Learn to Make Labneh | Homemade Yogurt Cheese


Like a tarter, healthier version of American cream cheese, Labneh is a Middle Eastern dairy specialty made from draining the whey from yogurt. Grab a few things and let me show you just how easy it is to make your own.


You'll need all of the items shown above to make your first batch of plain Labneh. The salt is recommended, but optional. I prefer whole milk yogurt, but have had succesful results with both low and no-fat yogurts, too. Let your conscience be your guide. I subscribe to the assertion that saturated fats from whole milk dairy products can have a place in healthy diets as long as consumed in moderation.


I use a fresh jar of organic probiotic whole milk yogurt. Get the best your budget allows. If using salt, stir about 1/2 teaspoon into a quart jar of yogurt.

Prop strainer over whey-collection vessel. Line the strainer with 2-3 layers of cheesecloth. Transfer the jar contents to the strainer. Shake it around just a bit to get any air out.


Tie the four corners of cheesecloth together. Hang over a faucet, or a cabinet pull, positioning over the collection vessel to drain. Allow to drain 12 hours (for creamier, more dense cheese, allow to continue to drain for up to 24 hours). Remove and place back in the strainer, untie, and gently remove the cheesecloth from around the cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl, or a storage container with a lid.


The sky is the limit with the many uses you'll find for Labneh. Tangy, rich, and satisfying, a little goes a long way in satisfying my cheeeeeese jones with a little less indulgence. It pair well with many Middle Eastern dishes, but don't stop there. Recently, I stirred in a spoonful of my best citrus marmalade and spread it on toasted raisin bread--for dessert! I love to add minced garlic or shallot, fresh and dried herbs (mint is a favorite), the zest of oranges and lemons, and my favorite-- black pepper.

I'd love to hear the ways you find to use Labneh. Have you tasted it before? Made it before? How did it go? I'm terribly curious to find out how you use one of my favorite condiments. Last week I made a Persian Eggplant Salad that I ate along with this batch-- I'll be sharing that dish this week, too. And for even more ideas, check out this slideshow from Bon Appetit.

Do you have favorite Middle Eastern foods? Places to eat it? Do tell! And if you're in the Austin area, check out Saffron & Sesame | Middle Eastern Food in Austin, my #ATXBESTEATS City Guide for the best in town.


CLASSES | Learn to Cook | CREOLE with Maggie Perkins


Learn to Cook | Creole
Red Beans & Rice with Andouille Sausage

A little magic, a little science, a little art, Creole Red Beans & Rice with Andouille Sausage is a southern cook’s expression of affection; a one pot love affair for friends and family alike. 

Join market chef and food writer Maggie Perkins of Notes from Maggie’s Farm, as she breaks down the basic bones of this iconic dish, beginning with the proper bean, the proper prep, the proper rice, and the proper sausage-- at least according to southern Louisiana cooks, that is.

Historically, a savory pot of Red Beans & Rice was prepared on Mondays-- wash day in southern homes. The pot could go relatively untended while clothes were washed and hung on the line. These days, you’ll find it on family tables as well as the finest white-tableclothed restaurants, every day of the week. But there’s a little more skill involved than first meets the eye.

You’ll be as entertained as you are enlightened by hints, tips, family secrets, and raucous stories about life in Bayou Country while learning to prepare this iconic dish, and feasting on Red Beans & Rice with Andouille, garlic bread, and traditional Sensation Salad. Just in time for the Mardi Gras season, you’ll be throwing around lagniappes and who-dats by Fat Tuesday. 

Come join us, cher, it’s going to be a BIG TIME. C’est si bon!

February 23-  6:30-8:00pm | BYOB 
TICKETS-----> Learn to Cook | Creole
REGISTRATION ENDS WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22

Class located in S. Austin/Bouldin Creek. Address provided prior to class.  

No refunds, however transfers are allowed.

About Maggie Perkins: When food writer, former farmer, and market chef Maggie Perkins isn't preparing seasonal dishes on the fly at local farmers markets, you might find her at a backwoods barbecue joint in Mississippi, comparing chargrilled oysters in the Big Easy, or trading food folklore with a fishmonger on the coast. Her true north is in her home kitchen, puttering about, spinning vintage vinyl, perfecting her creole cooking techniques, and developing recipes she shares in print, and on her blog, Notes from Maggie's Farm.



About Town: Austin | Tullamore D.E.W. & A Brew Tour


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a private tasting of Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey at the new Friends & Allies Brewery in East Austin.


