Friday, May 30, 2014

Watermelon Radish

The watermelon radish, also known as the beauty heart radish, is larger and much more beautiful than the traditional red radish we normally get at the store. It is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die (A Quintessence Book, 2008), p. 198. They have reddish to reddish and whitish flesh, white skin and green shoulders. They tend to get milder as they age, unlike other radishes, and their outer edges are hotter than the inner flesh which is sweet and crisp and mildly pungent. I'd never had watermelon radish before, but saw it recently at Clark's Nutrition and Natural Foods Market in Loma Linda. I only had a few, just enough to taste them. They would be a wonderful addition to a salad.
Watermelon radish - almost looks like a green turnip.
Fantastic looking inside - and these are less colorful than some of seen pictures of.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cheese: Isle of Mull (Cheddar)

Isle of Mull cheese is made on one farm, Sgriob-ruadh farm, owned by Chris and Jeff Reade, on the Isle of Mull, near the principal town of Tobermory, off the west coast of Scotland. When Judy and I visited Scotland years ago we drove through Oban and contemplated taking the ferry to the Isle of Mull. However, it looked like the backup for the ferry was extensive and we continued on. So when I saw this cheese at DTLA Cheese in Los Angeles, the name caught my attention and had to try it. 
Isle of Mull cheddar cheese
It is a hard cow's milk cheese and is considered the king of Scottish cheddar cheeses, winning awards like the BBC Food and Farming Award, Best Scottish Cheese, British Cheese Awards Gold and a gold medal at the World Cheese Awards. The cows they use are predominantly Friesian, but they also have Ayrshire or Jersey and Brown Swiss cows and the cows milk is used raw. The cows feed is regularly supplemented with discarded fermented grain from the Tobermory malt whiskey distillery, which helps give the cheese a distinctive taste. And who said it is the California cows that are happy cows? It is matured in an underground cellar for up to 18 months and has been described as: (a) having a "complex, sharp, tangy and fruity flavor;" (b) "feisty, complex, sharp, yeasty, sharp, tangy and fruity;" (c) "quite a sharp taste, with hints of the fruity, yeasty and slightly alcoholic cows feed offering a feisty lingering tang;"   (d) "meaty, salty, boozy. There's no tang that I sometimes taste in cheddar, that tang is replaced by an alcohol note. It's not sweet...It's fruity, but without any sweet, like a savoury fruit. It's completely unlike any cheddar I have ever tasted. It's funky and yeasty and aggressive. It's boozy and sexy and weird" - this was a particularly good review and started by saying that this was his cheese seller's favorite cheese. 
The descriptions for the taste of this cheese were more varied and descriptive than those I've seen for any other cheese. I can't even begin to compete with those descriptions. I agree with the descriptions of sharp and tangy and it is quite strong. I love the location of the farm, the small-scale one farm operation and I also like the taste of the cheese. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Colored Carrots

Believe it or not, there is a World Carrot Museum which gives detail on the history of carrots. The earliest historic records for carrots has them being cultivated in what is now Afghanistan in about the year 1000. Those original carrots were probably purple or yellow. In the 1100s carrots spread to Spain through North Africa and the Middle East. In the 1300s purple, white and yellow carrots were brought into the rest of southern Europe and were widely grown there by the 1500s. It was the Dutch who took newly developed orange carrots, which were developed from yellow carrots, and developed them over time to be sweeter and more consistent. The other colors of carrots were only kept alive in the more remote regions of the world. For example, purple and white carrots still grow wild in Afghanistan where they are used by tribesman to make an alcoholic beverage. Time has done a nice recent article on the different colors of carrots that are available now. 
Up until a few years ago, I had no idea that there was anything other than an orange carrot. I had a birthday meal at Ford's Filling Station in Culver City, the whole pig dinner, and it came with different colors of whole carrots saturated in cooked pork flesh. And they were marvelous. 
Whole pig dinner at Ford's Filling Station. Carrots in bottom corner.
When we got this, I specifically tried out the different colors of carrots.
Even more recently, at a farmers market in San Diego County, we came across some colored carrots being sold and purchased them and tried them. From what we tried and from what little I've read, purple carrots tend to be orange colored inside and don't taste much different than yellow carrots, but they do have a little peppery flavor. White carrots are yellow or cream colored and are a little sweeter and have less of the earthy flavor of the other carrot colors. Red carrots get their color from lycopene, the same pigment that gives tomatoes their red color, and have a taste pretty much like orange carrots. 
The different inside colors add to their value as garnishes.
Traditionally carrots have been stir fried or boiled, or apparently also made into alcoholic beverages. It is only the last 50 years that carrots have been eaten raw. It is not uncommon to find grated carrots in the all-you-can eat salad bar, or miniature carrots in snack tries. 

