Formaggio Kitchen » Blog http://www.formaggiokitchen.com Artisan cheese, charcuterie and specialty food. Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:41:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Parmigiano-Reggiano Gets its Crunchhttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/how-parmigiano-reggiano-gets-its-crunch/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/how-parmigiano-reggiano-gets-its-crunch/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:40:32 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11876 Is there anything better than biting into a piece of hard cheese and encountering those crunchy, crystalline bits scattered throughout?  Crackly crunch is one of the best things about Parmigiano-Reggiano (a cheese with no shortage of wonderful attributes), and it is one of the descriptors we hear most frequently from shoppers scouting for Gouda.  These Continue Reading »

The post How Parmigiano-Reggiano Gets its Crunch appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
Parmigiano-Reggiano-Classico-lg-2

A rugged wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano Classico

Is there anything better than biting into a piece of hard cheese and encountering those crunchy, crystalline bits scattered throughout?  Crackly crunch is one of the best things about Parmigiano-Reggiano (a cheese with no shortage of wonderful attributes), and it is one of the descriptors we hear most frequently from shoppers scouting for Gouda.  These crunchy pieces are often mistaken for flakes of salt or taken as a sign that the cheese is drying out, but they are actually little bits of the amino acid tyrosine, and they appear in the cheese as a result of aging.

Casein, the main protein in milk, is composed of several amino acids, including tyrosine. During the cheesemaking process, fats and proteins are bound together in clusters, which clump together and form solid curds. However, as cheese ages, the protein chains begin to deteriorate and unravel, and tyrosine molecules break free. As these rogue molecules collide with one another, crystalline bits fall out of suspension and appear as the crunchy pieces we love so much. (Note, however, that the crystals that appear on the outside of cheeses like Cheddar are deposits of calcium lactate that result from the use of certain starter cultures– another story entirely.)

A wedge of Boerenkaas Grand Cru with tyrosine deposits

A wedge of Boerenkaas Grand Cru with tyrosine deposits

The irresistible crunch of these tyrosine pockets is their most obvious benefit, but there is also evidence that they may play a role in boosting your mood.  In the olfactory bulb of the brain, which is responsible for detecting odors and taste, tyrosine reacts with an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase.  These reactions produce several neurotransmitters, including epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and dopamine, all of which have profound effects on mood.  Epinephrine boosts the flow of oxygen and glucose to the brain and facilitates the “fight-or-flight” response to stressful situations.  Norepinephrine affects the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with memory and emotional reactions; it plays a large role in attention and focus and helps ward off depression.  Dopamine is a crucial component of the brain’s reward system, which is responsible for providing feelings or pleasure or reinforcement. It’s no surprise, then, that eating aged cheese produces such joy.

When you next find yourself at the cheese counter, if you’re in the mood for a little boost, impress your cheesemonger by requesting a cheese with tyrosine deposits– or stick with “crunchy bits.” We’ll know exactly what you mean.

 

Jesi Nishibun is a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. When she’s not behind the cheese counter, you can find her with her nose in a cookbook, or experimenting in her home kitchen.

The post How Parmigiano-Reggiano Gets its Crunch appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/how-parmigiano-reggiano-gets-its-crunch/feed/ 0
A Taste of Corsicahttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/a-taste-of-corsica/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/a-taste-of-corsica/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 13:48:11 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11819 If you’ve been in the Boston area this week, the climbing temperatures and persistent humidity probably have you longing for a vacation. We, too, are dreaming of beautiful beaches, coastal cities, and open-air markets. Even if a spur-of-the-moment getaway is sadly out of reach, you can still take a mental vacation to the island of Corsica, thanks to the Continue Reading »

The post A Taste of Corsica appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
A tempting wedge of l'Empereur

A tempting wedge of l’Empereur

If you’ve been in the Boston area this week, the climbing temperatures and persistent humidity probably have you longing for a vacation. We, too, are dreaming of beautiful beaches, coastal cities, and open-air markets. Even if a spur-of-the-moment getaway is sadly out of reach, you can still take a mental vacation to the island of Corsica, thanks to the recent arrival of some of our favorite Corsican cheeses. So if your summer plans are keeping you stateside, give these cheeses a chance to take you to far-off places.

L’Empereur
Named for Napoleon Bonaparte, whose flashy portrait graces the cheese label, this sheep’s milk tomme is firm and smooth-textured with a delicious, savory nuttiness. At the suggestion of our wine buyer, James, I recently took home a hunk of L’Empereur and paired it with a bottle of Domaine Comte Abbatucci “Cuvée Faustine” Rouge and a stream of traditional Corsican folk music (an experience I highly recommend).

