Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cheese So Fresh You Could Slap It!

Now that all the smoke has cleared from the Memorial Day barbeques, it's time to kick off summer proper. At Saxelby Cheesemongers, we can't think of a better way embrace the heat than to bust out a selection of new, fresh cheeses. When the mercury goes up, forgo the oven and knock together a low maintenance dinner from a humble chunk of delicious cheese. Be it burrata, ricotta, fresh chevre, or beyond, these cheeses are sure to fill your belly, cut cooking time down to something you can count out on your ten fingers and toes, and keep the median temperature of your apartment in a comfy range. What's not to like?!

Here's what's happening in the fresh cheese department at Saxelby Cheesemongers:

Burrata is back. Yep, we couldn't wait any longer. The luscious, creamy stuff will be arriving each and every Thursday fresh from Philadelphia. Tote one of these bad boys home, slice it open amidst some salad greenery (or just a chunk of fresh bread) drizzle with olive oil, and voila! Dinner is done.

Vermont Shepherd's ricotta salata is making its first foray beyond state lines this summer! We are pleased as punch to count it among our favorite summer cheeses. Made from pasteurized sheeps' milk, this ricotta salata is dense, curdy, and has just the right amount of tang. Drizzle a bit o' honey on top, flick some sea salt on for good measure and try not to eat it all at once. 'Try' being the operative word there...

Beltane Farm's fresh chevre, one of our perennial favorites, has been most tasty over the past few weeks. Tangy, silky and mild, this cheese makes for a downright lovely schmear on bread, a tasty one-up to a quiche or frittata, and an ideal companion for smoked salmon. Now I've gone and got myself thinking about breakfast... a trip to Russ and Daughters will be in order.

Salvatore Brooklyn's smokey ricotta. Whoa. Need I say more? Their thick, addictive, dairy dream of a cheese is now getting the s'more treatment. Smokey ricotta is hung in a cheesecloth, smoked over cherry wood, and somehow comes out tasting like a toasted marshmallow. Skeptical? Well, to you non-believers, I offer up a taste. You know the old saying, 'they drunk the kool-aid?' We just might have to alter that adage to something more ricotta-centric.

Till next week! Keep the kitchen cool and the cooler full o' fromage!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hot Bread Kitchen for a Cool Spring Day

This bulk of this week's email has not too much to do with cheese. And no, it's not just indigestion from last week's cream cheese sandwich loaf...

In our efforts to simultaneously expand our culinary horizons and pack ever more deliciousness into our tiny stall at the Essex Market, we will instead turn the focus toward our newest arrival, Hot Bread Kitchen's handmade Corn Tortillas! However, cheese junkies need not despair... our beloved fermented dairy products will be waiting in the wings to play the supporting role of rich and gooey filling.

Hot Bread Kitchen is a much-lauded project in social entrepreneurship founded by the indefatigable Jessamyn Waldman. (see cute picture on the left!) The Kitchen's mission is simple; to produce quality traditional breads from all corners of the globe while providing job training, English classes, and plain old empowerment to immigrant women in New York City. Since its inception just a year and a half ago, Hot Bread has employed women from Mexico, Bangladesh, the Phillipines, Ecuador, Mali, and Afghanistan. The array of breads produced by Hot Bread Kitchen have their roots in these women and their respective bread cultures. When Hot Bread reaches its full capacity, it will provide a year long training program for 80 women focusing on English classes, kitchen math, and culinary entrepreneurship. After the program is completed, the women will be poised to start their own businesses or land quality jobs in restaurants around New York City.

Hot Bread Kitchen's corn tortillas are unique among tortillas in New York City. Why? Because they are made from pure ground corn. It seems simple enough, but like most of our foods, tortillas have become victims of mass production. Most corn tortillas are produced from a mixture of ground corn and flour, but the unmitigated yellow, red, and blue stuff is far superior in flavor and texture. At Hot Bread, the corn is stone ground, splashed with a little bit of lime juice to soften the kernels, and then quickly baked on a comal to enhance the rich corn flavor. Tortilla lovers beware... once you've fried, steamed, or toasted one of these babies, you'll be a convert for life.

Being the cheesy fools we are, we decided to craft a little quesadilla recipe from our luscious corny friends. Looking for ideas for dinner tonight? Look no further. Dinner is served!

Saxelby Cheesemongers' Hot Bread Kitchen Quesadillas:

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 lb of melty cheese of your choosing (we picked Russo's Raclette)
1 package Hot Bread Kitchen Corn Tortillas

-Slice cheese and assemble quesadillas

-Melt butter in a heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat

-Once butter foams, place quesadilla in pan and cook for 2 mins on each side until cheese is bubbly.

