Tag Archives: Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Warm La Tur Cheese with Chocolate Sauce & Charred Torn Bread

Do you read the magazine La Cucina Italiana? It’s on my fav subscription list because the magazine is unique and authentic with beautiful food photography. I was reading the November 2012 issue last week and was riveted when I turned to page 34. Before me was a stunning photograph of warm cheese wrapped in charred parchment paper, drizzled with a chocolate sauce and served with charred pieces of torn crusty bread. Cheese, chocolate and bread? Oh, yeah! I even tweeted about it, because I was so inspired by the sight of it. The recipe is from pastry chef Brooks Headley of the famed New York restaurant, Del Posto. Upon sight, my mind was instantly made up and I knew I had to try this recipe, very soon, as in the next day. The star inside the beautiful little packet is La Tur cheese from Piemonte, Italy. Made from cow, goat and sheep milk, it has a unique buttery, tangy flavor. You can find it at Murray’s Cheese, and at most Kroger (King Soopers, Fry’s) stores as well. After signing up, the recipe is available on-line from La Cucina Italiana. I thoroughly enjoyed this unique course and think it will be perfect for our December gourmet dinner.

La Tur cheese up close and out of the container – about the size of a ramekin, comes with a bottom paper wrapper to contain the gooey goodness inside.

“From the great wine region of Piemonte comes La Tur: a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cakey, palette-coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full, with a lingering lactic tang. The effect is like ice cream served from a warm scoop: decadent and melting from the outside in.”  

Region: Piemonte
Country: Italy
Cheese Type: Bloomy: Buttery & Rich
Milk Type: Pasteurized Goat, Sheep & Cow
Wine Pairing: Sparkling wines
Rennet: Animal
Age: 2-4 weeks

Source: Murray’s Cheese

Room temperature cheese, cut in half to show different layers (would not recommend doing at home, very messy and otherwise unnecessary). For easier removal from the container, loosen lid and turn cheese over onto lid while holding with the palm of your hand. Discard (please recycle) bottom part of container and carefully remove the paper wrapper around the bottom half.

Gently turn the cheese onto a piece of parchment paper (about 12 inches long). Wrap it like a present, seam side down, and fold extra paper at edges underneath.

And this is the reward! I used 60% cacao chocolate and would use just a splash of olive oil (definitely use a fruity extra virgin oil) next time instead of what the recipe called for; the cheese is so rich to begin with, I didn’t think it needed any more. And I would have liked the bread better if grilled, for a smoky flavor. Definitely serve with your favorite champagne. Cheers!

Thanks to La Cucina Italiana, and Del Posto for sharing!

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Eat well and share the love!

Got Biga? Make Focaccia with Red Onions & Rosemary

I have never met a focaccia that I didn’t like.  The best that I have tasted was in the Marche region of Italy, outside of Force.  We were staying at Paolo’s agriturismo, Ramuse, and were lucky to meet up with the other guests who were visiting from England, Chris and Graham.  After visting the local shoemaker for some Italian boots, Paolo took us all to a local wine maker and olive oil purveyor, Bruno.  We tasted white wine poured straight from the vat and felt like welcome friends.  After retreating to a dining room, we all sat down to enjoy some red wine. Paolo disappeared, only to return about 15 minutes later with warm, fresh focaccia from a local bakery.  Bruno’s olive oil and some lonza (similar to prosciutto) were brought out and we had a feast.  It was a highlight of our two-week trip.  My focaccia is a humble representation of our visit to Italy, and the friends we made in Marche.

Bruno even taught us how to taste olive oil: a small amount is poured into little glasses where the warmth of your hand gently warms the olive oil, the cup is swirled, then sniffed, sipped and savored.

This focaccia is made with a biga, or starter.  I have always thought bigas were such a sexy way to make a loaf of bread or focaccia, where some bigas can be many years old and fed daily with more ingredients to keep it kindled with life.  This recipe does take some time, a labor of food love, so you’ll need to plan at least a day ahead to start the biga.  Made from yeast, water and flour, a biga adds extra flavor – in my opinion a “je ne sais quoi” quality.

To get me started, I relied on Carol Field’s informative cook book, Focaccia – Simple Breads from the Italian Oven.  I cut the recipe down for the two of us and came up with a 12 x 9 inch focaccia (used a quarter sheet pan).  To replicate the focaccia from Marche, the top gets drizzled with generous amounts of good olive oil and topped with sautéed red onions and fresh rosemary.  After numerous recipe tests, this one has consistent results – even at my 7,500 ft. altitude.  The outside has a thin crispy crust and the interior is light and fluffy, just what I would expect.  I think my European chaps would approve.

