Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day Twenty Two - Mastering the habit and further!

Who has heard the common saying that it takes twenty-one days to make a habit and three days to break it? I have! And guess what guys, I am on day twenty-two of my blog, meaning that I've made my musings to the utterly endless world of the internet a habit, yippee! And now, if I ever wanted to stop, it'd take three days a way from writing to you to break the habit, doesn't that seem somewhat unbalanced? It takes a seventh of the time to break a habit than it does to make one...hmmmm...

So I had promised a good friend, I would do a good tomato soup and grilled cheese recipe today, but I think I am going to save that recipe, quintessential comfort food as something to look forward to after my Monday at the office. As I am sure you all agree Mondays are no fun, the jolt of the beginning of the week,  depressing all together -- you definitely need something to look forward to at the end of a Monday! Seeing as I've really only had one day away from the office, it feels like very little time to decompress...therefore I knew I'd want to share a fun recipe and comfort food experiment with you all after Monday ( a comforting recipe) instead of after a day like today which certainly was not a taxing and draining Monday. Today consisted of some photo work, a great run at race pace and then a trip to Cobble Hill to see Jeff Bridges in his Academy Award nominated role in Crazy Heart with a few girlfriends and then some wine and small plates along Smith Street. So I thought, hmmm, if I'm saving the fun Tomato soup and Grilled cheese recipe for tomorrow, what shall I do today, shall I play off of the movie, and do the Alcoholic's on the go, grilled cheese recipe or a play on the blue cheese, endive, hazelnut salad I had I thought why not do a bit of both...

In Crazy Heart, the only food we see Jeff Bridges' character, Bad Blake ingest is variations on steak (manly man food, hehe), of course what you imagine that sort of country singer to eat -- hunks of meat! Apart from the meat, Bad drinks a ton of McClures Whiskey, smokes an enormous amount of cigarettes, and has his favorite biscuits recipe that he makes for the woman he falls in love with and her son....needless to say, I thought hmmm, lets play off of the Whiskey and go for a grown up grilled cheese that might go with his drink of choice, simple:

1. Take a homemade or store bought buttermilk scone, I like to make my own, but if you don't, I recommend you go to your favorite bakery and grab a nice buttermilk scone, the bakery stand at the greenmarket at Lincoln Square on Saturdays has great scones as does Whole Foods, Amy's and well pretty much any really good bakery! The important thing is to get a buttermilk non-flavored scone, you want that mouth coating of a dense scone for this sandwich -- it should be reminiscent of what you would imagine Bad Blake's biscuits to taste like.
2. Now, grab some Moody Blue cheese -- made by the Roth Kase creamery in Wisconson, this baby is a  four month aged smoked cow's milk blue cheese - creamy, smooth, stinky, smoky, and outstanding!!! I chose this cheese for a few reasons: one because of it played off the blue cheese in my endive salad, two because it was smoked, just like some of Bad's meats I am sure and since I do not eat meat, I wasn't about to put meat into this sandwich and then lastly because I think this cheese is so multidimensional, it would work so wonderfully with your buttermilk biscuit!
3. Now you need some aged balsamic vinegar, like an aged Balsamic from Modena, ideally aged for twelve years so it is thick, syrupy, and really distinctly developed. This will bring out and simultaneously highlight the nuanced flavors of the moody blue, reminiscent of the misplaced dressing on my endive salad and what you might imagine Bad's steaks glazed with in the flick.
4.  Now ladies and gents, you need some fruit or veggie to cut the heavy mouth feel of the other three ingredients and again playing off the nice balance between my meal and what you imagined Bad Blake to eat, you need a few simply sauted shittakes, with their stems and all. No herbs, nothing, besides a little chopped pearl onion and olive oil, just lightly saute so as to get them minimally tender but while still maintaining the majority of the integrity of the raw mushroom's "crunch." They will really successfully complement the balsamic vinegar/reduction and in turn the smokeyness of the blue..
5. Lastly, I'd suggest a few nice leaves of spinach instead of the endive I ate earlier and totally raw, unlike the preparations for the sides you might get at a steakhouse -- sauteed or creamed.

Now take your buttermilk biscuit, coat both sides with a small drop of butter, I know, I don't like butter but for  this particular recipe, you need some, then top with the balsamic reduction, cheese, mushrooms, and lastly the spinach. I'd definitely leave this as an open faced sandwich, too messy to combine both sides into one sandwich. Also, important, do NOT toast this, leave everything at room temperature, toasting melds  the flavors too much here and you want the tastes to differentiate themselves from one another. Of course according to Bad Blake, you'd drink this with a McClure's, probably on the rocks. And well, according to me tonight, you'd drink a Cote du Rhone, like I did with my endive salad, yes I admit  it did not pair particularly well, but it was just what I needed at that moment. I might recommend sticking with the "harder stuff" for this sandwich, in honor of Bad -- why not a scotch and soda? Or something? However a tea might be nice as well to play the sober card, just as Bridges' does.

Anyhow ladies and gents, enjoy my stretching of my imagination and my daily experiences...
Who is ready for tomato soup and Grilled cheese yummyness tomorrow?!!? MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day Twenty One - How to replenish after an exhausting day

It has finally stopped snowing, how exciting is that? And its the weekend! Granted, I did not really get to enjoy my Saturday off, instead, I had what I thought would be an hour long meeting with my CEO, turn into over  three and a half hours. Don't get me wrong, getting some face time is great, but it would have been much better to have during the week, meaning that I could avoid getting up six days in a row at 6am to keep up with my running training schedule nor when it means you really do not have much of a day left, you have part of an afternoon and of course in that part of an afternoon, you want  to accomplish about seventeen million things and also be able to relax, I must be seriously crazy if I thought I could fit all of that into the span of a few hours! Maybe crazy is the wrong word and overly ambitious is the right word...I like that better, no negative connotations. Right?

Anyhow, when you have a three and a half hour meeting with your CEO or let alone any meeting that requires a significant amount of focusing/brain power, it takes until you are finished for you to realize hooooooooow drained you actually are, and wow, does it hit you like a ton of bricks. That's exactly how I felt when I arrived home, hours after I I thought apart from coffee, what is going to invigorate me for the afternoon and evening of tasks that I have ahead, well that's easy, an awesome, nutritious, and delish open faced sandwich or a the idea for this from having my meeting earlier at Le Pain Quotidien. A Belgian originated chain that has organic sandwiches, salads, homebaked breads, etc -- an upscale chain coffeeshop. Their tartines are outstanding and so it got me thinking, hmm, there we go I will give you a recipe for a tartine!

On the note of having a ton of errands to check off on my to-do list this afternoon, I thought this has to be a quick easy simple recipe. Again inspired by Le Pain Quotidien, I decided to make the star of my sandwich a Young Belgian Goat cheese infused with honey, available for purchase at Fairway and one of my favorite recent discoveries. This baby is affordable, melts in your mouth, a welcome addition to any dish and is that perfect blend of being easily approachable but complex. I decided to use the bread I had in house, however, I think this sandwich would be best on a nice crunchy baguette, like the type you can buy at Le Pain Quotidien. I used though, Gourmet Garage's Pane Rustica, an Italian crunchy bread that makes a huge mess of crumbs on the floor when you slice it, but is a great base for our ingredients. Grab two slices of bread and put a dollop of honey on each. Honey in small quantities is really good for you and gives you that little sugar kick. Then top with a nice slab of your goat cheese. On top of that, for each side of the sandwich, I sliced up a dried fig and then topped it with a few leaves of arugula and a little bit of black pepper. That's it folks, easy, delish, and provides you with carbs, veggies, fruit, protein, and some sweetness to give you energy to get through the afternoon. I had it with a cup of coffee, but feel free to have it with the beverage of your choice. A nice cup of green tea would be lovely or at night, a nice crisp white wine would do the trick.

I hope you enjoy the tartine, I know it is a simple recipe for today, but it is a classically delish flavor pairing and will give you energy to get through your afternoon and evening.
Check back tomorrow for longer, more relaxed musings....

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day Twenty - In which I propose a new acronym

Happy Friday Ladies and Gents! I hope you all are enjoying the constant snow that has been falling for over twenty four hours now! It is supposed to continue for another twenty four too, lets keep our fingers crossed this is the LAST big snowstorm of the season. February 2010 has been snow central for us New Yorkers, right? Lets hope instead of March going in like a lion and out like a lamb, March is completely lamb like...

I got to thinking this morning while running in the snow in a beautiful yet un-plowed Central Park about our beloved acronym for Friday - TGIF, thank god its Friday! I remember while growing up a television station even had a whole evening of programming dedicated to TGIF. Who doesn't enjoy it? For most of us in the work force, it means we have two whole days off and away from the office, now isn't that exciting! I know I am excited, mostly due to the fact that I do not have to get up at 6 am to go running, that I can go running just a little later, is totally thrilling. Let me propose to you another acronym, GCF - Grilled Cheese Fridays! Easy, simple, meals that don't require too much time or commitment from you after a long week at work, good to accompany a beverage, great to eat on the run before going out, or well pretty much any time of day. But I thought for our blog purposes, we'd start a little tradition of GCFs, now that doesn't mean that we wouldn't have grilled cheese recipes other days of the week, but it's kind of a nice treat to specifically focus on them on Fridays.

Today, I thought we would do a play on a ratatouille -- a ratatouille grilled cheese! Doesn't that sound delish? I know it sounds great to me! It's simple, easy, and delish. Ratatouille in case you are not familiar with it is a classic Provencal dish that basically allows roasted vegetables the opportunity to sing! It is typically a mixture of garlic, onions, tomatoes (the fixture), zucchini, carrots, eggplants, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, bay leaves (if you feel like it), thyme, and some olive oil. Some people like to saute all the ingredients together, some people like to layer and bake them. It is as classic a dish as you can come for Provencal flavors.

For our sandwich, I am going to propose a little bit of a different route:

Start with one of Grandaisy's medium ciabattas, perfect for making this large sandwich and a nice crunch. Start by toasting both sides of bread, then on either side, spread a sundried tomato paste, if you are feeling up to it, you can make your own here, but if you are feeling like you are in a Friday lazy mode, Fairway sells a great sundried tomato paste. Now take a zucchini and eggplant and slice them so you can get thin long slices that you can then place on a stove top grill or a George Foreman grill with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled parmesan to get their flavors to pop. Once they are nicely browned and cooked through, take them off place them on top of the sundried tomato paste. In a different pan, I recommend sauteing sliced up garlic, onions, carrots, tomoatoes, and a half a red bell pepper with all of the above mentioned herbs, I like to add oregano too. I like to cook this so that all the flavors meld together, but not for too too long, like five to seven minutes over medium heat, then turn it on really low heat while you cut your cheeses. This sandwich will contain two cheeses: first off, Cabra Romero (which we discussed previously and is a young Spanish Goat cheese with a rosemary rind. This cheese will be great because it will accentuate the herbaceous qualities of the classic ratatouille where herbs de provence are definitely the star!) Then I think you want to keep with the goat and Spain theme for cheeses and go with a Garrotxa which means "worth knowing" in Catalan and it certainly is! Aged for about two to three months, this awesome goat cheese had a grey-ish moldy rind, but the most amazingly smooth finish and melted will be a nice cheese to meld all the flavors together. So once you have your cheeses ready to go on the sandwich, top with some of your carrot, tomato, pepper, aromatics mixture. Now you are ready to heat up your sandwich and consequently enjoy! I think this sandwich would go with at least in the winter, a nice Cotes du Rhone or even if you want to go the white route, a nice Sancerre. Keeping the French terroir going...however, I also think this is the sort of sandwich that being that it is meant to be comforting, you might want to go with a beverage of your choice that is comforting! A beer even?

