Tag Archives: Goat Cheese

Charcuterie Board: Meat and Cheese!

10 May

The topic of a homemade Charcuterie Board has been bouncing around our house for about a week. Why? Because have you ever had one? They’re delightful. Various cured and spiced meats sliced thin, paired with cheeses of varying textures (hard AND soft??), laid next to pickled vegetables and strong sauces. All these friends are preparing for their journey to the mouth, hopping on a fresh crusty baguette to serve as their vessel for deliciousness. The downside of making one at home? The amount of cheese you inevitably end up consuming. At a restaurant at least it’s pre-portioned, but at home…ooooh at home, your ravenous instincts are the only things keeping you from “I just ate $45 worth of product”.

So anyhoo, we deiced to embark on this task to cap off one of the greatest weekends of 2013 to date (I said the words “…and so began the craziest summer of my life” at least 4 times that weekend. I was in the moment). So how do we complete a task such as this? You head to Plum Market and get ready for expert advise and quality product.


The general run-down:

  • Proscuitto (thinly sliced, almost to a melt-on-your-tongue thickness)
  • Black Pepper Hard Salami (rich and salty with the perfect bite from the black pepper)
  • Zingerman’s The City Goat Cheese (the texture is a bit lighter than other Goat cheeses, and has a deliciously sweet tang to it. And it’s rolled in fresh Tarragon, which I didn’t think I’d like, but yowza it was the perfect accompaniment to this creamy gem)
  • Vella Golden Bear Dry Jack Cheese (described as “The Grandfather of Jack Cheese” with a texture similar to Parmesan, this hard Jack has amazing nutty and earthy flavors. The rind is also a mixture of cocoa powder, oil, and black pepper, so you can eat it!)
  • Olives (all different types, pit-in of course. My favorite ended up being the bright green kinds)
  • Oil-Packed Artichoke Hearts (I could eat 2 lbs of these, no problem)
  • Marinated Peppadew Peppers (the vinegar gives the perfect tang to balance out the natural sweetness of the cute little peppers)
  • Lemon-Parsley Chickpeas (while these were good, they were more of a “let’s get some deli salads and have a picnic” item, not so much a “this complements my meats and cheeses on my Charcuterie board” item)
  • Cornichons (small pickled Gherkins–Cornichon is actually the French word for “Gherkin”.  I already had some from Trader Joe’s, they’re delicious and reasonably priced seeing as a jar of these can run you up toward $6)
  • Pickled Garlic Cloves (yes, they were quite pungent)
  • Orange-Fig Spread (this ended up being the runaway hit of the evening. The key to any good board–whether cheese or otherwise–is having a nice balance of flavors, hence the sweet counter-part. Everything went well with this spread: cheese, meat, even anything marinated or pickled)
  • Whole Grain Mustard (a classic Charcuterie staple)
  • Bell’s Oarsman (full disclosure: I used to hate this Berliner Weisbier. It’s not your average Wheat beer, it has sour notes that many people may not be accustomed to, but if you’ve got the palate for it, this session beer is a real delight)
  • An Assortment of Crackers and Sliced Baguette

This shot is nice and blurry (too much Oarsman?) however it offers a better idea of the set up (the key is rolling up your Proscuitto for extra fanciness)

PlateAnd the vessels…

BreadOh, not quite full enough yet? How about a mini carrot cake to share!

CarrotCakeWho needs a plate when you have a capable plastic clamshell to eat out of?

Needless to say, we all ate WAY too much, and sat awkwardly and uncomfortably on the couch trying to watch “World Wackiest Water Parks” (or something along those lines) to take our minds off the massive amounts of items of the pickled and dairy persuasion that were currently setting up camp inside of us. I was so full and tired that I blew off my normal Game of Thrones viewing party and opted to go to bed at 9:30pm. Would I do it all over again? 1000%.

MidAssemblyLook at how innocent they look. They have no idea they’re mere moments away from total consumption













Eastern European Salad with Homemade Focaccia (and Goat Cheese Spread)

15 Apr

Mmm, Eastern European food, doesn’t it just make your mouth water…or does it make you think of old women with scarfs tied around their heads huddled around a big trash can full of fire, playing violins?

