Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day Two Sixty Four - Narragansett Creamery's new cheese...

Today I ventured down to the New Amsterdam Market, the fantastic market located near the South Street Seaport that promotes local and regional products, foods, and produce. Each Sunday this Fall, they have a rotating selection of vendors and events -- a nice mix of fresh and prepared foods, wines, meats, cheeses, and chocolates. One of the featured vendors this week was Narragansett Creamery, a Rhode Island based artisanal creamery. They are ever expanding and experimenting with their cheese repertoire. Their stand-bys include: a homemade mozzarella, ricotta, feta, queso fresco, yogurt, Atwell's Gold (their aged Italian style firm cow's milk cheese), a gouda style cheese, and many others.

However this week at the New Amsterdam Market, Narragansett had an olive feta -- sea salt cured cheesy  goodness mixed with the briney-ness of black olives -- the perfect mixture of saltiness and unctuous creaminess with the vegetal tang of black olives. You don't always find olives infused into cheese, just traditionally served on the side...a nice uniquely creative twist on a traditional cheese.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day Two Sixty Three : Pumpkin Festival

Today while walking through Central Park, I stumbled upon the Central Park Pumpkin Festival complete with hay rides, a haunted house, pumpkin decorating, face painting, a few Greenmarket vendors including Cabot Creamery and more...

I think its a safe bet to say that the automatic answer from most people if you ask them about Vermont cheese will be either Cabot Creamery or Grafton Cheese Company, but more often it is Cabot.

Cabot's history dates back to 1919 when a group of ninety-four farmers decided to form a cooperative to buy the local creamery (Rosedale) so as to turn their leftover milk into butter and in turn profit. For the next decade, these farmers sent their homemade Vermont butter south and west. In 1930 though, cows outnumbered people in that particular region of Vermont. The farmers decided to hire a cheesemaker so that they could market other products besides butter, namely cheddar cheese! Thirty years later, the cheese cooperative had over six hundred farmers involved. However by the late 1980s, that large number decreased significantly, down to less than a fifth of its original size. Simultaneously, Rosedale became Cabot and Cabot began to make its name known on the cheesemaking award circuit, winning best in the Cheddar category in 1989. In 1992, Cabot merged with Agri-mark, another New England co-op -- now the Cabot name was the umbrella of over 1,500 farms. Today, in 2010, its prominence is felt in Vermont and in New England and nationwide. Who knows where they will go in the next century?

Image courtesy of Cabot creamery

Turning back to the Pumpkin Festival in Central Park, why was Cabot Creamery there?

Because eating cheese is better than eating candy on Halloween? I like to think so, it sure is better for your teeth than the sugary option! They were offering samples of a super strong cheddar, a horseradish cheddar, and a jalapeno cheddar.

I'd take cheese over candy anyday :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day Two Sixty Two - Butternut Squash GCF

The leaves are starting to change and the air is crisper, although those seventy degree days this past week were pretty fantastic, it's finally feeling like Fall, just in time for Halloween. So I thought, lets do something orange for this week's GCF, autumnal and festive!!!

I got inspired by a homemade dinner at a friend's house last night and thought, it was time to pull out the butternut squash this week.

Butternut squash is considered a winter squash and with its orange-y interior, many liken it to a pumpkin, although technically it is not. This fruit is sweet and nutty -- great roasted, pureed, steamed, grilled -- it is a very versatile ingredient. The great thing about butternut squash is that it can easily lend itself to a savory or even a sweet preparation and it is high in fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A and C.

For today's GCF, I'd like to suggest a roasted preparation for the butternut squash. How to roast the butternut?

Cut into thick round slices then let it marinate. Marinate in a mixture of EVOO, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, black pepper, and a little bit of clove (you just want a hint of the spice here, nothing overpowering as cloves can be). Once the slices have been sitting in the marinade for about ten minutes, you can pop them in the oven at 250 degrees and cook low and slow till each side gets golden brown or for about ten minutes. While the butternut is cooking, you can get to preparing everything else, which is pretty simple.

Now on top of the stove, slice some oyster mushrooms thinly and saute with some shallots, sage, balsamic vinegar, EVOO, red wine, salt and pepper. Saute just till the mushrooms have a nice goldenness to them. Next grab a whole wheat baguette and slice into two slices. Top each side with a generous slathering of Ardith Mae's fresh chevre, it's to die for! Creamy, grassy, tangy, lactic and utterly decadent, you'll want to just start eating it with a spoon. On top of the chevre add the finished butternut squash and then some mushrooms and lastly a few leaves of arugula and toast away!!!

Enjoy this with a nice glass of Cotes de Rhone.
Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day Two Sixty One - Fast, Easy, Fresh Dinners for One

Did you know that Trader Joe's dried spaghetti got voted best spaghetti in Manhattan by New York magazine last year? You would not think of Trader Joe's for pasta, I know, but a few of their pastas are fantastic...I especially love their baby ravioli and baby tortellini. And for $2.99 a bag which is enough food for at least three if not four people, that's a pretty good deal!

Taking inspiration from this week's cheese spy stories, I grabbed a bag of their baby pesto tortellini, I decided that nothing was going to trump the descriptions of the fabulous ravioli found at Chez Rene so I might as well do something completely different yet still keep with this idea of interior filling and exterior pasta dough. The mini tortellini are filled with a pesto ricotta filling and when cooked correctly melt in your mouth. There's something to me about pesto ricotta tortellini that screams Spring-time and since it has been in the low 70s/upper 60s for the past few days, I thought let's stick with something light, right?

To pair with the tortellini, I made a homemade chop chop veggie salsa composed of:

Ten baby heirloom tomatoes
1/2 yellow pepper
1/3 cup of cooked chickpeas (ideally utilize dried chickpeas that have been soaked and cooked)
1/4 cup of cooked corn kernels
1 1/2 Persian cucumbers
Fresh Rosemary
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
My special French salad herb mix (found in the Provencal market in France and sometimes sold by a Frenchman down at the Fulton Stall Market on Sundays here in Manhattan)
A drizzle of White Wine Vinegar
A few drops of Balsamic Vinegar

Chop up all the veggies and combine with aromatics, oil and vinegar, let sit in its own juices for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Once the tortellini are cooked, let them cool down, this is not a dish meant to be served too cold or too warm. Combine with veggies, top with extra fresh rosemary, EVOO and pink sea salt. Now grate two types of cheese over the top: Asiago with Rosemary and Olive Oil, to echo the flavors already present in the pasta dish and Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese to add a nutty fullness and earthy gamey depth to it.

What is Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve?

Well it is an artisanal farmstead cheese crafted in Wisconsin but based on the European greats like Beaufort. Firm, aged raw cow's milk cheese, this definitely puts Wisconsin on the cheese map! Great on its own with a nice glass of red wine or a beer or grated on top of a pasta to give it that certain "je ne sais quoi" or utilized in a grilled cheese. It sure is worth a try if you haven't ever had it!

Image courtesy of


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day Two Sixty - Autumnal Cheese Spy Dispatch from across the pond!

Where has the cheese spy landed?

In the land of Roquefort, but of course. Not just anywhere, but in the city of light enjoying an enlighted cheese moment...

Where to find said moment?

A petit bistro of Lyonnaise origin -- Chez Rene located at 14 Blvd St Germain.

And what does Chez Rene have?

