Category Archives: modern and contemporary

Recipe of the Week

1950s-Style Cheese Log

1950s-Style Cheese Log

From the 1950s through the 1970s, cheese balls felt right at home sitting next to a dry martini.

For the cheese ball:
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
8 ounces finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons port wine, sherry, cognac, or whiskey
1 to 3 tablespoon room temperature butter, if needed

For the coating:
¾ cup combined chopped roasted nuts and chopped dried fruit of choice

For serving:
bell peppers, carrots, radishes, grapes, and Ritz crackers

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process or beat until light and fluffy in texture, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the grated cheddar cheese and process for 30 to 45 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl. It should be very smooth and completely combined. If it is not, process or mix another 30 seconds.

Add the garlic and the liquor of choice. Process until the mixture is completely smooth and the mixture is thick and fluffy – about one full minute or more. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl.

If the mixture has become runny (like salad dressing or yogurt), add 1 tablespoon room-temperature butter at a time and process or beat until completely incorporated, fully processing or beating between each addition.

Scoop the mixture into a mound. Place a large piece of plastic wrap about 12 by 16 inches on a work surface. Using a large spoon, transfer the mixture into a mound in the center of the plastic wrap.

Shape it into ball or log using plastic wrap. Lift up 2 opposite sides of the plastic wrap and cover the sides of the cheese mixture. Place your cupped hands against the plastic wrap, and gently press the mixture into a round. Lift up the remaining plastic, one piece at a time, and cover all sides of the cheese round. Shape it into a ball. Collect all the plastic pieces at the top and twist them together, creating a bundle that looks like a tied sack or pouch.

Wrap the plastic-wrapped cheese ball completely in aluminum foil and shape again with your hands. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 6 days.

Before serving, pour the coating into a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator, unwrap completely, and place on the topping. Gently roll to coat. Pat the sides and top well to ensure a full coating. (Wrapped in plastic and then foil – but without rolling in the topping, a cheese ball will keep for up to a week.)

Place the cheese ball on a serving tray or platter with a selection of vegetables, crackers, clusters of grapes. Set out small cheese knives or butter knives for spreading and serve.

Makes 1 4-inch cheese ball, serving 6 to 8
(adapted from Kitchn)

Baked Figs with Honey Creme Fraiche

Baked Figs with Honey Creme Fraiche

These amazing figs were prepared in my last Cookbook Club and were adapted from a recipe in Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food of 1950. 

“In a fireproof dish arrange some slightly under-ripe unpeeled figs. Put in a little water, sprinkle them with sugar and bake them (as for baked apples). Serve them cold, with cream.”

For the figs:
1 ½ pounds fresh figs, halved
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tablespoon sugar

For the honey-crème fraiche:
8 ounces crème fraiche
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Put the figs, cut side up, in a baking dish. Divide the vanilla bean evenly among the figs.

Brush the tops of the figs with the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until very soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

While the figs are baking, mix the crème fraiche and honey together.

To serve, place 2 to 3 figs in a bowl with a dollop of honey-crème fraiche.

Serves 4 to 6

image by Megan Griffith

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Herbs

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Herbs

Alexandre Dumas in his Grand Dictionnaire de cuisine (Great Dictionary of Cuisine) of 1873 wrote that the potato “provides real nourishment and is not only healthful but inexpensive.”

2 pounds small waxy potatoes
6 ounces haricots verts
½ cup scallions, chopped
½ cup chopped tarragon and parsley
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to more than cover them. Generously salt the water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a colander placed in the sink and let cool.

Bring the water in the saucepan back to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for about 2 minutes, until the beans are bright green and almost tender yet still retain a little crispness. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the green beans from the boiling water to the ice water and let them chill for a minute or so. Drain the beans and pat them dry.

When the potatoes are still warm but cool enough to touch, slice about ¼-inch thick. Cut the green beans into 1-inch pieces. Put the potatoes, green beans, and herbs in a large bowl and gently toss.

Make a vinaigrette by whisking the mustard, garlic, vinegar, and oil in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Gently mix some of the vinaigrette into the potato and green bean mixture. Taste and adjust with more salt or vinaigrette as desired. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8

Rompope

Rompope

The first rompope was made in the 17th century in the Santa Clara convent of Puebla, Mexico. It was a derivation of the Spanish ponche de huevo. At the time, the Catholic Church was prominent in government and society so convents developed innovative sweet and savor dishes for visiting officials and religious dignitaries.

This boozy and creamy drink that is one of them. It is still sold by nuns outside of churches in Mexico.

6 cups whole milk
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks
1 ¼ cup white rum

Bring milk, cinnamon, cloves, pinch nutmeg, vanilla, and baking soda to a boil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks,and sugar until thick and pale.

Remove cinnamon and clove from the milk and discard.

Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk to the yolk mixture.

Return mixture to pan and cook over low heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

When cool, stir in rum and serve.

Serves 6 to 8

(recipe adapted from Epicurious)