My Last Meal

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I’m not dying nor on death row. My last meal is something I’ve occasionally thought of, especially while enjoying favorite foods or dining at a fabulous restaurant. Or I’ll see a beautiful meal on a food blog and think, “That could easily be my last meal!”

It’s not a morbid thing in my mind. My last meal is a happy, celebratory thing, because if I could plan my last meal, then I’d also have the ability to eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow, cause there wouldn’t be. It would be a day-long meal of happy eating and drinking.

Upon rising, I would enjoy coffee, as I have for decades. My day never starts without espresso. Maybe with a croissant with butter and seedless raspberry jam.

Two perfectly-cooked soft-boiled eggs.

Chicago pizza. From Giardano’s, cause they deliver.

Next would be warm, boiled, fresh potatoes with unsalted butter and slices of Fontina or Taleggio or Morbier. Or all three.


Then mimosas with my two daughters.

An everything bagel with lox and cream cheese. And I’d eat the whole bagel.

A baked Brie with a cherry chutney, and good bread.

I’d stop for some fresh spring radishes spread with unsalted butter and coarse salt.

Lasagna. No, make that pastitsio. Or both.

I’m not big on sandwiches, but my last day-long meal would have to include a BLT. Good uncured bacon, garden-fresh summer tomatoes, and lettuce.

Chips with fresh salsa, spicy queso, and guacamole. And a Pacifico.

Paté. My mother’s recipe. Or foie gras, medium-rare, served on grilled bread.

Pasta Trapanese. Or maybe Puttanesca. Let me think. With a favorite pinot noir.

There would have to be a full raclette spread, with at least 6 friends.

Fire-grilled octopus. Maybe mixed with other fire-grilled seafood, but lots of octopus. And squid.

Then my husband’s burger, made by him, served on a brioche bun, toasted with butter. With lots of ketchup and mustard. Eaten with my husband.


A glass of Sauternes.

Roasted chicken, just out of the oven, cooked to perfection. I will eat it right out of the roasting pan.

Dim sum. All of it. Except chicken feet.

Last but definitely not least – a cheese platter, with all of my favorites old and new.

I’m not a big dessert eater, but I do love ice cream. I’d eat so much of it that I’d need a blanket to warm myself up!

And there would be lots of port. Or sherry. Or both.

So all of this is unlikely to happen, but maybe the point is, we can enjoy our meals like they are our last meals? Each and every one? Not to the point of gluttony, of course, 😬

The French have it figured out. Aperitif. Long lunches. Fabulous food. Wine. Hors D’oeuvres. Dinner. Often with friends. Definitely with family. Dessert. Dégustation.

A croissant or crème caramel isn’t viewed by the French as calories or with guilt, unlike us Americans. It’s about enjoyment and moderation. My mother, at age 91, still enjoys chocolate every day, and a cookie.

Let’s enjoy our meals. You never know – one will be our last.

Figgy Jam

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Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.


Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.


I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Baked Brie with Roasted Cherries

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My friend has a fruit orchard. In spite of a late freeze, the cherry trees were prolific this year, and at the beginning of June I went over to relieve her of some cherries!

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Although there’s nothing much better than just popping a fresh cherry in your mouth, I decided to do something with these fresh cherries, but without baking the obvious pie.

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I thought about ice cream, but then I settled on an idea I’d spotted in a cookbook a while back – roasting the cherries.

My friend told me to refrigerate them, as they’re easier to pit when they’re cold, so that’s where they went for a few hours.

I sorted the cherries, throwing away any questionable ones, rinsed them and let them drip dry.

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My friend gave me another tip – how to pit the cherries without using the olive/cherry pitter. A paper clip!

You insert one rounded end of a paper clip into the dent where the stem was, and simply “scoop” out the pit. This works especially well when the cherries are ripe.

I love brie in general, but if you’ve never had a goat brie, you’re mising out! However, regular brie will substitute in this recipe.

So here’s what I did.

