Monthly Archives: April 2016

Seafood Crepes

crepes

These seafood crepes are great for brunch too. Pair with a green salad and a crisp white wine.

Ingredients:

Crepes

¾ c. milk

¾ c. water

3 egg yolks

1 ½ c. flour

5 T. melted butter

Filling

2 T. butter

2 T. scallions, minced

½ c. sliced mushrooms

3 c. diced lobster, shrimp, crab, or scallops

Sauce:

3 T. butter

¼ c. flour

¾ c. milk

¾ c. chicken stock

1/3 c. sherry

Topping (Optional)

1 c. Swiss cheese

Paprika

Directions:

For crepes – Combine all ingredients for crepes in bowl and beat until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for one hour to allow flour particles to expand an soften. Spray an 8 inch skillet with nonstick coating and heat over medium high heat. Measure about ¼ c. of the batter into the skillet and tilt the skillet to spread the batter evenly in a thin film. Cook one minute or until golden. Turn and cook about 30 seconds. Remove from skillet and stack between wax paper or parchment paper.

For filling – Sauté scallions and mushrooms in butter. Gently stir in seafood and set aside.

For sauce – Melt butter in sauce pan and blend in flour. Whisk in milk, chicken stock and sherry. Cook and stir until mixture bubbles and thickens.

To assemble, blend half the sauce into seafood. Place ¼ c. seafood mixture onto each crepe and roll up. Arrange in buttered baking dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over crepes. Sprinkle with cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate until ready to bake. Preheat oven to 425oF. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbling hot. Serves 6-8.

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Week 50: Lobsters

lobster1

I love living on the Seacoast! My cottage is just a block from the beach and I get to hear the lobster boats go out in the early morning, just before the sun comes over the horizon. And did I mention lobsters? They are plentiful and inexpensive here.

Most of the lobsters we are familiar with are the cold water clawed marine crustaceans referred to as the “true” lobster, but there are tropical varieties as well which include the spiny lobsters and slipper lobsters (which have no claws), squat lobsters, and crayfish.

Lobsters are found in all oceans. They live on rocky, sandy, or muddy bottoms from the shoreline to beyond the edge of the continental shelf. They generally live singly in crevices or in burrows under rocks. They are omnivores and typically eat live prey such as fish, mollusks, other crustaceans, worms, and some plant life. They scavenge if necessary.

Lobsters are invertebrates with a hard exoskeleton, which means they have to molt as they grow. Lobsters, like snails and spiders, have blue blood due to the presence of hemocyanin which contains copper. In general, true lobsters are 10-20 inches long (although they can grow up to four feet long and weigh as much as 40 pounds), and move by slowly walking on the sea floor. However, when they flee, they swim backward quickly by curling and uncurling their abdomens. They live to be about 70 years old and are able to add new muscle cells at each molt. This longevity may be due to an enzyme that repairs long repetitive sections of DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres.

Did you know that lobsters were once so plentiful that after a storm they would wash ashore in deep piles? They were gathered by hand until the mid-19th century when lobstermen started using baited, one-way traps with a color-coded marker buoy to mark cages. Cages are of plastic-coated galvanized steel or wood. A lobster fisherman may tend as many as 2,000 traps!

Once caught, lobsters are graded as soft shell (or shedders), hard-shell, or old-shell, soft shell lobsters have paper-thin shells and a poor meat-to-shell ratio, but the meat is very sweet. Hard-shell lobsters with firm shells, have more but with less sweet meat, so they command a higher price. Meanwhile, old-shell lobsters, which have not shed since the previous season have a coarser flavor. Culls are lobsters which have lost one of their claws.

spiny-lobster

Spiny lobsters (langouste or rock lobsters) – Although they superficially resemble true lobsters in terms of overall shape and having a hard exoskeleton, they are distinguished from true lobsters by their lack of claws. They are found throughout all warm seas, especially in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Bahamas.

