Why you should do good unto your cheese with a little olive oil.
The first time I realized what a consecration it is to anoint a particular cheese with olive oil was in 1985 at a place outside Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in the heart of Provence where Mont Ventoux looms to the north. My son Max had been born just a couple of months before. My wife, Michelle, and I chose to flee the swelter of the New York City summer, and this little baby fit perfectly into the bassinet the airline gave us to hook over the seat in front of us. (Go figure the civilized nature of that.)
Salads seem like a challenge during the winter, without the benefit of garden-fresh greens, tomatoes, and vegetables. But with just a little creativity you can have beautiful salads apropos of the season. The one I share here combines bitter winter greens like frisée, endive, or radicchio (or better yet, a combination of all of them) with a topping of sautéed whole scallions and slices of smoky Italian prosciutto.
I like making this cheese sandwich on slices of baguette, but you could use any type of crusty bread you like. The two sandwich halves can be served open-faced, or they can be put together to make a more traditional-style sandwich.
In a medium skillet, heat the butter and oil over low heat. When sizzling, add the apple slices and cook, gently stirring once or twice, for 3 minutes. Drizzle on the maple syrup, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook another 2 minutes, or until the apples are caramelized and just tender but not mushy. Remove from the heat.
Leeks and potatoes are good companions, and here they are joined by the sharpness of good, aged cheddar. This is pure comfort food—smooth, rich, and bursting with flavor. The chive-walnut-cheddar puree is swirled into the soup at the table, highlighting the smooth white soup with a gorgeous green color and a full cheese, herb, and nutty flavor and texture. You want to choose a really distinctive, very sharp aged cheddar for this soup.
This colorful, creamy open-face sandwich is a great winter snack.
Cut the peppers in half, remove the core and the ribs, and cut into thin strips. Place the pepper strips in a bowl, and cover with the olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Hungarians serve this spiced cheese spread with chunks of bread as part of an appetizer spread.
Combine all ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight to allow flavors to meld.
Crafting túró, the country’s favorite cheese, is a matter of time more than technique
Like a laboratory, every corner of my Hungarian mother-in-law’s kitchen is stuffed with creations in progress. Usually this includes a pot filled with curdling milk in the process of being transformed into túró, a staple that many Hungarians describe as similar to cottage cheese. But not cottage cheese as Americans know it. Túró is a fresh, soft-curd cheese, more like a tangy farmer’s cheese or quark. It is usually made in Hungary with cow’s milk, but sheep’s milk produces a richer version. Goat’s milk is occasionally used too.
Through photographs and 30 vignettes, nature photographer David Middleton chronicles the day-to-day life of a working dairy farm in Quite a Sightly Place: A Dairy Farm in Vermont (Commonwealth Editions, 2010; $30). Once a town of 50 dairy farms, Danby, Vermont, is now home to only four, one of which is operated by the Bromley family. Middleton was part of Bromley’s tiny work force for four years, learning the trade and the family and falling in love with the farm along the way. In his reverential style, Middleton reveals characters such as owner Roger; his 94-year-old father, Hugh; and, of course, the cows, with humorous prose and vivid images.
Photography by Kurt Brownell
Apples I Have Eaten (Chronicle Books, 2010; $15) is an endearingly small, red-bound guide to the apples we can’t find in grocery stores. Curator Jonathan Gerken hunts for unique apples at farmers’ markets, at orchards, and through acquaintances, then captures images of the fruit before taking a bite. He collected 20-plus varieties—sweet, tart, and everything in between—over the course of one autumn and each is depicted life size with an image of both the whole fruit and its cross section. Intriguing species like Winter Red Flesh, Hidden Rose, and Black Twig pepper the wordless book, and make one yearn for autumn trips to the orchard and homemade apple pie.
Photography by Kurt Brownell