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Baked Goat Brie topped with Roasted Cherries

Fresh pitted cherries, approximately 8 ounces
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon cherry or pomegranate syrup
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 small goat Brie

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add the cherries and sugar, stir gently and remove from the heat. Place the mixture in an oven-proof baking dish.

Roast the cherries, watching them carefully. It should only take about 15-20 minutes. You’re not drying them, just caramelizing them.
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Remove the baking dish from the oven. Because these cherries were so juicy, I gently removed to cherries using a small, slotted spoon, and poured the remaining liquid in a small saucepan.
I gently reduced the cherry juice until a syrup, then added the cherry syrup. I reduced a few minutes longer, then added the balsamic vinegar.


Meanwhile heat the goat Brie ever so gently in the oven or microwave. You don’t want to cook the cheese, just begin the melting process.

To serve, place the Brie on a serving plate and cover with the roasted cherries.

After the reduction has cooled slightly, carefully spoon it over the brie and cherries.

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I also added a few sprigs of thyme, and served the brie with toasts.

If the brie is nicely warmed, it should pour out of its casing when cut into.

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The cherry juice, reduction and molten cheese made a beautiful design that wasn’t anticipated!
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This hors d’oeuvre turned out to be one of the tastiest I’ve ever created, in my humble opinion. And, it’s beautiful.
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The ratio of ingredients will definitely depend on the sweetness and juiciness of the fresh cherries!

A Savory Baked Brie

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To me, there’s nothing quite like a baked brie, especially as part of an hors d’oeuvres spread. Plus, wheels of brie come in different sizes, so you can choose one depending on your number of guests.

I’ve made baked brie a couple different ways on this blog, from an easy brie with a sweet maple-pecan topping, shown on the left, to a brie topped with a tomatillo sauce, on the right.

When I catered, I created fancier versions of baked brie, often topped with a cranberry chutney and wrapped up in puff pastry for Christmas parties. But you don’t need to go through all of that work.

So here’s another savory baked brie that would be good any time in the fall or winter, especially with a crisp hard cider, a Côtes du Rhone, or a half-dry Riesling.

It’s a brie topped with thyme-scented sautéed mushrooms. A variety of wild mushrooms plus dried mushrooms is ideal, but if you’re limited in your access, regular button mushrooms or Portabellas will do just fine!
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Baked Brie topped with Mushrooms

3/4 ounce dried mushrooms
8 ounces of mixed, fresh mushrooms
3 ounces unsalted butter
3 shallots, diced
Fresh or dried thyme
Salt, pepper
Brie, at room temperature, mine was 1.5 pounds

First, place the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and cover them with hot water. Place a smaller bowl inside along with a weight like a can, to keep them submerged, and let the mushrooms hydrate for at least 15 minutes.


Chop the fresh mushrooms into small pieces and set aside.

Then dice the shallots.

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Remove the softened mushrooms from the water, and dry them off on a paper towel. Then chop those as well, removing any hard bits. By the way, always save this mushroom jus! It can be used in sauces or soups for wonderful mushroomy flavor.


Meanwhile, heat a skillet with the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots and mushrooms have completely softened.

By cooking over fairly high heat, the mushrooms don’t require as much butter, and no water is produced. Cook the mixture until there is slight browning.


Add the chopped dried mushrooms. Sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Now your mushrooms are ready for the brie. When I went to my local grocery store for a brie, I intended on purchasing a whole wheel, maybe 2-3 pounds. However, there were none, there was only this 1.5 pound slice. Since this was a fairly last-minute plan, I had to go with it.
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Normally, I would preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and bake the brie along with the mushroom topping for about 15-20 minutes.

However, because of my brie slice, I had to warm it in the microwave. You just have to be careful to adjust the power levels because you’re simply warming the brie – not cooking it.
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So that’s what I did. Just make sure the plate or platter is large enough to accomodate the oozing brie.
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Serve with fresh bread or crostini.

note: You could always use cognac or brandy to flame the mushrooms after they’re cooked, but that will give them a stronger flavor.

