- Smear some softened goat cheese on baguette slices. Top with a toasted walnut half and fresh rosemary and drizzle with honey. This is so easy and fast to prepare. And quite addictive.
- For breakfast or a snack, enjoy fresh, fluffy ricotta drizzled with honey and figs or apricots.
- For a unique dipping dish, cover half of a lipped dish with olive oil and the other with honey. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and serve with toasted baguette slices. Swirl your bread in it and enjoy. How's that for a no-cook dish for entertaining?
- Top a wheel of brie with a honeycomb and serve with crackers. I haven't tried this but I saw a visually stunning photograph and plan on serving this at my next party. I can't see how it wouldn't be as delicious as it is beautiful.
- Cut an "X" in the top of some ripe fresh figs. Stuff with gorgonzola and drizzle with honey. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
What would the world be without dynamic duos? Arguably, it seems like we have Adam and Eve to thank for even being here. There'd be a gaping hole in cartoons without Tom and Jerry. And we wouldn't know what to do eight days a week without Lennon and McCartney. These symbiotic relationships often result in the whole becoming truly greater than the sum of its parts. Food is no different. (Hello, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup!) There are just things that are better together. But don't be confused by common duos, which are not necessarily dynamic. (Hello, peas and carrots!)
I've always been drawn to food. I realize now even as a youngster I was a bit of a scientist when it came to figuring out what possible duos worked. For instance, once when I was five, I got hungry and decided to make myself a snack. I thought a bowl of Cap'n Crunch would do the trick. I had enough experience to know that milk and cereal went well together, but the milk carton was too big for me to pour without spilling its entire contents. So as an alternative, I thought I'd substitute a can of Tab, which I could get my little hand around and maneuver. Tab is questionable by itself but, as you can imagine, downright awful when combined with even the best sugary cereal.
I'm happy to report as the years have passed my knowledge has expanded and the real "misses" happen less than less. Following recipes helps. You see what ingredients are often combined and then you start gaining confidence with your own experiments. And even eating at restaurants can be a wonderful classroom to learn about dynamic food duos. Some of my tried and true favorites are thyme and mushrooms, citrus and beets, gorgonzola and beef, and peaches and pork. I'm now officially adding cheese and honey.
Honey has long been considered the quintessential cheese paring, but it was one I hadn't much experience with. So I jumped at the chance to attend a cheese and honey tasting last week.
The sweetness of the honey is the perfect foil to a salty or nutty cheese. The combination really elevates the taste profile, creating a delightful culinary duo that will surely make it on your short list.
Although most of us associate honey with a bear-shaped plastic bottle, there are actually many varieties. The honey commonly sold in grocery stores is a blend of honeys and is typically pasteurized to prevent crystallization. (Apparently we Americans don't like our honey chunky.) It has a very mild flavor and is a nice accompaniment to goat cheese. If you have access to a gourmet market, you might see specialty and artisanal honeys named after flowers, like black sage and lavender. These are not the flavors of the honey but rather the flowers the bee gathered nectar from. The difference in taste from the "grocery store variety" is quite dramatic. The subtle nuances can be wonderful when paired with the right cheese. For instance, try lavender flower honey with a soft, creamy cheese (i.e. brie). There are also flavored honeys infused with ingredients like truffles or fruit. These often have a pronounced flavor which can be strong on their own but wonderfully complex when paired with an appropriate cheese. Try an aged pecorino drizzled with black truffle-infused honey. One of the most expensive honeys is Tupelo. It's the one Van Morrison waxes poetic about. The tupelo gum trees are only found along a few river banks in the Florida panhandle, and bees are placed on elevated platforms along the rivers' edge to capture their honey during the trees' annual blossom cycle, which sometimes lasts a mere five days. Tupelo honey has a light amber color with a tinge of green to it and will not crystalize. Its bright, sweet flavor can support a strong, spicy blue cheese. Add a nice glass of dessert wine and you'll be over the moon.
Here are some tips for combinations that are quick, tasty and definitely dynamic. These require minimal prep and baking so they're great for easy entertaining, a picnic, or even a casual supper (if, like me, you can make an entire meal out of cheese, bread and wine).
And if you're passionate about good food and like to explore new combinations, check out this website, which suggests pairings based upon food profiles. It's like a culinary periodic table. Surprisingly, I didn't see Tab and Cap'n Crunch on the list.
Posted by SB in SB at 9:34 PM