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Maybe I’m stretching the word play just a bit, but here’s how it went.

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I have a fairly extensive cookbook library.  I love them.  I read them like most people read fiction.  I believe in learning the science and technique of cooking, but I rarely use a recipe.  I usually cook on the fly depending on what’s in season and in the pantry.  On this particular day the particular bounty consisted of about a pound and a half of soft fresh goat cheese.  While we love it on crackers I wanted to do something different.

I made a pure cheese sauce by melting the chevre in butter and thinning it with milk.  The trick to this is to mix baking soda with the curd in order to break it down.  I believe it probably has something to do with changing the pH.  The Germans use this technique in their Koch Kaese or cooked cheese.  My Czech ancestors had their own version laced with caraway seeds called sýr vařený. You’ll also find it online by searching goat milk Velveeta without quotes.  If it comes out nice and smooth you can stir in a can of tomatoes with jalapenos or habaneros (cut back a bit on the milk) and some cilantro and make the most divine white queso dip ever.  Anyway, back to the casserole.

My sauce was just a tad grainy, which sometimes happens.  Chemistry I believe is again the culprit.  I just carried on like I didn’t know any better and seasoned it with black pepper, garlic and paprika.  Next I sauteed a large onion in butter while I boiled a pound of macaroni.  After draining the macaroni I mixed in the the onion, about 6 ounces of tuna and a can of green beans that just happened to be sitting on the work table.  I had a nice bit of butter left in the skillet from sauteing the onions, so I used it to toast a cup of homemade breadcrumbs.  They needed some color, so I reached into the spice cabinet and came out with Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, rosemary, etc.)  I figured that would work as well as anything.  I stirred the sauce into the noodles, topped it off with the seasoned crumbs and a bit of grated parmesan-like dried goat cheese and baked it at 350 degrees until it started to bubble and brown a bit on top.  And there you have it: Homestead Cooking Improvisation 101.

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How have you improvised in the kitchen?


2 thoughts on “A Capricious Tuna Casserole (or Improv In The Kitchen)

  1. Judy, you are a woman after my own heart. I couldn’t stick to a recipe with a gun to my head and learned to cook by reading the entire cookbook section at the library as you described. Almost everything I make is a variation of some interesting traditional food recipe that utilizes what we have rather than what the recipe calls for. I believe this saves us quite a bit of money in that you learn what you really need and can grow and then leave the rest out. You are an inspiration.

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