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More specifically:
“Delicious Decomposition: Tales from the Cheese Caves of France”
Sister Noella Marcellino, Ph.D., Abbey of Regina Laudis, artisanal cheesemaker and microbiologist who studied the biodiversity of cheese-ripening fungi in France; featured in Netflix documentary series “Cooked,” based on Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation”
Mateo Kehler, co-founder and manager of Jaseper Hill Farm and Caves, Greensboro, Vt.

Or in the words of Sister Noella, the presentation could be renamed to “cavemen I have known and loved.”

I’m not going to go into super detail.  It was just a fun lecture.  I wanted to attend because I remembered her from Pollan’s Cooked.  I got there early (doors opened at 6pm even though the lecture didn’t start until 7pm), and took my old spot in the audience.

We got cheese samples!

Cheese sampler

A photo posted by @awesomesauceeats on

A photo posted by @awesomesauceeats on

 

Sister Noella’s presentation was really informative, but I think Mateo’s and Ben’s presentations were a bit more of interest to me.  She mostly talked about how the Bethlehem cheese came to be, certain microbes (like the geotrichum candidum, which I think smells a bit like daikon), and how she won a Fullbright scholarship that allowed her to study cheesemaking in France.

A video posted by @awesomesauceeats on

Mateo’s presentation was almost half-advert, but was really about the structure of Jasper Hill Farms as it relates to cheesemaking.

A photo posted by @awesomesauceeats on

He also made a comment about grass-fed cheeses.  Basically a cheese made from the milk of cows with a 100% grass-fed diet doesn’t taste all that great.  He said that dairy production requires a lot of energy, and lactating cows need to be fed a little bit of grain.  (Grains provide more energy than just grass.)  If I recall correctly, he also mentioned that the Jasper Hill cows are fed dry hay, which promotes good microbes and none of the bad ones like lysteria.

Anyway, Jasper HIll has prospered enough and worked with scientists often enough that they’ve actually built their own lab on the property to study their cheese microbes.

Toward the end, there was a surprise mini-presentation with everyone’s favorite microbiologist, Ben Wolfe, Tufts University.  Ben quickly chatted about DNA sequencing and patterns of microbes.

A photo posted by @awesomesauceeats on

And that was the lecture.

The end.

Or not, because let’s go back to that cheese sampler!

Seven cheeses were listed on the sponsor thank you slide, but the audience only got five cheese samples per plate.  The very top cheese in the photo (at 12 o’clock) is the Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam.  I definitely liked this one.  It was like brie, but creamier and maybe saltier.  I found the overall flavor to be clean and fresh.

The cheese to the bottom right of the Mt Tam is probably the Bethlehem cheese.  Maybe, probably.  I thought it had some citrus overtones to it.  Overall texture was dry and brittle.  Flavor was mild.  I liked it enough.

The bottom right cheese (at 5 o’clock), I’m fairly confident, is the Kaltbach Gruyere.  It was hands down my favorite.  I liked the scent and the flavor of it better than all the others.  It was strong but nothing offensive.

We only had one blue cheese, and that was the Jasper Hill Bailey Hazen Blue.  I really thought I was going to hate this as I normally find blue cheeses to be too stinky and too boldly flavored for me.  Not this one.  Having said that, it was still my least favorite on the plate.  It reminded me of a stack of papers.  Probably old papers.  But it was very salty and metallic tasting on my tongue.  So, metallic old papers?

The last sample on the top left is probably the Jasper Hill Winnimere cheese.  My first impression of it was that it was sharp in scent and flavor.  It also smelled salty.  The texture was soft, but not as soft as the Mt Tam.  The flavor of the Winnimere reminded me of beer.  It’s a good cheese, but not one of my favorites.

So yeah.  I want to stock my fridge with Mt Tam and Kaltbach Gruyere right now!  (^_^)

I did this tonight

More later.

I'm a nerd

A photo posted by @awesomesauceeats on

I’m always of two minds when it comes to Middle Eastern cooking.

On the one hand, I know that I love Middle Eastern food.  There’s a restaurant a couple of towns away from me called Kareem’s, where I learned how wonderful and diverse Middle Eastern food really was.  It’s more than hummus, kabobs, and baklava.  I discovered muhammara, ma’moul, kanafa, and so much more.

But enjoying middle eastern food doesn’t necessarily mean that I feel an urge to cook it at home.  I’ve learned a few wonderful recipes over the years, but I just never make them.

For the longest time, I only owned one Middle Eastern cookbook in my personal library.

I now own two books.

