Saint André – Cheese of the Month

Saint André on Puff Pastry
Pear Balsamic Reduction
Rare Hawaiian White Honey
Fried Leek with Muscat Grape


Slice of Saint André
Sautéed Pear
Fresh Muscat Seedless Grapes
Pear Balsamic Reduction
Rare Hawaiian White Honey
Toasted Baguette

We are cheese lovers over here. If you are too, you just might be interested in these previous posts:
Today, however, we have fallen head-over-heels for the cow’s milk, soft-ripened, triple cream cheese from the Normandy region of France called Saint André. They say, “Imagine the satiny paste of a perfect Brie mixed with equal parts of whipped sweet cream and heavy sour cream.” Oy. Oy. Oy. 
Many of the lovely flavors of Brie are there, and they are so right-on with sweet cream and sour cream notes, but my other favorite attributes of this cheese are the texture and the rind. The texture is drier than Brie yet still creamy. Extraordinary really. And the bloomy rind is creamy, white and soft, slightly fuzzy. Mold spores help transform the curds, then the cheese is allowed to ripen in a humidified room. During this affinage the mold grows, or blooms, to form the rind. Are you fond of the rind? Go here to read more.
Saint André Cheese Course:
So, I wanted to create a cheese course where the texture and rind of this rich heavenly cheese could be appreciated. Due to the richness of this course, I am serving a fresh and forceful Champagne (Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label to be exact). What would you serve?
Teaser: A warm small round of puff pastry is topped with a slice of Saint André, drizzled with pear balsamic reduction and a touch of rare Hawaiian white honey, finished with fried leek with muscat grape. 
Platter: Sautéed pears are served over pear balsamic reduction, with a drizzle of rare Hawaiian white honey and fresh muscat grapes with a generous slice of Saint André, toasted baguette on the side.
To My Fellow Cheese Aficionados 
Please visit Ile de France’s Portal of the French Cheese Community informative site, especially the Saint André page to learn more about this enchanting cheese and other marvelous French cheeses.

Soufflés au Comté

Hello cheese lover! Comté. Soufflé. We are in heaven.
A bit about this cheese: First of all, Comté (pronounced con-tay) is produced in France in the Jura mountains bordering Switzerland.
The farmers raise Montbéliarde cows (95% of the herds) or French Simmental (5%), and feed them a natural diet based on fresh grass during the summer months and hay during the winter.
The flora in the Jura Massif is very diverse and, depending on where they are located, cows may graze on different plants. This is reflected in the milk and, ultimately, in the varying flavours of the cheese.
Each day the farmers deliver their milk to their local fruitière (cheesemaking house). Each fruitière has its own distinct profile related to the aromatic characteristics of the Comté that it produces. These aromatic characteristics reflect the terroir (or soil, climate, flora, etc.) of where the cheese is produced.
One fruitière is characterized by aromas of melted butter, milk chocolate, hazelnuts and fudge. When the cheeses are aged beyond 15 months, aromas of toast, plum compote, leather, pepper and dark chocolate are apparent.

Another produces Comté that is dominated by butterscotch aromas with a hint of toast, followed by fruity aromas such as hazelnut, roasted nuts, sweet orange juice and ripe apricot. With longer aging, the aromas of hazelnut and orange become more pronounced.

I cannot read these descriptors and not pine for this cheese. For more information please visit comte.com. It’s a very informative site (and you’ll get a kick out of the picture of the cows)!
Overview of Steps to Make a Soufflé


Melt butter, add flour whisking for 2 minutes, 
then whisk in milk. 
Let cool slightly, add egg yolks.

Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Fold in grated Comté
(I spy Tomato Tarte Tatin waiting in the background).

Beat egg whites with a bit of salt until stiff.

Gently fold egg whites into the béchamel mixture.

Fill ramekins (buttered, chilled, with grated cheese on bottom) with soufflé batter. Sprinkle more grated cheese on top and bake at 400°F until golden. Resist temptation to open the oven door while they cook. When they are done, serve immediately!
I hope Fr. Adam and I are able to convey here how easily done, fun, and satisfying it is to make cheese soufflés. We thoroughly enjoyed the process. Perhaps you’ll find this overview inspiring? The recipe we used comes from the engaging Chocolate & Zucchini Cookbook. We’d love to hear about your favorite soufflés too, as there are definitely more soufflés in our future!

