Friday, November 30, 2007

Hello Dolly Cookies and Memories of Christmas in the Basement

Spending countless hours trapped in a cold, dimly lit basement -- that's what I remember about Christmas.

In fact, it's my favorite memory of Christmas. I don't remember gifts I gave or received (except for my pink Huffy bike in 1979), but I do remember making Christmas cookies with my mom, which we did together for 20 years. Each year, it was a massive project that began in the market, moved to the kitchen, and was completed in the basement.

After numerous trips to the grocery store to buy obscene amounts of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and chocolate, we would bake for 4-5 days straight, making about 2,000 cookies (that is not hyperbole).

Everyone got a tray of our cookies, including the paper boy. It got to the point that people would make special requests of my mom: please put more biscotti or pignoli cookies on their tray.

My mom never complained; she had the patience of a saint. Even when I added baking soda instead of baking powder (which I did) or dropped eggs down the front of the refrigerator (did that too), she never yelled. She always said something like, "That's alright, honey. It can be cleaned up." Then we would start the recipe over again.

By day three we were dwarfed by stacks of cookies. By day four my mom would begin fretting: “How will we ever get them all done?” Somehow we always did.

After we finished whipping and rolling and sprinkling, we took the finished cookies into the basement and started an assembly line on our old air hockey table. I assembled the trays, mom wrapped them in cellophane, then we'd decorate them with ribbons and name tags.

We would laugh and sing Christmas carols along with Bing and Frank and Rosemary on the radio. We did this till our backs ached and our feet swelled, then we did it some more, fueled by eating the occasional defective pepper biscuit or fig bar that did not make the cut.

My mom still bakes Christmas cookies, but on a much smaller scale. She even FedExes our favorites to us when we can't make it home for Christmas.

My all-time favorite Christmas cookie is the chewy, gooey, chocolately, nutty Hello Dolly. They're ridiculously easy to make (about 10 minutes to assemble and 30 to bake) and guaranteed to please.

They are my first entry for Eat Christmas Cookies. You may submit as many holiday cookie recipes as you'd like by December 24th, (preferably before December 17th so others have a chance to make them).

Click here to see the delicious submissions and here for details on how to participate.

Since a decorative tin filled with Hello Dollies beats the heck out of a sweater, consider giving them for a holiday gift. I'm submitting this to Zlamushka's Spoonful of Christmas, a festive event that asks you to share edible holiday gifts.

Hello Dolly Cookies (also known as Magic Bars)
Print recipe only here.

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham crackers (about 8 crackers), ground in a food processor
1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 325 degrees F if you're using a glass baking dish.

Melt butter in a small saucepan on the stove top.

Place graham crackers in a processor and pulse until they become crumbly. Combine them with the melted butter and place in an 8 X 8 baking dish, patting the crumb mixture down evenly with your hands. Layer the chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts on top of the graham cracker mix. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the entire mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is light brown.

Let cool completely before slicing.

Note: To make slicing the cookies easier, put the cooled baking dish into the refrigerator until slightly chilled. (Thanks, Mom!) Cut into bars or small squares (having a ruler isn't a bad idea). For Christmas trays, my mom places them in those miniature tinfoil coated cookie wrappers--they look festive and won't stick together that way.

Hello Dolly cookie bars are wonderfully versatile. Here are some delicious examples:

Valentina's recipe features a custard.
Lisa's includes cinnamon graham crackers and pecans.
Deb's recipe includes butterscotch chips.

By the way, if you haven't seen them yet, check out the editors' favorite holiday cookie recipes at Just seeing those gorgeous pictures gets me in the mood to bake!

Save This Page on

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fuyu Part 2: Boneless Pork Chop with a Persimmon and Pomegranate Salsa

Last week I made a persimmon and date bread with super-ripe Hachiya persimmons. To be a fair and balanced blogger, today I've got a savory dish using Fuyu persimmons -- the rotund ones.

Firm Fuyus can be eaten like an apple; they taste like one too -- mildly sweet but with hints of cinnamon. Fuyu persimmons are ideal for savory dishes, such as salads and salsas, where they add color, flavor, and texture.

The first time I made this salsa, I used just persimmons and no onion, and I thought it needed a bit more splash. This time I added some savory scallions and tart pomegranate seeds. It was pleasingly splashier in both taste and presentation. This refreshing salsa pairs especially well with pork, though it would be good with roasted turkey, grilled lamb, or a mild white fish, such as mako shark (which Jeff had and loved last night).

