Suzi's Blog

The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen

The title for The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen has been very carefully chosen. Author Chester Hastings is a superior cheesemonger, a man with a culinary pedigree we all would dream about. And the “kitchen” part? This is a cookbook, not a cheese encyclopedia filled with maps or charts. No here, you will find recipes and what recipes they are. Just consider this sample:

  • Tomato Braised Meatballs with Melting Mozzarella
  • Burrata with Asparagus, Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins [with Saffron]
  • Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup with Aged Cheddar
  • Red Chili and Cheddar Diamonds [crackers with snap]
  • Maytag Madeleines with Wildflower Honey
  • Club Sandwich’s with Gravlax, Avocadoes, Bacon And Beaufort
  • Savory Chocolate Fettuccine with Mascarpone and Lemon
  • Tommino Cheese with Salsa Verde and Anchovies

Chester grew up in California in a culinary family. As a teenager, he went his own way. He might have had purple hair at the time, but San Francisco Chef Carlo Middione hired the kid, and then mentored him. Chester studied Italian cuisine, book by book, first in Middione’s restaurant basement and then in Italy, then working in Middione’s kitchen. Chester’s passion was Italian cuisine and, along the way, he learned the vital importance that cheese imparts to many of the recipes.

3rd Street in Los Angeles is one of the iconic food streets that put a smile on our faces. 3rd and Fairfax is the original LA Farmers Market, a maze of stalls that has offered food since 1934. An empty lot was the landing spot for local farmers bringing in truckloads of really, really fresh food. From that beginning, 3rd became a street for restaurants.

Chester rejoined his family as the cheesemonger at Joan’s on Third, a food emporium with just the scale and quality you dream about.

Imagination, education, intelligence — those are all good reasons to consider this wonderful book. But there is one more thing, the very first line in the book: There is no right or wrong. With all his experience, Chester has earned the right to be a cheese snob. He isn’t. He just wants to help you enjoy the wonders that cheese can wrought. And in The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen he totally succeeds.

If you go back just a few days, you’ll find his recipe for Cherry Tomato Jam, a condiment to pair with cheese, especially those gooey, soft white ones. You should try it. [Disclaimer: this blog is not responsible for any food addictions to recipes posted here. Sorry, but my lawyer is a stickler.]

 

Cherry Tomato Jam: Pairing Fruit with Cheese

 

Did you ever have someone give you an absolutely perfect dish? And you were going to get that recipe from them? And then, most sadly, they passed away? You remember their face and their laughter. You remember their tomato conserve that was a miracle.

Suzen and I had the pleasure of knowing Jacques Burdick, a wonderful man who once gave us a small jar of his tomato conserve. He smiled when he passed it to us but he did not make a big deal about his gift or boast that this was a treasure. He went home, we tasted, we could not believe.

And we never got around to asking him for the recipe and now we cannot.

So, we’ve searched recipe books and googled and never found anything close. Until now.

The Cheesemonger’s Table is a gorgeous book filled with cheese-oriented recipes. Serious, upscale recipes. I’ll blog about the book itself tomorrow. But very, very importantly, the book has this recipe for Cherry Tomato Jam for cheese. It’s quite close to Jacques’ miracle.

This jam can be made in an hour with very little effort. Physically, it is stunningly beautiful. Taste wise, it’s really, really good. Remember, tomatoes are fruit and all fruit is destined to become jam [or pies, or tarts, or …]

Enjoy this jam with soft white cheese on toasted bread. Triple crème never tasted so good.

The recipe comes from an exceptionally well-trained chef, Chester Hastings, in Los Angles. When he makes this jam, he’s mostly using California cherry tomatoes. When I made this jam, I was using supermarket tomatoes in February in upstate New York. My jam was great, but it was a bit lemony. I would suggest that when you make it, do some taste tests along the way, before and during the addition of the lemon juice to reach the flavor balance you like.

The yield stated in the recipe is 1 ½ cups. I got just over 1 cup. I think it’s a matter of the juiciness of the tomatoes and how much mass is lost when you take the skins off.

If you don’t get enough, just make more. All that you are doing is letting tomatoes fulfill their culinary destiny. It’s kinda religious. It’s definitely delicious.

Cherry Tomato Jam

Yield: 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups [340 grams] cherry or grape tomatoes
  • ¾ cup [150 grams] sugar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Preparation:

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Cut the tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for about 15 minutes to loosen the skins. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let cool slightly before carefully peeling away the skins.

Place the tomatoes and the sugar in sauce pan over medium heat and gently melt the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook, boiling rapidly for 5 to 7 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon  juice, lemon zest, and rosemary.

Transfer to a clean, sterilized jar and seal well. The jam can be kept refrigerated for 2 weeks, though I doubt it will last that long.

 

Source: Cheesemonger’s Kitchen by Chester Hastings