The Emperor himself, looking rather dashing

The Emperor himself, looking rather dashing

A Casinca
A washed-rind goat cheese with plenty of personality, A Casinca is a favorite on the cheese counter. A pungent, barnyardy aroma greets you right away, and the layer under the rind oozes as you cut into the cheese, revealing a firmer, fudgy center. The cheese delivers a complex mix of flavors: meaty, floral, milky, and herbal.

U Bel Fiuritu
A Casinca’s sheep’s milk cousin is rich and creamy, spicy and herbaceous, with hints of crème fraîche and caramel– perfect for pairing with beer, or with full-bodied red wines. Like A Casinca, U Bel Fiuritu (which roughly translates to “small, beautiful flower) also boasts a rich, creamy texture and a formidable aroma, which grows more pronounced with age.

A Casinca and U Bel Fiuritu

A Casinca and U Bel Fiuritu

 

Shop our favorite Corsican cheese

L'Empereur Corsican CheeseA Casinca Corsican CheeseU Bel Fiuritu Corsican Cheese
L’Empereur »A Casinca »U Bel Fiuritu »

 

Jesi Nishibun is a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. When she’s not behind the cheese counter, you can find her with her nose in a cookbook, or experimenting in her home kitchen.

The post A Taste of Corsica appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/a-taste-of-corsica/feed/ 0
Spotlight on Worcester Tommehttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/spotlight-on-worcester-tomme/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/spotlight-on-worcester-tomme/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:13:40 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11787 One of the most beloved rituals that happens behind the Formaggio Kitchen cheese counter is the cracking and sampling of a new wheel of cheese, particularly if it is the first we’ve seen of the cheese in some time. Tasting is an essential aspect of what we do behind the counter: it helps us keep tabs Continue Reading »

The post Spotlight on Worcester Tomme appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
Worcester Tomme, cozily nestled on the cheese wall

Worcester Tomme, cozily nestled on the cheese wall

One of the most beloved rituals that happens behind the Formaggio Kitchen cheese counter is the cracking and sampling of a new wheel of cheese, particularly if it is the first we’ve seen of the cheese in some time. Tasting is an essential aspect of what we do behind the counter: it helps us keep tabs on how cheese flavors change over time and from batch to batch, and through repeated tastings, we can better form a full mental picture of each cheese on offer. But beyond the practicality of this continual sampling, there’s something magical about taking a brief pause from the frenzy of our daily activities to touch, smell, and taste– to listen to what a new cheese has to say.

This week brought us a wheel of Worcester Tomme, which has been absent from our wall for several months. It comes to us from Sage Farm Goat Dairy in Stowe, Vermont, a farm that embodies many traits we admire in cheese producers: small-scale, family-run, and committed to traditional practices. Sage Farm is owned and operated by Molly and Katie Pindell, two New Hampshire-born sisters whose varied career paths (collectively, their résumés include professional cooking, food writing, cheesemaking, wildlife biology, and botany) eventually led them to purchase their farm in 2007. Nearly a decade later, the two sisters and their partners still handle all aspects of their business, from animal care to cheesemaking to bookkeeping. Their herd of Alpine goats is small– somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 does– and they are pasture fed from April through November, infusing the goats’ milk with ample local flavor. The sisters take great care of the goats through every stage of their lives; as they say, the goats are “the backbone of our entire farming operation, and as such, we treat them with immense care and compassion.” The attention, respect, and hard work they pour into their farm and their cheeses is apparent even from one taste.

We almost always have at least a couple of Sage Farm cheeses available (you might have caught us dishing out samples of their Valençay-inspired Sterling a few Saturdays ago), and while they are all delicious, Worcester Tomme is a standout to this monger. Bright, grassy flavor shines through, thanks in part to its raw-milk composition, and the mild tang I expect from goat cheese is also present. But what really pushes the flavor over the edge is the natural rind: nutty, slightly spicy, and earthy, it gives the cheese another dimension entirely. Where young, fresh chèvre is sweet and peppy, Worcester Tomme is delicately complex and understated.

Nothing beats the excitement of discovering a new favorite cheese, and the best part of working the cheese counter is sharing that experience with our customers. When you next find yourself at Formaggio Kitchen, ask for a taste of Worcester Tomme– and be sure to ask your monger what cheese has spoken to her lately.

 

Jesi Nishibun is a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. When she’s not behind the cheese counter, you can find her with her nose in a cookbook, or experimenting in her home kitchen.

The post Spotlight on Worcester Tomme appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/spotlight-on-worcester-tomme/feed/ 0
Too Much Produce: Sour Cherrieshttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/too-much-produce-sour-cherries/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/too-much-produce-sour-cherries/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 14:18:34 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11772 We’ve all been there before: you couldn’t resist all that amazing seasonal produce at the grocery store or the farmers market. Now you’ve cooked all your meals for the week, and some of the fruits and veggies are still kicking around. You don’t want to make more food to eat now, but you’d hate to Continue Reading »

The post Too Much Produce: Sour Cherries appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
Prunus_cerasus_-_sour_cherry_detail_photo

We’ve all been there before: you couldn’t resist all that amazing seasonal produce at the grocery store or the farmers market. Now you’ve cooked all your meals for the week, and some of the fruits and veggies are still kicking around. You don’t want to make more food to eat now, but you’d hate to waste all those pristine ingredients. Well, never fear: your trusty Formaggio Kitchen staffers are here to relate some of our favorite ways to utilize excess produce. And, who knows, you may like the ideas so much you won’t want to wait until you have leftovers. Stop by the produce department on your next visit and see what inspires you.

The Predicament
So there I was on Saturday afternoon with about a pound and a half of sour cherries. On Friday, my landlord informed me that the tree next to our front steps was a sour cherry tree and offered to let me pick as many as I’d like. I took him up on the offer and went a little bit overboard. I’d already pitted two pounds of cherries and they were now encased in pie crust and baking away in the oven, thanks to the efforts of my lovely wife. What to do with the rest of the cherries? They weren’t enough for a second pie and, even if they were, they’d probably go bad before the first was finished. I could have made a couple of jars of jam, but I wasn’t in the mood to simmer some jam for hours on a hot day.

The Solution
At that moment, I realized I had company coming over the next day and I’d need to offer them refreshment. And just like that, I knew what to do with the cherries: sour cherry simple syrup. A simple syrup would be a perfect way to save the cherries for a longer period of time, as the sugar preserves the fruit flavor long after the fruit would otherwise rot. Additionally, a cherry simple syrup is a great accent for many different drinks and would give me tons of options to serve my guests.

The Definition
Simple syrups are a class of liquids composed of sugar dissolved in water. The most traditional form of simple syrup is merely a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. People have long since moved beyond this versatile, yet simple (pun intended!) form of simple syrup and, nowadays, you may encounter more interesting varieties at a nice bar (check out those squeeze bottles next to the garnishes) or even just a local coffee shop (that demerara syrup on the counter next to the half-and-half is just a relatively unrefined variety of sugar dissolved into water). Most fresh produce can be made into delicious simple syrups. Fruit works particularly well, but plenty of vegetables are also delicious in this form. The key is converting the produce into a physical form that, when simmered in sugar water, will allow its flavor to be extracted into the syrup. With sour cherries, merely pitting them will suffice as the puncture created when the pit is extracted allows the sugar to penetrate the fruit. Additionally, sour cherries contain enough water that none need be added, so the only ingredients you need are cherries and sugar.

The Recipes
Sour Cherry Simple Syrup
1 Quart of Sour Cherries, Pitted
1 Cup of Sugar

Combine sugar and pitted cherries in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out liquid using a fine-mesh strainer. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks or freeze for up to several months.

(Bonus: Once you’ve pushed the liquids through a fine mesh strainer, the leftover “spent” fruit makes a perfectly delicious mini-batch of preserves to put on toast. Throw them in a jar, grab a loaf of your favorite bread, and you’ve got breakfast or a snack for a week.)

Sour Cherry Vodka Lemonade
1.5oz Vodka
.75oz Cherry Simple Syrup
.75oz Lemon Juice
Optional (I love carbonation, your mileage may vary): 3oz Seltzer

Combine all ingredients and serve over ice.

Sour Cherry Gin Collins
1.5oz Gin
.75oz Cherry Simple Syrup
.75oz Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, or a combination of the two
Splash of Soda Water

Combine the first three ingredients and pour over ice. Top with a splash of soda.

 

Jesse Galdston wears many hats at Formaggio Kitchen. You can find him behind the cheese counter, coordinating deliveries, or concocting new drink recipes.

The post Too Much Produce: Sour Cherries appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/too-much-produce-sour-cherries/feed/ 0
Formaggio Kitchen’s Own Barbecue Baked Beanshttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/formaggios-own-barbecue-baked-beans/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/formaggios-own-barbecue-baked-beans/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:38:18 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11744 Our well-earned summer weather in Boston has us on a steady diet of dinners from the grill, from the requisite burgers and sausages to salads stuffed with grilled veggies and beyond. While it’s hardly the season for heavy oven use, summer isn’t complete without a big batch of barbecue baked beans. If you feel inspired Continue Reading »

The post Formaggio Kitchen’s Own Barbecue Baked Beans appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
fk_bbq_beans_2

Our well-earned summer weather in Boston has us on a steady diet of dinners from the grill, from the requisite burgers and sausages to salads stuffed with grilled veggies and beyond. While it’s hardly the season for heavy oven use, summer isn’t complete without a big batch of barbecue baked beans.

