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Archive for July 16, 2017

TIP OF THE DAY: 12 Best Summer Cheeses & A Recipe With Ricotta

If you still want your cheese plate on a hot summer day, these are the hot weather cheeses recommended by Janet Fletcher of Specialty Food Magazine, combined with some of our own.

You can read her full article here, and create a more complex cheese course with the recipe below.

  • Crescenza. This oozy, briefly-aged cow’s milk cheese is modeled on the Italian stracchino (photo #1). Serve it with walnut bread, crusty bread or grilled bruschetta slices, with slices of grilled polenta, or for dessert with with peaches, nectarines or pears.
  • Feta. Serve it with kalamata olives, pickled beets and onions, and toasted pita wedges.
  • Fresh goat cheese. It’s sublime with artisan toasts, and a bowl of fresh cherries.
  • Fresh ricotta. Look for the drained version, which sits better on a cheese plate (photo #3), and serve it with berries and other fruits.
  • Fromage blanc. This fresh cheese was born to serve with fruit (photo #4), or on toasted bread with a drizzle of honey (more).
  • Mozzarella and burrata. Set it sliced (or a bowl of bocconcini), with sliced or cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves or pesto, kalamata olives and toasted crusty bread.
  • Pecorino marzolino. When a few weeks old, this young pecorino resembles a more acidic mozzarella (photo #2). Serve it with Italian crudités: fresh celery hearts, fava beans, sliced fennel and sliced raw artichokes dipped in olive oil. Turn it into an antipasto platter with salami, olives and peperoncini.
  • Queso fresco. This fresh cheese, typically crumbled onto Mexican food, goes nicely on a cheese board with avocado slices, hearts of romaine, pumpkin seeds and radishes.
  • Ricotta salata. The ricotta is salted (salata) and typically pressed into the classic ricotta mold (photo #3). Serve it with raw or marinated green bean, regular or pickled baby beets, and grilled zucchini.
  • Ripened goat cheese. Look for American favorites such as Bonne Bouche from Vermont Creamery or Coach Farm’s Green Peppercorn Cone. French classics include Sainte-Maure, Selles-sur-Cher and Valençay. Serve with raisin or walnut-raisin bread.
  • Stracchino. Serve with raw vegetables—avocado, celery and fennel slices plus radishes; as well as with the suggestions for crescenza, above.
  • Washed rind cheeses. These are heavier but recommended because they are made with milk from animals feeding on “primetime pasture,” which produces the richest cheese. Look for cheeses such as munster and livarot made from spring-summer milk, or ask your cheesemonger for recommendations.
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    RECIPE: CHEESE COURSE OF RICOTTA WITH MARINATED BERRIES & TOMATOES

    You can turn the cheeses above into a complex cheese course recipe, as well. In the example below, we adapted the idea from the inspiring Florida chef, Chef Adrianne.

    Fresh ricotta is whipped and flavored, then combined with marinated cherry tomatoes and strawberries. You can substitute fresh goat cheese or feta.

    Chef Adrianne further does a side-plating (photo #5), a practice among modern chefs who don’t think everything has to be centered on the plate.

    You may side-plate, or arrange everything into the center in a conventional plating.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Lemon Oil

  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup olive oil
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon olive oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes, mixed colors, halved*
  •  
    For The Berries

  • 1 pint strawberries or berries of choice, trimmed, rinsed and halved*
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons white or raw sugar or honey
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon or lime zest
  • Optional: crushed mint leaves
  •  
    For The Ricotta

  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese, chilled
  • 2 teaspoons lemon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • Microgreens or torn basil leaves)
  • Grated fresh lemon or lime zest or panko bread crumbs†
  •  

    Stracchino
    [1] Stracchino, a briefly-aged cow’s milk cheese (photo courtesy Beanie Bumbles).

    Pecorino Marzolino
    [2] Before it’s aged into a hard cheese, fresh pecorino is a summer delight (photo courtesy Demagi).

    Molded Ricotta
    [3] While you may know ricotta only as loose curds, like cottage cheese, it is also made in molds of this shape, which allows the liquid to drain producing a firm cheese (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    Fromage Blanc
    [4] Fromage blanc with berries (photo courtesy Vermont Creamery).

    Whipped Ricotta With Tomatoes & Berries

    [5] Whipped ricotta and fruit as a cheese course. It is plated in a style currently favored by chefs: side-plated, following the curve of the plate.

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    *If the cherry tomatoes are jumbo, you can halve them.

    †The objective is to add a small amount of contrasting crunch, so you can also used crushed crackers or chopped nuts.
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    Preparation

    You can make the lemon-infused oil several weeks in advance, storing it in a cool, dark place.

    1. INFUSE the olive oil with the zest. You may already have flavored olive oil. If so, give it a taste test. To make your own, scrub the lemon surface thoroughly and pat dry thoroughly.

    2. USING a very sharp paring knife or peeler, remove the zest from the lemon. Note that you only want the bright yellow part of the peel, not the white pith immediately under it. Pith will turn the oil bitter.

    3. PLACE the zest and oil in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. Do not allow it to warm enough to simmer or develop small bubbles along the side of the pan. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let the oil cool to room temperature with the zest. Strain out the zest and transfer the lemony oil to a sealed jar.