Enjoy guys and stay dry getting home.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day Nineteen - Yet more snow!

Who signed up to live in New England?? I certainly didn't! But it seems like this winter is turning out to be not that different from a New Hampshire winter...I thought I left Hanover for a reason!

Thinking about snow and snow flakes falling, my mind turned in a variety of different directions when deciding what to write about first I thought about grated cheese as being somewhat reminiscent of snow flakes or like the way in which a topping of pecorino or parmesan would top a Cacio e Peppe (a traditional Roman dish with cacio - cheese and peppe - pepper, homey, comforting, simple and delish), just like the way in which snow blankets a mountain top..Then my mind drifted to panna cottas and the such which as edible representations of snow banks in Central Park...then I settled on a goat's cheese snowy dusting of a salad for an end of winter salad recipe..

Yes I know that I let my mind drift to far off places when thinking of cheese and snow and how we could tie them together...but why not let your mind wander? Broaden your horizons people!

Ok with that said, lets get going with our recipe, a bit along the lines of yesterday's blog, I thought I would take a classic recipe and turn it on its head just to get you all in the practice of thinking outside of the box when it comes to cooking. What is the one goat cheese salad that you tend to see on most restaurant menus?! Does it include beets, walnuts, some sort of green, typically arugula and a balsamic? I know the salad I am thinking of does. It is a tried and true flavor pairing, yes. The other version of this is taking a goat cheese disk, coating it in bread crumbs, placing it over mixed greens, maybe adding some nuts here and there and a dressing and calling it a warm goat cheese salad..Let me suggest to you my version of a winter goat cheese salad:

Instead of using beets, lets use a different winter vegetable, how about gold ball turnips? I know your first thought is turnips, ick! But no no, gold ball turnips have a very delicate but yet somewhat sweet and rooty sort of taste. They actually, in my opinion, do not need to be cooked, just wash, dice, and place in your salad bowl. The turnips will also give you a nice crunch to replace the crunch of the nuts..With the gold ball turnips, I recommend using some steamed peas to look towards future seasons unlike the gold ball turnips which are celebrating the now..Keeping the salad to a minimal number of ingredients, just as the classic version does, we'll take these two vegetables and toss them with some arugula and some sauteed shallots and then some crumbled goat cheese for our salad's snow..I like to use either crumbled alouette cheese or crumbled montrachet or a young crottin goat cheese or if you feel like going the more expensive route, crumbled boucheron would be fantastic! To dress this salad instead of making a balsamic vinaigrette, I'd probably make a lemon, herb, olive oil, a drop of white wine, a drop of mustard and some basil oil vinaigrette, keeping it lighter in flavor and bouncier in a way than its balsamic counter part. You're ready to serve!

Now now guys I know this may sound like a weird mixture of ingredients but the crunch of the turnip, with the smooth and mushiness of the peas, the aromatics of the shallots, and the tang of the goat cheese all fit together really nicely in the salad. I'd enjoy this salad with either a nice glass of light white wine or a sparkling or even a Hendrick's and tonic, light but full of flavor.

Enjoy guys. Lets all say goodbye to Thursday and hello to Friday, we're almost through the week!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day Eighteen - Mozzarella dressed up differently!

It's mid week and who is excited?!!? I certainly am, however definitely not excited about more precipitation and less sun on the weather's agenda for at least the next few days, it's relentless!Certainly means that no one is walking around window shopping for art, to say the least, I'd imagine about five people came into the gallery all day.

Enough about how New Yorkers aren't going out in the cold, grey, ick that we are currently experiencing...Anyhow ladies and gents, I thought I'd take a very well known cheese pairing and turn it on its head for you today, hoping that the antioxidant benefits of the fruit involved in the pairing will help you avoid getting a late winter cold and the fruit's color will brighten your gloomy day! When you think Mozzarella what do you think? Tomato and Basil right? Caprese! You see it as a salad, as a sandwich, as ingredients in an omelette, as the topping for a pasta, you name it, that flavor combination is everywhere. And now, not to discount its value, I do think it is a classically delish sort of combo, I just want to suggest that you try something a little different and hopefully broaden your horizons...

My options take two different sorts of routes, one that is definitely a little more savory and one a little sweeter just with one small change...

Obviously both start with our friend, mozzarella, which actually means "to cut" as in the Italian word mozzare. But basically mozzarella refers to cheese that has been spun and cut. It is as you know a young, melt in your mouth cheese if you get a good ball of it. It comes in large or smaller balls (cigelini) and can vary widely depending on where it is made.

Lets get going, so what are we going to substitute the tomato for? Mango! This tropical fruit is definitely at its peak in the summer, but you can still get decent mangoes in the winter months as well, they just get shipped to our cold city from the warmth of the tropics...It is also a stellar antioxidant, high in iron and vitamins A and E, and is also said to help poor digestion.

I propose for you here two different routes with the mango and the mozzarella, if you want something a little more on the savory side and love basil as much as I do: go with a mango, mozzarella, and basil salad or even a grilled cheese with a nice crusty ciabatta bread. You will get a lovely mixture of sweet and savory flavors here. I like to add some red pepper flakes as well to give it that extra added umph! I'd pair this with a nice light Sauvingnon Blanc or a Sancerre such as Lucien Crochet's Sancerre. Fruity, crisp, with a high dosage of minerals. This is a great summer salad or sandwich and a great reminder that summer isn't that far off for us currently in the winter time!

The other option I will provide you with is to substitute the basil for mint and now I would recommend that you make like a chop chop (chop the mangoes and mozzarella into small cubes and toss with mint) salad with the three ingredients and a tiny drop of olive oil and a drop of lime juice. Now you have a completely different flavor profile basically with changing one main ingredient, how cool is that?!?! I would not necessarily recommend making this into a sandwich, not that it would be baaaad, it's just in my mind, those flavor profiles do not necessarily trigger grilled cheese or sandwich. I like this salad for brunch or even paired with a seared salmon dish for dinner...but for our purposes, lets go with brunch and pair it with a nice Moscato d' Asti (a lightly sparkling white wine that is made by stopping wine's fermentation before all the sugars are absorbed by the grape's yeast, what you get is a sweet, easily drinkable, sparkler great for brunches, aperitifs, well pretty much anytime!). You can even get a decent one for $5.99 at Trader Joe's wine, simply called Asti. Granted you can also get one that's a little more expensive such as the Biancospino made by La Spinetta which retails for $15.99 at Astor wines.

What I think is totally cool about this exercise is that you can really get how much changing one ingredient can affect a cheese pairing and can take a cheese that one knows as being savory to a cheese that one knows as being sweet...I recommend trying this with other cheese flavor profiles, you might discover something you never thought possible or something so different from what you are used to.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day Seventeen - A Birthday winter root celebration!

Who is over this ridiculous winter we are having? I know that I certainly am! I guess I could be slightly optimistic and say at least it  didn't snow all day, it only rained, but yet it was still godawfully cold! Boo!!! Well it is the end of February, so maybe, just maybe we have a bit of a respite aka otherwise known as Spring, coming up?
Fingers crossed ladies and gents!
I wish that I could do a "rain dance" to make winter go away...unfortunately I can't! But I can however celebrate, winter's root vegetables and celebrate is what I did tonight for my mother's birthday. It was a joint effort getting dinner on the table tonight, but such a nice celebratory thing to do. To celebrate our dear friend, Mr. winter, I made a big roast, now now guys, I am not saying I took a big piece of meat and served that, I took:
6 parsnips
1 rutabega
1 purple top turnip
1/2 goldball turnip
1 celeriac
a variety of mini roasting potatoes (purple, fingerlings, etc)
1/2 a butternut squash
1 small scallion
2 smalll cloves of garlic
olive oil
Joe's Dairy special Parmesan
and a variety of herbs - thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil, and bay leaves
Salt and Pepper

After the incredibly time consuming exercise of chopping all of those winter root veggies, throw them in a big pan with the chopped aromatics (garlic and shallots), olive oil, parmesan, and herbs, and roast till golden brown. I am a bit fan of low heat roasting but if you want to eat before tomorrow morning, you might not  want to follow my dfirection in relation to this...I like to bake at 275 to 300 for anywhere between 35 and 50 minutes, but again, as the broken record player says, it depends on your oven.

Soooooo with the roasted veggies we had Amy's Whole Wheat Walnu loaf with four cheeses:
1. Belgian Goat cheese with honey, a fresh young creamy mini tower of goat  cheese goodness, great with the bread.
2. Brigid's Abbey - a Cato corner cheese I believe previously mentioned on the blog but this superstar is a semi soft cheese made in the trappist monk style aged for two to four months, a delicate, easily approachable but grassy, flavorful and dynamic cheese, an addition to any cheese plate.
3. Womanchego - Cato corner's play on the classic Spanish sheep's milk cheese, manchego. This baby is made from cow milk and is firmer  than its Spanish sibling, but definitely a distinct cousin. This cheese has dried fruit and marcona almond flavors mixed with a hint of butterstochness.
4.  Joe's Dairy Gorgonzola - enough said, a big girl blue with complex blue flavors that are definitely worth  overcoming, if you are one of those people who are afraid of blue mold and consequently blue cheese.

Then we had a salad with mixed greens, walnuts, alouette goat cheese, carrots for color and a homemade balsamic vinegrette dressing.

Lastly we had my mother's homemade oatmeal crisp with an antioxidant rich bottom layer of blueberries, topped with oats, various nuts, cinnamon, and other spices..On top of the oatmeal crisp, was a genius idea -- blended montrachet goat cheese with a dollop of goat milk so that it  becomes almost milk/syrup like, the perfect counterpart to the oats, not too heavy like ice cream or whipped cream, great concept on her part!!!!

Good night folks, lets look forward to spring!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day Sixteen - Organic Imaginaries...

