Suzi's Blog

Gourmeting Your Own Cheese

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I was at my discount liquor store looking, of course, at the cheese section. Great wine at cheap prices. Great cheese at …

Here’s the truth. This store offers La Roulade at under $3. If you don’t know this cheese, it’s new on the market — at least to my eye — and is targeted as a cheaper version of Boursin. Suzen and I have tried it and found it to be basic and bland. There’s that peculiar aftertaste, no after feel, where your throat senses dryness. It was not something we would serve to guests.

Tonight, I bought my wine and bought a container of La Roulade. I resolved to find a way to make it taste great, really great with no after feel that I did not like. I had immediate success. My ideas here are far from adamant and you can surely experiment yourself and find other combinations that let you transform a basic, economical cheese into something you’ll proudly present to friend or family. Other jams, other herbs, other proportions are all yours to explore.

My “gourmeted” cheese was not dry to the palate. There was no after feel or after taste. There was good balance between the inherent cheese flavor and the garlic notes from the raw garlic and roasted garlic jam.

Ah, before you begin with your cheese. Let me say a word about the photo at the top and the kind folks at Nik Software. I’ve mentioned before that I now use their HDR [High Dynamic Range] photographic software to combine multiple shots to get one great shot. That shot at the top is combination of three I took with my Cannon: a basic shot and then one underexposed and one overexposed. That single “basic” Cannot shot is right at the end of this blog and what I would have presented before I discovered the tools from Nik. If you are into food photography you should visit Nik Software on the web and see their excellent portfolio of tools. I’ll be experimenting with all of them. I’m sure that you’ll find them as important for you as that macro lens you have been eyeing.

Gourmeting Your Own Cheese

Yield: 3 ounces

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of La Roulade, about 2.5 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons of diced chives
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoon roasted garlic onion jam [Stonewall Kitchen is my brand of choice]

Preparation:

Unwrap the cheese and put it into a medium size glass. Bowl, using a fork, gently break up the cheese and distribute the herb filling that is “rolled” in the cheese.

Dice the chives and add to the cheese. Mince the two garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt, and using your knife’s flat side, crush the garlic. Scrape and add to the cheese.

Add two tablespoons of the jam to the cheese. Here, many jams will work but Suzen and I love the Stonewall Kitchen products, the cause, and the quality. You could certainly substitute other items here, such as pepper jelly. Just remember: the cheese itself is inherently bland and you do not want to overpower it.

Mix the ingredients well. Refrigerate and save until ready to serve.

Recipe Source: Brian O’Rourke

Photographic Software from Nik Software

Here’s the “original” picture.  If you look at compare, you’ll see that the colors are truer, details lost below in the highlight or shadows are recovered in the picture above. This picture is just okay, but the HDR photo is distinctively better. In particular, compare the “all white” areas in the photo below — where the camera sensor is blown out — with the photo above where the detail has been recovered using that underexposed photo I took as well. Oh, yes, I had a tripod for these shots. Doing this hand held is quite impossible.

And, all I did was use the Nik software from inside Lightroom. I selected the three images I had taken with my Cannon and pressed a button. That’s it. I did NOT have to go into Photoshop to try to cover light balance or or exposure or attempt to recover detail on a spot basis. As I’ve said, this HDR approach produces a better picture with really no extra work. It’s a wiz.

 

 

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Super Bowl Nachos

nachos

If nachos are on your menu for Sunday’s Super Bowl, then I recommend this version. It’s the second best nachos I ever had. The best? On the other side of the border, of course.

Using a great chili recipe [there's one right here] and topping the avocado crema gives you a rich, fulling nosh. This one supports beer, margaritas, and even a dark red wine.

I tried to get the recipe for those best nachos, but I did not speak French. Yes, French. The border was Canada, not Mexico. The restaurant was in Toronto with some refugees from Montreal who spoke French and cooked Mexican.

Food is global. And you”ll enjoy this treat.

Brian’s Super Chili Nachos

Yield: serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces corn tortilla chips
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese [or Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack]
  • ¾ cup candied jalapenos, or more depending on your tolerance
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 2 cups chili [ideally Tom Valenti’s Texas-Style Chili, recipe follows]
  • Sour cream, avocado creama, diced tomatoes, or additional grated cheese as garnishes [avocado crema recipe follows]

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 475°.

Spread the tortilla chips evenly over pan [half-sheet] lined with foil.  Cover evenly with the grated cheese.  Evenly sprinkle the jalapenos and diced onions.

Top with the chili.  This is best done a spoonful at a time.  Just try to cover in bite size globs.  Spreading the chili evenly over the other ingredients is not easy, and not necessary.

Bake the nachos for about 7 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted.  If the chili is leftovers and has been refrigerated, it may take about 10 minutes to fully heat the dish.

Remove from the oven and serve with the garnishes.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

 

Avocado Crema

Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and pit removed
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Variations are unlimited, but consider: chili powder of any variety, garlic, chives, cilantro, or green chili

Preparation:

Puree all the ingredients in a blender or food processor for one or two minutes.  Sample the taste and add additional seasoning — salt or white pepper — to suit your palette.

Source: Macho Nacho by Kate Heykoe

 

Texas Style Chili

Yield: Serves 6+

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks, trimmed of fat
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 large Spanish onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into small dice
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into small dice
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 quart store-bough reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more to taste
  • 1 ancho chile, seeded, stemmed, and minced
  • 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, Tabasco sauce, and minced onion or scallions, optional.

Preparation:

Put the meat in a bowl and season with 1 tablespoon each of salt pepper garlic powder and chili powder. Set aside.

Warm the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and cook until browned all over, 7 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate and set aside.

Drain off all but a few tablespoons of liquid from the pot. Add the carrots, onion, celery, bell peppers, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about five minutes. Add the tomato paste and sugar and stir to coat the vegetables.

Return the meat to the pot sprinkle the flour over the meat stirred in, working quickly to keep it from browning.

Add the vinegar and stir to loosen any bits of flour or meet stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Add the broth in small increments, stirring to prevent lumps add the tomatoes proven, and showed chili stir. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.

Cover the pot, reduce the heat so that the liquid just simmers, and cook for one hour. Add the beans and continue to cook until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. If not serving immediately, but cool, cover, and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to one month. Reheat before conditioning very

To serve, divide the chili among six bowls and pass garnishes at the table in individual bowls, inviting everyone to doctor his or her chili to taste.

Source: Tom Valenti’s Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals by Tom Valenti