Friday, April 30, 2010

Day Eighty - One: A Caffeinated GCF

Coffee is getting big in Manhattan! Coffee culture was always a big deal out west -- go into the little cafes of Seattle or San Francisco and you see home ground, locally sourced coffee beans, the sort of coffee that makes you want a cup even if you aren't the biggest fan of the caffeinated beverage, it just becomes enticing! As of recent, that West Coast coffee culture has definitely moved East in the form of Joe, Ground Support, the Art of Coffee, etc etc, New Yorkers are getting their coffee fix from places apart  from Starbucks! Woohoo! Who is excited? Me!

So I thought for today's GCF, I would do a coffee pairing GCF for those of you who need that extra jolt to get through Friday at the office. I like to pair this sandwich with my favorite coffee beverage, an Iced Black Americano, but please feel free to substitute for your favorite coffee preparation. This certainly, if you ask me is not the sort of GCF you have for breakfast, maybe the sort you have as a dessert  after a satisfying meal though.

This sandwich should be made on Grandaisy bakery's medium sized Ciabatta bread, it certainly will be able to stand up to the melting decadence of its interior ingredients  and won't overwhelm them either. The ingredients are very simple as with most GCF's! Although you all know I don't like cooking with butter, this is the sort of sandwich that  needs a light coating of butter on either side  of the bread, I like to use Plugra, a European style butter or even better, is the French butter, President. So now once you have a light lathering of butter, place a few squares of nice dark chocolate, spread them around the ciabatta so when the chocolate melts, it coats  the entire sandwich but doesn't overwhelm. Careful here, melted chocolate can definitely take the cake should there be too much on the bread and the entire GCF can just become an ode to chocolate, not what you want! On top of the chocolate, put a few slices of Beehive's Barely Buzzed, a cheese rubbed in a special blend of coffee beans courtesy of the cheesemaker's sibling and lavender. I love everything lavender but the nice thing about this particular lavender is that it does not overwhelm, subtle yet delish and calming! Now place the other piece of bread on top and bake this in the oven for about eight to ten minutes on a very low heat at 200, this is not the sort of sandwich you want to put on your George Foreman grill, you only want the sandwich heated not heated and grilled, it will slightly change the taste profile of each delectable morsel of this GCF. Enjoy! Have a good Friday ladies and gents!

Day Eighty - Champagne and Cheese

One of my loyal Fromagical readers asked me the other day about a few cheeses to pair with champagne for an aperitif. So I thought, wow this is a subject I haven't really gone into deepth on champagne and cheese pairings and I guarantee that this will be  the first of many. Champagne and other bubbles are great for a celebration, for a holiday, for an aperitif, or even just to "dress up" a simple night with your significant other or with a group of girlfriends. It is hard to go wrong, whether it's Champagne, Prosecco, Moscato D'Asti, Cava, Blanc de Blancs, you name it, it will put a smile on one's face!! This specific post will focus on three distinct pairing ideas for Champagne, stay tuned for separate posts on other bubbly beverages and cheese.

Brut Champagne tends to work really well with triple creams such as Brilliat Savarin, Mt. Tam, Nettle Meadow's Kunik or even something as local as Nancy's Camembert. The creaminess of the cheese will be offset in a delicate manner with the light, airy, freshness of the champagne. Decadence plus decadence here certainly equals a moment of bliss. The reason I think that is such a successful pairing is due to the fact that each the cheese  and the beverage are "special treats," in a way, so bringing them together creates an aha moment.

On the other side of the spectrum, Brut Champagnes work very nicely with certain hard cheeses. I'd suggest Beaufort, Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve, even a nice aged Gruyere or Comte would also work. The crunchy, buttery, caramelly, nuttyness of the aged cheeses will be a very nice counterpart to the yeasty complexity of the Brut Champagne. This is a moment of opposites attracting and balancing each other out nicely!

On a final note, I also think that a semi-soft Goat's cheese such as Garrotxa would go excellently with Brut Champagne. Semi-soft, milky, delicate, this a cheese that will complement the champagne's complexity not by being its opposite but by mirroring it, a cheese counterpart to the champagne!

Enjoy these ideas! Dress up a casual night in with a bottle of bubbly! You won't go wrong!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day Seventy - Nine: Salads galore

While running earlier today, I realized that a large percentage of the recipes I provide you all with are salads or some sort of combination of cheese and bread to create a snack, a meal, or really anything that becomes an excellent showcase for the cheese of your choice. I happen to love salads and think that just like cheeses, there are endless variants of combos!

If you think about it and break them down, my salads tend to be composed of:

- A lettuce green such as arugula, mache, baby romaine, spinach, frisee, etc. etc.
- A crumbled cheese - I tend not to use some of the nice cheeses I get for salad purposes, these sorts of cheeses are best enjoyed on their own or against the backdrop of a bit of bread.
- A crunchy vegetable or two to add texture to the salad
- A protein - that  for me takes the form of beans, tofu, eggs or fish, and of course cheese. However for you it could of course include a variety of meats
- Aromatics - herbs, garlic, shallots, etc.
- Occasionally nuts or dried fruits
- A few other add ons whether they take the form of other greens or other veggies or fruits.
- Then of course a homemade vinaigrette.

Isn't interesting when you simplify it, it is somewhat like going to one of those create your own salad places.

Needless to say, without me you wouldn't have the opportunity to create flavors that meld so successfully or understand why they meld, at least lets hope thats the case.

So I thought for today's recipe, I thought I would apply this to a protein rich salad recipe to fuel for a long run tomorrow:

Baby Romaine Lettuce
Crunchy Sprouts
Broccoli Sprouts
Diced Firm Italian Herb Marinated tofu
Rancho Gordo Garbanzo Beans
Diced marinated Sundried Tomatoes
Diced carrots
A sauteed red onion for extra added flavor
Grated Parmesan
Homemade Vinaigrette composed of: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Aged Balsamic Vinegar, Maille mustard, a drop or two of white cooking wine to bring out all of the flavors of the tomatoes and sauteed onions.

See you now have applied a mixture of ingredients that fit into the specific categories we mentioned from above. But should one or two of the ingredients not be your tastes, substitute it for another ingredient that you prefer, that's the great thing about knowing how to cook and combine flavor profiles, its like being a painter, you need to armed with the right tools and materials to create your masterpiece. I only hope that my musings inspire you to try new taste combinations and experiment with your comfort zone when it comes to foods and cheeses in particular. Whether or not you follow my recipes, please be inspired to try new things and think outside of the box!!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day Seventy - Eight - Berry Results and a Recipe!

Phew, I am finally caught up, exciting! Instead of waiting over night to find out who won, this week, you only had to wait a matter of mere minutes, lets hope this sort of turnaround won't happen moving forward! I guess in a way it works out for you all, you don't have to wait in suspense over night to hear which of the three contestants has won the chance for a date in today's recipe with Ms. Strawberry, a nice little perk of me being behind this week!

So, are you curious who won? Well, this week, I did things a little differently -- I included a contestant that everyone might think of as the winner, contestant number three, but in my mind contestant number one prevailed! Shall we go over the reasons why?!?!

Lets start off discussing why contestants two and three did  not win as  the number  one pick for Ms. Strawberry:

Contestant Number Two: Although outstandingly delish on its own, Camembert will overwhelm the delicate, summery, juicy tastes of Ms. Strawberry. This pairing would become completely about Mr. Camembert and we all know a relationship that is all about one person and not at all about the other is not always the most successful! Camembert is delish with a nice Bourdeux and some crusty Epi bread. This is a cheese that can easily go through life single, it has potential food partners but best with a nice wine partner in the  form of a Bordeux.

Contestant Number Three: The easy route! Who wants to settle for routine? For something so familiar that there is not really much excitement. Yes, it is reliable and reliability is a definite necessity in long term relationship situations, but we also all know that with any relationship, there needs to be somewhat of the unknown as well and going for the tried and true, although you know it will be delish, sometimes, you need  to branch out!

So, now I'm sure you're wondering why I chose Contestant Number One right?!? Well the citrusy, lemony, goatyness of the aged Saint Maure will pair perfectly with the fruity, juicy, freshness of Ms. Strawberry. Chalky, goaty, piquant cheese + naturally sweet Ms. Strawberry will be an excellent match! Especially when paired in today's simple crostini recipe:

Grab a fresh French baguette and slice a few pieces. Put them in the oven at 200 degrees for about five minutes  so the bread is warm. Next cut a few slices of Saint Maure on top and then two strawberries sliced thinly. To top the strawberries, all you need is a few sprigs of mint and a very small drizzle of honey. And now you have an excellently delish crostini perfect for an hors d'oeuvres on a lovely warm summer evening. Great either with a sparkling like a Prosecco or a nice smooth French Sauvignon Blanc.

Enjoy Ms. Strawberry and contestant number one's recipe! I think you will be surprised as to how yummy it is!

Day Seventy - Seven: Strawberries and the French Marriage Mondays

For this week's edition of Marriage Mondays, I decided to focus on a fruit seeing as the weather is getting nicer, I know I certainly am getting excited about fresh local fruits, not the winter time variety, although a treat at the time, we all know are shipped from the tropics. Fresh fruit to me screams Spring and Summer!

I thought on this lovely Tuesday afternoon as I play catch up I would choose the lead contestant to Ms. Strawberry and would provide you all three cheeses that could potentially win the chance to be featured with Ms. Strawberry in today's recipe! Before we get going, let me just remind you that our contestant, Ms. Strawberry is an excellent source of Vitamin C and flavinoids so any of our three choices would be lucky to have the chance to be paired with her!!

