Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The IACP award-winning cookbook Memories of Philippine Kitchens was revised, updated, and re-released earlier this year, and I received a review copy. After years of reading all sorts of food books and publications, I know a little about most kinds of food, but I had somehow managed to never really learn about Filipino food. Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan set out to document native Filipino foods and family histories by asking friends and family about their food memories. The foods of the Philippines have been influenced by China, Spain, Mexico, surrounding Southeast Asian cultures, and the United States, and from one region to another, the traditions are very different. In fact, the authors’ own food memories vary since Besa was born in Manila and Dorotan grew up in Irosin. In researching the book, they traveled to different regions seeking specific ingredients and home cooks still making traditional dishes. Upon returning to Irosin, they learned that Dorotan’s favorite dessert was no longer made because the knowledge of making it wasn’t passed down to the current generation. That struck a chord. It was a good reminder of how important it is to record our favorite dishes. It also made it clear how important this book is as a record of Filipino foods. Because the Philippines are an archipelago made up of more than seven thousand islands, it’s no surprise that seafood figures prominently in traditional dishes. I wanted to try a seafood dish from the book that would be new to me but that I could also make properly without having to substitute items for any difficult to locate ingredients. Ukoy was a perfect fit. The shrimp fritters are made with a rice flour batter, and there’s an interesting frying technique involved that I couldn’t wait to try.

First, the batter was mixed with rice flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and an egg. It was refrigerated while the other ingredients were prepped. Napa cabbage, carrots, snowpeas, and leeks were julienned. Bean sprouts were cleaned and left to dry, and shrimp was peeled, deveined, and chopped. The vegetables and shrimp were combined with some fish sauce, black pepper, and the batter. A little extra all-purpose flour was sprinkled over the mixture and stirred in to prevent it from being too wet. Oil had been heated in a Dutch oven, and everything was ready for frying. Because the ukoy could easily spread apart and disintegrate in the hot oil, Dorotan developed a technique to prevent that. The idea came from the traditional way of cooking plantain slices on a cacao leaf. Here, a banana leaf was cut into four-inch squares, the ukoy batter was placed on the squares and then carefully lowered into the oil with a spider. After about one minute, the banana leaf square was removed, and the fritter was left to fry for a couple of additional minutes. The fritters were served with a dipping sauce of vinegar, sliced garlic, and chopped chiles.

The banana leaf frying technique worked perfectly to keep each fritter intact. I’ll remember that next time I plan to fry something that doesn’t hold together well. Of course the fritters were crispy and crunchy and everything you’d expect from something fried, but they were also fresh-tasting from the vegetables and shrimp with added flavor from fish sauce. I love learning about places through food, and this book provided an incredible tour of the Philippines.

Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Memories of Philippine Kitchens.
Makes about 12 fritters 

1/2 banana leaf, thawed if frozen

3/4 cup rice flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg

1 cup julienned Napa cabbage
1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup julienned snowpeas
1 cup julienned leeks (white parts only)
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
1 cup chopped peeled and deveined shrimp
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Canola oil, for frying

Rice vinegar with sliced garlic and chopped chiles to taste, for serving

1. Using a damp towel, wipe the banana leaf clean on both sides. Cut out 4-inch squares from the banana leaf. Set aside on a baking sheet. Brush one side lightly with oil.
2. To make the batter, sift the rice flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, beat the egg with 3/4 cup water, then stir this into the dry ingredients, to form a thick but smooth batter. Refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Fill a deep saucepan or wok with 3 inches canola oil and warm over medium heat until the temperature is between 350° F and 365° F.
4. While the oil is heating, prepare the filling: Combine the cabbage, carrots, snowpeas, leeks, bean sprouts, shrimp, fish sauce, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir the batter and pour just enough into the filling to coat the ingredients. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons over the mixture and toss to firm it up if necessary (it should not be too wet).
5. Put about 1/3 cup of the filling on the oiled side of each banana-leaf square. Place a square on a spider and lower it into the oil. Fry until the fritter is set (about 1 minute), lift from the oil, and remove the banana leaf. Continue frying for another minute until the fritter is lightly browned. Flip and brown the other side until crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Lift out of the oil with the spider and place on a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat until all the filling is fried. Serve hot with the vinegar dipping sauce.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cooking Class with Marcus Samuelsson

