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Pleasant Surprises

February 2, 2015

Missed it by that much. The Seahawk loss yesterday was heartbreaking. But we won’t linger in the past.

Who am I kidding. I’m all about lingering in the past. Hopefully you indulge me as I share a couple of highlights from last week. Perhaps they can be useful for someone in the future. Because really, they have nothing to do with football, and everything to do with cooking and the procuring of quality ingredients.

Well, one of these is at least tangentially connected to football, since it has something to do with Buffalo wings. Let’s start there and then we’ll move on to the hearty grains of winter.

Yesterday I made my own blue cheese sauce, and I love it. The recipe couldn’t be easier. Finding one of the critical ingredients, on the other hand, can take a herculean effort.

You cut 1/2 pound of blue cheese into pea sized nuggets, and add one small diced shallot to a non-reactive bowl. Toss it with an ounce of apple cider vinegar, and let sit for 15 minutes. Then you stir in 4 ounces of sour cream, and thin with buttermilk (an ounce at a time). I tasted it and added some salt and white pepper. And that’s it.

Easy peasy.

Except for the fact that most buttermilk isn’t buttermilk these days. Even the stuff that says cultured buttermilk is adulterated with thickeners and all kinds of dreck. Everywhere I go, I look at cartons in the hopes that I’ll find buttermilk that isn’t filled with shenanigans and disregard. Even Stewart’s, which has cream that is actually cream, mucks around with its buttermilk.

You know where I found the good stuff? In the most unlikely of places. Walmart. No joke. I couldn’t believe it myself. I wasn’t even going to pull the bottle off the shelf to look, because never in a million years did I think that this would be the place I would find this vestige of the past.

Speaking of vestiges of the past, let’s talk about grains. Rice is out. Well, not totally out. But it’s time to stop relying upon it as a staple.

Quick story. My kid was sick, so I put him on the classic BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet. It’s calmed stomachs for generations. So we’re in the doctors office, and when I’m explaining our current course of action, the doctor gets very serious, puts down his pen, looks up and asks, “Where was the rice grown?”

He was asking because of all the recent studies of elevated arsenic levels in domestic rice. Brown rice especially. And there are new guidelines for how much rice responsible adults should feed to small children (it’s not very much). The arsenic levels are also concentrated in things like rice bran and rice syrups which find their way into all kinds of kids’ products. So check those ingredients.

Anyhow, I’ve been on the search for alternative grains, so I need to give a shout of love to Honest Weight in Albany.

Thanks to their bulk bins, I’ve been able to get my hands on small quantities of several grains that my family will get to try and determine if I buy it again. We’ve now got millet, amaranth, sorghum, rye, and bulgur. How this is going to work out, I have no idea. I also have no idea how I’ll prepare any of these. But I am excited by the challenge. And I love that I have a place locally where I can go and be inspired by the amazing array of ingredients that are widely absent from the mass marketplace.

Maybe I can combine the two projects and make some kind of Buffalo style pilaf, with blue cheese on the side. Ooh. It’s so crazy, it just might work.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2015 11:18 am

    You have access to extremely high quality dairy around here. Buttermilk and sour cream are laughably easy to make at home. Spend 5 or 10 bucks and order some mesophilic starter on Amazon. Here is a recipe. Heck, I made sour cream over the weekend –

  2. enough already! permalink
    February 2, 2015 12:43 pm

    Found wonderful buttermilk at the troy farmer’s market. Sorry I can’t remember the seller.

    Also learned that if you boil rice in plentiful water till almost done, then return to low heat to finish, much of the arsenic is removed. Other info here:

  3. Amy permalink
    February 2, 2015 1:48 pm

    When I need to buy buttermilk, there’s a brand I really like, I believe it’s called Katie’s (?). It has a picture of a girl on the front of the bottle. It’s real cultured buttermilk. They sell it at Hannaford. They make butter and other products, too. I would also recommend making your own milk kefir – the real stuff made with live “grains.” It can be used as a substitute for buttermilk in baking and in things like your dressing. Let me know if you need some grains. I’m willing to share.

  4. Amy permalink
    February 2, 2015 1:49 pm

    Sorry, it’s called Kate’s.

    • Billy permalink
      February 2, 2015 3:19 pm

      My little one loves buttermilk pancakes, and my wife loves buttermilk biscuits, so we go through a fair amount of buttermilk. I buy Kate’s as well. And as you said, Hannaford carries it.

      The ingredients list (verbatim): Cultured buttermilk. Contains active yogurt cultures, L. Bulgaricus, S. Themopolis.

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