Tomato Tarte Tatin

Brunch Menu
Tomato Goat Cheese Basil Tarte Tatin
Red Leaf Green Leaf Salad, Dijon Vinaigrette
Comté Cheese Soufflés
Handcut Bacon
Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc

Oh, we had such a delightful brunch! I hope I am able convey the light lovely delicious flavor combinations served here. The menu is straight-forward and uncomplicated, but this brunch menu is a winner by all accounts!

Father Adam is my longtime dear dear friend. He was going to be in town at the same time as my family visiting from Chicago. We determined he had not seen my brother in over 20 years (and therefore had not met my sister-in-law, nor their sons). Father Adam and I cook together often. He is a terrific cook. You may recall reading about some of our dishes, including the one we made for Julia Child’s birthday event, Coq Au Vin.

We thought it would be neat to cook brunch and for everyone to get (re) acquinted. Father Adam arrived around 9 AM and we began prepping the meal. We took a break to shoot some hoops with Stone, and a few hours later the adults were ready to sit down to a very memorable meal with the light streaming in, with the food, family, and friends, what could be better?


We served dry, crisp, complex Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc California Sparkling Wine, a great complement to the meal and how apropos to serve a “local” wine to out-of-town guests here in California.

Tomato Tarte Tatin: Slice Roma tomatoes lengthwise. Squeeze the seeds and juice out of tomatoes and place in baking pan drizzled with olive oil, skin side down. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence. Cook at 350°F for about 40 minutes. Pour out any juices left in the pan.

Top the tomatoes with crumbled goat cheese then cover with puff pastry dough. This is my cherished Le Creuset Tarte Tatin Pan. Handcrafted of porcelain enamel cast iron, it is designed for recipes that are started on top of the stove and are finished in the oven. The curved side handles make it easy to flip foods over onto a plate. This is a great pan for making quiche too, if you are a quiche lover, you might enjoy visiting here and here.

Tuck the dough under the edges of the tomatoes. Make holes in the dough to let steam escape and bake in the 350°F oven until the dough is golden. Remove from oven and let rest until ready to serve. Then…

Father Adam demonstrates the Tarte Tatin Flip Over.
Place platter over the pan.

Invert.

Slowly remove pan.

Voilà!
Top with shredded basil. Serve.
Recipe inspired by the charming Chocolate & Zucchini Cookbook. Please stay tuned for the Soufflés post from this special brunch.

Yellow Eye Heirloom Beans

Yellow Eye Beans With Garlicky Salsa Verde
Cotija Cheese

In a pot, these Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans were covered with about 2 inches of water and soaked for 4 hours, a bay leaf was added, brought to a boil, then simmered for around 2 hours until the dense and creamy beans were tender. Salt to taste.

To a good amount of olive oil add chopped garlic. Heat until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, add salsa verde (hot or mild depending on your taste). Then add the cooked Yellow Eye Heirloom Beans and heat through. This recipe of beans with olive oil, garlic and salsa verde was inspired by Nancy Silverton in her cookbook, A Twist of the Wrist. Served here with an extra dollop of salsa verde and grated cotija atop the beans. Cotija cheese is a hard cow’s milk cheese named after the town of Cotija, Mexico where it originated. This cheese is delicious grated over warm beans.
I am sending this side dish of Yellow Eye Beans with Garlicky Salsa Verde over to my blogger friend Simona of Briciole, as she is hosting Susan The Well-Seasoned Cook’s, Legume Love Affair Event for November. Are you a bean aficionado? Make sure to check out Legume Love!

On my drive home from work yesterday, I just had to stop and take some photos as the sun was setting. Most of the smoke and ash from the fires has blown away. On Saturday, there was a fire right here on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Thankfully this one was extinguished quickly with no major damage.

My heart goes out to all Southern Californians who lost their homes in the recent wildfires.

