Tag Archives: cheese

Eulogy at a cheese party

13 Apr

So we had a wine a cheese party last Friday night and sadly there was cheese left over. And while we mourn the casualties, they will be used in a delightful indulgent mac and cheese. So the admission for this event was to bring a bottle of wine or a hunk of cheese. Well, most of the guest decided to bring both and with only 11 people in attendance we had plenty left over.

The truth is that all cheese makes make good mac and cheese. I know what you’re thinking, no way can all cheese make good mac and cheese. But it’s true! Ok so for example, the leftovers from the party were delice de bourgogne, piave, fontina, auricchio, and adams reserve cheddar. It’s an odd mix to say the least, but be assured that it is delicious.

The recipe is one of ratios and balancing flavor, salt and fattiness. As long as you have leftover cheese you can make this dish, and yes you can use blue cheese.

Last Rights Mac and Cheese

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
2-4 cups leftover cheese, crumbled or shredded
1 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter and oil together and add the flour. Wisk in the flour and slowly add the half and half. When the half and half thickens, wisk in the milk. Add the cheeses in slowly letting each addition melt into the sauce before adding in the next amount. When the cheese is completely incorporated taste it and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Pour over the pasta and toss to combine. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until it’s brown and bubbly on top.

Enjoy your leftovers…

Always thinking of the next meal,


Mozzarella Pulling

24 Jan

Recently, I’ve been posting in a lot of places that I’ve been doing a few demos on how to pull mozzarella. I’ve gotten a bit of interest from some of my friends and followers on how to do this. The thing is, it’s a lot easier to show than to tell, but I’ll do my best.

Here are the 89 easy steps to making mozzarella in your own home.

Just kidding, it only takes 6 steps.

Here we go, step 1: Gather your mise en place.

2 large bowls, one for the hot water and one filled with ice water
plastic tubs or plastic wrap
rubber gloves, if your hands don’t tolerate hot water well
1+ lbs mozzarella curds, cut into approximately 1 inch pieces
1 gallon water, heated to 180 degrees
5.5 oz kosher salt

Step 2: Dissolve the salt

Add the salt to the hot water and stir until the salt has dissolved.

Step 3: Add the curds to the hot water

Add the cut curds to the water and walk away. I’m telling you, walk away. Let the curds heat up gently. If you play with them too much you’ll wind up pressing, or squeezing too much of the whey out of the curds. The resulting cheese will be dry and stringy. So really, walk away. After 5-8 minutes, re-approach and start step 4.

Step 4: Start pulling

The “pulling” in this step is a bit of a misnomer. It’s really more of a gentle stretch. This is also the step that is easier to show than to tell, but here goes nothing. When the curds have become very pliable and start to look like silly putty, you want to pull a portion off the main group and start to gently press any lumps that you see into the smooth mass. stretch the cheese until very few lumps remain. Then knead the cheese into itself and form a ball. You want the top of the cheese to look smooth and free of any air bubbles. Once you’ve achieved your desired shape, move to step 5.

Step 5: Chill the cheese

Drop the formed cheese into the ice bath and allow to chill for 10 minutes. The cheese will feel as firm as the curds felt before you put the in the hot water. If you take the balls out before they are properly chilled they will sag and become like cheese disks rather than balls of mozzarella.

Step 6: Eat!

As soon as the cheese is chilled you can eat it. If you can’t eat it all right away, store it in the fridge covered in either plastic wrap, or submerged in some of the water that the cheese was chilled in. Whatever you choose, the important thing is to keep oxygen out.

Give this a try. It’s really like therapy. When you make something from scratch it gives you a whole new appreciation for it. Oh, and if you can’t find mozzarella curds, you can make the curds on your own, but it takes 5 gallons of milk to make 1 pound of mozzarella, so that’s a lot of milk and time that most of us just don’t have.

Always thinking of the next meal


Would you like a little cheese with that wine?

10 Jan

cheeseWe love having friends over. But we especially love having friends over that love cheese. It’s really fun to do a wine and cheese party because there is virtually no work involved. Just purchase and plate.