If you feel inspired to make a batch of baked beans from scratch, we have the beans for you: Ayocote Blanco beans from Rancho Gordo (though any number of their exceptional beans would work). Rancho Gordo was founded with the goal of promoting native new world foods, and although they offer a wide assortment of products, including grains, chiles, sauces, and spices, they are best known for their broad range of heritage beans, which have gained wide recognition for their unparalleled freshness and flavor.

There are as many versions of baked beans as there are cooks, but here we offer our house recipe for your consideration. Customize as you wish– replace some of the brown sugar with maple syrup, toss in some Maraş pepper, or switch out the bacon for our housemade guanciale to make your own signature version!

FORMAGGIO KITCHEN BAKED BEANS

1lb dried beans
3 thick slices Niman Ranch bacon cut into large strips
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 2 large onions)
1 Bay leaf
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup Sir Kensington’s ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cups India Tree brown sugar
1 Tbsp Worcester sauce
1 Tbsp Tracklements Strong English Mustard
1 Tbsp Rancho Gordo Chili Powder
2 Tbsp FK BBQ Rub

1. Rinse and soak beans overnight.

2. Put beans in a pot with bacon, onion, and bay leaf. Fill with enough water to cover beans by an inch. Bring to a slow boil and add salt when boil commences. Boil beans slowly until just tender.

3. Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients to create your bean sauce and set aside.

4. Drain beans, saving some of the cooking liquid. Transfer beans to an oven safe dish, mixing in your bean sauce and reserved liquid, if needed. Put beans into a 275 oven right from a boil. Cook, stirring every so often, until a dark, slightly charred look is acquired– at least two hours. (The longer you cook, the more flavor will develop.)

5. Add more cooking liquid if needed during cooking process to make sure they don’t dry out or burn, stirring every so often.

Jesi Nishibun is a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. When she’s not behind the cheese counter, you can find her with her nose in a cookbook, or experimenting in her home kitchen.

The post Formaggio Kitchen’s Own Barbecue Baked Beans appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/formaggios-own-barbecue-baked-beans/feed/ 0
Where have all the ladybugs gone?http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/where-have-all-the-ladybugs-gone/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/where-have-all-the-ladybugs-gone/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 13:23:04 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11665 Previously, the Cambridge Formaggio Kitchen wine department took care to identify the wines on its shelves that were made from organically or biodynamically farmed grapes and with no — or minimal — applications of sulfur. Remember those little ladybug icons? It was a reasonable step to take, since a significant subset of our clientele expresses a Continue Reading »

The post Where have all the ladybugs gone? appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
IMG_0737

Previously, the Cambridge Formaggio Kitchen wine department took care to identify the wines on its shelves that were made from organically or biodynamically farmed grapes and with no — or minimal — applications of sulfur. Remember those little ladybug icons? It was a reasonable step to take, since a significant subset of our clientele expresses a preference for wines made this way.

But there were some drawbacks to this approach — primarily, the implication that wines that couldn’t flash a ladybug badge were somehow of a second order of quality or moral standing. One can imagine the line of thinking this might initiate: If they’re not farming organically, what must be going on in those vineyards? Routine and frequent applications of chemical fertilizers? Pesticides/herbicides/fungicides sprayed on a fixed schedule whether vines are actually threatened or not?  

The fact is that we don’t sell any wine that can be described this way.

The choices made by conscientious wine growers are conditioned by durable facts on the ground, the vagaries of the vintage, and the style of wine that is in view. Durable facts on the ground include, for example, whether the climate is dry or damp, whether the vineyard has a good flow of air, how pervasive mildews may be. In places like sunny, dry Sicily, prevailing conditions make organic agriculture relatively easy to accomplish. In cool, damp Bordeaux or almost anywhere in the U.S. east of the Mississippi, it can require heroic efforts.

Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. And from year to year the degree to which winegrowers are challenged by nature can vary wildly. For many smaller-scale and family operations (the most numerous kind on our shelves), a level of capital reserves that would buffer a calamitous vintage (never mind several in a row) simply doesn’t exist. In the face of a genuine emergency it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect a family to lose the income from an entire vintage rather than make a reluctant, minimally appropriate, and temporary resort to a chemical remedy.

