I posted a video by Michael Pollan on FB this week about home cooking. I quoted him, "you can eat whatever you want as long as you cook it yourself". I was struck by his concept that if you cook at home you are less likely to eat fries everyday. With today's corporately cooked foods you can visit a drive thru and easily eat fries everyday. He goes deeper into the horrors of the industrial, pesticide potatoes that are used for those fries.
It got me thinking about this "eat anything you want" idea. I make donuts maybe 4-5 times a year. Same thing with cinnamon buns. My chocolate babka, once (for Easter). I love all these foods, they are amazingly tasty. They are even more special because they are connected to holidays or snowed in days with my family. These indulgences take time to make so they won't be made every day or even every week. Since I eat only my own versions of these things it keeps me from eating too much of them.
People want their food quick. Fast foods are there for them and they are usually these carby, sugary fat foods. You want a quick sweet when you are out running errands? Carry bananas with you. I take my chai or a pumpkin smoothy when running errands, I am never tempted to stop for a fast overpriced, overly sweetened beverage. Home cooking takes forethought and planning. It's not only cheaper and healthier, but it's tastier because you use quality ingredients and you tailor it to your liking.
The day after my FB post and comments on the subject of homemade food I found myself in front of the frozen food at my local healthy grocery store. I saw a pre-made frozen Indian paneer dish and I wanted it. Right away my own words came back to haunt me...."make it yourself". Practice what you preach, right? Paneer was a always mystery to me, exotic and delicious. I purposed to give it a shot.
I went home and found a recipe, it seemed too easy. Just three ingredients. I enlisted my youngest to help and we went at it. First I heated a 1/2 gallon of whole milk just until it started to boil. Then we streamed in 1/4 cup of water mixed with 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice. The curds immediately started to form, we stirred and then took it off the stove to let it sit for five minutes. We then poured it through a sieve (lined with a kitchen towel) over a large pyrex measuring cup.
All the whey that was collected.
I wrapped it tightly in the towel, rinsed it under cold water and then put in back in the sieve to drain with a weight on top. I did this in the morning, by the time I was ready to cook dinner it was dry. I cut it into cubes and sauteed them in a mix of oil and butter. Once browned I removed from the pan while I made a sauce of jar tomatoes, ginger, garlic, lots of Indian spices and peas. It was better that the frozen counterpart and there was much more of it for the money. I ate 1/2 of it straight from the saute pan wrapped in hot sourdough naan. It was a perfect combination because at the same the cheese was drying out all day the nann dough was fermenting. The finished product is pretty fancy, but honestly the prep was not too time intensive. This was actually made on our busiest day out this week. I hope you will watch Michael Pollan's extremely informative video and even more I hope you will take the challenge to to make something that you usually buy in it's factory cooked form. Let me know how it goes.
The only other cheese I have ever attempted was goat yogurt cheese, which was even simpler that this paneer, check it out here: Hanging the Cheese