I'm submitting this post to Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, the founder and this week's host of the ever popular Weekend Herb Blogging. Persimmons aren't just pretty, they're nutritional powerhouses too--especially high in potassium, lutein (for ocular health), and lycopene (a cancer fighting antioxidant).

Boneless Pork Chops with
Persimmon and Pomegranate Salsa

Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

Makes about 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups

2 Fuyu persimmons, with the skins on, diced (about 1 heaping cup)
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
2 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
1/2 tsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped

4 boneless pork chops
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

For the salsa, place all ingredients from persimmons through salt in a medium size bowl. Stir until well combined. If serving within an hour, then add fresh basil and mint so the flavors will mingle. Otherwise, do not add the herbs (since they will turn brown) and place in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 hours. (Letting the salsa sit much longer makes it taste too astringent.)

Note: If you don't prefer the intensity of raw onions, then place the minced onions in a small-mesh colander and pour very hot or boiling water over them; drain and add to the salsa. This will remove some of their sting without sacrificing flavor.

For the pork, drizzle the olive oil on both sides of each chop and season with salt and pepper. Either grill the chops or cook on the stove top. Or for the best of both worlds, do what I did: use a grill pan on the stove top which creates those attractive sear marks but allows you to stay in the kitchen. Cook for about 5-6 minutes per side, or until well browned and cooked throughout.

Serving suggestion:
Place pork chops on top of cooked quinoa or couscous, then top with 1/4 of the salsa. Repeat with remaining 3 dishes. Garnish with additional herbs, if desired. A simple green salad with a light vinaigrette would be a nice accompaniment.

Reminder: Eat Christmas Cookies. Please check out the updated Eat Christmas Cookies post. There are several delicious treats there already. You have until December 24th to post, but try to submit by the 17th if possible so others can try your cookies. :) Click here for full details.

You might also like:

Fiery Shrimp with Avocado-Pomegranate-Tangerine Salsa served over Soft Polenta
Swordfish with Pineapple-Mango Salsa
Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Kumquats
Mexican Citrus Salad with an Orange-Lime Vinaigrette

Save This Page on

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Persimmons, Russell Simmons, and Fuyu: Setting the Record Straight and Baking a Bread

It is a little known fact that I can speak Japanese. True, I only know two words, but I say them well.

1. Hachiya. No, it is not a greeting. It’s a persimmon.

2. Fuyu. No, not the clothing line (that’s FUBU). They are also persimmons. Not to be confused with Russell Simmons (who incidentally created Phat Farm, not FUBU).

There are about a dozen varieties of persimmons grown throughout the world; only two are generally found in the States: Hachiya and Fuyu (Fuyugaki). Both are Japanese.

Though Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons are both fun to say and have similarly pumpkin colored skin, they are different in shape, texture, and culinary use. It’s important to know the difference between them; otherwise, your persimmon eating experience will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Hachiya persimmons are acorn shaped (see middle persimmon above) and have deeper orange skin with black streaks on it. They are astringent, which means they can be eaten only when fully ripened. A ripe Hachiya is extremely soft and should be squishy in your hand. Removing the thin skin reveals coral colored flesh so thick and glossy it looks like marmalade, and tastes like it too -- it's pleasingly sweet with hints of mango and apricot. Though they can be enjoyed raw, Hachiyas are really prized for baking.

Heed this advice: DO NOT eat an unripened Hachiya. It's like biting into a very green banana. Your mouth will become dry and chalky, and you will contort your face into unattractive expressions that will frighten your companions.

Fuyu persimmons in contrast are apple shaped and rather heavy for their size. Their skin ranges from pale yellow-orange to brilliant reddish-orange; generally, the darker the color, the sweeter the taste. Fuyu persimmons are non-astringent, which means you can eat them either firm or soft. Firm Fuyus can be eaten like an apple, and their crunchy flesh tastes like a sweet apple dusted with cinnamon. Soft, riper Fuyus can be also used for baking.

California persimmons are harvested from October to December, so it's the ideal time to make today's recipe: Persimmon and Date Bread from Food to Live By written by Myra Goodman, who along with her husband, Drew, run Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista, California. My cookbook is courtesy of Lillie, a lovely young woman who interned at Earthbound Farm this summer and graciously sent me a copy.

Infused with aromatic Chinese five-spice powder and ground cloves, this cake fills your home with warm aromas of autumn. The creamy Hachiya persimmons and honeyed Medjool dates create an exceptionally moist cake that is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. It is spicy (which I like), but if you don't, then I would suggest omitting the Chinese-five spice. The only change I made to the recipe was omitting 2 extra Tbsp of oil.

I am submitting this recipe to Leslie of Definitely Not Martha, who has chosen Beta Carotene Harvest for this month's Sugar High Friday. Though I love sweet potato pie and pumpkin bread, I thought this persimmon bread would be a delicious, beta carotene packed entry.

Persimmon and Date Bread
Print recipe only here.

Butter or cooking spray, for greasing the loaf pan
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2 very ripe Hachiya persimmons, peeled and mashed (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates (I used Medjools)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

To toast the walnuts, spread nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then stir them. Bake another 3-5 minutes, until they are lightly colored and fragrant.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter or coat with cooking spray a 5 by 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Place the eggs and oil in a medium-size bowl and whisk to combine. Add the persimmons, dates, and walnuts and stir to blend.

Place the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, five-spice powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Add the egg mixture and stir to combine. Do not overmix or the bread will be tough. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake the bread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes.

Let the bread cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and return it to the rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature. The breakfast bread can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to a week.

You might also like:

Torte di Mele (Tuscan apple cake)
Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones
Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Lemon
Roasted Acorn Squash with Medjool Dates and Toasted Almonds

Here are more tasty persimmon recipes I'd like to try:

Chow Hound's Boozy Persimmon Pudding (made with brandy)
Nora's Persimmon Tart
Susan V's Persimmon Bread

Save This Page on

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Candles and a Couple of Memes

My friend Michelle from Scribbit explained that things can get pretty quiet during an Alaskan winter with "all that snow and darkness and hibernation." So she created the Winter Bazaar where people can submit ideas for crafts, games, decorations, etc. based on a monthly theme. For November, it's Thanksgiving or autumn.

I'm not an especially craftsy person, but I thought these jack-be-little pumpkins candles were just too cute and easy not to submit. I didn't even have to go to a craft store to make them, just the supermarket.

Here's how to do it:
1. Buy some jack-be-little pumpkins or other small, decorative gourds.
2. Place a votive candle on the top of the gourd and trace it.
3. Using a small pairing or carving knife, cut the top of the gourd and remove the seeds.
4. Place the votive candle snugly in the cut-out. (If you make the circle too big, then fill the inside with some aluminum foil to prop up the candle.) You could also make a larger cut-out and place fresh cranberries around the candle, but that's a bit too craftsy for me.

You Make Me Smile Award

I received an email from Chris of Melecotte saying that she named me as a blogger who makes her smile. As you can imagine, that made me smile, and so does Chris. We've been visiting each other's sites for months now, and I think our shared New England heritage has helped cement our friendship. Chris writes honest, funny posts, leaves sincere, thoughtful comments, and is an all-around sweet blogger.

Now for bloggers who make me smile:

Aria of Passionate Nonchalance. Maybe it's because we are both native Rhode Islanders living in Southern California--I don't know--but Aria's blog appealed to me immediately. I love the way she finds humor in the mundane and always seems to be having fun. Plus, she knows what I mean when I say I'm making "the gravy."

Gattina of Kitchen Unplugged makes me smile for many reasons, not the least of which is her endless creativity. Gattina's site is definitely "eye-candy;" but she's more than just a pretty blog. She's a talented cook who creates unique recipes and styles her food in ways that never fail to inspire me.

Kate of Kate in the Kitchen manages to see humor in everyday situations and writes about them in a way that makes you feel like she's talking just to you. With Kate, it's more than just the food; it's the experience that she relishes and shares. Plus, she carves her Halloween pumpkins with power tools--a drill Bit, to be precise. Look. Now, doesn't that just make you smile?

Sig of Live to Eat cracks me up. It's that simple. I love her candor, which I find both amusing and endearing. Sig just embraces life, which makes me smile.

Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy because she is remarkably observant, and her photos are at turns, amusing, poignant, and clever. Sarah's unique take on life always make me smile.

Shn of Mishmash because she writes lovingly of her family and her food. Shn's sweet nature comes across in her posts as well as her comments (which I always appreciate).

Frank Caliendo impersonating John Madden (pro football analyst and announcer). Check out this 3 minute You Tube video "Mad TV John Madden Popcorn Popper" if you want to chuckle. I like pro football, and I love John Madden. He says things so sincerely and unpretentiously that he's hysterical even when he doesn't intend to be. And Frank Caliendo is a dead-ringer for John. He doesn't just make me smile, he makes me laugh. Out loud.

Gattina of Kitchen Unplugged has tagged me for The "Four" Meme:

Four places I have lived:
Providence, RI
Chapel Hill, NC

Los Angeles, CA

San Diego, CA

Four jobs I have had:
sandwich maker-I think I can still smell pickles on my hands, and it's been 20 years.
actor-Modesty prevents me from stating the number of Oscars and Emmy's I have received.
teacher-5 years and my hair turned permanently grey. Thank goodness for Clairol.
library assistant-My boss was like Mr. Bookman from that Seinfeld episode. The job lasted one semester.

Four favorite places I had holidays:
London, England
Seattle, WA

San Fransisco, CA

Miami, FL

Four favorite foods:
pizza-any pizza
my mom's gingerbread-absolutely the very best
gnocchi-homemade and heavy
my dad's pizzelle-they're so good, he actually Fed-exes them to me

Four places I'd rather be:
setting up my Dad's Christmas village with him (while a football game plays in the background)
making Christmas cookies with my mom (my favorite Christmas pastime)
working out with my husband (I have to burn off those cookies and pizza)
in a fabulous salon getting the perfect haircut and make-up (let me know if this place exists)

If you'd like to do this meme, then consider yourself tagged!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Eat Christmas Cookies, A Food Blog(ga) Event

This Just In! You now have a chance to win Sherry Yard's new cookbook by participating! Click here for details.

See the regularly updated cookies here.

One of the disadvantages of living in Southern California is that it never feels like Christmas, even at Christmas. When my mother came from Providence one December, she noted, “They have Christmas lights on the palm trees out here.” “Of course,” I replied, “where else would they put them?” “Well, that’s just silly if you ask me,” she added.

She has a point. Sparkling palm trees just don’t have the same effect as those big old-fashioned multicolored lights peeking through the snow on pine trees and holly bushes.

There must be something programmed in me though, because as soon as the sky turns grey and the air has a chill (as it does today), I inexorably start lighting Home for the Holidays candles and sorting though Christmas cookie recipes.

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Charlie Brown Christmas special or eating cookies. Like Charlie Brown says, it’s not about who has the shiniest Christmas tree (or Lexus as it were), it’s about the true meaning of Christmas -- eating. Well, more like the warm feeling you get inside, as when you share and eat Christmas cookies.

So, find your Traditional Holiday Music Channel, light your Christmas candles, and start baking. Beat your egg whites into stiff peaks of snow. Dip your cookies in chocolate so shiny smooth you could ice skate on it. Then send them to me. Well, don’t actually send them to me, send them to your mom or your son or your neighbor. Then send me the link.

Click HERE to see the cookies, updated regularly.

Here’s how you can participate:

1. Post about a Christmas cookie from now through December 24th at midnight PST. Please try to send them by December 17th because I will be posting your recipes as I receive them; the earlier you send them, the more likely someone else will see your recipe and try it before Christmas.

2. Within the post, please link to and to
and place the Eat Christmas Cookies logo.

3. Email your entry to foodblogga [at] yahoo [dot] com, and put Christmas Cookies as the subject. In the e-mail please include:
  • Your preferred name
  • Your blog’s name and URL
  • The URL of your entry
  • The name of the cookie
  • Where you live
  • If you’d like a picture to accompany your entry, then please attach a photo of your cookies.

4. Don’t have a blog but would like to participate?

(That means you Cheryl and Auntie Diane)

No problem. Just email me your name, location, recipe, and brief description or story about the cookies. Please attach a picture to the email if you’d like it to accompany your recipe, and I will post it to the website.

5. Questions? Email me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Biscotti and My Mother-in-Law

Last week my husband and I went car shopping. The salesman asked if I wanted a car with an Airbag. I said, "No thanks. I already have a mother-in-law."

