Saturday, November 17, 2012

QuesoBeso Cheese Tasting Events - Winter 2012

QuesoBeso - Bringing Holiday Cheer with Cheeses! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fondue Potatoes - easy genius!

How to make potatoes interesting.  This is constantly my dilemma as, in general, I'm not a big potato fan. I can however appreciate them as a gluten free carbohydrate that balances out the plate.  Besides, other people seem to really like them. 

I was shopping in Whole Foods and hoping to find potato inspiration with the beautiful heirloom varieties on display. In the middle of the potatoes, was a large pile of pre-wrapped chunks of Emmental cheese. If you know me, you know I went for the cheese.  If you know Emmental cheese, you know fondue was on my mind.

I was pretty sure I had a big jar of Cornichon pickles at home and my mind kept spinning with how to make it all come together.

A glass of wine and these beautiful red swirled beauties as inspiration and voila! Fondue potatoes.

Fondue Potatoes
Serves 4 as side dish

10 Small potatoes, delicate small heirloom variety if possible
15 Cornichon pickles, thickly sliced
6 oz Fondue cheese (Gruyere, Emmental, Comte) grated
Juice from the cornichon
white pepper & salt

Preheat the broiler to 450F.
Steam the potatoes in a metal steamer over boiling water until just tender.  Time will vary depending on the potatoes you choose.  Use a tooth pick to test doneness starting at 7 minutes. 
Thickly slice or cut into large dice the potatoes and put into a broiler safe dish.
Lightly salt and pepper the potato slices.
Sprinkle 3 Tablespoons of the liquid from the cornichon jar onto the potato slices. Be sure to stir up the jar to capture the mustard seeds in the liquid.
Toss in the cornichon slices.
Cover with the grated cheese. 
Place the dish under the broiler for 5 minutes. Check ever minute until it reaches your desired melty, gooey, cheesy brown, goodness.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Please, no photos...

I don't have a lot of pictures on my blog.
I'm not a photographer.
I'm a cook and recipe writer.
Recently I've found that most pretty blogs really annoy me.  I don't think I'm much for the visual world of recipes. I must be odd that way, but I find myself scrolling past the pictures laying out each ingredient beautifully. I go straight for the recipe, the heart of the blog piece.  For me the recipe is all that matters.  Who cares what her kitchen looked like when she was cooking?  I certainly don't.  All I want is an inspiring recipe, something a little different.  
I also require well written recipes.  And I can spot a bad recipe in 5 seconds flat (Read the first paragraph of the Method.  Now look at the ingredients list.  Are the ingredients in the order they are used?  If not... I'm outta there.).
I suppose I'm living up to the title bestowed upon me years ago. This Culinary Vixen will continue to argue about the merits of good pictures vs. good food.
Stepping off my soap box now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stumbling into the pairing world... wide eyed.

     I know a lot about cheese, maybe not as much as the big experts who make cheese or run big cheese shops, but I have done my research, read up and played cheese monger at a farmer's market for two years. You'd think with all my experience cutting, slicing, sampling and selling cheese I would know a bit about pairing it with wine, but nope, I had yet to dive into the pairing world, until quite recently.

     I hosted a kick-off party to celebrate QuesoBeso's new relationship with a wine store here in Manhattan Beach. I am now stocking them with American artisan made cheeses that are unavailable anywhere else in the the South Bay of Los Angeles county. Ten cheeses had been chosen as the initial selection for the store and include: 4 chevre, 3 cow, 1 sheep and two with all three milks combined.
     To get wines paired with the cheeses, I asked Joe at Manhattan Fine Wines for help. He went right to work. Some cheeses made the choice of red vs. white wine easy (the Cape Foulweather chevre was begging for a sparkling white). While others really surprised me (Pedrozo Dairy's Peppered Northern Gold with a rose?). By the end of our whirlwind of pairings, Joe had chosen 10 very different wines to go with the 10 very different cheeses.
     For me, the unreal magic of the pairing world came when we arranged the wines into tasting order and placed the cheeses with their matching wines  It wasn't at all what I expected, peppered and mineraly cheddar at the beginning with the whites, a big goat in the middle working up to the mixed milk and truffled sheep cheese? It defied my cheese logic.  But WOW! Was my cheese logic wrong! What's needed is a trust in traditional wine / food pairings, using the flavor profile of the cheese as your guide. I'm convinced that this is a great starting point which will ensure you are on the right track of a great cheese and wine pairing.
     The tasting event was a huge success, everyone was amazed at the synergistic flavor experiences of each of the pairings.  Each on it's own would make a meal more special, choose two or more pairings and they become a cheesy event on their own!

Here is a list of the pairings of wines and cheeses available at Manhattan Fine Wines in Manhattan Beach, CA. The wines are all under $15 per bottle!