Baked Tomatillo Brie

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I wish I’d come up with this recipe myself. And I should have. I mean, I love baked brie, and I love tomatillos. But typically, brie is topped with a pear chutney, a cranberry sauce, or even honey. The sweetness pairs so well with the creamy, warm brie.

But when I think of it, tomatillos are sweet also! Which is probably why cookbook author Eugenia Bone swooned when she first ate a baked tomatillo brie. She credits her friend, a proclaimed tomatillo “queen,” with the original recipe.

I’ve written about two of Ms. Bone’s books now, one a cookbook entitled Well Preserved, which contains this brie recipe, and the other, more of a memoir with recipes, entitled at Mesa’s Edge.

So back to this baked tomatillo brie recipe, I happened to have a brie in the freezer, left over from the holidays. I thought it was a good time to see if brie can maintain its quality once thawed. It’s been 6 months. So this was a perfect time to try out this recipe! Even though I really don’t need any reason to bake a brie….

Baked Tomatillo Brie
adapted from Well Preserved

1 onion
2 Poblano peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
4 cloves garlic
2 pounds fresh tomatillos
A few sprigs of fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to a “roast” setting, or at least 400 degrees Farenheit.

Peel the onion and slice it into wedges. Place them in a large roasting pan.
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Remove the stems from the chile peppers and chop them up into uniform pieces. Place those over the onions.
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Remove the peels from the tomatillos.
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Give them a gentle warm water rinse to remove any stickiness. Dry them, then cut them into equal pieces and place in the pan. Mine were on the average size, so I cut them into sixths.
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Drizzle a little olive oil over the top, and give them a sprinkle of salt.

Roast everything until nice and browned. Let cool.
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Once cool, place everything from the roasting pan into a blender jar or food processor. Add a little cilantro.
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Blend until it’s the consistency you like; I prefer to have some texture.

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To be fair, there is no oil in Ms. Bone’s recipe, and no cilantro. I just can’t use tomatillos without at least a little bit a fresh cilantro. I kept it to a small amount, so this sauce stayed a sauce, and didn’t turn into a salsa.

What I did omit from Ms. Bone’s tomatillo sauce recipe was lemon juice. I just didn’t think it was necessary. Tomatillos, to me, are already lemony.

In Ms. Bone’s recipe, she simply let a ripe Brie come to room temperature. Then she poured the tomatillo sauce over the top. She didn’t specify if the sauce was hot or at room temperature.

My brie won’t be that runny, I know, because it’s not extremely ripe. Plus, it was frozen at one time. So I’ll be heating mine up to get that runniness that so typefies a baked brie. And the sauce will be hot as well. And instead of baking? I’m using my microwave.

Place the room temperature brie on a microwave-safe serving platter. Pour over the desired amount of tomatillo sauce. Heat in the microwave. I did this gradually, taking advantage of the power controls, because I didn’t want to “cook” the brie.

Serve with chips – I used a fun roasted red bell pepper-flavored variety.


And then, break open the brie and watch magic happen.
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The mix of the warm brie and tomatillo sauce was absolutely perfect. You’ll just have to make your own to discover this fabulous flavor combination.

And the brie? I would never have guessed that it had previously been frozen. Which is really good to know. Don’t ever throw brie away!!!

Easy Baked Brie

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I happen to love baked brie. I’ve discovered since joining the blogging world, however, that there are those who look down on it. Personally, I feel like these people are missing out. But, like with all food, taste is subjective, and no one need be forced to eat baked brie or anything else he or she doesn’t love, ever. Thankfully.

Personally, I don’t like celeriac. There might be a few other foods that I don’t love, but I can’t think of any right now. Not that I claim to love every food I’ve ever tried, it’s just that there unfortunately aren’t many I don’t like. And my ever-struggling waistline proves it.

But hopefully at some point in your life you’ve tried a baked brie – perhaps at a party. It might have been a fancy kind of baked brie, topped with a chutney, and then artistically wrapped in phyllo dough or puff pastry. When I catered, this is the sort of presentation I used because it’s impressive, and the brie is delicious as well.