When I Googled mother-in-law jokes the other day, I was stunned at the number of hits I got. Poor mother-in-laws -- they're doomed -- constantly accused of being meddlesome, manipulative, and opinionated. How many of you get along with your mother-in-laws?

I actually do. And I'm not just saying it because she's one of my most loyal readers (she is) or because she makes the world's most delicious biscotti (she does). We really get along.

It's easy to like my mother-in-law. She sends thoughtful, beautifully hand-written cards; she gives willingly without ever expecting to receive; she doesn't complain, even when she should; and she always has freshly baked goods on her kitchen counter to share, just in case someone should drop by.

Since Jeff and I have lived away for so many years these notes, phone calls, and care packages have been our life-lines to our families.

My mother-in-law's packages are precious -- with decorative stickers, ribbons, and bows, they're almost too pretty to open. But when we do, we're never disappointed.

Take our latest package for Halloween. Nestled between sheets of "trick-or-treat" tissue paper, was a bag full of chocolate-dipped biscotti (my favorite mother-in-law cookie) tied up with a wide black and white checkered ribbon. We even received hand written notes on pumpkin-shaped note paper.

She could send care packages with all of Jeff's favorites, but she would never. She always includes something I love too. How many mother-in-laws do that?

These biscotti were the perfect Halloween treat--definitely better than a Snickers bar. They're great for any time of the year, actually.

That's why I'm submitting them to Lydia of the Perfect Pantry, who five years ago created the Drop In and Decorate: Cookies for Donation program. The concept is simple: Invite friends and family to your house to decorate cookies, then donate them to a group of your choice, such as a senior center. If you'd like more information on how to host your own cookie decorating event, then click here.

Also, if you're not familiar with The Perfect Pantry, then pay Lydia a visit. Her site is a treasure trove of culinary information. With one part great recipes, two parts food history, and three parts genuine enthusiasm, Lydia teaches you about basic pantry ingredients such as brown sugar and ketchup and not-so-basic ones such as tahini and epazote. Plus, she lives in RI, my home state, so she gets a gold star.

This biscotti recipe is from Scialo Brothers Bakery in Providence, Rhode Island. Growing up in an Italian family, it's fair to say that I've eaten a lot of biscotti. These are the best. When you bite into one, the exterior is hard enough to make a crunching sound but soft enough that your teeth sink into the slightly chewy interior. And you'll never have a bite without an almond in it, which is the way it should be.

Oh, and Jeff just said, "Don't forget to them they have to dunk it in their coffee!" You simply must dunk them in hot coffee so the chocolate turns all melty and makes your coffee taste like mocha.

Almond Biscotti
Print recipe only here.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur preferred)
Pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp butter, softened
2 eggs beaten with 3 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups whole almonds (skins still on)
Egg wash (egg mixed with a little water)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the sugars, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, butter, and almonds in the bowl of a stand mixer, or mix by hand in a large bowl. Add the eggs with vanilla as the mixture goes around.

Take the sticky mass out and divide it into sections, rolling each into a log, flattened just a bit, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should wind up with 3 1/2 logs. It's better to split them between two baking sheets because they spread out slightly while baking. Paint with egg wash.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until firm, but not too hard. Begin checking after 30 minutes; it may take up to 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let rest for several minutes until they are firm enough to slice on the diagonal. Too little resting time will cause them to break apart while slicing; too long of a resting time will make them difficult to cut without a chainsaw.

The number of biscotti will vary depending on the size of the log and how thick you make your slices. My mother-in-law cuts 1-inch wide slices, which yields approximately 30 biscotti.

Chocolate Dip, optional:
The original recipe is for plain almond biscotti, but my mother-in-law made chocolate-dipped ones this time. If you'd like to dip them in chocolate, then pour a 1 pound bag of bittersweet chocolate chips (or chocolate of your choice) in a double boiler over low heat (if it's too hot, it will cook the chocolate). As soon as the chocolate begins to melt, remove it from the heat and stir with a spoon until it becomes silky. Dip the bottom of the biscotti in the chocolate, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, then place on a rack (with parchment paper or foil underneath it for easy clean-up). You may use a little less or a little more chocolate, depending on how many biscotti you slice. Allow the chocolate to harden completely before removing from rack.

