Monday, February 22, 2016

Classic Pairing for the Classic Girl Scout Cookie

The humble trefoil has been my favorite Girl Scout since I was a Girl Scout myself!  I absolutely love shortbread. The tiny holes in the trefoil cookies remind me of the shortbread my Scottish grandmother used to make.

The name trefoil refers to the shape of a stylized sprouting pea and is also the symbol of the Girl Scouts organization.

The beauty of the trefoil cookie lies in its simplicity. It doesn't show off, rather it seems to prefer to be part of a perfect pairing. When I was a child I paired it with milk, dunked in tea and then later, coffee, YUM!

Melissa's Produce and the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles asked the food blogging community to create a dessert using our favorite Girl Scout cookie and our choice of fresh seasonal produce.  

I immediately thought of my sweet trefoils.  Their perfect simplicity makes for a crispy light canvas for fruity flavors. Paired with tart lemon and bright raspberry, the trefoil tart is an amazing bite! 

They are so easy! Silky smooth Meyer lemon curd is spooned onto the trefoil cookie and then topped with a fresh raspberry!  These super snacks pull together at a moments notice. 

Trefoil Girl Scout Cookies with Lemon Curd and RaspberrySimple enough for an after school snack, pretty enough to be passed around at your Oscar party!

Share the sweetness of Girl Scout cookies - feel good about that treat - knowing it will help support the largest girl-run business in the world, where girls gain leadership and business skills. At only $5 per box, you're getting a lot of goodness for your dollar!

The Girl Scouts have made it easy to find cookies near you, simply use your zip code at their website

Hurry, Girl Scout cookie sales end on March 6th! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

We are weird.

Picture of people taking pictures of food at food blogger event at Melissas Produce.We were attending a food blogger cookbook event at Melissa's Produce and Svetlana leaned over to me and whispered "We are weird." 
We were listening to Ernest's (Ernest Miller, fermentation specialist from Rancho La Merced Provisions) response to a question about dehydrating yogurt. The lively yogurt conversation had taken many interesting twists, leading up to the dehydrated yogurt subject and all the attendees were listening quite intently as Ernest explained the procedure. 
At first I thought Svetlana meant the idea of dehydrating yogurt was weird. But then I remembered her saying this same thing, "We are weird", when we were discussing Halal butchers in the South Bay. I then fully realized what she was saying - We must appear weird to those who don't have an obsession with food.  And I nodded in agreement, not wanting to respond verbally and interrupt Ernest's detailed description.
Svetlana is right, we are weird, certainly not normal, we are obsessed! In fact all the people who were in the room at that moment are obsessed with food and cooking, and cultural history and unique produce and food photography and food writing and recipes too! I was thrilled to be there, listening, learning and finding inspiration. I felt as if I had found my food tribe.
The quality of food discussion among the attendees at the Melissa's events has been amazing. The thoughtful and talented cookbook writers (Cheryl Sternman Rule and Amy Riolo) as well as Robert from Melissa's Produce kept the conversation moving around the globe, touching on history and cultures, natural resources, as well as centuries old techniques still being used today. How stimulating it is to be able to 'geek out' as much as we want and see where the questions and answers take us.  
Picture of Amy Riolo signing a cookbook.Finding your tribe allows you to share your passion with like minded individuals while at the same time being stimulated by the passions of these same people. 
It's interesting to think that when I'm my most alert and mentally energetic, I probably appear weird to most people.  
So, I'm weird, that's fine by me. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cheese Choices for your Macaroni and Cheese

Picture of QuesoBeso with large Swiss cheese
Cheese is my thing. I jumped into the cheese world in 2009 and haven't looked back. I've spent time sampling, selling, portioning, labeling, talking, writing and eating all types of domestic cheeses. I consider myself a domestic cheese evangelist. I work with local wine shops (as QuesoBeso) to help stock their coolers with only the very best cheeses. 

Recently a few of the ladies at did a quick interview with me (at Camp Blogaway!) asking about my kid's favorite foods. My kids don't really have a true favorite as I rarely cook the same thing twice! But as a favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese is always at the top of our list. 
At it's most basic, macaroni and cheese is a comfort food. In it's most creative forms it becomes a decadent indulgence worthy of a special occasion. Doing a quick google search will give you over 8 million macaroni and cheese recipes! Rather than simply point you to a few recipes, I thought I'd help you choose your cheeses which will steer you towards the perfect recipe selection for you and your family. 