My baked bries, of course, didn’t compare to something a pastry chef could whip up. The most artistic thing I could ever do with puff pastry, after wrapping and sealing the brie, was rolling the leftover dough strips to make assorted “rosettes.” I then “glommed” these together on top of the brie to make a bouquet of sorts. But even with the simplest presentation, a baked brie in pastry is a pretty thing.

And then, the pièce de resistance – you get to pierce the cheese rind, and the wonderfully warm, oozy brie pours out, along with the chutney, and you get to spread this mixture on bread. A baked brie is heavenly.

When I cook for my own family during the holidays, I sometimes don’t have the time to follow through on such preparations like a puff pastry-wrapped brie. But let’s face it. Sometimes it’s not about time at all, but their appreciation for the hours spent in the kitchen.

None of my family members read my blog, and so I can safely say, without recourse, that there’s not much appreciation for anything I do in the kitchen in my sole desire to feed and nourish them whilst they’re visiting. And make them all happy. Because, of course, that’s why we all cook, right?

They all tell me not to work so hard, but nobody has actually stopped me yet. Or tried helping me out. No one has ever suggested that we go get a bucket of fried chicken at a local drive-in.

But for my own sanity, and for the fact that I want my “kids” to keep coming home for the holidays, I do try to take the easy route occasionally. And thus, I give you a simple baked brie. Simple, yet just as delicious.

There are many options for baked brie, without the puff pastry. The bries are first warmed in the oven, and a topping is poured oven the top. You can use a cranberry-apple chutney with some toasted walnuts thrown in for good measure, or a cranberry orange compote, a sweet and nutty Foriana sauce, or just about anything that pairs with warm brie.

So here’s a simple baked brie recipe that I made over the holidays. I actually made it for my Christmas party; I just used my family as an excuse so I could complain about all the hard work I do for them.

This baked brie would be wonderful for Thanksgiving as well, or for any special presentation in the fall. The main flavors are maple and pecan, so you can just save this recipe until next October, and send me your thank yous then. Enjoy!

Maple-Pecan Baked Brie

1 – 2 pound wheel of brie, at room temperature
1/2 cup maple syrup (real maple syrup)
1 stick, or 4 ounces unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Sprinkle of ground cayenne (optional)
Toasted pecans*

Unwrap the brie, and place it on a greased cookie sheet. The greasing helps insure that the brie can simply be slid on to the serving dish. If you use a spatula, you run the risk of prematurely piercing the brie, and you’ll have to start over.

This brie is made from pasteurized cows’ milk. It’s all I can get locally, and I try and support the woman who buys cheese for the grocery store in town. Without her, we’d have no good cheese at all. I probably wouldn’t serve this brie as is, but it was wonderful as a baked brie.

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Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup and butter. Heat over medium heat until the butter dissolves. Cook the mixture for about 15 minutes to reduce slightly and thicken. Then add the cinnamon, and cayenne, if using. Set aside to cool slightly.

Break up the toasted pecans and set aside.

Bake the brie as is for about 20 minutes. Carefully slide it onto a heat-proof serving dish. Let it cool for about 10 minutes, and then pour the warm maple mixture over the top, and sprinkle the top with the broken pecan pieces. Serve immediately.
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Here’s to a wonderful 2014 everybody! Happy New Year!

* The easiest way to toast a small amount of pecans is in a skillet on the stove. Place the desired amount, like 1 cup, of pecan halves in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet heats up, you will smell the pecans toasting. Shake the skillet around, moving the pecans around, until you can see that they’re toasted on all sides. Then remove the skillet from the heat. Let cool completely, then break them up with your hands.

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note: This is a pretty sweet brie topping. I was thinking that replacing the 1 tablespoon of brown sugar with molasses, or omitting it altogether would cut the sweetness slightly. I’ve personally never loved brie served with straight-up honey, but that’s just a personal peeve. Real maple syrup, of course, doesn’t compare to the sweetness of honey, but still, if you think it might be too sweet for your party table, think about these two options.

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