We baked our rainbow carrots and it was very fun having the different colors and tastes, comparing them side-by-side. I hope they will become more available as the different colors are great for garnishes in salads and other dishes, as well as to be focused on just themselves. 


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cheese: Ewephoria Extra Aged

Ewephoria, not surprisingly made out of sheep's milk, is a gouda style cheese made for Cheeseland, a Seattle importer of Dutch cheese, by a small farm in the Friesland province in northern Netherlands. Apparently aged sheep's milk cheese is "too gamy for American tastes," so Cheeseland worked with the Dutch farm to produce a cheese with "a sweeter and nuttier" taste solely for sale in the U.S. market to focus on the American sweet tooth. The Cheeseland website says, like typical marketing baloney, it "tastes like candy." If that were the case, candy would not be as popular among young children. Ewephoria is aged anywhere from 4 to 12 months (I see aging estimates that vary widely on different websites). I am assuming my "extra aged" cheese was aged toward the end of the longer time frame. I found that it is quite strong and quite dense, and still has a significant sheepy taste to it that I happen to like, although it may be a little more muted. Sweet is not a descriptive term I would have used to describe it, but all of the advertising literature uses the term. It may be a little sweeter than normal sheep's milk cheese, but calling it "candy" goes way, way too far. I'd not heard of this cheese until we saw it at DTLA Cheese in the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. I really like it, but I love all sheep's milk cheese and wouldn't prefer this over many other aged sheep's milk cheeses. Much of the information for this came from an on-line article at SFGate dated March 8, 2014



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Golden Beets

It has only been the last few years that I've come to like beets. I've learned to like them pickled, roasted, baked and even raw. But they are nasty to work with as they stain everything they come in contact with. Then I had some golden beet for the first time in a dish at Au Cinquieme Peche in Montreal. It was yellow and had a nice mild flavor. I thought, "I could really like these, I need to try them again." They are not available in the regular grocery stores we go to. But I've been able to have them three more times: once in a produce box we get from a local farm, once from a specialty health food store and once from a community market. I've found that they have a more mild taste, with less of an earthy taste, than red beets, they are much cleaner to work with because you avoid the stained red hands and sink, and they taste better raw or only partially cooked, than red beets do. When roasting multiple vegetables, they also make a wonderful color choice along with red beets, peppers, Brussels sprouts, etc. 
Golden beets 
Orange-ish on the outside and yellow on the inside.
Peeled
Sliced and ready for baking or roasting.
They add nice color to an array of roasted vegetables.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cheese: Paski Sir