I’m still traveling on my tour de new cookbook so I’ve selected two new recipes to try out:  Focaccia with Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Spread from Home Made, and Scandinavian Mixed Greens and Apples with Juniper Vinaigrette (or as I like to think of it, Eastern European Salad) from Susan Feniger’s Street Food


Full disclosure: I love focaccia. When we were younger we would  go to the Kalamazoo Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning, and then follow up the trip with a stop at MacKenzie’s Bakery. It was here I first tasted the fluffy and delightful flat bread (although I assume my love for it blossomed from the fact that it’s basically a pizza, and I was allowed to eat it for breakfast). For the first few years of this tradition I had no idea I was pronouncing it wrong. Fo-Kot-See-Ah rather than Fo-Caach-Yah. How dare no one tell 8-year-old Erica she was making a mockery of the slow-risen dough arts? So naturally when I came across the Mini Focaccia recipe in Homemade, I simply HAD to make it.

DoughAnd if you have errands to run, starting bread is the prefect activity to start before you leave the house because it’ll proof (rise) for as long or longer than you need it to, and since you’ve been busy trying to drive in this town without hitting some of THOSE DAMN JAYWALKING STUDENTS you’ll forget you even started it, and have a pleasant surprise waiting for you when you get home. And nothing calms you down from said driving more than gently pressing oiled dough onto a baking sheet and carefully distributing dimples throughout.

And what pairs with this bread? A roasted red pepper and goat cheese spread of course! This is the first time I’ve tried to roast my own peppers at home since I don’t have a grill (I know, I’ll be lamenting this all Summer long…everything EVERYTHING tastes better on a grill), and the process comes from placing a fresh pepper directly on the flame of a gas stove burner.

PepperBurnsWell, it worked with flying colors, and I felt like a badass doing it (although everyone in my house kept saying “is someone smoking? it smells like smoke” or “Erica are you serious with this, you’re going to burn this mother down”). Once the pepper is nice and roasted/burned/chared/whatever you want to call it, place in a plastic bag for 30 minutes to give it a nice sweat. Once nice and sweaty, remove the outer charred skin (since it’s bitter) and prepare for goat cheese-ification.

FoodProcessorA few changes I made: the recipe calls for mint, but I had cilantro readily available, so I made the switch to give a little “authentico” feel (#ifyaknowwhatimean), and for some reason the grocery store didn’t have jalapeños (que?) so I used pablanos. And as I’m about to add the Goat Cheese, I realize I didn’t read the recipe fully, and it calls for FOUR CUPS of Goat Cheese. Do you know how much money that would cost? I only found 2 pennies on the ground during my runs this week, I can’t afford that much creamed gold. And I don’t think any amount of homemade Focaccia can handle 4 cups worth of goat cheese spread. So I used 2oz. Needless to say, the “spread” was more of a soupy dip since the “juiciness” of the peppers comprised most of the raw materials. However, it was still delicious.

And speaking of Authentico…

ModeloBecause hey why not!

Now on to our Eastern European-inspired salad. The “exotic” ingredient in the dressing is ground Juniper Berries, and I winced thinking about how much a little vile of it would be when I only needed 2 tsp, but low and behold, I live less than 1/2 mile from Spice Merchants, a lovely shop full of (wait for it) spices! I got to park for free since it was Sunday, and when I walked in the Juniper Berries were literally in front of the main entrance at eye level (things were coming up Vitkin!).



This gets added to a dynamite mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, and honey (which is the basis for any great dressing, seriously, you never need to buy a vinaigrette again, just use that base and go crazy with other additions like mustard, spices, fresh herbs, blended roasted veggies, etc). Sidenote: I just found this about Juniper Berries, so naturally I’m freaking out “If you have been using juniper berry tea for several weeks and you urine smells like violets, you have been using the herb too long. Continued overdose can cause renal irritation and blood in the urine, so only use in moderation” [horrifying Juniper Berry information source]

So what does this violet pee-inducing vinaigrette go on top of? A salad of sliced apples, shredded gouda, fresh greens, watercress, and toasted almonds. Like I said, soooooo Eastern European…


SaladAnd what perfect timing, as the dressing goes on, the bread is hot fresh and ready from the oven!