Finally, while it seems irrefutable that (all things being equal) organic methods are always to be preferred over conventional means, it’s also true that without judicious applications of sulfur at harvest and during vinification, some styles of wine simply couldn’t be made. As a recent experience with an unsulfured German riesling proved, the bright, elegant, pristine fruit and racy acids for which these wines are known aren’t achievable without a contribution from an antioxidant agent. We may begin to see some wines made this way — and they may be appealing in their own way — but they will be a different German riesling than the one the world has come to know and covet.

In chatting with our guests about issues related to agricultural responsibility, we want to remind them that while transitioning toward, practicing, or being certified as organic or biodynamic provides some assurance of responsible behavior, it can’t guarantee it. Nor do natural approaches to farming and winemaking necessarily produce excellent wine. In light of this, a winemaker’s decision not to practice organics with perfect consistency shouldn’t lead one to the conclusion that his approach is therefore irresponsible. The situation is rarely so starkly binary, and in any case, decisions of this kind are best left to the folks who are on site and who have skin in the game.

For these reasons (and some others), we’ve decided not to routinely single out wines for special note because of the way the fruit is farmed, although this continues to be an issue we are careful to inquire about before we decide something deserves a place on our shelves.

Beset as we are by ever more extravagant claims for wine that is pure, cosmically-attuned, and more innocent than Adam and Eve before the Fall, it’s worth remembering the words of iconic 18th century libertine, bon viveur, and memoirist Giacomo Casanova, who knew a thing or two about wine and the many uses it could be put to: You stupid fellow, how can you ever be certain of the purity of wine unless you have made it yourself?

We might choose to put it a bit more politely, but we agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. In the end, the only way to guarantee that our wine is responsibly produced is to deal only with responsible producers.

Stephen Meuse is a senior wine buyer at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge, and regularly talks wine on local PBS affiliate WGBH with America’s Test Kitchen Radio host Christopher Kimball.

The post Where have all the ladybugs gone? appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/where-have-all-the-ladybugs-gone/feed/ 0
True Gritshttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/true-grits/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/true-grits/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 13:41:45 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11714 When I set foot in Formaggio Kitchen for the first time, I was, of course, blown away by the grandeur of the cheese wall, the array of gorgeous wines, and the glimmering bakery case. It’s hard not to be swept up in the sheer spectacle of so many elegant, carefully curated foods together under one Continue Reading »

The post True Grits appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
Anson Mills Pencil Cob Grits

Anson Mills Pencil Cob Grits

When I set foot in Formaggio Kitchen for the first time, I was, of course, blown away by the grandeur of the cheese wall, the array of gorgeous wines, and the glimmering bakery case. It’s hard not to be swept up in the sheer spectacle of so many elegant, carefully curated foods together under one roof. But the item that really made my heart skip a beat, tucked into a narrow shelf between packages of flour and cornmeal, was a white paper bag filled with Anson Mills grits. Until I moved to Boston six years ago, I had spent my entire life in the Deep South, where grits are not only a staple at the table, but a symbol of our regional identity, a symbol that crosses lines of race, class, and division. A proper bowl of grits has the power to nourish and to comfort, to warm both the belly and the spirit. But in the Northeast, a proper bowl of grits can be tricky to come by; most supermarkets offer pre-packaged instant grits and little else.

Enter Anson Mills, one of the nation’s few producers of heritage grains. Anson Mills began when its founder, Glenn Roberts, vowed to resurrect Carolina Gold rice, a mainstay of Antebellum-era Southern cooking that had nearly become extinct. As Roberts’ curiosity expanded beyond rice, he began experimenting with nearly-lost strains of corn and wheat. After investing so much time and care in reviving these precious grains, he was unwilling to put the responsibility of milling into anyone else’s hands, so he quit his day job, rented a warehouse, and purchased four stone mills. Roberts has been spreading the gospel of heirloom grains ever since, and a number of prominent chefs have taken notice.

Anson Mills first appeared on my radar via Sean Brock, executive chef at McCrady’s and Husk in Charleston, South Carolina, whose gorgeous book, Heritage, champions the revival and preservation of historic Southern recipes. Given their dovetailing interests, it’s no surprise that Brock sources his grains from Anson Mills, and a significant number of his recipes call for Anson Mills products specifically. When I saw that bag of grits nestled on our shelf, I immediately took it home and cracked open my copy of Heritage.

Separate from the neatly categorized, step-by-step recipes that make up the bulk of Heritage, there is a page whose bold heading simply reads, “How to Cook Grits Like a Southerner.” It’s less a recipe and more a set of guidelines and loose instructions; Brock requires a 2:1 ratio of water to grits, and advises that you allow the grits to soak for a miminum of six hours, and preferably overnight. Then, once you have skimmed off the chaff that rises to the top of the pot, you bring the grits to a boil, give them a few minutes off the heat to loosen up, and then continue cooking for at least an hour, low and slow, stirring and tasting periodically along the way. Instead of providing a specific cooking time, Brock encourages you to use your intuition, trusting the grits to tell you when they are done.

