan" was really interesting.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames – Another great book to leave and return to. Don’t ask me why, but I brought three books with us to the hospital, and this was the only one I actually touched. Sedaris’ dry observations make me LOLz.

Parenting By the Book – Go download his presentation @ St. Peter’s if you don’t have time to read this.

Linchpin – Godin is so hot right now. If only I could think of some multi-million dollar backed start-up, I’d go hear him speak and have him consult me during one of his VIP break-out sessions.

And then there are my new cookbooks (Merry Christmas to me!!)

Asian Bites – I’m a little hesitant to introduce some of these spicy foods to my little muchkin (and wife), but there are some really good looking “bites” in here.

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics – After flipping through, I realized I’ve already made a few of these recipes over the last year or so. And it looks like Ina is cooking a number of these on Food Network right now. Good stuff.

Hot and Hot Fish Club Cookbook – We tried their Elton Stephens’ Chocolate SoufflĂ© on New Year’s and now I can’t wait to visit the Farmer’s Market after April 15th. Eating Local and Organic is also so hot (and hot) right now.

Frank Stitt’s Southern Table – Sure it’s over five years old, but like Chris Hastings’ Hot & Hot cookbook, Frank makes me want to A) become an artisanal/organic food purveyor for chefs like him or B) ask Frank (or Chris) for a job on his line.

I'm in Love with a Girl (Big Star)

I guess you figured out that the LOML and I had our little bundle of joy last week. Today actually marks the week anniversary (oh gosh, am I going to turn into one of those people that keeps track of week, month, etc. anniversaries??) since we welcomed our sweet little angel into the world.

Lately, I’ve really debated on what direction I want to take That Much Further ‘Ham. Do you want family/parenting stories?? Do you want cooking/food-related posts?? Do you want my thoughts on the current socio-political environment?? (Hint: no one, including myself, does) Well, to answer my rhetorical question question/dilemma, I’ll just say I want to keep posting even though this little munchkin is occupying most of our thoughts, emotions and attention:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Mrs. and I are so abundantly blessed in all aspects of our lives, and one area that we won’t have to worry about for these next few months is MEALS!! Our wonderful community group at church has scheduled to bring us dinner three nights a week, BUT that means YOU the reader won’t be able to “enjoy” as many cooking/food related posts (since we won’t be cooking ourselves dinner as often). Busy Season started this week anyway, so it’s not like I could dedicate that much free time to cooking in the first place, but I just wanted to put that out there.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Baby Got Back

Sorry we haven't talked since Sunday . . . been trying to catch up on our sleep.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve taken a sort of renewed interest in photography these last two years. I mean, I was a Yearbook photographer in high school (impressive, I know), but it really wasn’t until I read an article in USA Today, back in April 2008, about some site called “Strobist” that I started to seriously pick the hobby back up.*

After browsing around, it’s pretty easy to develop a case of G.A.S., but I’ve tried to space my purchases out over the last year or so. Well, this past week I purchased another pretty cool photo gadget, so I thought I’d show you some of my stuff.

First, here is my strobe (Nikon SB-26) attached to my lighting stand using an umbrella adapter. I’ve never tried any other external flash/strobe, but I am really pleased with the SB-26 (and since it has Strobist’s seal-of-approval, I won’t have any trouble trading it in, should I ever decide to do so). The LOML actually got me the lighting stand last year for Valentine’s, but it wasn’t until I (semi-recently) purchased the umbrella adapter, that I was able to use it for anything.

Next, are my new CyberSync Trigger Transmitter and Receivers I received this week. These handy little guys let me fire my flash remotely up to 350 feet away, and now my flash won’t be limited to my Nikon’s hot shoe. PRETTY COOL!! (PS – these were purchased with some of my Birthday/Christmas funds . . . Thanks, everybody!!!)

And, here is my umbrella. If you read David Hobby’s original thoughts on photo umbrellas, you can see he (originally) preferred silver, reflective umbrellas (shown), to the shoot-through, white variety. Two years later, and it looks like he actually would recommend the white variety, but there are obviously pros and cons to both.

