Posts Tagged ‘soup’

The Mailman Brings Cheese

February 9th, 2010

Vacherin Mont d'Or, Murray's Cheese Label

It all started with my friend’s enticing post about Vacherin au Four, a soft cow’s milk cheese, studded with garlic, fortified with wine, then melted in its wooden box in a hot oven and poured over potatoes or served fondue-style. There are few things I have a harder time resisting than melted cheese. Plus, it is winter, the height of the melted cheese season, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to try making this simple dish at home.

That meant getting my hands on some Vacherin Mont d’Or. Easier said than done in Northern New Jersey. I telephoned Wine Library in Springfield, who told me that while they did have an order that was supposed to arrive on the next boat, he wouldn’t know if it made the boat until it arrived, and even then he wasn’t sure it would make it through customs. I called Summit Cheese Shop in Summit, and was told that it would be nearly impossible to get, and good luck with that. I phoned Gary’s Wine and Marketplace in Madison, and was told they were out and didn’t expect to get any until next season, which would mean maybe October. I called Murray’s Cheese in Manhattan and was told, yes, they had plenty! I made two dates to hop into the city to pick some up, but both trips were foiled. I was going to have to suck it up and pay for shipping.

A foodie, shopping a website listing a large variety of cheese, armed with a credit card. Well, you can see where this is going, can’t you? My eyes glazed over as my fingers clicked to the “Special Sale” page. I would be saving money if I purchased some cheese on sale, wouldn’t I? And oh, what’s this? A virtual cheesemonger! Answer just a few multiple-choice questions, and my own cheesemonger will guide me to my ideal selections. I went deeper into my trance as “Amanda,” my virtual cheesemonger, described a list of cheeses that I’d surely enjoy. Click, click, click. I should get some bread too! Click. And oh yeah, I almost forgot, the Vacherin Mont d’Or. Click!

Two days later my professionally packaged box of cheese is waiting for me on the porch, with a stamped message on the top of the box informing the FedEx delivery person that it’s OK to leave the package with the recipient, even though it may stink. A lovely (to me) odor envelops our dining room as I inventory the contents of the box: Two Vacherin Mont d’Or (one for me, one for a friend), a half-pound of Cabot’s clothbound cheddar (a friend’s recommendation), a half-pound of Fourme de Ambert (“Amanda” said this blue is mild and sweet), one puck of Brunet (“Amanda” says it’s her favorite goat), a half-pound of Tete de Moine (I need this as have not used my girolle in ages), and one pound of Parmigiano-Reggiano (well, it was on sale), and a loaf of bread (if you’re going to go this far, you may as well buy the bread so you don’t have to go to the store).

Counter-top tasting: The first night, we have a simple tasting. My friend is right, Cabot’s clothbound cheddar is outstanding, and “Amanda’s” picks are spot-on. Not that I wouldn’t have been just as happy with any other cheesemonger’s choices. I have no prejudice against any cheese, but it was nice that these were cheeses that noticeably agreed with my taste. The goat is super creamy and mild, almost the texture of camembert, while the blue is downright luscious with a bit of tang. We eat it standing at the counter, all except the Vacherin and the Tete de Moine. Those, we’ll eat later.

Brunet, Fourme d'Ambert, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar

Vacherin au Four: I meant to make this on day two, but couldn’t get to it until day four. Life got in the way, as it often does, and we didn’t get to it right away. This is too bad because Anne over at Pots and Plumes had emailed me to say that we shouldn’t wait, as hers had been too ripe. I should have listened. When we received ours, it looked very fresh, almost white. By the time I retrieved it from the refrigerator to cook it, it was nearly orange and it had a very strong odor. I cooked it with garlic, wine, and a bit of chive, and ate it with potatoes and bread, but it had taken on a flavor of ammonia and was overripe. I emailed Murray’s Cheese, not to complain but to warn, and was told that I would be credited for the Vacheran Mont d’Or. Way to go Murray’s customer service! We will definitely be ordering from them again.