Paski sir, Croatian for "cheese from the island of Pag," is just that, a sheep milk cheese from that Croatian island in the Adriatic Sea.
Pag is a long thin island that looks more like a peninsula, until you look closely and see that it has some small separation from the mainland which is easily connected by a road, just north of Zadar. The island environment is what makes Paski sir distinctive. The Velebit mountain range is just east of Pag island on the mainland. The mountains cause the Pag Bora, a strong, cool, dry east/west wind, which scatters a dry salt dust all over the island. As the salt dust falls on the moist vegetation, it sticks, and only the resilient and aromatic plant species can survive, such as Pag Sage. It is feeding on the salty grass and aromatic vegetation, that gives the Pag sheep milk, and thus its cheese, part of its distinctive taste. There are about 40,000 Pag sheep on the island, five times more than the 8,000 humans, and they are smaller and produce less milk than a normal sheep, at most about one-half liter a day. Only about 80 tons of the cheese is produced each year. Paski sir is aged variously and of course the aging deepens the taste of the cheese. I've seen references to Paski sir aged from 6 months to 18 months. I've had Paski sir twice, once obtained from the Cheese Cave in Claremont and once from DTLA Cheese in the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. You can see from the pictures that one of the cheeses was aged substantially longer: It is much more brown around the edges near the rind and has whitish crystals in the body of it. It is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die (p. 319). 
Paski Sir
This Paski Sir is aged longer than the one above. Darker edges near the rind and white crystals in the body.
Paski sir is traditionally served chunked and crumbled with olive oil. I also read suggestions to serve it with prsut (Croatian prosciutto), salted anchovies or black olives, so I decided to try some in that way. 
Paski Sir in olive oil, in anchovies packed in olive oil and plain. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Animal Signs

As we have traveled around the country we have noticed some fun signs relating to animals. Florida seems to have a preponderance of them. I decided I needed to start photographing them and keeping a record. I hope to add to this as I come across more:
In Crystal River, Florida. Careful of the manatees.
On Sanibel Island, Florida. One of several gopher tortoise signs.
Sanibel Island.
Along Gator Alley, or the Tamiami Trail. Watch for pumas.
I didn't actually photograph this one. I just remembered that I saw signs showing the animal and naming the animal. This is an example of a sign warning of panthers.
We ran into a number of crocodile crossing signs between Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys. I got this from the internet.
A moose sign in New Hampshire near Conway. They are concerned for human life.
In Alaska, they are concerned for moose lives, telling you how many moose have been killed in a particular area. This sign does not give a number, but we saw several that did give numbers and the numbers was in the hundreds. 
A more traditional moose sign in Alaska. This type was closer to the population centers. This was just outside Anchorage. 
Buffalo sign in Custer State Park, South Dakota
Similar buffalo sign in Custer State Park.
Bison sign in Badlands NP, South Dakota.
Wildlife sign in Custer State Park.
Beware of Rattlesnakes in Badlands NP.
Prairie Dogs in Badlands NP.
Turtle crossing sign outside Custer, SD where a large pond is on both sides of the road.
Bighorn Sheep sign near Hill City, SD.
Colorado also has its share of animal signs.
Deer sign outside of Buena Vista.
I got this off the internet because I was driving too fast to stop and take a picture. This bighorn sheep sign was in a canyon outside of Denver to the east.
This elk sign was in Central Colorado south of Salida, I believe. 
We also ran into a few fun signs in Africa:
In the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
In Nairobi National Park
At the Serena Mountain Lodge in Mount Kenya NR.
A caribou sign in Alaska.
Another caribou sign in Alaska near Denali NP. Note, this caribou has larger antlers than the one above. It also has been shot at.
Duck sign in Alaska
We just recently found some animal signs in California:
Beware of mountain lions and rattlesnakes in Griffith Park.
Rattlesnakes in Griffith Park.
Watch for bears in Mt. Magazine State Park in Arkansas.
A sign for the Barbary Ape or Barbary Macaque outside Azrou, Morocco.
A sign for the Barbary Stag, also known as the Atlas Deer, a subspecies of the Red Deer. They were extinct in Morocco for a time but have been reintroduced. 
Along Highway 8 between Lukeville, Arizona and Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico, the El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve is along most of the west side of the highway. We found the following animal signs.
The endangered Sonoran antelope is a resident of the Biosphere. This photo was taken through the windshield during a driving rain. 
Coyotes are not endangered, but they are apparently concerned about them. 
This is the same sign for bighorn sheep we saw in Colorado. 
Buffalo are rounded up annually at Antelope Island State Park in Utah, on the Great Salt Lake, and the excess buffalo are sold at auction. 
In Cabeza Prieta NWR in southern Arizona there is a captive breeding herd of the endangered Sonoran pronghorn. There is a mile square fence housing about 70 pronghorn. Along the dirt road near the pen the following sign is posted in a number of places: