How To Assemble A Cheese Plate

This was my knowledge of cheese plates: 1) They can take the place of dessert at fancy restaurants, and are really expensive. 2) The ones I’ve seen at receptions usually consist of some Swiss, cheddar, and jalapeño jack.  Maybe there would be a brie thrown into the mix.  That’s it.  In a nutshell, I didn’t know much about cheese plates.

So, I decided to rectify the situation. I headed to my local Whole Foods, where they have extremely knowledgeable staff in their cheese department.  I spoke to Rob, a cheese monger, and he put together a classic cheese array for me to sample: a soft cheese, an aged cheese, a firm cheese, and a blue cheese.  He also explained the different types of rinds used on cheese: bloomy, cloth, wax, and washed.

Whole Foods is celebrating American artisan cheeses this month, and they have a wide offering from U.S. companies.  For my cheese platter, I went with Green Hill soft ripened from Sweet Grass Dairy (Georgia), Reading from Spring Brook Farm (Vermont), clothbound cheddar from Grafton Village (Vermont), blue from Rogue River (Oregon).

Next came what to pair with the cheeses.  On Rob’s recommendation, I chose a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  A few different cracker varieties (toasted baguette would be good too), honey, and some fruit filled out the plate.  Other suggestions could be champagne grapes, fig jam, or prosciutto. The fruit went well with all the cheeses.  The honey tasted great with the cheddar and the Reading.  The rosemary added some aromatics.

My best advice if you want to put together a plate on your own: don’t be afraid to ask questions!  Cheese experts can recommend varieties from a specific region, and suggest alternatives to cow’s milk cheese.  I tasted an amazing buffalo cheese from Italy, and a sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees.  Some places will give you samples before you decide on a purchase.

If you want to explore some of the fantastic artisan cheeses available at Whole Foods, then be sure to enter the giveaway for a $50 gift card! Click here to enter.  Giveaway ends on Monday, August 19th. Update: giveaway ended

Disclosure: I received a gift card from Whole Foods to purchase ingredients.  All opinions are my own.

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Ham, Zucchini, and Gruyere Quiche


Pie Week charges on. Wednesday already? Time to change things up, with a savory pie. You may (or may not) have noticed a dearth of egg recipes on my blog. Aside from the occasional dessert with a rich custard, I tend to stay away from eggy dishes – brunch favorites, hollandaise sauce, anything with meringue….That’s because Hubs has an egg intolerance. The tyke may have inherited this. Since I don’t want to be the only one in the house to eat something, I tend to shy away from these types of foods.

The one exception to this is quiche. Every so often, I crave quiche. I love the cheesy, light-but-dense filling, especially combined with a pastry crust. Quiche is a great way to use up the stuff that hangs out in my refrigerator drawers. Leftover mushrooms? Throw them in! A few nubs of hard cheese? Grate them up! A few sprigs of thyme? Even better! Quiche is one of the few dishes where I’ll eat ham, probably because there’s lots of other stuff to hide it in. I also like to eat quiche with a salad, especially arugula, because it helps balance out the richness from the pie.


original recipe

Ham, Zucchini, and Gruyere Quiche

Ham, Zucchini, and Gruyere Quiche

Ingredients

Pastry dough for a single layer pie
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium zucchini, diced
7 oz. ham steak, cubed
4 large eggs
1 c regular cream
1 ½ c gruyere cheese
¼ c shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Roll out pastry dough and line a deep dish pie plate.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add ham and cook until the ham begins to brown, another 3-4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. Stir in gruyere, Parmesan, and ham/zucchini mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into the prepared pie plate. Bake until set, about 35-40 minutes. Cover edge of the crust with a pie shield or strips of foil to keep them from burning. Remove from oven, and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
http://kokocooks.com/2011/09/ham-zucchini-and-gruyere-quiche/

 

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Spinach Strawberry Salad with Baked Goat Cheese

It is strawberry season in Florida. Our season can start as early as January and go through April, with February and March being the peak of the season. We went strawberry picking over the weekend. It was beautiful weather – sunny, breezy, and not too hot.

The tyke had a blast picking strawberries. After a brief tutorial from Hubs, the tyke went right for the reddest berries. Except that he kept poking his fingers into them. I had to separate them from the intact berries so that we’d eat the gouged ones first.

All in all, we ended up with 9 lbs of strawberries. I’ve been searching for interesting recipes in which to use them.

I found this yummy salad that not only called for strawberries, but goat cheese (one of my favorite foods.) Bingo! I also liked that the strawberries were part of a savory dish.