When I heard that Marcus Samuelsson was coming to teach a class at Central Market Cooking School last month, I didn’t even ask about the menu. I knew it would be a great class regardless of what was prepared. He was passing through Austin as part of the tour for his beautifully written memoir, Yes, Chef. I attended the class with a media pass, and a copy of the book was included. The menu for the class was actually a selection of dishes that represented different points in Samuelsson’s life. To start, he talked about his upbringing in Sweden, the prevalence of fish, and all the ways it was prepared. He shared tips for curing salmon mentioning that it can be partially cured and then grilled, or it can even be frozen after being fully cured. He spoke about texture and how it affects our experience of flavors. The first dish was gravlax served on a slice of pumpernickel with crunchy, pickled fennel, some fresh lettuce, cooked potato, crispy salmon skin, and purple mustard. It was a pretty mix of colors on the plate that tasted as good as it looked. The purple mustard made with red wine and port is something I look forward to recreating at home.

Next, he talked about his career and his vision for a more socially responsible restaurant that would attract people from all walks of life rather than solely catering to those who could afford a fine dining experience. After working in several high-end restaurants both in Europe and New York, in 2010, he opened Red Rooster in Harlem. He intended to include fried chicken on the menu, and he wanted to create a version that expressed his culinary point of view. That became his coconut fried chicken. The version prepared in the class was seared chicken that was then stewed in coconut milk with garlic, chiles, and lime. After being cooked through, the chicken was allowed to cool, dipped in egg white, rolled in panko breadcrumbs, and fried until golden and crisp. It was served with collard greens that had also been cooked with coconut milk. Coming back to the importance of texture in any dish, quickly blanched bok choy was added to the simmered collard greens so there would be variety in the feel of the vegetable.

The last dish of the evening looked to Ethiopia where Samuelsson was born. It was a lamb hash with potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets topped with a fried egg. The hash was seasoned with bebere which is a mix of ground fenugreek seeds, dried chile powder, paprika, salt, ginger, onion powder, cardamom, nutmeg, garlic powder, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. The book, Yes, Chef, begins with a moving description of Samuelsson’s mother and how he doesn’t remember her face. Although he doesn’t know what his mother looked like, he does know how she cooked. He knows she used berbere as did everyone in Ethiopia. He writes: “For me, my mother is berbere...” The berbere tinted the cooking oil a nice, reddish orange and gave the dish spicy depth. I’m thinking of recreating a vegetarian version of the hash, and I’m thinking of adding berbere to all kinds of other dishes too. The class brought food memories to life through dishes elevated with a chef’s experience. For the whole story, I highly recommend the book Yes, Chef.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bourbon-Roasted Peach Cheesecake

When I saw this cheesecake at Serious Eats the other day, it was a stop-what-you’re-doing moment. There was no thinking that I might have to try this someday, or I’ll have to remember this next summer. No, this was one of those times when I just immediately started writing a shopping list. There are bourbon-roasted peaches here for goodness sake. Those couldn’t be anything but great. And, not only do those bourbon-roasted peaches crown the top, there are also some baked into the cheesecake. I now think my challenge with all the peaches I encounter during future summers will be to do something with them other than roast them with bourbon. So, the peaches were marvelous, the crust was made with graham cracker crumbs and finely chopped pecans, and the cheesecake was lightened with egg whites that had been whipped with vanilla seeds from two pods. In other words, every part of the dessert was delightfully flavorful. It makes a tall, stately cheesecake in a nine-inch pan, so I was happy we could share it with some friends who were in town for a visit.

