Tag Archives: cheese

Gorgonzola & Mascarpone Torte


Is it cheese?  Is it a cake? Is it cheesecake? Yes, sort of and sort of again.  If you love gorgonzola or any other type of blue cheese, this is the appetizer for you.  I do love gorgonzola but often find that a little goes a long way.  This recipe, courtesy of Janet Fletcher’s The Cheese Course combines pungent gorgonzola with a mild and creamy mascarpone. The result the best of both cheese worlds.  In addition to tasting amazing, this appetizer makes for an impressive presentation. Yes, it looks like a layer cake and on more than one occasion I’ve witnessed guests peering at the plate before inquiring as to what it was.  Cheese?  Cake?  A Cheesecake?  Yes, yes, and yes.


1 large wedge of gorgonzola or other blue cheese, chilled

1 cup mascarpone, at room temperature

1/2 cup slivered almonds

  • Place the gorgonzola wedge on a cutting board and using a sharp knife or piece of unflavored dental floss, slice the wedge in half as though you are splitting a layer cake.
  • Place the bottom piece of the cheese on a serving tray and spread a thin layer of mascarpone over the top as though you are filling a cake.
  • Layer the remaining piece of gorgonzola on top of the mascarpone.
  • Spread the mascarpone over the top and sides of the gorgonzola to resemble a piece of layer cake.
  • Pat the sliced almonds along the outer edge of the cake.
  • Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for several hours or up to overnight.  Remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Serve with crackers, bread slices, or ripe pear slices.  This appetizer is perfect when accompanied by a nice glass of port or other sweet red wine.

Potato & Cheese Pierogi

My earliestmemories include watching my Polish nana pinching pierogi in the kitchen. Standing there in one of her apron covered housecoats, her fingers would fly as she grasped the palm sized bits of dough pockets and swiftly secured their fillings inside.  As kids we would eat meat filled ones boiled with ketchup.  The holidays called for fancier versions, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes took the place of ground meat and these special pierogi would be fried in butter and served with sautéed onions. Nana never shared her recipe and as far as I know she took it too her grave.  In college I dated a Polish man.  His babci wore the same housecoats and had the same pierogi pinching technique as my nana.  Like my nana, she never shared her recipe but she did introduce me to the sweet version of this Polish treat.  Plums, blueberries or even apples were staples in her household.  My relationship with this boyfriend probably lasted as long as it did because of her pierogi.
This version from Fine Cooking Magazine is close to the pierogi of my childhood. I was pleasantly surprised at my results.  I need to practice my pierogi pinching technique but I think even my nana would approve of the results.
For the filling:
1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil (I used olive oil)
3 medium white or yellow onions, finely chopped
10 ounces farmers cheese
For the dough:
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups warm water
For cooking and serving:
1-1/2 Tbs. butter or 3 Tbs. vegetable oil, for sautéing (optional)
melted butter, sautéed pancetta, sautéed onions or sour cream and snipped chives for serving (optional)

To make the filling:

  • Put the potatoes in a pot with just enough cold salted water to cover them and boil until soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter with the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.  Lower the heat and continue cooking until the onion is nicely browned and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. You may need to add 1 tablespoon or more of additional butter, as the mixture will absorb quite a bit of fat. Set aside to cool.  
  • When the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander and press lightly with a dry kitchen towel to dry them thoroughly. Return the potatoes to their hot pot and shake them dry.
  • Remove the pot from the heat; add the cooled onion mixture and the cheese. Mash the ingredients until they’re well blended and there are no more potato lumps; you may want to use a stiff whisk. Season  with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool while you roll out the pierogi dough.
To make the pierogi dough:
  • Put the flour in a large bowl.  Add the butter and using your fingers, work it into the flour until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal.  Add 1 3/4 cups of the warm water and stir with your fingers until the mixture begins to come together.  If the mixture is dry, you can add up to 1/4 cup more warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms a shaggy yet cohesive mass.
  • Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently knead it until just soft and elastic; the dough will not be completely smooth, but it should be easy to shape, with a Play-Doh-like consistency.

To shape and fill the pierogi

  • Fill a large pot with 5 qt. water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, using lightly floured hands, pinch of one tablespoon portions of the dough and roll them into balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. You should end up with 36 to 40 balls. With a small rolling pin or dowel, gently roll out each ball into a 3 to 3-1/2-inch round about 1/8 inch thick on a well-floured surface. Keep the dough balls and disks covered as you work so they won’t dry out.
  • Hold a round of dough flat in your palm, dust off the excess flour, and spoon a generous tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the dough. Fold the round in half to enclose the filling. Seal the pierogi by pulling the edges away from the filling and pinching them together. To ensure a proper seal, pinch the edge shut once more, working from one end to the other. Set the filled pierogi on a floured work surface or baking sheet and cover with a dry towel or plastic wrap until all are filled. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

To cook the pierogi:

