The Year in Review: 2010

9 countries (Italy, Hungary, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, France, U.S.A.) 

41 cities (Alba, Antwerp, Asti, Basel, Bologna, Boston, Brussels, Budapest, Cancale, Conil de la Frontera, Cordoba, Garda Lake, Granada, Honfleur, Lisbon, Lugano, Madrid, Malaga, Mantova, Milano, Modena, Montalcino, Montechiaro, Nantucket, Newport, Paris, Parma, Pentedattilo, Porto, Portsmouth, Reggio Calabria, Reims, Rethymnon, Rondo, Saint Malo, Sevilla, Siena, Torino, Trentino, Trieste, Zurich)

1 year

In an effort to make sense of the strange and thrilling year that began at home in New England, led to a Master’s program in Italy and finished in Paris, I’ve indulged in a little premature nostalgia and compiled a list of the 12 most memorable experiences of the past year. Without further ado….

12. Milking a Sheep in Calabria

 

Or watching a shepherd use his hand as a thermometer to make mizithra in Crete, thumping Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels with hammers to check for quality, or frolicking with the cows that produce the milk for Montasio in Friuli…It was the year of the cheese. I have always been an avid cheese eater and loved being a cheesemonger, but there’s really nothing like seeing cheese being made up close and personal, hands on the udder personal.

Bowls Made of Cheese! And a Little Salad Too…

I live right outside Parma, the land of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The cheese in the stores is sold in ENORMOUS hunks because no one can imagine making do with anything under a kilo. Awhile ago, my friend Kate brought a really great apple & arugula salad to dinner one night. It was simple and flavorful and just delightful in every way. I started mulling over that delicious combo and created my own slightly fancy Parma-riffic version served in mini salad bowls made of cheese. All bowls should be made of out cheese, and now that I’m thinking about it, plates too. 

 

Arugula, White Bean & Apple Salad in Parmesan Bowls 

(Serves 2 if you each get two bowls, or 4 if you want small side dish/fancy first course portions)

Ingredients:

12 tbs grated parmigiano-reggiano (3 for each bowl)

1 1/2 cups arugula

1 cup mache (also known as valerianella or lambs lettuce)

1 yellow apple, washed

1/2 of a 15 oz. can of cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)

1 lemon

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper

 

Steps:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Zest the lemon and set aside. Juice the lemon and put the juice in a large bowl. Mix in the 1/2 tsp of zest and salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in the 1.5 tbs of olive oil. Stir in the white beans and let marinate for 30 minutes or so. This step adds a little extra flavor to the beans but it does tend to make them a little mushier so be careful when tossing the salad later. If you’re pinched for time, no worries you can always just dump the beans in and continue on without letting them marinate. Set the bowl aside.


2. Line up 4 large, clean glasses of the same size. Rip a sheet of parchment paper in half and place in a 9x13 baking pan. Put a mound of 3 tbs of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese on each piece. Pat gently so that the cheese makes lacy circles. 

 

3. Bake in the oven for approximately 7-8 minutes until they are golden and crisp. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on them starting around the 5 minute mark.

4. Remove from oven and using a spatula and an oven mitt (the parchment and cheese are very hot) immediately place each cheese circle over the bottom of one of the cups and gently press to mold it into a bowl shape. Let cool and harden on top of the cups. Make the other two cups in the same way. 


5. Wash and dry 1 1/2 cups arugula and 1 cup mache. Core 1 yellow apple and cut into thin slices (you could even shave it if you wanted to get really fancy). Stir the greens and the apple slices into the bowl with the beans and lemon vinaigrette. Stir together gently to coat the greens but be careful not to squash the beans too much. 

6. Gently remove the parmesan cups from the drinking glasses and I suggest placing each one on the plate they will be served on in order to avoid breakage during transfer. Carefully fill each cup with salad and serve. 

 

 

Note: If you’re not allergic as I am, I would imagine that a few toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds on top would be awesome. I sprinkled a little extra grated cheese and lemon zest on top as garnish and it worked just fine as well.

Cheese Salad

I ordered a salad at Cafe du Palais last week. I use the term salad loosely here.

Four kinds of cheese (langres, fresh goat cheese, tete de moine and brie) with maybe a leaf or two of lettuce and some cucumbers as a garnish. My kind of salad.

And because I didn’t get enough dairy products with my main course, I followed it up with a salted caramel ice cream with salted caramel sauce topped with a chewy salted caramel.

I love France.

Cafe du Palais

14 Place Myron Herrick
51100 Reims, France
03 26 47 52 54

http://www.cafedupalais.fr/

Cheddarholics Anonymous

I didn’t know I had a cheddar problem until I moved to Italy. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, but you do know you’re an addict when you’re begging your visitors to illegally lug two-pound chunks of that extra-sharp awesomeness on their transatlantic journeys.

While working at a cheese shop with an extensive international selection of cheeses, I had had the world at my fingertips, or rather, in my mouth. I worried that as a full-time graduate student I wouldn’t be able to maintain the diet of cheese, cheese, cheese, and then more cheese, to which I had become accustomed.

I needn’t have worried. Italian Cheese Therapy (as recommended by Cheddarholics Anonymous) has filled the void, and in the process, expanded my waistline. In order to satiate my desire for that elusive extra-sharp (or French favorites, which are few and far between here), I’ve just been forced to seek out beloved old Italian standbys and discover new cheesy delicacies. Italian Cheese Therapy is tough stuff, but somebody’s got to do it.

ICT isn’t limited to UNISG students, however. ICT is just as tasty and positive-mood-inducing whether you’re watching The Godfather in New York or meeting a real godfather in Sicily.

To see my guidelines on how to put together your own perfect Italian cheese plate wherever you may be, check out my blog entry on the The New Gastronomes.

Photo courtesy of Lauren