You begin by roasting the peaches. Half of them were sliced and placed on one sheet pan, and the other half were chopped into chunks and placed on a second sheet pan. Melted butter, bourbon, and salt were combined, and the mix was drizzled over the peaches on both pans. Brown sugar was then sprinkled on both sets of peaches, and they were roasted for about 20 minutes. The chopped peaches oozed more liquid while roasting, so I left that pan in the oven for a few extra minutes so the liquid would thicken a bit. The goal was for the liquid to become syrupy. Next, the crust was made and pressed into a springform pan. In case you’re wondering, for two and a quarter cups of graham cracker crumbs, you’ll need eight and a half to nine ounces of crackers. The crust baked for about fifteen minutes and was left to cool. To start the filling, egg whites were whipped with vanilla seeds scraped from pods, and sugar was slowly added. When, egg whites need to be added to another mixture, I usually whip them in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer. That way, I can use the stand mixer for the other part of the recipe and fold in the whipped egg whites without stopping to wash the bowl or attachments. Cream cheese, egg yolks, and flour were mixed until light, and cream was incorporated. The chopped, roasted peaches were added to the cream cheese mixture, and I wasn’t sure how much of the syrup should have been added with them. I scraped all of the syrup in with the peaches, but next time I wouldn’t do that. I think my cheesecake ended up with a little too much liquid in the mix, required extra baking time, and was on the soft side in the center. After adding the chopped peaches, the whipped egg whites were folded into the mixture. The cheesecake baked for about 90 minutes, and I left mine in the oven for ten minutes extra until there was just a little wobble in the middle. After cooling to room temperature and then chilling for several hours, it was served with the sliced, roasted peaches on top.

I think I used some of the very last Texas peaches for this dessert, and it was a fitting way to end the season. If you don’t have an occasion to bake an entire, big cheesecake but can still get some fresh peaches, you should definitely roast them with bourbon and brown sugar. Use them to top some vanilla ice cream, pound cake, pancakes, or breakfast cereal. You’ll probably think of other uses too.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Grilled Aubergine with Creamed Feta

I like eggplant and have liked it for a long time, but I don’t think I really got what eggplant is all about until a few years ago. I used to saute it or roast it or puree the cooked flesh, and ya, it was good. But, eggplant can be better than just good. The wonders of eggplant have been best described by Nigel Slater in Tender Vol. 1. If only that book had been available back when I first started cooking eggplant, I would have had a better understanding of the vegetable from the beginning. I highly recommend it for anyone in need of vegetable understanding or inspiration. First, he uses the term aubergine for eggplant which is so much prettier sounding, and I wish it would take off here in the States. Then, he fondly mentions the different varieties and their shapes, sizes, and colors. He writes of the ivory ones: “their pale skins blushed with lilac or rose as if someone had taken an artist’s brush to them.” He goes on to poetically discuss cooking aubergines: “The aubergine is at its most sensuous in a haze of olive oil and garlic, onion and sultanas, pine kernels, yoghurt and fresh mint. The fragrance is beguiling, sumptuous, heady. The flesh of Solanum melongena loves the muskier spices such as cumin and saffron, the piercing sharpness of pomegranate seeds, the faintest breath of rosewater. But nothing does quite so much for it as being grilled over charcoal. Smoke seeps into the spongy flesh, lending a note of intrigue and exposing an altogether darker undertone.” Now, that’s what eggplant is about. When a nice, big aubergine appeared in our CSA box, it was most certainly going to be cooked over charcoal.

There are eighteen recipes for aubergines in this section of the book, and every one of them sounds lovely. I was already determined to grill mine, and creamed feta sounded perfect with it. The aubergine was cut into thick slices which were sprinkled with salt and left to stand for up to an hour. Nigel does mention that salting isn’t really necessary to remove bitterness in the varieties of aubergine that are common these days, but salting does tighten up the surface of the cut pieces. After being salted, rinsed, and dried, the pieces absorb less oil. The slices were brushed with olive oil and then grilled for a few minutes per side until completely tender and just slightly charred in spots. The creamed feta was a mix of sheep’s yogurt, crumbled feta, and chopped parsley and mint. To serve, the grilled aubergine slices were drizzled with olive oil and topped with the creamed feta. I added a pinch or two of crushed red pepper for garnish.