I hope you all had a good Monday! I hate the Monday morning blues, that feeling of oh my god, look at that week ahead, hoooooooooooow am I going to get through it? This morning, that feeling translated into, although I had tons of work to do, me having a hard time concentrating through it. I find the best way to get through Mondays of this nature, you HAVE to have something to look forward to. Well this morning, I had two things to look forward to, granted, I had already ran, so that was checked off the list -- but I did have a lunch with my mother at En Japanese Brasserie (if you don't know it, check it out, it is on Hudson and Leroy Streets and is certainly the cleanest most simple Japanese food in NYC. Just as a note to you tofu-haters out there, this might not necessarily be the place for you, although they do have non-tofu centric dishes, their best dishes are tofu based!) and then I had my assisting in an Astor Wine class investigating Organic, Biodynamic, and Natural wines to look forward to. Ok, so with that on the agenda, I could handle, the disaster that was my Monday morning.

After my delish tofu based lunch at  En Japanese brasserie where we certainly felt as though we weren't in NYC, we almost felt as though we were in London...why I am not sure, maybe it was the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant or maybe it was just the laid back vibe of the canonically Japanese accented space, who knows, all I know is that it was certainly a special restaurant to be able to transport us out of the hussle and bussle of New York City. After our late lunch, I headed over to Astor Center to assist in my natural wine course. In tonight's course, there was no food paired with the wines Andy Fisher (the president of Astor wines and a regular teacher at the center) had chosen to serve. Therefore, I got to thinking, why don't I create what I think would be excellent pairings for the wines we tasted.

To give you a basic, ok really really basic overview on natural, biodynamic and organic wines before we get into our pairings, here you go:

1. Organic wines, just like organic foods, avoid the usage of chemicals and pesticides in their production.
2. Biodynamic wines and viticulture follows in the viewpoints of Rudolf Steiner, just like Biodynamic agriculture does. Those viewpoints are based on Steiner's specific philosophy, entitled anthroposophy which includes an inherent understanding of the roles of the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature. Apart from the obvious qualities of being ecologically conscious and composting and recycling any viticultural bi-products back into the soil by combining them into sprays and the such. There are eight different spiritual preparations that are the tenets of biodynamic wine making, but I feel like if I go into these they might disgust you and not make you interested in the idea of ever trying a biodynamic wine, they certainly have some of the most unique, clean, and dynamic flavors! So if you feel like googling them in full, go ahead, but I will provide you with the example that was utilized in class -- Preparation 500 - Cow manure is buried in cow horns in the soil. The manure is then spread over the fields. Spark your interest? Feel free to investigate Preparations 501-508 as well!
3, Natural wines, basically utilize everything that had been spoken about but also in this case we tend to see small independent producers who do not want to add sugars or well pretty much anything to the wine, these producers are about doing the least to their wines so it can speak to their audience for the longest period of time.

Rudolf Steiner and his contemporaries would probably have a heart attack with the short overview I provided you all with, but at least it gives you a significant amount of key points so you can understand the difference between the processes.

Lets move on to our pairings:

1. Blanquette de Limoux rut, Espirit du Sud NV, Languedoc-Roussillon, France AND Le Chevrot
The Blanquette reminded me somewhat of a more delicate and fruity cousin to the Blanc des Blancs. It is a biodynamic wine and the cool thing about it is that many believe it have been around before Champagne! Isn't that crazy. Now this delicate but delish sparkling would go very nicely with the delicate, chalky, extra special goat tang of a Chevrot. Chevrot is a bloomy rind pasteurized goat cheese from the Loire Valley that when perfect, melts in your mouth and leaves this amazing residual goat mouth feel! The light dance-y qualities of the Blanquette I thought would pair really nicely with the delicate and smooth flavors of this cheese. 

2. Gruner Veltlliner "Hefeabzug," Nikolaihof, 2008, Wachau, Austria AND Pyrennes Brebis
This biodynamic Gruner is probably unlike an Gruner you have ever had and more like the body and feel of a Muscadet. Who know a Gruner could resemble its fuller bodied counterpart?!? Whenever I think of Gruners, I think of light, mineraly, acidic wines, not so here....and due to that fact, I did not pair it with the typical cheese pairings for a Gruner, instead I choose Pyrenees Brebis which is a pressed, uncooked, pasteurized sheep's milk cheese from the Pyrenees region in France. This youngester has some of the chalkyness typically assoicated with goat milk cheese but has the sweet nuttyness of a nice aged sheep cheese. Typically you can pair this cheese with sweet dessert wines or even some red wines but I thought because the Gruner had more body and sweetness than normal that it would be a perfect combo.

3. Gravonia Rioja Blanco, Lopez de Heredia, 1999 AND Gorgonzola Torte with Marcona Almonds
 Before we can discuss this wine, made fully of Viura grapes. We have to mention the amazingly unique qualities of the Lopez de Heredia vineyard in the Rioja region of Spain -- they have tried to keep the original wine making techniques in order. This wine is its youngest white available on shelves and was originally bottled in 1999, so you see, they age for a while! Smelling this wine is quite a trip, you get dried fruit, nutty, and I especially got sherry flavors. So I thought, hmmm, what would go nicely with this distinct wine -- Gorgonzola Torte paired with the saltyness of Marcona almonds, maybe some dried fruit as well (you don't have to though) on some crisp baguette. Gorgonzola Torte is basically a mixture of gorgonzola and mascarpone cheeses and what you get is a delicately faint blue cheese with a certain amount of sweetness but not overpowering, definite melt in your mouth capabilities here!

4. Moulin a Vent, Christopher Pacalet 2006, Burgundy, France AND Gabietou
A natural beaujolais made with the gamay grape. This is a wine that is pure, fruit forward and utterly delish. A very different sort of beaujolais than one might be used to. I find that natural wines tend to have very distinct scents when taking a smell, its because these wines do not try to remove that from them, they embrace it! Needless to say, it is worth a shot. I struggled with what to pair this cheese with but I landed on a cheese made by France's neighbor, Pecorino Oro Antico (Old gold). This sheep's milk cheese is aged for six months and during that time is coated with olive oil to deepen its flavors, what you arrive with open your ingesting of this beauty is a firm but flaky golden interior that has the canonical aged sheep flavors -- caramel, grassyness, and of course an animaly sort of feel.

5. Touraine Pinot Noir, Puzelat, 2008, Loire, France AND Patacabra
A beautiful example of a natural pinot noir from the Loire valley. I'd have to say that I immediately melt when it comes to Pinot Noirs, really across the board so I think that this pairing might be a little biased...I paired it with one of my favorite cheeses -- patacabra which is an aged goat's milk cheese from Spain. A fun fact: Patacabra means goat leg and specifically references the shape of the cheese but also, if you ask me is a play off of Pata de Mulo, sheep's leg, and is another Spanish cheese that has a smiliar shape. This cheese is perfect with young wines like our pinot here!

6. Grolleau "Le Cousin," Cousin-Leduc, NV, Loire France AND Cowgirl Creamery's St. Pat's
This wine was a new one for me and for the members of the class -- a small production and not really well known Loire Valley grape, Grolleau.The result is a light bodied red wine that whose scent certainly screamed, "I'm different, check me out!" Gamey, earthy, barnyardy presented itself on your nose but when you tasted the wine, you got a light red wine with an earthy but berrish sort of feel. Not sure I'd defintiely go back for more here, maybe the smell turned me I thought I would pair this with a simple, classic, creamy cheese such as Cowgirl Creamery's Mt Tam - a triple cream cheese made out in Pt. Reyes Station, CA, this cheese is silky smooth and creamy - an awesome indulgence each bite!

7. Blonde, Andrea Calek NV, Ardeche, France AND Charollais Affine.
This was the biggest treat, something unlike anything I have ever experienced. Yes it is a sparkler but not by the normal definition! The mixture of Chardonnay and Viognier grapes here produces something completely different because the winemaker does not remove any of the sediment really from the wine, so you are left with a cloudy, heavier than normal sparkling with pear and quince flavors. This wine needs a goat cheese, so I thought why not pair it with the most elegant of the Loire valley goat cheeses - Charollais Affine, a raw goat cheese aged on straw mats for up to four months. The result is a mature, bright and grassy goat!

I hope you will try some of these wine and cheese pairings and if you don't feel like investing in the wines, at least do me the favor of experimenting with biodynamic and natural wines, it will open up your eyes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day Fifteen - Lemons galore

Who doesn't like Sundays? Reading the New York Times, enjoying the fact that you don't have to utilize your brain in a work related manner, and being able to occupy yourself with your favorite past times..I especially like Sundays when they are crisp, clear, and sunny after months of snow, rain, and basic winter mess weather -- today's high of 45 degrees felt like a positively balmy spring day! 

Earlier today, I was given a bottle of Belevedere Citrus, a lemon infused vodka that has really delicate and flavorful moments, unlike other lemon vodkas. After making myself a drink with some dry vermouth and a splash of tonic over ice, I got to thinking, what sort of lemony sort of baked food would work well with a drink of this nature on a late Sunday afternoon, ding ding! Lemon Ricotta bread. Sounds yummy right?? Simple flavors, infused with lemon just like the vodka, but not overpoweringly lemony, it will be a perfect complement and the quintessential late afternoon snack. This lemony pairing was perfect for a spring like day -- the freshness of lemon scents immediately transport me to Spring's first daffodil bloom and the smell of fresh grass. What an ideal late afternoon treat on a day where one could feel the beginning of spring around the corner!

Ok, so you are wondering how to bake this right?!?! Welll, lets get going! First off, grab an oven safe loaf pan, 12 inches x 4.5 inches x 3 inches deep. Nextly, as usual, get your oven warming up as you create the bread.

The bread is an easy mix of ingredients:

1 cup of pastry flour
1 cup of regular flour
baking soda
baking powder
4 eggs - one full egg and three egg whites
Olive Oil
One small cup of lemon yogurt
One cup of goat's milk or buttermilk (depending on which you prefer, I like goat's milk's tang for this recipe though)
1 cup of white sugar (I tend not to cook with white sugar but for this, I think you want the texture and flavorings of the white sugar versus the granules of its brown counterpart.)
Some honey (Because
1/2 lb container of fresh ricotta cheese, again I love the Joe's Dairy ricotta or the Salvatore Brooklyn version
Lemon juice
and a bunch of lemon rind.
If you want to give this a bit of ooomph, granted it will move the bread from a strictly sweet sort to a bit more in the middle -- add some thyme, not much, just a few fresh sprigs of thyme will add a nice counterpart to the bread.

Ok, first off combine all of your dry ingredients in one bowl. Then combine all of your wet ingredients in another bowl and then whisk together. Choose whether or not you want to add thyme...I think it is a definitely a different sort of direction to go with this bread, but it adds a unique flavor profile that I personally like, but if you are one of those people who like to keep things clean and simple, then definitely avoid the thyme.

