The Oldways Table Blog

Celebrating health,
happiness, heritage,
and delicious,
nutritious food.

October 28, 2014 | Oldways Table

Honoring long lineages of traditional production, European cheesemakers tend to follow recipes that have been handed down as patrimony since time immemorial. Comte, Roquefort, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Le Gruyere have all been made in more or less exactly the same way for centuries. Their production in the contemporary era is governed by a set of Appellation restrictions that, in dictating what animal breeds can be used, what pastures can be grazed, what techniques should be used in the make room, and how and how long a cheese must age, help to ensure these cheeses will continue to live up to the strict standards of quality and the reputation for excellence that the names of these benchmark cheeses evoke.

While heritage and historical precedence informs cheesemaking abroad, creativity is a hallmark of the artisan cheese renaissance in America. American artisans often take classic recipes and apply unique American twists. Much like the country’s celebrated legacy as a cultural melting pot, American cheesemakers combine approaches from both near and far, interpret traditional recipes in unorthodox ways, and generally give novel spins to age-old classics. Whether it is a goat’s milk gouda or a sheep’s milk camembert, Americans artisans reinvent classics while remaining vigilant that quality, health, and community wellbeing are at the forefront of what makes these cheeses not only good to eat, but good to make.

Two American cheesemakers that embody this spirit of harmonizing tradition with ingenuity in cheesemaking are Cypress Grove Chevre and Cowgirl Creamery. We are delighted to welcome both of these companies aboard the Cheese of Choice Coalition as their unwavering commitment to artisan methods and quality expresses the heart and soul of what our Coalition represents.

Cypress Grove was founded in the early 1980’s by Mary Keehn. A mother of four and a trained biologist, Mary had made the proverbial move back to the land some years prior. Seeking to find a source of good milk for her children she approached a neighbor who happened to raise goats. When asked if she was willing to sell, the lady responded, "Honey, if you can catch them, you can have them." Mary wrangled two and the rest is history. A matriarch of the artisan cheese renaissance, in the thirty years since its founding, Cypress Grove has become one of the most recognizable brands in American Artisan cheese. And they produce one of America’s most celebrated cheeses. 

Humboldt Fog, a Cypress Grove cheese, is an American original. It’s a bloomy-rinded goats milk cheese that is tangy, lactic, and resonate of aromatic herbs. Produced where the Redwood forest meets the Pacific, the cheese is evocative of its Northern California ocean-side terroir: “We like to think that the softness and mystery of the fog infuses our cheese,” the Grovers (a term of endearment for staff) fondly say. Its signature is the layer of vegetable ash that lines the interior and makes it a sharp compliment to any cheese board. Its origin has become the stuff of legend. In short, Mary was on the long flight back to California from France, where she had apprenticed with traditional cheesemaking experts, when epiphany struck—why not model a goat’s milk cheese after the renowned cow’s milk Morbier? Voila, a distinctly delicious and distinctly American cheese was born.

Cowgirl Creamery was inspired by the passion of two long-time friends for good, healthy food, and for a strong, sustainable agricultural economy.  Peg Smith and Sue Conley have worked closely with neighboring Straus Family Creamery for over two decades to produce their exceptional and exceptionally delicious line of organic cow’s milk cheeses. Bridging tradition and creative innovation, one cheese in particular benefited from a stroke of serendipity.

As Peg describes it, a batch of their very popular Mt. Tam, a decadent triple cream cheese with a delicate, pristine white rind, began to attract bacteria (entirely benign!) from the ambient environment. To maintain the ivory integrity of the exterior, the Cowgirls attempted to rid the cheeses of these unsolicited microbes by giving them a briny bath. As the cheeses aged, their rinds turned from mottled-white to a rusty shade of copper. Intrigued, they tried the cheese and were overwhelmed with its meaty flavor and delightful, if odiferous, funk.  Red Hawk resonates with an evocative taste of place. Rather than the rubbish heap, the cheese has found its way into specialty stores nationwide and earned a special place in the hearts and bellies of cheese lovers everywhere. Sometimes innovation arrives from unexpected places.

As the leaves turn here in New England and temperature steadily drops, the Oldways team too begins to settle into hibernation— evenings are increasingly dictated by the hearth and heated home. Like the cheeses featured above, I thought I’d share one of my favorite autumn recipes that adds a clever, creative, and simple spin to a healthy and cheesy culinary classic.

Manchego and Marcona Almond Pesto
Rich sheep’s milk cheese pairs well with roasted almonds. In this Spanish twist, the two come together with peppery arugula and lemon zest to make a bright tasting pesto that is perfect for linguini with shrimp, baked fish, or roasted cherry tomatoes and olives tossed with penne. For breakfast, I love to spread this pesto on toast and top it with a soft-boiled egg.

Makes 1 ¼ cups

Ingredients:
3 ounces arugula (about 2 cups, packed)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup roasted Marcona almonds
¼ pound Manchego, grated (1 ½ cups)
2 small garlic cloves
Sea salt, to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
Place everything but the olive oil in a food processor or blender and combine until roughly chopped. Then, with the blade running, slowly add the olive oil until the mixture is well combined. For a rough pesto, use a mortar and pestle.

