Monday, January 23, 2012

Mangia Mangia! Baked Fontina

Paul and I eat pretty simply most of the time, partly for nutritional reasons and partly out of laziness. The times I really love cooking are when I am planning a fabulous dinner party or trying out a new dish for a gathering. Almost a year ago I printed out a Barefoot Contessa recipe, Baked Fontina. I love Saganaki, a cheese dish flamed with alcohol at a local Mediterranean restaurant. This dish seemed like it could be just as good so I filed it away for future use.

Italian Fontina is called for, which I used, but Danish Fontina would be a less expensive, probably almost as delicious alternative. Since I (gulp) paid over $15 a pound for the Italian, I will probably try the Danish next time. Since I was taking this to a birthday party, I talked myself into the Italian. Need I say it was an unqualified hit? People (including me) were standing over the dish and indulging themselves. In the original recipe a crusty baguette was specified. I decided to toast a sliced baguette in the oven. I will give you those directions too.

Baked Fontina

Baked Fontina

1-½ pounds Italian Fontina, rind removed and 1-inch diced
¼ cup good olive oil (I like California extra virgin)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (it helps to use a garlic slicer)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 toasted baguettes (see below)

Preheat the broiler and position the oven rack 5 inches from the heat.

Distribute the cubes of Fontina evenly in a broiler proof dish. I used an 8 ½ x 10 ½ glazed earthenware dish. Drizzle on the olive oil. Combine the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sprinkle it over the cheese and olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and place the pan under the broiler for 6 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and bubbling and starts to brown. I kept peeking to make sure I didn’t burn the cheese!

Serve right out of the oven with a bowl of toasted baguette slices. Mangia!

Toasted Baguettes

Slice baguettes ½ inch thick. Brush with olive oil on one side. Spread out on baking sheets oil side up and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, until light golden and crisp.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fun with Paula Deen


I’m always interested in coming up with something new and different to take to a party, preferably an appetizer that travels well and isn’t too much trouble. A friend of mine told me about this cheese ball-esque appetizer that wowed everyone at a party and promised she would track down the recipe. It took a while but I got it in time to make for a New Year’s Eve party. It’s Paula Deen’s recipe, Pesto Cheese Blossoms, which I simplified – come on, do you really want to make pesto if you don’t have to? You can serve it any time of year, just make it the day before. It truly is delicious, with the flavors of sundried tomatoes, pesto, cream cheese and garlic. And don’t forget provolone, which I discovered I really like.

  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced provolone cheese
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 20 pistachios, shelled
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 ounces oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 7oz carton prepared pesto (I used Trader Joe’s Genoa style pesto)

Line a medium bowl with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top. Reserving 3 slices of the provolone, line the bottom and sides of the bowl with the remaining provolone, overlapping the slices. For the cream cheese layer, process the cream cheese, pistachios, and the garlic clove in a food processor until blended; scrape the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

For the tomato layer, drain the tomatoes, reserving the oil. Puree the tomatoes with a small amount of the reserved oil in a food processor. Spread some of the cream cheese mixture over the cheese slices lining the bowl. Layer the pesto, half of the remaining cream cheese mixture, the sun-dried tomato mixture, and then remaining cream mixture in the bowl. Cover with the remaining provolone. Bring the edges of the plastic wrap together over the top and secure with a twist tie. Refrigerate overnight until firm. Remove the plastic wrap and invert the mold onto a serving platter. Serve with party crackers.

The original recipe called for freezing the bowl of cheese and goodies, and doubtful though I was, I went along to get along. After unmolding it, I found quite a long time was required for sufficient thawing. Therefore, I recommend, and will implement the technique of refrigerating it overnight in the future. It was a hit, by the way.


One more thing, I don’t love liver, but I do love liver pate and fois gras. Paul has a wonderful habit of bringing home the food section of the newspapers from his travels. Last May I read a recipe for chicken liver mousse and was instantly intrigued; it didn’t look too hard. As background, many years ago I opted to try making Julia Child’s recipe for chicken liver terrine. If you are familiar with her old cookbooks, you know her instructions go on and on. I wasn’t nearly the cook I am now but I forged on anyway. What a hellish experience, which I vowed never to repeat! This current recipe is for the intermediate cook, and I found it fun to make as well as delicious to eat. Please note, I bought an airline sized bottle of Calvados brandy, but I bet plain good brandy would be fine. I’m sorry to report there were more than a few Philistines present who didn’t try it, but those who did found it wonderful. So for you pate lovers, here’s the link: . Have fun!