The Perfect Cheese Pairing: Rose Petal Jam

10 04 2012

I think one of the best gifts you can serve at a dinner party is cheese.  It is easy to purchase, lends itself to a variety of delicious alcoholic beverages, and it is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.  When I am in a pinch and really don’t have time to cook up something delicious, I go to my local cheese purveyor and pick out a selection of cow, sheep and goats milk cheeses for a nice display.  I always try to pick cheeses with a variety of textures and flavor profiles.  (I usually choose a firm aged cheese, a soft young cheese and a semi-firm wash rind cheese)

Most people think that cheese and wine make the perfect pairing.  I have to agree, cheese and wine were made for each other.  But, as a chef, I am always trying to find other fantastic ingredients to add to a cheese plate for a new food pairing experience.  I love toasting and grinding pistachio’s to sprinkle over cheese like confetti.  I love adding fresh figs, persimmons, crispy apples or cherries to a cheese display for fresh seasonal flavor.  I love truffle honey drizzled over a firm aged cheese for a sweet and savory combination.

Despite all of these classic pairings, I have to say the most unexpected and delicious specialty ingredient I have ever tasted with cheese is Rose Petal Jam from France.  At first, you might think that a jam made of rose pedals sounds unappetizing. Rose petals smell like perfume, which is definitely not something you typically want to eat.  I was skeptical of this product at first, but I always give exotic speciality ingredients a change.  Let me tell you, it was love at first bite.  I remember smearing one of my favorite Italian cow and sheep’s milk cheeses, Robiola Bosina, (featured in the photo about) from the Langhe region in Northern Italy, on a thin crostini topped with Rose Petal Jam.  I casually took a quick bite and literally stopped in my tracks.  My were eyes closed as I enjoyed the incredible creaminess of the cheese that blended perfectly with the delicate floral, sweet and exotic flavor of the jam.  I think I started jumping up and down because I was so excited.  This had to be my favorite cheese and jam combination in the world!

I’d love for you to order this jam, even if you are skeptical and try it with your favorite cheese. It is wonderful with soft and creamy cheeses like Brie, and equally as delicious with firm cheeses like Pecorino, Manchego or Parmesan.  The Rose Petal Jam is also a great accompaniment to Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream.  Give it a try and if you like it as much as I do, you might be the hit of your next dinner party.  Also, feel free to share your  favorite cheese pairings with me!

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Alberto’s Pasta Carbonara

22 12 2011

There is nothing better than eating an incredible meal when you have no expectations.  Last year when I lived in Italy for four months I had a ton of over the top food experiences.  Most of them were when my mom or friends came to visit and we went to fancy hot spots in Florence, Chianti and Sienna.  The raw ingredients in Italy were so incredible that it was truly hard to have a bad meal.

However, one of the most memorable dinners in Italy was when my boyfriend at the time, Alberto, offered to make me dinner.  Now I have to be honest, in the four months I lived with this man, I never saw him make a sandwich.  Alberto was a total guy’s guy.  The refrigerator would have been empty if I didn’t live there…completely bachelor style.  He actually went home on his lunch breaks from work to eat with his family because his mom made elaborate three course meals. (could you blame him?)  So the night Alberto said, I’m going to make you my “famous Carbonara”, I didn’t get too excited.

My expectations were in-line with the Americanized Pasta Carbonara which is typically pasta with bacon, cheese, eggs, garlic, green peas and cream.  Nothing about that combination ever seemed too sexy to me, primarily because my tummy doesn’t do well with rich heavy dishes. (lactose intolerance doesn’t help).  I’m an olive oil kinda girl.  That’s why I love Italian food!

Alberto’s Carbonara was full of simple ingredients, bold flavor and was amazingly light for a Carbonara.  He shared his special tricks with me and I’d love to share them with you.  If you notice, there is no cream, butter, or peas in this recipe.  Instead, the whipped raw eggs and Parmesan cheese naturally make a light creamy sauce.

Watch the video and try this recipe for satisfying and delicious winter meal!