SaladCounterThe Focaccia turned out well, but it was very dry. Something I love and hate about a great focaccia is that it leaves you with big grease stains on the sides of your pants because who has time for a napkin. This one left my pants in pristine condition, so making this again I would definitely up the olive oil in both the dough, and the pre-baking prep.


As I start to go for round 2 of this salad, I can’t help but worry about the future of my urine…










Fancy Family Dinner: Scallops, Ricotta Gnocchi, Onion Mushroom Tarts, and Pumpkin Bread Pudding

21 Nov

Did I just peak? Is it all down hill from here? Should I just leave on a high note (a la George Costanza)? Is this is the end of Nowenteringflavorcountry as we know it?! All that and more will be answered….right now. [Yes. Probably. Probably. No, I’d be too bored.]

Well my friend Lindsey came this past weekend, and we made “Fancy Dinner” to a standing ovation. This is literally the best meal I’ve ever made before. It took 2 people, 4 hours, 2 grocery stores, the soundtracks of Les Miserables, Book of Mormon, and West Side Story…and more money than I’d care to admit (I’ll explain shortly). Worth it. Worth every crumb.

But for a monumental meal like this, how do we select the recipes? Beef? Pasta? Seafood? It was a long and difficult decision, but we decided on 4 tasty components to this meal:

Scallops from Stephanie Izzard’s Girl in the Kitchen (scallops, goat cheese, and asparagus…what’s not to like?)

Pumpkin Bread Pudding – Martha Stewart

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, Apple, and Gruyere Bites – Table for Two

Grandma DiLaura’s Italian Ricotta Gnocchi – Food52

Armed with our new recipes and a fool-proof grocery list, we hit the road and landed at Plum Market, where we were to buy the “fancier” items, such as scallops, sorrel, and wine. Now, I’ve never bought scallops before, so I assumed they weren’t available at most stores because I just made it up in my head, so of course it was true. The scallops at Plum Market were….$25/lb. Yikes. The bay scallops were $14.99/lb, but who likes bay scallops?! Lindsey took me aside and the following conversation took place:

Lindsey: isn’t there another place we can buy scallops? (meaning “anywhere, absolutely anywhere else, let’s not pay $25/lb for these scallops”)

Erica: this is the place to get seafood (meaning “to my knowledge this is the ONLY place to get seafood”)

Apparently she thought my decision was a testament to my elevated preference in seafood quality, when really it was my ignorance in the scallop marketplace. Lindsey, you know I value my sweet sweet money over any quality of anything ever. So rather than getting the 12 Scallops which the recipe called for, we asked for 8 to be thrifty. Well, guess how much those 8 scallops weighed: 0.94lbs. Goodbye $25…

Once we were at Kroger (to get the cheaper staples like onions, puff pasty…etc), she pointed at the seafood counter at the $15/lb scallops they had

Erica: they sell scallops?! (meaning: “they sell scallops?!”)

Lindsey: yeah, every place sells scallops, that’s why I asked (meaning: “god dammit Erica”)

In my defense, the ones we got are the largest Scallops ever. We called them baby fists all night (and will continue to do so until it’s not funny anymore, which I don’t see happening anytime soon). So after trying to FORGET THE EVIL that just occurred to my wallet, we popped open a delicious Famega

…I’m better when I’ve had a few…

Started prepping the vinaigrette

That happy drip is a steady flow of honey into the all-mighty food processor

…and got down to culinary business. What’s cool about having 2 people cooking? Someone to stage shots, and someone to shoot them! (see the photo above, I’m sure you were thinking “someone is pouring the sweet sweet honey into the food processor AND taking the picture? Witchcraft!” You’re wrong, it was just 2 sets of hands). So rather than making our tasty onion-mushroom-apple-gruyere tarts first to use them as an actual appetizer, we just made EVERYTHING at once (except the bread pudding…that we did wait till the end, but it took about 30 seconds of effort, so it doesn’t really count). One of the more time consuming items was definitely the Gnocchi. We took turns working on that throughout the cooking

