Modern Gingham

Modern Gingham

Friday, April 10, 2015

Passover 2015-Or how cooking for 12 people makes photographing for a blog post impossible

On Saturday, April 4, I hosted the second night of Passover.  I am not going to go in too much detail about Passover the holiday, but I will say that it is a holiday of 8 days, and the first two and last two nights are traditionally where the celebrants recount the store of Passover.
Okay, so Passover 2015 Night 2, 12 people including myself were to be fed.  And as mentioned on a previous blog post, I make a vegetarian meal for Passover.  And I had these lofty goals of photographing all the food I made.  All the revelry that was had, and all the food we ingested.  However, I forgot two key things...that cooking for 12 people takes longer than one expects, and photography isn't my strong suit. So I wish I had more photos to share, but I don't.  But I do have a recipe that was A-MAY-ZING.  If I do say so myself. 
Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Raisins
6 lbs of cauliflower, in flowrets
6 oz pine nuts
4 oz raisins soaked for 20 min in boiling water to soften
garlic confit (see note below)
salt and pepper (to taste)
Note:  To make garlic confit, you need time.  Take cloves of garlic, cover with olive or grape seed oil.  I like olive oil, the pretty good stuff, personally.  Place the submerged garlic in a pan on medium-low heat.  You want to see bubbles slowly rising to the top, no boiling or frying.  Not even simmering.  Cook for about 2 hours.  Place confit in a glass mason jar or a bowl and cover.  I keep it for 2 weeks.  No longer.  It must be kept refrigerated.  No joke.  It is not a seal-able product in a canner. No pantry storage for it.
1.  Toast the pine nuts over medium heat, never taking your eyes off the pine nuts not even for a second.  You want them golden not black. You really don't want them black.Once golden, remove them immediately from the heat.  Place in a bowl and allow them time to cool.
2. Place the cauliflower in a roasting pan (I used 2 aluminium pans).  Strain soften raisins.  Discard liquid.  Add raisins and pine nuts to cauliflower.  If using 2 pans for roasting, evenly divide the pine nuts and raisins.  
3.  Add about 1/2 cup of garlic confit in oil to the roasting pans.  Toss to mix everything together.  Add salt and pepper to taste (use more salt than you think, IMHO, just because the sweet of raisins, the creaminess of cauliflower and the salt go so well together).  Roast at 400 F for 60 minutes, covered with foil.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ahhh, Passover

Hi, my name is Kathy, and I celebrate Passover.  Yep.  One of the most labor intensive cooking holidays that non-restrictive eaters and those that are intolerant of  gluten can join around a table, and eat together without special accommodation.  That is because during Passover, flour containing products are forbidden.  The only things with gluten we can eat is matzoh.  And there is a history that I could describe as to why one eats matzoh, but perhaps it is better for you to read about the culinary history of Passover, here.

I write this post, because even though following a Passover diet is a challenge, I treat this holiday like a dinner party.  I tend to host a ton of people-last year 32 people joined us.  This year, I am hosting 14.  And, I am planning my menu.  I have a slew of cookbooks I use.
My preferred cookbooks for Passover

And I have only one requirement for what I can include (outside the requirements of Passover rules for all those who "do" Passover), and that is the Seder has to be vegetarian.  Because, and I say this with love and acceptance, that traditional Passover Seder meals, and all things with matzoh, have a tendency to not contain roughage.  So, in efforts to have a fully functioning digestive system, we at my house eat a very veggie heavy meal.
My proposed menu
So here goes for my planning...Wish me luck.  Or as Mel Brooks might say, "May the shwartz be with me."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mike's Complete Advice for Building a Cheeseplate

Mike, cheese expert and co-owner at Mondo Market
When creating a cheese plate many factors have to run through your mind to make it magical.  One of the first things to think about is the number of people that will be enjoying it, another is the style of clientele and which cheeses will be suitable for them.  Not everybody likes all types of chees and thus you have to prepare to have a wide array of selections for them to choose from.

Most every cheese board that Mondo Market creates has 4 components: Cheese, Charcuterie (dry cured meats),  Accoutrements (crackers, nuts, olives), Garnish.  When starting the selection of the cheese each artist must think of texture, aroma, and appearance when designing the place.  For example, you wouldn’t want to select simply beige color cheeses that all have an alpine style nuttiness to them.  A great mantra to stand by is to select: something hard, something soft, something stinky, something blue.  This will cover the basic variety of cheese textures and appearances to allow for a wide spectrum of profiles to entice the customers’ pallet.

In addition, you want to do the same with the Charcuterie and the Accoutrements.   There are two primary classes of dry cured meats—Whole Muscle and Salami. Whole Muscle encompasses things like Lomo Embuchado (dry cured pork loin) and Hot Coppa (dry cured, spice rubbed pork shoulder).  Salami is self-descriptive.  You want to mix up both styles of meat for each plate, select a spicy Capacolla (whole muscle and cooked) along with Sweet Sopressata to balance out the texture and the heat level.  Of course you want to think about pairings too and ensure that the spiciness doesn’t over power the delicate nature of some cheeses.  Select a crunchy and salty nut, a smooth and spreadable jam or marmalade (such as Modern Gingham Preserves), and a softer, tangier olive for the Accoutrements.