Jane, the charming and knowledgeable brand ambassador of Tullamore D.E.W. has embarked on a 68 day tour, the Tullamore D.E.W. and a Brew Tour, stopping at local breweries in 26 cities across America in search of the perfect craft beer to pair with their triple-distilled Irish single malt and blended whiskeys

AN IRISH TRADITION
Drinking a Tullamore D.E.W. with a beer unlocks the complimentary flavours in both, and the classic ritual of enjoying both beverages side-by-side goes back generations. It’s an old Irish tradition that we hope to celebrate and share with the world. The perfect pairing of D.E.W. and a brew may go way back, but the tradition is timeless.
The event was held at the newly opened Friends & Allies Brewing Brewery and Beer Garden on Springdale, in East Austin. Very hip digs. Easy to find, ample parking, bright and modern space. I'm looking forward to spending more time there. Great beer, too!


Jane treated us to an informative brewery tour and we had the opportunity to sample pours of Friends & Allies' Noisy Cricket, Session IPA, Urban Chicken, Saison, and Springdale, White Ale (and my favorite). I look forward to returning to try their Fresh Coast IPA, available soon. Follow the links to find more information on each style, including ABV%, and hops and malt profiles.


After the tour, we got down to the business of tasting. Traditionally called a Boilermaker in America (learn more about that, here), we tasted three pairings-- F&A White Ale with Tullamore D.E.W. Original, Urban Chicken with 12 Year Old Special Reserve, and Noisy Cricket with 15 Year Old Trilogy. 


My favorite beer, alone, was the Springdale White Ale, my favorite whisky was the 15 Year Old Trilogy, and my favorite pairing, the Urban Chicken with the 12 Year Old Special Reserve. I found the pairing really showcased the fruit and spice flavors of the F&A Saison. 

We came, we saw, we tasted, we Insta'd and tweeted, and checked in and all of those things we bloggers and writers and eaters and drinkers do. I learned a lot about the Boilermaker, Irish Whisky, and tasty brews, and enjoyed making new friends and enjoying established friends, too. 

The Tullamore D.E.W. and A Brew Tour is headed, next. to New Orleans! What a fine time to find yourself in the Big Easy. Look for them in cities North and East, and be sure to give them a warm welcome. 

Thank you for a real good time, Tullamore D.E.W., and safe travels! 


Disclosure: I was invited to attend this tasting free of charge. All liquor was served gratis. All opinions (and photos) are my own. 



The Sweetest Things | Be Mine Valentine Chocolate Mint Pancakes | Maggie Perkins


Though the big retail business that is Valentine's Day might suggest otherwise, I've always thought the very sweetest things you could share with the sweetest people in your life are handmade and from the heart. A gander through scrapbooks and hope chests will bear me out-- that second grade valentine that misspelled your Mom's first name is tucked among the most cherished memories where no flashy gifts are stashed. 

Chuck the fancy boxes of chocolates and treat your loves to your personal handiwork in less time, with less cash, and make what truly matters. A precious memory. 

------------+++------------

Chocolate Peppermint Pancakes
Yield: 30 small heart-shaped pancakes

1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 ½ T maple syrup
1 T coconut oil, melted
1t vanilla extract
1t peppermint extract

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into mixing bowl. Whisk in buttermilk, maple syrup, coconut oil and extracts until combined. Let batter sit, covered, for 30 minutes.

Spray large nonstick skillet with silicone cooking spray, and heat over medium heat. If using, coat interior of silicone heart-shaped molds with silicone cooking spray. Place molds into preheated skillet. Pour 1/8 cup batter into mold for each pancake. (Alternatively, pour batter into round pancakes about 4” in diameter.) Cook until bubbles form on the surface and edges begin to set. Remove mold and gently flip with a spatula, cooking about 1 minute on opposite side. Remove to paper toweling, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Optional: Garnish with edible crushed rose petals. Serve with maple syrup (I used TFM market vendor Stellar Gourmet Mulled Maple Syrup for extra raves.)



Disclosure: This recipe was prepared as a chef demo for Texas Farmers' Markets at Lakeline and Mueller, for which I serve as market chef. Stellar Gourmet Mulled Maple Syrup was provided free of charge to sample at the market. 

If you find yourself in the Austin area on February 25 and 26, come catch an authentic taste of Mardi Gras-- Shrimp Etouffe featuring K&S Seafood. We're going to pass a good time, cher!





Classes & Events | February | Maggie Perkins


I am excited to have added a new feature to Notes from Maggie's Farm this year-- an entire page devoted to Classes and Events. Below, find out what I'm up to in the month of February, then check back by clicking on the link in the navigation bar, above. You'll find featured monthly events and my calendar, updated as classes and demos are added. Thank you for keeping up with all that's going on with Notes from Maggie's Farm. 