Cheese ravioli. I'm sure you are thinking, how could cheese ravioli be worth of a cheese spy dispatch? This cheese ravioli is special! That's because this homemade Lyonnaise style ravioli is not about the pasta dough or about the melding of exterior and interior, it is strictly about the cheese inside -- a blend of homemade ricotta and Cantal cheese. Utterly decadent, each morsel lusciously melts in your mouth.  A don't miss in the Latin Quartier!

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day Two Fifty Nine - Cauliflower Results

It's time for those results folks, did you figure out who has won the chance to be paired with our dear cauliflower this week?

Yes? No?

Well either way, let's get going right away with these results!

Contestant Number # 1 : Chaource - Definitely like oil and water with the cauliflower, there will be no sense of melding here -- it will be a completely one sided relationship, all about the Chaource. Now, not that there is anything wrong with that, but this week cauliflower is supposed to be the star. Chaource is a hard one to pair successfully with vegetables, I suggest letting it sing on its own, might be the best route! Spread a nice thick slice on some crusty bread and pair it with a nice medium bodied red wine and you're ready to go!

Contestant Number # 2 : Queso de la Serena - Here is where things get tricky folks, our second contestant would be a fine match for our cauliflower, but not the best choice. Why you may wonder? Well, say for example you roasted the cauliflower florets and then let them cool and dipped them into a nice gooey wheel of La Serena, that could certainly be a delish pairing route, no? But the cheese's greatness might get a bit in the way of the cauliflower -- you have to remember  that cauliflower has a delicate and nuanced flavor profile and needs to be paired with something that will complement but not overwhelm. La Serena complements, but overwhelms a bit. That being said, why not give it a whirl, I guarantee it will be delish!

Contestant Number # 3 : Manouri - We have our winner this week! Why you may ask? Consistency and texture have a lot to do with how one envisions pairing a cheese with cauliflower because it has such a specific feel to it. Being able to grate a cheese or thinly slice a cheese so that it has a similar firmness to the cauliflower is a plus. Coupled with the fact that both the Manouri and the cauliflower were full of gentle flavor moments and when paired together, each accentuates the other. How would I prepare these two together? Simple is the way to go here; do not get too carried away with a laundry list of ingredients, it will ruin the dish.

I would take a head of cauliflower and slice it like bread so that you would have large thin slices of the cross section of the vegetable. Coat each side with a mixture of EVOO, diced parsley, chives, sea salt, and black pepper. Place the cauliflower on a stove top grill for a few minutes per side just to get a light char on both sides. Then place it in the oven at 250 degrees to cook for about ten minutes to get it nice and roasty. While the cauliflower  is in the oven, slice a few good slices of Manouri and sear these on the grill as well. Don't let the cheese stay on the grill for more than 30 seconds per side though, you want to keep your slices intact. The reason you are able to grill the Manouri is because of the lack of water content present in the cheese. Once the cauliflower is done, pull it out of the oven and top with your slice of Manouri and a little homemade peach, parsley, chive salsa.

How to make the salsa? Dice up one peach and combine with some chopped up herbs, sea salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. This will add some color and additional flavors to this delish pairing transforming it into a savory yet sweet dish. Enjoy with a nice glass of Gewurtzaminer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day Two Fifty Eight - Cauliflower Marriage Mondays

A bit stumped as to what to do for this week's Marriage Mondays, I had an 'aha' moment while chopping up some cauliflower to roast for dinner tonight -- Cauliflower it is!

Cauliflower is as we all know a member of the broccoli family or brassica family-- low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, vitamin C and water, this guy packs a strong nutritional punch! It even has been found to reduce one's chance of getting prostate cancer. In case you are looking to add color to your plate, it comes in orange, purple, and white varieties.

A favorite of mine in Fall and Winter months, I thought it was a perfect candidate for a late October Marriage Mondays, despite the fact it is not yet cold out.

So who are our three contenders for our dear friend Cauliflower this week?

Contestant Number # 1 : Chaource - Dating back to the Middle Ages, this French cow's milk cheese is utter decadence. A petite cylinder of cheesy goodness originating in its namesake village of Chaource in the Champagne region, it is a bloomy rind cheese aged for two to four weeks before enjoying purposes. It is creamy, unctuous, buttery, salty, bright, with a tinge of a citrusy finish. All around greatly satisfying morsel of lactic goodness, but is it good enough for our cauliflower??

Contestant Number # 2 : Queso de la Serena - Hailing from the neighboring country of contestant number 1 -- Spain, specifically the Extremadura region, this guy is ready for the party. An unusual cheesemaking process is what makes this cheese stand out -- it is coagulated with cardoon thistle and depending on ripeness can be just as creamy as fondue. Aged for anywhere between two and four months, it is a fantastic example of the range of flavors that can be coaxed out of sheep's milk to create a delish cheese. This particular one has heavy vegetal, grassy, herbaceous, and hay notes with a fabulously creamy mouth feel. Definitely a crave-able cheese! But is our cauliflower craving it??

Contestant Number # 3 : Manouri -- Our final contestant is Greek; made from the leftover whey of that famous Greek cheese, Feta. This cheese is therefore obviously made with fresh pasteurized sheep's milk. I know you're thinking, well how does that work, you make one cheese and with the leftovers another cheese is born? Yes, pretty much! Think ricotta, but different. The feta cheese curd is drained into cloth bags and then topped off with a dash of skimmed cream. What you get is the chalky white block of smooth milky cheese-y goodness known as Manouri -- fresh, crisp, and fantastic! Fantastic enough for our cauliflower?

That's all folks! Check back tomorrow for a winner. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day Two Fifty Seven - Comfort Food

First used, according to Webster's dictionary in 1977, comfort food by definition implies a positive and uplifting emotional feeling, maybe with a twinge of nostalgia and a side of "the good ole days." Yes, there are those stereotypical comfort foods culture and society deem as what one should eat to make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside...

Just take a moment to think about it, what are your comfort foods? Do you eat them only when you're feeling down and lonely? Or for Sunday night suppers? Or is it your go-to meal that you make after a long tiring day at the office? There's always room for that dish that simply will make you feel good and put a big smile on your face. I've got a few comfort foods that I love and they are my go-to meals when I'm feeling down and out or ill or exhausted, but mostly when I know that I want something that is comforting and of those is a simple egg white omelette, which is what I made tonight and I thought I'd share what I made for a Sunday night dinner.

3 egg whites
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Sage
Diced yellow tomatoes
A few diced brussel sprouts
Some grated Gruyere cheese
Crushed Red Pepper
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
Some omelette spices (A French blend of herbs perfect for eggs)

Put the egg whites in the pan and then sprinkle the diced veggies, herbs, red pepper, sea salt, and spices on top and then grate a nice amount of Gruyere over the eggs and veggies. Tonight, I had this with a nice mug of Chamomile tea and boy was that just the ticket for a Sunday evening.

Sometimes enjoying that comfort food you know and love is just what one needs...Night all!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day Two Fifty Six - A quick recap of Bouchon Bakery's lunch

For lunch this afternoon, I went to Thomas Keller's casual bakery and cafe located on the third floor of the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle -- Bouchon Bakery.  Known for their outstanding baked goods and breads, the cafe is always crowded and serves simple yet elegantly classic fare -- salads, sandwiches, quiche, dessert, and more.

My two dining companions each had Keller's ode to childhood -- a grilled cheese with tomato soup. But this one was done up just right, with a blend of gruyere and fontina and plenty of butter smeared on to two thick slices of homemade bread, there was no going wrong there! It was paired with a san marzano tomato soup -- filling and comforting!

