Forget about cheese tags with this natural slate surface—write the name of the cheese with a piece of soapstone that comes with each board right on the slate! Mined from a quarry in upstate New York and equipped with padded, nonslip feet, and a burlap bag for safekeeping, this red slate board is sure to make your cheese feel good.
This is officially the decade of food arts and craftiness. Making headlines and menus are handmade edibles like small-batch chocolate, beer, distilled spirits, bitters, and myriad fermented foods.
Farmers’ markets overflow with farmstead jams, honeys and cheeses, and butcher shops have made an unprecedented comeback. A shaky economy combined with a ravenous urban homesteading movement has made DIY food not just trendy but smart.
The latest trend: soda. But we’re not talking about syrupy-sweet, neon-colored carbonated beverages in flavors like “Brain Wash.” Or even classic cola. The new craft sodas tend to come in two varieties. In one camp are those that are made from a recipe of well-considered— and often esoteric—seasonal ingredients, designed for use as cocktail mixers or for drinking straight up as a nonalcoholic bever- age, enjoyed for its own sake—perhaps paired with, say, a nice cheese.
In this light-tasting version, the fresh crunchy spears of endive take on the role of chips. You can make the ricotta several days in advance. If you’d like to use store-bought ricotta instead, select a good-quality product and add one teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and two tablespoons of olive oil several hours in advance.
THE LEMON RICOTTA:
In the world of working stock dogs, there is no more iconic breed than the border collie. The quintessential sheepdog, the border collie can trace its ancestry to rough drover’s dogs used in the border country between England and Scotland from the 17th to the 19th century to work livestock and drive them to market. Despite being indispensable to the shepherds of these rugged and inhospitable highlands, the drover dogs of this era were neither easy to handle nor easy on the stock.
A gnudi (pronounced “nu-dee”) is a type of gnocchi typically made from ricotta cheese, eggs, and a little bit of flour. It is a bite-size dumpling that some describe as “nude” ravioli—the filling without the pasta. The texture should be light, fluffy, and creamy.
THE TOMATO AND EGGPLANT JAM
Cut the eggplant into ½-inch dice. Deep-fry the pieces in oil heated to 350°F until browned. Set aside.
Originating from the Po Valley region of Italy, Crescenza is a soft, creamy, lactic-curd cow’s milk cheese typically produced in summer.
Whatever American cooks may lack in old-world tradition they more than make up for with unbridled creativity.
Indeed, some say our chefs and home cooks are innovative precisely because they’ve grown up without generations of food customs to stifle their ideas about cooking. Instead, they excel at reimagining classic dishes from other food cultures as part of the ever-changing fusion that is American food. Take pesto, for instance. A concentrated puree, it is, by Italian norms, mostly made of fresh basil and oil and usually served on pasta. In the States, however, pesto has come to mean a puree that comes in a limitless variety of vegetable and herb flavors and colors. And it’s served with lots more than just pasta.
This meatless burger is a staple on the menu at Club Helsinki—a restaurant/music venue in New York’s Hudson Valley. Even devout carnivores swoon over this veggie version, created more than 15 years ago by co-owner Deborah McDowell.
You’ve made it to a cheese festival—along with hundreds of other devotees who are scrambling to sample curds from artisan producers across the country. First, take a deep breath: the labyrinth has grown. The 2011 American Cheese Society Competition, for example, boasted 1,676 cheeses and cultured dairy products, and it will showcase even more this year. Stay calm, and follow these tips from our experts to make the most of your time beneath the tents while avoiding palate fatigue.
And remember, as master cheesemonger and author Steven Jenkins says, “If you’re not overwhelmed, it’s not a very good show.”
DO arrive early.
“You’ll have a better opportunity to talk to the producers” before the midday rush, says Tom Van Voorhees, cheese shop manager at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon. Better yet, “if it’s local to you, drive by the day before and get the lay of the land.”
DO plan to stay awhile.
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix that can be found in gourmet and international grocers. It generally contains thyme, oregano, sage, sumac, and sesame seeds. For the feta in this recipe, I like to use a creamy French variety.
THE PITA CHIPS:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Brush both sides of the pita bread with olive oil, then cut each bread into eight triangles. Toast the pita triangles until lightly browned and crisp, about 25 minutes.
THE CITRUS TAPENADE: