Superfoods TM_SF_WCRESS_FI_002_1

I’ve willfully never jumped on the kale bandwagon. I haven’t added the leafy green to my morning smoothies. I’ve yet to bake my own kale chips and I don’t find it an attractive green for salads. Yes, I know, it’s one of the most fashionable vegetables of the last 50 years and touts even trendier health benefits. But the closest kale has ever gotten to my heart was after I sautéed it in enough bacon fat to strip it of all its superfood qualities.

So I was happy when a study revealed last month that kale was actually nowhere near being the most nutrient-dense food. Not even close. In fact, it ranked number 15, far behind its nemesis, spinach, and less-popular greens like beet, collard, chard, and chicory. To everyone’s surprise, another vegetable came out on top: watercress.

A close relative to mustard greens and arugula, watercress is a delicate but feisty green. As its name implies, it grows partially submerged in water. According to researchers, watercress is the ultimate superfood — full of essential vitamins and minerals, with a higher percentage of nutrients than any other vegetable. It’s long been known for its copious amounts of calcium and iron, and it’s just as good for you in its raw state as it is cooked. MORE

Cheese TM_CH_RINDS_FI_004

“Uh… Dori? I think something went bad in here.” My friend Alex stood with the refrigerator door at arms length, scrunching up his nose.

I walked over to give it a whiff, and smiled as I took in the familiar stink of the washed-rind Adrahan I had gleefully purchased earlier that day.

“Nope, that’s just the cheese.”

Alex looked at me skeptically, most likely second-guessing his decision to be my rind co-taster for the afternoon.

When trying out new cheeses, we sometimes come across a fuzzy wedge of Brie, or a veiny Blue with skin that’s a bit too moldy for comfort, or a heavily washed rind that elicits a reaction much like the one Alex had when he found himself upwind of my open refrigerator. When that happens, even the boldest among us question whether or not we are truly fearless when it comes to cheese.
MORE

Questionable Tastes TM_QT_CARBON_AP_010_1

“It’s not about a recipe,” said chef Riccardo De Pra. “It’s about a concept.” He was talking about spaghetti alla carbonara, the humble bachelor’s dish of pasta, eggs, and bacon that he serves “deconstructed” at his Michelin-starred restaurant, Dolada, in the foothills of the Alps, overlooking the serene Lago di Santa Croce. On the last evening of a very strange trip, I ate De Pra’s deconstructed spaghetti alla carbonara, paired with a profound Piemontese white wine made from an ancient grape called timorasso that had been rescued from near-extinction, and I wondered seriously if I would ever find my way home.

I’d been stranded in Italy for several days. This was in the spring of 2010, when an Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name of Eyjafjallajokull erupted, spewing tons of ash and causing havoc for air travel. Many, at the time, called Eyjafjallajokull the worst disruption in the history of transportation. My trip was supposed to be a four-day jaunt to visit wineries in the Veneto, focusing on Prosecco, Soave, and Valpolicella. The plan: jet in; visit a dozen wineries in four days; jet out; return home; write article. Like millions of others during that shutdown of European airspace, I hadn’t factored a volcano into my plans. So the airline canceled my Sunday morning flight from Venice, with the earliest possibility of return on Thursday. MORE

Ingredient TM_IN_SUMAC_AP_001_004

If I told you that a spice often used to season grilled meats can also brighten up a delicate dessert, would you believe me? What if I told you that spice was sumac? Would you even have a jar of it to go home and taste?

Perhaps you’ve seen the plant’s bright red berries growing wild in your backyard before. Or maybe you’ve only heard about the poisonous variety, a relative of poison ivy and poison oak. If you’ve really been paying attention, you might recognize it as one of the primary components of za’atar, the increasingly popular Middle Eastern spice blend. But you’ve probably never tried sumac by itself, let alone cooked with it.

Sweet and tart, bitter and fruity, sumac has an unusual flavor profile for a spice. Imagine eating freshly picked raspberries, followed by a juicy tomato, topped off with a pleasantly savory finish. Made from a berry that is dried and ground into a bright burgundy powder, sumac is easily one of the most interesting — and certainly prettiest — spices you could have in your pantry. It has long been a saving grace spice in Middle Eastern cuisines, where it was traditionally used to brighten up dishes when lemons weren’t available or affordable.
MORE

Cheese TM_CH_CHEESE_FI_001

With so many well-stocked and diverse food stores at our disposal, it’s difficult to imagine that we could possibly be missing out on anything – including cheese. In fact, some cheese counters are so daunting, it would take months to eat your way through every option. But the hunks we find at even the most well-endowed cheese shops are just a tiny sliver of everything the world has to offer.

There are several interconnected reasons for the relatively limited selection of foreign cheeses in the United States. Bureaucratic institutions make international compliance with food quality regulations difficult, if not impossible. Small-scale operations abroad rarely have the means or the desire to change their ways to comply with foreign standards, and feel little incentive to give up their traditional methods when there is enough enthusiasm for their product as-is at home.

“They’re not going to make more unless they’re entrepreneurial and value making money,” says Emilio Mignucci, Vice President of Product Pioneering at DiBruno Brothers in Philadelphia (and a third-generation member of the store’s eponymous family). Mignucci was, of course, pointing to many cheesemakers’ reluctance to change their traditional ways for capital gain. “They’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.”
MORE

Holiday TM_HL_CHBALL_FI_001

’Tis the season for neighborhood treat exchanges, family get-togethers, and New Year’s celebrations. And so comes the yearly appetizer conundrum. Appetizer spreads have become a competition as we all try to out-hor-d’oeuvre one another. Each year, we try to bring something a little more sophisticated and spectacular to the party. But whatever happened to the classics? Why re-invent the wheel? That’s why, this holiday season, I’m going old-school. I am making cheese balls. (Please, hold your gasps of horror!)