And now, without further ado:

Contestant Number One: Saint Maure -- One of the key Loire Valley blue mold covered pasteurized Goat's Milk Cheeses this is a citrusy, lemony, goaty, fresh mouthful if I've ever tasted one. As this cheese ages, as with other goat's milk cheeses, it becomes firmer, flakier and deeper in flavor. Once it has gone through it's aging process, you get that fresh goatyness mixed with a piquant and almost walnutty flavor from the blue mold on its exterior. It is important to mention Contestant Number One's namesake town was pivotal in the development of the Loire Valley goats cheeses we know and love worldwide. Why you may ask? Well, that's becase the birth place of this cheese is also the location of the defeat of the Arabic Saracens and they are the people who brought the goat and cheese recipes that we know and love to this day to that region of France.

Contestant Number Two: Camembert -- Moving to another area of France, this contestant hails from the region of Normandy. A grown up version of the supermarket Camembert's you might find, this is  mushroomy, earthy, unctuous, creamy, gooey and decadent -- an excellent specimen of pasteurized cow's milk bloomy rind cheese from France.

Contestant Number Three: Bleu d'Auvergne -- The last stop on our cheese tour of France, this contestant hails from the south central region of Auvergne. It has been made there since the nineteenth century and is a traditional middle of the road cow's milk blue veined cheese. Most consider this cheese to be the Prince to Roquefort's title of King. Piquant, grassy, delish, spicy and classically blue, you can't go wrong here!!!

So which contestant do you think will win???

Day Seventy - Six : A Sunday morning breakfast in the country

Although this is coming to you all on Tuesday afternoon, I am sure it isn't too tough to imagine the Sunday morning feeling of relaxation, I bet you wish you were enjoying that feeling right now! Transport yourself on the scents of freshly brewed coffee and hot out of the oven homemade buttermilk biscuits and the tastes of a spicy bloody mary. Yum right?

Seeing as I am still playing catchup, I thought I would give you a recipe for a lazy Sunday breakfast in the country fastforwarding you through the rest of this week to the glorious weekend!

Let's start off by pouring yourself a nice cup of coffee to awaken those senses. Now that you're awake, pre-heat your oven to 350 and get together all of your ingredients for your buttermilk blue cheese biscuits:

1 cup of regular flour
1 cup of pastry flour
1 tablespoon of baking soda
2 - 3 tablespoons of baking powder (this will make the biscuits nice and fluffy!)
3 eggs - 2 whites and one full egg
1 cup of buttermilk
8 oz (at least, depending on how blue you want your biscuits to be) of crumbled blue cheese, I like to utilize a buttermilk blue but you can use whatever blue you see fit!
A healthy drizzle of olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Some ground pepper

Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl and do the same with the wet ingredients. Whisk together until fully combined. Line a pastry sheet with parchment paper and some baking spray and use a large spoon or an ice cream scoop to make decently sized biscuits. Place in the over for about eighteen to twenty minutes, until they are lightly golden brown on top. The cooking time will definitely depending though on your oven. While these are cooking, lets make our soft scrambled eggs to go with.

I'm a big fan of egg whites, but if you like egg whites and yolks, please feel free to substitute here.

In a bowl crack three eggs, separating the whites and whisk together with some chopped fresh rosemary and chives. Whisking eggs makes them fluffier which I like. In a skillet on very lowheat toss about half a dozen chopped shittake mushrooms with a half of a chopped shalllot and some olive oil, let this cook for about three minutes then combine the eggs in with the mushrooms, fold together. Add a handful of the same crumbled buttermilk blue you used for the biscuits to bring the entire meal together. The secret to soft scrambled eggs is continuous stirring over lowheat and to turn the heat off when the eggs are still runny, but not overly liquidy. Pull off the heat, top of a little bit of grated parmesan, some salt and pepper and plce on your plate next to a steaming buttermilk blue biscuit. This plate is finished perfectly with a handful of mache greens with some homemade balsamic vinaigrette, simple and delish!

Enjoy this with a nice cup of coffee and a flute of cava or a mimosa. Now, don't you wish it was a Sunday morning in the country! I know I sure do!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day Seventy - Five : A little late recap -- Nantucket's Daffodil Spring festival

First off, let me apologize for being absent for the past few days, I was out of town with limited laptop access and unfortunately, although my iPhone is excellent at most things, the conception of writing to you all from my little device, would have definitely have given me quite the headache. So therefore, I've got quite a bit of catchup to do over today and tomorrow. I wish I could say that I would catch up fully this evening, but my return trip to Manhattan was severely delayed by an over turned tractor trailer on I95 near Stamford, CT turning a little over four hour car trip into over seven hours door to door and I am utterly zonked. I could have traveled to Europe in that time! Crazy! I promised myself, I'd at least catch up with Saturday and then be fully caught up by the end of tomorrow.

So who's curious about Daffodil Days?!? It is an annual festival on Nantucket and the focal point of their Spring festivities. Did you know that between early April and early May three million daffodils bloom on the thirty mile island of Nantucket? Isn't that crazy? Since the mid 1970s, towards the end of April, there has been a festival to celebrate the millions of daffodils that populate this island. The cornerstone of the weekend is the annual antique car parade where over one hundred cars roll through the main areas of town decked out in daffodils brimming with smiling people and dogs outfitted in spring attire with daffodils affixed to their collars. Truly such a fun way to spend a day, you certainly feel transported to another time and place.

In thinking about what to write about to symbolize this special and unique day, since we did not really eat anything exceptionally cheese orientated nor do they make cheese on Nantucket, at least that I am aware of, I decided that I would tell you all about a quintessentially American cheese, steeped in tradition but distinctly fresh, new, and constantly developing  -- a little bit like Nantucket and its Daffodil Days Festival.

Also from the Northeast, I thought I would tell you all about Grafton Village, Vermont's Cheddar. Like Nantucket, Grafton's Cheddars have a long history, the creamery was established at the end of nineteenth century in the small village of Grafton. Interestingly enough, cheddar itself dates back to the same century of the first sightings of Norsemen on Nantucket -- the twelfth century!

Did you know where  the name Cheddar comes from? Probably not right! Cheddaring is an extra step in the production of cheddar style cheeses where once the curd is heated, it is then kneaded with salt and cut into cubes to consequently drain the whey and then finally stacked and turned. After this, the cheese is aged in cheese caves, like other older cheeses.

So what makes Grafton Cheddar  Special? Well, apart from having over a century of experience, it is the specific terroir  of Vermont mixed with the special techniques of this particular creamery. My favorite specimen of theirs is their Aged Clothbound Cheddar aged for one and half years.  What you get certainly is not anything like the pasty, waxy chemically orange cheddar one can buy from pretty much any supermarket in America; instead you get a crumbly, nutty, gentle, and delicate cheese with a perfect balance of flavors. This is a cheese to eat on its own or with a nice glass of Pinot Noir. You certainly cannot go wrong here! It will show you how Grafton Vermont's cheesemakers certainly excel at their craft!

I know you might be thinking, well how did she go from Daffodils to Vermont Cheddars?  Yes quite the stretch buuuut, I think they are both two quintessentially American things steeped in a nice mixture of intertwined American and European traditions...both worth a try!!

Make sure to mark your calendars for next year's Daffodil Days and grab yourself a hunk of Grafton's Aged Clothbound Cheddar and a bottle of Pinot Noir to bring with to enjoy while admiring the millions of daffodils Nantucket has to offer.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more catch up mode. Nite all!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day Seventy - Four : GCF for a Road Trip

Happy Friday folks! It is a big day of changes for me, closing one door so that I can open another and it sure is nice to have the opportunity for a weekend trip to celebrate the door closing and to take a break from the hussle and bussle of Manhattan life.

For today's GCF, I thought I would give you all a recipe for a GCF for the Road, simple yet delish and satisfying!

The bread base we will be using is Gourmet Garage's Rye with Caraway Seeds. Herbal and anise flavored, this bread packs in all of the health benefits of the caraway seed. It helps prevent the common illnesses like: colds, coughs, fevers, bronchitis, sore throats, along with other infections. On top of which it aids with liver and gallbladder issues! And apparently, helps with decreasing your appetite. All in all, a nice added bonus you get when you ingest something with Caraway seeds. You can find them in breads, cheeses, teas, liquors, and of course utilized as a spice on its own!

Now that you have the bread, I like to go with a simple cheese for this Road Trip GCF that will be good once melted but yet cooled and eaten while having one hand on the wheel. That cheese will be Gourmino's Emmentaler,  made from the raw milk of Swiss alpine cows. The version we are using will also be aged in caves nearby, giving the cheese a deeper, nuttier, more developed and complex taste! The mixture of the superior non-tarnished milk, the clean mountain air and the natural aging environment makes this a cheese that has all those flavors you love in a Swiss cheese but with a more sophisticated bent. You can find this cheese for $14.99 a pound at Murray's cheese. Slice a few nice thick slices of that and place it on top of one of the pieces of bread. Now, top that with homemade roasted cheery tomatoes. I like to roast cherry tomatoes for just about twenty minutes on about 300 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil. Once they have roasted for twenty minutes pull out and place about four tomatoes, on top of your cheese and top with a few leaves of parsley and a small drizzle of olive oil. Time to heat! Then let the sandwich cool for about three to five minutes before wrapping it up and putting it in your bag so you can eat it will driving! I promise it will be delish and satisfying and give you energy to keep going for the length of your drive.

Have a lovely weekend folks!

Day Seventy - Three : A flight of Spanish cheeses for a Spanish Sparkling

Last night, we had an an opening at the gallery in honor of Earth Day and I graciously got four cases of Cava donated so I thought I would suggest a flight of three Spanish cheeses that would work excellently with the cava and will highlight Spain's bounty! I apologize this post is a little late...

The good thing about Cava is that it is very versatile when it comes to cheeses and will highlight the characteristics of a variety of cheeses, even if it is not the ideal beverage, you can't go wrong with it!

1. Ibores - A semi firm goat's milk cheese from the Extremadura region of Spain. Its extra specially striking color comes from being rubbed with paprika and olive oil over the course of its two month aging process. It is a zesty, biting, unique and delish cheese. The ivory pasty goaty interior is excellently complemented by the paprika exterior, a great goat cheese for those experimenting! The cool thing is that although it is rubbed with paprika, it does not become an overwhelming flavor, making it easy to pair with a variety of wines, I think the spicy, tangyness of the cheese works well with a semi-dry/semi-sweet Riesling, but there are plenty of other wines that it could work with as well!