And I had their endive, peppercress, coach farm goat's cheese, fuji apple, and roasted walnut salad with a homemade walnut vinaigrette -- a simple melding of fresh flavors where each element functioned in perfect harmony with the others. A classic concept but with its own special Keller twist.

You cannot go wrong with any item you order on the menu, I guarantee it will be delish and you will have plenty of time to enjoy the striking view of Columbus Circle.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day Two Fifty Five - An Autumnal Pear GCF

Apples and pears seem to be the fruits of the moment don't they? And since it is such a spectacularly autumnal day, I thought I'd suggest a yummy roasted pear GCF, straddling the line between savory and sweet, but all around delish!

Pears can be divided into two distinct categories -- European and Asian. The Asian variety resembles what we think of apples to look like. They have a crisp crunchiness at the height of their ripeness. European pears are those that we traditionally think of when a pear comes to mind -- rounded and curvy with a softness to them. For today's GCF, I'd like to make a GCF featuring Bosc Pears.

Bosc Pears have a light brown exterior with a light interior that is soft and sweet. Denser than most other pears, they hold up excellently to roasting, which is why I chose them today. Traditionally bottom heavy with a slender top, these are easily identifiable pears! Grown primarily on the West Coast and overseas, its worth the trip to delve into one of these guys...

So lets get to roasting these babies!!!

Slice thin pieces of our pear and toss with some maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little bit of clove, a touch of sea salt and a little olive oil to coat them. Place this in the oven at 250 for about 15 minutes or until the pears are golden brown. While the pears are roasting you can prep everything else which is going to be simple! Grab a nice crunchy French baguette, some roasted hazelnuts and an aged Manchego style cheese, Zamorano. I recommend utilizing Zamorano because it is a bit richer and more nutty than its younger cousin, Manchego which will pair excellently with your roasted pears and hazelnuts. Made in the Castille-Leon region of Spain, this is a hard sheep's milk cheese aged for at least six months. During the aging process, the rind is washed with olive oil imparting a dark exterior with an olive-y, vegetal mouth feel. It is sweet and creamy with a full bodied gamey-ness to it! Perfect for our roasted pears, you couldn't ask for better.

Once your pears are done, slice your baguette in two and place the pears on the bread allowing the roasting juices to sink into the bread; and then top them with a nice thick slice of Zamorano and some crumbled hazelnuts. Toast away! Enjoy this with a nice medium bodied red wine.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day Two Fifty Four - The Fabulous Beekman Boys and Blaak

Have you heard of the Planet Green TV show called The Fabulous Beekman Boys? If you haven't, you are missing out! Coming into its second season, it features a former VP of Martha Stewart Living and a New York Times bestselling author/drag queen/ad exec who decide that city life just isn't for them. So what do they do? Something fabulous dawwling, of course! They move to a two hundred year old farm in Upstate New York with lots of goats, some pigs, and even a llama. Why not create an organic seasonal lifestyle brand and make the transition from the hectic hussle and bussle of Manhattan to the simple farming life of Upstate New York? Well it sure is farm chic!!

Is it a success? For that you will have to watch their show or check out their website and blog at There, you can find out about all of the various products they sell, but for our purposes, I just wanted to focus briefly on their first cheese! BLAAK!

First released in Fall 2009, this cheese was crafted in conjunction with the nearby and established farm, Cooperstown Cheese Company. Why didn't you hear about it last fall? Well that's because you have to be in the know to find out about this cheese -- it was featured at the New Amsterdam Market and then the first six hundred pound batch made last year was quickly reserved for Murray's and Stinky Brooklyn, there really wasn't much left over unfortunately. It is a blend of sixty percent unpasteurized goat's milk and forty percent cow's milk. A firm Italian style cheese aged for four months in the Beekman Farm's caves and coated with ash to encourage its aging process. A unique taste that's for sure -- it is smoky and savory with the tang of aged goat's milk along with an almost game-y, animal-y quality from the cow's milk. The ashen exterior provides an almost granular counterpart to the interior firm paste. You can see the beginnings of that caramelly, crumbly, butterscotchy feel of aged cow's milk cheeses but BLAAK isn't fully there yet. A harmonious melody of opposing tastes designed to be smooth and delight the palate! And honestly how often can you say you've had a cheese with a black rind?

Now that you are in the know, go grab's worth a shot! Then you can say you tried it, right?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day Two Fifty Three - Snacks for a playoff game

Last night, I tuned into watch the Yankees play the Texas Rangers, hopeful they were going to win, I was certainly disappointed by the 10 - 3 outcome. Needless to say, I still had a good friend over and whipped up a few yummy nibbles for us and I thought I'd share them with you all...

First off I made a homemade hummus served with carrots, cucumbers, and Vegetable Flax Tortilla Chips from Trader Joe's. Some people think that making your own hummus is actually more expensive than buying it in the supermarket but there's something special about hummus made with Rancho Gordo beans, heirloom beans from California. Hummus is a great sharing dish, delish on veggies, chips, pita, or breads, you name it - it is yummy and good for you to boot!

So what's in my hummus?

Garbanzo Beans
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Rosemary and Sage
1/3 log of Chevre
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
1/4 package of firm tofu (which will make it creamier)
A small drizzle of water

To prepare hummus with dried garbanzo beans, you first need to soak the beans in salt water for at least eight hours. Once they have soaked and expanded, put them on the stove in a sauce pot with their soaking water over low heat for about an hour or till they are tender. Now they are ready to be combined with all of the other ingredients  in a food processor. You might be thinking, why doesn't she use tahini, the classic hummus ingredient? Well I find that that hummus with tahini becomes all about the tahini and less about the garbanzo bean itself, so I stick to utilizing tofu and chevre for creaminess and so it is still about the garbanzos.
For myself personally, I like to add some red pepper flakes to the top once all your ingredients are mixed together, so should you feel like adding a little extra punch, go ahead! I guarantee you'll enjoy!!

Moving along from the hummus, I also made a roasted cauliflower, gruyere, rosemary olive oil asiago cheese flatbread. Roasted cauliflower is just the perfect early Fall topping for a flatbread if you ask me.

I regret to inform you, I didn't make the actual flatbread myself, but everything else was crafted by yours truly. I got the flatbread at Trader Joes -- a simple herb olive oil flatbread that tastes pretty bland and store bought on its own, once transformed with my toppings, it suddenly was a homemade success! The topping is easy, let me fill you all in so you can recreate it at home if you feel the desire!

Half head of cauliflower with florets cut off
1/2 shallot diced
clove of garlic diced
Fresh Rosemary and Sage
Dried Oregano and Marjoram
Rosemary Olive oil Asiago Cheese

First step here is to cut off the florets of the cauliflower and toss in a baking dish with evoo, shallots, garlic, diced up rosemary, sage, oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper. Place this in the oven at 250 for 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is just turning golden brown. Pull out and place to the side. Lightly brush the flatbread with some evoo and then top with the cauliflower and grate gruyere and asiago evenly over the top. Grind some salt and pepper with a few extra drizzles of olive oil and then place this in the oven at 300 for just about ten minutes or until the cheese is melted. Pull out and dive in. Satisfying and delish, this pizza is light yet flavorful with a nice amount of cheese but not too much. I'd recommend enjoying this with a nice medium bodied red wine.

Nutritious and delish nibbles that's for sure! Better than watching the Yankees loose!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day Two Fifty Two - Results

Are you curious to hear who won in this week's Marriage Mondays? Or did you figure it out?