I love simple, clean entertaining. Our friends were due to arrive around 7:30 which put the party in the dinner hour. If you are having a cheese party a little later, say around 8:30 or earlier, for cocktails, you could omit the rest of the menu, but I wanted to make sure there was enough to eat and that there were plenty of accompaniments for the cheeses.

So here’s the official menu:

Cheese Tray: (clockwise from the top) Mahon, piccoline olives, cave aged gruyere, danish blue, feta with honey and cinnamon, and cabrales

Charcuterie Tray: Genoa salami, capicola, and duck prosciutto

Caprese Bruschetta

Rustic Apple Galette with Chantilly Cream

Yes, I realize that it might look a little intimidating, but actually it’s just a lot of fancy words for simple things. Let me explain.

The cheeses are kind of an odd combination. While my intent was to do all Spanish cheeses, I had a few in the fridge that I wanted to use up, and I picked up a few that I love without consideration for the theme. So here I was, with a mismatched combination, but it wound up working out fine. As for what the cheeses are; Mahon is a spanish cow’s milk cheese. It’s a washed-rind cheese that is washed with either olive oil or butter that is combined with a little bit of paprika for color. It tasted like an aged cheddar. It is slightly nutty and fruity with a salty bite and bit of grana (the salt crystals that combine with proteins to form crunchy bits in aged cheese.) Piccoline olive are small green olives from France that are a very fruity and pleasantly briny. Danish blue is a well known medium intensity blue that is mainly used as an ingredient. Cave Aged Gruyere is a Swiss style cheese made is France. It is nutty and fragrant. It has that wonderful tanginess that swiss cheeses bring to a party, but with a more mature finish. The feta is a French feta that is less briny than Greek fetas. Combined with cinnamon and honey, the cheese sings. It’s complimented well by the grapes and a few wheat crackers. Finally, the cabrales. Perhaps the most intense of the Spanish blues, cabrales is a cave-aged blue that can clear your sinuses if you’re not careful. While pungent, it still has a lovely smell that reminds me of Muscat grapes and honey. It can be mellowed with marcona almonds and honey.

The charcuterie plate is a fancy way of saying meats. With the exception of the duck prosciutto, the meats came from the deli counter. The duck is a specialty item that was well worth the trip to the Philadelphia Italian market. Fatty, and rich without the overly chewy quality that pork prosciutto can sometimes have.

The Caprese bruschetta was simple toasted crostini with mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil, and a balsamic reduction. Oh, and salt and pepper of course. I have to say they were a big hit because I only got one.

The Apple Crostata is a free form apple tart. I made my own crust, but you could absolutely use a frozen pie dough. Just peel and slice 2 apples, and toss with sugar and cinnamon. Lay the pie dough on a cookie sheet and pile the apples in the center leaving 2-3 inches around the side. Fold the edges in, pleating as needed. Brush the top of the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve at room temperature. To make the chantilly cream, whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, add in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and whip until stiff peaks form. Serve on the side of the cooled crostata.

Next time you entertain, keep this simple menu in mind. Everything can be prepared within an hour and the best part, it can also be cleaned up in about 15 minutes!

Always thinking of the next meal,


Halloween Party

1 Nov

IMG_0928Last night was Halloween and we decided to have a few friends over. I wanted to keep the menu simple since I knew that I didn’t want to have a million leftovers. From my experience, it seems that the more complicated the menu, the less people are inclined to eat. I’m not sure if the food seems inaccessible, or if they just don’t want to insult the hostess if they don’t like it. Seeing as it was Halloween, I wanted a menu that reflected the childish spirit of the holiday, but I wanted it to agree with our adult palettes. Here’s what we served:

Point Reyes Bleu Cheese with Black GrapesIMG_0922

Hot Capicola and Salami with Castelvetrano Olives and crostini

Asian Quesadillas with plum sauce and cilantro

Pigs in a blanket

Crudités with White bean pesto dip

Bacon, Roasted tomato and leek mac and cheese

Giant Chocolate Chips cookies (the recipe for these are posted in an earlier blog)

Oreo Cookies

Assorted Candies

Here are some of the recipes that I used:

IMG_0926White Bean Pesto Dip

1 can great white northern beans, rinsed
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

purée all ingredients in a food processor. Serve cold.

