Posts Tagged ‘cheese’

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On Harold McGee. (EXCERPT)

February 4, 2013

mcgee_cheeseplate

It is well documented that On Food and Cooking is an essential resource in any food-curious person’s kitchen. Harold McGee lays down facts in detailed explanations of scientific processes behind the foods we love, their history and a description of every form a particular food can possibly take. A fascinating amount of information. It is slightly less documented how incredibly poetic his exacting writing can be.

This excerpt from the first chapter, 61 pages on milk and dairy products, has always stood out as an example to me. Enjoy!

“The modern imagination holds a very different view of milk! Mass production turned it and its products from precious, marvelous resources into ordinary commodities, and medical science stigmatized them for their fat content. Fortunately a more balanced view of dietary fat is developing; and traditional versions of dairy foods survive. It’s still possible to savor the remarkable foods that millennia of human ingenuity have teased from milk. A sip of milk itself or a scoop of ice cream can be a Proustian draft of youth’s innocence and energy and possibility, while a morsel of fine cheese is a rich meditation on maturity, the fulfillment of possibility, the way of all flesh.”

–Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking

(Pictured above is the cheese plate that never saw 2013. If you think that looks bad, you should have seen the minibar.)

HAPPY AND HEALTHY REMAINING 11 MONTHS OF 2013, EVERYONE!

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Summer cravings. (VEGETABLE NOODLE SOUP)

August 2, 2012

I hear all of your summer sniffles. And I’m listening. Here is one of those things that seems counter-intuitive, a summer soup. It’s not gazpacho. It’s hot. Right now is the time for so many great veg that it only seems right that a chock full soup tonic comes to be. I got nine vegetables plus parsley in there, all from my super CSA (and friend’s dad’s garden). I mostly chose by varying color; yellow, white, red, green, orange, purple with light seasoning to guide it. It’s a goddamn Olympian of a soup. Everyone around the table agreed with surprise that it was just what they needed.

I’d like to call this an ‘open recipe’ because there is alot of subbing and interpreting that can be done. Here is how I did it but pleeeeeease stray using squash, parsnip, sweet potato, peppers, corn kernels, spinach, etc. Get in there! Enjoy.

VEGETABLE NOODLE SOUP

2 quarts of stock (vegetable or chicken work best or just use water)

1 parmesan rind* (optional)

1 yellow summer squash, diced

2 small potatoes, diced

1 medium turnip, peeled and diced

1 kohlrabi, peeled and diced

3 carrots, diced

1 small red onion, diced

a large handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths

2-3 tomatoes, diced (or 1 small can diced toms)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 drizzle extra virgin olive oil

1 splash red wine vinegar (or white or champ, or cider or sherry)

4 ounces egg noodles (or rice), cooked separately

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1/4 cup chopped parsley (or basil)

salt and pepper

  • In a pot, heat the stock or water with the parmesan rind and a dash of salt.
  • Once boiling, add squash, potatoes, turnip, kohlrabi, carrot and onion (or whatever mix of vegetables you choose). Reduce heat and let the soup simmer vigorously until veg are just tender, 15-20 minutes.
  • Add green beans, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and cook an additional 8-10 minutes.
  • Check for seasoning, adding more salt and some pepper as needed. Stir in noodles
  • Finish with grated parm and parsley and serve in bowls.

* If ever you buy a block of good Parmigiano Reggiano cheese you’ll notice the outer coating has a pinhole pattern. The dots spell out the name of the cheese and are a sign of authenticity. After you have cut, shaved or grated all the cheese away from this rind, hang onto it. Drop it into a soup for added flavor and nutrition.

** A couple of scoops of soup pulsed in the food processor made a great dinner for babe. Adjust the thickness by adding more or less broth.

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Everything azul. (BLUEBERRY + BLUE CHEESE TARTINE)

July 19, 2011

Tartines are a fun thing. A hefty piece of bread with some sort of substantial topping, it takes buttered toast to the next level. I am not sure what defines a tartine exactly. Savory or sweet, any combination of ingredients seems to fit the bill, as long as one is spreadable. Also, it is always ‘openfaced’ or else you’d have what we in the biz call a sandwich. Just kidding… everybody calls it a sandwich. Anyway let’s not ruin a damn good snack with labels.