Spending over an hour at the stove, tending a humble pot of corn mush, is perhaps an unusual way to spend an afternoon, but I was fascinated by the changes that occurred in that pot over the course of cooking. In the early stages, the mixture was recognizable as the grits I grew up with, albeit loose and chewy, but as they continued to cook, they grew silkier, creamier. An hour later, the grits were perfect: nearly pudding-like in texture, with a distinct, vegetal corn flavor that is often lacking in commercial varieties. And the smells that wafted through my kitchen brought back memories of the cold linoleum of my grandmother’s kitchen floor, of childhood breakfasts and family gatherings. Despite the fact that it was three in the afternoon and I had prepared no other food, I sat down immediately with a steaming bowl, dressed only with salt, a pat of butter, and a smidgen of hot sauce. A proper bowl of grits, at last.

A bowl of creamy, hearty grits: comfort food at its finest.

A bowl of creamy, hearty grits: comfort food at its finest.

 

Jesi Nishibun is a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. When she’s not behind the cheese counter, you can find her with her nose in a cookbook, or experimenting in her home kitchen.

The post True Grits appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/true-grits/feed/ 0
A Traditional Cup of Tea, on Icehttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/a-traditional-cup-of-tea-on-ice/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/a-traditional-cup-of-tea-on-ice/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 13:18:12 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11639 When I think of “iced tea” what usually comes to mind is something fruit flavored, like “mango passion,” or a glass of Southern sweet tea, or maybe an iced chai latte from somewhere like Starbucks, but last summer I had my tea world turned upside down with a sip of one of Ippodo’s remarkable high Continue Reading »

The post A Traditional Cup of Tea, on Ice appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
When I think of “iced tea” what usually comes to mind is something fruit flavored, like “mango passion,” or a glass of Southern sweet tea, or maybe an iced chai latte from somewhere like Starbucks, but last summer I had my tea world turned upside down with a sip of one of Ippodo’s remarkable high end teas, on ice.

I don’t usually think of “tradition” and “iced tea” in the same context. When I lived in China, where I delved deepest into tea culture, I lived in a cold beverage desert. Traditional Chinese Medicine argues that cold beverages shock the system, impairing digestion and overall health, and so if you’re living and traveling outside of big cities, and the major destinations for foreign tourists, you can be hard pressed to find something to drink below room temperature. Not so much in Japan. For whatever reason, Japanese culture shares China’s love for tea, but not its distaste for chill, and iced teas are just as prevalent in Japan as they are in the US!

Except they’re different. Certainly you can brew a hot cup of sencha and pour it over ice, or cold-brew genmaicha overnight like you would cold brewed coffee, but then there are things I’d never consider: creamy iced matcha, and small sips of iced gyokuro. So simple, flavorful, and easy to make!

Around this time last year I had the cup of tea that made me know we needed Ippodo Tea at the Cambridge shop: iced gyokuro. So simple I actually made it at work (where I’m usually too busy to have a proper cup of tea during my shift).

Iced Gyokuro

In a teapot or thermos:

  • Add about 2 tablespoons (10g) tea leaves
  • For a traditional depth of flavor: cover with 2-3 ice cubes and about 3 ounces (1/2 cup) of cold water. (You can also increase the amount of water, as I sometimes do, for a lighter-bodied brew and a larger serving)
  • Steep 15 minutes for the first pot, 10 minutes for the second pot, and 5 minutes for the third pot

I think iced gyokuro really might be the most refreshing drink I’ve ever had. As a shade grown tea, its high theanine content gives it a layer of savoriness and a more viscous feel on the palate. Pair that with ice water, and each sip is instantaneously revitalizing and refreshing. The umami feels better than sweetness for rehydrating and perking up your senses. No wonder small cups of it have started being used as aperitifs at some high-end Japanese restaurants.

Iced Matcha

For preparation in a bowl with matcha whisk

  • Add about 2g of matcha to the bowl
  • Pour on 60ml (around 1/3 cup) of chilled water and whick together rapidly making the shape of an ”m”
  • Add a chunk of ice to the bowl, or pour over ice into a glass, before serving

For preparation without a whisk

  • Add about 2g of matcha to a thermos or other sealable container
  • Pour on 60ml (around 1/3 cup) of chilled water, seal the container, and shake vigorously until blended
  • Pour over ice and serve

Iced matcha is something I only just tried this summer, but it’s quickly becoming a favorite. Creamy and cool, but lighter bodied than a smoothie, it makes me feel like I’m drinking liquid jade sunlight.