squat lobster

Squat lobsters – These are flattened crustaceans which a long tail curled beneath their bodies. More than 900 species exist throughout the world’s oceans. They are plentiful off Baja, California, Mexico, South America and New Zealand. Flesh from these animals is often commercially sold in restaurants as “langostino” or sometimes dishonestly called “lobster” when incorporated in seafood dishes. As well as being used for human consumption, there is demand for squat lobster meat to use as feed in fish farms and shrimp or prawn farms. This is in part because they contain a pigment that helps to color the meat of farmed salmon and trout.

crayfish

Crayfish (crawfish, crawdads) – Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters. Some species are found in brooks and streams where there is running fresh water, while others thrive in swamps, ditches, and rice paddies. Generally only the tail portion is eaten, except at crayfish boils, where the entire body is served. Like all crustaceans, crayfish are not kosher because they are aquatic animals that do not have both fins and scales. Crayfish are also commonly sold and used as bait.

History

In Colonial times, lobster was fed to pigs and goats and only eaten by prisoners, indentured servants or paupers. In North America, the American lobster did not achieve popularity until the mid-19th century, when New Yorkers and Bostonians developed a taste for it. American lobster was initially deemed worthy only of being used as fertilizer or fish bait, and until well into the 20th century, it was not viewed as more than a low-priced canned staple food.

Preparation

Native Americans ate lobsters after wrapping them in seaweed and baking them over hot rocks. We usually boil or steam lobsters today. The most common way of killing lobsters is by placing them live in boiling water or to split the lobster or sever the body in half lengthwise. Lobsters may also be killed immediately before boiling by a stab into the brain, in the belief that this will stop suffering. The boiling method is illegal in some places, such as in the Reggio Emilia region of Italy, where offenders face fines up to €495. When a lobster is cooked, its shell’s color changes from blue to orange because the heat from cooking breaks down a protein which suppresses the orange hue of another chemical which is also present in the shell.

Resources

Encyclopedia of Life

www.lobsters.com

www.nationalgeographic.com

www.woodmans.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Tart

lemon tart

This lemon tart is a perfect ending to a summer meal!

Ingredients:

Tart Crust

1 1/3 c. all purpose flour

5 T. sugar

1/2 t. salt

10 T. butter, melted

Filling

4 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 c. sugar

Pinch of salt

4 T. buttermilk

2 T. cornmeal

½ c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature

4 lemons

Directions:

Tart Crust

Preheat oven to 350oF. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir with wooden spoon until dough forms. Using your hands, press dough into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Place pan on lowest rack in oven and bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown, rotating pan half way through baking. Remove from oven and let cool.

Filling

Using a fine grater or microplane, remove the lemon zest (skin) from the lemons, being careful not to include the bitter white pith. Squeeze lemons to make ½ c. lemon juice and set aside. In medium bowl, cream butter, sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then add salt, and lemon juice and mix until well blended. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and fill the tart crust with the warm filling. Cool at room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

 

 

Week 49: Citrus Fruit

Variety of fruits

Citrus fruit and plants are known by the name agrumes, which means bitter fruit. Citrus fruit originated in Southeast Asia or Australia thousands of years ago. The three original species in the citrus genus that have been hybridized into most modern commercial citrus fruit are the mandarin orange, pummelo and citron. All common citrus fruits (sweet oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, and so on) were created by crossing those original species. Christopher Columbus, Ponce de Leon, and Juan de Grijavla carried various citrus fruits to the new world in the late 1400′s early 1500′s. Today Florida, California, Arizona and Texas are the major producers of citrus fruit in the United States.

Citrus fruit is grown on large shrubs or evergreen trees 15-40 feet tall which bear fragrant, white flowers. The trees thrive in a consistently sunny, humid environment with fertile soil and adequate rainfall or irrigation. The fruit has a peel (also called the zest), a bitter white pith and juicy segments with a discernibly tart flavor derived from a high level of citric acid. The fruit is ripened on the tree.