Spray Pam's Baking Spray into your loaf pan and place your bread in the oven at a low to medium-ish heat of like 275 to 300. Bake till the top is light golden brown, very light, not too too dark. Pull out and top with a light dusting of sugar. Slice a piece for yourself and even top with a little ricotta and then enjoy with your Belevedere Citrus cocktail.

Enjoy your springy Sunday afternoon snack!

Day Fourteen - oops a little late!

So who feels that weekends are no longer particularly relaxing?? What happened to being able to sleep in and not worrying about where you have to be and when? I'm sure that those sorts of weekends are buried under the Saturdays at work, errands, food shopping, meetings, birthday parties, running and more....Thankfully, I do enjoy busy weekends and I suppose you could say, I thrive when I am keeping myself busy..However yesterday was so busy that I didn't get around to writing to you all. This morning I woke up and felt somewhat weird, no it was not the alcohol from last night, it was the fact that I hadn't written to all of you and mused about cheese for sentence upon sentence.

So I thought for my blog post that should have gone up yesterday and is unfortunately twenty four hours late, I'd give you all my I'm in a hurry but still want brunch recipe that always makes me feel like its the weekend but you can definitely do this recipe quickly! Living in New York City, we have some of the best bagels you will find worldwide, New York is to the bagel like Philadelphia is to the cheesesteak and Chicago is to deepdish pizza. People always say that the reason New York is famous for its bagels is because of the water. I believe there was a place somewhere in Florida, that even imported water from NYC so that they could capitalize on the bagel market.

I think every true New Yorker has their favorite bagel place just like they have their favorite bagel place and their preferred coffee place. I, however have a few favorite bagel places for different reasons and different bagels -- 72nd Street Bagel has awesome everything flagels (in case you don't know what a flagel is, it is a flat bagel, it is as though someone took a bagel and smushed it. For those of us who don't like the gooey interior of the bagel, this is a perfect route. However, the main issue with flagels is it tough to make bagel sandwiches since you can't really cut these in half and "stuff," you can however top them with your favorite topping, whether its a cream cheese or a whitefish salad or whatever you like.) My second favorite bagel place is Murray's, the original shop is on Sixth Avenue and Twelfth Street...their health/multigrain bagel is outstanding. But if that's not your thing, any of their bagels are great! And lastly, I love the Wholegrain Everything bagel from Bagels on the Square which is on Father Demo Square, next to Joe's pizza.
Go ahead and choose your favorite bagel for your base here, I'd like to utilize the Murray's bagel for what we are doing here. We're going to make an eggwhite, smoked salmon, chive and petit billy (Petit Billy is a young fresh pasteurized goat cheese easily recognizable by the green leaf it is wrapped in. Fresh, springy, tangy and delish, this cheese will complement the smokey and salty qualities of the fish and the nuances of the chives!!!) omelette to go on your multigrain bagel then you can make an easy and quick version of homemade hash browns.

Lets start with the potatoes. Grab about eight Russian banana fingerlings, slice into thin slices, toss in a low oven safe dish with some shallot, olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme, red pepper flakes and some grated young manchego on top. The manchego will dress up the potatoes but will not overwhelm them and is a nice simple cheese. The olive-y/olive oil sort of tastes in this cheese will highlight the potatoes. Roast on 375 till the potatoes are golden brown, this depends on your oven. But in my oven, it takes about twenty five to thirty minutes. Ok while the potatoes are cooking, grab three eggs and crack them into a bowl, separating the egg yolks from the whites. If you have a dog like I do, go ahead and scramble the yolks for the dog, it's good for their coats! Meanwhile, add chopped chives and chopped up smoked salmon. If you don't feel like shelling out the cash for really nice smoked salmon at Russ and Daughters for example, you can always go to Fairway and get some smoked salmon bits that are much less of an investment and serve our purposes here perfectly. Grab your petit billy and take about a quarter of the disk and cut it into small cube like pieces and toss into the bowl. Now, whisk all of your ingredients together this will make the eggs more fluffy! Then grab a pan and toss some olive oil or pam into the pan and let it get hot then pour your mixture in. Cook over medium heat, when it feels like the bottom is just settled, no longer liquidy and then flip. Once your omelette is cooked enough you can place this on your toasted bagel. Now, while you are waiting for the potatoes to finish make your a nice cup of coffee or tea. My favorite addition to any brunch meal is a bloody mary, buuuuut if you have to go to work that day, that is definitely out! Lets just pretend and make a bloody mary as well. Always best with Belevedere, these canonical brunch drinks make me feel like it is definitely the weekend! Ok, grab you Belevedere, some tomato juice, horse radish, tabasco or your hot sauce of choice, celery, fresh ground black pepper, olives and their juice and some nice ice. Start with a tall glass full of ice. Then in another glass, I wouldn't recommend a cocktail shaker really, but you can if you want. Pour in about 2 oz of Belevedere, then add horseradish, tabasco, a  few olives and a drop of their brining juice and the tomato juice. Stir. Then pour over the ice. Top with a nice piece of celery a few olives and some extra black pepper. Now your potatoes should be golden and the cheese should be melted. Pull them out, and enjoy your bagel omelette sandwich with a side of potatoes, coffee and a Bloody Mary! Yum, that certainly says weekend to me!!!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day Thirteen - A grilled cheese recipe on honor of TGIF!

Phew, it certainly has been one of those weeks at work where you cannot wait for Friday afternoon to be over! I think Friday afternoon might be made a little more exciting if I did not have the prospect of coming back into the gallery tomorrow. I don't think I would mind having to come into working for between a half and a full day's worth of work if I could magically change one key factor in the equation: the fact the New York City subways are simply a disaster on weekends these days! You never know if a train is actually going to run on its prescribed line or skip stations or even be running at all. And if they are running, you can pretty much bet on having to wait for a significant amount of time for that train to come, that's for sure!

Enough moaning about tomorrow's train trajectory, it will make it worse tonight and during my run before work if I am already dreading the train trip from the Upper West Side to Soho.

Moving right along, at the end of a long week of work, most people, myself included, could go for a nice aaaadult beverage. Right now, the idea of a nice glass of Pinot Noir sounds like just the ticket.
And what goes better with that glass of wine than a Friday Afternoon Happy Hour Grilled Cheese?!!? Nothing if you ask me! Now now guys, I'm not suggesting you go to the local pub and order a grilled cheese...unless that's what you feel like. If you do that, you will probably end up with some form of white bread, maybe a nicer than Wonderbread sort, but not necessarily, slathered in butter with a cheddar or even kraft singles sandwiched between those two pieces of bread. Don't get me wrong, there's a time and a place for a classic American grilled cheese in certain people's minds, but in case you haven't learned anything about me from the past twelve posts, that sort of grilled cheese is not exactly what I was thinking of.

I was thinking you would start with two nice slices of Sullivan Street's Pullman bread, a dressed up version of your beloved Wonderbread. Then you'd grab the best Friday Afternoon Happy Hour cheese -- Drunken Goat. This Spanish semi-soft goat cheese has been soaked for anywhere between forty eight and seventy two hours in Doble Pasta red wine creating a nice burgundy rind with the white paste-y goat interior that we all know and love of many semi soft goat cheeses. The cheese adopts a delicate grape like finish and is perfect for our sandwich. I hope I didn't disappoint by the cheese's name, it is not as though the cheese tastes of wine specifically, but with its between two and three day wine bath, the cheese adopts a faint but definitely noticeable wine/grape finish.

Ok now you have the two main ingredients and there are only a few more to enhance the grape flavor, grab a few (not too many so they overwhelm, I'd recommend four or five) red grapes and cut them in half. Put those to the side. Next, take a handful of arugula and toss it into a pan with olive oil, a third of a shallot, and some salt and pepper. At a low to medium heat, saute, just so the greens are  wilted but aren't overly soggy, so for, depending on your stove anywhere between two and four minutes. Now, grab your two slices of pullman, lightly spread a drizzle of olive oil on the interior side of each slice of bread then pile your cheese, wilted greens, and grapes and you are ready to melt your sandwich on your panini press, in your oven, or on your George Foreman grill -- anyway you choose, I am sure it will work.

Pull out your Friday Afternoon Happy Hour grilled cheese and enjoy with your preferred beverage of choice after a long week at work. No pairings here guys, its your call! It depends on your mood. Sometimes Friday afternoons, I'm feeling a nice Hendricks and Tonic, others I'm feeling a glass of wine or port or even something sparkling if there's something to celebrate, others, a dirty martini, and on the occasional Friday, a beer. 

Enjoy! Check back tomorrow for more musings..

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day Twelve - An opening and a few thoughts on cocktail parties

This evening is our rescheduled opening here at the gallery. Unfortunately our first go-around at the opening got snowed out so now a week and a half into the show, we're inviting customers, friends, and the general public down to our space to have a look at the art and to have some Asti and an overall good time, or lets hope!

I got to thinking with opening preparations around me, about cocktail parties and about cheese plates at these sorts of events...granted you typically don't see cheese plates at art openings partially because galleries tend not to want to serve you food while you look at the art in the event that you might get some on the art and well a gaggle of other reasons, one main one being it just isn't the and water is! However, to be quite honest, at least here, on top of not having the catering space, having a cheese spread is simply not in our budget. But if it were or if you were planning a cocktail party where you wanted to have a cheese spread, read to the end of the post and you will discover my budget but celebratory recommendations!

First off though, I always wonder why people get cheeses that are crumbly or messy for cheese party selections, think about it logistically, you have a glass of wine in one hand, you have to put down your wine to spread the cheese onto a cracker or a piece of bread and then you have to be very cautious about dropping crumbles of cheese on yourself as you eat and try to socialize..So if it were me, I'd avoid any messy cheeses that cause the eater to be worried about spillage!

Also, I find important for cheese plates is to stray away from blocks of so obviously chemically enhanced orange cheddars or things of the sort...not that there is anything really wrong with them besides the fact that the cheeses are terribly waxy and don't tend to be the nicest partner to wine, especially if you don't have nice wine which sometimes at cocktail parties you don't -- you have affordable wine that is easily drinkable.