2. Idiazabal - A firm sheep's milk cheese from the wild lands of the Basque region of Spain. Originally, this cheese was drained and aged in chimneys, imparting a smokey flavor from the beech and hawthorn wood in its proximity. Now, with the advent of modern technology, the wheels are smoked over beechwood, hawthorn or cherry wood for ten days in high-tech smoke rooms. What you get is a nutty, caramelly, crumbly aged sheep's milk cheese with a bit of a smoky after taste. Unique and delish! Its best with a medium bodied somewhat aged red, like a Rioja.

3. La Peral - A mix milk cheese, mainly pasteurized cow with some sheep's milk cream. It hails from Asturias in Northern Spain and can sometimes be known as Queso Azul Asturiano, it is made by Lopez Leon family. Aged for sixty days only it is a lightly blued cheese somewhat similar to an Italian Gorgonzola however with a significantly creamier bent and a larger percentage of olive oil flavoring. A rare, special, and delicate blue cheese that is moist from the addition of the sheep's milk cream yet crumbly from the blue's aging process. Great with a spicy Tempranillo, this is a cheese you can't go wrong with!!!!!

I think this cheeses would do nicely paired with some marcona almonds and a little bit of fig compote and some sliced and slightly charred baguette.

Enjoy your taste of Spain.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day Seventy - Two: A Tartine inspired by another lunch at Tartinery

Happy Wednesday folks! The weather is glorious and the week is half over, I don't know about you, but I sure have a smile on my face.

Today, I ventured back to Tartinery for another lunch and thought that I would give you all a delish and simple recipe for a tartine based on the flavors that we ingested, light and fresh! Originally tartines began as a piece of bread, typically Pain Polaine, a traditionally rustic French bread, with something spread on top of it. However, nowadays, they tend to imply open faced sandwiches with the accompaniment of a green salad. Classically French, these are an easy and simple meal with thousands upon thousands of variations. Hard to go wrong. At the center of all tartines, if you ask me, there should be some sort of spreadable element, whether its cheeses or hummus or aioli or tapenade or butters or caramels, you name it, it will work!

For today's tartine, lets start with a nice fresh non-toasted slice of Pain Polaine. Next, spread a nice amount of burrata onto the bread. In case you are not familiar with burrata (butter in Italian), it is a fresh Italian cheese meant to be consumed within days of production. The exterior is solid mozzarella while the interior contains both mozzarella and cream, creating a unique texture that allows it to be spread upon the bread. It is the height of creamy decadence and a fantastic balance of silky sumptuousness -- a true treat for anyone! This is a cheese that will most certainly bring a smile to your face. Next up comes a few slices of Gravlax from Russ and Daughters on the Lower East Side. Gravlax is a salmon that has been cured and rubbed with a mixture of salt, sugar, and dill. Smoky, fishy, herbal and excellent with the creamy burrata cheese. Sprinkle just a few drops of lemon juice on top of the fish and top with a few leaves of arugula. What you will get is an excellent mixture of silky sweet gooeyness from the cheese mixed with the salty, tangy, fishiness of the Gravlax that will be balanced out by the bread, arugula, and the few drops of lemon juice. Enjoy this with a nice glass of crisp Sancerre while sitting outside in Nolita watching the world pass you by.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day Seventy - One: Results and a Green Green Green Recipe...

So who do you think won the opportunity to be paired with Mr. Asparagus?!? Well ladies and gents, it is contestant number two!!! I'm sure you are wondering what makes contestant number two the winner and we will get there. But lets first discuss the two contestants who missed the boat to be featured in today's recipe with Mr. Asparagus and then you will be able to see how the winning contestant successfully gained entry into today's recipe!

Contestant Number One: Although an excellent, unique, and delish choice, the creamy unctuousness of the bloomy rind cheese will overwhelm the delicate, sweet and vegetal tastes of the asparagus. Creamy + Crunchy Veggieness don't tend to work out unless the creamy cheese is utilized to create a sauce that will dress and coat a pasta, placing the cheese on a back burner; or combined with other cheeses and baked on top of a pizza crust that has asparagus spears among other vegetables. Either way, you can see that a starch is added in order to absorb some of the silky creaminess of the cheese balancing it out! Not a bad runner up, as long as it is "diluted" with the addition of starch and some other vegetables.

Contestant Number Three: The spicy piquant qualities of this blue cheese take control of the relationship and overwhelm Mr. Asparagus. Mr. Asparagus in his crisp green outfit will be lost really in any capacity when combined with the Gorgonzola Piccante, an excellent example of how blue cheeses struggle to be paired directly with green vegetables. When combined with something to combat the piquant qualities, blue cheeses can function with greens -- such as the combo of spinach, dried cranberries, almonds and blue cheese as a salad. Therefore one can see that this cheese should be paired with either sweet or salty foods, such as figs or dates or prosciutto. The spicy piquant qualities of the blue need to be balanced out not completely contradicted which is what would happen if these two were set up.

What do you think? Would you have chosen a different contestant? Well, let me explain simply why in my mind contestant number two triumphed!

Piave triumphed over the Robiola and the Gorgonzola because although it sure has distinct and unique flavors, it is also is able to meld successfully. The dry, piquant, salty, and somewhat crunchy crumbly flavors will complement the inherent sweetness of the sauteed asparagus, creating a successful union of sweet and saltiness! Make sense? I sure think so!

Lets see how we can use them together!!!

You already have your sauteed asparagus ready to go I am sure, make sure they are not diced, but whole and ready to go!!

Now dice up a shallot and toss in a pan with green peas, fava beans, and edamame with a nice amount of olive oil. Saute for about five to seven minutes until you feel that all the flavors have melded. Toss those veggies with some salad spinach and some sunflower seeds. The olive oil with the sauteed shallot should act as a nice light dressing here. Then place this on a plate and top with five asparagus spears and then shave a generous amount of piave over the top and finish with some freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a nice Pinot Blanc, with a sufficient amount of fruit but not too heavy, crisp and delish! Enjoy!

I think this is an excellently simple pairing and a great way to highlight Spring's bounty. I hope you all have enjoyed this week's Marriage Monday's results and the recipe that goes along with! Check back next week when one of my favorite cheeses is up against three tough ingredients, trust me you won't be disappointed!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day Seventy : Asparagus + the Italians Marriage Mondays

Happy Monday Folks! Guess what it's time for?! You guessed it, Marriage Mondays! Today's Marriage Mondays will feature Mr. Asparagus, a classic spring vegetable with tons of versatility. Great sauteed with pasta, mixed into salads, served as an accompaniment to fish or meat mains, folded into a frittata, pureed into a soup or just grilled and served simply letting the vegetable shine.

Mr. Asparagus is good for those of you watching your waistline, as it is low in calories, contains no cholesterol and is low in sodium. On top of which its a great source of: vitamins A, B6, C, E, K, calcium, magnesium, zinc, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, and potassium, to name a few. Good for you and very versatile, this a contestant it is hard to go wrong with!!!

Before we can get going, it's important to discuss what sort of preparation Mr. Asparagus will receive: he will be lightly sauteed with olive oil, a small drizzle of lemon juice, some salt and pepper so that you can get the true flavor of the vegetable. Sweet, crisp, vegetal, and utterly delish!

Are you ready to hear who are today's potential matches for Mr. Asparagus?

Contestant Number One: Robiola Bosina -- This contestant hails from the Northern Italian region of Langhe and is a creamy, unctuous blend of cow's and sheep's milk. One of many variations of Robiola, this one is typically thought of as being one of the most approachable options.  A bloomy rind cheese full of gooey, creamy paste, this is a sensual and silky smooth cheese that utterly melts in your mouth. A versatile cheese for wine pairing, this can work with everything from Sauvignon Blanc's to Barberas. I wonder if its versatility will pair well with Mr. Asparagus' versatility? Hmmmm.....

Contestant Number Two: Piave -- This contestant is named after the River Piave, the source of which is located at Mount Peralba in Val Visdende, in the northern region of the Veneto. A truly symptomatic cheese of its terroir, from the locale where the cow's milk is collected to the curd being cooked to the caves in which the cheese is aged! Due to its aging, this is a cheese that has an excellent dry and piquant flavoring. Its flavors are agumented by the almost tropical, nutty hues one receives from its extra special terroir. Just like contestant number one, number two is also very versatile when it comes to pairing with wines, both whites and reds pair excellently!

Contestant Number Three: Gorgonzola Piccante -- This contestant hails not far from the fashion capital of Italy, Milan, except just a little north. Italy's answer to France's Roquefort, this sure is an unforgettable cheese, full of spicy, piquant, and sharp notes yet at the same time, buttery and sweet flavors -- an excellent mix! Great with a nice Italian dessert wine.

So who do you think will triumph in the Italian battle for Mr. Asparagus?! Tune in tomorrow to find out! Have a good night folks!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day Sixty - Nine: Exciting Educational Developments coming up!

I hope everyone is having a lovely Sunday and enjoying the somewhat chilly yet certainly Spring-y weather. It sure is the perfect day for a stroll through Central Park.

I thought we'd keep things simple today and discuss an exciting development coming up in May! I will be leading a cheese tasting course, entitled Think Local. Are you interested in the whole locavore thing? Attempt to follow the "100 mile diet?" Or just curious how New York State cheeses compare to their Vermont counterparts? Or what about the varieties you find across the pond?  Well then this is definitely the course for you, it will be an indepth look at the Empire State's finest offerings of wines, cheeses, and one beer. In terms of wines, we will taste wines from the two primary wine making regions of New York -- Long Island and the Finger Lakes. The beer hails from a much closer locale, one of the five boroughs! And although the four cheeses are meant to be a surprise for the evening of the course, I will reveal that not only do these four take us to the far reaches of our state, they also each typify a different style of cheese:

1. Fresh - Think young cheeses with very white milky coloring, never a rind in site here. These cheeses tend be soft because of the high percentage of water in the paste. Should be consumed within one to two months of production. Full of tart, tangy, lemony, moist, grassy, and light tastes.

