My favorite cheese in the entire world: Brunet

I love, love, love, love, love cheese.  I crave it.  I dream about it.  And I savor every bite of my favorite cheeses like Cambozola and Humboldt Fog.  I have wonderful friends who, for my birthday, brought me a trio of cheeses to enjoy, along with some champagne (I told you they were wonderful).  One of the cheeses was Brunet, a luxurious, creamy cheese with a subtle tang, which made me weak in the knees.  It’s made in Italy with goat milk from goats with dark hair, hence the name Brunet.  Unlike most cheeses with a rind, Brunet has a very soft, very thin rind that just melts into the cheese, going unnoticed.  I’ve only been able to find it at Whole Foods.  Grab yourself a hunk of Brunet (and make sure it comes to room temperature) and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and enjoy the best cheese in the world.

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Quinoa Arancini

Perhaps you’ve heard of arancini – basically a delicious fried ball of risotto with cheese in the middle…  I’ve made these before and they are amazing, however, in an effort to eat less white rice, I wanted to make a similar version of these, but with quinoa instead of Arborio rice.  I made this without writing anything down (bad food blogger), but here’s the jist of it:

I made some quinoa according to the package directions, with vegetable stock instead of water – and I added a pinch of salt.  I let this mixture cool in the fridge, then added an egg and some fresh herbs, chopped chives and parsley.  I happened to have goat cheese in the fridge, so I made little balls of cheese and molded the cold quinoa around it.  Then I put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and cooked the patties (I make patties instead of balls, because it’s easier to pan fry these) until lightly browned on both sides.  These were very yummy – I enjoyed the crisp quinoa on the outside, the chewy quinoa on the inside, and the tangy goat cheese in the middle.  Next time I’d like to try making them with cubes of mozzarella (not fresh, it’s too watery for this) because I like the gooey quality of it.  I highly recommend taking any leftover grains that you have in the fridge and mixing them with some herbs and an egg and wrapping it around some cheese and giving it a little sauté.  You can also dip the cakes into egg and then into panko breadcrumbs or cornmeal before sautéing – although this is definitely easier to do with rice, than with the crumbly quinoa.  And, these are great for a picnic – enjoy!

Eggplant Parmesan – my favorite meal of all time!

Eggplant Parmesan – When done right, this is my favorite meal to eat!  Thin layers of crisp eggplant, gooey cheese, and just enough sauce to hold it all together.  Unfortunately most restaurants do not make it right, either by leaving the bitter skin on or by cutting it too thick.  I haven’t made it in awhile, so I decided to make a practice batch and to make a giant pot of marinara sauce, because I have a few friends that I want to make this for very soon.  Here is the best way I know of to eat eggplant:

Eggplant Parmesan

1 large eggplant

3 Eggs

2 T milk

Flour

Italian style breadcrumbs (or plain breadcrumbs with Parm and parsley added to it)

Marinara sauce – I used this recipe from Fine Cooking.  Try and use San Marzano tomatoes or a good brand like Muir Glen, for the best tasting sauce.

Mozzarella cheese, shredded ( I don’t use fresh because I find it too watery for this)

Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese, grated

Vegetable oil

Peel the skin off the eggplants and cut off the ends.  Slice eggplant (either longwise or across) into slightly less than ¼ inch slices.  Arrange the slices in a colander or on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels.  Sprinkle each piece with kosher salt.  Leave the eggplant for 30 minutes or so, until the bitter juices have been released.  Using paper towels, pat the eggplant slices to soak up the excess juices.

Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan.  Put some flour in a shallow bowl (season with salt and pepper), beat the eggs and milk in another shallow bowl, and add the breadcrumbs in yet another shallow bowl.  Dip the eggplant slices into the flour, then the egg (shaking off excess), and into the breadcrumbs.  Fry the pieces in canola oil until golden brown.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.  This frying process will take a few batches, but tastes much better than baking the eggplant.  *Important* make sure you wipe out the frying pan after every few batches, as some of the breadcrumbs will fall off and start to turn black, leaving a charred taste to the eggplant. And don’t forget to sprinkle the eggplant with some salt when it comes out of the pan.

When all of the eggplant is cooked, it’s time for assembly!  You can use lasagna dishes, regular 9 x 13 dishes, or whatever you have around that’s a few inches deep.  (1 large eggplant will make enough for an 8-inch square baking dish, serving 6-8 people, or less, if you’re serving Italians or my friend Rob).  Spread some sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Put down one layer of eggplant, making sure to fill in empty spots.  Spread some more sauce on top of the eggplant, then some mozzarella and Parmesan.  Continue the eggplant, sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan layers until you are out of eggplant.

Bake in a 350-degree oven, covered, until heated through.  Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more.

Enjoy!

Amatriciana Sauce & the new Bon Appetit

This is for all the Slavinskys out there!  When I received the latest issue of bon appetit magazine the other day, I knew we would be eating pasta this week.  I made the Bucatini all’Amatriciana (except that I used spaghetti instead of bucatini) and it was DELICIOUS!  The crushed red pepper adds just enough heat to make the sauce interesting, but not enough to burn your tongue – even my toddlers loved it.  I will definitely be making this again and again.  Just a reminder to add lots of kosher salt (maybe 2 Tablespoons) to your pasta water – it is the key to delicious pasta and it is especially important in this recipe since  you use the pasta water to help create the sauce, and the salty water adds flavor. Okay, now for a review of the magazine….

The May 2011 issue of bon appetit is a wonderful issue, focusing mostly on Italian cuisine.  There are many great pasta recipes as well as a few amazing dessert recipes, like zeppole, chocolate tiramisu, rhubarb and raspberry crostata, and a pistachio biscotti.  There is a wonderful article about traveling to Rome with young kids – makes me excited to think that we could actually do that with our kids in a few years!  On top of all the amazing Italian recipes and articles, there are also Cinco de Mayo recipes and dreamy chef Eric Ripert shares his recipe for Blender Hollandaise.  This is one of the best issues of bon appetit that I’ve ever read – go out and get it, or at least check out their website for some of the recipes.~