So here we go with the recommendations for a cheese plate for a gallery opening OR a cocktail party:
1. I'd get some basic, not overly complicated cheeses, but definite variations and more dressed up versions of classics. I'd defintiely go with a large percentage of hard cheeses and then maybe one or two softer cheeses...
Here's what I'd get that fits into this category:
a. Young Goat Gouda - A Pasteurized goat's milk cheese from Holland, it is a variation of your typical gouda and a great one to boot, sweet, subtle, and a crowd pleaser!
b. Cabra Romero - a Spanish young firm goat's cheese that is rubbed in rosemary and is a unique addition to any cheese plate.
c. Fontina val D'Aosta - A semi soft young cow's milk cheese that is a prime ingredient in Italy's version of fondue, fondutta, but is great on its own, a nutty flavor will permeate your mouth making you want more.
d. Chevre Noir - A Canadian goat cheedar cheese with a wax rind that has a very unique flavor, winey, carmely, and more. A definite hit at any event!
e. Black River Blue - A classic simple blue cheese that is a hit any event, easy on the wallet and go with port ideally, but also with most wines since it is such a gentle flavor. (You need to incorporate at least one blue cheese onto your plate and this is one option!)
f. Pecorino Tartufelo -If you're feeling like a big spender, this sheep's milk cheese that has nice amounts of black truffles in it, is always a party hit!
g. Saint Maure - You need some sort of softer goat's cheese on your plate and Saint Maure is a good option because being aged it is not crumbly but is very unique and is a great option. This ashen aged goat is from the Loire Valley and is a testament to the aged goat cheeses of France. You could use a Selles-sur-Cher as well, also ash aged goat from the Loire Valley but this one is hockey puck sized and for a party, I'd go with its bigger cousin!
h. Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve Cheese - This cheese has won best in show from the American Cheesemaking society in 2001 and 2005 and certainly deserves it. It has the most delicate flavors but in an easily approachable package. It is a raw cow's milk cheese from Wisconsin based on the classic French cheese, Beaufort.

2. Then I'd go with, depending on how many people are coming to your event, a whole celebratory cheese that displayed always makes a nice touch.
 a. A full wheel or even a half wheel of aged Parmesan Reggiano
b. A wheel of Brilliant Savarin (a French bloomy rind cheese named for the French gastronome who was one of the first big proponents of cheese - Brilliant Savarin! It is a sumptuous treat!) 
c. A large wheel of Queso de Serena (a seasonal Spanish raw sheep cheese coagulated with cardooon thistle that is gooey to the extreme but is delish! I'd recommend you cut off the top and allow guests to dip bread in when its at its ripest!)
d. A small Humboldt Fog wheel called a Cypress Grove Fog Light - one of the US best cheeses and a grea example of the artisanal cheese movement in this country. A pasteurized bloomy rind cheese with an ashen vein in the center.

Well guys, there are tons more you could use in the place of the cheeses I selected but I think these are a good jumping off point for a winter event!

I'd get maybe between three and four of the first selections and then depending on what you choose for the wheel cheeses, either two small ones or one big one! Again, all of this depends on how many people you are expecting.

I am sure you are asking what else you need for the proper cheese plate - I'd get some nice dried apricots and raisins, walnuts, almonds. Get some ciabatta thinly sliced and some raisin walnut bread as well. Then I definitely would get some crackers too! Grab some nice flatbread crackers and some American vintage wine biscuits (I recommend the Red Wine and black pepper ones), some simple Carr's Water Crackers, and some Stonewall Kitchen crackers (all of which are amazing -- they have some kickass flavor profiles like Aged Cheddar Beer ones and Blue Cheese Sesame Seeds...)

I think that creates a nice cheese offering for any cocktail party or art opening. More later friends, as my opening is vast approaching and I am not ready.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day Eleven - Following in Sam Sifton's footsteps, Pizza! But mine is made healthy!

I love to cook food that is fresh and makes you feel good after you eat it, doesn't make you feel heavy or bloated and really makes you feel like you had a nutritious meal. What I never understand is how such a large percentage of Americans can go out to eat for every meal and a day and can eat really fried food that has no redeeming nutritional qualities. Yes, I understand that having fresh vegetables and fresh food in your house can be somewhat expensive but if you take a trip to your local greenmarket, I guarantee whatever vegetables/ingredients that are in season, will not break the bank and will be fresh and ready for you to consume. It is also so satisfying once you have cooked a meal, to sit down with your homemade bounty and a nice glass of wine and really appreciate the time and effort that went into what you are eating.

Granted, I know that not everyone has extra hours in the day to cook, so if you can cook only a few nights a week, it is still worth it! Or even prepare in advance!

I know everyone in New York is always busy and never seems to have enough time to do everything they would like, so I thought I'd provide you with a quick healthy, easy, recipe that makes a delish and satisfying weeknight dinner for one.

Rarely does the New York Times' Dining and Wine section focus on pizza for its weekly review, but this week, Sam Sifton, has decided to give you his opinion of Motorino. One of the city's best pizza places and one of the many artisanal pizza places that are popping up all over town. Pizza has been the "in" comfort food since early to mid last year. Think Keste, Co, etc. If you want to check out the review, here it is:

Now come on people, who doesn't like pizza in some form?! Very few people! You can use soy cheese if you're lactose intolerant, or no cheese at all; gluten free dough, whatever floats your boat! Pizza is an easy, fast, meal or snack if you have a big appetite that doesn't break the bank and tends to not be that awful for you if you keep it simple......well here goes my version of a week night pizza for one:

One Middle Eastern Flatbread or one round whole grain pita bread
One head of Kale
A handful of button mushrooms (trying to keep this simple guys)
garlic and onions
olive oil
herbs, salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan
Joe's Dairy Ricotta Cheese - homemade and definitely if you ask me among the best ricottas the city has to offer! Salvatore Brooklyn makes a good ricotta too!

Get your oven going, on my usual lower than most people tell you temperature of like 275 to 300.
While the oven is warming up, boil some water and really quickly steam the kale, just so it is barely cooked. Concurrently, chop up a clove of garlic and a quarter of an onion, put that in a pan with some olive oil and the slice mushrooms. Cook till the mushrooms condense over lower heat.

Now take your pita or middle eastern flatbread, whichever you decide to utilize, put a little bit of olive oil on both sides, then top one side with a light to medium coating of ricotta then the kale and then the mushrooms, then some herbs, preferably oregano and marjoram and then some salt and pepper. Then lastly top your little pie with some grated parmesan. Place in the oven and bake! Take it out when the cheese is golden brown and down and slice. I'd serve it with a glass of Pelaverga, Vigna di Terre Rosse, 2007 that you can pick up at Astor Center Wines. It is a rare Italian wine from the Saluzza region southwest of Turin with flavors of flowers, spice, clay, and powder.

Now you have a nice easy dinner for one with protein, carbs, veggies, and a glass of wine to boot!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day Ten - Fat Tuesday, A Dose of Never Ending Snow, and Comfort food with a healthy twist!

Happy Pancake Tuesday and Mardi Gras everyone!

It seems that winter has no desire to let up, we seem to just continually be getting snow and more snow, and when we aren't getting our dosage of snow, we're getting some freezing cold temperatures! I know that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on the 2nd of this month, informing us that we would be getting six more weeks of winter, but it seems that so far this winter has been worse than the previous few. Living here in Manhattan, you don't think you will have to deal with below freezing temperatures, above average snow falls, and just all around depressingly dark days; maybe you expect that if you go further north, but here in New York City, we expect to not have those sorts of winters...

Even though it has been snowing all day long, my friends and I are still going to uphold our tradition of going to see some live music at the Louisiana style joint, Acme Bar and Grill. Always a good time with people playing the washboard, hurricanes-a-flowing, jambalaya and beignets galore. My favorite food that Acme serves however, is unfortunately not the Southern/Cajun staples but is their Veggie Burger with a side of their Mac n' Cheese. Their Mac n' Cheese albeit simple and classic is done very well and a definite repeat order item if you ask me.

So I thought, well seeing as its snowing out and on nights like tonight you typically want a comfort food and I am going to Acme, I'd give you my recipe for baked Farfalle with Butternut Squash and four cheeses....yes I know it's different than a typical Mac n' Cheese but is definitely the healthier option and still maintains the delish comforting qualities of its more traditional counterpart.

I like farfalle for this dish because I think the shape suits chopped up butternut squash more successfully but go ahead and try different pasta shapes, you might discover something else works better. By incorporating butternut squash into this dish, you're adding a vegetable that has countless health benefits, in case you aren't aware, get a load of this:
1. It is low in fat, high in dietary fiber therefore making it a heart friendly choice.
2. It has a large amount of potassium, B6, and a high folate content.
3. Its orange-y/tangerine-y coloring highlights the fact that this vegetable is high in carotenoids which help protect against heart disease and also boasts high amounts of beta-carotene!
4. It provides in a one cup serving, nearly half the amount of Vitamin C one is supposed to get in a day!
5. And lastly, it is high in anti-oxidants.

Did I do a good job at convincing you why you should incorporate butternut squash into your dish? I hope so!

Lets start with the ingredients:

1 box of farfalle
1 medium sized butternut squash
1 cup of buttermilk (thick and creamy, but low in fat)
1.5 cups of grated parmesan
1.5 cups of crumbled goats cheese
1.5 cups of grated comte cheese
.5 cup of ricotta
.25 cup of flour
homemade bread crumbs
Olive Oil
Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme, and Rosemary
A little bit of Maille Mustard
One garlic clove
Half a shallot
Salt and Pepper

I know its a little bit odd not to include butter in this recipe, but I am not a fan of cooking with butter and like to utilize olive oil where ever I can in its place..Olive oil is also controls against heart disease due to its high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Make sure to turn on your oven, I like to bake this at about 275 for anywhere between thirty and forty minutes, till the bread crumbs are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Ok so to start off, lets cook the pasta till it is al dente. At the same time, you can roast the butternut squash for about fifteen minutes with olive oil, herbs, and garlic at 275. This will just get the butternut squash to be somewhat cooked before combining with the pasta and the cheeses. At the same time, take the slices of day old ciabatta or crusty old bread and double bag them and then use a bowl to make the crumbs. I like to do it this way so that you get different sized crumbs and a nice mouth texture. Also, it lets one get out any pent up aggression they might have!

Now, pour a generous amount of olive oil into the bottom of the pan you plan to cook the dish in, then place the pasta and butternut squash in. Then combine milk, Parmesan, Comte, ricotta, flour, chopped up garlic and shallots, herbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix everything together. Then take the bread crumbs you made and top the dish with bread crumbs and crumbled goat's cheese and some olive oil and place in the oven and bake!

Once it gets golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, it is ready to take out! I like to enjoy this on winter nights with a nice Malbec, a red with a nice body, but not too heavy. The Benmarco Malbec is always a good bet!

I hope you enjoy my homemade version or try Acme's version as well. However, I think among the best restaurant mac n' cheese I have had is at Southern Hospitality. Granted, I haven't had the Waverly Inn's Truffled Mac n' Cheese but I am sure with its price tag, it is amazing.

Check back tomorrow for more musings....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day Nine - A sushi roll with cheese and a recipe for a post twenty mile run brunch

I hope you all are enjoying the long weekend, well if you are so lucky to get Monday off...I took today off in exchange for working this coming Saturday, so in the long run, it does end up being six of one, half a dozen of the other..buut at least I get to enjoy a nice lowkey Monday off!