2. Bloomy - Think fluffy, almost cloudlike, white colored rinds with cheese-y creamyness oozing out when you cut into one of these babies. The pillowy cloud-like bloomy rinds are created by inoculating the milk or even coating the cheese rind with a yeast that will consequently develop a thin fur covering of mold during their aging process. These cheeses tend to be quite decadent, the edible rind becoming an interesting counterpart to creamy interior paste.

3. Firm - Think natural rinds with an eggy, sometimes sharp, grassy, farmsteady, barnyardy interior paste. In this family of cheeses, the curds are broken into smaller grains and then either cooked such as with Comtes or Gruyeres or uncooked such as Cantalets. These babies get harder and deeper in color and more intense and unique in flavor as they age. The special thing about firm cheeses is that they have less than a 15% humidity content.

 4. Blue - Think Mold and Veins!!!!! Spicy, piquant, stinky, and complex, these cheeses pack a nice punch! In case you didn't know, blue cheeses are thought to have been invented by accident, how you must be wondering? Well, the story goes a cheesemaker left some rye bread in his cheese caves and came back a few weeks later to see the rye covered in what we all know as mold. To this day, the classic Roquefort blues that you know and love are inoculated with spores of moldy rye bread, funny right? The majority of the mold that goes into blue cheeses is either mixed in with the curds with blues such as Gorgonzolas or injected like in the case of Roqueforts. There are of course variations on the mold utilized in making the bluish - greenish veiny paste, but the most well known of those is: pencillium roqueforti. This is the sort of mold that requires oxygen to thrive and therefore blue cheeses are punctured with needles to aid in the aging process and yes, you guessed it, those punctures create the blue's veins.

Those are the types of cheese my course will cover, if I had more time, I would definitely include the other three classic categorizations of cheese:

1.  Washed Rind - Think stinky and typically orange-y/reddish rinds! These cheeses are bathed and washed either in brine, wine, spirits, or beers. The washing/bathing process breaks down the cheese curds from the exterior working its way in and therefore the rind becomes a part of the cheese when the aging process is completed. The washing process allows aged cheeses to retain a large percentage of moisture which is definitely somewhat uncommon with other aged cheeses. Washed rind cheeses are not for the faint of heart, if you do not like pungent, aromatic, and earthy sort of cheeses, you might have a hard time getting your mouth around cheeses in this category.

2. Semi soft cheeses - Great melting candidates, these cheeses have a high percentage of moisture, the next step up in the aging process from fresh cheeses. They tend to be somewhat pliable with definite earthy, leaf-y, light yet dense flavors.

3. Hard - Think of the big guys here like Parmesan, their aging process is measured in years, not in weeks or months. The cool thing about these sorts of cheeses is that as a cheese matures, its proteins and amino acids naturally break down. When this break down happens in a highly salted and low moisture space, there is a crystallization that occurs due to the denatured proteins providing these sorts of cheeses with a lovely crunch. These cheeses tend to be full of butterscotchy and caramelly flavors, best when paired with a beverage because they are very dry as the moisture as been primarily aged out of them.

That about wraps up the major categories of cheeses, sometimes you will find overlap of the categories that's for sure, they do not necessarily stand alone. Of course, there are exceptions to these seven categories like leaf wrapped cheeses, a practice that has been going on for centuries. The leaves not only protect their cheeses but also infuse a unique flavor within the paste. If there's a cheese you're not sure about what category it might fit in or you want to know more about its aging process, do not hesitate to ask me.

And last but not least, if you're interested in signing up for my class May 16th from 6 till 8pm, please visit

Have a lovely evening folks! 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day Sixty - Eight : A trip downtown

This afternoon, I ventured down to the Essex Street Market to go to their two fantastic cheese stores. In case you aren't familar, the Essex Street Market was established in 1940 to give street pushcart merchants a new way to do business, inside, in a confined space, where neighborhood residents could come for a one stop shopping experience. Over the years, the market has gone from primarily Jewish purveyors to Puerto Rican and now it has become a diverse mixture of a little bit of every ethnicity. Need some classic Mexican ingredients, or a wide variety of spices or homemade breads or fresh meats and cheeses or homemade chocolates, you name it, you can find it there. The special thing about the Essex Street Market is it truly is still a nieghborhoody sort of place, stocked full of mom and pop speciality places.

Of these mom and pop places there are two cheese purveyors that are pretty much as different as two cheese places could be -- Saxelby Cheesemongers and Formaggio Essex. Saxelby, a small cheese counter space,  offers a selection of small production American farmstead cheeses, with a strong focus on cheeses produced in the North East. This is the place to go if you want to support the American artisanal cheese movement, you can find some fantastic and unique cheeses! Lazy Lady farm's Capriola is especially good right now; a bloomy rind goat's milk cheese aged for just two weeks at the farm in Westfield, VT. However it is worth exploring a variety of the seasonally changing cheeses that Saxelby stocks, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

On the other end of the spectrum is Formaggio Essex, also fantastic, but completely different. In this little shop, you can find a lovely variety of olive oils, vinegars, jams, honeys, cured meats, and a primarily European cheese selection. There might be a few American cheeses but the majority are small run imported babies from across the pond. The store is meant to be more of a "market experience" and it sure does stock a variety of artisanal products from around the globe. The staff there can guide you through exactly what you are in the mood for. Today I decided to buy a little bit of five month aged pasteurized goat's milk cheese from France, Tomme de Chevre do Moully. This was a fresh, semi soft, tangy, grassy, delish goat's milk cheese. A delicate and refined cheese, perfect without an accompaniment. It is aged in larger format wheels than one tends to see for goat's milk cheeses.  Either way, you can't go wrong! Pick up a nice loaf of bread at the newly opened Pain D'Avignon to go with your cheeses.

I encourage you to take a trip down to the Essex Street Market, whether its for the cheeses or Roni-Sue's chocolates or Porto Rico's Coffee Company's coffee or Shopsin's renowned mac n'cheese pancakes or some fresh produce or some of Pain D'Avignon's homemade breads. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Enjoy your Saturday folks!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day Sixty - Seven : Chèvre Chaud Salad GCF

Happy Friday folks! Certainly not the sort of weather outside to get excited about the fact that it is the weekend, but that's ok, it is still the dawn of the weekend, always bringing a smile to my face.

My inspiration for today's GCF came from the fantastic little place I went for lunch in Nolita called Tartinery. Open for just about a month now, the restaurant projects itself as a reinvented contemporary version of a French bistro. This bistro in particular centers on the french tartine, the classic open faced sandwich found all over France. The menu is composed of tartines, both sweet and savory, salads, soups, and desserts, simple yet delish. For lunch I had their chevre chaud salad which was composed of frisee, pine nuts, and warm crottin goat cheese on poilâne croutons with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. A classic combo and a definite standby french bistro salad, but this one was certainly delish, light, and very fresh.

So I thought that today I would offer you a really simple classic French chèvre chaud salad GCF, impossible to go wrong pairing this with a nice glass of wine to unwind after a long week! So here we go:

I like to use the Miche bread from Pain Quotidien as the base for this sandwich. It is a whole grain classically french style bread. On top of one piece of the bread, place about three or four slices of Crottin de Champcol. This is an aged goat's milk cheese that is about 2oz and cylindrical in size. When aged, this pasteurized goat's milk cheese develops a darker mold around the exterior with an ivory paste goaty interior. I prefer the aged version because I think it has a more complex flavor profile and will stand up perfectly to the bread and the sandwich's other accouterments. Next up, in a separate bowl take a handful of mache and sprinkle some walnuts (you can substitute almonds or pine nuts as you see fit) and dress with a homemade simple balsamic vinaigrette. Now put this on top of the Crottin and then top with your second piece of bread and bake in the oven till the cheese starts melting or about seven to ten minutes on a low heat of 250, depending on your oven. Pull out and serve this with a glass of Sancerre. I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

Bon Appetit! A demain!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day Sixty - Six : When Life throws you lemons, make lemonade...

It sure was one of those days, life definitely threw me some lemons and was I going to sit around and let myself marinate in the bitterness of those lemons? Most certainly not! I was going to make lemonade -- pick myself up, dust myself off, and turn myself around...sometimes life throws you curveballs, you simply have to get used to it.

I thought long and hard about what to write today and decided that I would write about the two cheeses that I decided to treat myself to in order to repel that barrage of lemons.

Interestingly enough, there are some definite similarities between the two cheeses I chose: both are goat's milk cheeses from Spain that tend to come in flattened logs. Very different cheeses, these two are cheeses that I adore but don't treat myself to very often and tonight I was feeling like I needed that extra boost of yummyness. I love both of these cheeses but neither is my absolute favorite, among my top, yes, but not at my top...So without further ado, here they are:

1. Monte Enebro: Made in the Spanish region of Avila, about fifty miles west of Spain, by cheesemaker Rafael Baez and his daughter Paloma; this tubular shaped, pasteurized goat cheese is extremely unique. Before the logs get aged, they are inoculated with Roquefort mold. The cheese is then aged by the cheesemaker for twenty-one days before arriving stateside to typically get cave aged for another few weeks. When you take a bit into this show-stopping looking cheese, you get creamy yet acidic, grassy, lemony, light, and flavorful notes. Really a delish cheese! Great with a nice glass of Chenin Blanc!