Medicinal Uses

Oranges were historically used for their high content of vitamin C, which prevents scurvy. An early sign of scurvy is fatigue. If ignored, later symptoms are bleeding and bruising easily. British sailors were given a ration of citrus fruits on long voyages to prevent the onset of scurvy, hence the British nickname of Limey.

The vitamin C in citrus fruit helps produce collagen, which provides structure and elasticity for your skin and tendons. As an antioxidant, it neutralizes free radicals before they damage healthy cells, which prevents inflammation that can lead to chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.

After consumption, the peel is sometimes used as a facial cleanser.

Citrus fruit intake is associated with a reduced risk of stomach cancer. Also, citrus fruit juices, such as orange, lime and lemon, may be useful for lowering the risk of specific types of kidney stones. Grapefruit helps lower blood pressure because it interferes with the metabolism of calcium channel blockers.

Studies also show that citrus flavonoids may improve blood flow through coronary arteries, reduce the ability of arteries to form blood clots and prevent the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which is an initial step in the formation of artery plaques1.

Culinary Uses

Citrus fruit can be eaten fresh, made into or added to beverages, marmalade, used in salads, as garnishes, or squeezed over vegetables, seafood or meats.

Types of Citrus Fruit

bergamot orange

Bergamot orange – This is a small acidic orange, used mostly for its peel. Used in Earl Grey tea.

blood orange

Blood Orange – These are sweet, red fleshed oranges and are very popular in Europe.

tangerine

Clementine, Tangerine or Satsuma – Thin skinned and sweet, these come out of their skins easily.

calamansi

Calamansi lime – The very sour calamansi looks like a small round lime and tastes like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. It’s very popular in the Philippines.

citron2

Citron – This lemon-like fruit may be the progenitor species of modern lemons and limes. The peel is very thick, and the white, spongy portion of the peel is edible.

grapefruit

Grapefruit – Grapefruit is thought to be a hybrid of pummelo and sweet orange that occurred naturally somewhere in the Caribbean between the time of Columbus’ voyages and its introduction to Florida in 1809. They are a large, slightly tart with a rind that is mostly yellow, and often tinged with green or red. Grapefruits are categorized by the color of their pulp: red, pink, or white.

Kaffir-Limes

Kaffir Lime – Thai cooks use these golf ball-sized limes to give their dishes a unique aromatic flavor.  Kaffir limes have very little juice, and usually just the zest is used.

key limes

Key Lime – These are small, round, and seedy, these turn yellow when ripe.

Kumquat

Kumquat – These look like grape-sized oranges, and they can be eaten whole. The flavor is a bit sour and very intenseThey peak in the winter months.

Lemon

Lemon – This very sour citrus fruit is rarely eaten out of hand, but it’s widely used for its juice, rind, and zest. One lemon yields about 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice.    Lime – When buying limes, select specimens that are dark green, smaller, thin-skinned, and heavy for their size.

Limes1

Lime – Small and green, limes have uses other than adorning your cocktails. Lime extracts and lime essential oils are also used in perfumes, cleaning products, and aromatherapy.Orange

Orange – Florida oranges are juicier, and better suited to squeezing, while California oranges segment more easily and are better for eating out of hand.

pomelo

Pummelo or Pomelo – This species originates from southeast Asia where it is as common as grapefruit is in the USA. It is much larger and thicker-peeled than grapefruit, but said to have milder flavor.

Seville orange

Seville or Bitter Orange – These are too bitter for eating out of hand, but they make a wonderful orange marmalade and the sour juice is perfect for certain mixed drinks.

tangelo

Tangelo (Honeybell )- This is a hybrid between tangerine and grapefruit. Large, bell-shaped, they are available during the winter and are very sweet and juicy.

ugli fruit2

Ugli Fruit – This grapefruit-mandarin cross looks like a grapefruit in an ill-fitting suit. It’s sweet and juicy, though, and simple to eat since the peel comes off easily and the fruit pulls apart into tidy segments that are virtually seedless.