Soframiz, by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick, is a title that I waffled about picking up a copy.  The recipes are from/inspired by Sofra Bakery and Cafe, a locally acclaimed Middle Eastern restaurant.

9781607749189

Full disclosure – I haven’t been to Sofra yet.  I know I’m ridiculous considering how not-far-away it is from me.  I almost didn’t pick up the cookbook.  But my older sister has been there, and she was quick to tell me to give it a go.  (And I’m sure that she wants to borrow it for herself.)

Skimming through the cookbook, there’s something adventurous about all the recipes.  True, there’s the ubiquitous recipe for shakshuka.  However, more often than not, there are recipes that I’ve never even heard of like cheese borek with nigella seeds (borek appears to be a type of pie).

Some recipes that have peaked my interest?

  • tahini brioche loaves
  • asure (breakfast grain pudding)
  • olive oil granola
  • yufka (unleavened bread dough)
  • chicken shwarma with garlic sauce and greens
  • chicken and walnut borek
  • tahini shortbread cookies
  • milky walnut fig baklava (I would love to know how Sofra’s baklava compares with Kareem’s.  So far, Kareem’s is my favorite.)
  • almond rose cake
  • kunefe (Also curious as to how Sofra compares with Kareem’s on dessert.)
  • orange blossom lemonade
  • tahini hot chocolate

So far, I’ve only made the shwarma spice mix.  I haven’t used it for real shwarma but I have experimented cooking with it a little.  It’s quite warming on the tongue, and perfumed.  Very bold flavor, maybe too bold.  I made a batch of spiced chickpeas stewed in tomatoes, and some spiced meatballs.  While both were enjoyable, I’m considering simplifying the spice mix.  I’ll probably make the chicken shwarma recipe from the book before cementing my decision.

The photos are downright delightful looking.  I would love for someone to make all that food for me to taste.  (I guess I should really just hoof it over to Sofra, right?)  I’m having trouble finding a photo that I don’t think looks appetizing.  The food take center stage, free from any unnecessary background noise, and free from any insane photoshopping.  (To this day, I don’t like food photos that are heavy on the contrast.)

There are really no bad points to Soframiz.  I guess I can thank my sister for nudging me to pick up a copy.

Having said that, will I really step out of my comfort zone and cook from Soframiz?  I’m not really sure.

(I will, however, make the lemonade.  I don’t care of it’s the wrong season for it.  I even bought lemons already.  I can’t lie:  I really like the orange blossom lemonade at Kareem’s.  I don’t have the recipe, and I haven’t been able to replicate it on my own.  I’m insanely curious to see how the Soframiz recipe will compare.)

A video posted by @awesomesauceeats on

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Reference Links:

http://www.sofrabakery.com/

http://www.kareemsrestaurant.com/

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/258239/soframiz-by-ana-sortun-and-maura-kilpatrick/

Recent shopping finds

I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday.  I picked up a couple of things that I hadn’t seen before and so far like.

Tastes like taste no. 5 umami Bomba paste. I approve.

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But much more affordable than buying Taste No. 5 Bomba paste… since that gets imported from England.  I’m tempted to stock up on this out of fear.  I hope TJs never stops making this!

 

Also from TJs

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It’s a smidge sweeter than I like.  Not really a surprise, since sugar is the first ingredient, but it’s much tastier than buying hot cocoa packets.

With absolutely no prior knowledge of Anna Jones, I waited with bated breath for my copy of “A Modern Way to Cook” to arrive in the mail.  The tag line  on the cover says “150+ vegetarian recipes for quick, flavor-packed meals.”  Considering that I’m trying to make all my work lunches, it sounded very promising.  

The organization of content is pretty smart.  The recipes are grouped by how long it takes to make.  The chapters are 15, 20, 30, and 40 minute recipes, then followed by “investment cooking” (mostly pantry staples), “super-fast breakfasts”, and “quick desserts and sweet treats.”

The overall look of the book is on the drool-worthy side.  Most of the photos are overhead shots that are styled really well.  (No harsh contrast photos here, thank god.)