-Chow down and enjoy!

***if you'd like more information on Hot Bread Kitchen, visit hotbreadkitchen.org, or watch an award winning documentary about the project.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Was Walking Down the Street One Day...

I was walking down Court Street one day in the merry merry month of May, and was taken by surprise by this book! Monday had come and gone, busy and too short, and I was puzzling over what to write when voila, the wily cheese deities dropped this little gem in my path.

How this should fall into my hands is up to the cosmos to sort out, but I was quite amused and delighted to stumble upon it. Romance Cheeses from Kraft, circa 1971. Wow. It just doesn't get much better than that. And the best part of all... the person before me paid four bucks for it! Well, I guess given the culinary magic within, it's well worth it in entertainment value. Here, faithfully reproduced, are two of my favorite recipe finds from this ageless tome. Kids, don't try this at home...

Suburbia Stew:

2 lbs of beef, cut in 1 inch cubes
All purpose oil (yikes!)
1 can condensed beef broth
1 cup water
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
6 medium onions, cut in quarters
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
6 medium carrots, cut in thirds
1/2 cup Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese (All caps. Fancy, eh?)
2 cups hot mashed potatoes

Brown meat in oil. Add beef broth, water, and seasonings; cover and simmer 1 hour. Add vegetables and continue to simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Pour into baking dish. Stir cheese into potatoes; spoon on top of hot stew. Broil until potatoes are lightly browned. Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.

Quicker way: (My personal fave) Two cans of canned stew may be used.

Frosted Sandwich Loaf: (there are no words...)

1 loaf of unsliced sandwich bread
2 8 oz packages of Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped watercress (As a consolation prize)
Dash of salt and pepper
Egg Salad
Ham Salad
1/3 cup milk

Remove crusts from bread. (Aha! Is this where that whole thing started?!) Cut into 4 lengthwise slices; spread with margarine. Combine 1/3 package softened cream cheese, watercress, and seasonings, mixing until well blended. Spread one slice of bread with Egg Salad; cover with a second slice spread with cream cheese mixture. Top with third slice of bread spread with Ham Salad and remaining slice of bread. Combine remaining softened cream cheese and milk, mixing until well blended. Frost sandwich loaf. (Dear God!!!!!!)

Well, I hope I haven't spoiled anybody's breakfast. Stay tuned for more intermittent dispatches from the world of 1970's process cheese food products!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Third Year's a Charm!

Could it be? Saxelby Cheesemongers is turning three?! (well, tomorrow, but I had to give you all fair warning...)

Every year when Cinco de Mayo rolls around, we have all the more incentive to pour a tall salty margarita and celebrate. I can clearly remember the first day I opened the shop, absolutely hell bent on opening May 5th even though a million last minute details were dangling like so many threads from an old pair of jeans. Maybe I figured it would be an easy day to remember? 'Twould be a shame to let an anniversary roll by unnoticed... Or maybe I just have a secret love for margaritas and cheese. Now there's a pairing you (thankfully) don't see every day!

Anyhow, that first day I rolled up the gates, I was gripped by a feeling distinctly similar to when I used to have garage sales at my parents' house in the suburbs of Chicago. I took a deep breath and sat there and thought, 'Well, this is it! I hope some people show up...' And show up you all have! Only instead of buying my family's weird old stuff, you've gotten loads of tasty cheese instead! To you all, to the Essex Market, and to the farmers who make such wonderful cheese, I'd like to extend a hearty thank you for making the past three years so absolutely wonderful.

Come on by the shop and celebrate with us tomorrow! We'll be tossing back cupcakes and cheese curds like nobody's business (The margaritas'll have to wait till closing time) Also, for tomorrow only, Saxelby Cheesemongers is proffering up a little deal to say thanks for all your love and support... Our third anniversary cheese plate. Buy three cheeses, and the third one is 30% off! That's practically a free piece of cheese. What's not to love about that? Maybe we'll start a new Cinco de Mayo tradition after all...

Don't forget! Our Day A-Whey trip to Mecox Bay Dairy and Wolffer Estate Vineyard is right around the corner... Visit saxelbycheese.com and get your tickets today!

A Day A-Whey to Mecox Bay Dairy and Wolffer Estate Vineyard
Sunday, May 17th
8:30 am to 7:30 pm
Trip begins and ends at Saxelby Cheesemongers
For tickets ($110) and more info visit saxelbycheese.com

Here's to many more years of cheesy goodness to come!