Note: Marcona almonds are available at many grocery and specialty food stores. If you can’t find them, substitute toasted almonds, preferably skinless.

Recipe reprinted with permission from DI BRUNO BROS. HOUSE OF CHEESE © 2013 by Tenaya Darlington, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Photo Credit: Jason Varney

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October 22, 2014 | Oldways Table

When you decide to make a real effort to put more plants on your plate, it’s easy to run out of steam after the first week. Tofu again? 

The Oldways Vegetarian Network has the perfect solution to help you discover how to mix it up day after day and enjoy the wide variety of delicious foods that can be part of easy, everyday plant-based meals.  The Oldways 4-Week Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Menu Plan, created in collaboration with Sharon Palmer, offers dozens of tips and easy, affordable recipes. Meal by meal it shows how you can rely on whole, minimally processed foods, such as legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to keep it simple, yet make every bite count.

Built around the messages behind our Vegetarian & Vegan Diet Pyramid, this new book meets an important need.  Sharon explains, “As a plant-based nutrition expert, I believe that one of the biggest challenges people new to a vegetarian or vegan diet face is menu planning. They need practical direction on what to eat at meals in order to be satisfied and meet their nutritional requirements. People want ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

While it provides an easy, delicious guide for getting started on a plant-based diet, it also serves as great inspiration for vegetarians and vegans who may be stuck in a rut when it comes to meal planning. The menu plan and recipes are simple, globally inspired, nutritionally balanced, and best yet – delicious!

Visit the Oldways webstore to order your copy today!

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October 20, 2014 | Oldways Table

Oldways is always searching for creative ways to add more plants to our plates, so when we caught wind of the book, The Vibrant Table, we were excited to see what inspiration might lie inside.  The pages of Anya Kassoff’s cookbook do not disappoint – from salads, soups, savories, sweets and more, each dish is a feast for the senses. Her unique ingredient combinations and photography (taken by her daughter) leave the reader wanting more, more, more!

Today we share some morsels of this delicious cookbook with all of you.


OLDWAYS:  You talk about always dreaming of food, beginning with your vivid childhood dreams of huckleberry ice cream.  How does it feel to have made those dreams a reality and to have the ability to share them with others? 
ANYA:  I feel fortunate to constantly have access to such a variety of fresh ingredients - something that was only a distant dream in my childhood and youth in the Soviet Union. Sharing my recipes and inspiring others to be more adventurous with plant-based cooking is very fulfilling and what I love to do best. I still get giddy when I hear of a reader trying out and loving a recipe of mine.

OLDWAYS:  Can you talk with our readers about your transition from a meat-centric lifestyle to becoming a woman with a plant-filled plate?
ANYA:  That transition was very exciting for me. When it comes to cooking, I always look for novelty - otherwise I get bored. Once I learned about the amazing culinary potential of fruit and vegetables, I realized that I would never be bored in the kitchen again. There are countless kinds of fruit, roots, grains and nuts in this world, and all offer unique health benefits and flavors. I continue to discover new foods and ways of preparing them every day. Needless to say, I do not much miss cooking with meat.

OLDWAYS: What tips can you offer to readers who are just starting to think about cutting back on meat?
ANYA:  The most important advice I can give is to eat and cook according to season. Seasonal vegetables and fruits are usually at the peak of their freshness and flavor, and don’t require a lot of time or effort to turn them into an amazing meal. Incorporating a variety of grains and legumes, as well as plenty of fresh herbs, spices and citrus, can help calm down possible initial cravings by making your meals bright and exciting. Try to learn from international culinary wisdom as well - many cuisines from around the world are originally plant-based and contain many simple, yet flavorful dishes.  

OLDWAYS:  As you invite readers to your table you encourage them to be flexible with ingredients and open to new flavors.  What are some other suggestions you have for a curious (but maybe inexperienced) cook looking to become more versed in the kitchen?
ANYA:  Take on one step or ingredient/flavor at a time. Begin with simple techniques, like blanching and roasting, and get to know your food. Ultimately, you will become more versed, but only if you try and find out what works or doesn’t work for yourself.

OLDWAYS:  We love your commitment to cooking with kids.  Can you share some successful strategies with readers who want to bring their children into the kitchen?
ANYA:  In my experience, children love to help out in the kitchen, as long as you give them enough freedom and interesting, creative tasks. It takes more time and patience to cook with kids, but eventually, it will lead to them learning a few skills and starting to be truly helpful.

OLDWAYS:  We can never walk away from a conversation like this without asking, would you be so kind to share a recipe from your book with our readers?
ANYA: Absolutely. My butternut squash and sage fritters feel perfect for this time of year.

Butternut Squash and Sage Fritters
Makes about 12 fritters
I have a deep fondness for vegetable pancakes or fritters; they were one of the tastiest and simplest meals of my childhood. My mother made them with zucchini in summer and pumpkin in fall and winter, or we would enjoy potato pancakes, or draniki, the dish so dear to most Eastern European cultures.