 

Resources

www.ask.com

www.foodsubs.com

www.fruit-crops.com

www.healthyeating.sfgate.com

www.thefruitpages.com

Week 48: Beans and Lentils

Beans2

Are you thinking of trying a vegetarian diet in an effort to eat healthier? If you’re concerned about getting enough protein, add more beans to your meals. Beans and lentils are referred to as “pulses,” and are the fruit or seed of plants called legumes. Pulses are used for human and animal consumption or for the production of oils for industrial uses.

Many legumes have symbiotic bacterial that have nitrogen fixing abilities. When these plants die in the field, they can be plowed back into the soil and can serve as fertilizer for other crops.

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition.

History

Dried beans, peas and lentils have been cultivated for human consumption for ages. Archaeologists have discovered traces of bean cultivation in the Indus Valley that dates to 3300 BC. Meanwhile, evidence of lentil cultivation has also been found in Egyptian pyramids and dry pea seeds have been discovered in a Swiss village that are believed to date back to the Stone Age. Archaeological evidence suggests that these peas must have been grown in the eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia regions at least 5,000 years ago and in Britain as early as the 11th century.

Health Benefits

Beans are good sources of protein, excellent sources of fiber, and naturally fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. Many types are also good sources of potassium. Beans have a low glycemic index.  This makes them an ideal food for the management of insulin resistance, or diabetes. Numerous scientific studies also show that eating beans helps lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend eating about 3 cups of legumes, including beans, per week.

Types of Beans

There are eleven basic categories of pulses:

  1. Dry beans, which include kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, lima beans, butter beans, adzuke and mung beans.
  2. Dry broad beans.
  3. Dry peas.
  4. Chickpeas or garbanzos.
  5. Dry cowpeas or black-eyed peas.
  6. Pigeon peas, Congo beans and gandules.
  7. Lentils
  8. Groundnuts and earth peas.
  9. Vetch.
  10. Lupins
  11. Miscellaneous minor pulses, like jack beans, yam beans and winged beans.

Preparation

Preparing dried beans takes a little more work than just opening a can, but the flavor and texture is superior to canned beans. First, spread them out on a table, kitchen towel or baking sheet and pick out any shriveled or broken beans, stones or debris. Rinse them well in cold, running water. When you soak them, you help remove some of those indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. So place the beans in a large bowl or pan, cover with water and soak overnight or for about 8 hours in the refrigerator. Rinse and them place them into a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water or stock. (Don’t add salt at this point since that slows the beans’ softening.) Slowly bring to a boil, skimming off any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary, until beans are tender when mashed or pierced with a fork. Cooking times vary with the variety, age and size of beans; generally you’re looking at about 1 to 2 hours.

After sorting dried peas and lentils, bring 1½ cups water or stock to a boil for each cup of dried lentils or peas. Once the liquid is boiling add the lentils or peas, return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Culinary Uses for Common Pulses

Adzuki Beans

These little dark red beans are sweet and easy to digest. Splash them with tamari and barley malt or mix them with brown rice, scallions, mushrooms and celery for dynamite, protein-rich rice patties

Black-Eyed Peas

These creamy white, oval-shaped beans are ubiquitous in southeastern US states where they’re a traditional New Year’s dish. Toss them with yogurt vinaigrette, tomatoes and fresh parsley.

Cannellini Beans

These are some of my favorites. Cannellini beans are packed with nutty flavor. Add them to tomato-based soups like minestrone or toss with olive oil and black pepper for a satisfying side dish.

Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

This prominent ingredient in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and East Indian dishes — think hummus and falafel — has a mild but hearty flavor. Garbanzos are a good foil for strong spices like curry powder, cumin and cayenne pepper, so add them to salads, soups and pasta dishes

Great Northern Beans or Navy Beans

Think of these guys as big teddy bears; they’re the largest commonly available white bean, but they’re all soft and mild on the inside. These are great as baked beans or add them to soups and stews with longer cooking times.