I think I made things a bit easy this week in terms of who was the winner, but in case you didn't figure it out, let me get right to those results.

Contestants Number 1 and 2 had the exact same issue in terms of why they did not succeed this week, therefore their explanations will be grouped together. Both the Nettlesome and the Green Peppercorn Cone although fantastic, their flavors are quite bold and will most certainly outshine the delicate nuances of our delish green tea. That being said, I could potentially see the Nettlesome paired with a cocktail utilizing chamomile tea simple syrup as an idea. But for the most part, both of these cheeses are not the ideal match when it comes the tea -- too bold for such a delicate beverage.

Therefore, by deduction, our Cypress Grove Purple Haze has won this week!


1. Both the tea and the cheese are delicately bold and beautiful, they do not announce their presence, but once on hand, it is a long lasting presence that's for sure.
2. Each is floral yet herbal with a lightness guaranteed to delight.
3. The lightly smoky flavors in the tea play wonderfully off of the fennel pollen notes in the cheese.  Whereas the green tea leafy-ness fucntions in perfect harmony with faint lavender notes of the cheese.

A great pairing! So how would you serve this pairing?

I would probably have Nairns Oat Cakes with mixed berries, some red grapes and maybe some slices of fresh golden delicious apples. Something simple and completely fresh and refreshing to enliven you and your senses. Enjoy!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day Two Fifty One - Green Tea Marriage Mondays

Why Green Tea this week? Well that's because I've given up alcohol till after the New York marathon and have been drinking a lot of green tea. I got to thinking, how many people write about tea and cheese pairings? Very few that's for sure! I can't actually think of any, can you?

So before we get to our cheese contestants this week, let me give you an idea of  some of the fabulous health benefits of green tea:

It contains a high amount of polyphenols, carotenoids, tocopherols, vitamin C, and plenty of minerals like chromium, manganese, zinc and more! All of these help reduce the risk of heart disease, infection, arthritis, high cholesterol levels, cancer cells and more! To boot it is a proven antioxidant along with aiding weight loss. It even helps tooth health! All around a really healthy beverage.

So lets get to our contestants this week, right? This week, I wanted to suggest three different aromatic and infused cheeses to go with our tea, so here goes:

Contestant Number # 1 : Valley Shepherd's Nettlesome - Sheep and cow's milk combine to make this fabulous tomme. Hailing from our neighboring state of New Jersey, this semi-firm cheese is infused with stinging nettles lending itself to an aromatic, grassy, herbal mouthful! Creamy yet vegetal, a great marriage of two such opposing flavors! Will it be the right marriage for our green tea?

Contestant Number # 2: Coach Farm's Green Peppercorn Cone - Returning to the great state of New York, this aged goat's milk cheese is crafted just two hours away from New York City, in the Hudson Valley. A small bloomy rind cone dotted with piquant green peppercorns, it is fresh and lactic with that nice tang of an aged goat's milk cheese but with the added spice of the peppercorns which cut the creaminess of the cheese. A change up from many pepper infused cheeses that are made with black peppercorns, this is made with green -- allowing it to stand out from the crowd! Does it have what it takes to stand out enough for this week's pairing?

Contestant Number # 3: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze - Moving west to California, our final contestant shares a similarity with our second -- it is made out of goat's milk. Younger than contestant number two is our final contestant, it is that perfect coat the roof of your mouth sort of cheese...infused with lavender and fennel pollen. It has a fantastic floral herbal richness to it while maintaining a nice balance between sweet, savory, aromatic and tangy. Does it have what it takes?

Find out tomorrow...meanwhile go grab a cup of green tea.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day Two Fifty - Cheeses for a Sunday movie night

Gosh I can't believe its Sunday already, the weekend just flew by, that's for sure!

Tonight I'm heading over to a girlfriend's for a low-key movie night and some yummy nibbles -- hummus and carrots, grapes, and some cheese and crackers. My friend informed me she had some chevre and brie, so what did I decide to bring to add to our cheese selection?

Although I had ideas of other softer cheeses, I knew we needed something hard and something blue for the reminder or our cheeses. Therefore, I strolled into Fairway this lovely autumnal Sunday afternoon and picked up:

1. Ubriacone - Meaning the great big drunk, this Italian raw cow's milk cheese is delectable! It is bathed in red wine much like say a Drunken Goat, but what differs here is that although with bathing in red wine, it is also inoculated with red wine throughout the interior paste much like a blue cheese is with penicillium roqueforti. It is firm yet moist with a smoothness to it -- full of winey notes and great for a movie night in with friends!

2. Australian Roaring Forties - My favorite Australian cheese, this pasteurized cow's milk cheese is imported from halfway around the world and boy is it worth it. Made by King Island Dairy, the name references the epic winds felt near King Island, south of Melbourne. This is not a blue cheese for the faint of heart, it sure is full flavored! Its aged in blue wax which allows the cheese to retain its moisture and encourages its fantastically creamy texture -- a real winner if you ask me!

Enjoy your Sunday everyone!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day Two Forty Nine - Tuna Melts - The Final Version

Whoops, I think I pressed published by accident folks, so here's the final version...While at lunch today with a friend who ordered a tuna melt, I got to thinking about the sandwich; what it means to American society, it's history, why it is so classic and of course what cheese is best with it.

If you break down a tuna melt, what is it basically?

Two pieces of toasted bread (the type is up to you)
Tuna fish salad traditionally made with mayo
Cheese (Tradionally Cheddar, Swiss or American)
Optional : Lettuce / Tomato on the side

This is quintessential American diner food, excellent with a large plate of French fries and a milkshake. It's easy to make, cheap, not always that easy to eat, but the potentiality of messiness is some of it's appeal. You find it in offered in big cities, small towns, in hole in the wall joints and sports bars and of course diners, you name it, the tuna melt has large percentage chance of being there. There's something bizarrely homey and comforting about it, I can't really fully explain it, but it's got that certain "je ne sais quoi" comfort appeal just like wearing your boufriend's worn in sweatshirt has, if that makes any sense.

So why not play off a recent challenge on the television show, "The Next Iron Chef" and well maybe not make an Iron Chef worthy tuna melt but dress it up a bit by suggesting a few other cheeses that could be excellent on top of your tuna.

The key for thinking about cheeses is to use here is two things:

1. They need to be semi firm to firm cheeses to achieve the right meltability over the tuna.
2. They need to enhance the flavors of the tuna but not overpower them.
3. Keeping with the ease of accessibility, you need to be able to walk into a Fairway to buy these, maybe not a D'Agostino's but basically you need to not have to go to a speciality cheese shop.

So what are my cheese suggestions? I am only going to give you three so as to not over burden you with countless options!

Option Number #1 : Petit Basque - The quintessential French alpine style cheese made with pasteurized sheep's milk and only aged for 70 days. During the curd production process, the small pound cylinder is covered in a thin brown rind. It is just the right amount of buttery smoothness with a nutty mountainy goodness. The Petit Basque although straightforward has some excellent sheep-y nuances that will pair wonderfully with the rest of the sandwich.

Option Number # 2 : Boerenkaas 2 year aged Gouda - Holland?  Of course! This two year old Gouda is nothing like the red wax kind -- it is firm, caramelly, butterscotchy, even hazelnutty and all around scrumptious. Made with raw milk and pressed into thirty-six pound wheels, it is perfect with a tall mug of beer.

Option Number # 3 : Drunken Goat - A semi-firm goat's milk cheese that is cured in red wine. The result? A very pale ivory interior paste and a violet burgundy exterior hue. It is silky smooth with a nice faint fruity sweetness. The cheese's fruity silkiness is perfect with the rest of the sandwich.

So next time you want something cozy and warming, think of making yourself a tuna melt, it will bring back fond memories of childhood and riding bikes and a time when life was simpler.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day Two Forty Eight - Mediterranean Tofu-tastic GCF

Tofu is not everyone's favorite grilled cheese ingredient that's for sure, but I sure love it. It's high in protein which for those of us who don't eat meat is a good thing! It's production is actually somewhat similar to cheese shockingly enough....It is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the developed curds into soft white blocks of bean curdy goodness! Quite bland on its own, when combined with seasonings, aromatics, and other ingredients, it becomes quite tasty if you ask me!

So what are we doing with tofu this week? Well folks I thought we would utilize one of the cheeses from last night's cheese class in our sandwich and pair them together with some veggies and a few other yumtastic ingredients.

The cheese I thought we would use is Battenkill Brebis made by 3 Corner Field Farm in Shushan, NY. It is an American sheep's milk tomme style cheese aged for four to six months. Smooth, simple, grassy and buttery, this is an ideal melting cheese!

For this week's GCF, I recommend using some nice green olive bread. Layer some of the Battenkill Brebis on the bread first off. Place this to the side.

There are many different types of tofu, firm, extra firm, soft, already prepared and not. For this week let's use the extra firm so it holds up to your cooking procedures. Heat up a skillet with some olive oil, a little soy sauce and a half a diced shallot. Carefully slice 1/4 inch thick slices of tofu and top each with some fresh thyme and parsley and place in the skillet over low heat and cover, cook for four minutes on each side and flip. Cook till golden brown. Remove your tofu and add it on top of the cheese. Next top that with some sundried tomatoes and a few capers. Lastly add a few leaves of mixed greens. Then on the other side of the bread put some Maille Mustard and some EVOO and toast away!

Enjoy this savory protein rich Mediterranean tofu GCF.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day Two Forty Seven - A Recap of Tonight's Cheese for Charity Harvest Wine and Cheese

Tonight, a small group of us met for the last in a series of cheese for charity events to raise money for my marathon charity, Free Arts. Free Arts provides underprivileged, homeless, and abused children the opportunity to express themselves through artistic means. If you couldn't make tonight's class and want to support the fantastic cause and help me reach my goal, you can donate here:

So, are you on the edge of your seat wondering what we had? Well fret not, let me get going:

Pairing Number # 1 - Ravines Keuka White Wine, Finger Lakes, NY and Lazy Lady's La Petit Tomme, Westfield VT : Our first pairing is an ode to French wine and cheesemaking practices. The wine is made with 80 % Cayuga, NYC native grape, and 20% Viognoles. Made by an originally French winemaker who has since settled in upstate New York, you get a fantastic marriage of new world and old world winemaking styles here.

Lazy Lady's La Petit Tomme is an excellent option with our white -- our ode to the remaining warm sunny moments in mid October. La Petit Tomme is a bloomy rind goat's milk camembert style cheese made by Laini, the proprietress of Lazy Lady farm. Laini has been in the farming industry her entire life, moving East from Indiana and has some of the most sustainable practices of any cheese farm I know. Her farm is completely solar and wind powered, think about that carbon footprint! The cheese is really special -- musty, barnyardy, and farmy yet maintaining that crisp light hay feeling of goat's milk, truly spectacular! Laini and Lazy Lady Farm truly pioneered goat's milk cheese production in Vermont, so definitely check out their cheeses next time you get a chance!

Pairing Number # 2: Lieb Bridge Lane Cab Franc 2008, Mattituck, NY & 3 Corner Field Farm Battenkill Brebis (Shushan, NY) :

Cab Franc is the classic Long Island wine grape and boy does Lieb do a good job with it. Only 607 cases produced, this is a delish red wine, straddling that line between light reds that can be served chilled and heavier bodied reds that aught to be drank on colder evenings. I think this wine is great not just for its taste range but for its scent range...

This is paired with 3 Corner Field Farm's Battenkill Brebis. 3 Corner Farm is also a pioneer in the cheesemaking world -- completely self sustaining this strictly sheep farm sells cheese, lamb's wool, meat, milk, yogurt and pretty much anything sheep related! Battenkill Brebis is named for the farm's location, in Battenkill River Valley, at the base of the Green Mountains near the border of New York and Vermont. This is an American take on a classic sheep's milk tomme. You might be thinking, well why did she choose this cheese as a harvest cheese? That's because this is a cheese that is at its peak after being aged for six months which is right around this time. Younger, it simply does not have much depth and older it becomes looses its nuanced vocabulary in favor of crumbly caramelly flavors. Battenkill at this age, is a great example of the smooth grassy buttery-ness of a great sheep's milk tomme and it is perfect with this wine.

Pairing Number #3: Eve's Cidery Bittersweet Cider, Ithaca, NY + Valley Shepherd's Octoberkase, Long Valley, NJ :

Cider in a wine and cheese class you are probably thinking? Well apple picking is such a symbol of Fall that I thought I had to pay homage to it and I chose to do it in the form of Eve's Bittersweet. This cider is made with a blend of over twenty different types of English, French, and American apples. This cider is obviously named after the style of apple -- bittersweet and it is the ideal sort of cider making apple. Why? That's because of its thick bitter skin and the interior is not overly juicy. The cider however is the perfect blend of sweetness and puckery-ness. Double fermented -- once out of the bottle, once in the bottle, it sure has a nice sparkle to it!

It is great with Valley Shepherd's Octoberkase, made with last year's October milk from Valley Shepherd's sheep. In case you didn't know October is the last month that sheep are utilized for milking purposes before the winter and therefore the milk is the heaviest at this time of year. So I thought it'd be fun to try last year's October milk! It is dense and buttery and rich but just spectacular with the light fancifulness of the cider, a true delight!

Pairing #4 : Ommegang's Three Philosophers, Cooperstown, NY + Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen Blue, Greensboro, VT :

Three Philosophers is a fantastic marriage of two different Belgian beer making styles -- a quadrupel and a kriek. A quadrupel is a strong seasonal beer, traditionally at 10% ABV or above and a kriek is a sour cherry lambic. In case you don't know what a lambic is produced by spontaneous fermentation unlike other styles of beer that are produced by brewer's yeasts and the such. 98% malty ale with a 2% hint of Kriek Lambic, this spells Fall to me in a beer, granted a little more subtly than a pumpkin ale which I feel overpower cheese traditionally.

This is paired with one of my favorite Northeastern blues, Bayley Hazen made by the brothers behind Jasper Hill in Vermont. A natural rind blue cheese, it is made with morning milk which is lower in fat and therefore produces a drier paste than other cheeses produced with non-morning milk. Aged for between four and six months, this is the perfect cheese for our Three Philosophers.

Now you can go out and buy what we had tonight and enjoy it in your own home! Maybe go buy a pumpkin as well and decorate it while enjoying one of our fantastic pairings.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day Two Forty Six - Fast Easy Fresh Dinner for One - Health Benefits First!

Continuing in my series of fast easy fresh dinners for one, I thought I'd share with you all the simple and delish dinner I plan on making tonight.

Tonight's dinner will feature Fairway's tomato couscous which I like to cook in a simple rice style however with less water than normal and as the water is decreasing, I add some diced shallots and EVOO and some fresh rosemary. In another sauce pot, steam some broccoli. Once the couscous and the broccoli are done. Slice off the floret ends of the broccoli.  In the process of doing so, hopefully you will realize that the broccoli actually when sliced down so far looks somewhat similar to the couscous which the effect you are going for. The broccoli will add a nice textural mixup and a great health boost!