By grilling over high heat, the texture of the slices was barely crisp and charred from the grates on the surface and completely yielding inside. A little smoky flavor is indeed a fabulous quality in an aubergine dish, and it paired well with the herby, tangy, savory creamed feta. Now, I’m wondering if I really know all the other vegetables out there as well as I should.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blueberry-Pecan Loaf Cake

This summer, Slow Food Austin organized a series of cooking classes for kids between the ages of seven and twelve. I volunteer as a board member of Slow Food Austin and helped with the classes. This was the first time we’d done this, and we had no idea of what to expect. We weren’t sure if the kids would be enthusiastic or bored or what the parents would think. As it happened, the classes could not have gone better. The Young Chefs, as we called them, were excited about food and learning to cook, and the parents assured us the classes were informative and fun. It was great to watch kids interact and talk about food. A couple of the students compared notes about food and travel while discussing what they’d each eaten when they visited New Orleans. I was amazed at this food enthusiast kind of talk among seven year olds. Then, we couldn’t believe it when a little boy declared he was going to sell his Nintendo DS so he could buy a Le Creuset pot just like the ones we used in the classes. These were kids after my own heart. Since everyone who helped with the classes needed to arrive early for set-up, I made it a habit to bring along something for breakfast. For the last class, I had some late season Texas blueberries to use, and I found this Blueberry-Pecan Loaf Cake in Maida Heatter's Cakes. Unlike a dense and buttery pound cake, this one is lighter and filled with berries, nuts, and citrus.

The fresh berries were washed and spread on a towel to dry. Once dry, they were tossed with a little flour. The rest of the flour was sifted with salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. This cake batter included only one egg and two tablespoons of butter. Those were mixed with orange juice, and the dry ingredients were added. Last, orange zest and toasted, chopped pecans were folded into the batter. Maida offers a great tip by having you spread one-quarter of the batter in a prepared loaf pan and then folding the blueberries into the remaining batter. That way, there’s less chance of the blueberries sinking to the bottom. The remainder of the batter with the blueberries was then poured over the thin layer in the pan. The loaf cake baked for a little over an hour. Another good tip was to remove the loaf cake from the pan after it had cooled for ten minutes to prevent it from steaming in the pan which would cause a wet bottom crust.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love a buttery pound cake. But, that’s just not what this was. This was laden with juicy blueberries and crunchy nuts and smelled lovely from the orange juice and zest. I had to add an orange and confectioners’ sugar glaze because I can’t help myself, but it wasn't even required. The slices of this loaf cake made a great, grab-and-go breakfast the morning of the last Young Chef class. Maybe we’ve started future chefs or food bloggers on their way, but definitely we’ve gotten a group of kids to talk about food and think about how to prepare meals at home.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Smoky Chipotle Black Bean Chili with Summer Vegetable Salsa

I live in a place where people have serious opinions about chili. Proper Texas chili should have meat and chiles and not much else. And, here I am, a devotee of vegetarian chili. Blasphemy, I know. My preferred chili has lots of beans, some tomatoes, there might even be some chunks of eggplant or zucchini, possibly fresh corn kernels, and of course chiles. Years ago, I tinkered with ingredients over and over in an attempt to create the ultimate vegetarian chili. I eventually got it to a point where I really liked it, but no one else did. So, I was excited to try the Smoky Chipotle Black Bean Chili from The Fresh and Green Table. It’s one of those recipes with a dauntingly long ingredient list, but eleven of those ingredients are dry spices so it's not really so scary. It also comes with two suggestions for salsas to serve on top. There’s a Roasted Winter Vegetable topping and a Summer Vegetable Salsa which is what I used. It’s also suggested that the chili be served with a white rice pilaf, and some ideas for garnishes are crumbled goat cheese, sour cream, pepitas, and lime wedges. This is a good, thick chili with many layers of flavor and just enough heat.

Let me run through the list of those eleven spices: ground ancho chile, ground coriander, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, paprika, brown sugar, unsweetened cocoa, ground chipotle powder, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, salt. Additional flavor came from red wine, chopped cilantro, and chipotles in adobo sauce. All of those ingredients were measured and set aside before cooking began. To start the chili, butter was melted and olive oil was added to a pot over medium heat. Chopped onion, bell pepper, and some salt were added. After the onions were lightly browned, minced garlic and chopped jalapeno were added. Next came the mix of dry spices followed by a mix of red wine, cilantro, chopped canned chipotles, and tomato paste. The vegetables and spices were cooked, and the bottom of the pan was scraped, and then a mixture of canned tomatoes and water was added. I also added some chunks of summer squash just because I had some. After stirring everything together and scraping the bottom of the pan again, the soup was simmered for about 20 minutes. Then, canned black beans that had been rinsed and drained were added. Last, more cilantro was added. While the chili was simmering away, I cooked some rice with minced onion and added chopped cilantro. Also, I prepped the Summer Vegetable Salsa made with halved cherry tomatoes, avocado chunks, chopped zucchini, fresh corn kernels, sliced radish, and cilantro. The vegetables were tossed with a mix of olive oil, orange juice, lime juice, honey, and salt. I served the chili on white rice pilaf with the salsa on top and garnished it with sour cream, crumbled goat cheese, and sliced jalapeno.

