Why you should do good unto your cheese with a little olive oil.
The first time I realized what a consecration it is to anoint a particular cheese with olive oil was in 1985 at a place outside Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in the heart of Provence where Mont Ventoux looms to the north. My son Max had been born just a couple of months before. My wife, Michelle, and I chose to flee the swelter of the New York City summer, and this little baby fit perfectly into the bassinet the airline gave us to hook over the seat in front of us. (Go figure the civilized nature of that.)
Salads seem like a challenge during the winter, without the benefit of garden-fresh greens, tomatoes, and vegetables. But with just a little creativity you can have beautiful salads apropos of the season. The one I share here combines bitter winter greens like frisée, endive, or radicchio (or better yet, a combination of all of them) with a topping of sautéed whole scallions and slices of smoky Italian prosciutto.
I like making this cheese sandwich on slices of baguette, but you could use any type of crusty bread you like. The two sandwich halves can be served open-faced, or they can be put together to make a more traditional-style sandwich.
In a medium skillet, heat the butter and oil over low heat. When sizzling, add the apple slices and cook, gently stirring once or twice, for 3 minutes. Drizzle on the maple syrup, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook another 2 minutes, or until the apples are caramelized and just tender but not mushy. Remove from the heat.
Leeks and potatoes are good companions, and here they are joined by the sharpness of good, aged cheddar. This is pure comfort food—smooth, rich, and bursting with flavor. The chive-walnut-cheddar puree is swirled into the soup at the table, highlighting the smooth white soup with a gorgeous green color and a full cheese, herb, and nutty flavor and texture. You want to choose a really distinctive, very sharp aged cheddar for this soup.
This colorful, creamy open-face sandwich is a great winter snack.
Cut the peppers in half, remove the core and the ribs, and cut into thin strips. Place the pepper strips in a bowl, and cover with the olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Hungarians serve this spiced cheese spread with chunks of bread as part of an appetizer spread.
Combine all ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight to allow flavors to meld.
Crafting túró, the country’s favorite cheese, is a matter of time more than technique
Like a laboratory, every corner of my Hungarian mother-in-law’s kitchen is stuffed with creations in progress. Usually this includes a pot filled with curdling milk in the process of being transformed into túró, a staple that many Hungarians describe as similar to cottage cheese. But not cottage cheese as Americans know it. Túró is a fresh, soft-curd cheese, more like a tangy farmer’s cheese or quark. It is usually made in Hungary with cow’s milk, but sheep’s milk produces a richer version. Goat’s milk is occasionally used too.
Following the same formula as its red wine counterpart, 500 White Wines (Sellers Publishing, 2009; $17) by Natasha Hughes and Patricia Langton is easy learning in a six-by-six-inch format. Each regional spread includes a small map with numbered circles signifying vineyard locations, and wine titles are accompanied by useful symbols, notifying the reader of rosé, barrel-aged, sparkling, and sweet wines. Beginning with the New World and moving into the Old, this book covers the world of wine in 288 pages. Discover new flavors, regions, grapes, and budget-friendly wines, and say goodbye to cluelessness.
Photography Kurt Brownell
For the wine devotee, The Most Beautiful Wine Cellars in the World (VdH Books, 2010; $89.50) is an expansive volume that tours nearly 60 wine cellars in Europe, North America, Lebanon, and China, led by chef and sommelier Jurgen Lijcops. Richly textured, full-page photography gives a rare sense of having entered these hallowed caverns of the wine world, each filled with heirloom bottles and private collections. Highlights include the ancient Rákóczi Cellar in the Hungarian region of Tokaj, dating to the 15th century, as well as the subterranean complex of six cellars spread over 7200 square feet owned by Park B. Smith, a Connecticut collector.
Photography Kurt Brownell