First off, we need a brief recap of the Valentine's dinner my boyfriend and I had at Tanuki Tavern because a few of the menu items were quite unique. I know you are probably thinking, this is a blog about cheese, why is she bringing this up...but have faith my friends, there is a reason, not to worry! We ordered a variety of yummy things -- a miso marinated cod over a small individualized hibachi grill (melt in your mouth!); baked maine lobster dynamite with masago and tobiko over sushi rice; my boyfriend ordered a pork belly with baby bok choy and mushrooms in a soy mirin broth and then we ordered three sushi rolls -  

1. Sesame Crusted Tuna Tataki Roll avocado, spicy tuna mousse, cucumber & scallion topped with tataki, eel sauce drizzle.
2. Kinoko Roll japanese mushrooms wrapped in white soy topped with crispy enokis & truffle oil.
3. Yakuza Roll Bbq eel, avocado & boursin cheese topped with spicy masago, eel sauce drizzle.

Needless to say, now you understand why I brought up what we had, the Yakuza roll was outstanding, although the waitress said the boursin cheese was going to being over powering, it most certainly was not at all, it created a delish creaminess, a really unique dimension to an eel avocado roll, a definite must go back for! Now, I know there are a few rolls that utilize cream cheese in them and they are good too, but there are really not that many rolls that encorporate cheese itself, which was such a nice surprise. Are you wondering why you don't see more cheese in sushi and Asian cuisine? Well to be honest, it simply is not a cultural custom...

Moving right along, this morning, I got up and did a twenty mile training run...was a great run except for the last few miles, my hip pain set in and made it hard to go at a very brisk speed unfortunately! After stretching, I thought, hmm what do I want to eat after that?!?! Typically, I go for a homemade veggie tuna salad on a bagel, but I knew I had neither of the above in my house, so I decided to take a different approach...

I knew I need protein, carbs, and some veggies so I thought why not an open faced tofu sandwich! Most people find tofu that has been "doctored" to be quite unexciting, I disagree, I like the consistency of firm tofu, has a little bit of that melt in your mouth feel but still holds up so it doesn't taste too soupy and will hold up in a sandwich context. I started with two pieces of toasted Eli's whole grain bread, then topped them with a sundried tomato tapenade, a few fresh cherry tomatoes, a few slices of the afore mentioned tofu, some arugula, and then some of Cato Corner Farm's Brigid's Abbey Cheese. Brigid's Abbey is their best selling cheese -- it is a trappist style monastery cheese with a smooth mouth feel but still maintaining a semi firm quality, it is a winner melted as well or baked. Definitely dresses up any meal! Cato Corner Farm is a mother son operation based in Colchester, CT but you can find their outstanding cheeses at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays, definitely go check them out!

Back to our sandwich, lather each piece of bread with the sundried tomato tapenade, then stack tofu, cheese, sliced cherry tomatoes, and finally arugula and then I like to top it with a little red and black pepper. Sit back and enjoy!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day Eight - Green Eggs and Ham? Is that how you take your eggs? No thank you, Dr. Seuss...

Don't you hate when you have expectations for how something and they aren't met...yes it is a let down typically, not always a bad thing in the long run, but is a let down at first.  Oh well, you have to take a deep breath and say, all is well, the way things turned out ain't so bad after all!

This morning, being that it was Valentine's Day, I thought after my run, I would make my boyfriend a nice breakfast in bed....that's where thing started going down hill...The menu was simple, his favorite muffins, lemon poppy, scrambled eggs just the way he likes them, bacon, and a celebratory bottle of Asti. (In case you aren't familiar with Asti, it is a white Italian sparkling sweet wine produced to the south of the town of Asti in the Piedmont region of Italy.)

Instead of going into what happened with the muffins, lets just put it this way, after twenty minutes in the oven, which is less than the normal amount of time I bake them, I pulled  them out and they were overcooked, just a little too brown for most people's liking. Good thing I like somewhat burned things...but with the muffins, there went the completed and nice breakfast....

Thankfully, I managed to salvage the eggs and bacon portion. My boyfriend likes three eggs scrambled with cheese, today it was a nice grated parmesan, herbs, salt, and a touch of truffle oil...At least that coupled with the bacon and the Asti were a hit...

But have you ever thought that the way someone prefers their eggs, tends  to tell you about them or at least illuminates what their taste profile preferences are? I think it was the movie, "Runway Bride," with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, were Gere was able to notice how Roberts adapted to each husband, by making their egg preference hers  as well..

Think about it...whats your preferred way to eat eggs? Is it hardboiled with salt? Poached with hollandaise sauce on english muffins? Scrambled with veggies, cheese, smoked salmon or  meat added? As an omelette? In a sandwich? The healthy, egg white route?? As a frittata? Sunny side up? There are endless possibilities!

In the winter time, my favorite morning egg combination is scrambled egg whites with crumbled herb goat's cheese, like one of those fresh goat logs,  two chopped up mushrooms, some sundried tomatoes, lots of red pepper flakes, herbs, and pepper...When it gets warmer, I like a variety of swiss cheese like an appenzeller or an emmenthal or a nice aged gruyere with broccoli, basil, and edamame..Granted I like a variety of other options too! But the quintessentail elements for me are egg whites and a  cheese. I think certain cheeses are better than others to combine with eggs in the morning, but the key in mind, is to not necessarily use an expensive or really nuanced and delicate cheese, cooking that cheese with eggs and other food products, will make that cheese stick out a little less....therefore I recommend a goat's cheese log, a yogurt cheese, one of the hard cheeses I mnetioned earlier, or well whatever floats your boat. I actually think danish blue can be nice with some sauteed mushrooms and egg whites over multigrain toast, granted not every day though!

So think about it, how do you take your eggs? What do you think it reveals about you?

Enjoy your Sunday evening guys! Oh and Happy Valentine's!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fromagical Day Eight - A Very Busy Saturday, Wine Tastings, Macaroons, Art, and Fairway's Cheese Counter

Who else is enjoying a day off, occupying your hours with enjoyable events, relaxation, the weekend New York Times and doing things that you are passionate about making you smile?!? I know I certainly am...however as of recent, my weekends have been less about relaxing and more about running around doing twenty-five million things, but as long as I enjoy what I am doing, there is no problem.

After a ten mile run in the park this morning, I ventured over to Fairway to go food shopping. Fairway can be a disaster -- full of typical upper west siders trying to get their shopping done, who outside of the supermarket, tend to be nice, but in the supermarket, their shopping carts are like their weapons to get you to move out of their way so they can get their produce more efficiently than you can. Thankfully, for some reason, at 10:20 on a Saturday morning, Fairway was somewhat quiet! Thrilling for me, I could take my time!!!

I picked up my produce and various necessities and then ventured to the Fairway cheese you walk  into the area, on your right is a fridge case with all sorts of cheese, bries, goat's cheeses, Fairway's homemade cream cheeses, grated parmesans, crumbled blue cheeses, and some hard you continue back on the right you see a variety of kosher packaged cheeses and then on the left you see a large selection of goat cheese logs and other hard packaged cheeses like pepatos, manchegos, cantals, cheddars, etc and then a variety of pates... But straight in front of you is the cheese counter...Cheese counters at supermarkets I find to be symptomatic of what sort of image the supermarket  is trying to project -- Fairway's is certainly crowded and chaotic yet interesting and unusual....they definitely have a European concentration of cheeses...but although they have a lot of cheeses, it is hard to digest, process, and chooose what cheese you want because the cheese are layered on top of one another and unfortunately they are not organized by country, style, or milk. The other part about Fairway and about most supermarkets is the fact that instead  of writing the per pound price of cheese, they write prices per quarter pound. If you ask me, supermarkets do this so you think the cheese is cheap and therefore will buy more...

When you get to a cheese counter whether it is in a cheese specific store or in a supermarket, I think it is important to determine what sort of cheese you want, whether it is for a party, for a special occasion, as a gift, for everyday usage or a mixture of all of the above. Today I was there to get some everyday cheese, I knew  I already had Saint Maure (an aged goat's cheese log), some grated parmesan, and some fresh goat's cheese at home. I wanted to get some easy blue to pair with a nice bottle of Smith and Woodhouse Lodge Reseve Port -- I wanted the nuances of the port to sing so I didn't want the blue to be too nuanced or too extreme...and I knew I wanted one or two nice hard cheeses that wouldn't break the bank..

I quickly perused the selection today and decided first on the Australian Roaring Forties blue. It is a delish, easy go to blue cheese that is pasteurized cow and is covered in wax allowing the blue mold to age nicely....and perfect to pair with our port.

Then I decided on the first of my hard cheeses - Roth Private Reserve -- which is crafted in copper vats and aged on wooden boards in the Roth Kase cellars, a raw cow's milk cheese that embraces its Swiss heritage along with its Wisconsin terroir. This is a simple but good cheese. I'd pair potentially with a homemade sundried tomato tapenade and some olive bread and a nice medium bodied white.

Lastly, I got a Sardinian young sheep's milk cheese, Briganta. It is a delicate, bright and clean finish sort of cheese, delish on its own. This is not a cheese that I recommend you pair with intense flavors like the Roth Reserve. This cheese is great with a small slice of Eli's amazing whole grain bread. I might pair this combination with an aperitif -- maybe even a cava St. Germain cocktail, something light and flavorful.

That wraps up my Fairway cheese purchases. I personally like Fairway's cheese counter, but do I think they have the best selection with the most knowledgable people helping you, definitely not. But it is the sort of cheese counter that if you know what you want or some direction of what you want, yes..
So, be prepared, it is, if you ask me not a beginner's cheese counter..

That's all for today folks, check back tomorrow for the Valentine's Day breakfast I prepared..

Have a lovely Saturday evening.

Day Seven - Friday's musings on Cheese and Valentine's Day

Who is happy it is Friday!? Meeeeee! It has been one of those weeks where Friday afternoon seemed to creep on by, time was just standing still. It felt like it was 2:30 for over an hour and a half! But the good news was once I got through the afternoon, I knew I had a three day weekend, packed with holidays -- the Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, and President's Day, to look forward to.

Now, now, don't get ahead of yourself, I certainly wasn't looking forward to the end of the week so I could go out and get drunk...I'm sitting here in PJs with an icepack on my hip drinking a glass of red wine listening to oldies music and it's 11:15 on a Friday night..ahhhh relaxation, the realization that I did not have to get up at 6am to run in the freezing cold and then go to work. I had three blissful days of sleeping till at least 7 if not 8am.

Moving along, since when do people sign business emails wishing you a Happy Valentine's day? Has Hallmark really done it, turned Valentine's Day into a mini pink and heart filled Christmas? I don't think so! I think celebrating it is a nice thing, that is if you have someone to share it with, but it certainly does not need to be made into a big deal. After receiving multiple emails from business colleagues wishing me a Happy Valentine's Day, I got to thinking...and got to reading the New York Times piece in this past week's dining section entitled, "A Viagra Alternative to Serve by Candlelight."

