Archive for the ‘cheese’ Category

Quick and Easy Sunday Afternoon Snack (with Wine): Cheese Toasties

12 June 2011

This is the first in our brand spanking new Quick and Easy Sunday Afternoon Snack series. Every recipe we post with the Quick and Easy tag must possess three primary characteristics: (1) it has to be quick to make with minimal prep work; (2) it has to be easy, as in “you could do this tipsy,” to throw together; and (3) it has to provide a decent cover story for having a couple glasses of wine on a Sunday afternoon. See, if you are eating something and it absolutely begs for wine, then you are obligated to pour yourself a glass, and you definitely aren’t a lush. Just don’t make any of these for breakfast and you’ll be fine.

As an added bonus, the snacks in this series will be a good way to introduce kids, or slightly less than adventurous adults, to progressively more sophisticated tastes, without scaring the bejeezus out them in the process. The dishes themselves should look familiar and classic enough to transport them to a place where they’re comfortable enough to try something new and unexpected. This week’s edition introduces Dijon mustard, tarragon, and some non-crappy cheese to the classic open-faced toasted cheese sandwich. For four mini-sandwiches (call them Cheese Toasties if you want), you will need:

Cheese Toasties ... Dijon, tarragon, scamorza, and black pepper on Challah rolls

Cheese Toasties ... Dijon, tarragon, scamorza, and black pepper on Challah rolls

  • 2 English muffins, Challah rolls, Hawaiian or Honey Wheat rolls, or 2 slices of regular sandwich bread (sliced kitty korner)
  • butter
  • Dijon mustard
  • the leaves from a sprig of tarragon, finely minced
  • decent cheese that melts easily, enough to cover the bread, such as scamorza, mozzarella, or even Gruyère, grated or thinly sliced
  • a few pinches freshly ground pepper
  1. Slice the rolls in half, like a hamburger bun, and butter the top side. Smear some Dijon over the butter, top with the cheese, and sprinkle some tarragon over the cheese.
  2. Place in a toaster oven and toast, or under a broiler, until the cheese is melted and gooey. Top each one with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. You likely won’t need salt if you use scamorza or mozzarella, but season gently with salt if they need some.

Told  you it was easy. For wine, I’d go with something with enough acid to cut the fat in the cheese and butter and hold up to the Dijon, which, depending on the type you use, can be quite assertive. A New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would do nicely, as would a Chablis if you prefer Chardonnay. For reds, I would stick with the lighter side, such as an Oregon Pinot Noir. Of course, I need not mention how well good cheese goes with beer. My favorite right now is Goose Island’s Matilda, and it happens to pair with this snack wonderfully.

 

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Rotini with Chorizo, Peas, and Olives in a Rosemary Tomato Cream Sauce

12 April 2011

Pasta swimming in a tomato cream sauce should be a go-to weeknight dish for everyone; it’s comforting, simple, and if you have some pantry basics, quick to throw together at the last minute. This very adds Spanish or Portuguese chorizo for flavor, complementing it with peas and black olives. The addition of rosemary to the sauce lends some complexity and brings the dish back to Italy.

This will give you enough for two (with plenty of leftovers for lunch!!!), or four if you serve it with some greens and a light dessert or glass of wine. Tradition would suggest a high-acid red wine to counter the richness of the cream sauce, but I liked this with a pleasant California chardonnay, in my case the 2009 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbera Chardonnay, a great value for $15.

Rotini with Chorizo, Peas, and Olives in a Rosemary Tomato Cream Sauce

Rotini with Chorizo, Peas, and Olives in a Rosemary Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 12 ounces (roughly a package) of whole wheat rotini, such as Bella Terra Organic
  • 2 shallots, sliced into rings ~1/8″ thick
  • 4 oz Spanish or Portuguese chorizo; the cured kind, not the fresh Mexican stuff, sliced into 1/4″ discs
  • ~18 pitted and roughly chopped black olives (I used Kalamata for their brininess but if you adjust your seasoning at the end … and I know that you will … use whatever kind you like.)
  • one sprig rosemary
  • 1 cup peas, fresh, but frozen if not in season
  • 1 cup basic red tomato sauce, like the kind you would already have in the fridge if you looked at the second recipe in this Italian Wonton post.
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • kosher or sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and olive oil

On to the mechanics …

  1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Drizzle some olive oil into it, it doesn’t affect the taste, but it’ll help keep it from over boiling and making a mess.
  2. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and stir. Reduce the heat — you just want to sweat them a bit.
  3. When they’re limp, add the chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until that beautiful red oil begins to leech out and the chorizo is heated through.
  4. Add the olives, rosemary, and peas. Continue to cook, stirring off and on, until the peas are starting to cook.
  5. Remove the rosemary and add the red sauce and the cream. Stir everything together, and drop your pasta in what should be your boiling water. Continue stirring the sauce every so often.
  6. After the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and transfer to a bowl.
  7. When the sauce reduces to a texture that you like, add the butter and stir to integrate it into the sauce. Check your salt and pepper, adjusting as necessary, and remove from heat.
  8. Dress the pasta by adding just enough to coat the rotini. This is quite rich, so will take less than you think. Make sure you include the chorizo, peas, and olives. The rest of the sauce will keep for a few days. It’s good over scrambled eggs, though perhaps a bit decadent.
  9. Plate and serve. Top with some fresh Parm if you’re in the mood.
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Monday Green Board: Tomato Mushroom Soup

21 February 2011

First, an announcement … Sunday Green Board is hereby known as Monday Green Board. First reason is that Sundays are getting too busy for me right now to both prepare a special vegetarian dish and then get it into a post that evening. The next reason is to align with the current Meatless Mondays movement. I may not agree with them on some things, but I’m all for health, and people eating more vegetables is a good thing.

This week we have another damned soup, and to be honest I feel slightly upset about it, but it’s what I came up with yesterday so that’s what we’re working with. If you are sensing a theme right now, and you think that theme may have something to do with winter comfort food with Italian-American influences, then you would be right. Bring on Spring already, we’ve suffered enough.

Exhibit A: this week’s Tomato Mushroom Soup. You will need:

Tomato Mushroom Soup

Tomato Mushroom Soup

  • sea or kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, and good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • at least two dozen crimini mushrooms, the larger ones sliced thick (~1/2 inch)
  • six sprigs fresh thyme, substituting dried if you need to
  • medium sized zucchini, peel and diced, seeded if necessary
  • 1/2 yellow onion, roughly diced
  • 1 T fresh oregano, substituting dried if you need to (reduce the amount accordingly)
  • 1/3 cup good quality port
  • 28 ounce can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes … the Italian ones, not the American ones named San Marzano, unless that’s all you have … crushed by hand, with the basil leaf removed, and WITH the juice
  • flat leaf parsley and freshly grated pecorino romano or parmesan

The preparation this week takes place in two stages: first we cook the mushrooms so they retain their shape and texture, and then we cook the stuff that makes the soup, adding the mushrooms back at the end right before garnishing. Another thing to note is that this soup doesn’t require stock, which is a nice time saver when you’ve used your reserves and won’t make more until the weekend.

  1. Heat the butter and a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the thyme sprigs and mushrooms, toss, and cook for around 4 minutes, until the mushrooms have released some liquid and have shrunken a bit. You want them to remain meaty.
  2. Remove the mushrooms and stash away in a bowl. Add the onions and zucchini and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. If you need to add more oil, do so.
  3. After around four minutes, remove the thyme stalks. Many of the thyme leaves will have come off — this is what you want, just remove the woody bits. Add the oregano and continue to cook.
  4. About 8 to 10 minutes later, when the onion and zucchini start to brown, deglaze the pan with the port, transfer the entire thing to a stock pot, and return to the heat.
  5. Add the tomatoes (and juice) and one can (the same San Marzano can) of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Using a stick blender, food processor, or regular blender, working in batches of you need to, turn the contents of the pot into soup. The texture can be a bit rustic, you just don’t want any chunks of zucchini or tomato left over.
  7. Turn off the burner, and season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. A splash of hot sauce wouldn’t hurt here, just don’t go overboard, this is about earth, not heat.
  8. Return the mushrooms to the soup. The residual heat will bring them back to temperature.
  9. Dish the soup into bowls and garnish with the parsley and cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the top and serve with some good crusty bread. If you feel luxurious, use truffle oil.

You should have enough for four people, and this keeps quite well in the fridge. Enjoy, and share your hints and tips no Twitter, Facebook, or here on the web site.

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Sunday Green Board: Pasta with Veggie Marinara

06 February 2011

Yeah, I know, it’s a cop out. It’s pasta in marinara sauce with some veggies thrown in … but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome, and when the clouds are hanging heavy and the streets are covered with an inch of salt and three inches of slush, it can really hit the spot and help you forget about all that.

Basic Pasta w/ veggie loaded marinara

Farfalle in Marinara with Seitan, Crimini Mushrooms, Onions, and Basil

Forgive the picture, it doesn’t do it justice.

The exact amounts you need will depend on how much you want to make, but you’ll have to collect the following:

  • a basic marinara sauce, like we talked about in part one of the Italian Wonton post; we used about two cups
  • some chopped onion; we used half of a medium-sized yellow onion
  • around 4 ounces of ground beef-style seitan; we used Upton’s Naturals, but substitute anything you want, even real meat if you aren’t committed to the idea of the Sunday Green Board, or just like it better that way
  • some crimini or other tasty mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced, equal in volume to the amount of onion you are using; we used 8 baby bellas
  • some olives, about 1/2 the amount of the mushrooms; we used 8 pitted kalamata olives
  • fresh basil and freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese to taste; we used a dozen basil leaves and a good 12 tablespoons of cheese
  • your favorite dried pasta, or at least something you have in the cupboard already; we used around a pound or so of farfalle from Trader Joe’s. It would have been better using fresh pasta, but we were lazy today … it is Sunday, after all.
  • a bigger pot than you think you need, 2/3 full of boiling, salted water
  • sea or kosher salt, freshly ground black or white pepper, and decent olive oil

On to the business …

  1. Get that water going in the big pot … the more water, the better. Salt it so it tastes salty like the ocean, but not briny like something you would see in a grade school chemistry experiment.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a sauce pan over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the onions, reduce the heat a bit, and sweat them for a couple minutes. Add the seitan, mushrooms, and olives. Cook, stirring occasionally, so that everything heats evenly.
  3. When the onions are soft, add the marinara, stir, and cover. Continue heating, stirring every so often. Taste and then adjust the seasoning if you need to, but keep in mind that with the olives, you likely won’t need any more salt.
  4. After around 20 minutes, drop the pasta into the boiling water and hit it with a splash of olive oil to help reduce the odds of an over boil.
  5. When the pasta is cooked al dente (read the label but usually between 8 and 12 minutes), remove the pot from the heat and drain, allowing the pasta to dry for a few minutes in the colander or strainer before returning it to the empty and now dry pot. Hit it with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and stir if it’s sticking together.
  6. We’re serving 1970’s Italian-American style, so for each serving, plate a cup or so of pasta (more or less depending on whether it’s a starter or a main course) onto a warm plate, spoon over some of the veggie marinara, and top with torn or chopped basil and some grated cheese. Pour a chianti or some other rustic, tomato-loving red wine to keep it company.

Note: If you have a red checkered tablecloth, now is the time to break it out.

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Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

01 February 2011

As mentioned previously, roasted red peppers are a thing of beauty, and so is this simple bisque … soup, if you must … provided by Humboldt Kitchen’s “Currently Residing in the State of Missouri” contingent, known simply as R. I am hoping he will forgive the tweaks I made to augment his comforting, elegant, and wonderfully silky roasted red pepper bisque.

