Thursday, October 11, 2007

Holy Manchego!

Earlier this week, I celebrated my birthday with my family... and with some
delicious food!

We enjoyed Pasamontes
Manchego cheese with membrillo and Gerard's bread. Of course, it was paired with a 2005 Monastrell/3 red wine by Diego Fernandez (also from La Mancha... for label, see right). Yummm....

The main dish was a pasta dish with roasted artichoke hearts and sundried
tomatoes. Soooo good. :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Local Prizes - Fall '07

This is the fall edition of my new blog series: Local Prizes. Every quarter, I plan to release a list of my local favorites for the season. Here we go...

Bloomy-rind cheeses from Willow Hill Farm. The cheesemaker cre
ates heaven on a plate with her lovely sheep and cow milk cheeses. Right now, the little sheep bloomy-rinds are not in season, but La Fleurie, a cow's milk bloomy rind is delicious and available. And the hard cheeses are soon to follow. My current favorite (it changes throughout the year, as the availability of cheese changes) is Summertomme, a bloomy sheep round that is coated in herbs. It is creamy, smooth, and delicious. It's great with a crusty baguette and fresh ripe tomatoes. Side note: I may be slightly biased here, but I absolutely love these cheeses. Each cheese is truly unique, and the yogurt is to die for.

Tomme Collins from Green Mountain Blue Cheese. It's a raw-milk tomme-style wheel, full-flavored and nutty with a sharp hint of pepper. It's delicious on its own, served with fresh fruit and crusty, or shaved over pasta. It's quite a find, and would be a great addition to a Vermont cheese plate. In fact, who needs a selection? This cheese stands perfectly on its own. Side note: Green Mountain Blue Cheese offers a selection of blue cheeses and washed rinds in addition to the Tomme Collins.

Feta from Doe's Leap. This is most definitely the best feta I have ever had. And coming from a feta addict, that means a lot. It is made with organic goats' milk and is salty, tangy and wonderful. It perfectly completes a Greek salad or a caramelized onion flatbread. It's great crumbled over roasted artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and pasta. More commonly, though, it doesn't even make it to the plate. It's just that good.

Produce from the Burlington Farmers' Market. Vermont has a huge number of farmers' markets now, some on weekends and some during the week. Even in October, the selection is outstanding: root vegetables, squashes (winter and summer), melons, greens, beans, peppers. Who needs a grocery store when we have such great local produce?

We thought this was International!!

You may be wondering why I am writing about local foods and foods that I have made myself... Well, right now, I'm not abroad, and so for now, I'm doing the best I can. Haha. I will be headed to Spain in January, but until then, I'll write about what I can find and what I can make. Besides, isn't the USA a part of the International community?

Life of Pi(e)

Ok, it's inevitable -- as soon as I can smell fall in the air, I start to plan my holiday menus. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and for a few years, I have been preparing the meal for my family. Of course, my mom and my grandma help, but I have somewhat (ok, mostly) commandeered the holiday kitchen.

Let's just say that I already have a planned menu for T-day. I'm even testing recipes. I really do spend quite a bit of time thinking these things through...

So the last week has been all about pie. I've actually only produced two pies, but hey, they were both good. The first pie was a "harvest" pie, with apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, and a crumble topping. The second was an old favorite -- revamped. I'd been thinking about this pie that I made for Thanksgiving last year-- a double-layer pumpkin and pecan pie. It was good enough, but I had some minor issues. The pecan layer was pretty sweet, and the pumpkin layer was pretty boring (texture-wise). I felt that the overall concept was a good one, but that the details needed some updating.

My pie makeover:

1. Drop the canned pumpkin. Switch it out for some squash. I chose buttercup and roasted it myself, then mashed it with a fork but didn't puree it. I only added one egg, a little sugar and cinnamon, and then poured it into the crust. I par-baked it before adding the pecan layer.

2. Only use one egg for the pecan layer, and drop some of the corn syrup. I used less syrup, margarine, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for some spice. Overall, the pecan layer came out much thinner than usual, but that was fine with me. I'm not a big fan of custard-y pies anyway.

After baking and tasting the pie, I came to the conclusion that I had made all the right choices. The pie was not too eggy-tasting or heavy. The thinner top layer became a sort of candied nut topping, and the squash still looked (and tasted) like it was squash. Just what I had hoped.

The somewhat-Official Pecan Squash Pie Recipe:

1 pie crust
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 cups roasted squash (mashed with a fork)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp margarine or butter, softened
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup pecan halves or pieces

1. Pre-heat oven t0 350.
2. Drizzle maple syrup over crust and set aside.
3. Whisk together squash, 1 egg, and half of the cinnamon, then pour into crust.
4. Par-bake the pie for 10-15 minutes.
5. Whisk together the other egg, the other half of the cinnamon, the margarine or butter, and the corn syrup.
6. Add pecans to the corn syrup mixture.
7. Add pecan filling to the pie carefully.
8. Bake the pie until the pecan layer is set and top is golden brown.
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