I appreciate your support!
Maggie

A Southern Style Super Bowl
Tickets & info ---> February 2, 2017
Learn to Bake Bread!
Tickets & info ---> February 7, 2017

Southern Comfort Series: Gumbo YaYa | Chicken & Andouille Sausage
Tickets & info ---> February 9, 2017

The Sweetest Things | Chef Demo
TFM Lakeline info ---> February 11, 2017
TFM Mueller info ---> February 12, 2017

Learn to Cook | Pho!
Tickets & info ---> February 14, 2017

Home Fermenting | Kimchi
Tickets & info ---> February 16, 2017

Learn to Bake Bread | No-Knead Caraway Rye
Tickets & info ---> February 21, 2017

Southern Comfort Series: Red Beans & Rice with Andouille Sausage
Tickets & info ---> February 23, 2017

Mardi Gras at the Market | Chef Demo
TFM Lakeline info ---> February 25, 2017
TFM Mueller info ---> February 26, 2017

The Seasonal Plate with Johnson's Backyard Garden
Tickets & info ---> February 28, 2017








Food is Love | Swiss Chard with Smoked Ham and a Memories of a Tasty Childhood


Sometimes food is so much more than food. Food is Love.

There are dishes that elicit precious memories from the senses. Pot roast cooking reminds me of my mother and how, as a child, the house smelled delicious when we returned from church and made that seemingly endless hour of absolute quiet and stillness in the pews under threat of my pretty mother's scary eyebrow almost worth it. It was my job to slice the scallions for the potatoes and set the table. I think it was my brother's job to put ice in the glasses. We waited impatiently for the rolls to brown and the gravy to thicken, and to the faint background sound of referees' whistles from the console television in the next room, we'd finally sit down to Sunday dinner.

Savory meatloaf reminds me of my Granny Mac, and the way she cut it into perfect cubes for my brother and me, served alongside simple mashed potatoes and canned sweet peas. Always such an orderly plate, and I can close my eyes and almost feel the dish towel tucked into my collar. We were a tidy lot. We took naps at Granny's, settling down midday to the opening theme of Days of Our Lives and waking with the imprint of her cotton bedspread on our little sweaty red cheeks.

A pot of smoky, salty fresh green beans on the stove takes me back to dinners with my Granny Ruth. Sweet memories of eating together around her little dinette set, in her small, slightly creaky, kitchen, much like mine, today. She added real sugar to each glass of tea, tending to each plate slightly stooped with a soft cotton apron, stockings rolled down around her ankles, sensible shoes, and a twinkle in her eye.

The day long process of putting by bread and butter pickles reminds me of my great grandmother Josie-- and while it is her chicken and dumplings I craved, and still do, I suppose my young brain tucked away the fragrance of sweetened vinegar and spices from visits to her Arkansas kitchen. Josie had a way of making you feel like you were more special than anyone else. It seems like just yesterday that she'd give me a warm tight hug and I'd feel her soft, crepey powdered cheek against mine.


The heavenly scent of greens cooking down on the stovetop takes me back to summer dinners at my Gana's. My grandfather kept a garden, and during the Oklahoma summers, he would have a bountiful harvest. I loved those times when all of the cousins came, and my uncles and aunts and my Dad would laugh and argue and tease each other and we kids would play hide and seek. If we were lucky, Gana would fry chicken, and all was right with the world.

I also remember with fondness the Sundays when my father picked us up and spent the day with us-- we had only a faint idea of the meaning of custody but we knew we loved every minute of Sunday. And my Gana would fix a big lunch of Papaw's freshly-picked vegetables-- maybe okra, maybe squash, maybe peas, depending upon the season, but there was always sweet iced tea, sliced cucumbers in cider vinegar and a stack of sliced bread on a brown melamine plate for us, and quite often, a bowl of smothered greens for the adults. I suppose our palates were not quite developed, but nevertheless, the fragrance now transports me to a sweet childhood long ago.

Luckily for me, I get to visit those memories often by way of the produce available at the farmers market. Last weekend, I prepared several types of greens several ways. Yesterday's post included vegan, vegetarian, and virtually meat-free options prepared at TFM Lakeline. The following day at TFM Mueller, I offered those as well as a more traditional preparation highlighting Belle Vie Farm & Kitchen Smoked Ham.


I trimmed the unctuous, velvety fat from the ham, and rendered it in a hot cast iron skillet over medium high heat to liquefy, then reduced the heat and added one large sweet yellow onion, sliced, and browned them slowly, stirring frequently, to yield a golden, slightly sweet caramelized pile.


I scooted them off to the side and added the smoked ham, cut in small cubes, and allowed them to slightly brown on the edges, stirring around occasionally. I then added two healthy bunches of JBG Organic Rainbow Swiss Chard, sliced thinly, piled high. I added salt and freshly ground pepper, and let them cook down until they were wilted. I added a sprinkling of apple cider vinegar-- perhaps a teaspoon or two, and stirred it down into the crusty bits in the bottom of the pan, scraping a bit until they were loose and stirred into the greens. I corrected the seasonings, and served them to a hungry and appreciative crowd.