For more summer tea ideas check out our past pieces on iced chai and our other iced tea favorites. Stay cool!

 

 

Rob Campbell is a culinary adventurer, world traveler, science geek, and also worked as Tea Buyer, Blog Manager, and a host of other things at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge from 2013-2015.

The post A Traditional Cup of Tea, on Ice appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/a-traditional-cup-of-tea-on-ice/feed/ 0
Peaches and Nectarines: A Lesson in Botanyhttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/peaches-and-nectarines-a-lesson-in-botany/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/peaches-and-nectarines-a-lesson-in-botany/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 13:27:24 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11644 The heart of June often evokes a childhood nostalgia for summer vacation, as evidenced by a recent discussion in the office here at Formaggio Kitchen. Among trips to the beach, overnight camp and baseball games, many staff members agreed upon the taste of ripe peaches and nectarines when asked what truly evoked childhood summer memories. Continue Reading »

The post Peaches and Nectarines: A Lesson in Botany appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
Masumoto Peaches

June Crest yellow peaches harvested by Masumoto Family Farms in Del Rey, California.

The heart of June often evokes a childhood nostalgia for summer vacation, as evidenced by a recent discussion in the office here at Formaggio Kitchen. Among trips to the beach, overnight camp and baseball games, many staff members agreed upon the taste of ripe peaches and nectarines when asked what truly evoked childhood summer memories. Somewhere in the midst of the office chatter, a little known fact was brought to light: peaches and nectarines are not separate varieties of stone fruit, but actually biologically identical with only contrasting skin textures (peaches are fuzzy, nectarines are smooth). Understandably, this piece of information perplexed quite a few people in the room, but before any scientific explanation was offered, the lunch rush began at the shop and it was time to get back to work. As the produce manager at Formaggio Kitchen and among those recently enlightened, I vowed to further research the subject and share my findings.

Produce Boxes

Formaggio Kitchen Produce buyer Emily Shannon with assorted stone fruit boxes from some of our favorite California growers. (From top to bottom: Masumoto Family Farms in Del Rey, CA; Naylor’s Organic Family Farmstay in Dinuba, CA; Ferrari Farms in Linden, CA; Twin Girls Farm in Cutler, CA; Homegrown Organics in Porterville, CA)

Much like their incredible aroma and flavor, the biology and genetic makeup of nectarines and peaches is rather complex. Also known as stone fruit, nectarines and peaches fall into the genus Prunus, alongside almonds, apricots, cherries and plums. Species of this genus are woody, with perfect spring flowers with an ovary that matures into the fruit, or drupe. Each drupe is divided into two parts: the mesocarp (outer skin and flesh) and the endocarp (inner pit).

Now that it’s clear that peaches and nectarines are scientifically the same fruit (Prunus persica), what gives the peach its distinct fuzzy skin?

High school biology class teaches that genes are the unit of heredity transferred from parent to offspring. Alleles are the possibilities of said gene, resulting in varying physical attributes. In nectarines and peaches, fuzzy skin is the dominant allele. Nectarine trees occur when both parents pass the recessive allele for smooth skin to its offspring. This Punnett square illustrates a sample genetic cross, with the capital F representing the dominant allele for fuzz, and lowercase f representing the recessive allele for smooth:

Peach Punnett Square

Peach punnett square showing recessive alleles for nectarine propagation.

In addition to this variant, peaches and nectarines may either be white or yellow fleshed, freestone or clingstone. Yellow fleshed fruit tends to be higher in acid than its counterpart, with a bracingly tart yet pleasant flavor that excels in baked goods. In contrast, fruit with a white flesh are lower in acid with a sweet, floral flavor, perfect for eating out of hand. As one may deduce from the name, freestone fruit has a pit that will fall easily away from the flesh when halved, whereas clingstone has a pit that will messily cling to the fruit.

There is absolutely nothing sweeter than selecting a locally grown peach, but while we wait for the delayed New England harvest, we work closely with SF-based produce distributor Veritable Vegetable. A certified B corporation, Veritable Vegetable places high value in strengthening communities and sustainable practices by supporting small, organic farms that specialize in heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables. Through Veritable Vegetable we have been granted access to some of the best fruit grown in the United States, including fruit grown by David Mas Masumoto in Del Rey, California. Recent author of LA Times pieces reflecting upon the severe drought in California, David Masumoto is not only a source of farming knowledge and technique, but also an advocate of sustainable growth and resource management. At Formaggio Kitchen, our produce department sources extremely high quality stone fruit from both local and California farms that have been left to mature on the branch for as long as possible, encouraging proper ripening and greater depth of flavor. By choosing excellent growers, we find that we have some of the best tasting and most interesting varieties available on the East Coast.