Burrata Pizza and Thanksgiving Thoughts

My two favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Passover. No wonder! It is because I cook big meals for family and friends at both. I was just looking at my photographs from last year. Please, come reminisce with me…

I get plenty of pizza dough for the week from the local Italian market so I can make pizza with my nephews while they are here visiting. It has become a tradition. And late Friday night after Thanksgiving last year, the adults had burrata pizza with the remaining pizza dough as we relaxed and drank Champagne.
Another tradition we have here is called “Leftover Day.” Family and friends are invited to come by from 1 to 5 PM the day after the big feast to eat leftovers, drink Bloody Marys, and chill out. This year, I have a new basketball court so everyone can shoot some hoops! Whoo Hoo! We get a HoneyBaked Ham so if anyone is done with turkey, have ham! And everyone is encouraged to bring their leftovers. We heat them up and put them on the buffet too. Additionally this year I promised my brother I would have a panini maker, so we can make some awesome turkey or ham sandwiches with all those leftover goodies smashed and grilled together.

OK, back to burrata pizza. Top the dough with a mixture of olive oil, chopped parsley, and garlic, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake until just slightly crispy, remove from the oven, then top with burrata. Big hit! Other ways we enjoyed burrata last year can be found here.

Ha! I am sending this photo to my blogger friend Sandi at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking for her Centerpiece of the Month Event. Every year this ROCK gets big laughs. Yes, it is just a rock I found on the beach but its place card gives everyone a good chuckle on Bird Day. To see some really beautiful centerpieces, do check out Sandi’s monthly event!

This is another laugh I get every year. I spend a good deal of time on the appetizers; including fine cheese platters, homemade dips, and barbecuing fresh oysters. But do you know what disappears first? Lil’ Smokies with two sauces: BBQ sauce and a blend of mustard and mayo. Some things never change. Maybe you have a similar experience?

This is another one of my photos from last year. My nephew Stone and my little pooch Mrs. O’Mally had a special connection. On this morning, Stone, in his pajamas, is just sitting on the couch rubbing her belly. She passed away on October 22, 2008. Everyone will miss her this year, I suspect Stone and myself most of all.

Here on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, Stone says goodbye to Mally as the family is getting ready to catch their plane back to Chicago. She was always so relaxed with him. He carried her around all week. It was a very special bond.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season this year. And to my blogger friends, I so look forward to reading about your holiday recipes and parties. Ah, Thanksgiving – I am so grateful for the reminder to give thanks for blessings great and small.

A Passion for Cheese

Love cheese? Us too. Browsing through my photo library I came across cheese photographs from various restaurants where we dined over the last couple years. The photos bring back memories of excellent meals. I thought I would compile them, thinking the presentations and accompaniments could provide inspiration for serving a cheese course or cheeseboard at the next dinner party.

Morels French Steakhouse, Las Vegas

Guy Savoy, Las Vegas

Custom House, Chicago

AOC, Los Angeles

David Burke Fromagerie, Rumson, New Jersey
Daniel, New York City

Guy Savoy

Alex, Las Vegas
Balthazar, New York City
The Girl and The Fig, Sonoma, California
Carneros Wine Bar, Sonoma, California

With holiday entertaining right around the corner, I’m definitely looking forward to serving cheese. And I’ll be borrowing ideas on presentation and accompaniments from some of these restaurants where we thoroughly enjoyed the cheese course. I like variety, balance of strength and character of the cheese, paired with interesting flavorful accompaniments.
Cheeses:
  • Milk: Cow, Sheep, Goat
  • Textures: Soft to Hard
  • Taste: Mild to Strong
  • Various Origins
  • A Variety of Shapes and Colors
Accompaniments:
  • Bread: Baguette, Fruit & Nut Bread, Herbed Bread, Lavosh
  • Fruitcake: Dried Fig Cake, Dried Date Cake
  • Nuts: Almond, Walnut, Hazelnut, Pecan
  • Candied Nuts
  • Fresh Fruits: Fig, Grape, Apple, Pear, Melon
  • Dried Fruits: Fig, Date, Raisin, Plum, Apricot
  • Honey, Honeycomb
  • Chutney
  • Fruit Compote
  • Fruit Paste: Quince, Apricot, Plum, Pear, Fig
  • Cured Meats: Thinly-sliced, Room-temperature
  • Olives
  • Drizzled Olive Oil
  • Duck Confit
  • Micro-thin Sliced Onions
  • Caperberries
  • Roasted Peppers and Tomatoes 
  • And, of course, Wine!

Classic Combinations:

  • Manchego & Quince Paste & Serrano Ham & Green Olives
  • Cheddar & Chutney & Apple
  • Stilton & Pear & Walnut
  • Gorgonzola & Fig & Honey
  • Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella & Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil

Do you have a special cheese or an interesting flavor pairing to share?