At home, this would yield 2-4 healthy servings, and I think it would not be embellishing it too much to say they'd be absolutely heaven with a wedge of southern-style cornbread.

And maybe a glass of sweet iced tea.

Farmers Market Favorites | Greens Three Ways


Green, green GREEN. The markets are flush with GREEN. Or GREENS rather. Tis the season for healthy, nutrient dense greens, and below, you'll find three quick ways to prepare them that will please even the most stalwart of greens-averse eaters. I should know. I once was one, myself.

Never one to do things small, some 8 plus years ago, I decided that I was a farmer. Overnight. You'll find the rest of that story, here. And if that wasn't BIG enough, I decided that I'd eat, primarily, only food that I grew or raised myself. That first year. That first year before the garden was even tilled. That first year that began at the end of....November.


You know what grows in Texas in the winter? GREENS. Lots of 'em. And this city girl turned farmer (turned city girl, again, since) didn't really cotton to greens. But I'd made a pledge, darn it, and I wasn't going back on my word. Even if it was a word that seemed impossible to adhere to in the light of day when one with more sense and less stubbornness would have acquiesced, read the writing in the dirt, and hit the closest grocery store.

Nope. Not this girl. Not this FARMER. I had no sense.

And that's how it came to be that this FARMER, learned to cook GREENS. Lots of 'em. And I learned to like them. Heck. I learned to LOVE them. A few simple ingredients, that I did not grow that first season incidentally ( I said primarily. PRIMARILY.), and I discovered how to turn out a bowlful of greens that both nourished and delighted, and dang it if I didn't start craving greens.

Now traditionally, a pot of greens in many southern homes would require a lot of smoked pork, a lot of time, and not just a little bit of bacon grease. I set about to create, through trial and error, and reduced each of these elements to retain the nutrients and cut the fat, so to speak.


A lot has changed since that beginning crop. A WHOLE lot. But a few things remain. I still love my greens, and I still know how to make them shine. I like them garlicky, peppery, savory, a tad salty, a touch smoky, and quick. I shared my secrets last weekend at the Texas Farmers' Markets with the help of a bounty of greens from Johnson's Backyard Garden, as well as some of my favorite market products-- turkey bone broth from Belle Vie Farm & Kitchen, and pretty and plump Crimini mushrooms from Kitchen Pride. If you happen to be outside of the Austin area, I bet it wouldn't be hard for you to find some worthy substitutes.

Save for the turkey broth, no meat was added to the recipes, below, but a heartier meal might include a fried egg or two, a crumble of feta or goat cheese, and perhaps a few ounces of the meat or seafood of your choice. You'll see below that I brought a few faithful food friends along-- garlic, onions, chili flakes, smoked salt, ginger, rice wine vinegar (unseasoned) and toasted sesame oil-- a great start to building a pantry of staples that will keep you creating healthful, and less indulgent greens that the whole family, and most importantly, YOU, will love.

Collard Greens in Turkey Bone Broth

1 pint Belle Vie Farm and Kitchen turkey bone broth
1 cup water
3 cloves garlic, chopped
a pinch of cracked red pepper
2 bunches collard greens, center stems removed, shredded

Optional: smoked salt to taste

Add all ingredients to a large saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a rolling simmer, covered, and cook until greens are as tender as you like them, or about 30 minutes. Season with optional smoked salt. Adjust seasonings.

Curly Endive with Caramelized Onions and Crimini Mushrooms

1T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut in half, then sliced
1 cup sliced Crimini mushrooms
2 heads curly endive, chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Over medium low heat, bring olive oil to a shimmer, and add sliced onions. Cook slowly, stirring often, until onions are golden brown (about 40 minutes). Remove from skillet, retaining any remaining liquid.  Add mushrooms to skillet, along with enough oil to keep them from sticking, if necessary. Increase burner to medium high heat to sear mushrooms. Add greens to skillet and return caramelized onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until greens have wilted, about 15 minutes. Season with black pepper.

Asian Swiss Chard Stir Fry

1T grapeseed oil
1T toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon cracked red pepper
2 bunches Swiss chard
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)

Optional: 1 bunch young carrots, sliced crosswise, lengthwise, or both, simmered in salted water until crisp-tender.

Warm grapeseed and toasted sesame oil in skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic, stirring constantly, until golden. Add remaining ingredients and cook until chard is limp. Add rice wine vinegar, stirring and scraping the juices from the bottom of the pan and incorporating into greens mixture. Add carrots to greens, optionally. Correct seasonings and serve.

Disclosure: I am a contract market chef for the Texas Farmers' Markets. Except where indicated, the food above was provided free of charge by vendors for demonstration. Recipes and photos are my own.

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