  • River's Edge Chevre's: Cape Foulweather & Graham Beck Brut Sparkling (South Africa)
  • Pedrozo Dairy, Peppered Northern Gold & Touraine 2011 Rose Val de Loire (France)
  • Pedrozo Dairy, Northern Gold & E. Guigal 2009 Cotes du Rhone (France)
  • Carr Valley's: Mammoth Cheddar & Pere & Files 2009 White Bourgogne (France)
  • River's Edge Chevre's: True Love & La Yunta, 2011 Torrontes (Argentina)
  • Carr Valley's: Gran Canaria & Jack Hammer 2011 Pinot Noir (California)
  • River's Edge Chevre's: Silt Coos & Tres Picos 2009 Garnacha (Spain)
  • Carr Valley's: Caso Bolo & Perrin & Fils 2009 Cotes du Rhone Village (France)
  • Soledad Goats "Oh My Goat!" & Masi Capoflorin, 2008 Rosso Del Veronese
  • Carr Valley's: Black Sheep Truffle & Oberon 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Special Cheese Delivery!

I am so torn about our very good friends' upcoming move to Oregon. I
will miss their proximity, but I so look forward to the gourmet
adventures that await us!

On a recent visit to their new home they were kind enough to offer to
pick up some cheese to deliver back to me here in Manhattan Beach.

The Rogue River Blue was sold out, but my number two choice was
available - Caveman Blue. Creamy, meaty blue cheese with a lingering

I brought it out at the recent QuesoBeso tasting event and the 1/2
wheel sold immediately! That's good cheese!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

QuesoBeso is supplying cheese!

My cheesy venture to bring artisan American cheeses to Manhattan Beach
is happening now! I'm stocking my favorite wine shop with cheese!

Now available for cheese catering, cheese parties, private cheese consulting...

Be sure to 'like' the QuesoBeso Facebook page to be invited to future
tasting events!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Make it Big! It just makes sense.

Our Sunday night pot roast dinner was interrupted by an invitation and while we did eat a bit of the roast, and it was lovely, most of it was saved for later in the week.  Last night we had the leftovers and I have to say, the thing cooks say about foods getting better over time... it is just SOOO true. 
So, why don't I always make a double batch when I'm making anything that is braised, slow roasted. And come to think about it,  any soup or stew too! 
I've been cooking for a long time. I suppose some lessons take longer than others? 
New house rule: MAKE IT BIG! Carefully save the leftovers in the freezer or refrigerator. Take advantage of a night off of cooking knowing the dinner waiting in the freezer is even BETTER than the fabulous slow cooked meal you made over the weekend!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tomato & Kiwi Inspiration: Caprese

My BFF came over for dinner last night and brought beautiful Italian buffalo mozzarella cheese balls, a few bright red tomatoes on the vine and a handful of basil leaves from her garden. She also brought two very ripe kiwi fruit in need of quick disposal.
She obviously wanted to make a Caprese salad but she had made one the night before and was worried about over dressing the tomatoes.  
"The whole thing gets too soupy and the vinegar overpowers the delicate milk taste of the mozzarella."
I came up with a plan to respect the cheese and use all the beautiful produce.
On a large glass platter she laid down a few mixed greens, then thick tomato slices, thin mozzarella cheese slices and finally slices of the kiwi fruit. I dressed the whole thing very lightly by dripping droplets of Bariani EVOO and then tiny drops of Slide Ridge Honey Wine Vinegar, a sprinkling of sea salt, a light grinding of pepper and then a chiffonade of the basil leaves from her garden. It not only looked spectacular, the taste was amazing! We found a perfect balance of sweet, savory, creamy rich & tang.
So I had every intention of writing up the recipe today... perhaps re making the dish soon to take some pictures.  But instead I searched for a similar recipe and found this:

Kayln's Kitchen recipe for Caprese with Kiwi fruit

She has great pictures & a nice recipe. I suppose I'm not the only one to be inspired by the similarities of the textures - kiwi & tomatoes, the inner gelatinous seed pulp of both, the firm fruit surrounding the chambers. The sweet taste of the kiwi paired with the mozzarella is just as good as the pairing with a tomato and when you get both together, it is magical.  Now I'm wondering about other fruit Caprese ideas... peaches? plums? hmmm.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quick Recipe: Mexican Spiced Roast Beef

I love writing recipes.  My computer programmer type brain loves listing out commands in specific order.  I envision putting the recipe into a cooking machine (or the hands of a good cook) and if my recipe is well written, precise & elegant (programmer speak), only great food can come from it.

My sister asked me about the Mexican Spiced Roast Beef I was making to turn into chile this week.   I typed this up with my thumbs, on my iPhone, as my husband drove us to Mammoth yesterday.  Can't think of a better way to kill drive time than writing recipes!
Mexican Spiced Roast Beef
 5lb roast beef
2 TBSP oil,
1 TBSP each coriander, cumin, Mexican oregano & salt, some pepper.
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced.
1 Beer

Rub the roast with all the spices. 
Brown the roast in the hot oil in large Dutch Oven. 
Add the onion & garlic and cook for 2 minutes. 
Add the beer. 
Cover it & bake in oven at 325F for 3 hours. 
(I added carrots & potatoes for last 40 minutes. Yum!) 
Remove from oven. Let roast rest for 20 minutes, slice & serve with the jus from the pot.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Bottle it!"