While living in France I put together this not-timid tartine often. The secret was the perfectly correct blue cheese (the name of which has been long forgotten) and a good and bumpy blueberry preserves. Sweet and salty melding with tart and tangy, the jam and the unctuous bite of cheese make magic. Since then I chase the dragon, trying out blue cheeses with this naughty little brekkie in mind though I had never really hit it until recently.

MG picked up a few cheeses at our favorite neighborhood place and wound up with Azul Penacorada among others. A Spanish cow’s milk cheese, the Penacorada is creamy and rich and not too crumbly. It snaps you back from its deep blue haze with a touch of the crystalized texture that some cheeses have, otherwise known as lactic acid, which develops as the cheese ages. Though it’s not French, as soon as I tasted Azul Pencorada I left the house to run out for some blueberry preserves.

The next morning, on the fattest pieces of Amy’s whole wheat pullman toast, I put a good layer of the jam, a serious crumble of the blue (you want them to fight for space in your mouth) and that’s it. Tartine for kings and queens.

“Breakfast, then, can be toast. It can be piles of toast, generously buttered, and a bowl of honey or jam, and milk for Mortimer and coffee for you. You can be lavish because the meal is so inexpensive. You can have fun, because there is no trotting around with fried eggs and mussy dishes and grease in the pan and a lingeringly unpleasant smell in the air.”

M.F.K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf

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A second impression. (RICOTTA + FIG EMPANADAS)

April 16, 2011

Here’s the thing about empanadas, you can stuff just about anything you can imagine in there. Traditional fillings include beef, chicken, cheese, tuna, guava, spinach, etc. Though empanadas seem like a big project to undertake, if you cheat a little and buy the dough circles  pre-made*, they are quick and easy to the point where I actually made them for breakfast and believe me, I am not good for much in the morning. Truth be told, I made the fig jam the night before. Even better.

If you happen upon a set of flavors that sounds especially good, with a little engineering, it can usually serve as perfectly great filling. In the first run of this sweet, slightly savory combo of homemade ‘fig jam’ with rosemary and ricotta, my oversight was that I didn’t mix the fruit and the cheese together. It was as if they were divorced. The empanada was filled on one side was straight fig puree and the other was rather bland and plain soft cheese. There was potential but no real pow.

On the second try I reconciled the two sides, stirring them together in a bowl, adding some lemon rind and salt to brighten up the day. Not only did it save a step in assembly, it worked out great. Inside the crisp empanada lived a creamy, tart-sweet epicenter, a way better result than the first. We couldn’t keep our hands off of them, the true test of an empanada’s success.

After including the new tweaks, I added  an extra step to the recipe. A direction I would like to use in all of my recipes at various points; ‘Taste it!’ It is unbelievable how often people fail to taste something as they are making it. By tasting often, the cook remains in complete control of where a dish is going…. and, most importantly, how it arrives.

FIG and ROSEMARY EMPANADA with RICOTTA CHEESE

(makes 20 empanadas)

for Fig and Rosemary Quick Jam:

10 ounces dried black mission figs (about 2 cups), stems removed

3 tablespoons sugar

3 sprigs rosemary

1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Place figs, sugar,  rosemary sprigs and 1.5 cups of water in saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until most of liquid is evaporated and figs are easily pierced with/ a knife, 20-30 minutes. Remove rosemary stems.
  • Transfer mixture to a food processor, add lemon juice and puree until smooth, adding up to 1/4 cup additional water to thin if needed. The final product should be like a thick spread. Store in the fridge up to one month.

for Empanadas:

20 empanada dough discs or 1 package (2 sheets) of puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten

1 pound fresh ricotta cheese

1 recipe Fig Rosemary Quick Jam

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 pinch salt

1/4 cup flour

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • In a bowl, combine the cooled fig jam with the ricotta, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Taste it! Adjust.
  • Lay a dough disc on a lightly floured surface. (If using puff pastry, roll out the dough a little and punch 10 four inch circles from each sheet). 
  • Brush half of a disc with beaten egg.
  • On the other half of the disc, spoon two heaping tablespoons of fig/ricotta mixture.
  • Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the dough to make a scalloped edge. Alternatively, seal the edge with the tines of a fork. 
  • Place the empanada on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Repeat with the rest of the dough/filling.
  • Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

* Discos are found in the freezer section.

They didn’t last until lunch… that’s what I’m talking about.

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Simple Pleasures. (ENDIVE SALAD)

June 12, 2010

‘Simple pleasure’ surely means different things to different people. It’s a sort of Hallmark-y title for a post, which is not my usual style, but there are reasons the phrase stuck. I have reasons. Simple: nothing more than a knife was needed to create this dish. It took about five minutes total. I used only the tiniest of cutting boards, leading to tiny clean-up. Six ingredients, all ready-to-eat, created a perfect flavor balance, but that is getting into pleasure. Pleasure: flawless local strawberries and a craving for slightly bitter endive that looked great at the supermarket. It was a coincidence that the perfect cheese to go with the salad was in my fridge, capra (goat) cheese infused with honey, and coincidences bring me great pleasure. Magical ingredient crema di balsamico* on top of my favorite arbequina Spanish olive oil….and the peppermill was full (refilling that thing can be so annoying), the opportunity to stop for a minute and share a bitter and sweet salad with my dear friend, all added up to aforementioned sappy phrase. Please refer to title.

ENDIVE SALAD, STRAWBERRIES and CREMA DI BALSAMICO

Serves 2.

2 heads Belgian endive

1 large handful of strawberries, hulled and sliced

2 tablespoons good olive oil

6 turns of the peppermill

2 generous drizzles of crema di balsamico*

1/4 cup (approximately) soft goat cheese with or without a drizzle of honey stirred in

  • Peel one layer of outer leaves from endive and discard (they are usually bruised slightly).
  • Chop the endive crosswise into one inch pieces and separate the leaves with your fingers. Divide leaves between two plates.
  • Top salads with strawberries and drizzle with olive oil. Three turns of the peppermill over each plate, or to taste.
  • Decorate with cream di balsamico and drop cheese on top in haphazard chunks.

*Crema di balsamico is a delicious sweet-tart vinegar product which is made by a reduction of balsamic vinegar and Trebbiano grape must. Trebbiano grapes are the variety used in making balsamic vinegar and must refers to the pressed juice of the entire grape; skin, seeds and stems included. The result is a thick smooth liquid that needs no help in enhancing the flavors of cured meats, cheeses, fruit or vegetables. It can be used all alone as a glaze, dressing or garnish…a great secret weapon to have on hand. Available online or, if you’re local where I’m local, at Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market.

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High lights. (FOOD ABROAD)

December 7, 2009

After embarking on a trip to Europe, recounting stories of all the good friends, good news and good times will take too damn long. Instead, here are a handful of delicious highlights (in pictures).

PARIS:

A villainous cheese plate:

The cheese that looks like a flower is some incredible stuff called tête de moine. It is cut horizontally with a special apparatus that shaves a thin layer  from the top of the cheese. As it is sliced in a circular direction, the cheese curls around itself. Then it melts in your mouth.

An adventurous charcuterie:

The light pinkish sausage at the top is French andouille… that lovely pattern is created by pig intestines and stomach. A little goes a long way.

BELGIUM:

Beeeeeeeeer!:

I guess I ate some stuff during the days in Belgian, but the beer! The beer is special. In this photo is a golden, delicious Tongerlo. Also among my favorites were the Westmalle beers and the rare and fantastic Wechelse Tripel. Locals say not to drink more than three. Decent advice, I guess.

AMSTERDAM:

Applecake:

Never again will I accept the expression ‘as American as apple pie’. We need to simply give up and let the Dutch have this one. Here is a photo of Dutch apple pie from a cute little eatery called Winkel that specializes in the stuff. This inexplicable pie will have me chasing the dragon until I get to try it again. (Noordermarkt 43)

Sorry France, sorry Belgium:

And here we have the little corner shop where I innocently bought some fries. I thought I would walk around and eat them but they were so so so good, I had to sit down on the nearest bench to believe what was going on in that little paper cone. When I looked up, everyone around me was eating them, all in devout silence. I got spicy mayo as my saus but i heard that peanut sauce is also a popular choice. Later still, I discovered the real people’s choice is a mix of mayo AND peanut sauce. Must immerse in local culture. Must. (Voetboogstraat 31)