In case you aren't familiar, here's why broccoli is so good for you:

It is high in the following nutrients, minerals, and vitamins:

1. Vitamin C
2. Folic Acid
3. Potassium
4. Fiber
5. Beta-carotene
6. Vitamin A

and also helps combat the following:

Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, calcium deficiencies, stomach and colon cancer, malignant tumors, lung cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and even the aging process.

So that added textural mixup will definitely help you maintain your health! Now that you've got a bowl of tomato couscous and broccoli, what's next?

Next up is to take some roasted almonds and slice them up. Almonds are also quite good for you! They pack a lot of vitamin E and a nice dosage of "good" fats. To add to the almonds, dice up some fresh heirloom tomatoes so that the tomato presence is felt throughout the couscous. Following the tomatoes is some fresh basil. I then like to add some sauteed tofu (if you don't like tofu, please don't feel that you have to include it, but it is high in protein and when you are running as much as I am, you need a protein rich diet!). Mix this all together with some Provencal olive oil found at the Filling Station in Chelsea Market or if you are not in NYC, some olive oil with some Provencal herbs added. And now top the entire thing with a nice generous helping of grated Asiago with Rosemary and Olive Oil (found at Trader Joe's).

Enjoy your healthy delish dinner folks, I know I will!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day Two Forty Five - Results

Well folks it sure has been an eventful day for me, thankfully all the minor hiccups have been resolved! And without further ado, let's get to those results right?

Contestant Number #1 - Fondue : Unfortunately this fantastic melted bowl of goodness is not this week's winner, why you may ask? Well that's because even though the curds have such an ease of meltability, they do not function as successfully when combined with other cheeses in a dip or fondue setting. Should the curds be combined with other cheeses, it is best to do so in the form of a sauce for a pasta dish such as mac n' cheese, so that it has a form of carb absorption.

Contestant Number #3 - Pizza : This was an easy no as well, however again, you might ask why. You must think, if she just told me that curds when melted could potentially work with other cheeses with the backdrop of a carb, why wouldn't they work with a pizza crust and in this case, my honest response is that white cheddar curds or cheese curds in general do not meld with tomato sauce in terms of the nuances of each's flavor profile. So then you might say, why couldn't you utilize other toppings for the pizza? Yes you definitely could but if you ask me, the best usage of cheese curds is in baking which brings us to why contestant number two has won this week.

Contestant Number #2 - Muffins : Our winner this week because as previously mentioned the best use of cheese curds is in baking -- easy to blend in with a bread or muffin batter and when baked, you will get multiple cheesy morsels of goodness in every bite, each more concentrated than say grating cheese into a batter; this way you won't get hints of cheese but it will be a more forward cheese presence. With that let's get to the recipe for this week!

Two Cheddar Dill Chive Muffins

3 eggs
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of gluten free flour (This will make the muffins gummier and chewier!)
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/3 cup of EVOO
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1 8oz bag of white cheddar dill cheese curds
1/2 lb of Grafton village 1 year aged cheddar
2 tablespoons dices chives
Black pepper
Crushed Red Pepper

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine dry ingredients, herbs, salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Combine wet ingredients with curds and 2/3rds of the grated Grafton. Now whisk everything together and place in muffin tins, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of each muffin and place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Upon taking a bite, you will get the young creamy punch of the curds with the nutty firm notes of the aged Cheddar!

As promised, another curdy idea could be making a white cheddar dill cheese polenta with Rosemary and thyme and topped with mixed mushrooms and wilted arugula. I tend to be a little lazy and do buy the Roland polenta cornmeal mixture which is easily cooked in a decently sized sauce pot with some water, EVOO, the herbs I mentioned, of course the curds and some garlic. Cook over lowheat until polenta thickens. While the polenta is cooking, dice up a nice melody of mushrooms and sauté with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little mustard, some red wine, shallots and oregano. For the wilted arugula, you need to just throw it in a pan with some EVOO for about three minutes. Once everything is finished, place a nice large spoonful of polenta in a bowl, top with some wilted arugula, sauteed mushrooms, and slivers of Parmesan and now you have a delish dinner!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day Two Forty Four - White Cheddar Dill Cheese Curds Marriage Mondays

Wow what a mouthful right? Your next thought is why did she choose that specific item? Well that's because I had the pleasure of enjoying some of these particular curds courtesy of my significant other -- he purchased a little bag of the curds at the mercantile mart near the Arch in St Louis produced by Osceola Cheese Company in Osceola, MO.

What is a cheese curd you may ask?

A cheese curd is basically unformed cheese -- composed of milk, enzymes, salt, and in our case here, garlic and dill. Cheddaring refers to the stacking of curds to eliminate excess liquid and water from the cheese, giving it that classic cheddar taste. Therefore, cheese curds are strictly young unformed cheese -- great for baking purposes, melting, and more!

So why choose this specific cheese product this week? Because it will be fun to learn ways in which one can cook with cheese curds. Therefore this week's contestants will be three different scenarios for cooking with these cheese curds and tomorrow you will learn the best usage for white cheddar cheese curds with an accompanying recipe.

Let's get going!

Contestant Number #1 - Fondue : The classic preparation of heated cheeses, melted in a small metal crockpot, a melody of cheeses are combined to be a fantastically creamy dip for breads, veggies, meats and more. A great dish for sharing with a group with some red wine on a chilly winter afternoon. Will our curds be found in this wintery dish?

Contestant Number #2 - Muffins: Who doesn't love the fluffy traditionally breakfasty item -- found in sweet and savory variations, each delish in it's own way. Can our dear curds be the new best savory option?

Contestant Number # 3 - Pizza : Tomato sauce, cheese, and crust -- the classic originally Italian dish is now found worldwide with countless local and national variations -- whether it's a Chicago deepdish or the crunchy thin crust Roman style or Jim Lahey's no-knead style, you name it, you can find it in pizza form. But will the curds work when melted as a pizza topping? Wait till tomorrow to find out!!!

You may think, gosh she choose three strictly simple items here but that is the point because in my mind there is a clear winner and why not keep simple products with simple preparations this week?

I will also give you a "dressed up" curd recipe too - a great mixture of options with cheese curds!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Forty Three - The Actual cheese at the wedding

Yesterday's wedding was lovely, complete with a cocktail hour over looking St Louis' Forest Park at sunset, some great speeches, an improptu surprise song, a beautiful and simple church service and one very happy bride and groom!! Guess what?!? There actually was a cheese at the wedding, granted accompanied by a salad but it was a pretty delish cheese preparation -- a Roquefort flan paired with candied pecans and mixed greens with a dried cherry dressing. The Roquefort flan appeared somewhat like a round of goat cheese but upon taking abide, you realize it was a light and airy ode to the French stinky blue cheese - Roquefort! Stinky and biting but not overly in your face as Roquefort can sometimes end up being for those who aren't the biggest blue cheese fans. It was a simple twist on a traditional blue cheese mixed green salad with just the right sort of special occasion element to it!

Overall a truly lovely celebration to honor the bond of these two friends!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Forty Two - A Wedding Cheese?

In a few hours time, we will be attending the wedding of one my oldest college friends to his college sweetheart here in St Louis, the reason for our cross country trip. So I got to thinking about weddings and cheese -- both for a large majority white; cheese even sometimes can share the creamy unctuous consistency of a cake. Although cheese is typically not a course per se at American weddings, what if it was?

