Showing posts with label blue cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blue cheese. Show all posts

22 April 2014

Chopped Ham Salad with Rosemary and Blue Cheese

Chopped Ham Salad with Rosemary and Blue Cheese
I never set out to write a recipe blog.

Because I don't really follow recipes much. I do have formulas, however, that guide me as I prepare spur-of-the-moment meals. Almost any recipe you see here can be adjusted to your individual tastes.

I've said before that I like my table to be simple, with maybe three foods on it. At one time, this would have meant a vegetable salad, a starch and a protein. Nowadays it's more likely to be a savory protein dish, a vegetable side and a zesty fruit or vegetable salad.

I use the same basic formula for making cold pasta dishes or salads: Pasta + Protein + Vegetable(s) + Accent Food + Herb = One Dish Meal.

More often than not, the one-dish meal is topped with nuts, seeds or dried fruit. That was not the case today, but it could have been.

Today's salad is for days when you need to use up leftovers.

Chopped Ham Salad with Rosemary and Blue Cheese (makes two small servings)

for the salad:
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta*
  • 3/4 cup ham, cubed or shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/3 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon blue cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

for the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon gray poupon mustard

Prepare the pasta according to package direction. While pasta is boiling, chop or cube ham and set aside. Wash and chop broccoli. Slice black olives, or use pre-sliced olives from a can. Crumbled blue cheese into very small bits. Set these aside until pasta is cooked and cooled.

Use a mortar and pestle to prepare rosemary.

Allow cooked pasta to cool. Toss all other ingredients together with rosemary and add to pasta once it had cooled. Add salt and pepper.

Prepare dressing by thoroughly blending all ingredients with a whip or fork in small bowl. Add to the salad.

As is the case with most cold pasta dishes, allowing the flavors to blend for an hour or so (in the refrigerator) is advised.

Measurements are not carved in stone. Feel free to add more of this or less of thar ingredient. Walnuts, or sunflower seeds are great toppings for this salad.

* I use Dreamfields lower-GI pasta as much as possible.

27 November 2008

Bread Pudding with Four Cheeses and Herbes de Provence

A festive day calls for a festive breakfast.

And a little ingenuity. I had a half boule of Italian bread from LaBrea Bakery and a cheese drawer that was filled to the brim. Did I mention a raving hunger?

I knew it would be a long time until the big dinner. Our menu included pork tenderloin with a cranberry glaze, herb-y oven-baked potatoes and Brussels sprouts with shallots and roasted walnuts - not terribly time-consuming, but not simple either. (I took lots of pictures but in the mad rush had my camera on the wrong setting. I look forward to seeing what you ate!)

You already know what pleasure I get from using what is on hand. Here's what I came up with:

Four Cheese Bread Pudding with Herbes de Provence
  • 1 half boule of Italian or country-style bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups two-percent milk
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup gouda cheese, broken into chunks
  • 1/3 cup Asiago or Parmesan, grated
  • 2/3 cup swiss cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon herbes de Provence
  • dash freshly ground pepper
  • pinch fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 375. Place bread chunks in large bowl. Beat eggs and milk in smaller bowl; pour into large bowl and set aside for five minutes. Once bread has absorbed the liquid, fold in cheese, onion, herbes and seasonings. Transfer to buttered casserole dish and place in oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, until top turns golden brown. Cool 10 minutes.

Four cheeses are essential for this dish. The cheddar is the base. The creamier cheeses balance the bite of sharp cheddar and the Asiago or Parmesan provides the accent. You can use any combination of cheeses for variety.

22 November 2008

Blue Cheese

My cupboards and refrigerator are filled with items that were not part of Grandma Annie's kitchen, although my father bought them from time to time. Among those items are three staples: Red peppers, black olives and blue cheese.

The diet of my youth was relatively bland: Meat and potatoes mostly, accented by salads, side vegetables and bread.

My mother avoided many of the foods my father liked, and so never served them to me and my siblings. Mushrooms are among them. She still wonders why we all love them, and assumes its a generational thing. Perhaps it is.

Garlic, my mother often reminds me, was something odd and foreign and exotic. I have this idea that World War II played a key role in brining garlic to small-town America. How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've eaten garlic, ya know?

Many of my acquired tastes were acquired when I cooked with my first college roommate, the American-born daughter of French parents, and explored Chicago restaurants with an early boyfriend (Steven, are you still a foodie?).

I learned to love Greek food, Yugoslavian wine and German beer, thanks to these and other college friends. We fancied ourselves gourmets and gourmands, cooking together, tring to outdo each other and exploring new ethnic restaurants. While our peers were expanding their record collections, we were buying small kitchen utensils that made exotic meal preparation easier along with mustards, jams, and exotic rice mixes.

Along the way, I also acquired a passion for red peppers (well documented on this blog) and black olives (a must for any tuna salad).

One of my favorite foods is blue cheese. I've used it in sweet dishes but mostly I enjoy it in salads.

At a recent tasting when a restaurant owner I knew was trying out a prospective chef, I tasted a simple salad of blue cheese, roasted walnuts and Granny Smith apple with an apple vinaigrette. It was really wonderful and elegant.

I bought some blue d'Auvergne in France and made a similar salad. This particular blue, made in the Massif Central area is creamier (and to my palate, gentler) than the typical blue cheese found in American supermarkets. I loved its subtle taste, and felt it better suited to warmer weather dishes (blue cheese is usually reserved for cold weather, at least in my life).

It's one more taste I have acquired. But I am curious. What tastes are new to your palate?

25 January 2007

Country Blue Cheese-Pear Cake

I survey my refrigerator every day or so to see what’s left over, forgotten or likely to go to waste if I don’t use it soon.