 Goat Cheese Dip with Sun-dried Tomatoes & Thyme
Back in the late 1980's, when I first made this dip, sun-dried tomatoes were a very popular ingredient for Americans.  I served this on toasted baguette slices that had been slathered in garlic butter and lightly toasted.  At one dinner party, the now CEO of Symantec, Enrique Salem, loved it so much he thought it should be marketed and sold: "Bottle it!", was his advice.
I'm not sure how you could bottle goat cheese dip.
Instead I turned it into a cheese ball this year, recipe is over at the LybationNation blog.
Recipe for Chevre Dip with Sun Dried Tomatoes & Thyme


Friday, January 13, 2012

Get Well Chicken Soup

The weather is beautiful here in Southern California.  But we still have the cold & flu season to battle even in the sunshiny weather. When I heard a friend had been down with pneumonia since before Christmas, I felt compelled to make some soup to share. Once I started I couldn't stop and I've made three batches this week, handing it out to the not so well as they each raised their hands as willing acceptors of the healing liquid.  A longtime friend requested the recipe so she could share with her family and friends & here it is, my Get Well Chicken Soup.

Get Well Chicken Soup
(Feeds 6-10 depending on sickness) 
Get Well Broth Ingredients
1 whole chicken
1 onion
2 carrots
2 celery ribs
4 garlic cloves
4 slices of ginger
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 sprig of flat leaf parsley
10 peppercorns

Soup Ingredients

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
Salt to taste
8 oz wide egg noodles

Special Equipment

Cheese cloth for straining


Rinse the chicken in cold water and place it in a big soup pot. Trim the onion, carrots and celery & cut into large chunks. Put them in the pot with the chicken.  Add the other broth ingredients to the pot (ginger, garlic, bay, thyme, parsley & peppercorns). Fill the pot within 1" of the top with water and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat and keep at a very low simmer for 2 hours.  Remove the chicken from the broth and let it cool.  Turn off the heat on the broth. Remove the meat from the chicken and pull apart into bite sized pieces.

In another large pot, heat 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil over medium heat. Saute the diced onion, carrot and celery until they begin to soften. Turn the heat to low.

Drape cheesecloth over a strainer and place over the onion, carrots & celery.  Ladle the broth into the strainer and keep adding broth until you have 3" of liquid over your vegetables. Remove the strainer. Add the chicken meat and stir gently. Bring to a boil.  Simmer until vegetables are tender. Add salt to taste.

Add noodles in last 10 minutes of cooking - OR cook noodles separately and serve the soup poured over the noodles. 

Add more strained broth as necessary and to your taste.

Don't waste any extra broth. Strain and reserve for other use or drink it!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

BLOT Sauce for Cheese Ravioli: Oscar Inspiration

Years ago I catered an Oscar party and one of the dishes I served was a Tomato, Escarole & Bacon pasta. I used lovely cherry tomatoes, cut in half and tossed into a hot pan where the bacon was crisping, some shallot and garlic were added creating an intoxicating aroma to entice the party guests. Fresh herbs as well a head of torn escarole, some white wine & chicken stock were added as well. It was finished off with luscious al dente cooked pasta which was all gently tossed together as the greens wilted and the flavors melded before it was quickly devoured by the hungry movie buffs.

Inspired by that dish and a large box of Pomi diced tomatoes in my pantry, I set out to create a more simple version which could be whipped up in 20 minutes. So I stripped the recipe in my memory down to the BLT ingredients, but added the O(lives) for texture and punch.

It's may not be Oscar worthy, but certainly does make a quick delicious dinner for the family.


Bacon, escaroLe, Olive & Tomato - BLOT Sauce
for Cheese Ravioli or Tortellini
(Serves 4, more or less)

6 oz. diced bacon
2 lb. can or box of Pomi diced tomatoes
1/3 Cup Kalmata olives
salt, pepper
dried Italian herb mix or Oregano to taste
1 head of Escarole
1 lb of cheese ravioli or tortellini

Fill a large pot with water and put it on to boil.* Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and continue to occasionally stir the bacon as it cooks for about 8 minutes until very crispy.
Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the head of escarole.  Cut out the core and trim off the coarse white ends. Tear or cut the leaves into 2" pieces. Set aside.
Pit and coarsely chop the olives. Set aside.
When the bacon is crispy remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Pour out 1/2 of the bacon drippings in the pan (if you are a whimp, I left them all in there.).
Return pan to the heat and pour in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a slow simmer.
Add a little salt and pepper and a teaspoon or so of a favorite dried spice mix (I used a Greek blend because I really love Greek oregano, but use whatever is on hand.) to taste.
Add the escarole and olives. Stir to combine thoroughly.  Partially cover.
Cook the ravioli pasta al dente, don't over cook. Before you drain the pasta, add 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water to the tomato escarole sauce.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Stir gently to thoroughly coat the ravioli.
Don't forget to add back the bacon into the pan.**
Serve to hungry family.

*A very smart friend has passed on the advice of a wise chef & that is to always first put a pot of water on to boil, you will need it for something, surely.
**Honestly, I was taking the picture I shared on my blog of this dish & saw the bowl of bacon I had completely forgotten to put back into the dish.  Ha, mediocre dish avoided!