It would not be a Lamoureux Christmas without a cheese ball. Even though some may see the cheese ball as the quintessential cheesy (if you will), retro (but not in a good way) appetizer, I look forward to the annual cheese ball gracing our table at Christmas. So it perplexes me why everyone snickers at cheese balls when they hold such a fond place in my heart.
MORE

Cheese TM_CH_FALLCH_FI_001

As summer fades and the nights catch up to the days in length at the onset of autumn, we seek comfort in hearty food and drink that can stand up to the colder weather. ‘Tis the season for meaty stews, full-bodied red wines, earthy wild mushrooms, fibrous nuts and seeds, and dense fruits and vegetables. It’s also a perfect time of year to indulge in those rich, beefy cheeses that we pass over during the hotter months, when we instead gravitate towards feta, ricotta, and fresh goat cheeses that pair well with watery summer fruits, light salads, and crisp white wines.
MORE

Cheese TM_CS_RAWMILK_AP_015

Believe it or not, there are some days when I welcome a lunch that smells like sweaty gym socks. At least that’s how Alex Greene, cheesemonger at Valley Shepherd Creamery, described the creamy, pungent block of Hudson Red he cut for me at the New Jersey cheesemakers’ Reading Terminal Market outpost in Philadelphia. But my days of stinky lunches could be numbered. The washed-rind, raw, cow’s-milk stinker is one of many that could be making its way onto the endangered species list — that is, if the government has its way.
MORE

Forgotten Foods TM_HR_RAREBIT_FI_001

My father does not have an illustrious history with cooking. You wouldn’t know that looking at him in the kitchen now – when my grandmother’s health was failing, he studied with her so that he could make her classic desserts, like fluffy cream cake, spiraling jelly rolls, and not-too-sweet apple pies. But before that, I knew my father to have exactly one dish – Welsh rarebit.
MORE

Madame Fromage TM_MF_DIGEST_FI_001

Few things are lovelier than ending a meal with a spot of cheese. The French have done it for years without any trauma to their collective girth, which suggests that indulging in a morsel or two of cheese after supper, instead of a brownie sundae, just might be better for all of us. In fact, eating cheese at the end of a meal is supposed to be good for your teeth. Thank you, food scientist Harold McGee, for that important dental insight.

For after-dinner inspiration, try ordering a cheese course for dessert next time you go out. The Fountain Restaurant in Philadelphia is famous for its cheese cart, which is wheeled to each table like an elaborate pram; the Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan offers an impeccable assortment which sits, veiled, on a slate in its tavern dining room, so that’s it’s impossible not to steal furtive glances. Cheese after a meal should be so exquisite; it should arouse desire. MORE

First Person

Adventures in Cheesemaking

One engineer's mishaps and misadventures on the road to mozzarella

by

It was Friday, one o’clock in the morning, four hours into my supposedly two-hour homemade mozzarella recipe, and I found myself standing before a pile of cheese more akin to a ball of warm cauliflower than an artisanal dairy product. The “cheese” crumbled between my fingers like wet sand, and when I cautiously sampled a pinch of my work all that came to mind was damp, salty cardboard.

My desire to make cheese arose from my desire to eat cheese. I have an old habit of researching foods I tend to eat, and that research often results in an attempt to recreate my favorite dishes at home. As a student of the sciences, I set out on my cheesemaking ordeal under the impression that if I could solve differential equations, analyze blood flow models, and pass a course titled “Chronobioengineering,” I would have no problem separating curds from whey to make a little cheese.
MORE

Madame Fromage TM_MF_MILDBL_FI_001

Most people who profess to hate blue cheese don’t know a thing about it. They see blue veins, and they turn their peacock heads toward the Jarlsberg display. What a pity. If only they would close their eyes and accept a spoonful of Gorgonzola Dolce, then they might think they were eating vanilla ice cream. Or if they accepted a morsel of Cremificato Verde Capra, they might mistake it for lemon frosting.

Not all blues are badasses. Some tread very, very lightly.
MORE

Bookshelf

Mac Attack

Creative twists on a crowd-pleasing classic

by

I was 12 years old when I learned that macaroni and cheese didn’t have to come from a box. Until that point, mac and cheese was something that my mom bought occasionally and tucked away for those evenings when my sister and I were home with a babysitter. It was cheaper than a pizza and even a 15 year old with basic cooking skills could make it. We never had mac and cheese made from scratch because my mom could not bear to sit down to a meal that starred a dish made solely of noodles and cheese.

Then one night, an old friend of my parents’ came to visit, with four of her six children in tow. After a quick glance at our pantry, Lusana began to make a colossal batch of homemade macaroni and cheese to feed the kids. I watched in fascination as she made a creamy sauce, poured it over broken spaghetti noodles (it was what we had) and baked it until it bubbled and browned. A single bite and I was forever sold. MORE

Madame Fromage TM_MF_TRIPLE_FI_001

If there’s a cheese pairing associated with Valentine’s, it’s a glass of bubbly and a wedge of triple crème. Lovers who fall for this luxe combo tend to think of it as a supremely naughty indulgence – the apex of dairy gluttony. After all, “triple crème” suggests three times the fat of regular cheese.

Like Cupid, that’s a myth. Let me spread some beautiful truth: a hunk of hard cheese, like Pecorino or Parm, actually contains more fat by the pound than a wedge of runny Brie. That’s because there’s more moisture in soft cheese, meaning: more water. Hard cheese, on the other hand, is low in moisture and high in fat, making it far more decadent. MORE