Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I received a sample of Normandie Camembert from Ile de France, and thought the earthy notes of the cheese would pair well with mushrooms. So, for the first of two toasts, I sauteed cremini mushrooms with chopped rosemary and scooped them onto slices of my ciabatta that had been toasted under the broiler with a drizzle of olive oil. I added camembert which instantly softened and melted its way around the mushrooms. This was a camembert with character, a red wine kind of cheese, and mushrooms were the right choice to go with it.
The second type of toast is from Donna Hay magazine. I mentioned I had cut several pages from that last issue I read. This toast version was made by schmearing harissa on the toasted bread and then topping it with marinated artichoke quarters and adding fresh mozzarella. Once built, these toasts went back under the broiler so the mozzarella could transform into a deliriously oozy, lovely state. It’s an interesting combination and one I never would have thought to create, but the spicy harissa and marinated artichokes were delicious under the melted cheese. Even if you have perfect bread that can proudly show its face, both of these toppings are worth trying.
I’m submitting this to Yeastspotting where you’ll find some seriously well-made bread.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We’re blessed with a few pretty amazing grocery stores here in Austin, and we also have some great ethnic markets and specialty shops in addition to a lot of locally produced items sold at our farmers’ markets. Yes, I spend a lot of time shopping for food, and I’m driven completely insane when I can’t find certain ingredients despite having all these great places to shop. I once spent the better part of a day on an unsuccessful search for salt-packed anchovies, and I’ve never seen bottarga sold locally, and fennel pollen was a whole other story. The good news is that I recently learned of an online source for all of that and more. I was offered samples of a few products from Sausage Debauchery which offers a lot more than just sausage, and I was thrilled with the quality of everything I received. For my first use of the Sicilian, salt-packed anchovies I received, I decided on the Neapolitan crostini from Molto Italiano.
Before using the anchovies, I soaked them in a few changes of cold water and drained them. Then, I split each anchovy lengthwise and removed the spines. For the crostini, toasted bread was rubbed with a raw garlic clove. Then, the bread was topped with a fresh, Calabrian ricotta that had been mixed with red pepper flakes, black pepper, and chopped fresh oregano. The anchovy fillets were placed on top, and the crostini went back under the broiler for a minute or so. The ricotta was nicely softened and warmed, and the anchovies became glistening. I like anchovies, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of different kinds and brands of anchovies in a lot of different dishes, but these were what anchovies are all about. There was no tinny taste, and the flavor wasn’t masked by any oil often used in packing. They were a little salty, and I’ll rinse them even more carefully next time, but the flavor of the little fish themselves was fantastic. To store the remaining anchovies, I packed them into a couple of disposable, airtight containers, covered them with coarse sea salt, and put the containers in the refrigerator.
Another product I received was grated mullet bottarga from Sardinia. I was inspired by a scrambled egg and bottarga dish I’d read about in the The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. The Zuni dish is a very carefully prepared version of scrambled eggs in which slivers of butter and some grated bottarga are whisked into the eggs before they’re slowly and gently cooked over low heat while stirring with a wooden spoon that has been rubbed with garlic. It’s then served with more grated bottarga on top. It sounds lovely, but I was rushed and just scrambled some eggs in melted butter the same way I usually do and then topped them with the grated bottarga. I’ll try the very careful preparation next time. There’s a cured flavor to bottarga, not unlike smoked salmon, and it was a treat with the eggs for breakfast. It tastes of the sea in a way that I like, and it would be a nice topping on breadcrumb-crusted, broiled clams. I also look forward to using some of the grated bottarga on pasta. Although this is cured fish roe, there are no chemical preservatives used as it is simply dried with salt. The products I received were really good stuff, and the site has a lot of other great things to offer as well.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Softened butter was combined with pimenton de la vera, and I really could eat that on everything. Here, it was spread on small pieces of bread and toasted for about 10 minutes in the oven. Meanwhile, the brie was taken out of its wooden container, the covering was removed, and it was returned to the wooden container. It went into the oven for 20 minutes. Then, the top rind was cut away to allow for dipping. The hint of smokiness in the pimenton was a nice accent, but I used a small enough amount to let the brie flavor take the lead. Melty, drippy, beautiful brie was made so easy to scoop onto the bread delivery system. This may be the simplest yet most satisfying cheese recipe there is.