This recipe is from Scialo Brothers Bakery in Providence, RI and was posted by Susan of Food Blogga

A man, his wife, and his mother-in-law went on vacation to the Holy Land. While they were there, the mother-in-law passed away.

The undertaker told them, "You can have her shipped home for $5,000, or you can bury her here in the Holy Land for $150."

The man thought about it and told him he would just have her shipped home.

The undertaker asked, "Why would you spend $5,000 to ship your mother-in-law home, when it would be wonderful to be buried here and spend only $150?"

The man replied, " 2000 years ago a man died, was buried here, and then three days later he rose from the dead. I can't take that chance."

-from Thrifty Fun

You might also like these Italian specialties:

Italian Pignoli Cookies
Italian Ricotta Pie with Pineapple
Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Lemon
Penne with Italian-American Gravy, Meatballs, and Sausage
Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) and Sausage Sandwich with Sharp Provolone

Look! More scrumptious biscotti recipes:

Mandy's Chocolate Hazlenut Biscotti
Haalo's Fig Biscotti
Lynnlu's Pistachio Cherry Biscotti
Garrett's (of Vanilla Garlic) Pumpkin Biscotti (featured at Elise's Simply Recipes)

Save This Page on

Friday, November 2, 2007

Watercress, Seckel Pear, and Brie Salad: Safe to Serve for Company

I don't think there is a cheese that my father doesn't like. He once received a pungent, powerfully-smelly Italian cheese from a friend; he described it as: "Good. Very tasty. With the smell though, you could never serve it for company, but if it's just for close family, yeah, it's good."

It certainly didn't stop him, or my family, from eating it.

At my house we ate a lot of cheese -- as a appetizer, on dishes, after dinner, or just for a snack. Unlike Reggiano-Parmesan and Grana Padano, brie was not a staple cheese growing up, but it's a staple in our refrigerator now.

In fact, there is currently a wheel of brie made from goat's milk in my refrigerator courtesy of Steve at Ile de France, (he has no idea how happy he has made Jeff). It has a remarkably silky texture and pleasingly tart flavor.

Though most typically served as an appetizer with crackers and cured meats, or baked into a puff pastry, brie is quite versatile. It enlivens paninis, enriches pastas, and makes delectable crostini and quesadillas. For a rustic dessert, pair it with nuts and fresh fruit such as grapes, figs, dates, and pears.

Although brie is a French culinary specialty, it is popular outside of France, and available at most supermarkets here in the States.

I used brie to make a seasonal salad of spicy watercress, sweet Seckel pears, and chewy Medjool dates. Seckel pears are the tiniest of all pears and one of the tastiest -- so sweet that they have been called, "sugar pears." As you can see, they are short and rotund with dark green skin that often has a bloom of burgundy. If you are fortunate enough to have them in your market, then try them.

This is my submission for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging. The host is WHB's creator, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, who recently celebrated her two-year anniversary for the always popular Weekend Herb Blogging.

Watercress, Pear, and Brie Salad
Print only the recipe here.
Serves 4

1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
3/4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper

1 small bunch watercress, washed, stems removed (about 1 1/2-2 cups)
2 Seckel pears or 1 large Bosc or D'anjou pear, sliced crosswise
6 Medjool dates, pitted and slivered
4 ounces brie, thinly sliced (the thin rind is edible)
1/4 cup toasted pecans, slivered

To toast the pecans, place nuts in a single layer in a medium size skillet. Over medium-low heat, cook pecans for 5-7, stirring occasionally until slightly toasted and fragrant. Alternatively, pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Place nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet in oven for about 5 minutes, give them a stir, and bake another 3-5 minutes or until slightly toasted and fragrant.

Saute shallots in 1 tsp olive oil, for 3-5 minutes until softened. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the dressing, whisk all of the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

To make individual salads, start by placing some watercress in the center of a plate, then add pear slices, some brie, and some dates. Top with toasted pecans and drizzle with dressing. Repeat with remaining three dishes.

You might also like:
Sicilian Salad of Fennel, Oranges, and Olives
Butternut Squash Risotto with Rosemary, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese
Mediterranean Jacket Potatoes
Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) on Crispy Polenta with a Rosemary-Goat Cheese Sauce

P.S. I just found a delicious salad of Roasted Golden Beets and Brie over at Aria's Passionate Nonchalance.

Save This Page on