But first … a follow up to the roasting of red peppers question … I tried out a few different ways this evening, and for a home kitchen, I think the simplest and least messy of the lot is to preheat your oven to 500 degrees, stem and seed the peppers, slice them once so you can “unroll” them, and trim off the bitter white “ribs.” Lay them out, skin side up, on a sheet pan, and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, checking every ten minutes or so that they aren’t burning or sticking. When the skin is sufficiently charred, put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When they’ve cooled enough to handle, pull off the skin with your fingers. Done.

The following recipe makes around 5 quarts … one pint per punter gets you 10 servings. In case you don’t have that many at your table, you can refrigerate this for a couple days and freeze it for longer.

On to the show …

Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

Roasted Red Pepper Bisque

  • 14 ounces chicken stock or broth (Homemade? GREAT! In a container? No worries, this is soup, just make sure you avoid MSG and too much salt. If you can heat some up and it smells and tastes good, hopefully a bit bland, it’ll be fine.)
  • 2 (or 3) roasted red bell peppers
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 tablespoons (half a stick) butter
  • 1 large russet or other high starch potato; cleaned, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 cups heavy cream … yup, 2 cups. Yup, heavy.
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • chopped chives or (the green part of) green onions (1 tablespoon per serving)
  • some thinly sliced crimini mushrooms (2 per serving)
  • some slices of baguette (3 per serving) with butter to spread
  • enough cheddar cheese to cover the bread
  • black pepper for the croutons

OK … you don’t need to use white pepper, you can use normal old black peppercorns, but I like the white here because there won’t be any brown specks interfering with the smooth and gentle texture and color of the bisque.

Now the fun part …

  1. Put a stock pot over medium heat. When hot, add the butter and let it cook until it melts, and then foams. As the foam subsides, add the onions and sweat them until translucent. Take care not to brown the onions or the butter.
  2. Add the potatoes, peppers, chicken stock, and a pinch or two each of salt and white pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for half an hour. The potatoes should be very soft.
  3. Add the cream, stir, bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every so often to keep things honest. 🙂
  4. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor (in batches if necessary) and puree, or better yet, break out the stick blender and process the mixture into a smooth, silky bisque. Remove from the heat and cover.
  5. Butter the bread slices and top with cheese. Give each of them a twist of black pepper. Toast in a toaster oven or under a broiler until the cheese melts.
  6. If you’re in the mood, “mount” the bisque with butter and plate into serving bowls. If you don’t know what “mount” means in this context, keep reading Humboldt Kitchen, ignore that part, and just ladle the soup into your serving bowls.
  7. Place three of the cheese croutons around the rim of each bowl, and sprinkle some green onions and crimini mushrooms in the center of the bowls. A cynic might drizzle a little truffle oil over the top, or maybe some nice cheese.
  8. Serve with some mixed greens and vinaigrette on the side, and perhaps some crusty bread for when the croutons run out, and you’re done. Eat.

Please keep in mind that this is FAR from a diet dish … that cream and butter will add up in the calorie and fat department, so portion accordingly.

Feel free to send R your comments via the website, Twitter, or Facebook, but above all, enjoy!

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Cheese Broth

12 January 2011

Yes’m … we are back (well, at least the ones that could go) from beautiful and sunny South Beach, and as promised … well, as the saying goes, más vale tarde que nunca … we want to share a cool little frugal tip for using up those old rinds or just dried up bits of grating cheeses … in particular, the potent Italian ones like Parmigiano-Reggiano (cow from, ummm, Parma) and Pecorino Romano (sheep, from, uhhh, Sardinia for the most part … gimme a break, I’m not Italian, or a lawyer, and those definitions are mostly legal distinctions these days).

A friend of mine suggested using Manchego (Manchega sheep from La Mancha, originally, anyway, not sure if that applies today). He is, however, a pharmaceutical guy, and I can’t speak to whether a Manchego version will produce some kind of exhilarating high, terrifyingly soul-destroying low, or just go nicely with some tapas and a glass of Rioja.

Back to the point: what do you do with those bits? Other, of course, than skin your knuckles on the box grater trying to get as close as possible to the nasty, hard part, bleeding all over the nice pile of grated Parm you just spent 15 minutes building, and having to throw it out (wink wink, I won’t tell anyone), because your blood was all over it (no, that must be tomato!!!).

