Although the end result will make you look like a culinary rockstar, this Fig and Gorgonzola Flatbread recipe is [albeit time consuming] relatively easy.  The caramelize onions and the fresh figs add a sweet counterpoint to the funkiness of the Gorgonzola cheese.  The colors are amazing too, violet, emerald, sky blue, all atop the toasted background of flatbread.

Give yourself two hours...

AuthorDave and Amy Koch
CategoriesBaking, Recipes
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Making homemade ricotta is incredibly easy, relatively quick (30-45 minutes), and requires literally no skill whatsoever.  It is, on the other hand, a huge crowd pleaser - and if you tell everyone, "it is quite a process," you can impress them with your dark knowledge of the culinary witchcraft called cheesemaking.

Begin with a half gallon of whole milk and a half-quart of buttermilk in a large cold pot.  Turn heat up to high and constantly stir with a heat-proof rubber spatula or wooden spoon.  While stirring, be sure to continually scrape the bottom of the pan so that the milk does not scorch. 





When the milk/buttermilk mixture comes to about 180 degrees F, curds will begin to form on the surface.  At this point, stop stirring for one minute to allow them to separate from the whey.  Remove from heat.





Line a sieve with cheesecloth and gently scoop curds into the cloth to allow to drain.  Do not push down or squeeze.  One method to allow the ricotta to drain is to tie the cheesecloth into a bundle and then to a wooden spoon suspended over a pot (see below).





Drain for 15-30 minutes.  Gently remove ricotta from cloth and salt to taste. 

One simple and delicious appetizer to make with your homemade ricotta is to add fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley, chives, and/or lemon zest.  Place it in a bowl and next to a plate of crostini (that's a fancy name for toast) so that you can spread it on yourself.

Get the kids involved and show them that cooking can be magic, making a solid cheese from liquid milk.


AuthorDave and Amy Koch

We attended the Grilled Cheese Invitational at Dolores Park in San Francisco.  The event had the capacity for 500 "judges" which basically went to the first 500 people to get in line and make a $2 donation.

Unfortunately, what looked like 1000+ people showed up and were quite disappointed when the man with the megaphone told them there were only 20 wristbands left.

Look at the line of people winding its way around the park.

Well, guess who got the LAST TWO wristbands?

The crowd

The Competitors

I quickly became completely frustrated with the format.  There was no structure.  In order to get a sandwich, you had to fight your way through the mob, get to the front, and yell and scream like an idiot when someone waved a grilled cheese in front of you.  Some of the competitors were even making people grovel and beg.

Pathetic.  It took an hour to get 2 quarter-slices.

It was a great idea that was executed poorly.  They should have had people form a line or draw numbers.

We got a slice from their "Missionary Position" category (standard bread, standard butter and standard cheese.  No additional ingredients or flavorings allowed) and one from their "Kama Sutra" category (in which anything goes).  

The standard sandwich was OK, but I think I could make a better one using tips from our previous article Alternative Grilled Cheese Techniques.  The second was fantastic though.  I'm not sure what kind of meat was in there - but it also had some sort of bitter greens, maybe collard, maybe beet.  It added a sweet and tangy touch that balanced well with the richness of the cheese. 

So, how do you win?  Take a tip for their Official Rules page:

"10) Have sex with somebody before the competition - Let your hair down and relax, then come and grill cheese. You'd be surprised how much of a difference it really makes in the grill."

Authordavid koch
CategoriesHistory, Humor

Nobody Doesn't Like Grilled Cheese - photo by BrittneyBush

It's winter and nothing is more comforting than grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  I've been running into quite a few grilled cheese recipes in different places lately so I decided to consolidate some of the more unique ideas I've found for bringing one to life.

On Yahoo Food, there is a list of their 10 tips for making a great grilled cheese.  To paraphrase them: 1. Grate the cheese, instead of slicing it. 2. Use a lot of cheese.  3. Don't worry about cheese oozing out the sides.  4. No white bread (but who uses that anymore?).  5. Slice your bread thick (but who slices bread anymore?).  6. Smush the bread with a spatula.  7. Butter the bread (obvious).  8. Use salted butter (if you even have some, but who keeps that?).  9. Use a non-stick.  10. Cover the pan with a lid.

I think we can take this one step further.  From Saveur's Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich they declare simply, "The secret to making a perfect grilled cheese sandwich is cooking it over low heat, which brings out the subtle flavors of a cheese, and slathering the bread with butter, which crisps it in the pan."  

They also bring us our first tip:

1. Use Comté instead of the usual Cheddar.

2.  Use artesian or specialty breads like walnut bread, olive bread, etc.  Or, use the ubiquitous Ezekiel Sprouted Grain.  When you've only got two ingredients, bread and cheese, you can't skimp on either.

3. Spread mayo on the side of bread to fry instead of butter, this makes it crispier.  "Really?"  "Yes, it's wonderful."  Although I love my Miracle Whip, I wouldn't substitute it here.

4.  Add sliced tomato and some fresh basil inside.

5.  Add thinly sliced apples.

6.  Don't forget your salt and pepper.

7. Use a really piquant mustard, like Philippe's, or try a A World of Mustard Collection.

8. Put a slice of roasted red bell pepper inside, mmm.

9.  Simultaniously use two really hot cast iron pans and use the bottom of one to squish and fry the top of the grilled cheese while it rests in the other.  This is a great technique for banging out a large quantity of sandwiches in half the time.

10. Make it with an iron.  "Set your iron to the highest setting, usually cotton."



- Dave Koch

Authordavid koch