Picture of Cheeses at a farrmer's marketAll About the Cheese

The cheese is the most important choice you will make for this recipe. Do not make your decisions without careful consideraton. Balancing the cheese choices for taste and creaminess is ideal. 

Cheddared Cheese (yes, it's a verb)

I love a good cheddar cheese with a nice acidic bite. And cheddar is the classic choice for macaroni and cheese. However, the more the cheddar is aged, the less creamy and more crumbly the cheese will become. For these reasons, it is best to either pair an older cheddar with something more creamy (Havarti, Jack, Colby, Fontina, Ricotta) or use a cheddar aged less than two year (no need to seek out Hook's 5 year cheddar!).

Fondue Flavor 

Rich, creamy and winey, fondue cheeses make a delicious macaroni and cheese. Traditionally, Gruyere, Comte and Emmental are used in fondue. Add a little cherry brandy (Kirsch) and white wine to your cream sauce for a true fondue taste.  However, you need not go full-on fondue to enjoy the nutty flavor of these large Swiss cheeses.  Adding just one to your mix can give a bold punch to a basic cheddar mix.

Picture of Black TrufflesTruffles for an Elevated Approach 

Truffled cheese adds a heady sexiness to your mac & cheese. Many recipes use truffle oil as an easy way to impart truffle flavor. Most truffle oils have an over the top manufactured truffle flavor that is quite distinctively not the seductive subtle essence of the truffle. I believe in the power of true truffles as found in truffled cheeses. 
A few examples are: Tartufello (truffled cow milk cheese by Pedrozo Dairy in California), Boschetto al Tartufo (truffled sheep milk from Italy) or Trufusion (truffled cow milk cheese from Independence Cheese in Oregon).  It's best to pair truffled cheeses with milder selections, such as Fontina, Ricotta, Colby or a mild Cheddar.  This will help let the truffle flavor come through in the final dish.

Go for the Goat

For creative flair, macaroni and cheese made with fresh goat cheese is an excellent choice. Fresh goat cheese has a creaminess similar to ricotta but will definitely have a chevre bite which needs to be embraced. By adding ingredients which pair well with goat cheese (fresh bright herbs, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers or roasted garlic cloves) you will enhance the entire dish.
Goat cheeses with more age have a more mellow and nutty flavor similar to the fondue cheeses listed above.
For those with cow milk sensitivity, an entirely goat mac & cheese could be made creating a unique twist.

Blasphemy but Reheats Beautifully

Often you will find Velveeta listed in a mac & cheese recipe. Although it's not really cheese, I do understand the motivation to add this bright yellow cheese food product to the dish.  The reason is stability. When you make a cream sauce for your mac & cheese it will bake up creamy and lovely. But when you reheat that bechemel/mornay sauce the next day, it's going to break (the oils will separate from the milk solids) and lose it's creamy texture. Velveeta acts as an emulsifier and keeps the sauce together.
If you know you'd like to reheat the leftovers, you can use the Velveeta trick OR find a recipe that adds an egg to the sauce (like this one from the Pioneer Woman). Adding an egg creates a loose custard texture to the sauce. Custards are stable; meaning, they won't break when you reheat them.

Add Some Cheesy Crunch

A crunchy cheesy and sometimes even spicy crumb topping is perfect for baked mac & cheese. Be sure to choose a salty, tangy cheese (parmesan or aged cheddar) to mix with the crumbs for your topping. You want this crust to have lots of cheesy good flavor as it hits the palate.

More Than a Side Dish

As a mom, I am quite tempted to make macaroni and cheese into a one dish meal. And really, you can put just about anything savory into your macaroni and cheese. So if you are looking for some ideas on how to create an amazingly hearty dish,  no need to look further than this fabulous chart from Food Republic which uses the shape of the pasta for inspiration.  

Using your cheese choices as your guide, you are sure to create a warm and comforting dish your family will love!

Now let's get to the kitchen and start cooking!