Answer number one, which is by far the most popular, is to throw them out. This can get expensive, especially if you get legit Parmigiano-Reggiano for $20 or $25 a pound. Pecorino is cheaper, but it ain’t that much cheaper. If that doesn’t bother you, then make the broth below and use it, and send me the $2 you were going to throw away. It will go to a much better cause.

Note to the reader … if you buy the pre-grated stuff like you would find in a little green plastic shaker, DON’T MAKE THIS, and swear to me you won’t ever buy that crap again. No, really, it’s crap. Buy yourself a little chunk of legit Parmigiano-Reggiano, and ignore the measurements in random recipes and cookbooks …  a LITTLE bit of the real deal, freshly grated, goes a LOT farther than shaking on a ton of the stuff from the plastic canister. Cheese is, by nature, alive. The moment you cut into it, it starts dying. If you grate it, process it, and pack it into a plastic canister, it turns into a skeleton, except it doesn’t taste as good as dried and grated bones.

Now, I know someone is going to come up with some awesome recipe involving the sawdust they pack in those tubes and post it, and I encourage you to try. That would be cool, and if I were able to transform something like that into something really delicious, I would shout it to the world. I will not hold my breath, but please don’t let that stop anyone trying.

Don’t get me wrong, that stuff has its places … one I like is where you shake it out of little glass holders or paper packets, along with some dried red chili flakes, on a cheese and sausage pizza, at an Italian place with Sinatra on the juke box, red checked tablecloths, paper place mats with a map of Italy on them, and a sign that says pitchers of Budweiser and carafes of Chianti are just $4 from 5 to 7. I love places like that, trust me.

Anyway, back to the good stuff. It’s a complicated recipe. The ingredients are as follows: cheese end(s), water, a pot, heat, patience.

More specifically, take an ounce or two of the rinds or dried out bits of cheese, put it in a pot with a quart of water, and heat it to a simmer on a range. When the water bubbles, adjust the heat so you can maintain a gentle simmer. Check it every so often and give it a gentle swirl.

After around two hours, take the pan off the heat, and strain the liquid into a container. Discard the cheese unless you see promise in it, but for what I’d have no idea. Let the liquid cool to room temperature and put it into the fridge. The next day, take it out gently, and remove and discard the fatty bits that have risen to the surface with a spoon or paper towel. Don’t stress out over it, just get the big ones.

There, that’s it. You now have Parm/Pec/Whatever broth, or stock, or fumet, whatever you want to call it.

But what do you do with it? Oooooh … lots of cool stuff. You want an easy one? Substitute the broth for water and make some rice (skip adding any salt to the rice, the broth will be chock full of it if you used good Parm or Pec, and PLEASE, use REAL bloody rice, not that parboiled or microwave or precooked or minute or Uncle Ben or whatever stuff). When the rice is done, sprinkle some sliced chives or minced green onions over it. Add black pepper to taste.

The next morning, take some of your leftover rice, add an egg yolk and some finely minced onion, and squish it together WITH YOUR HANDS. Form it into patties and fry it like a hamburger in some butter. Make some bacon if you’re the type, as you should be, and breakfast is served. I like to add a splash of hot sauce or some finely diced jalapeño (if I have some left over … last thing I want to touch in the early morning when I’m still rubbing my eyes is a knife and a spicy chili).

Later this week, we’re going to discuss … and damnit, there better be a video … how to use this stuff to make a couple other slightly more sophisticated but not much more complicated dishes: a nice tomato and basil risotto, and a stunning cacio e pepe … a quick pasta that’s great hangover food. As a special treat, r has provided a fantastic looking Red Onion Soup that’s perfect for these short January days … we’re going to give a bulk (i.e. restaurant) version as well as one for smaller crowds.

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Don’t throw them out!

05 January 2011

parmesan cheese rind

Ever wonder what to do with those leftover rinds and dried out ends of Parmesan or Pecorino?

Don’t throw them out!

This week we’ll post a simple and clever way to squeeze every bit of flavor out of these potent Italian cheeses!

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