The mix of spices used here is exactly what my previous attempts at vegetarian chili needed. In the finished dish, it’s hard to pick out the cocoa powder or any one of the other spices or even the red wine specifically, but all of those flavors came together beautifully. This might not be Texas chili, but this is definitely my kind of chili.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Porch Crawler Cocktail

The name of this cocktail makes it sound more lethal than it really is. Porch Sitter might be a better title for it. It’s a fruity, zingy ice-cold drink for summer, and it’s a perfect excuse to sit down and put your feet up for a minute or two. I did some searching on the name Porch Crawler and learned it’s a common name for highly alcoholic drinks with some sweetness and fruit. This one just has a little rum, not a mix of different spirits, but it does have fruit. I had every intention of making this at some point last summer after cutting the page from the April 2011 issue of Food and Wine, but the weeks flew by and cherry season was over before I knew it. So this year, it had to happen. Fresh, pitted cherries are muddled with mint leaves and a halved serrano chile. When you taste it, you don’t really notice the chile at first since the fruit and mint get all the initial attention. Then, you realize there’s something else going on here. It’s just a hint of heat to make things interesting.

Stem and pit a handful of cherries, and place them in a cocktail shaker. Add a few mint leaves and a halved serrano chile. You can remove the seeds from the chile if you’d like to make it milder. Muddle those ingredients in the shaker, and then add some ice. Next, add rum, lemon juice, and simple syrup, and shake until cold. Strain the cocktail into a glass with ice, and top with club soda.

I suppose it’s possible you could end up needing to crawl if you consumed enough of these, but I’ll still argue it could use a better name. I wouldn’t change anything else about it though. And, I still have time to make a few more before cherries disappear for this year.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quinoa Flake Crusted Salmon with Chile Citrus Sauce

A couple of times this summer, I’ve mentioned wild Alaskan salmon, and that’s what’s shown here again today. This time, I want to share a little information about why this salmon is such a good choice for sustainability. The Alaska Constitution includes a statement regarding protecting natural resources and specifically that “ utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle.” The Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages salmon runs by checking numbers of salmon moving upstream to spawning grounds. Sonar counters and fish wheels are used to count, and aerial surveys are performed as well. When enough salmon have reached the spawning grounds to maintain the population, only then are areas opened for commercial fishing for specified lengths of time. This process has made Alaska a “model of seafood sustainability.” Once again, I was delighted to receive some wild, sockeye salmon from the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association. This time, the salmon came from Prince William Sound which sits between Cook Inlet and Yakutat Bay on the east side of Kenai Peninsula. This salmon was frozen and vacuum packed before being shipped. The color was the same deep, lovely red, and once thawed, the texture was exactly the same as fresh salmon. I had just read about a salmon dish that I wanted to try in The Elements of Taste, so I was ready to get cooking.

Although it’s from book with some serious ideas about flavor that has several serious, chef-style recipes, this dish is actually very simple to prepare. In the book, it’s made with a rice flake crust. I wasn’t able to locate rice flakes, but I did find quinoa flakes and used those instead. The salmon fillets were brushed with a mix of eggs whisked with flour, and then they were pressed into the quinoa flakes that had been seasoned with salt, pepper, and cayenne. The sauce was a reduction of orange juice, mirin, minced lemongrass, grated fresh ginger, dried hot chiles, and a little sugar. After 30 minutes or so, the sauce became syrupy and fragrant. The salmon was quickly seared, crust side down first and then was plated with a pool of the sauce.