These baked butternut squash fritters satisfy my craving for vegetable pancakes and deliver a strong fall flavor. You can also make them with zucchini in the summer instead of butternut squash—just squeeze out the excess water. For the summery variation, eliminate the sage and nutmeg and add 1 tablespoon each minced mint and dill and use almond flour rather than hazelnut flour.

Ingredients:
1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups (about 14½ ounces) packed, finely shredded butternut squash
1 large egg
Large pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons minced
Fresh sage (from about 5 sage leaves)
1 tablespoon minced fresh
Flat-leaf parsley
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1½ ounces (45 g) feta
cheese, preferably goat’s milk and/or sheep’s milk feta, crumbled
½ cup (50 g) hazelnut flour or almond flour

Directions:
Warm ½ tablespoon of the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until translucent. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Wrap the shredded butternut squash in several layers of paper towels and squeeze gently so the paper towels can absorb the excess liquid. Remove the paper towels and place the squash in a medium bowl with the egg, salt, pepper, sage, parsley, paprika, nutmeg, cheese, and hazelnut flour. Add the onion and garlic and mix to combine.

Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment paper. With your hands, shape the squash mixture into patties and arrange them on the baking sheet about 1½ inches (4 cm) apart. If the batter doesn’t stick together or is too wet, add a little more flour. Brush the patties with half of the remaining olive oil and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the sheet from the oven and flip the patties using a thin spatula. Brush the other side of the patties with the remaining olive oil and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve with sour cream or yogurt and/or a simple green salad on the side.

For a vegan variation: Roast ½ cup hazelnuts in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Let the nuts cool, then remove the skins by rubbing them with a kitchen towel. Grind the hazelnuts into small pieces in a food processor. Add the hazelnut meal to the shredded squash along with salt, spices, herbs, and sautéed vegetables. Add 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds and ¼ cup buckwheat flour. Mix well, then form the patties and bake as directed above.

From The Vibrant Table by Anya Kassoff, © 2014 by Anya Kassoff.© 2014 Photographs by Masha Davydova. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com
 

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October 15, 2014 | Oldways Table

Here in New England the temperatures are cooling and the leaves are beginning to turn. When I hear the crunch of a crisp juicy apple or the crackle of colorful leaves underfoot, I’m reminded that holiday gatherings with friends and family are just around the corner.

It’s never too early to think about the approaching festivities and activities of cooking, baking – and everyone’s favorite – eating! But, if you find yourself panicked about potentially overeating or succumbing to sugar laden sweets, take heart. With a little planning and a few tried-and-true tips, you can still enjoy the holidays without sacrificing your taste buds or your waistline.

Mealtime
Stick to your normal meal routine and avoid skipping meals; you’ll have more willpower to pass on the tray of goodies if your tummy isn’t growling.

Eat most of your meals at home. Stock up on items that let you create delicious, filling, and nutritious meals quickly and easily. Pantry items, such as canned tuna, tomatoes, a good olive oil, whole grains, as well as frozen vegetables are perfect to keep on hand and have at your fingertips whenever you need them. Create a list of items that you know you’ll use, and buy them on sale when possible.

Savor every bite. Research has shown we feel fuller with less food when we eat mindfully.

Be conscious of little tastings all day long. That piece of candy offered by a co-worker, the “taste test” of the cookies you baked, or those samples at the grocery store can add up to extra calories before you even realize it.

On the Go
Stay hydrated when shopping. The air in malls and stores can be downright drying this time of year; keep a small bottle of water with you, as well as healthy snacks in your backpack or purse. A handful of unsalted almonds or walnuts for example, can help stave off hunger pains and keep you energized until you have time to sit down to a meal.

Shop on a full stomach when you’re grocery shopping, you’ll be less tempted to nibble on the in-store samples or buy impulse items.

Opt for healthier grab-and-go options. Airports, malls, grocery stores, and many fast food restaurants are now offering healthier foods that you can enjoy on the run.

Relax mentally whenever you can, but let your body move. Dance to music when you’re baking, take the stairs whenever possible. Physical activity throughout the day helps keep your mind clear and stress levels low.

Party Time
Before leaving for a party, drink water or eat a hydrating snack, such as a small serving of veggies and hummus; when you’re hydrated and sated you’ll be less likely to overindulge at the get-together.

Enjoy the party fare, but don’t graze. Check out the buffet table first, then fill your plate with lots of vegetables and fruit options. Once you’ve served yourself, move away from the table and find someone interesting to talk with!

If you’re the host, make sure there are lots of delicious and healthy options like whole grains, fruits, and veggies on the table. Your guests will thank you.

If you’re the baker in the family, swap out at least half of the white flour in your recipes with whole-wheat flour. Also, many desserts like crisps and crumbles are topped with lots of butter, suga,r and flour. A just-as-tasty and healthier option is to top them with a mixture of oats, chopped nuts, and a bit of brown sugar and canola oil.

Keep it Real
Keep stress levels low. Remember that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and less about the ideal gift or perfect outfit. So breathe, enjoy nourishing foods, and just as importantly, the company of good friends and family.

For more recipes and tips for the holiday season and New Year, be sure to check out our Old Year/New Year toolkit posted on the Oldways Nutrition Exchange.

-Deborah
 

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