Our cheesemongers suggest pairing stone fruit with various styles of cheese, but we enjoy pairing juicy summer stone fruit with Robiola Roccaverano DOP, a creamy goat milk robiola from Piedmont, Italy or alongside a few slices of La Quercia speck from Norwalk, Iowa.

 

Emily Shannon is the Produce Manager at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

The post Peaches and Nectarines: A Lesson in Botany appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/peaches-and-nectarines-a-lesson-in-botany/feed/ 1
Butter Me Uphttp://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/butter-me-up/ http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/butter-me-up/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 13:30:00 +0000 http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/?p=11191 Many years ago, when I was a young child, I would never have thought that I would be writing about butter. Growing up in the southeastern part of Turkey, we would visit my grandmother and aunt who lived in a village close to the town I was raised in prior to my relocation to the Continue Reading »

The post Butter Me Up appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
Cultured Butter

Two of our favorite cultured butters: long-time obsession Rodolphe Le Meunier’s Beurre de Baratte (salted and sweet), and local newcomer Ploughgate Creamery’s salted butter.

Many years ago, when I was a young child, I would never have thought that I would be writing about butter. Growing up in the southeastern part of Turkey, we would visit my grandmother and aunt who lived in a village close to the town I was raised in prior to my relocation to the US. Those trips are some of the fondest memories I have from growing up. We would always be eating really well and enjoying ourselves away from the city. My grandmother had two cows living on her farm and the milk would get used in a variety of different ways, from clotted cream to yogurt, but my favorite milk product that she made was butter. Early in the morning she would wake up, fill a wooden churn and start churning. She would do this for hours until the cream started to solidify into a smooth creamy butter. We thoroughly enjoyed having this with warm, wood-fired bread and grape molasses, along with many other fresh village delicacies.

All those times watching my grandmother make butter, I never thought that deeply about what butter is. In its simplest explanation, butter is solidified cream. Butterfat has the tendency to adhere to each other. During the churning process the butterfat in the cream starts to solidify. During this solidification process, the fat globules start to stick to each other and they get bigger and bigger until most of the fat turns into one solid mass. Think of tiny Play-Doh pieces being shaken in a box, what happens to the Play-Doh? It will stick to each other until all of the tiny pieces make a whole.

Bon Appetit magazine recently featured some of their favorite, and our favorite, cultured butters. What is cultured butter you may ask? In France and many other parts of Europe, cultures are added to the cream prior to churning, and then the cream sits for a few hours or up to three days. Specific cultures are added to develop aroma, flavor, and texture. Certain cultures can result in an acidic butter while others may produce a more nutty counterpart. Live bacteria or cultures may not sound appetizing but it is a crucial step in making cultured butter, and give the butter maker an extra tool to develop their own ideal flavor profile. For a butter to be considered cultured, it must also have a fat content of at least 82%. When it comes to dairy products, in my opinion, the higher the fat content the better!

We have a number of different cultured butters here at our Cambridge shop, including the ones featured in Bon Appetit last month. These are all exceptional butters and we are happy to see them getting the broader attention they deserve. The first one on the list, Rodolphe Le Meunier, has been a long time favorite here at the shop. A cultured French butter made using fresh Normandy cream, this butter is churned in the traditional French method, hand-molded, and then wrapped in a gold foil. We currently carry two varieties, a sweet butter (Doux) or one that is sprinkled with French sea salt (Salé à la Fleur de Sel). We are also thrilled to see new, New England-based Marisa Mauro’s Ploughgate Creamery cultured butter on Bon Appetit’s list. We especially love this butter, not just because it’s delicious, but because we have a close relationship with the maker herself. Marisa was a cheese maker prior to starting her butter business and a dear friend of the shop. Marisa makes her butter in Vermont at Bragg Farm using fresh cream sourced from the St. Albans Coop. She cultures her cream for 48 hours which results in a nutty, sweet butter and we absolutely love it! The sea salt crystals she adds also compliment the butter, giving you periodic bursts of saltiness.

These are some of our favorite snacking butters. Overindulging may not always be the best, but whether it’s baking, cooking or just slathering some on a hot piece of toast, we love butter’s ability to transform anything into something so much more. Check out the rest of our butter selection, or make room for one of these remarkable cultured butters on your table.

 

Serdar Sinaci is a buyer and food and drink enthusiast at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

The post Butter Me Up appeared first on Formaggio Kitchen.

]]>
http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/blog/butter-me-up/feed/ 0