2. Patacabra: Meaning goat's leg, this cheese is modeled after Pata de Mulo, a Spanish sheep's milk cheese made in the same manner. Made in the city of Zaragoza, in the Spanish region of Aragon. It is a washed rind goat cheese with an orange-y, reddish exterior hue that is never the same twice. This can occur for a variety of reasons: seasonality in terms of the milk utilized to make the cheese or the cheese being made by hand, for example. Underneath the reddish/orange exterior, you get an ivory, semi-soft, creamy, goaty, paste of a cheese. The cheese is aged for forty-five days before leaving Spanish soil. This baby will not disappoint, full of the classic great flavor profiles of goat cheeses with an extra special added stink and barnyardyness from being a washed rind cheese, this surely won't disappoint. I would also pair this with a white wine heavier on the minerals but  yet light, crisp and dry. Some Albarinos would work or even a Pinot Gris...

These two cheeses were perfect to combat all those lemons thrown at me today! Sometimes doing something very small and special for yourself is the best treat around! When was the last time you gave or did something for yourself that was special and out of the ordinary? If you can't remember that last occasion, I recommend you do something for yourself this coming weekend. Trust me, you won't be disappointed, I wasn't.

Enjoy your evening.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day Sixty - Five: Seasonality

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday I was feeling warm, comforting dishes and medium bodied reds...And today, I'm in the mood for a Provencal Rosé and a nice light salad. Wowie, what a difference a day makes, right? Isn't it interesting how your food and wine mood changes depending on the weather?

I thought for today's post, I'd give you a few examples of cheeses that could go with a classic Provencal Rosé. Rosés are always best when the sun is shining, perfection for spring and summer. Isn't it interesting how at least in my mind, roses have a season? Do you think any other wines have a season? Again maybe it is just me, but I simply do not like drinking them when it is cold, windy, and wet outside -- they scream flowers, sunshine, lazy summer afternoons, swimming pools and lying in hammocks to me.  One of the many great things about rosés if you ask me is that they are extremely versatile wines, depending on the grape they are made from, they could be the perfect complement for everything from burgers cooked over the grill, cheeses, pasta salads, nuts, kebabs, springy green salads, you name it, if you're sitting in the sun and eating, you can probably find that perfect rosé for your meal and your mood.

For our purposes here, lets go with a Cotes de Provence Rose "MiP," Domaine Sainte Lucie, 2008. Available at Astor Center for $13.99 a bottle. One of the paler roses I have drank recently made from the grenache, syrah, and cinsault grapes, it provides you with a fresh, airy, light, and floral mouth-feel, impossible to go wrong with drinking a glass of this!

I'm sure you are wondering, what cheeses could go with this wine. Well, ladies and gents, the great thing about this wine is that it is very versatile and can be paired with a large variety of cheeses. I chose my three favorite options for today's post, but there are dozens of others that could also be successful:

1. Hoch Ybrig - A hard cow's milk, mountain / alpine style cheese made in Canton Schwyz, Switzerland. Also a specialty in seasonality, this cheese is only produced in the summer months. It develops its extra special character from being washed in white wine brine and what you get is a nutty, buttery, some granular texture. Perfect on a piece of a toasted baguette or on its own with your rose, both have such striking yet subtle flavor profiles that they will quietly sing when paired together.
2. Rogue River Blue Cheese - A rare cow's milk blue cheese produced in Oregon. This baby is covered in Syrah soaked grape leaves macerated in pear brandy -- creating a fruity, earthy, stinky, mineraly, and most of all unusual mouth flavor. The intense and unique taste of this cheese creates such a harmonious relationship with the rose -- a delicate drink with a boombastic cheese.
3. Chevrot - The one non-seasonal cheese on our agenda, this is a classic Loire Valley excellent aged goat's cheese -- tangy yet not too too fresh and grassy, aged  to perfection. The lightness of the wine will accentuate the aged excellently chalky qualitites of this cheese.

I could continue on for cheeses and cheeses, but I hope you enjoyed the three suggestions and I guarantee over the summer more ideas will come to life. Nite all1

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day Sixty - Four: Winners and Deconstructed Florets

I am sure you are all curious as to who won the chance for a match with Ms. Brie, well ladies and gents it is Contestant Number 3. Why you might ask? Well let's discuss the cons of the other two contestants first, before mentioning the pros of number 3.

Contestant Number 1: The juiciness of the heirloom tomatoes would overwhelm Ms. Brie's creamy consistency and struggle to form a coherent flavor profile. Proving that bloomy rind cheeses do not tend to work with the tastes and consistencies of fresh tomatoes -- their cream simply cannot hold up to the tomato's juices. For contestant number 1, you either need a grated hard cheese or a cubed semi-soft or hard cheese or crumbled goat's cheese or of course, the class Mozzarella.

Contestant Number 2: Creamy & sweet plus creamy & gooey are difficult bedfellows to place together to create a harmonious pairing on your tongue. The creaminess of the cheese will tend to overwhelm the chocolate, making it a definitely uneven and not a fifty-fifty or even sixty-forty relationship. For a successful dark chocolate pairing, you tend to want to go with something that is creamy & savory, allowing sweetness and savoriness to complement one another and form a new flavor profile. For this, I recommend a nice blue cheese like a Fourme d'Ambert.

Contestant Number 3: The creaminess of the cheese stands up perfectly to the crispiness of the apples and the crunch of the nuts. The flavors of contestant number three do not in anyway overwhelm or underwhelm or completely conflict with Ms. Brie and in so doing, you are able to create an excellent taste profile from this contestant -- Freshness + Nuttyness + Natural Sweetness = pure bliss when paired with Ms. Brie.

I hope you all enjoyed this week's dose of Marriage Mondays, check back next Monday for an ingredient paired with three different cheeses. And now, moving right along to today's recipe. I don't know about you folks,  but the weather outside today feels like early March  all over again. It's time for warming dishes and nice glasses of red wine, what's going on?

For today's recipe, I thought we would make one of my favorite simple fall/winter dishes perfect for the weather and nicely complemented by a glass of Malbec -- this should do wonders at warming you from the inside out. A lot of people like to take the flavors I am working with today and turn them into a soup, but I guarantee that this route, is just as interesting, if not more so. So let's get started.

Grab a head of cauliflower, high in dietary fiber, folate, and vitamin C, I find this vegetable to be particularly filling when prepared correctly. Cut off all the florets and place in a large oven roasting dish with two cloves of chopped garlic, a chopped shallot, a nice dose of extra virgin olive oil, about 2/3rds of a cup of Comte cheese, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Place this in the oven at 300. While that is cooking, slice up about a quarter of a baguette really thinly and brush olive oil and sprinkle parmesan on each piece. Place these into the oven to bake for about five to seven minutes or until the cheese is fully melted and somewhat golden. Next grab a bunch of leeks and chop these up, toss with olive oil, a chopped shallot, some salt and pepper and saute till they get some crispy. About five minutes before the leeks are done, dice up your baguette slices with melted parmesan on top and combine with your leeks. Now you should have crispy leeks with homemade parmesan croutons. At about the twenty minute mark of your cauliflower roasting or when the cauliflower is tasting soft and just starting to brown, combine your leek and parmesan crouton mixture for an extra five minutes. Pull out of the oven and you should have your own version of a deconstructed Cauliflower Leek Soup, I personally think better than its soup counterpart. Enjoy with a nice smooth Malbec.

Have a good night folks.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day Sixty - Three : Brie Marriage Mondays

Happy Monday! Guess what it's time for?!?!? You guessed it, Marriage Mondays! We're changing things up a bit this week, instead of revealing in today's post who has beat out the other two contestants for the perfect match, I thought I would allow the suspense to build overnight and reveal who has won a chance with our lovely cheese of the week tomorrow. By unveiling the winner tomorrow, at that point you will also have the chance to learn why one contestant was chosen over another, teaching you key pairing tips..

In thinking about what this week's marriage posted would feature, I noticed that I tend to talk a lot about special and unique cheeses found at cheese counter's and cheese stores. Granted, there are many days that I talk about goat cheeses or Parmesans that you can find all around town, but I thought for this week, I would choose something simpler, the ultimate party goer -- Brie.

Even though I imagine you all have had your fair share of experience with Brie, let's just go over a few of its recognizable characteristics: It is normally made of pasteurized cow's milk, a bloomy rind cheese, typically aged for about four weeks, from Brie, the region just southwest of Paris in France. There are now tons of different sorts of Brie's produced and sold: some infused with herbs, mixed with blue cheese, with goat's milk instead of cow' milk, and double and triple cream varieties. For our purposes today, we will focus on the classic, simple, straight forward, creamy baby known  by the masses. Easily recognizable by its luscious bloomy rind and the creamy unctuous interior paste. This is the sort of cheese that needs a wine with a certain amount of body to complement it successfully, such as a fuller Sauvignon Blanc or even a Chardonnay or a Chablis if you are feeling a white or a Merlot or medium bodied Cabernet should you want to go down the red path. If you choose to pair this with light, crisp wines, the cheese will overshadow them and your wine drinking experience will become more about the cheese than about enjoying the cheese with the wine! So shall we get going with this week's match making session:

Contestant Number One : Heirloom Tomato Salad with fresh basil and a light homemade vinaigrette. Fresh, luscious, juicy, and delish, this contestant is a classic. Best in summer months with the perfectly ripe colorful mixture of heirloom tomatoes, we certainly won't disappoint.
Contestant Number Two: Dark Chocolate, everyone's guilty pleasure. Who doesn't love a little nibble of this to make you smile? Great to cheer you up when you're feeling down; as the perfect finishing touch to a meal; or even a nice complement to a glass of port; this contestant is quite versalite and an excellent multitasker. Hard to go wrong here!
Contestant Number Three: Sliced Granny Smith Apples topped with walnuts and honey. A great healthy dessert, sweet, savory, crispy, and gooey all at once. A nice mixture of simple flavor profiles, easy for many occasions, winter, spring, summer or fall.

Of these classic contestants, who do you think Ms. Brie will chose as her future match? Will it be the savory, juicy companionship of contestant number one? Or the boy next door sort of simplicity and the satisfying sweetness of contestant number two? Or the crunchy healthy combo of fruit and nuts characterizing contestant number three?