Vacherin Au Four

Interlude, cheddar with Diana Pittet: Ironic that of all weeks I should be attending a talk by Diana Pittet, who writes of her adventures in cheddar on her blog, CheddarBound. This is a very cozy affair in the private room at Jimmy’s 43 in Manhattan, during which Diana regales a crowd of listeners with stories of her travels and the making of cheddar. We enjoy a tasting of five cheeses, along with a cask ale, an apple cider, and an apple wine. Apple beverages go fabulously with cheese!

Spicy tomato and blue cheese soup
: It has occurred to me that perhaps I have purchased too much cheese. I should include some in a recipe, perhaps. I find the recipe for Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman’s spicy tomato and blue cheese soup on Made with sriracha and blue cheese, it is creamy, fruity, and spicy. I highly recommend it. But I’m not sure I could have it more than a few times a year. It is rich.

Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup

Spicy Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup

Another tasting: End of the week, another spread of cheese on the counter for my husband and me to pick at. I’ve discovered this is probably my favorite way to eat cheese. It goes against all tenets of healthy eating, but I like it. Take what you want, when you want it. Leave the bread out with a knife nearby, or crackers, and maybe some olives, fruit, or nuts. Cheese is Nature’s processed food, so I figure it can’t be all that bad for us.

Tonight or tomorrow the Parmigiano-Reggiano will take its turn, grated over pasta. Sometime this weekend I’ll be leaving the girolle out on the kitchen counter to enjoy the thin rosette-shaped slivers of Tete de Moine with a glass of white wine. Probably while perusing Stinky Bklyn’s website. Their cheese-of-the-month club looks very tempting….

Butternut Squash Soup

October 22nd, 2009

Jersey City’s Journal Square is a pretty beat up neighborhood. There’s barely a hint of the metropolitan city it used to be, except for the two majestic, well-preserved movie houses, one of which serves as a meeting hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a major transportation hub, with both a PATH station that runs to Newark and New York, as well as a large bus terminal, and there is a community college. It is a busy neighborhood, but not a particularly nice one. The massive improvements made downtown since 9/11 have yet to stretch to this part of the city.

I work between a salad bar, otherwise known as the “salmonella bar” due to its questionable temperatures for food safety, and a typical coffee shop with OK food. Other dining choices in the immediate area include Popeye’s, McDonald’s, White Castle, Blimpie, Subway, a few pizza places, a hot dog stand (with good hot dogs!), and, for the real fine dining experience, a Quiznos.

So on Wednesdays in the summer and fall, when Farmers’ Market is just across the street, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Not that it’s a great Farmers’ Market, it’s pretty bare-bones, only six vendors or so. But just to see all the colors of fresh produce under the tents is a sight for sore eyes.

Unlike most market days when I wander around buying what looks good and winging it, yesterday I went with one clear purchase in mind: butternut squash. I become very pumpkin-minded during the autumn, and I’ve been craving some squash soup. I think people are a little intimidated by winter squash, which is a shame. They are one of the easiest fruits to work with, very versatile, and can go to either the sweet or savory side of the culinary spectrum depending how they’re prepared.

There is pretty much nothing easier than this soup. There are five main ingredients: Butter, onion, butternut squash, stock, and nutmeg. The rest are optional, and you could mix it up by using a different winter squash, such as acorn or pumpkin, or adding an apple when simmering the squash. One could also spice things up with cayenne (red pepper) or chipotle, paprika, or curry powder. This soup is ready in less than 30 minutes!

Ingredients (makes approximately four servings):
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 onion, large dice
– 2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1.5″ pieces.
– 1 2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in a large dice (optional)
– 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg
– Lemon juice to taste (optional)
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
– Sour cream (optional)
– Chives (optional)

1. Melt the butter in a large pot, add the onion and sauté until the onions are soft.

2. Add the squash to the pot, sauté for a few moments, add the stock, ginger (if using), salt and pepper. Simmer the squash on a high simmer until soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Purée the soup with either a hand blender, or transfer the soup to a blender in batches, purée until smooth, and return the blended soup to the pot.

4. Bring the soup back to the heat and add your nutmeg, and a good squeeze or two of lemon juice (if using). Taste for salt and pepper, and season if needed. Once the soup is hot, remove from the heat, stir in heavy cream (if using).

5. Spoon the soup into bowls, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives if desired.