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Goat Cheese, Fall Salad

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Goat Cheese
Roasted Beets
Green Salad with Pepitas and Walnuts
Pumpkin Seed Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted/salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are ground in a food processor then mixed with panko breadcrumbs.

A peppered goat cheese medallion is dipped in egg then coated with the pumpkin seed breadcrumb mixture.

The medallion is fried in peanut oil until golden, then transferred to a paper towel while the salad is composed. Sprinkle the hot medallion with a little sea salt.

Combine equal amounts of pumpkin seed oil and walnut oil with balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt & pepper for the dressing. Toss with mixed greens, roasted pepitas, walnuts, then serve with roasted beets. 
Another tasty salad using this walnut oil can be found here. This pumpkin seed oil is from the Styrian region of Austria. I seem to be on an Austrian kick lately, first with my new favorite wine,  Grüner Veltliner and now this oil. And if you visit Merisi’s blog, I’m sure you will fall in love with Austria too. 

I am submitting this dish to Lore of Culinarty blog for her Original Recipes ongoing event. I’ve made Chèvre Chaud many times but never used pumpkin seed as a coating. Very happy with the result. 
Have you tried pumpkin seed oil? I just recently found it at the market and would be interested to hear how you are using it. A terrific product for Fall, I’m excited to experiment. La Tourangelle’s website has a recipe using pumpkin seed oil with salmon sashimi. Hmmm

Mushroom Egg Foo Young with Gravy

I grew up in Chicago.
Every Sunday we would have Chinese take-out for dinner.
As a kid, one of my favorite dishes was the mysterious egg foo young.
Back then, the only ingredient that I knew it contained for sure, was egg.

Blend 4 eggs with 2 T. flour, then add a finely chopped shallot, a couple sliced scallions, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

Add about a cup each of chopped bean sprouts and cooked brown mushrooms.

Heat vegetable oil in an omelette pan then ladle in half of the egg mixture. This recipe makes 2.  Cook over medium high heat until the bottom browns. Finish cooking the top side under the broiler.

Meanwhile prepare the gravy by making a light brown roux with 2 T. each vegetable oil and flour. Slowly add a cup of beef (or vegetable) stock, finish with a splash of dry sherry, salt and pepper to taste.

Place a serving platter on the pan and flip the egg foo young over onto the platter.
Top with gravy and garnish with scallions and parsley.
Egg Foo Young, demystified and delicious.
Do you remember an exotic dish from your childhood?

Artichoke & Cambozola Quiche

If Camembert and Gorgonzola are among your faves you will love this Cheese Marriage Made in Heaven.

Cambozola is a German triple cream cow’s milk cheese reminiscent of French Camembert inoculated with the same blue mold used to make Italian Gorgonzola.

For the Quiche: The pie crust is pressed into the Le Creuset pan. Most of the rind is removed from the cheese and it is roughly sliced.

Frozen artichoke hearts are cooked, drained, cooled, and seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Place artichokes atop the cheese. Add the custard. Go here for my basic quiche custard recipe. Bake at 350 for about an hour maybe 1 and 1/4 hour.

The cheese melts thoughout the quiche, so the flavor is in every bite just like the Brie, Toasted Almond & Herb Quiche.

Didn’t get enough of that delicious Cambozola? Try a green salad, tossed with walnuts, baby heirloom tomatoes, and roasted walnut vinaigrette with warm Cambozola on toasted multi-grain baguette.

Mascarpone Sorbet

There are some fabulous recipes for Mascarpone Sorbet out there, Thomas Keller’s comes to mind. This is not that. You don’t need an ice cream maker or any special skills for that matter. Just for fun, you might want to check out this post on his recipe.

Then compare this one: Soften a pint of lemon sorbet on the counter. Put that in a food processor with 6 oz. of mascarpone cheese. Blend. Spoon into pretty serving cups or ramekins and refreeze. Defrost slightly before serving for optimum complex, creamy, tangy flavor.
Can you envision endless possibilities for a garnish? Strawberry slices, mint leaves, lemon wheel, maraschino cherry, a dollop of chutney, candied flower petals…Keller serves his with rhubarb confit and candied fennel.
My recipe technique is so embarrassingly simple, that I am reluctant to share it with my guests. But I’m happy share it with you.