Since when do doughnuts, licorice, pumpkin pie and lavender scents put a man in the mood? And apparently baby powder, Good and Plenty candy and cucumber scents put a woman in the mood....To see the article from this week's NY Times, click here:
Not that there is anything wrong with these new supposedly scientific discoveries, but what happened to the quintessential aphrodisiacs like oysters, lobsters, chocolate, champagne, honey, even the long stretches of avocado and asparagus or figs? Were those to take a back seat to these elaborate sensory combinations designated by recent scientific studies? Hmmm....

Did anyone ever think that cheese and its inherent complements could create the perfect aphrodiasic and perfect mood for any romantic evening with that special someone? Guess what, I think so! Were you expecting me to say that, well you are right! When I first met my current special someone I said something to that effect and in response, I got this weird look like, "Reaaaallly? Did you just say that?" YES I most certainly did!

Let's consider what cheese pairs best with for a moment and then you can decide if you can potentially see where I am going, granted, I never said you had to believe me, but here you go:

1. There are a lot of cheeses that pair really nicely with honey, even lavender honey...
2. Cheese plates are often adorned with grapes and pine and other nuts both of which were considered to have "libidinal powers" in ancient Greco-Roman times..
3. Cheese's natural partner is wine, a natural aphrodisiac, enough said.
4. Cheese even pairs with chocolate and champagne.

What better food to be the base for your aphrodisiacal experiments and moments with that special someone, I certainly do not know!

Some people believe that foods like asparagus are natural aphrodisiacs because they trigger the mind to drift to the male's sex organs, just like avocados could do the same for the female's organs. But if you utilize that argument, asparagus can resemble sticks, poles, bats, etc and avocados could resemble baseballs. I'm not really of the mind set that this is a viable aphrodisiac, but to each his own.....

Yet other people believe that scents greatly contribute to determining whether or not a food could be considered an aphrodisiac like the doughnut lavender combination mentioned earlier...I'd like to make a statement about aphrodisiacs, simple and to the point, it depends on what triggers each individual, period end of sentence, yes, for some people lobster and a glass of champagne will do it and for others chocolate and chili will, it simply depends on the individual.

But I suggest that you suspend your judgement and think of cheese for a moment as the most wonderful aphrodisiacal base -- I think there a few things better than a delish glass of Blanc de Blancs, some Crottin de Chavignol (a small disk sized aged raw goat's milk cheese from France) with some nuts and raisins and maybe even some of that Raisin Walnut Balthazar bread I mentioned earlier this week. But that is just my preference, I am sure you too have your prefrence. Going into Valentine's Day weekend, I hope that if you are in the mood for an aphrodisiac on Sunday, you think outside the box!

I hope you enjoyed my musings, another weekly addition, talking about cheese in a non cooking context...I thought I'd give you all some time to digest my idea of cheese as a prime aphrodisiacal base before Valentine's Day...whether or not you believe me, think about it!

Happy Weekend All!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day Six - A recipe where cheese seems like the odd man out, but really works

It's Thursday guys and damn do I wish it was Friday. Leaving work early yesterday and relaxing definitely made it feel like it was a Friday, but nooooooo, I had to face the chickadees and their nonsense for another two days, argh! Thankfully at this point, there's only one day left of the week.

After a fun filled evening of Thomas Ruff, Banks Violette, Olafur Elliason, Michael Bloomberg, and Native Son, I arrived home, made a quick dinner and settled in to write...and I thought gee, what should I discuss, recipes that shouldn't include cheese but when added, cheese adds that certain je ne sais quoi.

So what cuisines do you not associate cheese with....hmmm...first guess...anything Asian! Asian food is not typically associated with cheese, whether it is because it is simply because of cultural differences or lactose intolerance, you rarely see cheese featured in a Chinese or Japanese main course. However you do see it in dessert, occasionally, not all together too often.

The combination of flavors I'm about to recommend to you is going to seem bizarre, but trust me, it will create one of the most unique flavor profiles you have had.

Here are the ingredients, lets see where your mind, goes really, does that actually belong in this!?!?

Half a pack of udon noddles (A thick whole wheat flour noodle usually served in soups, whether it is hot or cold)

One bok choy

About ten mushrooms

Shelled edamame

One head of garlic

About the equivalent of one head of garlic in size of fresh ginger (if you don't have fresh, powdered ginger is ok, not great, but will do.)

One quarter onion

Salt and Pepper

Olive oil

A drizzle of nice white cooking wine

and lastly some of Joe's Dairy fresh ricotta

Now I know you are thinking really?!!? Ricotta, ginger, bok choy, mushrooms, edamame, udon and more? Has she lost her mind!? But trust me the subtle flavors of the ricotta enhance the inherently asian flavors of the rest of the dish creating a more coherent blend of flavors in a unique manner. One side note, make sure to heat warm!

So are you wondering how to prep all of this? It is simple!

If you know how to cook pasta, you know how to cook udon, boil water with salt, drop the noodles in, lower the heat, wait till it boils and the pasta tastes done..easy as pie!

Meanwhile steam the boy choy to cut up to place over the noddles.

Now you've got two parts done and lastly cut up the ginger, garlic and onion. Throw into a pan with olive oil add salt and pepper and then throw in the sliced mushrooms and edamame, cook over very low heat. You do not want the mushrooms to condense here. You know how you can throw in like twenty mushrooms and can cook them down to look like five, that is not what you are aiming for here! Slow low heat all the way.

Once the pasta is done, combine it in the sauce pan with the mushrooms and edamame and stir. Then pour all of that into a bowl combine with chopped bok choy and some ricotta and mix throughly together and enjoy! I'd eat this meal with a nice glass of either Harushika Tokimeki, one of the best Sparkling sakes I've had or Dassai 50 Sake, Junmai Gingo Nigori which is an unfiltered lightly cloudy milky but very delicate sake.

For dessert I recommend mochi or one of Kyotofu's creations!

Check back tomorrow for a shift from the Far East!
Good night all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day Five - A Blizzard and a few of my favorite things...

New Yorkers tend to overreact when snow is predicted, the city that never sleeps, shuts down! I just don't get it, as long as you can still get around, there's no reason to have your whole life grind to a halt. Yes, it might disrupt your normal plans, but oh well, right? You have to just grin and bear it!

So today, we were supposed to receive between a foot and a foot and a half of snow and due to this prediction, I was the only one who actually made it to the office today. After a very busy and somewhat shorter day at the office and some errands, I came home to my warm cozy apartment, boyfriend, and my dog...what a nice treat! It was certainly the sort of day that one wanted to spend watching movies and lying under covers and drinking mulled cider. At least since my day was shorter than normal, I got to have a nice relaxing afternoon, it almost felt like it was a Friday night!

On the note of a movie marathon sort of day, my mind drifted to Julie Andrews, "The Sound of Music," and the song, "A few of my favorite things" so I thought, why not give you all a recipes for my version of a tuna melt with a few of MY favorite things. With all of my running that I have been doing,  I have been having to find new ways to get protein and I find canned tuna to be an excellent and low cost source of protein  -- it is easy, simple, and easily maleable.

Today's recipe is certainly different than your typical american cheese, mayo tuna salad, white bread and maybe a tomato and a piece of iceburg lettuce, but in my mind, the sandwich instills within its eater, the same sort of comfort feel. However, it is definitely a lower fat, fresher, and healthier option! It is kind of somewhere between a nicoise salad and a tuna melt with my own special twist!

Lets start with my version of the tuna salad, simple, light, and delish! Mix one can of tuna with a splash of mustard, ricotta, olive oil, some shallots, pepper, salt, some rosemary, oregano, thyme, and marjoram. Now you have the tuna component ready to go!

Next lets discuss what we will substitute for the tomato wedge and iceburg lettuce leaf, I love sundried tomatoes, so lets take three nice sundrieds that have been soaked in olive oil. Drain a little of the olive oil, so they aren't dripping with oil but still have the flavor. Also add to the sandwich some nice arugula then I'd add some nicoise black olives, obviously de-pitted.

Now you are set with the tuna and the filling. I recommend that you utilize the Brioche from Bouchon Bakery or Fairway's Brioche. Brioche is a delish French enriched bread with a high egg and butter concentration which makes the bread the best treat -- flaky, golden, delish, and it melts in your mouth!

In terms of the cheese, I think in keeping with the tuna melt, American comfort food theme, you don't necessarily need to go too fancy with the cheese, especially because you are going somewhat fancy with the bread, it is kind of nice to keep it simple in the cheese realm. I have recently gotten somewhat into yogurt cheese, it is lower fat than most regular cheeses but has such a nice consistency when melted. I recommend the sundried tomato herb yogurt cheese for this sandwich....

Now, take two slices of the brioche, top one with some of the cheese, then the olives, lettuce, sundried tomatoes, and the tuna salad mixture. Toast until golden brown!

Take the sandwich out and serve with a nice cold beer. I'd have a simple, clean beer, maybe a will play of the sandwich's distinctly French flavors..

I have a little voice spouting funny one liners right in my ear, meaning that it has taken me too long to write this post, so check back for longer musings tomorrow and let me leave you with the last one liner that was said to me, "The Quest for Tom Tomme..."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day Four - A recipe for comforting after a stressful day!

Today was one of those days where I felt on multiple different occasions like pulling my hair out, the sort of day that you wished deep down it was Friday so you didn't have to face the office the next day and had a lovely two day break from the workplace. Unfortunately, that is not the case, it's only Tuesday and there is a massive snowstorm predicted for tomorrow, schools have been canceled already, even though there is no snow as of yet..

On a night like tonight, what I wish I could do was go home, settle into a nice glass of Nero D'Avola and bake a batch of one of my savory muffins, tune out of the real world and zone into the baking world. Cooking/baking and running are my top two forms of unwinding and decompressing and in my opinion they are the tonic for pretty much anything that's stressful, upsetting, what have you. I think its important to have at least one, if not two activities that allow you take your mind out of everything that is going on around you and recenter yourself.

I already ran today, so that nixes one of my two options for decompressing, might as well move on to option number two, baking!

To preface, I would not say I am a world class baker, I'd say I am pretty skilled in making muffins and certain breads, but cakes, pies, cookies and the such, well aren't really for me since I'm not the biggest fan of sweets.

One of my favorite recipes and what I plan to make tonight is: Parmesan Herb Muffins. They are bundles of herby, cheesy, goodness, there is nothing not to love about these guys...and the added bonus is that they are really simple.

When I bake, I unfortunately am not particularly exacting, I know how much should go in by eye sight as opposed to be specific measurement, now I feel that I can give you an iiiiiiidea of about what the measurement should be so, if they don't come out perfectly the first time, tweak the amounts just a little bit..Also good to note before baking with my recipes, I try to avoid butter and try to make things lower fat, if you want to go the other route, substitute a few of the egg whites in my recipe for two to three full eggs and butter for the olive oil.