Adapted from Closet Cooking

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Baked Goat Cheese

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Baked Goat Cheese

Ingredients

4 oz goat cheese
¼ c bread crumbs
¼ c halved pecans
½ c balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs honey
3 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp dried mustard
Salt and pepper
6 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
2 c strawberries, sliced
2 green onions, light green and green parts thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Freeze goat cheese for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Remove from freezer, and slice into thick rounds. Dredge the goat cheese in the bread crumbs, making sure to completely cover the cheese. Place goat cheese rounds on a baking sheet. Place pecan halves in an even layer on same baking sheet. Bake until pecans are toasted, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from oven, and roughly chop pecans. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, and mustard. Whisk until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the spinach, strawberries, and green onions in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over the mixture, and toss to combine. Divide salad evenly into four bowls. Top with chopped pecans and a goat cheese round.
http://kokocooks.com/2011/02/spinach-strawberry-salad-with-baked-goat-cheese/

 

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Phyllo-Wrapped Brie with Apricot and Rosemary Chutney

 

I saw this recipe a long time ago in Bon Appetit magazine. It took me over 10 years to gather the courage to try it. Working with phyllo scared me for a while. Luckily, it’s not too hard to use. This dish has become our go-to appetizer for special occasions, especially the holidays. It gets rave reviews everywhere we bring it.


The recipe takes a little planning ahead. The good thing is that you can get most of the prep work finished a day ahead of time. The chutney can be made and kept in the fridge for up to a week in advance. In fact, the longer it chills, the more time the flavors have to meld.


The original recipe called for a 2-pound wheel of Brie. Unless you are making this for a party of 30 or more, there is no reason to use that much cheese. I scaled the recipe down to a more reasonable amount. If, by chance you are hosting a large scale party, then double the recipe, and make sure you have a rimmed baking sheet that the phyllo-wrapped finished product will fit onto.


Adapted from Bon Appetit
January 1996

Phyllo-Wrapped Brie with Apricot and Rosemary Chutney

Phyllo-Wrapped Brie with Apricot and Rosemary Chutney

Ingredients

Chutney
8 oz dried apricots, chopped
½ c chopped red onion (about ½ a medium)
½ c water
1/3 c cider vinegar
1/3 c light brown sugar
2 oz dried tart cherries, chopped
1 Tbs fresh chopped rosemary
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp grated lemon peel
¼ tsp salt
¼ c sliced almonds
Brie
½ c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 roll frozen phyllo sheets, thawed (half a box)
2 Tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 lb Brie wheel
Other
Baguette, sliced into rounds
Thin apple slices

Instructions

  1. Make the chutney 1 day in advance: Combine all the ingredients except for the almonds in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, until the mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 30 minutes until the mixture has thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the almonds. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill overnight.
  2. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with some of the melted butter. Set aside. Unroll phyllo, and keep it covered with plastic wrap and a damp towel when not working with it. Arrange two stacked sheets of phyllo on a clean work surface. Overlap with another two stacked sheets of phyllo, arranging along the longside so the phyllo forms a large squarish shape. Brush the surface of the phyllo with melted butter. Repeat two more times, so you have 6 layers of phyllo, and three layers of butter. Sprinkle with one third of the rosemary.
  3. Using a sharp knife, trim the corners of the phyllo. Place the Brie wheel in the center of the phyllo. Pile a generous amount of chutney on top of the cheese (use all if possible.) Sprinkle with another third of the rosemary. Fold phyllo over the cheese and chutney, patting gently to cover them snugly. Brush all the surfaces (including the sides) of the phyllo with butter as you go, being careful not to tear the phyllo. It’s okay if the phyllo on top doesn’t completely cover the top surface.
  4. Brush another phyllo sheet with butter. Fold lengthwise into a 1-inch wide strip. Roll into a rose shape and place on the top of the phyllo-wrapped brie. Continue with more phyllo strips, forming a decorative top, and covering up any exposed chutney. Brush phyllo roses with butter. Sprinkle with the remaining third of rosemary. Using a spatula, carefully lift the wrapped cheese and place onto prepared baking sheet. Chill on the baking sheet for at least 3 hours. If chilling overnight, cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  5. Position oven rack in bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the baking sheet with the Brie in the oven and bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 30 minutes. If the roses brown too quickly, place a sheet of foil over them. If cheese leaks from the pastry, press a piece of foil over the opening and continue baking.
  6. Let cheese cool for 45 minutes. Serve with baguette rounds and apple slices. (I recommend layering an apple slice on a baguette round, and topping with the baked Brie.)
http://kokocooks.com/2010/11/phyllo-wrapped-brie-with-apricot-and-rosemary-chutney/

 

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