* If you interested in learning more about off-camera flash, you REALLY need to check out Strobist. There is actually A TON of resources out there for the aspiring photog, and I’ve also recently discovered ProPhotoLife’s youtube video series (the intro music is pretty cheese, but I thought the info was very useful). Oh yeah, one last plug I’ll make is Zack Arias. He’s based out of ATL and will definitely inspire you to GOYA!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bambino Watch

I think we’re in the final week!! Last night the LOML and I went with some of our friends to Lovoy’s Italian restaurant. Supposedly, if a (pregnant) woman orders the lasagna (near her due date), it will induce labor shortly thereafter. We actually went a few weeks ago (on the 29th or 30th?), but our waitress said it wouldn’t work that early (and she said it’s worked on every woman who’s worked there).

24(ish) hours later, and still no baby, so I’m not sure how much I believe it. Last night, our waitress did say the LOML needed to finish the entire meal for it to work, but since she took some of it home (garlic bread is so filling), I guess she’s disqualified.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fresh Mozzarella, Unbound

A few months ago, after Gourmet announced it was shutting its doors, a new food blog popped up to celebrate the legendary (and influential) magazine. Since I missed the deadline for December, I was determined to submit something for January. Ironically (sadly), I had only been a subscriber since December 2008, but since I kept all my old issues, I turned to the January 2009 issue for inspirado.* (to find out what exactly I’m talking about, click here)

Why did I pick one of the most difficult recipes in this issue?? I don’t know . . . Is it because I like a challenge? Maybe it’s my Italian heritage?? Too much Schnookie and DJ Pauly D?? Whatever the situation was, I spent a good portion of Sunday afternoon trying my hand at HOMEMADE MOZZARELLA!

Fresh mozzarella only has 3 ingredients: Milk, Citric Acid, and Rennet. After calling every grocery in BHM (and a few kitchen supply stores), the only place I found that carried this elusive Rennet was WHOLE FOODS. A pack of 8 tablets was about $1.50 and the Citric Acid (in the hippie herb/supplements section) was around $5. The Rennet also came with a handy little recipe guide that had more recipes for homemade cheeses (so folksy!).

The Gourmet
instructions/recipe seemed time consuming, but not overly difficult. You basically combine Milk and Citric Acid, Heat, add Rennet/Water, Heat, Stir Curds, Drain in Cheesecloth, and then form Curds into Mozzarella. To quote Tom Petty “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.”

I thought the first hour went pretty well. Looking back, I probably stirred my milk too often, but I did start to see some curds form. After the first hour was up, I stirred in the warm water and Rennet mixture, and waited for the magic to happen . . . and waited . . . and waited. Another hour went by, and I never achieved the “stiffened milk mixture.” I mean, I achieved a few more curds, but nothing firm.

I might not have achieved mozzarella curd perfection, but I decided to strain what little I had and drain them in the cheese cloth. If you had seen the pictures in Gourmet, it looks like you would get about a basketball sized portion of curds from 1 gallon of milk. I got about a tennis ball’s worth. Maybe.

After hanging around for about three hours, the curds did lose some moisture, and even looked to be compacted into a little mozzarella ball shape. But this final step is where the curd really becomes mozzarella.

You’re supposed to ladle hot salted water on top of the milk curds, and let it slowly melt into a gooey mixture, which you’re then able to form into mozzarella balls (before suspending the process in cold water). I’m sure my curds weren’t robust enough in the first place, but when I placed them in warm/hot water, they just seemed to dissolve. And I definitely couldn’t form them into a ball.

After a minute or two, I ended up draining the curds and wrapping them in saran wrap to shape into some type of ball. The consistency was about the same as really soft, milky cream cheese, but not exactly what I had hoped for.

Looking back, I don’t think it was a complete loss. I bet my “cheese” would be half-way decent on pizza, but I’ll definitely try this again. What else am I gonna do with all this rennet and citric acid???

* For January 2009’s Pancetta & Pea Risotto I made last year, click here.