Garnishes can vary between fresh herbs, micro-greens, spicy mustard smears, or pink peppercorns.  The choices are limitless so get created and think outside of the box!  Some plates don’t need a garnish at all as the beauty of the meat and cheese is enough to get the guests mouth-watering.
Cheese display at Mondo Market

Portion control is vital when it comes to cheese and salami trays.  If you over portion you are bound to have considerable excess (and picked through cheese plates aren’t the easiest to take home either as they tend to get quite messy during the course of service); but you also don’t want to run out of course either.  In the experience of the Mondo Market staff, we have found a great happy medium which is 1.5 ounces – 2 ounces of cheese/meat per person with a 75% lean towards the meat.  That’s 2 ounces total, not of each.  So let’s say the party is for 50 people, that’s 6.25 pounds of total product (50 x 2 ounces/ppl).  With 75% being designated for cheese, that leaves 4.69 pounds of Cheese and 1.56 pounds of Meat.  The reason for the difference in quantity is that a slice of meat, in general, weighs much less than a pickable (meaning easily grabbable) piece of cheese.  So even though the meat has so much less per pound, it resonates just as much on the plate as it presents very well and each slice is much less than an ounce.

I like to figure out a person’s taste by asking them a simple question:  How funky do you like it?  Do you like Blue?  Cheddar?  Goat?  Soft Ripened?  That will get you the basic answers you need to determine the cheese for them.  Then you can ask them their favorite cheese—if they say “sharp cheddar” or “Aged Gouda” you know you are working with the basics.  If they say “Bleu D’Auvergne” or “ Epoisses” you can expect an open chance to wow them with amazing and unique cheeses.

When designing the cheese selection you want to factor in a “menu mix.”  A margin mix is the average price per pound of each cheese/meat which allows you to get creative with some of the rarer products.  For example, you can have a Hot Coppa which is very inexpensive but also delicious and eye appealing, then toss on some Serrano Ham which is more expensive, but allows for the medium price to be average.  This way you can offer the rarities while keeping the price point affordable.  Some items this day and age that are sought after, and quite rare are the St. Marcellin (this soft cheese was recently banned in the USA and is very hard to find even though it used to be everywhere).  Another phenomenal cheese is the Bocconcino.  This tiny little bloomy goat cheese from France is acidic, slightly sharp, and has an amazing fresh milk taste to it that will blow your socks off. 

*some ingredients may vary based on availability! But the quality and amazingness will not change!*

So there you have it...Mike and Mondo's thoughts on designing, serving, and enjoying a cheeseboard.  Is it wrong that I feel sort of superior now that I read this?  You should feel superior too.  You have knowledge. Knowledge + cheese = Power.

How to Be Cheesy (and look good in the process)...

I'll let you in a little secret...sometimes I get overwhelmed about how to creatively use my jams.  I understand that sometimes it's hard to figure out what to do with jam besides eat it on bread.  And you can imagine how many jars of jam are in my refrigerator.  I would estimate that I can have at least 15 jars open at once.  Samples, remnants of batches from production...all end up in my "condiment" refrigerator. And I like to use these jams in interesting ways and let people know what to do with a jar of Modern Gingham Preserves. I also like to ask other people what they do with the jam.  

The Mondo Market "Sous Chef" Cheeseboard featuring all the components from the menu below.Delicious and beautiful!
Modern Gingham Preserve's website has a recipe section, which I suggest you use to inspire you.  But Modern Gingham has been fortunate to be sold in some amazing shops around Denver and the USA. These shops specialize in gourmet foods and cheeses.  So I thought it might be interesting to have a cheese and meat plate designed focusing on crafted foods that pair well with Modern Gingham jams.  And I was hungry and thought I could write a blog post AND eat.  Clever, no?

So, I asked Michael Davis (from Mondo Market Denver, an amazing cheese and provision shop found in The Source on Brighton Boulevard) for advice on how he uses our jams when he makes custom ordered cheese and meat boards.  Mondo Market stocks Modern Gingham Preserves, and has been both a great retail partner and advocate for our flavors. He suggested the menus below for a variety of budgets and palates.  For more in-depth information, please see my next blog post, Mike's Complete Advice for Creating a Cheeseplate.

