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

30 March 2014

A Cheese Shop in Wisconsin: A Visit to Madison's Fromagination

Two things happened yesterday: The Badgers beat University of Arizona by one point in a heart-stopping overtime and my husband and I decided a trip to Madison was in order for the summer.

I love Madison. Its politics mirror mine (trust me, I am not talking about the governor of Wisconsin) and it makes me feel 21 again. I feel privileged to have lived there for over a decade.

Madison offers much in the way of culture and fun as well as politics, and a trip there is never complete without a bit of shopping. In recent years, shopping in Madison always includes Fromagination, one of the best cheese shops in the country.

I'm rerunning this post from 2008, as a salute to a city I love, a state I've adopted and an alma mater I'm so proud to claim: 

15 March 2014

What's in My Cheese Compartment Right Now

Bleu d'Auvergne, strong, not for wimps

Although I live in Wisconsin and love traveling to France, I don't have any special knowledge of cheese: in fact, I learn something new all the time.

Tasting cheese is more enjoyable for me than tasting wine, beer, or even coffee. And yes, even chocolate.

When we finally gave our refrigerator a good cleaning yesterday, tossing out the contents of outdated bottles and jars and recycling the glass, there wasn't much left other than cheese.

Here's what's in my cheese box right this minute:

06 March 2014

Five Regional Brands I Love

Cinnamon from Penzeys

Blogging about food has changed my way of eating and enlightened me in so many ways. While I still abhor food snobs, I have become a fierce champion of fresh, close-to-home products.

21 September 2012

Frugal French Friday: Croque-Monsieur



If you want to a truly inexpensive and quick French meal, serve Croque-Monsieur.

Serve this simple ham and cheese tartine with a green salad and a bottle of simple rose table wine. Gussy it up a little. Make sure the presentation is special. Call it by its French name. Don't call it a grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich.

Your guests will be impressed.

They serve this in Paris. They do. I've ordered it, and I've ordered its mate, Croque-Madame, which has an egg on top.

The first time was a cafe near Gare d'Austerlitz. The waiter was appropriately snooty and snarky, right out of a movie.

"He thinks you're a hick because you ordered Croque-Monsier," speculated my husband.

"It's on the menu, " I countered. "If it's gauche to order it, why is it on the menu?"

I suspected it was on the menu so Parisian waiters would have a reason to be arrogant with American diners.

But I ordered it again, this time on Boulevard St. Michel. And the waiter was, well if not warm and welcoming, not snarky.

So there.

I made a Croque-Monsieur last night. I ate it with a simple fresh vegetable salad with green and red peppers.  I've been eating some version of this traditional French bistro meal all my life.

Croque-Monsieur means "crunch mister" and it's been around since about 1910, according to this article.  Add a tomato and it's a Croque-Provencal. I do that a lot. In fact, that's one of my standard breakfast dishes and it has been for most of my life.

Cost: I bought a small baguette for $1.19. I used about half. The rest of the ingredients totaled about 75 cents, so the entire tartine cost me only $1.35 per serving. 

Wine Pairing:  More often than not, I have ordered a rosé from Provence with this dish. But I've also paired ham dishes with Beaujolais, and I think that's a good choice, too.


14 September 2012

Frugal French Friday: Tomato-Onion Tart with Gruyere Cheese



Tomatoes from the super market are a poor substitute for tomatoes from the farm market. But I have some and I must use them up. This post, from 2012 has inspired me: 

Today's recipe for Onion-Tomato Tarte with Gruyere was easy to make after work, taking only about 40 minutes prep time and about an hour in the oven; mine took only 45 minutes.

The tomatoes came from a variety of local sources, including my own back yard, and the onions were from Immerfrost Farm. The herbs came from my own garden. The cheese was in my cheese compartment and was part of my ongoing Clean Out the Fridge Month effort.

I cheated and used store-bought puff pastry.

I used two types of tomatoes, one large robust-looking burgundy heirloom tomato, and about a dozen cherry tomatoes. I used plain black olives, leftovers from another meal. I also tossed in about two tablespoons of chopped thyme, and added a dash of herbes de Provence before popping it in the oven.

To keep the bottom crust from getting soggy, I let the tomato slices dry for about 30 minutes on paper towels before using layering them in the tart.

The tart was delicious: Juicy and tangy with a slight herb-y undertaste, and not soggy when reheated. I paired it with a green salad and whatever leftover I had on hand, including my Sautéed Turkish Orange Eggplant.

Cost: This meal was pricier than most of my frugal efforts. The total came to about $15, but the recipe gave me five generous servings for a cost of $3 each.

Wine Pairing: A Sauvingon Blanc is recommended; I think I'd go with a simple white table wine. These wines may get a bad rap from wine snobs, but they are often very versatile.

10 September 2012

Sautéed Turkish Orange Eggplant with Parmesan Cheese & Black Olives

I don't mind telling you I'm a little stressed these days. I have 13 or 14 working days left, and a lot to do. Meanwhile, there is no word on whether or not they've hired a replacement.

Adding to my stress were these adorable little Turkish Orange Eggplants lurking about in my crisper. They are the most heavenly little creatures I have ever seen, the color of persimmons. But they are best eaten when still green and mine were no longer green. So I knew they would be bitter.

No big deal. I can fix that.

And I did, with some success. This was, after all, a first time thing.

If you can find these eggplant at your local farm market, try this and see what you think.

Meanwhile, here's what you need to make my Sautéed Turkish Orange Eggplant with Parmesan Cheese & Black Olives:


  • 3-4 Turkish eggplants, the size of tennis balls, sliced horizontally, about 1/3-inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or diced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved


Crush the garlic and set aside, After slicing the eggplant, coat the slices in egg, then bread crumbs. Set aside. Pour olive oil into a large pan, add the garlic.When the garlic begins to brown, add the coated eggplant and sauté over medium heat, turning frequently. It only takes 3 minutes or so for the eggplant to become tender. Add salt as needed; the eggplant will be slightly bitter.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with black olives. Roasted pine nuts would be a nice addition; so would lightly sautéed tomato slices. I think some fresh basil would add interest, too. I'm not sure why I did not think of that, although as I said earlier, I'm a bit stressed these days.

The dish itself is delicious, but for all their beauty, these little eggplant have a bitter aftertaste. That would not keep me from serving this as a side dish with pasta and Italian sausage as the entrée.

Because this type of eggplant does not retain moisture the way its purple cousin does, you do not need to salt it first and set aside. But I'm guessing this step might decrease the bitterness.





02 September 2012

Tomatoes Stuffed with Brown Rice and Cheese

We've had a glorious weekend so far, all sunshine and blue sky and warm breezes. 

September is like that here. It is a month of shimmering shadows as the leaves prepare to make their departure in a blaze of glory.

But rain is in the forecast for most of the coming week, a rare turn of weather events.

The week just past was lovely, much more typical of late summer days here on the border of Wisconsin and Michigan. But it was busy, and I did not have much time to attend to my lovely stuffing tomatoes.

One night I needed an easy side dish, and there they were, easy to clean out as they have very little pulp and few seeds. I blended about two cups of brown rice with 1/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese and two heaping teaspoons of minced onions. I baked them for about 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven and topped with shaved Parmesan at the very end, allowing them a few more minutes so the cheese would melt.

The baked tomatoes gave this dish a wine-like richness. If you are watching carbs, this is a great way to keep servings small, as you can only get about 1/2 cup of rice inside the tomato.

Nothing exotic, certainly, but after posting a photo of the tomatoes, I wanted closure.

It was delicious.




26 August 2012

Leek-Olive Tart with Pave d'Affinois & Parmesan Cheese


It all started when I bought a small brick of creamy Pave d'Affinois cheese (see photo below) at the Italian market across the river. This creamy relative to Brie is heavenly, with a light grassiness and a hint of green apple.

I could have spread it on a slice of baguette, but I wanted something a bit more complex. But not complicated.

A Google search brought me to this recipe from Martha Stewart and I captivated by the rustic look of the tart. I had all the ingredients, save for the leeks, but I was pretty sure I could buy those from the Immerfrost Farm growers at the Saturday farm market.

I love these guys, and most of the other vendors. They know what I want. One of the vendors saves her odd-shaped vegetables for me. She knows I think vegetables are people. More on that one some other time.

I followed the recipe almost exactly, but followed the reviewers' suggestions and sliced my leeks differently. It was easier to eat this way. I'd suggest cutting back on the salt used on the leeks, too, as the Mediterranean olives I used provided plenty of salty flavor. As you all know, I am liberal with herbes de Provence, so I added a dash of that, too.

The thyme came from my own garden, but other than that, only the leeks were local. I would like to report that I made my own puff pastry, but I cannot tell a lie. It's on my to-do list for rewirement. Only 22 more work days!

Since I trimmed the cheese brick before melting the cheese on the tarte, I suspect it will turn up in a soup recipe sometime down the line. With Pave d'Affinois, the rind is edible.

Meanwhile, the tart was perfect for breakfast, too.

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16 November 2008

Stuffed Cheese Sandwiches with Roasted Red Pepper

In her later years, Grandma Annie seldom traveled but when she did, it was often to come to the aid of her oldest daughter who underwent a series of surgeries at mid-life. During those extended trips, my mother (a younger daughter) would haul us across the river to Annie's house in Frenchtown to "check things." These trips usually took place after school and they always seemed to be on gray November days.

We'd enter the cold, empty house, the day's mail in our hands, and quickly turn up the furnace. While my mother checked every room in the deep, narrow house, we children would huddle in the living room waiting for the heat to kick in. The furnace provided a gentle, lulling sound, a sort of comforting white noise that still soothes me today. I would eagerly sift through Annie's mail for the latest women's magazine so I could read the fiction. Those were the days before stories about orgasm and geriatric sex replaced quality short stories or novellas.