Be warned: Steps 3 and 4 take MUCH longer than you’d expect

While these little pillow-y darlings were being made, we began the Mushroom, Onion, Apple, and Gruyere Tarts (is it possible to hear that without drooling?). I love this recipe because it’s one of those “hmmm, I could have come up with this, but I never would”. Basically you just sauté everything (add a little sugar and butter for the apples), and mix it with the grated gruyere. Meanwhile, cut up the puff pastry into squares, wash with egg, and top with your sauté mixture. Bake. Cool. Destroy.

We had tons of these leftover since we served them right alongside the rest of the meal. They made for tasty cold snacks all the next day.

And now, on to the main event. We have the vinaigrette nice and emulsified, so it’s time to get down to business: goat cheese-potato puree, seared scallops, toasted almonds, and asparagus bacon “hash”. Sidenote: As a restaurant server, Lindsey has encountered many a funny story (as have we all), but one sticks out most in recent memory, mainly because it has to do with goat cheese. The woman at her particular table was asking about an appetizer, and said the words “oh GHOST cheese! I love GHOST cheese!” to which a mortified Lindsey had to make the ultimate decision: to correct her, or say GHOST cheese the rest of the meal. She chose the latter. Now, just try to say ghost cheese. It does NOT roll off the tongue. So clearly, that’s what we call it now. All the time. Especially during the making of this meal. But let me break it down per item:

Toasted Almonds: put in oven for about 5 minutes, boom toasted. I left them in for about 7 minutes, so they were veeeery toasted (as you’ll see in the big reveal photo).

Goat Cheese-Potato Puree: peel and cube potatoes. Boil until fork-tender then mash. Meanwhile, over low heat combine goat cheese and heavy cream until they are melted into one another. Mix potatoes and cream/goat cheese together and season with salt and pepper. Decadent.

Asparagus and Bacon “Hash”: We used regular old bacon for this rather than ham hocks, because it’s easier/cheaper/less intimidating/cheaper. Cut asparagus into 1/3 in pieces, throw bacon and asparagus into pan and sauté up. Delicious.

Fun Fact: I was the only person at Fancy Family Dinner not to have the gene where you smell asparagus pee. So everyone was in for a world of hurt…but me.

Scallops: RIDICULOUSLY easy! Heat olive oil in pan over high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper, and sear on one side for 1 minute. Turn heat to medium and turn scallops over and sear on other side for 2-3 minutes. Done.

Good Gravy those look tasty!

To assemble, place puree on bottom of dish. Top with 2 scallops. Top with bacon-aspargus hash. Drizzle sorrel vinaigrette over plate. Top with (over) toasted almonds. Try to set aside 90 seconds to take a photo. Be amazed at the pure awesomeness that’s in your mouth.

No photographic evidence will ever do this dish justice. Just…delicious.

Now that all the components are in place it is time to feast. Imagine a Dothraki wedding, but with more carnage…and sex. But mainly just the shoveling of food and wine into mouthes.

These were the 3 chosen images from the 50 or so we took. And by “we” I mean me. It was all me. With that remote control for the camera. Just hours of entertainment.

While we were enjoying ourselves, the pumpkin bread pudding was in the oven, baking to perfection (and by perfection, I mean a tasty but dry consistency…not enough liquid, but add enough caramel sauce and you’re right as rain…and coincidentally making it rain).

I made my first .gif! So exciting!

And thanks to my sweet and beautiful dishwasher, there wasn’t even too much cleanup to be had when we were done. Just very uncomfortable stretching of the insides. How will I top this? Perhaps Thanksgiving will be my gimme…

A good time had by all. Except for the 2 hours following this photograph, as we were all uncomfortably full. Satisfied, but uncomfortable.


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