Asian Quesadillas

1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice
2 large tortillas
2 tablespoons plum sauce
1 tablespoon cilantro

Combine the cheese, chicken and 5 Spice. layer in between the tortillas. Bake in the oven at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until the tortillas are light brownIMG_0930 and crispy. Cut into wedges and drizzle with the plum sauce. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve hot.

Anytime is a great time to catch up with friends and when there’s good food to help you celebrate, it’s makes it that much sweeter. All of these dishes took about 2 hours total to make, so easily put together last minute. We had very few leftovers, which was definitely a good thing. We did have some extra cookies and candy, but well, those are the good kind of leftovers 🙂

I hope you give some of these recipes a try

Always thinking of the next meal, and party


Lettuce Entertain You

13 Oct

Ok so I’ve been hearing a lot of conversation about how lettuce has no nutritional value. Well the truth of the matter is that lettuce really doesn’t have that much nutritional value. It is a green leafy vegetable, so there are some nutrients. But, the lighter varieties like iceberg and romaine are further from the big nutritional ticket than say green leaf or arugula. Here’s the thing, people have no problem eating french fries and burgers and deep fried cheese,  but they are extremely picky when it comes to lettuce. Sure lettuce isn’t king when it comes to nutritional hierarchy, but it does carry a lot of water, and if nothing else a great base for salads.

IMG_0876Iceberg lettuce always get a bum wrap when it comes to salads. Oh it has no value, oh it’s like eating nothing. Well people, iceberg contributes one main thing to any salad it’s added to and that’s crunch. Sure romaine is crunchy, but nothing tops iceberg when it comes to crunch satisfaction. To the right is a picture of one of Ryan’s favorite salads, the wedge salad.

The wedge salad got started in the 50’s when iceberg was really the only lettuce in the game. It was a “wedge” from the head of iceberg, topped with tomatoes, nuts and other accompaniments. Iceberg was the only lettuce that was available to the general public and so really people just didn’t know that there were other lettuces available.

In the 70’s, with the produce revolt in California, people had to change their thinking on what lettuce meant. They started turning more unique lettuces. Unfortunately this was the temporary end of the wedge salad. But, as with most things, the wedge salad got another chance to shine. Today, you see this classic salad on the menu of trendy restaurants all over the country. Here’s my simple recipe

Wedge Salad

1/4 head of iceberg lettuce
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup cooked, crispy bacon
3 tablespoons bleu cheese dressing, bottled or homemade
1 tablespoon, bleu cheese crumbles

Always thinking of the next meal


The Zen of Risotto

7 Oct

IMG_0860I love risotto. It’s one of those dishes that requires love and patience. You have to stir and wait, and add liquid and stir, and wait some more (that’s why I call it the zen). It’s a labor of love that rewards you every time. But with that said, if you rush it you will be seriously disappointed.

The picture of the risotto to the right is a butternut squash risotto. You can really make a gorgeous risotto with almost any flavor, but I really like the butternut squash because it contributes a nice balance of sweet and savory. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

When making risotto you need three main ingredients, arborio rice, fat, and liquid. In most cases the liquid is stock and the fat is oil, but you can certainly use butter, duck fat, or bacon fat. I would stay away from grapeseed and soy oil simply because they don’t contribute much flavor to the end result. As far as the rice goes, risotto really isn’t risotto if you don’t use arborio rice. Arborio rice is a short starchy from Italy. If you use another type of rice the out come will be different. Here’s my recipe:

Butternut Squash Risotto

1/3 cup arborio rice
1 medium shallot, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (I used pinot grisio)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup puréed roasted butternut squash
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

So why am I not including the directions with the ingredients? Well like most of my other posts risotto is a technique. Here’s how you do it.

1. Heat up a sauce pan and add the fat

2. Add shallots or onions if you’re using them and sweat for 3-5 minutes

3. Add in the rice and stir to coat each grain

4. Add in the wine and stir

5. Continue to stir until the wine is almost completely absorbed

6. Add in the stock 2-4 ounces at a time allowing the rice to absorb each addition of liquid before adding the next

7. Once all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, add in the butternut squash and cheeses

8. Season and serve

Other great flavorings for risotto are shrimp, asparagus, and ham with gruyere. You can also switch out cheeses and try blue cheese and smoked goudas. Also try swirling in pesto or sun-dried tomatoes.

Always thinking of the next meal


Cheese glorious cheese

28 Sep

IMG_0049Cheese. It’s one of the most versatile foods that we have access to. It can be used in a salad, melted over chips, folded into an omelette, and even whipped into a cake. It can be eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack or dessert. It’s prized in Europe and becoming a huge trend in American cooking. Although cheese making has been  an artisan specialty for centuries, it has just recently become more popular and less mysterious.

Here’s a little background on how cheese got its start. Although there is no official stand on this, it is thought that cheese was discovered by accident. About 2000 years ago, sheep herder was out for a long walk with his sheep. As was the norm back then, he was carrying some of the sheep’s milk with him to sooth his thirst in the hot weather. In the middle of the day he was feeling particularly thirsty, and stopped to have a sip. He was surprised to find that his fresh sheep’s milk had turned into a thick creamy mass. What he had discovered was cheese. The vessel that he was using as a canteen was in fact, a sheep’s stomach. Sounds weird today, but it was an everyday thing 2000 years ago. The stomach contained the rennet that creates the separation of curds from whey.

If that’s how cheese was discovered, then how did we get the variety of cheeses that we have today? Well, it’s simple. Trial and error. People all over world played with their food and discovered fabulous variations of cheese. Different milks, different regions, different processes, different additives and flavor agents all add to the differences in cheese.

There are so many different types, but I want to talk to the Blues…

Blue cheese is one of the love it or hate it things. Most people either LOVE it or can’t stand it. But I think blue is great. It comes in so many varieties  that there really is a blue for everyone. Blue can be sweet, gorgonzola dolce, and served as a dessert with pears and honey. Or it can be super strong like roquefort. Blue can be paired with steak, mashed potatoes, dates, and apples. It jazzes up chicken, salmon, and can even be made into a cheesecake.

I’ve made the cheesecake before, and it makes a great appetizer. It’s a nice change from baked brie. If you aren’t a general lover of blues, give the milder ones a chance. Try them in a salad with cranberries and walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette.

As far as wine pairing, blue go well with strong wines like cabernets and Bordeaux blends. It is also classically paired with tawny ports. The saltiness of the cheese makes the port taste sweet and addicting. You can also pair them with sweet wines like Riesling and sparkling wines. The contrast of sweet and salty it always a safe bet. I would personally stay away from drinking sauvignon blanc or an un-oaked chardonnay because the lightness of the wine can not stand up to the intensity of the cheese. If you still aren’t sure, the best rule of thumb is to drink what you like and you will be guaranteed to like the pairing.

Always thinking of the next meal


School Lunch throw-back

16 Sep

“Woke up in the morning
Put on my new plastic glove
Served some reheated salisbury steak
With a little slice of love…”
Adam Sandler’s Lunch Lady Land

One of my favorite lunches when I was I was in grade school was baked potato bar. The concept was simple. You got a baked potato, and had the option of topping it with any number of things. Depending on my mood, I would go with chili and cheese, or broccoli, cheese, and bacon. Tonight I choose to recreate the the latter.

IMG_0805First, start with the broccoli. As mentioned in a previous blog entry, start with fresh broccoli. Blanch and shock the broccoli as needed. Set aside and start with the cheese sauce. Here’s the recipe:

Cheese Sauce:

1/2 cup of milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cheese with the cornstarch. Then bring milk to a simmer and stir in the cheese. Bring to boil and continue to stir. Keep warm until you’re ready to use.

Make the potato however you’re most comfortable. I did mine in the microwave simply because it cooks faster and I was hungry. But you could certainly bake them in the oven with a little olive oil and salt.

If you want to go completely old school, (pun intended) top with Bacos. Those are the little “bacon” bits that you can find in the aisle with the salad dressings. For me though, nothing beats the real deal. I used bacon that I cooked earlier in the week. I also garnished with torn parsley.

You’re never too old to enjoy something from your childhoodIMG_0804

Always thinking of the next meal