Here’s a quick review of the focaccia making process (keep on scrolling for some visuals):

· Make the biga, or starter – let sit for 24 hours to proof

· Make the focaccia dough – let rise for 1½ to 2 hours

· Press dough into a quarter sheet pan (about 12” x 9”) or a baking dish – let rise for another 1½ to 2 hours

· Dimple the dough with your fingertips or knuckles, drizzle with generous amount of good olive oil and add toppings – let rise for 30 minutes while oven is heating

· Cook focaccia for about 25 minutes, serve hot with extra virgin olive oil and a glass of wine

First Rise: 1½ to 2 hours.  The dough can be made by hand or by using an upright mixer, as I did.  Here’s an easy trick to create a warm environment for the dough to rise: Before you start making the dough, heat oven to 200º and as soon as it reaches temperature turn the oven off.  Make the dough, add to a well-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, place a clean kitchen towel on top and let rise in warm oven.  The dough ball goes from this above, to this beauty below.

Second Rise: Press the dough into a sheet pan or baking dish and let rise for another 1½ to 2 hours. Re-warm the oven while transferring dough to sheet pan.

Third Rise: The dough will have doubled in volume during the second rise. Dimple the surface, add olive oil and toppings. Let rise for another 30 minutes and heat oven to 425º. Cook for 5 minutes, reduce oven temp to 400º F and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly golden.

Serve warm and be sure to enjoy with loved ones and friends, along with a glass of wine. I poured some Meiomi Pinot Noir and enjoyed reminiscing with David. Ah, if only we could be sitting on Paolo’s porch right now with his homemade vin cotto and some Italian focaccia in hand, chatting with friends and gazing upon the picturesque Italian countryside.

Eat well and share the love!

Focaccia with Red Onions & Rosemary and a Biga (print recipe)
Recipe Adapted from: Focaccia, Simple Breads From The Italian Oven by Carol Field
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Cooking Time: 24 hours for biga, 4 to 4½ hours for focaccia rising/baking
Makes one loaf, approx. 12” x 9”

2 tablespoons, plus 1 cup, 2 tablespoons warm water
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 ½ cups plus 1/3 cup flour
3/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
¾ cup warm water
3 tablespoons plus 1 ½ teaspoons biga
1¼ tablespoon olive oil
1¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ red onion, very thinly sliced (sautéed)
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped
Kosher salt

Biga: Needs to proof for 24 hours.
Add 2 tablespoons of the warm water to a large glass bowl and sprinkle the yeast over. Stir lightly and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes until creamy. Add the remaining warm water and the flour; mix well with a rubber spatula or spoon. Mixture will be wet and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on counter for 24 hours, until thick and bubbly.

Biga will last for up to 5 days, refrigerated. Tip: portion out biga into Ziploc bags, freeze and use when needed; allow a few hours to defrost, or place in refrigerator to defrost overnight.

Dough: Can be made by hand or with an upright mixer (#2 speed) and dough hook. To rise the dough in a warm environment, heat the oven to 200º and turn off when it reaches temperature.

Add the warm water to a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over; lightly mix together and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes until creamy. Add the biga and olive oil and mix. Add the flour and salt and knead or mix together for about 5 minutes until dough is velvety and soft, not sticky. Place the dough ball in a well-oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place a clean kitchen towel (folded in half) on top. Let rise for 1½ to 2 hours, in warm oven, until dough has doubled in size.

Reheat the oven to 200º and turn off. Grease a quarter sheet pan, or roughly 12” x 9” baking dish, and press dough into pan. Start in the middle and with your hands flat, gently press and stretch the dough to fit the pan size. Let rise for another 1½ hours until doubled in volume.

While the dough is rising for the second time, sauté the red onions; to a small skillet, add 1 teaspoon olive over medium heat. Add the sliced onions along with a pinch of salt and cook until they are just soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

After the second rise, dimple the dough surface with your finger tips or knuckles, drizzle with a generous amount of good olive oil, sprinkle the chopped rosemary over top, add the sautéed onions – spreading out evenly and sprinkle with a good pinch of kosher salt. Cover sheet pan with plastic wrap and folded kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

If you have a pizza stone, place it on the middle rack and heat oven to 425º. Place the sheet pan on the pizza stone or oven rack and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 400º and cook for 20 to 25 minutes more until lightly golden. Serve warm with extra virgin olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt.