    4. MAKE the vinaigrette. Blend the vinegar, oil and pinch of salt in a container with a tight lid, and shake well to emulsify. Add the cherry tomatoes to the container and turn to coat them. Set aside, turning occasionally to coat all sides.

    5. MARINATE the strawberries. Unless they’re bursting with sweetness, marinating adds flavor that nature didn’t. Place the strawberries in a medium bowl and sprinkle the sugar over them. Toss to make sure all of the berries are covered with the sugar. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour. Then add the balsamic vinegar, citrus zest and crushed mint. Cover the bowl, turn upside down to coat, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

    6. WHIP the ricotta in a food processor with the olive oil and salt. Blend until light and smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

    7. ASSEMBLE: Drain the tomatoes and strawberries and remove the mint leaves from the latter. Scoop 5 balls of the ricotta onto a plate, using a cookie scoop or spoon. Leave an equal amount of space between the ricotta, for the tomatoes and strawberries, and add them to the spaces. Sprinkle lightly with zest or crumbs, and serve with a peppermill.

      

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    RECIPE: Individual Spinach Soufflés With Sun-Dried Tomato

    Fresh Spinach Souffle
    [1] This spinach soufflé is made with sautéed whole spinach leaves (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci).

    Fresh Spinach
    Fresh spinach, rather than frozen chopped spinach, gives the soufflé its pizzazz (photo curtesy Good Eggs).

    Sundried Tomatoes In Bowl
    [3] Sundried tomatoes should look like this: bright red and moist. If yours start to dry out and turn color, place in a container topped with olive oil (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci.

    Bella Sun Luci Sundried Tomatoes Bag

    [4] Sealed bags keep give the sundried tomatoes a long shelf life (photo courtesy Bella Sun Luci).

     

    July 16th is National Fresh Spinach Day. You can make your favorite spinach recipe (dip? salad?) or make these individual soufflés as first courses or sides.

    If you’ve only used frozen, chopped spinach in soufflés, this recipe delivers a more intense spinach flavor.

    Why use sundried tomatoes in summer, when there are fresh, local tomatoes to be had?

    Because the intensity of sundried tomatoes better complements the soufflé than the more subtle flavor of fresh tomatoes. You can substitute the sundried tomatoes with cherry tomatoes, if you like.

    A BRIEF DIVERSION TO SUNDRIED TOMATOES

    Sundried tomatoes are a stock items in our pantry. You can use them at every meal: in omelets, with cottage cheese and yogurt, in green salads, as a garnish for proteins (marinated in olive oil), in a winter Caprese salad. You can also:

  • Make tomato soup (recipe).
  • Enjoy caprese salad or caprese pasta salad year-round (recipe).
  • Add them to potato salad (recipe #1), recipe #2).
  • Make a dip or spread (recipe).
  • Add them to braised greens (recipe).
  • Top pasta and pizza.
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    Plus, use them as a plate garnish when the plate needs a color lift. Marinate them in olive oil (including flavored olive oil, like basil or chile) for a bright red, flavorful splash of color.

    We love the soft sweetness of the sealed packages from Bella Sun Luci. When we’ve purchased sundried tomatoes from an open bin, even though we place them in a sealed container, we find that within a week or two, they begin to lose their succulence and color. They’re on the road to turning brown, tough and dry. A factory-sealed package is better.

    RECIPE: SPINACH SOUFFLÉ

    This recipe will taste even better if you grate the parmesan freshly, from a wedge.

    Ingredients For 4 Souffles

  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups baby spinach, de-stemmed (reserve four or more perfect leaves for garnish)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, or more to grease the ramekins
  • 4 pinches of flour
  • Garnish: 4 plump, bright red sun-dried tomatoes
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a conventional oven (not convection) to 350°F. Heat the olive oil in sauté pan, and cook the garlic until it’s a light yellow color. Then add the spinach and a pinch of salt, and sauté until just cooked.

    2. DRAIN off any liquid, remove to a bowl and set aside until it cools to room temperature. As the spinach cools, prepare the egg-cream mixture. Beat the eggs with 1 ounce heavy cream, 1 tablespoon grated parmesan, salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

    3. COMBINE the cooled spinach with the egg-cream mixture; blend well. Grease the ramekins and sprinkle a pinch of flour onto the butter. Divide the soufflé mix among the ramekins. Top each with a sundried tomato.

    4. PLACE the ramekins into a baking dish and add WARM water, so the water is 1/4 to 1/3 of the way up the side of the ramekins (i.e., a bain-marie or water bath). Bake 7-9 minutes, until the eggs puff up.

    5. REMOVE from the oven, garnish each with a spinach leaf and serve hot.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    According to Mediterranean food expert Clifford A. White, spinach comes from a central and southwestern Asian gene center. It may have originated from Spinacia tetranda, which still grows wild in Anatolia.

    The plant, which does not like heat, was successfully cultivated in the hot and arid Mediterranean climate by Arab agronomists through the use of sophisticated irrigation techniques.

    The first known reference to spinach dates to between 226 and 640 C.E., in Persia. Over trade routes, spinach was introduced to India and then to ancient China in 647 C.E., where it was (and still is) called “Persian vegetable.”

    The first written reference to spinach in the Mediterranean are in three tenth-century texts. It became popular vegetable in Provence, and by the 15th century was common in Provençal gardens.

    It traveled north, and Europe became a spinach-loving continent.

     
      

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