Tag Archives: cheese

Apple & Cheddar Salad

There has been a lot of rain and gray skies this past week.  The upside: I’m welcoming the arrival of boots-and-sweater weather. The downside: It makes me want to hibernate.

More specifically, it makes me want to EAT ALL THE FOOD.  I have to keep telling myself that it’s not time for my once-a-year Fettuccine Alfredo indulgence. The idea of eating green vegetables is less than exciting, unless they are folded into a casserole of macaroni and cheese.  But vegetables must be eaten.  More exercise must take place, too, but let’s just focus on one thing for right now.

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I committed myself to making a salad today for lunch. I’ve talked before about my special relationship with salads.  I’ve even admitted to being seduced by a salad.  Once again today I was struck by how the process of making a salad makes me feel.  Preparing lunch for myself is different than cooking dinner.  It’s leisurely.  There’s no concern about pleasing anyone else.  This is special Sarah time.  As I was mincing shallots and toasting sliced almonds, I felt like I was engaging in some sort of ritual to take care of myself.  You know in chick flicks when the woman recovers from heartbreak by lighting candles, pouring a glass of wine, and running a bath?  That’s oddly what this felt like.

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The foundation of this salad was a mix of spring greens in my fridge that needed to be used, some apple, and good sharp Cheddar.  It didn’t need much beyond that.  I decided to throw some toasted almonds on there for some extra crunch (and fiber and protein).  When it came to the dressing, I whisked together a tiny bit of minced shallots, Dijon mustard, and apple cider vinegar with some olive oil. Seasoned the greens with salt, tossed in the dressing, topped with the sliced apples, coarsely grated Cheddar, and almonds.

applesalad2

So, this is pretty much a standard fruit-nut-cheese salad formula.  You could change out the almonds for walnuts or pumpkin seeds, or the cheddar for blue cheese or Gruyere.  I used Ambrosia apples because that’s what I had on hand, but I think Pink Lady or Honeycrisp (my favorites) would work nicely, too.

 

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Randomly Discovered Yumminess: Dill Havarti and Radish Sandwiches

I try very, very hard to pack my lunch and avoid buying anything from all the fast food places on campus.  I typically rely on leftovers and whatever happens to be around the kitchen.  On more days than I’d like to admit, though, this means my lunch consists of an apple, carrots, and a Luna bar.  I don’t usually pack sandwiches unless I’m in a peanut butter mood; I don’t eat deli meat other than the rare occasion when I actually find myself in a deli.

But sometimes I’ll have an extra minute to assemble a lunch and have a moment of inspiration for constructing an interesting sandwich from the random ingredients in the fridge.  Like Monday’s sandwich: dill Havarti cheese, sliced radishes, baby lettuce, and a tiny bit of mayo on cracked wheat bread.

It’s good.  That’s pretty much all I have to say about it.

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Last Night’s Dinner: Creme Fraiche Galette with Heirloom Tomatoes

I’m shallow when it comes to food.  I go for the pretty-looking food.  Sometimes it’s the food itself- vividly colored fruits and vegetables.  Sometimes it’s how the food is dressed.  I still remember this amazing salad and goat-cheese tart that I had at a French restaurant when I was probably about 13 years old (yep, more than 15 years ago).  It had a couple nasturtiums scattered on the plate and the brilliant red and orange blooms just made the salad seem fresher.  And on our recent trip to Mexico, I had to take a picture of this tuna tartar, with all the accompaniments on a separate rectangular dish:

So, yes, I’ve been eying heirloom tomatoes for awhile.  All the different colors and patterns and curvy shapes remind me of blown glass ornaments.  I just wanted them in my possession- sitting in a bowl, looking pretty.  But eating them would be good, too.

One hesitation to buying them?  It’s only in the last few years that I have come to appreciate tomatoes on their own.  I’ve always liked  them in sauce form, but only recently have I started to enjoy them raw, in salads or on sandwiches.  What really sold me was a tomato given to me by a friend a couple years ago.  I was getting ready to make some pasta and figured, “Oh cool- I have this fresh tomato I can use.”  But when I cut into what was quite possibly the juiciest, reddest tomato I have ever seen, I knew I couldn’t cook it.  Nope, that little guy was enjoyed with nothing more than a little salt and pepper, and I finally understood why people get all excited about summer tomatoes.

Still, I’m picky about tomatoes, so I had this fear that heirloom tomatoes, being so pretty, couldn’t possibly taste good (kinda like when you assume an amazingly beautiful person could not possibly have any intelligence or substance).  But it was hard to resist the boxes of mixed heirloom tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market last weekend.  And it turns out they taste just as good as they look!  It was awesome having all the different kinds at once and being able to taste the subtle differences between them.