Tune in tomorrow to find out who she chooses. Good night all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day Sixty - Two : Sunday relaxation

I decided after a morning of spring cleaning and changing my closet from fall/winter to spring/summer clothing, that I deserved a nice relaxing afternoon. Today's high of 73, made it the perfect day to grab the Sunday Times, a nice light snack and my favorite springy/summery aperitif and take all of them up to my roof and enjoy. It is always such a treat for me to actually get through the entire Sunday New York Times on Sunday proper, I feel like I've accomplished something. Being able to delve deeply into the Sunday Styles and the Metropolitan sections is the height of Sunday relaxation for me..

I am sure you are wondering what my snack was...well ladies and gents here you go:

 Take about a quarter of a french baguette and cut it length wise. Brush with olive oil on either side and then place on top of a stove top grill. What you get from this is a nice grilled bread base anxiously awaiting a yummy topping. That topping will be composed of: finely chopped fennel, a finely chopped apple such as a golden delicious, a handful of red grapes cut into three, some chopped walnuts, some parsley and crumbled fresh goat cheese. Combine all of these ingredients together, what you will get is a fresh, clean, healthy mixture of flavor profiles. I think it is nice to top this with a little bit of homemade aged balsamic vinaigrette.Take each of your two pieces of bread and top with your chop chop mixture. The classic tastes of the baguette will support your topping perfectly. This afternoon, I paired this with a campari and soda while reading the New York Times on the roof.

Campari and soda is my preferred spring/summery aperitif, perfect for a late afternoon beverage on a Spring day or as a refreshing cocktail on a steamy summer evening. In case you aren't familar with Campari, it originated in Italy in the middle of the nineteenth century and is a mixture of alcohol and water that is infused with bitter herbs, aromatic plants, and fruits giving it a redish, pinkish, fuschia hue. It is definitely an acquired taste sort of beverage if you ask me, I tend to think that it is an aperitif you either love or case you couldn't guess, I'm in the love camp. The refreshing qualities of the drink pair perfectly with the freshness and cleanness of the open faced sandwich.

Enjoy your Sunday evening folks! Please join me in having a campari and soda, if that's up your alley.

Day Sixty - One: R&R Quick Bread

First off, let me apologize for letting the weekend get away from me and not having the chance to write to you all yesterday, but fret not, today you will get a double dosage of my musings!

For part one of my musings, I thought I would give you all my recipe for R & R quick bread, different from my Parmesan Herb Muffins that  I wrote about weeks ago, but with certain similar elements... Easy as pie and delish!!

So let's getting going, wouldn't want to occupy too much of your precious weekend time reading my musings, too much to do, too many people to see!

R & R bread unfortunately guys does not stand for Rest & Relaxation bread, but I recommend once having baked this bread, that you enjoy a little bit of that sort of R & R. For our purposes here, R & R implies Ricotta and Rosemary. Moving right along, the cool thing about this recipe is that it is really easy and the ingredients are not going to break the bank, but the end product will definitely impress whomever you serve it to.

Recipe time!

2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 1/4 cups of water
3 eggs - one full egg, two just egg whites
1 lb of ricotta
Half a dozen branches of fresh rosemary chopped up
A sprinkling of sea salt
A generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

You may notice that there is no butter included in this recipe. That is because I am not the biggest fan of cooking with butter, I much prefer utilizing olive oil, its better for you. Don't worry you won't loose the moistness of the bread by excluding butter. The bread is made moist by the mixture of the olive oil and the ricotta but not overly rich which is what you would receive if you substituted butter for olive oil.

On to the cooking process, start by preheating your oven to 300. Combine all the dry ingredients first and then combine all the wet ingredients into another bowl and then combine wet  and dry ingredients together, whisk till fully combined. Then take a loaf pan and spray it with cooking spray, and pour your mixture in. Place in the oven and bake till the top is golden brown or about 32 minutes in my oven, but it depends on your oven. So start checking the bread at  the 25 minute mark so you don't over cook the bread. Once your bread is done, pull out of the oven and let cool. When you slice yourself a piece of this baby you will get the lovely aromatics of the rosemary mixed with the creamy, tangy, almost milkiness of the ricotta, a nice subtle flavor mixture, not too sweet and not too savory.

This bread is perfect served warm with a nice fresh Loire Valley goat cheese spread on top and a glass of Sancerre -- a classic terroir pairing. The herbaciousness of the bread will pair perfectly with the fresh tang of the cheese and the crispness of the wine. Enjoy!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day Sixty - A Roasted GCF

Happy GCF folks! Can you believe it's already time again for another one of our Grilled Cheese Fridays!? I cannot believe quite how quickly the week went by! What an insane week though, how often do we have weeks where the temperature varies by fifty degrees, not very often, that's for sure. One really good result of our soaring temperatures this week was that Central Park certainly went from Winter to Spring. I always fall in love with New York a little more every spring when the trees and flowers are in full bloom, makes you feel lucky to be a New Yorker. Granted, today certainly was not a day to go for a stroll in the park, but a perfect day to curl up under the covers, watch a movie, with a nice glass of wine and a comforting grilled cheese.

So let's get to it!

Today's GCF will be made on a rosemary foccacia base, with a semi-soft exterior and interior, and with a sufficient amount of olive oil baked into the bread which will complement the sandwich's ingredients perfectly. To start off, I recommend getting some of the extra wide and large carrots found at the Greenmarket in Union Square. To get started, peel and slice them length wise. Toss them with some extra virgin olive oil, garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and roast for about 20 to 25 minutes till they are lightly browned. Meanwhile, seeing as GCF's are meant to not be overly time consuming and roasting carrots for 20 to 25 minutes is somewhat time consuming, we will go with the easy route for the rest of the sandwich. Grab a smallish jar of roasted red peppers or if you're in a cooking mode, roast your own! These will be the base for the roast pepper feta spread that will go on the sandwich. To make the spread, start by tossing the red peppers in the food processor with three quarters of a pound of feta cheese, one clove of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, about a half a cup of pine nuts, some red pepper flakes to add that nice little bite, and maybe even a dash of paprika for the unexpected. Blend together. Now lather this spread on both sides of the sandwich and to top it off, you want two cheeses -- a nicely aged Parmesan to add a nutty, caramelly, butterscotch-y, and barnyard-y, edge to the sandwich and the other, an easily meltable cheese, a nice young Pecorino like a Toscano Fresco Pecorino. This sheep's milk baby is aged just thirty to sixty days and is creamy, sweet, bright and clean, perfect to go with our spread. I like to place one cheese on each side of the sandwich. Now pull out those roasted carrots and place them on top of one side of the sandwich and top with a handful for arugula, somewhat bitter, refined, and delish, this will complement and balance out the natural sugars that have been released from roasting your carrots. Now its time to heat your sandwich and serve! Depending on your mood, I would probably pair this with a medium bodied wine like a Trebbiano. But seeing as it is a GCF, feel free to eat this with your beverage of choice after a long week!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day Fifty - Nine: A Bit of Blue Education

When you think blue cheese, what do you think? Roquefort? Gorgonzola? Stilton? Maybe even Fourme d'Ambert... Your first thought  might not be Cabrales or Valdeon...Produced on opposites sides of a mountain range in northern Spain, these are two really unique cheeses that it is worth getting to know. However, just a little side note before we start discussing the cheeses, these are not beginner's blues at all, Cabrales in particular exemplifies all of those blue cheese qualities that some find scary and unappealing. These are some of the most striking and unique cheeses in the world, definitely not your everyday sort and what makes investigating them so exciting is that they are such different cheeses but are produced in such close proximity. It will give you an idea of how differences in terroir can affect a cheese. ...So lets get going! Who is interested in learning about each of these babies?

Let's start off with Cabrales - This baby is only produced in its namesake village, Cabrales along with three other tiny villages in the Penamellera Alta township, which in case you aren't really familiar with Spain, is located in Northern Spain, near the Europa Peaks in Eastern Asturias. It is made from raw milk and in very small production. In the spring and summer, the cheese is made with a mixture of raw cow, goat, and sheep milks however in the winter, that is unavailable. Key point to this, just to drum it into your heads, all milk utilized in this cheese must come from the small area of Asturias, keeping the milk's terroir similar. The cheese is first cured for two weeks in cylindrical molds, salted, and left to cure and harden. Step two is to age the cheese for a further two to five months in the natural limestone caves that are centuries old, in the area. While in the caves, the cheeses are turned ever so often to aid in the aging process. Always wrapped in dark green colored aluminum foil with the D.O (Denomincacion de Origin) stamp on it. Now doesn't that sound interesting? Terroir to the hilt right?!? What you get it is a really strong, really unique, complex, spicy, truly special blue cheese! Best served with a nice Sherry like a Pedro Ximenez.

Now, lets discuss its neighboring cousin, Valdeon, also made in the Picos de Europa mountains, in the Valdeon Valley meaning that you are able to produce this cheese year round with a mixture of cow's and goat's milk. It is typically aged three months in caves as well, but these caves are a bit drier than those that the Cabrales wheels reside in. Therefore this makes the cheese less intense and it tends to have fewer blue veins than its cousin. It is wrapped in Sycamore leaves lending a more earthy, barnyardy flavor than Cabrales.The paste aka interior of Valdeon is also blue veined like its cousin, but lighter in color because it is not aged as long. What you get on your palate is a buttery, aromatic, earthy, dynamic blue cheese, much tamer than its cousin, Cabrales. Valdeon is best with a Gamay or even a Port. Now don't get me wrong, Valdeon is also more intense than say a piece of Gorgonzola, but definitely less so than Cabrales.