Some would say it’s the old French frugality cropping up.

Grandma Annie did the same thing. I thought of her as I cobbled together a quick lunch today. And for some reason, I thought of Barb, perhaps because I sensed hers was a frugal existence.

It’s been years since I thought of her, the large, plain woman who lived two short blocks from Grandma Annie. I remember her as a quiet woman, either sad or wise, or perhaps both. She wore sensible dresses and sturdy shoes and was one of those people you see walking when others drive.

She was younger than my grandmother by 15 or 20 years, I think, but Annie seemed to watch out for her. If she baked cupcakes or cookies, she’d whip off her apron, grab her coat and say, “I’ll just take some down to Barb.” If Annie’s garden yielded more tomatoes than usual, she'd always give some to Barb.

Barb would do the same, less frequently. I do not recall Annie entering Barb’s house or Barb lingering in Annie’s sunny living room, but they kept in touch.

As I grew older, I understood that Barb’s handsome husband was a bit of a ne’er-do-well. He had a good job, I am told, but what he did with his money, I do not know. There were whispers, of course, there are always whispers; Annie was too polite to say. I knew better than to ask.

In my head I drew certain conclusions about Barb that I never voiced around my elders. I simply filed it all away.

Barb fascinated me. I knew she worked in the office of a big department store and she walked to work every morning and walked home every night surefooted in her big sturdy shoes. Not many of her generation worked outside the home, but Barb did so with quiet dignity that I admired even as a child.

She did what she had to do, and if she was troubled by it, she never said. She simply did.

I do not think my grandmother pitied her. Nor do I think Barb sought pity. But it was clear Annie respected Barb and thought of her when she had extras to give away.

Today, looking at the contents of my refrigerator, I was baffled until I stumbled upon on a site called Let’s Cook French, which featured the recipe from which this cake was adapted. It was an interesting experiment.

Blue Cheese and Pear Cake

  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • dash salt
  • dash pepper
  • 1 ¼ cups blue cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
  • three pears, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven to 400. In large bowl, mix flour and baking powder. In smaller bowl, whisk eggs, oil, milk, salt and pepper. Pour into dry ingredients, and blend. Add the Gruyere and blend. Finally, add the pear, blue cheese and nuts.

The original recipe calls for the batter to be poured into a buttered and floured cake mold. I used a bundt pan.

Note: This is a most unusual cake. More savory than sweet, it strikes me as a brunch dish that could be served with a fruit salad or with a lettuce salad that includes fruit. It has a rustic, Old World taste, not unpleasant.

17 January 2007

Blue Cheese Terrine with Spiced Walnuts

Like many people, when my father swore in French when he was only pretending to be angry.

“Sacrébleu,” sometimes shortened to "sacré," was a favorite. There were others that when translated should not be mentioned on a family blog.

There is some debate as to exactly what “sacrébleu” really means. Of course, literally translated, it means “sacred blue.” I've heard the phrase was once an oath, “By God,” and thus was originally “Sacré Dieu." But the word “bleu” was substituted to make the phrase less blasphemous.

Baloney. I think it has to do with cheese. Blue cheese. That stuff is so good it ought to be canonized. It is my favorite, or one of my many cheese favorites. I took an online quiz, "What Type of Cheese Are You?" and found that I am, of course, blue cheese. Was there ever any doubt? Mais, non.

Blue cheese is cow or goat cheese that has been allowed to get moldy, hence the streaks of blue or sometimes green. There are many varieties of blue cheese. Few are available this far north. Rosenborg’s Danish Blue is usually the best I can find locally. It is an acquired taste, and here in Cheddarland, I know many people who have not acquired it.

I had a rather copious amount of blue left over from New Years. Blue cheese grows more pungent with time: It is best eaten fresh (and at room temperature). So had I to find a way to use it.

Blue Cheese Terrine with Spiced Walnuts

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 1/2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives

Blend salt, cumin, cardamom and pepper in a medium bowl. Sauté walnuts in oil in a heavy skillet. Add sugar and continue sautéing until sugar turns light brown. Pour nuts and sugar into the seasoning bowl and set aside to cool. Toss so each nut is coated.

Chop chives and parsley. Blend in a small bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, allow cheese and butter to reach room temperature. Beat with an electric beater, if necessary, warming slightly in the microwave to making beating easier. When mixture is relatively smooth, mix in chopped onions and brandy.

Grease an 8.5 x 2.5 inch bread pan and line it with plastic wrap. Layer cheese mixture, followed by nuts and then spices. Repeat, until you have used up your ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Unmold onto platter, carefully peeling away the plastic wrap. Use a spatula to gently pry the plastic wrap away from the pan. Garnish brown sugar. Serve with pear slices, red grapes or dried apricots.

The recipe is adapted from the September 1996 issue of Bon Appétit and originated by Monique Barbeau of Fullers at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel & Towers. I found it on Epicurious.

This terrine turned out to be more time consuming than I like an appetizer to be. I swear I'll never to to make it again on a work night. I'm not sure I'll ever make it again, period, unless I've got a houseful of people who like blue cheese as much as I do.

A Blog to Visit: I find it hard resist a blog with the tagline "Good Food. Great Stories. I Swear" so I'm a regular over at Terry B's meticulous blog, Blue Kitchen. It's attractive, well-designed and professional in its approach. The recipes look good and the photos are dazzling — among the best I've seen in a food blog. Being a writer, I always notice the writing first and Terry's is top notch. Read why he chose the name Blue Kitchen. Read the list of music he listens to. You will be charmed.