Green Lentils

Ooh la la! These lentils hold their shape well and have deep, rich flavor. They’re an excellent addition to salads, spicy Indian dal or simple lentils and rice.

Green Split Peas

Give peas a chance! Split peas shine in soups where they’re cooked until creamy to bring out their full, sweet flavor. Serve them with a dollop of minted yogurt for an Indian touch.

Kidney Beans

These large, red beans are popular in chili, salads, soups and baked beans. Make sure to cook them until completely tender and cooked through to eliminate the gastric distress-causing toxin that’s present in raw and undercooked kidney beans.

Lima Beans

Thankfully, succulent lima beans are shedding their bad reputation as the food to force-feed kids. Add them to minestrone and other soups or combine them with corn and green beans for succotash

Lupini Beans

At Italian fairs and Spanish beer halls these beans are a popular snack. Technically a member of the pea family, these flat, coin-shaped, dull yellow seeds are second only to soybeans in plant protein content. Use caution when cooking! Lupini beans need a special extensive soaking and brining preparation to ensure removal of potentially harmful bitter alkaloids that occur naturally in the beans.

Mung Beans

You probably know mung beans for their sprouts, but the beans themselves are revered as a healing food. Mung beans range in color from greenish-brown to yellow to black and have delicate, sweet flavor. They need no pre-soaking, cook quickly and are easy to digest; you can’t go wrong.

Pinto Beans

A favorite in Southwest and Mexican dishes — “pinto” means “painted” in Spanish — these earthy beans have a delicious, creamy texture ideal for refrying. Combine with onions, chili powder, garlic and tomatoes as a filling for enchiladas or sauté cooked beans with olive oil, garlic and tamari.

Red Beans

These small, dark red beans are subtly sweet and hold their shape when cooked. They make a great choice for soups and chili and as a companion to rice.

Red Lentils

Don’t be fooled by the name; this variety of lentil isn’t really red. In fact, their soft pink color turns golden when cooked. Note that red lentils cook quickly and don’t hold their shape so they’re best in soups or purées or cooked until creamy with Italian seasonings

Split Peas

While green peas are picked while immature and eaten fresh, dried peas are harvested when mature, stripped of their husks, split and dried. Split peas don’t require presoaking and their mild flavor and creamy texture make good companions to garlic, onions, dill, curry and ginger.

Let’s get cooking!

Resources

www.beaninstitute.com

www.wholefoodsmarket.com

Brie Soup

soup

Ingredients:

¾ C. chopped onion

½ c. chopped celery

4 T. butter

2 T. flour

2 c. half & half

2 cups chicken stock

8 oz. brie cheese, cut in pieces

1-4 oz cans of chopped green chilies

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, sauté onion and celery in butter over medium heat until translucent. Stir in flour to form a roux or paste-like consistency. Slowly whisk in milk and chicken stock and continuing whisking until smooth and well-blended. Add brie and whisk until melted. Add chilies, salt and pepper. Cool slightly. If desired, puree in blender until smooth. Serve with crusty bread, a green salad and crisp, white wine. Serves 4.

Week 47: Say Cheese

cheese

When I grew up my exposure to cheese was limited to grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese, made with Velveeta American processed cheese. The selection of cheeses in grocery stores was limited and gourmet delis were nonexistent. Gradually American palates have become more sophisticated and we have a global selection of fine cheeses now available to us. My travels have allowed me to sample Gruyere fondue in Switzerland, caprese made with fresh mozzarella di buffalo in Italy, and Stilton in the United Kingdom.

History

Cheese predates written history, but is believed to have been discovered accidentally by an Arabian merchant who put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach, as he set out on a day’s journey across the desert. The rennet in the lining of the pouch, combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) had a delightful flavor which satisfied his hunger

Ancient Egyptians loved cheese so much that depictions of the cheese-making process were painted in tombs in 2500 BC. Homer’s Odyssey talks about how Cyclops stored his cheese. The Greeks and Romans used cheese as a delicious currency. The Romans love to dine on fresh cheese with figs, but they also used it in salads. Cheese, olives and raisins made up he meager rations of the Roman soldiers. Cheese is even mentioned in the Bible. Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, monasteries dominated cheesemaking replacing stone or clay containers that had been common until then with copper kettles.