There are recipes that I want to try:

  • kale, tomato, and lemon magic one-pot spaghetti
  • kale, sumac, and crispy rice salad
  • zucchini noodles with pistachio, green herbs, and ricotta
  • sweet roasted zucchini with crispy chickpeas
  • spinach and lemon polpette
  • lentils with roasted tomatoes and horseradish
  • roasted coconut, lime, and tamarind curry
  • honey rye bread
  • lemon cannellini cake

Another feature of the book that I like are the pages of simplified/master recipes.  These pages are:

  • 10 favorite omelet fillings
  • goodness bowls
  • quick 20 minute stir-fries
  • 10 favorite suppers from 10 favorite vegetables
  • 10 simple baked potatoes
  • 5 one-pan dinners
  • quick flavor boosts

A video posted by @awesomesauceeats on

But the longer I mull over the book, the more I find that some recipes really do not inspire me.  In the 10 minute section, Jones has a recipe for pour-over soup.  I’m not saying that her recipe won’t be delicious.  However, it’s not that different from other DIY instant soups that have already been kicking around the internet for awhile.  Examples are:

http://thestonesoup.com/blog/2012/02/the-quickest-easiest-way-to-make-a-hot-meal-without-a-kitchen/

or

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/09/diy-instant-noodles-vegetables-miso-sesame-broth-recipe.html

So I am a little worried that in a few months, I won’t have any interest in this book beyond “coffee table material.”

For those people with allergies, take note that Jones uses a lot of nuts, black beans, chickpeas, and lentils for protein.  She hardly uses tofu in this book.

At any rate, I hope I have the chance to carve out some time this weekend and make a couple of dishes.  Then I can revisit my opinion with experience.

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Cook Korean, A Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha, has to be the only cookbook on my shelf that I wanted purely for visual reasons.

Oh, wait.  I just remembered that I have Modernist Cuisine at Home.  Oops.

Ok, it’s the second cooking I’ve ever wanted just for the pretty.  lol!

Anyway, the book is focused on Korean home cooking.  Nothing looks terribly intimidating, and there’s a good variety recipes.  There’s a fairly typical looking recipe for easy kimchi (mak kimchi).  But then, I was surprised to see chayote pickle (chayote jangachi) a few pages later.  Chayote is one of my favorite vegetables, and I have never thought to swap it with another vegetable in a Korean recipe before.

Some recipes that I don’t think are in my other books are:

Acorn jelly salad (dotorimuk)
Braised daiko with saury (mu kkongchi jorim)
Seaweed soup with beef (sogogi miyeokguk)
Hand-pulled dough soup with potatoes (gamja sujebi)

A lot of the fun, though, is in the illustrations.  They are ridiculously cute.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 9.40.03 PM

 

 

You can find a video preview of the cookbook I made here:

Whee!

A video posted by @awesomesauceeats on

 

Anyway, I tried my hand at one of the recipes.  I decided to go easy since I didn’t really have time to spend at the grocery store.  In this case, I went with the book’s steamed Asian eggplant (gaji namul) recipe.  The only major substitution I made was to use small hot house eggplants than Asian eggplants.  (Again, this was due to time constraints.)  I even used some of the sauce as a dumpling dipping sauce.

Overall, I really liked this recipe.  I also liked the simplicity of the sauce.  I’ve made other sauces from Asian cookbooks, like Momofuku’s octo vinaigrette, but the combination of flavor and ease of this one might very well make it my favorite.  

I eventually modified the recipe to cut out the sugar.  It wasn’t a lot of sugar to begin with, but I still preferred to swap it out.

 

All-purpose Asian dipping sauce (good for dumplings and vegetables)

– freshly grated ginger to taste
– one part sesame oil
– one part mirin
– two parts soy sauce
– small handful of chopped scallions (optional)

Whisk everything together, and use however you wish!

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 9.38.45 PM

 

(There’s no way to make steamed eggplants look fabulous. *sigh*)

Overall cookbook impression?  I love it!  Obviously, you can’t fully judge a book based on visuals and on one recipe, but I’d be more than happy to cook from it over and over again.

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  But for the record, I had been planning on buying this book long before.  I’m a sucker for cute things.

Cookbook price alert

  1.  This post is not sponsored in anyway.
  2. You must be able to travel to Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA.

I was killing some time the other day, and meandered around the cookbook section of The Coop, the official book store of Harvard University.  Believe it or not, I got bored.  For fun, I walked over to the sale section which is just one room over.  Most of the time, there isn’t anything I want.

This time, there still wasn’t anything I wanted… but that’s only because I already owned it.  The Coop had several copies of The Big-Flavor Grill: No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes for Delicious Steaks, Chicken, Ribs, Chops, Vegetables, Shrimp, and Fish for about $8.  I bought this book, written by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, back in 2014.  I could read it all day because it appeals to me that much.  Seeing it on the shelf reminded me that I should cook from it before the weather turns cold.

Honestly though, I can make a lot of the recipes indoors sans grill.  The appeal of this book is in all the sauce and condiment recipes.

I love this book so much that I want to buy a copy of it just to gift to someone.

Alas, no one I know is addicted to cookbooks as I am.

But if you are or you like to grill, head over to the Coop.  You can thank me later.