What if you could feature cheese at your wedding, what sort of cheese would you have? Would if be your favorite go-to cheese or that one special cheese you treat yourself to on special occasions? Or maybe a local beauty or a cheese from the land of your heritage? What would you choose? That is if you choose to have a special cheese course at your wedding. In that respect, I suppose you could ask the same question about a variety of different foods that we all know and love and don't necessarily think of to include at one's wedding. However folks as we all know this isn't a blog about sushi or desserts or vegan cuisine, it's a blog about cheese.

So if I were to suggest a cheese that I think would be a fun, celebratory, and symbolic cheese for such a special occasion as a marriage, I would suggest a Californian -- Truffle Tremor, a soft rippened bloomy rind goat milk cheese infused with black truffle. Why you may ask? Truffle Tremor is a young-ish cheese, aged for under three months. In a way the youth of the cheese, with somewhat of a history mirrors a relationship on the brink of marriage - young with a bit of history behind it. Of course the truffles signify the necessary decadence of such a momentous occasion. And lastly personally goat's milk cheeses are my favorite, so of course I'd suggest one here. But apart from playing favorites, I think the lightness of a goat's milk cheese is the perfect cheese addition to an already planned three course meal. Would Truffle Tremor be my only choice? No but I think it is a great option!!!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Day Two Forty One - A St Louis GCF

While on our walking tour of St Louis today we stopped for a small bite and a drink at John D McGurk's, an Irish bar that according my companion was voted top fifty bars by Esquire magazine. We bet once we got there that the reasoning behind that was the fact that you could order cigars from the menu -- how frequently do you see that intermingled with beers, wines, whiskeys, cocktails and more? Not so often, right?!?

Well that being said the salad I had was quite tasty especially with the addition of the Gusiness sauteed onions and mushrooms, so I thought, why not use those in this week's ode to St Louis GCF. With the mushrooms and onions, you need to use some Provel Rope cheese, a cheese I've never heard of but upon tasting imagine it's quite close to a processed sort of Provolone cheese. Next up you need some of the fantastic tomato bread from Joe Fazio Bakery available for sale at Soulard farmer's market. This bread is to die for -- it just melts in your mouth, truly homemade. So take a few slices of bread, put your cheese and beer sauteed onions and mushrooms in between and grill away. You have to enjoy this with an O'falans or a Bud, both hometown breweries. This sure is a beer town!!!

Check back tomorrow for more Midwestern adventures!

Day Two hundred and Forty- 33 Wine, St Louis, and more a tad late

I apologize for the late post, but after getting in late to St Louis, time got away from me, but fret not folks, catch up time is here!!

Certainly feels like it's not October here in St Louis, feels more like late August meaning that we were able to walk from one end of the city to another... A farmer's market, plenty of local shops and eateries were on the itinerary that's for sure. But the place that stood out most for me was 33 wine - a tasting bar and wine shop. We settled in for a nice glass of wine, a Kabinett Riesling for my companion and significant other and a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir for me. We decided to get some cheese with our wine and ordered some Capriole chevre. Hailing from Indiana, this is a cheese that could definitely tango with some of the best French goat's milk cheeses - light, lactic, grassy and classically goaty, this cheese brings a smile to your face. The other cheese we got I had never had-- it's entitled Moray and is from
Wisconsin. Modeled on the French Morbier, this cheese was a layer of sheep's milk cheese and a layer of goat's milk cheese separated by grape vine ash. Certainly completely different than it's inspiration which is creamy and unctuous, this cheese was firm with a rustic barnyardy flair, true American cheesemaking sung through here!!! Too bad there was no
Missouri cheese available for tasting with a glass of wine but these two Mid West cheeses certainly showed us what this region can do!

If you are ever in St Louis, it's worth a visit to 33 wine, with over one hundred and fifty wines and close to the same number of beers, you can always be excited by something new, whether you drink it there or in the comfort of your own home or in our case, hotel room.

33 Wine
1913 Park Ave.
St Louis, Mo

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day Two Thirty Nine : Fast, Easy, Fresh Recap of Last Night's Dinner

I've discovered a new favorite green, purslane. Have you ever had it? It's considered a weed with reddish stalks, rounded small green leaves, and yellow flowers. When raw it has a salty almost bitter flavor but when lightly sauteed, its flavors open up and it is delish. It is also really good for you -- packing the highest amount of Omega 3s of any green; it also is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A and C.

So what did I do with purslane for my fast, easy, fresh dinner for one last night? I made a warm salad of course with my fav, quinoa. But I think that this would be better paired with rice as opposed to the quinoa...

Let's first start with the necessary ingredients and go from there -

One large zucchini
One bunch of Purslane
Half dozen baby carrots
Half dozen baby bella mushrooms
Half of a red pepper
One clove of garlic
Half a shallot
1/4 lb of French Feta
EVOO of course
Quinoa (I am a huge fan of quinoa and tend to eat on an almost nightly basis, but I think a nice wild rice would also work here excellently.)
Shavings of Valley Shepherd's Tewksbury to top the dish.

Chop up all the veggies, the aromatics, and the purslane and toss into a saute pan with the EVOO, some salt and black pepper and maybe a little dash of cooking white wine. Cover the saute pan and cook over low heat till the veggies seem done, give or take ten minutes. Just as the veggies seem like they are reaching doneness, add your crumbled French feta. Pull off the stove and place your warm salad on top of a bed of wild rice, instead of my quinoa and top with some shavings of Valley Shepherd's Tewksbury or if you do not have access, a nice aged nutty Comte will be a decent stand in. A delish simple meal that will be filling and satisfying and good for you to boot!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day Two Thirty Eight - Truffle Results

It's that time again! Results time!
Let's cut to the chase!

This week for me, there is one clear winner, a decent pick and one clear looser...any ideas which is which?

Contestant Number # 1 : Prosecco - Our sparkling contestant sure is fabulously bubbly and delish, a great treat! Like putting on a pair of stilettos and that little black dress.. Pairing this with our Pecorino Tartufo will be a decent match but I think the sparkling will "dress up" the cheese in a way that we don't necessarily want. Just because our cheese has some dressy elements, doesn't mean it's all around dressy! There is something quite special about the inherent marriage found in the cheese of high and low -- a centuries old pressed sheep's milk cheese, a simple classic way of cheese making is paired with the aromatic black truffles, a more indulgent addition. That being said, there is nothing wrong with enjoying this cheese with a glass of Prosecco, they just won't be the ideal companions, fine yes, ideal no.

Contestant Number # 2 : Oktoberfest - Here's where I tricked you folks...Oktoberfest beer would be great with a nice aged Pecorino, hold the Tartufo. Why you may ask? Well that's because the nutty maltiness of the beer will overwhelm the truffles and it will become all about the beer and not about the delicate nuances of the shaved black truffles and the creaminess of the cheese. However, try some Oktoberfest with a nice Pecorino and you will be pleased.

Contestant Number # 3 : Zinfandel - Therefore by deduction, contestant number three is our winner -- it is not too dressed up for our cheese nor does it take the reins and overwhelm the nuances of our dear Pecorino Tartufo. The black pepper and herbal notes will work in excellent harmony with the earthiness of the black truffles and the red fruit notes will be the a great marriage for the smooth creaminess of the cheese paste. All around a great match!