While the house was empty without Annie, her spirit always seemed to remain there as it lingered for many years after her death. Late afternoon, that time of deepening darkness, was a cozy time at the old house with the incandescent lights providing a yellow glow.

When Annie was in residence, this was the time she retreated to the kitchen to make soup, salad and sandwiches for the evening meal. I did this yesterday, as night fell, preparing a quick meal of cheese sandwiches and cole slaw. As always, Annie was with me, whispering those memories in my ear. I wonder what she would think of my concoctions?

Stuffed Cheese Sandwiches with Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Basil

  • 8 slices of roasted red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 thick slices of sourdough or Italian bread
  • 2 thicks slices of gouda or sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4-6 slices tomato
  • 4-8 basil leaves
  • butter


Coat the pepper slices with olive oil and roast in a 450-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Set aside. Butter the bread lightly on all four sides, then layer with cheese, pepper, tomato and basil leaves. Melt butter in a skillet, and toast the sandwiches until both sides are golden brown.

Next time, I'll layer the sandwiches with sautéed onion slices for extra flavor.

I served this with cole slaw to which I added chopped cranberries and grated Granny Smith apple. I think an olive medley would have been a better choice.

13 November 2008

C'est Fromage! A Visit to Madison's Fromagination

Walking from my conference to my hotel each night, I passed an inviting little shop I'd wanted to explore last summer. I ran out of time then, but this week I'd pass the shop just before closing time. So, unabashed cheesehead that I am, I dodged inside drawn by the warm glow of possibilities.

The shop is Fromagination at 12 South Carroll Street. (I should note that the photo above was taken in France; I forgot my camera this trip.)

Fromagination is chock full of artisan cheese from Wisconsin's famous cheesemakers. Not wanting to make a choice, I purchased five "orphans," small wrapped odds and ends of cheese I will bring home to my husband for our Saturday night finger food tradition.

I found the staff friendly and knowledgeable, and they did not laugh as I oohed and ahed my way around the shop. Somehow, a bag of crackers and a fruit confit found their way into my bag, along with some candy for my sweet-toothed husband back home.

I have a difficult time restraining myself in food shops.

Moreover, I have still more difficult time passing by a food shop at the end of the day. There is something enticing about their cozy light against the darkening night and something enchanting about the practice of shopping for the evening meal on the way home. There's a comforting bit of serendipity involved in finding supper in a random way, of cobbling together a meal of what is available.

It's what I used to do on those long ago evenings when I lived here.

It makes me feel good to do it when I am back in town.

30 November 2007

Quelle Fromage! St. Paulin Cheese


Preparing for Christmas always brings to mind Grandma Annie.

Not that I need a holiday to think about my warm and wonderful maternal grandmother.

But, oh, how Annie loved preparing for Christmas! She baked and baked and stashed her cookies in tins stacked inside the big red cupboard in the back kitchen, the room separate from the main kitchen by a long hallway. Classic Christmas cookies, rolled and cut from orange-infused dough and baked and iced with pastel frosting; thumbprints rich with raspberry and apricot jam; and sand tarts, sugar cookies filled with dates.

Annie loved shopping, too, and would have certainly enjoyed the ease of the Internet.

The year I was first on my own, Annie gave me a cheese basket and a cookbook.

Port de Salut was one of the cheeses in that sampler basket. I have loved its creaminess since then, and I equate it with the comfort of Annie, her kitchen and her cooking.

In Paris, one of my first purchases was a hunk of St. Paulin cheese, a sort of sibling to Port de Salut. I bought it in part because of its promised creaminess, but also because St. Paulin, P.Q., was the birthplace of Annie’s mother, Josephine, known in previous posts as Mémere.

St. Paulin, originally made by Trappist monks, was the first cheese made with pasteurized milk, about 80 years ago. It is tender, sweet, and tangy and well suited for soups and macaroni and cheese. Its rind is soft and edible.

I will be cooking with it in a day or two - they say a winter storm is on the way. I'm going to be prepared for it.

18 April 2007

Cheddar and Sun-dried Tomato Muffins

Sometimes you cannot get a recipe out of your head. It was that way with these muffins. I kept thinking about them, then obsessing about them, and the longer I refrained from making them, the more they - uh - ate away at me.

But then I am a fool for anything made with sun-dried tomato and basil. And I like beer bread, although it's not something I eat often.

Still I had to make this one. It's from the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Cheddar and Sun-dried Tomato Muffins, Made with Ale and Basil


  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups pale ale beer
  • 1 ½ cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 6 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in oil, diced
  • 3 tablespoons reserved oil from jar of sun-dried tomatoes


Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a 12-muffin tin or two 6-muffin tins with baking spray.

Blend flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and basil leaves. Set aside. In a second bowl, combine eggs, ale, cheese, tomatoes and oil. Fold this into dry mixture.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 22 minutes.

Hmmm. Not bad. A little dry. But I'd either try paper muffin cups or use butter and flour to coat my muffin tins because I could not remove these from the pan without breaking them.

I'd also use a sharp cheddar next time and increase the amount of basil.

This recipe has potential.

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.