It’s the little things in life! Chris, our friend from Ramuse and the U.K., sent me this generous gift last week.  During our visit to Ramuse, we made gnocchi with Paolo and I wore Jamie Oliver’s apron – something I haven’t forgotten. Paolo was a truffle supplier to Jamie Oliver and Geraldo Contaldo – both of whom who have visited Paolo’s magical place. I am a lucky lady indeed!  Thanks again, Chris!

Salsa di Noce (Walnut Sauce)

This week I hosted book club and was happy to share the food love. For inspiration, I turned to one of my newer cookbooks, Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein.  I have been eyeing the Salsa di Noce recipe for several weeks, not sure how to use this scrumptious sauce.  It is a combination of Italian salsa verde (see emmycooks for a tasty version) and a Sephardic nut sauce, and is full of flavor.  The author describes it as “fragrant and voluptuous” – anytime the word voluptuous is used to describe food you know it has to be good. Judging by the almost empty bowl at book club, I think it was a hit. Toasted, chopped walnuts are combined with fruity olive oil, parsley, garlic, hard-boiled egg yolks, kalamata olives and capers to create a flavorful and rich sauce that is worthy of spooning on anything.  For book club I served it with roasted carrots, parsnips and potatoes along with some hard-boiled eggs.  The Salsa di Noce would make a seared halibut filet very happy as well.  Or use it as a tapenade on a pan bagnat sandwich (see bobvivant for her recipe adaptation).  The recipe makes a generous 2 cups, but for two foodies I would recommend reducing the recipe by half as a little goes a long way.

Now I have something to nosh on while reading our next book club selection – maybe I’ll add some crusty bread with the Salsa di Noce along with a glass of wine….all the makings for a happy foodie! 

Eat well and share the love!

Salsa di Noce (Walnut Sauce)
By Joyce Goldstein
Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen
Makes about 2 cups

3 hard-boiled egg yolks, chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (I used 1 clove)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons chopped, pitted Mediterranean-style black olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped

In a bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk to mix well.

Denver: Infinite Monkey Theorem’s Malbec wine (my favorite!) at the October RiNo first Friday event; they are a neighborhood winery with national acclaim.  The evening was punctuated with Boulder’s Basta Eatery & Pizzeria who fired up their mobile pizza oven to serve mouth-watering artisanal pizzas.  Hope they have it again in November!  Don’t miss it.

Cantaloupe & Cambozola Cheese: Inspiration from a Supper Club

Have you ever heard of a pop-up dinner, underground dinner or supper club?   Denver has several – they are invitation-only dinners organized by local chefs who want to share the love and showcase some of their culinary skills. Earlier this month we were lucky enough to get picked for a Noble Swine Supper Club dinner.  It was our second dinner with the friendly crew (and the second time I forgot my camera!) who create and serve a culinary feast for about 30 people.  Today I was inspired to recreate a simple but flavorful course from their dinner menu: musk melon (from the Boulder Farmer’s Market) dotted with French blue cheese, and paired with an Italian Moscato.  I used a regular cantaloupe and one of my favorite blue’s, Cambozola (more on this cheese in a bit). This dish is simply prepared with cubed, market-fresh cantaloupe and a strong, creamy blue, finished off with fresh-cracked pepper, fresh thyme leaves and a bit of extra virgin olive oil.  The sweet, juicy melon is a wonderful contrast against the creamy, rich Cambozola cheese and the pepper adds an unexpected brightness.  With the Moscato, it was the perfect end to the meal!

More about the supper club: The Noble Swine team changes location for each dinner, where one long table is set up, nametags organize the seating and guests get to enjoy a meticulously prepared 5 to 6-course meal paired with several different wines.  This is an intimate dinner experience with locally sourced food that is prepared to perfection, superb wines and people who enjoy eating food as much as I do!  The August 6th venue was hosted by generous dinner guests who opened their home so they along with 25-plus other people could dine on the balcony of their downtown Denver apartment. Before dinner, we enjoyed a cocktail on the rooftop patio/garden with sweeping views of the city and Front Range. It was a fabulous evening! 

Now back to the cheese that I used with the cantaloupe: Cambozola cheese. A recent Costco discovery, this cheese has become our favorite choice for a blue. It’s a triple cream soft cheese combined with Italian gorgonzola that delivers with tons of creamy flavor and a slight tang, which is why I like this style so much; the creaminess mellows out some of the pungent blue cheese flavor. It’s best eaten at room temperature and wonderful on fresh bread or crackers, or with cantaloupe.
Cheers to new food experiences and supper clubs!

Eat well and share the love!

Sweet Boy Murphy with Auntie Dawne, visiting from Tucson