Thursday, June 08, 2006

Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile." - Homer

Segundo is potty-training. Yes, this is a good thing. Yes, I am very pleased. But the actual process of potty-training is the absolute pits, and I had forgotten that. Invariably he needs to go RIGHT NOW when I am putting the baby to sleep, or I am preparing food, or we are on our way out to the car for the 930 appointment, it is now 915 and it takes exactly fifteen minutes to get to the doctor’s office.

Seg also tends to start a poop, catch himself, and then when he strips off his Pull-Up – yep, you guessed it. Bathtime! THREE times yesterday, in the midst of preparing for the Great Wine-tasting Event.

And what is it with little kids and being naked while sitting on the toilet? WHY oh why must he take off every stitch of clothing? I never thought I’d ever say to any man, “Oh, PLEASE, leave your socks ON!” and yet? I do, more than once a day these days.

Yesterday I had a total hissy fit. It started when Seg called for me from the bathroom when I was up to my elbows in spinach-ball mix (more on that later). I had to clean up him – and the floor and toilet seat. Scrub, scrub, scrub, hot water, tons of soap, lather, rinse, repeat several times. Back to the kitchen to finish the spinach balls and ice the chocolate cake. The baby begins to scream. H is working from home but we have been sternly directed that we are to pretend that He. Is. Not. There. Because he is WORKING. So I pick up the baby, head upstairs and change his poopy diaper. Then - scrub, scrub, scrub, hot water, tons of soap, lather, rinse, repeat several times. Back to the kitchen to wash dishes, make the spicy walnuts, arrange the spinach balls on a pretty tray. A voice is heard from upstairs. Segundo. Yep, you guessed it. After which point I pretty much lost MY shit. I ranted and raved about how I just wanted to finish ONE. FUCKING. THING, anything, and not even well, just finished! Instead I am up to my elbows in shit, up to my elbows in food, up to my elbows in shit, up to my elbows in food, etc. Yeah, that’s appetizing, hmmmm? Doesn’t everyone want to come to my house for dinner now?

Good thing there was wine aplenty at the tasting. And none of this swirl-it-around-your-mouth, spit-it-out *tasting* for me. The dump bucket was an unnecessary accessory as far as I was concerned.

Earlier in the day I took the boys down to the Strip District to the cheese specialist at Penn-Mac. No one knows what her real name is – everyone calls her DearHeart because that’s what she calls everyone. Capisce? I told her the theme – Californians. She hooked me up with five wonderful cheeses:

Dan had requested a hunk of St Andre triple crème. Which I do like, but...sorta yawn.
So we wanted another soft cheese, and then two hard cheeses, one mild and one sharp.

She gave me a Dry Jack, also manufactured in California, and a hunk of aged Manchego (sheep’s milk cheese), which I loved and have the rind with me at work tonight to gnaw on.

She also recommended the evocatively-named goat’s-milk Humboldt Fog, which was an enormous hit with our guests. She explained that the outer layer is made from the morning milking, and the inner layer from the evening milking, and the cheese is bisected by a layer of vegetable ash. Probably a leetle more than I personally needed to know.

But my favorite was the Point Reyes Farmstead Blue – very strong, creamily crumbly, and delicious with Braeburn apple slices or crusty bread. Yum, yum, yum. H does not like blue cheese, but I would sell one of my children – yes, today I would as long as you wanted one of the older two - I am kidding, creepy Internet people, do not call me for pricing info – for a really good blue.

In addition, we served sliced organic Braeburn apples, organic red seedless grapes, rosemary spiced walnuts, spinach balls, several kinds of crackers, a loaf of baguette, and the piece de resistance, a Gateau de Reine Saba, the Queen of Sheba cake, a flourless chocolate cake with a bittersweet glaze.
Oh. My. Sweet. Jesus. It was so easy and so good, and deceptively looked like it was so much trouble. And sadly, there was none left for breakfast this morning. So very very sad. But I got a round of applause, people – a round of applause, for this cake. I have never before inspired a round of applause. For anything, let alone a cake.

I am posting the recipes. Because I had to type them up for H to send out to the wine-tasting group. So you, my sweet Internet friends, might as well benefit also.

Where were the children for all this, you ask?

The two older boys watched a Thomas video and then the first period of the hockey game. They came down and said hello, shyly – shyly! - and went back upstairs to go to bed.

Terzo refused to go to bed, so he hung out with me. And I was having a great time but kept getting this - whiff - of - something. I thought it must have been one of the very ripe but very delicious cheeses??? No. Terzo had spit up DOWN MY BACK. And I had not noticed. And no one saw fit to alert me.

How could they NOT have smelled it?

I was actually having this exchange earlier with Blackbird, and we came up with the somewhat disturbing thought of breastmilk cheese. You could call it something clever like Aged Nipple or go with the foreign sound, something perhaps like Queso de la Entrerrosca.

A mild, slightly rubbery cheese, made from the first milking and served young.
Coated in a layer of Enfamil ProSobee.
Serve with French bread and a spicy Syrah.