The flavor of the salmon was delicious as always, and the quinoa flake crust gave the surface incredible crunch. It was definitely more crunch than you would get with just flour or even cornmeal. The sauce was fruity, spicy, and aromatic and made for a lovely thing to slide each bite of salmon through on the fork. It was another great meal with this carefully caught and well-managed, sustainable fish.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Melon with Blue Cheese and Black Pepper

Food and art collide intentionally in the new book from Alain Passard. In The Art of Cooking with Vegetables, of which I received a review copy, he has created a collage to accompany each recipe. He explains that although the food usually inspires the collage, there have been times when creating the collage led to different combinations on the plate. The collages are abstract, colorful, and beautiful. I’d love to have them framed and lined up on a wall. The book was created in celebration of the 25th anniversary of his restaurant L’Arpege with vegetable recipes for each season. The recipes all have simple, straightforward titles in contrast to the complexity of the flavors in the dishes. For instance, Herb-Filled Peppers on Warm Crusty Bread is made with a filling of finely chopped, blanched fava beans, sauteed garlic and onion, and sorrel, cilantro, chervil, basil, and chives. The roasted, stuffed peppers are then served on toasted bread and topped with shaved parmesan. Ratatouille Brittany-Style in Butter is an interesting mix of cooked and raw vegetables with an eggplant and butter sauce served on the side. A recipe I can’t wait to try is the Avocado Souffles with Dark Chocolate. A souffle of mashed avocado, pistachio marzipan, vanilla, and egg whites, of course, is baked in the halved and hallowed avocado skins. A square of dark chocolate is set into each souffle before baking. Puffed, green domes baked in dark, black avocado containers is something I want to see and taste. From the section of the book focused on summer, the first recipe I had to try was the Melon with Blue Cheese and Black Pepper. It’s a colorful, sweet-savory, fork-and-knife kind of salad made with fourme d’Ambert which is Kurt’s favorite cheese.

I actually planned ahead for this recipe. One of the ingredients is purple basil although green basil would have been fine instead. I had planted purple basil seeds and waited until some leaves appeared to make this. I wish the leaves had been more completely purple, but I went with what I had. The salad also includes sorrel, and red sorrel would have been pretty. Sadly, I was only able to locate green sorrel, but its lemony flavor was great. The colors, textures, sweetness, saltiness, and herbiness were all important here, and one more twist for this salad was the mix of hot and cold. The melon slices were actually stewed in a little olive oil. The melon became just slightly more tender and was the only warm element on the plate. To finish, the plate was drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar, and flaked sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper were added. I had a few walnuts on hand and decided to use them for garnish to add a crunchy item to the mix.

The sweet, warm, orange melon with the savory, big flavor of the blue-veined cheese was well-matched for looks and taste, and the bright mix of herbs cut the richness nicely. It was a surprisingly filling salad with the wedge of melon and chunk of fourme d’Ambert. Now, I’m flipping to the late summer pages of the book to decide which food as art piece to recreate next.

Melon with Blue Cheese and Black Pepper
Recipe courtesy of Alain Passard, L'Arpege, and Frances Lincoln Publishers, Ltd. Copyright 2012. Excerpted from The Art of Cooking with Vegetables. All rights reserved.

Serves 4, 40 minutes

1 large, ripe melon
150-200 g (5-7 oz) fourme d’Ambert or Stilton
3-4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
several handfuls of red or green sorrel, washed, and tough ribs removed
leaves from a bunch of purple or green basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
fleur de sel
1 tablespoon black peppercorns crushed or coarsely ground

Drink with A Pineau de Charentes or a Floc de Gascogne

Slice the cheese into four equal-sized portions and leave them at room temperature for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, cut the melon into quarters, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Thinly cover the bottom of a saute pan with about one tablespoon of the olive oil, holding back the rest; arrange the melon quarters, flat on their sides, in a single layer, in the pan. Partially cover with a lid and stew the melon quarters gently over low heat for 25 minutes, turning them over from time to time.

While the melon is stewing gently, put the leaves of sorrel and basil in a salad bowl and dress them gently with the remaining oil.

To serve, arrange a quarter of melon, a portion of cheese and a helping of the salad on four individual plates. Season to taste with salt and crushed or coarsely ground black pepper. Sign each plate with a trail of balsamic vinegar.

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