Diner Menu
(approximate cost $20)
Sous Chef Menu (approximate cost $30)
Executive Chef Menu (approximate cost $55)
Vermont Farmstead Governor’s Cheddar (Vermont, USA)
Beehive Barely Buzzed Cheddar (Utah, USA)
12 Month Manchego (Spain)
Belletoile Triple Cream Brie (France)
Robiola Bosina (Italy)
Bleuet de Chevre (France)
Epoisses de Bourgogne (France)
Maytag Blue (Iowa, USA)
Grain Queso (Spain)
Bocconcino (France)
Testun Malto d’Orzo (Italy)
Volpi Peppered Laof Salami (California, USA)
Fra’Mani Smoked Pancetta (California, USA)
Jamon Iberico (Spain)
Bresaola (Uruguay)
Buon Gusto Dry Cured Salami (California, USA)
Fra’Mani Salametto Piccante (California, USA)
Lomo Embuchado (Iowa, USA)
34 Degrees Natural Crackers (Colorado, USA)
Cracker Bread (Colorado, USA)
Quince Paste (Spain or USA)
Castleton Graham Crackers (Vermont, USA)
Caramelized Walnuts (Spain)
Spanish Cocktail Mix (Spain or USA)
Caramelized Walnuts (Spain)
Spicy Spanish Cocktail Mix (Spain)
Pink Peppercorns (as a garnish)
Featured Modern Gingham Preserve

Beehive Barely Buzzed, Modern Gingham Plum with Chinese Five Spices, and some candied nuts.

Mike gives the following advice about creating cheese plate “…many factors have to run through your mind to make it magical.  One of the first things to think about is the number of people that will be enjoying it, another is the style of clientele and which cheeses will be suitable for them.  Not everybody likes all types of cheese and thus you have to prepare to have a wide array of selections for them to choose from.” 

So to help you, readers, figure out which jams you like with which cheeses, we think you should buy, sample and try the jams with cheeses.  We are giving you a 10% discount of the purchase of any jam you want to use on your cheeseboards, just go to the website and use discount code IMCHEESY.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Have a One Nightstand with Modern Gingham

I've been cooking (and happily eating) my way through the recipes in the 5280 Magazine cookbook since it came out last year.  It's nearly spring and I've got porch drinking on the brain. This weekend, I'm going to mix up a One Nightstand using some Modern Gingham Raspberry Violet jam.  If you haven't picked up your copy of the cookbook yet and you're dying to have a One Nightstand, I've got you covered.

One Nightstand
adapted from 5280 Cookbook

servings: 1

-2 ounces gin (CapRock is delicious; Leopold Bros. Navy Strength is dangerous)
-1/2 ounce Campari
-3/4 ounce lemon juice
-1/4 ounce simple syrup (or to taste)
-1 teaspoon Modern Gingham Raspberry Violet Jam
-6-8 mint leaves

Combine ingredients in a mixing tin without ice, and shake firmly to distribute and dissolve the raspberry preserves.  Then add ice cubes, and shake firmly to chill and dilute.  Finely strain into a Collins glass full of crushed ice, and garnish with mint sprig and a straw.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Jammer's Colorado Garden

Just to give you a sense of winter this year in Denver, on February 14, the temperature was 65°F. On February 21, the temperature was 22°F.  The weather here is gorgeous-it snows like 8 inches, the snow stays white (unless it has seen a territorial dog), and 3-4 days later the snow is gone. We get winter.  We get spring.  Sometimes in the same day.  

After living in Phoenix (which is hot during the summer, like 115°F hot. And even though it is a "dry" heat, it's awful), Chicago (where it is ridiculously cold almost all winter) and Montreal (in which getting 24 inches of snow isn’t abnormal and ice storms are so prevalent one learns how to skate on sidewalks and use installed ropes to keep themselves upright), Denver is a dream.  

You wouldn't think it’s a problem, but as a person who loves to garden, these temperature variations don’t make it easy.  For example, when it’s 65° outside (like it was on February 14) all I could think about was garden planning.  However, there are a couple of things I have learned since moving to Denver about gardening here...1) 70°F happens during the winter months, true.  But 2)  3 hours later the same day could be 32°F.   Which allows one to conclude that 3) temperatures fluctuate like crazy here.  Which is 4) exciting, maddening, and makes it hard to dress for the weather much less garden effectively.  

And to let you in on a secret-I never gardened until I moved to Denver.  And when I started, I dreamed of a preserving garden.  I was going to grow strawberries.  Enough to make jars and jars of strawberry preserves.  I was going to grown raspberries and blackberries.  Hedgerow jam-I was going to make hedgerow jam, from my own hedge.  And I was going to have a rhubarb patch. And, I was going to have several fruit trees.  What I didn’t count on was reality.  This is a picture of my backyard.  

I have 2 gardening beds, a plum tree and a shaded walkway.  Do you know how many strawberries you need to harvest to get one pint of jam?  Rhubarb crowns take several years to make a harvestable crop.  Raspberries and blackberries are thorny and wild.  And take a lot of room.  You know how much room one needs for several fruit trees?  More room than I have.  So my preserving garden has been modified.  I grow a few strawberry plants.  I compete with the squirrels.  So far, they are winning.   I haven’t grown rhubarb.  I have one raspberry plant that catches on my clothes as I walk by.  So this year, I have decided that while I may not have a preserving garden, you may.  And you may want to share with me.  And I won’t stop you.