Celeste’s Spinach Balls

2 10-oz packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup grated Italian cheese, firmly packed (I used domestic Parm)
4 small green onions, chopped (I use ½ a regular white onion)
½ cup butter, melted
3 eggs
Dash of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls. Bake 10-15 minutes on a cookie sheet, at 350 degrees, until golden brown.


Rosemary Walnuts

Melt 2-1/2 TBSP unsalted butter. Mix with 2 tsp. crumbled dried rosemary, 1 tsp salt, and ½ tsp cayenne. Pour over 2 cups of walnuts, tossing to coat. Bake nuts on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.


Gateau Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba Cake)

For the cake:
12 TBSP butter, more for the pan
6 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
A few drops almond extract
2 TBSP strong coffee
4 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 ¾ cups finely ground almonds

For the glaze:
2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP corn syrup
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, broken or chopped into small pieces
1 TBSP butter

1. Prepare the cake: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the side wall with parchment paper. Ina heavy-bottomed pan, combine the 12 TBSP butter, 6 oz chocolate, almond extract and coffee. Melt over low heat, then transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
2. With an electric mixer, whisk egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Slowly add ½ cup sugar until thick and glossy. Set aside.
3. Ina separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks with remaining ½ cup sugar until thick. Fold in the melted chocolate mixture. Add ground almonds and mix well. Whisk in a dollop of egg whites to lighten the mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the rest of egg whites, keeping batter airy.
4. Scrape batter into pan and bake until cake is dry on top and a bit gooey in center, 30 to 40 minutes. (After 30 minutes of baking, check center of cake with tester. If center seems very wet, continue baking.) Cool cake on a rack for 20 minutes, then remove side of pan. Allow to continue cooling. Top of cake may crack as it cool, but glaze will cover most cracking.
5. Prepare the glaze: Ina small saucepan, combine 2 TBSP sugar, the corn syrup, and ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil, and then remove form heat. Add 4 oz chopped chocolate, swirl pan to mix, and allow to stand until melted, about 3 minutes.
6. Whisk TBSP of butter into icing, then pour evenly over cake. Use a spatula to ease icing to edges of cake. Allow icing to cool and set before slicing.

Yield: One 9-inch cake (10 to 12 servings)


Surfing Free said...

hee hee ... breastmilk cheese reminds me of when I travelled in Russian (oops, mind your feet, there goes another travel destination name drop). During winter just about the only thing to eat if you are a vegetarian is dark rye bread and this strange, hard salty cheese. We couldn't work out what kind of cheese it was because we never saw any cows. But we saw lots of cats (on leads, dragging behind them large Russian women in huge fur coats) so we dubbed it Cat's Milk Cheese. And it took on a whole new flavour.

Your wine and cheese night sounds fantastic! You have inspired me to try my own. Thanks for sharing the recipes :)

Loretta said...

You had me salivating until you got to the breastmilk cheese.....

Paula said...

Um, didn't you have time for pictures? Of the food, not the poop.

Lazy cow said...

I'm sorry, the food-and-shit bit made me laugh. I feel your pain. I've given up on EVER toilet-training the Boy. He'll be 18 and still in nappies.
I think that Russian cheese SF talked about is similar to the Yugolsav Kaymak - which, ugly to look at and smell is actually quite delicious.
The menu sounds wonderful, I'm adding that cake to my list of things to bake.

Badger said...

I would be willing to bet that either The Compleat Mother or Mothering magazine has already done the breastmilk cheese thing. Complete with instructions for making it. And how you can change the flavor depending on what you've eaten recently.

blackbird said...

I am steering clear of the breastmilk cheese conversation at this point - I think it's healthier for ALL of us.

In the meantime:
Humboldt Fog!!!

...and, here's a good hostess gift:
buy a wedge of manchego, cut off the rind and cut it into large dice, put it in a mason jar with olive oil to cover, a palm full of peppercorns, two or three smashed cloves of garlic and a tablespoon or two of chopped tarragon. Instruct the hostess to taste it in a week and keep it for as long as it remains uneaten - in a cool spot on the counter.
It's wonderful...

Carolyn said...

Around here, Humboldt Fog is the daze you walk around in after you've smoked the Humboldt. (Humboldt county is known for the quality of it's, um, agriculture also.)

This was one of the funniest posts I have ever read.

Dinner prep at your house sounds a lot like dinner prep at mine. Food - poop, hey nobody has died yet.

And a flourless chocolate cake - woo-hoo!

julia said...

Humboldt Fog is the bee's knees. And that cake sounds divine. I will be making that very soon.

Just think of the strong immune systems you're building with all that food/poop alternating. Your kids will never get sick.

Joke said...

As a representative of the Iberic people, I suggest you do sort of what bb says to the Manchego, except the flavoring should be strictly FRESH oregano. I think bb's might taste better, but this is the authentic way, for people who care more about these things.

Having said that, the best Manchego is the kind with the rind washed in red wine. The most common brand of which is "Drunken Goat."

Which is what I'd have to be to eat any cheese with human provenance.