Having this bowl of beautiful tomatoes also provided the perfect opportunity to cook the cover recipe from Harvest to Heat by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer.  As much as I love the OCD precision of creating a lattice-top pie crust, there’s something so appealing about rustic tarts (well, in this case a “galette”), and the idea of a savory one with cheese and tomatoes was too good to pass up.

With butter, creme fraiche, and cheese, this isn’t exactly a light recipe, though I did try to compensate a bit by replacing half of the regular flour with whole wheat flour, which worked out fine- the crust was delicious!  We were not crazy, however, about the cheese I decided to use – a sheep’s milk ricotta salata – since it didn’t really melt, despite baking for 35 minutes.  (Based on what I just read on Wikipedia, ricotta isn’t a “proper” cheese because it “is not produced by coagulation of casein.”  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t melt like most cheese?)  I think in the future I’d try manchego, as the recipe suggests, or maybe a chevre.

This cookbook is definitely not for beginners- not only are the recipes pretty fancy, there are also a lot of things that are not spelled out specifically and are open for interpretation, such as not clarifying how thick to slice tomatoes, or if the cheese should be grated, crumbled, or sliced.  I don’t think any of these things will make or break the recipe, but good to know if you’re used to more explicit guidance.

The recipe in Harvest to Heat calls for an optional garnish of microradishes (didn’t even know these existed) and microgreens, dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  We just did baby spinach with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, served on the side, but having taken a couple bites of the galette and the salad together, I could see serving greens on top of the galette in the future.

Creme Fraiche Galette with Heirloom Tomatoes (adapted from Harvest to Heat by Estrine & Kochendorfer)

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (for the dough, I used 1/2 cup white flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

1/2 tsp coarse salt, plus more for the tomatoes

1 tsp baking powder

1 stick of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup creme fraiche, chilled

1 pint of tomatoes, a combination of heirloom cherry tomatoes and other tomatoes, cut in half or sliced if large (I used mostly regular-sized heirlooms, plus a few grape tomatoes to fill in some gaps)

1/3 pound of semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese, such as manchego (again, I used sheep’s milk ricotta salata, which I wouldn’t recommend; I think a soft goat cheese would work well)

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and butter in a food processor, or by hand in a medium bowl.  Blend just until the butter is mixed with the dry ingredients without overmixing; there should be some pea-sized clumps.  (This was my first time using our new food processor to make dough and it was awesome.  Took about 1/4 of the time it takes by hand!)  Mix in the creme fraiche, again not overmixing.  Gather mixture into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Chill for 2 hours.

Place the tomato slices in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt.  Let them drain on several paper towels.  This helps to absorb some of their moisture and keeps the tart from getting soggy.

While the tomatoes are draining, heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out to a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick.  (Actually, I rolled the dough out on a sheet of floured parchment paper as it was easier to transfer to a baking sheet.  It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, or anywhere close.  The free-form shape is part of the charm!)

Carefully slide a rimless baking sheet under the dough (or carefully slide the parchment paper, with the dough, onto the baking sheet).  Scatter the cheese on top of the dough, leaving a 3-inch border.  (This is kind of silly, but since the ingredients list just says “1/3 pound of cheese” I wasn’t sure if I should grate it or try to crumble it…. In the end, I was too lazy to pull of the grater and so I just thinly sliced the cheese and arranged it on the dough.)

Arrange the tomatoes on top of the cheese.  (I actually left off the last few slices because the whole tart was covered, but I should have just overlapped more, since the tomatoes shrink a bit when they cook.  So use lots of tomatoes!)  Fold the edges of the dough over the tomatoes, pleating the dough as you fold.

Bake the galette until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.  Let it cool while you make whatever salad or fancy microgreens you’re serving with the tart.

Just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over the galette.  I also sprinkled a little ground pepper and fresh basil on top of the tart for some extra color.  (I told you I like pretty food.)

So pretty, and so good.

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Poblanos Stuffed with Crab, Quinoa, and Cheese

I seem to have more fruits and vegetables around lately.  Which is great, other than the fact that – as I’ve previously mentioned – I hate letting food go to waste and so I start to have anxiety about using up fresh produce before they go bad.  This coincides with some weeks where I’m collecting data at people’s homes and driving more than normal.  Therefore a lot of cooking recently has been based on “what food do we have in the kitchen?” to avoid both wasting food and spending more time in the car.

