Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wine, Cheese and Bread: A Celebration!

First off, I must thank my readers for helping me reach over 1,000 page views!  It's a huge deal to me that people actually read my blog.  I really appreciate all of the comments that people have left me and I am going to attempt to do a better job of responding to any comments that ask me specific questions or ask for specific recipes.  As for the recipes I've already written about, I hope that some people have tried them, liked them, and added them to their collection.  I truly believe that recipe sharing is an amazing way to leave a legacy and I hope that this is just the beginning for me.

                     Thanks, and keep reading!!!

If you were to stroll down almost any Parisian boulevard at lunchtime, you will find many French madames et monsieurs eating a meal consisting of cheese and bread, washed down with a glass of wine.  Simple is the name of the game.  The bread, coming from a local boulangerie (bakery), would be une petite baguette baked fresh that day since, by law, French bread is required to avoid preservatives.  The cheese would almost certainly be a strong yet sweet Comte, made from unpasturized cow's milk in the Franche-Comte region of eastern France.    The wine, whether red or white, would complement the meal beautifully because most French styles of wine have been adapted to accompany food, rather than to drink on their own like wines from many other countries.

If you were to stroll into my kitchen the morning after a bonne soiree, you would find left overs of stale french bread, a variety of cheeses purchased from my local Trader Joe's, and a few half-drunk bottles of wine just waiting to be used or tossed.  I choose to USE!

This recipe is a phenomenal thing to use when your pantry looks like mine after a party, because it's an especially easy thing to do with leftover wine!  Plus, it has a fun name!  I actually found this recipe on one of my favorite websites:   I think they have fabulous recipes (simple!) as well as other interesting things to read and do.

Photo by Marcus Nilsson, Real Simple

Drunken Cheesy Bread

butter for the pan
1/2 a baguette, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 of a small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/8 lb of thinly sliced, fully cooked ham
3/4 cup white wine
pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place the bread in a buttered ovenproof skillet, a 9-inch baking dish, or a casserole.  Scatter the onion and ham over the bread.  Pour the wine over the onion and ham and sprinkle with the pepper and gruyere.  Bake until the cheese has melted and begun to brown at the edges, about 20 minutes.  Spoon on to individual plates.

The great thing about this recipe is that it's so versatile. Use it as a main dish or serve it along side of some tomato soup. Say you have leftover prosciutto instead of ham, use it.  You have leftover chardonnay or sauvignon blanc?  Both work just as well.  Swiss instead of gruyere?  No problem.  I feel fairly certain that you could even make it work using Fat Tire Amber Ale and some grated American cheese, kinda like a de-constructed grilled cheese....  

This one will not disappoint, I guarantee!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Salad Named for Bob

One of our favorite things to eat starting at the beginning of spring, just when you really feel the need to kick the heavy food habit, are Cobb salads.  A meal in themselves, they contain all of the necessary components: veggies, protein, salty, sweet, tart, crunchy, creamy, and color!  The Cobb salad was invented in Hollywood in the 1930's by the owner of the Red Derby restaurant.  His name was Robert Cobb, yes, Bob Cobb!  I love this fact!  The story goes, Bob and a friend got hungry one night after the restaurant closed and began rummaging around in the refrigerator.  He pulled out some lettuce, hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, tomatoes, chives, cheese and some crisp-cooked bacon.  He tossed all of these odds and ends together with some red wine vinaigrette.  His friend thought it was so delicious that he came in the next day and ordered the "Cobb salad."  It was so good, it landed on the menu.  (sounds like huge garbage-salad success, to me!)

Here's my version of Cobb Salad (this amount served 2 of us for dinner):

2 heads of Romaine, washed and coarsely chopped
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 roma tomato, diced
2 ripe avocadoes, sliced
6 slices of crisp-cooked bacon, coarsely chopped
red wine vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

Plate up the lettuce on 2 plates.  Top with half of the remaining ingredients and dress with the vinaigrette.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

This is a really, really easy dressing to make.  When I make it, I don't measure everything out, I just make it to taste.  Here's a version from with all of the measurements:

1/4 c red-wine vinegar
1 T Dijon Mustard
1 t sugar
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Whisking constantly, add the oil in a slow, steady stream and continue whisking until thickened.

*I put the first 4 ingredients into my mini food processor and pulse until combined.  Then I add in the olive oil and then blend until thickened.