Isn't that interesting how these two babies produced so close together yield such different results?! I think so...I recommend trying both if you're up for a crash course in unique blue cheeses, it will open your eyes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day Fifty - Eight: Jumping on the Dip Bandwagon

I've been noticing as of recent that a lot of restaurants have a "dip" on their menus. By this statement, I'm not implying, a hummus or a spinach artichoke sort of dip, but a dressed up dish that is meant for sharing and typically is accompanied by crusty bread or crudities. Pulino's has an entire section on their menu, which they call "bruschette," dedicated to dips; Avoce Columbus serves a warm ricotta dip to all of its diners gratis; Ward III in Tribeca has a blue cheese and walnut terrine; you name it, a lot of restaurants are jumping on the dip bandwagon! It's an easy item to order with a group or to share with that special someone and a nice way to wet your palette.

So I thought on this positively balmy April Wednesday, I too would jump on the dip bandwagon. I'm envisioning this dip being eaten on a rooftop overlooking Manhattan with glasses of Channing Daughters Rosati di Merlot and crusty toasted baguette slices -- a perfect end to the day.

My dip is meant to highlight one of spring's classic ingredients - Peas! I personally love peas year round, but the frozen kind that one is forced to buy over the course of the winter does not even begin to compare to the little delicacies that you find at your local greenmarket come springtime. In the spring, you tend to find three different varieties of peas fresh: english, sugar-snaps, and snowpeas. Each pea type provides you with a healthy dose of Vitamins K and B6, along with folic acid -- essential nutrients for strong bones and cardiovascular health. Spring's peas are fresh, flavorful, sweet, and delicate and that is why we are going to incorporate all three pea varieties into the dip.

So lets get going on our locavore springy dip:

Let's start by lightly sauteing two cups of fresh English peas and one cup of fresh Fava Beans with extra virgin olive oil, one diced shallot, salt and pepper. Now we will place the peas and fava beans into a food processor with 2 oz of a fresh Montchevre herbed crottin goat's cheese and about a dozen basil leaves. Blend till coarsely chopped up. Place this mixture to the side. This will be combined with Salvatore Brooklyn's Ricotta, made by Besty Devine and Rachel Mark with milk from Hudson Valley Fresh, a non-profit co-operative of upstate farmers. What you get is a lovingly made, really unique ricotta cheese that has that crave-able quality of good fresh ricotta, mixed with the creamy unctuousness of a triple cream, and even the tangy, grassy, lighter notes of a fresh goat cheese. Moving along, you will combine a pound of the ricotta with your coarsely pureed pea mixture so that you get a white and green swirl of a dip. This will  be topped with a sprinkling of pine nuts, a handful of thinly diced snowpeas, a few basil leaves, a drizzle of both extra virgin olive oil, a light sprinkle of sea salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Serve with slices of warm crusty baguette and the crisp, crunch of fresh Sugar snap peas. Enjoy the weather ladies and gents!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day Fifty - Eight : A salad for a veritable summer day in the beginning of April

Today's high was 78 degrees and it is April 6th, sound bizarre to you? Sounds like global warming rearing its head to me. Don't get me wrong, I do not mind in the slightest! As the temperatures creep up, I seem to crave a diet of salads, sorbets, frozen yogurts, fruits, and gazpacho -- light and airy foods that do not leave you feeling heavy after you have ingested them!

So I thought since I was wearing a little silk sundress and just a cardigan in the beginning of April, no coat, no hat or anything, I had to give you all one of my favorite summer salad recipes. This is perfect to bring to a picnic in the park or to have while sunbathing on the beach -- its got fruits, vegetables, cheese, and nuts all tossed together into one dish, simple, delish, and nutritious.

The ingredients for the salad are:
Baby Spinach
Sliced Fresh Strawberries
Slivered roasted almonds
Gorgonzola Dolce - The sweeter and younger sibling of its more piquant and grownup relatives. This cheese has that blue cheese-ness while maintaining a creamy, crumblyness all at once. If you are not the biggest blue cheese fan, this baby is not overwhelming but is delish and packs a nice subtle punch! Perfect with all the other ingredients of the salad.
Poppy seeds - I know this might sound bizarre but the slight crunch and tang of the poppy seeds adds an excellent dimension to the salad, nutritious and delish.

The salad is topped with a homemade shallot vinaigrette which is simply a sauteed shallot mixed with extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, and Maille's Honey Dijon Mustard - sweet and savory, a perfect dressing for the ingredients of this salad.

Toss everything together and serve with a crisp white like a Sancerre. Enjoy the weather ladies and gents!

Day Fifty - Seven (albeit a little late) : Marriage Mondays - Shittake Mushrooms

With the risk of sounding trendy, like "black is the new black," let me just make the statement, umami is so hot right now. By that, I mean there is resurgence in Western interest in the sensation of and flavor profiles associated with umami. If you are drawing a blank as to what umami is, no it is not a name for a fish that you would potentially order at a Japanese restaurant, it is described as savoriness. A taste that has been adopted from Japanese culture and is considered the fifth taste, after sweetness, bitterness, saltiness, and sourness.

In a Sake and Food Pairing class I assisted in Monday night, we had a sake and grilled shittake mushroom pairing which was described as umami so I got to thinking, ding, that was what I was going to do for Marriage Mondays! Shittakes paired with three different cheeses, one of which will be a match made in Umami heaven and one of which will be on the road to Umami divorce and the last of which is a possible match, left for you to decide whether or not it is a success.

So lets get going with our Shittakes, Cheeses, and Umami!

Let me first discuss how I envision the shittakes to be prepared. They should be roasted with some olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic, a little shallot, and salt and pepper. I recommend placing the mushrooms in the oven for around 20 minutes at a medium heat.

So now that the shittakes are out of the way, lets get onto the cheeses:

1. Match made in Umami heaven - Roasted Shittakes topped with melted shavings of aged Parmesan, the quintessential umami pairing. Umami is recognized and achieved by the taste receptors on your tongue, identifying the presence of a naturally occurring amino acid typically found in meat, cheese, broths, stocks, and select protein rich foods, typically known as glutamate. When you taste the mushroom with the cheese, you get that puckery, salty, savoriness on your tongue that characterizes that certain "je ne sais quoi" of umami. This pairing is excellent as an hors d'oeuvres, or as an appetizer on a bed of greens or as a main tossed with pasta. The thing that makes this a successful pairing is the fact that both of the separate ingredients have an umami quality on their own and when put together, you get an aha moment. I would pair this with a nice spicy Tempranillo or a smooth Malbec, you need to have a red wine with character to go with this pairing.

2. Potential Match - Roasted Shittakes topped with Roquefort cheese. A favorite of Charlemagne, this King of Cheese, has been made for centuries from sheep's milk in the caves of Combalou in  Auvergne in the midi-Pyrenees in France. It is the quintessential blue cheese, spicy, pungent, puckery, sweet and sharp all at once. Most people find blue cheese to on occasion give you that umami taste on its own - savoriness all rolled up into a ball of one cheese, I find this in say Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue for example. However, it is sometimes found in Roquefort as well, it does have the highest level of glutamates of any cheese. Roquefort and roasted shittakes is a potential match pairing for our Umami Matchmaking. Why you might ask? If Shittakes definitely have that umami quality to them and Roquefort can have that same quality, then why wouldn't this pairing work? You might disagree with me and think this pairing works excellently, and most times, it does work quite well, however I think it depends on the season in which you are eating this pairing. I find it best to eat in the springtime and early summer, then I think you will find this to be a successful match! Not that it can't be a successful match in fall and winter, but the sheep's milk that is utilized in the cheese at the time of year tastes somewhat different, I find it becomes a more accentuated version of the spring and summer Roquefort and in doing so, the cheese overwhelms the mushroom and the sense of a successful Umami match is somewhat lost. So see, it can go both ways.
3. Match destined for divorce: Roasted Shittakes and Delice de Bourgogne. Delice de Bourgnone is  a standout when it comes to French bloomy rind cheeses, because it is one of the few of its kind produced in the Burgundy region of France, a complex little cheese! The bloomy rind exudes a mushroomy, moldy aroma that cuts through the creamy unctuousness of the interior. An awesome mouth-coating creamy cheese! Great with a medium bodied white wine like a Chablis. However in our umami marriage pairing, the creamyness of this cheese overwhelms the savoriness of the mushrooms and therefore masks the flavors of the mushrooms, so that the pairing becomes more about the cheese than the mushroom and we all know that a relationship where it is all about one person is not successful!

I hope you guys enjoyed this week's dose of Marriage Mondays and that you learned something about how to pair mushrooms with cheeses to attempt to achieve umami.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day Fifty - Six : Easter, Eggs, and more...

Happy Easter Folks! Certainly a glorious day for parades, bonnets, pastels, and plenty of time outside! Although I don't celebrate Easter I have always enjoyed watching the families who do, it really seems like the first proper day when people come pouring out of their apartments rejoicing over the fact that winter is reaching its end. It sure was a day to enjoy the weather, savor the sunshine, and certainly be outside for as much time as you could.

Today, on this lovely Easter Sunday, I met an old friend for brunch down on the Lower East Side. I'm sorry to disappoint ladies and gents my wallet did not allow for a decadent brunch, chock full of descriptions of dishes that make your mouth water; but more of a good standby place that we knew we could have a satisfying meal and not feel like it was overpriced. Don't get me going on all these places around town that serve somewhat mediocre food that is tremendously expensive for no reason...back to our Easter Sunday brunch on a quiet corner of Orchard street at noon today, we sat down to a small French bistro. In the evening hours this area and even the particular place we were eating at, would have been jam packed, but we lucked out! It was noon and the neighborhood was quiet.

So I'm sure you're thinking enough of the neighborhood and all, what did she eat?!?!?!

Well ladies and gents, let me let you in on a little secret, I love smoked salmon and rarely do I let myself buy it for my apartment, partially because its expensive but partially because if you don't eat smoked salmon within a few days of purchasing it, it will go bad. Needless to say when I go out to brunch, I always like to order something with smoked salmon, if possible. So today, I ordered an egg white omelet with goat's cheese and smoked salmon with a side salad -- the breakfast version somewhat of the linner dish I made for you all yesterday.  What I like about this simple dish is how all the flavors meld so successfully together -- the creamyness of the goat cheese holds up perfectly to the consistency of the eggs and the savory saltiness of the salmon was just the perfect oomph to top off all the flavors perfectly. A nice satisfying meal for a beautiful Sunday! I know it might not be an overly exciting discussion topic for our purposes here but it is an excellent example of how you can really successfully pair cheese and fish, they need to have a stable backdrop that pairs well with a variety of flavors. (More on other options in future musings...)

I think I will leave you all to enjoy your evenings, I hope you too got to enjoy the outdoors and had your fill of eggs, whether they were the chocolate kind or the breakfast / brunch kind...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day Fifty - Six : All scrambled up..

So what do you get when you mix breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Eggs + a Sandwich + pasta OR Pancakes + Salad + Fish all rolled into one? No, no, I'm not implying that you combine all three daily meals into one larger life meal, that wouldn't be healthy...what I am implying is having a l-inner (lunch + dinner, typically served around 5pm or around the time of the "Early Bird Special) utilizing breakfast ingredients because honestly who doesn't like breakfast all day long? There's even a restaurant in the East Village who caters to those of us who enjoy eggs benedict and waffles at 10pm....

After a whirlwind day of work, errands, photographing, running, and attempting to enjoy some of the mid-60s weather we were lucky enough to enjoy, I decided since I hadn't had lunch yet and I was going to be otherwise occupied for a portion of the evening, I might as well make myself a l-inner, to satisfy my desire for lunch and dinner all in one. Quickly I ruled out quinoa, or baby raviolis, or a tofu stir-fry, and then I realized, you know what I hadn't had in a while -- scrambled eggs! Ding! I was going to make truffled scrambled egg whites with sauteed mushrooms, herbs, and goat's cheese and then I would toss it with some mesclun greens, cherry tomatoes, and diced peppers and I'd get a lovely warm salad packed with veggies and greens and  protein in the form of egg whites and the cheese..yum yum.

So lets start with the eggs- I like to take out two frying pans and spray them with cooking spray, putting the egg whites in one pan for me and the yolks in the other pan for my dog. Yes yes, I know that sounds weird, but egg yolks are good for her coat and plus I hate wasting them. Ok, so back to the egg whites, crack two eggs and separate the whites into a bowl, whisk to get the egg whites frothier and more pillowy. While the egg whites are in a bowl, you should have chopped up about five small to medium sized portobello mushrooms caps and tossed them with chopped shallots, some extra virgin olive oil, a little white wine, some rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. After about five to seven minutes of sauteing the mushrooms, transfer your egg whites to a pan over low heat and once you see the eggs go from translucent to opaque, add the mushrooms and some truffle oil, scramble till you feel they are done enough for you. Some people like soft scrambled eggs and other folks like more well done almost golden brown eggs, I'm of the later party, preferring to get my eggs nice and well done. Once they are finished to your satisfaction, toss them into a bowl with fresh mesclun and crumbled cana de cabra, a fresh, young Spanish goat cheese with a little extra tangy grassyness than say its French or American cousins. Next chop up a hand of full of cherry tomatoes and a quarter of an orange pepper for crunch. I know some people do not like raw pepper, but I think in this situation, the pepper is the perfect crunchy oomph! Now toss everything together and you will get a veritable symphony of colors! Reds, oranges, greens, whites, browns all in your salad bowl. I like to toss this with a simple homemade garlic vinaigrette (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Maille Mustard, and a chopped up garlic clove). Now you have scrambled eggs mixed with salad and veggies and I guarantee it is not an overload of flavors but a symphony of different tastes. I enjoyed this with a glass of Capezzana'ss Barco Reale di Carmignano which is made from traditional Carmignano grapes (Sangiovese, Cabernet, Canaiolo). This wine is produced by the Nobil Casa Contini Bonnacossi at Capezzana in Carmignano with grapes grown on vines in an ancient Medici estate. I tend to not be the biggest fan of Italian reds but this maybe was perfect, medium bodied with a decent amount of fruit but not overly heavy or tannic on the palate, turning what could otherwise be a lunch meal for some into a dinner meal for me!

A nice mixture of different tastes and flavors all rolled into one for a delish meal. If you don't necessarily like my combo of ingredients, at least take its basic principle to heart -- foods that you associate with certain meals do not always have to be eaten only at that meal and sometimes mixing up a lot of distinct food items will give you something so unique and different, it will blow you away. So loosen up folks and make yourself a meal of a smorgasbord of ingredients from your fridge tonight. I guarantee you will be surprised at how yummy it will taste. And you know why? Because, deep down the thing that ties all those foods together is the fact that you like them otherwise you wouldn't have bought them and so when combining them, they will definitely satisfy your palate.


Day Fifty - Five : A little delayed GCF

What a crazy week! The mixture of work, family get-togethers, events to attend for work, seeing friends, running, blogging, and keeping up with life has certainly produced quite the whirlwind of a week! In my whirlwind, I managed to get a little behind in my weekly GCF recipe, but fret not folks, it is about to delivered to you right now..

I was thinking while running about what I wanted to do for this week's GCF and how I had primarily paired cheeses, bread, fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, compotes, and the such but I had not yet paired cheese with one of my favorite sources of protein -- tofu! You might be thinking why isn't she pairing meats with cheeses, well folks that is because I do not eat meat...I do eat fish and although some people find fish and cheese pairings to be bizarre or not successful over the course of my musings here, I aim to prove you wrong that there are excellent fish and cheese pairings. Well enough of that, lets get on to this week's Health Nuts GCF.

I know some people find the consistency of tofu to be unappealing and my opinion on that is either they haven't had fresh tofu like you can get at EN Japanese brasserie, it melts in your mouth. Needless to say for our purposes here, you don't want a melt in your mouth tofu, you want a firm tofu because it will hold up to the sandwich and the cheese more successfully than its silken soft sibling. The cool thing about firm store bought tofu is that it can pick up flavors very easily, it's somewhat like a blank canvas. If you are feeling like you want to infuse your tofu with your own flavors, you can grill it with some olive oil, herbs, and garlic, OR roast it with the same ingredients and your blank canvas will suddenly be full of flavor! However, if you are feeling uber lazy, you can always buy already "flavored" tofu from the supermarket. I have actually just discovered a new great brand of Tuscan herb tofu from Fairway, soft yet firm, full of flavor, not too processed (sometimes flavored tofu from the market becomes too processed in terms of taste), and all around delish! The cool thing about this specific tofu is its flavors do not overwhelm you so it can be paired with a lot of other tastes.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this week's GCF, lets just go over a few of the health benefits of tofu:

1. It's good for heart health - the soy protein and isoflavones are great cholesterol fighters.
2. Good for muscles and energy level with the high levels of protein.
3. The tofu's isoflavones become a form of estrogen in the body which has been found to be beneficial to women in both peri-menopause and menopause. The same isoflavones also help prevent prostate cancer in men.
4. The dietary calcium in tofu also promotes bone health. 

So for ease's sake, as GCF recipes are meant to be fast and easy after a long week, we will use my new discovery of Tuscan herb tofu as our tofu star for our health nuts GCF. Along with tofu, we will use Beemster Reduced Fat Aged Gouda Cheese, nutty, buttery, caramelly and delish, but lower in fat that an its counterparts but just as delish and lighter in taste, in an excellent way. To showcase these two elements, I like to sandwich them between two nice slices of Eli's health bread and top them with some crunchy bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts and mesclun greens. Then to finish off the sandwich, I like to doctor and then use a traditional Japanese sesame sauce, used for my green tea noodles typically. To doctor the sauce, I like to add some chives, ground ginger and a little bit of garlic so you get a sweet, savory, Asian feel that will complement the other flavors perfectly and round out the sandwich. When toasted, you will have a lovely, flavorful sandwich that is light, delish, and really good for you. This is perfect with Geyser Peak's Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley -- a light wine with flavors of lime, citrus, lychee, grass, and gooseberries, perfect for our health nuts GCF on this lovely sunny day.

Enjoy ladies and gents!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day Fifty-Four: A Crostini for a glass of Asti

Happy April Fool's Day Folks! Did you get a joke played on you today? Whoopie cushion on your desk chair? A plastic mouse under your feet? Thankfully, I didn't have the pleasure of being on the receiving end of a prankster either at the office or outside....

As an aperitif this evening I had a glass of Asti, a sweet Italian sparkler good for the pre evening drink or even at the end of a meal with dessert, it is celebratory, cheap, and delish. Even good, as previously discussed with brunch because it is so light...So I thought instead of pairing the Asti with Oysters which is what I did (not overly successful, Oysters need something more like a Cava or Champagne, sparkling and light as well but not nearly as sugary sweet as the Asti), we would pair it with a twist on a typical blue cheese honey crostini, something sweet and savory.

Blue cheese and honey is a very typical pairing -- the piquant qualities of the blue cheese balanced out nicely with the sweet gooeyness of the we will make a few adjustments to the typical pairing so that it pairs excellently with the Asti.

For the blue cheese we will utilize Old Chatham Sheepherding Company's Ewe's Blue. An American artisanal blue cheese made in the Roquefort style from one hundred percent sheep's milk. It is a classic blue that delights and awakeness the tastebuds, not too harsh but just piquant enough. To go with the citrus and honey flavors in the Asti we will pair this with an orange blossom honey that will complement the blue and the Asti perfectly. On top I like to slice a few dried figs and some pinenuts for crunch - sweetness, saltiness, creamyness, and crunchyness all rolled into one. I think this is best served on freshly toasted french baguette so that you are able to experience all the flavors independently and the tastes of the bread do not overwhelm the delicate tastes of your crostini.

Enjoy the crostini with a late afternoon/early evening glass of Asti and toast the springtime weather that is hopefully here to stay. Check back tomorrow for GCF. Wouldn't want to keep you all reading for too long on such a lovely evening, go out and enjoy!!

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