Cheesemaking

Many cheeses today are still produced via traditional methods and recipes, although processing has become easier with the advent of mechanization.

Cheese can be made from the milk of any mammal. The makeup of milk varies with the animal, and the variations are what make sheep cheese and goat cheese different from cow’s milk cheese. On the average, cow’s milk consists of 87% water, 3 ½% protein, 3 ¾% fat, and almost 5% lactose (milk sugar) by weight, along with water-soluble vitamins, such as A, B complex, and D. It is the protein and the lactose that are most important in cheesemaking.

Sheep’s milk contains almost double the fat content of cow’s milk and has a higher lactose content which gives it a slightly more acidic flavor. Examples of cheeses made from sheep’s milk are Italian Pecorino and Greek Feta.

Goat’s milk cheeses are known as chevre. The characteristic aroma derives from specific fatty acids which are formed soon after milking, although modern processing methods have helped to minimize the strong smell. Goat’s milk produces very small curds which is the reason why it is produced and sold in small packages.

To make cheese from milk, two things must occur: the lactose must convert into lactic acid, which is lower in acidity, and an enzyme must be added to trigger the clumping together of the casein molecules which causes curds to form. When that happens, the whey is drawn off and the process begins. The curds are cut, are slightly reheated for some varieties of cheese and salt is added to help draw off moisture. The hard cheeses are pressed, molded and air-dried. The final stage is aging or allowing the cheese to ripen.

It is through ripening that a cheese develops its varietal character. Cheeses ripen according to their shape, size, age and type. The temperature and humidity also affects the type of cheese made.

The best, most flavorful cheeses come from fresh, raw milk, but the USDA forbids the importation of raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days. Currently, more than one-third of all milk produced each year in the U.S. is used to manufacture cheese.

Would you like to try to make your own cheese at home? You can order supplies to get you started from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. (www.cheesemaking.com ) or for a more extensive program, get your cheesemaking certification from the University of Vermont’s Institute for Artisan Cheese.

Classifications

Fresh Cheeses – essentially uncooked and unripened curds ready to eat directly after being made, like ricotta, cream cheese, farmers cheese, cottage cheese, Italian Mascarpone and French fromage blanc.

Soft cheeses – soft spreadable consistency, surface ripened (sprayed or exposed to molds so that they ripen from the rind inward), like French Brie and Camembert.

Semi-soft cheeses – Slightly less water content than soft cheeses. Examples include French Reblochon, Italian Taleggio, el Paese, German Butterkase and semi-soft cheeses with mold on the inside such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton and a variety of blues.

Semi-hard cheeses – These cheeses have an elastic, firm texture and are easy to cut and usually have a wax, paraffin or plastic coating. What semi-hard cheeses have in common is the slight heating of the curd during the production process. Examples include Dutch Gouda, French Gruyere, German Tilsit, Swiss Appenzeller and Emmental.

Hard cheeses – made from curd that has not been heated or cooked to solidify it, but are pressed to complete the drainage of whey. They ripen evenly throughout and have a long shelf life. Examples include English Cheddar, Spanish Manchego and Italian Parmiggiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Provolone, and French Morbier.

Processed cheese – a by-product made of natural cheese, vegetable-based guys, dyes, emulsifiers and stabilizers.

Resources

Carroll, Ricki. Home Cheese Making.

Hastings, Chester. The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen: Celebrating Cheese in 90 Recipes.

International Dairy Foods Association (www.idfa.org )

Jenkins, Steven. Cheese Primer.

Roberts, Jeffrey. The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese.

Smith, Tim. Making Artisan Cheese.