Here we go:

Lets go through the ingredients:

(1) Cup of gluten free flour (gives the muffins a nice gummy, moist texture that I love)
(1) Cup regular flour
A splash (about a teaspoon) of baking powder
A splash (about a teaspoon) of baking soda
A dash of salt and black pepper
(1) full egg
(3) egg whites
(1) cup of Buttermilk
(1.5) cups of grated parmesan
(1) chopped up garlic clove
A splash of olive oil, more than a teaspoon, but enough to moisten the batter
Now onto the herbs - I like to use rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and basil, sometimes chives, but seeing as it is winter, I think you should leave them out. Ideally, utilize the fresh versions of the herbs, but if you feel like you would waste the rest, using dried herbs is fine too. I like to be liberal

And that's pretty much it. This is easy as pie.

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, whenever you are baking, you always want to make sure you have that oven heating up as you are preparing whatever is eventually going into it, you don't want to have to wait around!

Step Two: Combine all the dry ingredients

Step Three: Add in eggs, milk, olive oil, cheese, herbs, and garlic. Mix together till everything is combined. Then use cooking spray or olive oil and  coat your muffin tins, fill each muffin space about 1/2 to 2/3rds full. Top with a little extra grated Parmesan for that added umph. Then place in the oven at 350, bake for twenty five to thirty minutes or until golden brown. Pull out and let cool and then grab one and enjoy! I recommend on a cold, winter night like tonight pair it with a nice warming red wine or a deep beer. These muffins do go quite nicely with a glass of Sancerre as well and you can picture it being a cool spring evening, not a snowy winter one!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day Three - The Monday Blues, a Penny-saving cheese store and a recipe break

How many of you out there wake up excited for Monday morning at the office, looking forward to the work week? In my current job, Monday mornings are saved and consequently made bearable by a nice hard run,  in the balmy twenty degree weather that seems to be never ending. When I come inside from that run, a big warm welcome from my dog, a nice shower, and a cup of coffee make the beginning of the week not so bad after all!

And tonight, when I arrived home, I had a little pre-dinner snack of Saga Blue Brie on a piece of crusty bread with a glass of white port and all felt ok in the world! There's nothing like some blue cheese and a nice glass of port to put a smile on one's face.

Seeing as the goal of my blog is not just to educate you about the sorts of recipes one can prepare with cheese, it is also to inform you about the various purveyors in and around the five boroughs and beyond, and well a whole lot of other cheese related musings; I thought today we would talk about my trip this past weekend to East Village Cheese where I purchased the above mentioned blue.

Before we delve into this week's experience, lets go over the basics on East Village Cheese --

It's located on Third Avenue between Ninth and Tenth streets and has some of the best bargains you will find on cheese in Manhattan. The first time I went in there, I thought, how is it possible, they are selling 4oz logs of goat cheese for one dollar instead of the standard average of $2.69 to $4.99. I didn't get it! Then I wondered if the price meant that the quality was lacking and well that first trip, I did not find any red flags. However, in subsequent trips, I had very differing experiences with the quality of the cheese there. I have learned in all my trips there, what I find to be trustworthy and will always be a good bet. That is the information I hope to share with you here.

One last thing to know about East Village Cheese,  this is not the sort of place where you will find artisanal, handcrafted cheeses, this is the place where you will find mass produced cheeses that we're all familiar with, granted, they could come in interesting variations such as Argentinean Parmesans. However, this is totally the place to go if you are having a lot of people over and you don't want to break the bank on a really expensive cheese selection, but remember to bring cash, they don't take cards.

Ok on to my pointers:

1. East Village cheese has all these interesting sounding ingredients that are added to normal cheeses and although they sound fascinating, they tend to not be particularly successful. I remember once I tried I believe a blue cheese that had some wine in it. How could you go wrong there right? Wine and cheese rolled into one? But it was too sweet for one to eat more than one small taste.
2. In the same line as ingredients, do not go for your regular cheese with an unusual origin, typically not the best!
3. I like to think that the packaged ingredients in the front tend to be more reliable for the most part, hey they are already packaged right?
4. So I recommend, go with things you know, like their aged gruyere is always good, as are their goudas, and bries definitely.

It is definitely your recession proof cheese store.
Go on in, buy yourself some of the $3.99 a lb aged gruyere and a few other treats and marvel at how you spent nothing in comparison to other stores! Isn't that exciting being in a city of full of pricier cheese stores??!?

The best part about your first trip to East Village Cheese is your face when you realize you have saved so much money on this week's cheese purchase! Check back next week for East Village Cheese's counterpart and enjoy another recipe tomorrow.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day Two - A Recipe, an Excursion, and some goals..

It's Superbowl Sunday guys -- the biggest day in American Sports and of course America's sportsbars. Last year, apparently Americans consumed 30.4 million pounds of chips, pretzels, dips, and other snacks. Insane right?? Can you believe that? I wonder what Morgan Spurlock will be eating while watching the Saints play the Colts?

Well instead of giving you a recipe for a killer Superbowl snack, I'm going to give you a recipe for one of my favorite sweeter grilled cheeses. In case you are dying to know what I'm making for my friends party this afternoon though, I'll tell you -- hummus! I am not a big fan of all these American snack foods that are inherently bad for you and full of yucky chemicals so I figure a nice batch of homemade hummus and some of Stacy's Parmesan and Herbs Pita Chips will do the trick!

I was thinking about what I wanted to write about today earlier and while running this morning with a friend in the Park, we were discussing cheese and she mentioned her favorite cheese pairings involved honey and nuts..and I thought, bingo! I was going to give you guys my recipe for my favorite sweet grilled cheese today!!

I think all successful grilled cheeses start with a great bread and for this one, I recommend either the Raisin Walnut from Amy's Bread or the Raisin Walnut from Grandaisy on the more affordable end of the spectrum, if you are feeling like you want a splurge, go with the Raisin Walnut boule from Balthazar Bakery, definitely outstanding, decadent, and the perfect treat! Ok now, you've got your bread, lets discuss cheese choices now:

There are two distinct routes you can go with this sandwich, you can go the goat, young-ish route OR you can go the blue route. The exciting thing is that, with exactly the same ingredients in each sandwich, you are able to create two such distinct sandwiches. So in essence, guess what, I'm giving you two sandwich recipes. That brings up a good point, if for some reason you don't like my suggestion for what pairs well with the ingredients, you should feel free to substitute your own favorite cheese,  if you love it, I am sure you will love the sandwich.

Just in case you are watching your waistline, a fun little factoid -- goat milk based cheeses are the lowest in fat and I think the lightest in flavor/texture and well probably my favorite cheeses, that is not to say I don't love Sheep and Cow milk cheeses, but goat milk cheeses stole my heart first.

Ok back to cheeses, lets start with the Goat route, I recommend you do a young to medium aged goat's cheese.

Here are a few options:
1. Bucheron - probably one of the easiest French goat cheeses to find at supermarkets here in the US. It is aged for about six to ten weeks and has a lovely bloomy rind and a chalky, quintessentially goat-y center. I like using the rind in the sandwich, I know some people don't, but I think it is delish!
2. Cana de Cabra - This is Bucheron's Spanish cousin, also a log goat's cheese, with a bloomy rind and a chalky center and I think somewhat more delicate flavors.
3. Westfield Capri - This cheese is very different than its European counterparts that I listed as options one and two. It is a very young, vegetarian, pasteurized goat cheese hailing from Massachusetts. It has very delicate flavors and pairs wonderfully with the raisin walnut breads.
4. Vermont Butter & Cheese Coupole - This is one of my favorites,  it is made my an excellent cheesemaker based out of Vermont who was one of the first people to revolutionize the American artisanal cheese movement in the 70s. She used traditional french cheese making techniques mixed with the specific American terroir and the product is her delish bloomy rind bell shaped coupole.

Ok now for a few blues:

Just a little precursor, I adore blue cheese but I know that there are a lot of people out there who find it disgusting, trust me, try a few blue cheeses with me and you will be a convert.
1. Fourme d'Ambert - don't worry guys, this isn't your intense and piquant Roquefort, it is a subtle, nuanced, creamy but earthy raw cow's milk blue from France.
2. Cashel Blue - Moving over to Ireland, this is also a gentle farmstead-y blue, missing that extra oomph that turns people off to blues.
3. Rogue River Blue - hails from Oregon and is a little more piquant, but is an outstanding, award winning blue cheese, that if you haven't tried, I sincerely recommend, it will show you how far the American artisanal cheese movement has come. Not necessarily a beginner blue, but outstanding and a must try.
4. Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen  Blue - moving across the country, back to Vermont, we find Bayley Hazen Blue which in case you were curious, is named for a road partially built during the Revolutionary War times with a goal of being an invasion and capture route for Canada. Needless to say, this is an outstanding blue, really unique flavors, I tend to believe because of the dryness of the blue's paste.

Ok now that you have chosen your cheese from one of the eight options above, and have sliced your bread. Grab a handful of pecans and walnuts and some artisanal honey. Did you know honey is one of the best foods for you these days? Apparently a spoonful of honey a day helps with all sorts of ailments.

Crush up the walnuts and pecans somewhat, just into small pieces...grab your bread and lather honey on one side of the bread then stick the nuts on to the honey so they don't fall out of the sandwich then top with your cheese and the other piece of bread and bake!

It's time to eat this delish creation, you must be wondering what to pair it with, right? Well if you have utilized goat's cheese, I recommend either a nice Sauvingnon Blanc or if you are in a more beer-ish mood, I think a nice Belgian white/wheat ale or a traditional Belgian blond. It will be a different sort of pairing, but nonetheless I think wonderful.

If you used the blue, definitely go for a port! I recommend Paso Ports, a small production out of the Central Coast of California if you want to keep with an American theme. If not, go for Quinta do Infantado, a small production port out of its name sake country, Portugal.


Check back tomorrow for another recipe, but if you wanted to read on, I thought I might ramble for a few more sentences..

I was thinking while running yesterday, yes I do a lot of my thinking while running, since I am running so much, it allows me to zone out and let my mind wander...anyhow I was thinking, that I would tell myself, like Julie Powell, I would dedicate myself to writing about cheese daily for the next year and see where I end up, maybe I will be in the exact same place, but maybe not, and that's the exciting thought.

Just like I love seeing someone discover a piece of art they love and want to make theirs, I also love someone's face when they try a cheese that is so unique and nuanced that they are in heaven! It is such a special and even somewhat intimate moment because you can see that this cheese struck a cord inside an individual.

So, I hope that my musings over the next year will inspire you to experiment with cheese and try some cheeses that you would not have dared touch previously.
I am here for questions and for feedback.

Check back tomorrow for more.

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