Nick used to love the challenge of coming into my kitchen (at the time, an unfamiliar territory) and cooking an amazing dinner based on whatever random ingredients I had hanging around.  I can see why he liked that- it’s fun following your instincts instead of a recipe.  The other night we threw together grilled poblano peppers stuffed with black quinoa, tomatoes, and mozzarella, and topped with smoked gouda and parmesan (lots of leftover ingredients from last weekend’s pizza).  Unfortunately I was not anticipating a blog-worthy dinner that night, so I wasn’t prepared to take pictures.  But as luck would have it, we ended up making another version today, taking advantage of some steamed crabs sitting in the fridge from my parents’ neighborhood crab feast last night.

There are no precise measurements for this, or even close.  Worst case scenario, prepare a bit more filling than you think you need, and then it’s prepared to make more stuffed peppers the next day, or later that night, if you decide you didn’t have enough.

First we halved the poblanos and cleaned out the ribs and seeds.  (Latex gloves recommended for this part- the day before our wedding Nick handled about 100 chiles and ended up soaking his hands in milk, water, aloe, etc. for the rest of the night…. Fortunately he recovered by the following day.)

Then I spooned some cooked quinoa (probably about a teaspoon to a tablespoon, depending on the size of the pepper; I used black since we had it at home) into each pepper half.  Next, I scattered a few pieces of diced tomato and cubed mozzarella (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) in the peppers, over the quinoa, but not so much that the quinoa is completely covered.

I then tightly packed crab meat in each pepper, almost filling it entirely and covering all of the cheese, tomato, and quinoa.  Nick decided since we were doing crabs, it needed some Old Bay seasoning, so he sprinkled that on the crab before topping it with diced jalapenos and shredded cheddar cheese.

Nick then grilled the peppers at 450 degrees until the cheese was melted and the peppers were slightly charred.

This makes an excellent lunch or dinner.  And based on our experience the other night, I can assure you that the peppers are just as good without the crab meat.  Just use a bit more quinoa, tomato, and mozzarella to fill the peppers.  I also recommend using smoked gouda on top- it goes sooo perfectly with the charred peppers.  Really, the peppers are kind of a blank canvas for whatever ingredients you want to fill them with.

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How to Base a Meal Around Wegman’s Olive Bar

More specifically, the basil pesto from Wegman’s olive bar.  Nick and I buy it to spread on pizza, mix into pasta, eat from a spoon.  And last Friday, when I just happened to be at Wegman’s, I figured I should pick some up for our dinner.  To give you a bit of background, I would say that about 95% of our Friday evenings fall into one of these three categories:

1. Nick works until 8, gets home by 9, and we go out for Fancy Date Night (which usually means burgers, duck fat fries, and beer at Victoria Gastropub).

2. Nick has a gig, and I’m left to my own devices (which usually means cooking pasta at 10:30 pm when I realize I haven’t eaten anything).

3. Nick works until 8, gets home by 9, and we stay in, drink, and listen to records or watch silly videos of cats on YouTube.

If it’s the third category, it is likely that our dinner will consist primarily of bread and cheese.  I don’t know what it is about Fridays…. Despite the fact that I usually stay home on Fridays (it’s supposed to be my day for reading, homework, and catching up on errands), I often have no energy and no inspiration to cook dinner.  On more than one occasion I’ve walked out of Trader Joe’s with some asparagus, three different cheeses, bread, and sea salt brownies. (And if it was one of the Fridays Nick is not at home, I’d be satisfied with that.)

Last Friday was no exception.  I went from the produce section to the bakery, the olive bar, and the seafood counter before returning back to produce and repeating the cycle.  At least three times.

There was a moment of inspiration for making a pizza: pesto (of course), fresh tomatoes, more basil, goat cheese…  Then I realized we had pizza earlier in the week (not that this would ever be a problem for Nick).  I ended up with some tomatoes and mozzarella and plans to make a caprese salad.  A loaf of bread had also managed to find its way to my basket, but I didn’t really want more cheese, so I wandered over to the olive bar to get some pesto.  (Yes, I realize pesto has cheese in it, but if you saw the amounts of brie and – my favorite – Cambozola that Nick and I can consume in one sitting, you’d understand that the grated Parmesan in the pesto is fairly trivial.)

I limited myself to three items at the olive bar- pesto, a mix of Greek olives and feta (oops, more cheese), and marinated artichoke hearts.

The best part?  An excuse to use the rectangular dishes I recently received as a shower gift.

Grilled turkey kielbasa rounded out the meal (I figure our placemats compensate for the lack of green vegetables on our plates).

A lot of caprese salad recipes only call for a drizzle of olive oil, but I love adding some balsamic vinegar.  Including both orange and red tomatoes added some extra color (and consequently made me quite happy):

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