Now on to this week's recipe idea with the Pecorino Tartufo! It is a simple Pecorino Tartufo, mixed mushroom, orzo dish, great with a glass of Zinfandel for a slightly chilly early Fall evening.

Start by boiling a salted pot of water for the orzo. While the water is boiling and the orzo is cooking, grab a dozen portobellos, a dozen crimini, and a dozen porcini mushrooms and slice these up. Toss them into a sauce pan with some extra virgin olive oil, diced shallots, salt, freshly ground black pepper, fresh thyme and rosemary, and some dry vermouth. Saute over low heat till golden brown. Once the orzo is finished, combine the mushrooms and the orzo over low heat and slowly shave a little bit of Pecorino Tartufo into the dish with a little more evoo, melting the cheese and melding the flavors together. Serve the dish with a few sprigs of basil and a few leaves of arugula and some extra shavings of Pecorino Tartufo. I guarantee you will enjoy this earthy, woody, Fall-y dish.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day Two Thirty Seven : Pecorino Tartufo Marriage Mondays

Yes, I'm going a bit more obscure today but I thought why not, reading my blog is about learning about what to do with cheese and sometimes it sure is nice to treat oneself, right?? I view an indulgence in a truffle infused cheese as one of those nice little treats, nothing you have to feel super duper guilty about the next day. There are quite a few different cheesemakers that insert of black truffle shavings into their cheeses to dress up their creamy product, making it more aromatic and earthy.

For today's blog post, I thought we would adopt Pecorino Tartufo, an Umbrian pressed sheep's milk cheese. Many of you are familiar with the buttery creamy nuttiness of a classically delish Pecorino and for this cheese imagine that coupled with the excellence of black truffle shavings. Semi firm with a fantastic melt in your mouth sort of consistency this is a cheese that is well rounded and smooth with that certain "je ne sais quoi" to stand out in a crowd. Great to dress up a cheese plate -- elementary and advanced cheese lovers alike will enjoy this cheese, that's for sure!

Image courtesy of

I debated for a little while whether today's contestants should be beverages or foods and I decided, let's go with beverages and then I will suggest a nice recipe as well tomorrow after our results!

Contestant Number # 1: Prosecco - Italy's classic bubbly option, more economical than a bottle of champagne, but just as celebratory if you ask me! Traditionally this is a dry sparkling wine made from a grape varietal known as Glera, found in the Veneto region. What could be better than some bubbly and a truffle cheese right? Does that spell New Year's or a special occasion to you? Certainly does to me! Will it be the right celebration for our Pecorino Tartufo this week or should you save it?

Contestant Number # 2: Oktoberfest - Yes also the name of a huge beer drinking festival in Germany that takes place yearly from mid September through early October; this is also a seasonal lager style beer. Originating in 1872 by the then brewer of Spaten beers, Josef Sedlmayr, it is modeled on the traditional Vienna style lagers of the time. Now, Oktoberfest beers are made up of at least 20 % Vienna or Munich malts and malt is certainly the shining star of the beverage, so enjoy it! Bready, nutty and satisfying, this is not an overly heavy beer but sure announces its presence upon scent. Will the nuttiness of the beer be the perfect counterpart to the aromatics of the Pecorino Tartufo?

Contestant Number # 3: Zinfandel - Thought to be the classic American red wine grape, this grape actually originates from the Eastern European country of Croatia. That being said, now this warm weather growing grape is found throughout California. Traditionally meant to be drank young, Zins tend to be dry to medium bodied wines with a fantastic breadth of flavors to them. Yes they are very fruit forward, specifically with an emphasis on dark red fruits -- blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries. However you will find nice black pepper, clove, and herbal notes as well. I wonder will these nuances be the ticket for our cheese?

Stay tuned to find out tomorrow.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day Two Thirty Six : Valley Shepherd Creamery's new Shop

Valley Shepherd probably sounds familiar from my musings and suggestions over my posts, right? That's because up until a few weeks ago, you could only find their cheese at farmer's markets around town; but when you did found them, it was worth remembering them. Now, you won't have to search high and wide for their cheeses -- Valley Shepherd is the first creamery to open a storefront in New York. Based in Morris County, NJ, their new cheese shop on Sullivan Street houses all of their hand crafted and lovingly produced cheeses.

A gem of a shop, it is definitely worth the trip!

I'm sure you're wondering so what do they have? Only cheese? Other artisanal produce?

Well folks -- they have some yogurts, butters, milks, and pastas along with an olive oil and a vinegar and then a few crackers available for purchase with your cheeses. This is not a shop about the other items, it is strictly a shop that is about the cheese that's for sure.

A simple cheese case is stacked on two full shelves with all of their selections.

I tried quite a few of their small production cheeses and ended up buying a small sliver of their Tewksbury -- a mixture of raw sheep and cow's milk in a comte style aged for over one year. It is fantastically creamy but not buttery or heavy with a nice bright grassy sweetness and an herbal tang. Truly a smashing version of a Comte!

I made a list of definitely three more cheeses I'd want to go back and get another time. These are artisanal cheeses made with love and care and transported directly to you, the consumer. I think little neighborhood store fronts like this are so great -- its quintessential Old World New York when those mom and pop shops were everywhere.

Valley Shepherd Creamery
97 Sullivan Street
Open Tuesdays to Sundays

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Thirty Five - A New Cheese Discovery

Today, after a nice long run, I discovered a new cheese made by Bobolink, a creamery located in New Jersey. Bobolink always has a farm stand at the Thursday and Saturday Upper West Side farmer's market. The cool thing about Bobolink is that they have homemade breads and hand crafted cheeses all under one roof -- your one stop shop!

I have tried a variety of their raw cow's milk cheeses before -- each unique, rustic, definitely homemade and supremely fabulous. Today, I decided to try their Frolic -- New Jersey's answer to an Alpine style cheese. Boy is it fabulous - sweet, creamy, grassy and really dynamic -- multi dimensional in a simple yet complicated manner.

This cheese was truly perfect featured on their cranberry walnut breadstick or on it's own! It is not the sort of cheese I'd want to combine with two many different items because it surely should be the star of the show!

Next time you have the chance, grab some Frolic from Bobolink creamery's tent at the Tucker Square Farmer's Market on Thursdays or Saturdays, it will make you want to frolic all around the streets of Manhattan!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day Two Hundred and Thirty Four - Happy October GCF!

October means that Fall is on the horizon and it is just in time for cooler nights, hot mugs of mulled cider, roasted chestnuts on the street corners, and plenty of time for lingering over bubbling pots of fondue, the quintessential fall and winter sharing dish. So I thought for today's GCF, I'd keep things simple and suggest a grilled cheese that hopefully will give you the same sort of warm fuzzy comforting feeling.

Full of cheesy goodness with a nice crunch and a few slices of McIntosh apple and some slivers of red onion, this will be a nice Harvest GCF. Taking the classic Gruyere, Appenzeller, Emmental traditionally found in fondue, you will incorporate all three into this sandwich. The three cheeses will be placed between the bread pieces with the McIntosh apple slices and red onion. This also needs a little drizzle of honey and some apple cider vinegar. It will then be topped by a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and a few sliced red grapes. Once baked in the oven, this will be a fantastically delish cheesy morsel of goodness packed full of Fall's Harvest quintessential apple, the McIntosh, some fresh red grapes, and aromatics of course!

Enjoy this with a nice glass of local sparkling cider and ponder the idea of going apple picking, maybe this is the fall to finally do it! A celebration of apples, cheese and more for the end of this rainy week!!

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