 
Alberto’s Pasta Carbonara: (with a Kasey twist)
Ingredients:
12oz. fresh spaghetti or linguine pasta (I recommend Al Dente Pasta)
½ large yellow onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
7 slices of thick cut bacon, sliced in thin lardoons
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
1 handful of fresh arugula
½ lemon, juiced (optional)
Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper, to taste
 
Put the thin slices of bacon in large sauté pan over medium heat.  Let the bacon render and begin to crisp for 10-15 minutes over low heat. In a separate pan, heat 1-2 Tbs. of olive oil.  Saute the slivered onion and minced garlic and for 4-5 minutes, until the onions start to caramelize. Place the cooked onion, garlic, bacon and bacon fat in a big bowl. (reserve the bacon fat to add later)  In a separate bowl, scramble the eggs with 2 oz. of Parmesan cheese.  Set aside.
 
Boil the pasta in a big pot of salted water.  When the pasta is al dente (just done with a bite), drain it with a slotted spoon and put the hot pasta in the bowl with the bacon, onion and garlic mixture.  Stir in the scrambled egg mixture and the bacon fat.  Mix together while slowly adding in the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Season with lots of fresh black pepper and Kosher salt.




Delicious Fall Pasta Recipe

5 10 2011


A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a “Slow Food” dinner party at my friend’s house.  The objective of the night was to create an amazing meal, using local and seasonal ingredients, for only 5 dollars a person.  The idea was to raise awareness that eating healthy and organic food does not have to be expensive.  That night I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of grilled eggplant and tomato bruschetta, an incredible pasta dish with stewed sausage, braising greens, Parmesan cheese and garlic and Italian vanilla gelato smothered in espresso.  I ate like a queen and felt amazed by how much great food you could eat with such a tight budget.

That night I was exposed to a fantastic brand of local pasta called “Al Dente”.  I’m typically not too excited about dried pasta because I spent too long in Italy getting spoiled with the real deal I love to make my own home-made pasta.  But I have to admit, this brand “Al Dente” is delicious and really accessible (Whole Foods sells it everywhere in Chicago).  It’s delicate like fresh pasta and it only takes 3 minutes to cook.

Last night I had a serious craving to re-create my “Slow Food” dinner experience.  Even though I wasn’t entertaining, I was inspired to cook a huge batch of pasta for myself with Fall/Italian ingredients and obviously some red wine.  I combined the sweet flavors of caramelized onions and roasted squash with the bitter crunch of radicchio and the funky brilliance of Taleggio cheese.  I am not going to lie, the pasta turned out great!  This recipe is easy, economic and super flavorful.  Let me know your thoughts!!!

Recipe:

Spinach Fettuccine with Roasted Squash, Caramelized Onions, Radicchio and Taleggio Cheese

12 oz  Al Dente Spinach Fettucine Noodles
6 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 lb. Delicata Squash (substitute with Butternut Squash if necessary)
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 head of Radicchio, thinly sliced
3 oz. Taleggio cheese, cut in small cubes
3 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved thin
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
 
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the squash in half, lengthwise and trim off both ends.  Thinly slice the squash in 1/8 inch slivers.  Toss the squash with 1 Tbs. of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Lay the squash evenly on a sheet tray (without overlapping) and roast for 12-15 minutes. (to get some nice color you can turn the oven on broil for the last 2 minutes)
 
While the squash is roasting, heat a large saute pan with 3 Tbs. of olive oil.  When the oil is hot add the slivered garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Add the slivered onion, season with kosher salt and pepper, and slowly cook for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are caramelized.  Add the radicchio and roasted squash and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the Taleggio cheese and turn off the heat.  
 
Bring a large put of salted water to a boil.  Add the bag of spinach fettuccine and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the noodles are “al dente”.  Immediately drain the noodles,  rinse with cold water for 15 seconds and then pour the noodles in the pan with the onions, garlic, radicchio, squash and Taleggio.  Stir all of the ingredients together, adding 2 Tbs. of olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper and Parmesan cheese.  Serve in a large family style bowl garnished with slivered radicchio and Parmesan cheese.
 

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