Premium brewers offer beer that will cool you down, keep you interested, and work with your summer cheeses
Just because it’s the season of beer and backyard barbecues doesn’t mean that the former has to be the standard yellow fizzy concoction guzzled from an aluminum can. There’s an ever-growing list of domestic craft beers perfectly suited for the dog days, and while the criteria for a great summer beer can certainly vary, there’s one description that must ring true: refreshing.
Choosing an ideal summer wine for cheese lovers makes me think about Mr. Caputo, who sells the best mozzarella in New York City, if not the entire country. That’s a grand brag, I admit, but it’s true. Mr. Caputo, a little man of few words, refuses to let his hand-pulled mozzarella ever feel the chill of a refrigerator. And, since the health department doesn’t approve of this, he simply makes it about every hour and a half (at Caputo’s Fine Foods, 460 Court St., Brooklyn). Within minutes, each newly formed ball, held in milky water, fills the shape of the container, begging to be let out of its plastic prison. Whisk it home, slice, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, and all you need to complete this fabulous meal is a tomato, crusty bread, and a bottle of wine.
If you can’t find Lancaster Cheddar from Pennsylvania in your market, consider some award-winning substitutes, such as Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar from California or Grafton Cheddar from Vermont.
A slice of advice for would-be cheese retailers from a veteran monger
It is my duty as a cheesemonger to protect my beloved trade from those who would enter it willy-nilly, without sufficient preparation or a clear understanding of its rigors. Be warned: operating a reputable cheese shop is serious business. It is not for dabblers and dilettantes seduced by its glamour and romance.
Chef Harris likes to serve these macerated berries in individual ramekins alongside a bloomy-rind cheese like Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill from Thomasville, Georgia.
In a large bowl, combine the berries. Pour the vinegar over the berries, and stir in the sugar, to taste, and the salt. Fold in the chopped mint. Cover and allow the mixture to macerate for several hours before serving.
By Jenny Harris, executive chef at Tria in Philadelphia
Photography by Alison Miksch
Named from the words barbecue and raclette, the Barbaclette is a new gadget from Bosca Holland designed for grilling raclette (or any cheese) on the barbecue, drip-free. For centuries, the Swiss tradition of raclette has remained fundamentally intact: a wheel of raclette is placed over fire and, as it melts, the cheese is scraped onto a plate of cooked potatoes and pickles. The Barbaclette, designed to melt single slices of cheese at a time rather than an entire wheel, takes this tradition to a decidedly modern level of efficiency. Shaped like a deep spatula, with a mobile rosewood handle and a stainless-steel frame, the Barbaclette is a safe, convenient grilling accessory that makes a myriad of oozy outdoor cheese dishes possible. Potatoes and pickles are optional.
Other summer berries may be substituted; the sweet mascarpone sauce complements any fruit flavor.
THE PUDDING: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and milk. Stir in confectioner’s sugar and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the cubed ciabatta, berries, and lemon zest. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and berries, cover the bowl, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Continuing the civilized tradition of handsome picnic carriers, the Picnic Time Pioneer basket is made of rattan and canvas with a leather-wrapped handle, a double lid, two front pockets, and a water-resistant base. It’s outfitted with a luncheon set for two including wine glasses, a cutting board, a cheese knife, and a corkscrew, as well as a four-by-five-foot picnic blanket and plastic storage container.
This time of year, when figs are at their peak, try using sliced fresh figs in place of the jam, and slip in a few leaves of fresh basil for good measure. Or give the panini an American spin by substituting the prosciutto with softly cooked bacon—this is the time to break out the artisanal stuff. Salty and chewy, creamy and sweet, this simple sandwich is all of that and more.
Split each roll, and layer with the mozzarella, then the prosciutto, and finally the basil. Spread the top slices of bread with the fig jam, and close up the sandwiches. Lightly butter the outside of each sandwich.