  • When the pot of water is boiling, drop the pierogi in batches into the boiling water, stirring occasionally. When they float to the top, cook for another 2 to 4 minutes; bite into one to check that there’s no chalky line. Remove cooked pierogi from the water with a spider or slotted spoon and put them in a bowl. If you like, serve them immediately with melted butter.
  • To sauté the pierogi, heat the butter or vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Without crowding the pan, add the boiled, drained pierogi and cook until golden brown and puffy on both sides. Season with a little salt and pepper, and serve with sour cream and chives, if desired.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Because some things never go out of style:

mac n cheese


Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic American dishes.  During a recent trip to the United States we had international friends who made a point of trying this all-American dish.  However, they came back disappointed and not understanding what all of the fuss is about.  This is just proof that not all macaroni and cheese recipes are created equal.  And as any self-respecting foodie will tell you, cheese should never come in a dehydrated form.  That means those boxes of macaroni and cheese with their bright orange powdery “cheese” are a non-starter for true macaroni and cheese connoisseurs.  Besides, when the dish is so simple to make from scratch, why should you rely on those pre-made kits anyway?

Macaroni and cheese is family favorite at our house and I regularly cook but big batches of it.  I will make a big pan of it and we’ll eat it for dinner one night then enjoy it as leftovers throughout the week.  I’ve even taken to putting the macaroni in individual sized crocks and serving it at formal dinner parties to provide our guests with a little taste of America.

In addition to being easy to make, the recipe is quite flexible.  This recipe calls for cheddar, Swiss and Gorgonzola cheeses but you can easily substitute whichever cheeses you like or have available. This is especially convenient here in Albania where our cheese selection although limited yet growing, is never reliable.  A cheese might be available in the supermarket one week then disappear off of the shelves for months at a time.  Be flexible and experiment since you never know what new flavor combination you will discover and love!  I also like to bake my macaroni and cheese. Panko bread crumbs and a bit of butter make for a crunchy topping but you can also use fresh bread crumbs or even crackers.


1 pound uncooked small pasta of your choice (I like to use shells for individual   sized servings and penne when I am making it in a single dish).

2 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Generously coat an 8 x 10 casserole dish or 10 individual ramekins with cooking spray.  If you are using ramekins place them on a rimmed baking sheet.  Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  You do not want to over cook it since it will continue to cook in the oven.  When done, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Place the milk, bay leaves, and Tabasco sauce in a medium-sized sauce pan.  Heat over medium-high heat until scalding.  Do not allow to boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes then remove the bay leaves.
  • Place the flour in a small bowl.  And the milk to the flour and whisk continually until well blended and no lumps remain.
  • Return the milk and flour to the sauce pan.  Set over medium heat and whisk continually until thickened, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses.  Mix until blended then pour over the prepared pasta.  Season with salt and pepper and stir until well combined.
  • Pour the pasta into the prepared baking dishes.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Add the Panko crumbs and stir to coat.
  • Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the pasta.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.   Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

The dish can be prepared up to one day ahead of time.  Simply allow to come to room temperature (or adjust the baking time accordingly), sprinkle with the crumb topping, and bake.

Serves 10

Fondue Neuchateloise


Its national cheese fondue day so what better way to celebrate than with a piping hot pot of melted cheese and wine? (Actually, any night is a great one for fondue). Fondue was trendy in America back in the 1970s then seemed to fall out of favor for many years. But we love fondue in our house and are it regularly before it became trendy again. But here in Belgium, where fresh French Bread, crisp German Reisling wine and Swiss cheeses are all readily available, making this dish is a natural.


1 pound shredded cheese (I use a variety of Jarlsberg, Emmenthaler, and Greuyer)

3 tablespoons flour

1 garlic clove

1 3/4 cups dry Reisling wine

1/4 cup kirsch

salt & pepper to taste

  • Dredge the shredded cheese in flour.  I like to use a large Ziploc bag to combine everything.
  • Rub the inside of a fondue pot with sliced garlic.
  • Slowly heat the Reisling in the pot until small bubbles form.
  • Add the cheese, a handful at a time, until the cheese melts, stirring well after each addition.
  • Keep mixing until the mixture bubbles slightly.
  • Add the kirsch and season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove from heat and keep warm on a table warmer while eating.



Gratin Dauphinoise


So simple yet so delicious. That is the only way I can describe these cheesy and creamy potatoes from Food 52. So simply because you simply combine the ingredients, pop them in the oven and with the exception of a few stirrings, forget about them. And while the potatoes cook your entire house will fill with the fragrance of them roasting and bubbling away. It gives you the time to prepare the rest of your dinner—grilled steak is particularly good with this dish— or do nothing at all. In the end you’ll be rewarded with a delicious side dish that just make you want to skip the main course all together!


clove garlic, peeled and halved3 cups milk

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin (a mandoline works well for this)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2teaspoons coarse sea salt

Freshly ground white pepper to taste

1 cup grated Comté or other aged hard cheese

1/2cup crème fraîche

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub the inside of a large ceramic gratin dish with the garlic.
  • Arrange the potatoes in an even layer in the dish.
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the milk, eggs and salt then pour the mixture over the potatoes.
  • Sprinkle generously with pepper.
  • Bake, occasionally cutting the crust that forms on top and gently folding it into the potatoes, until the gratin is golden, about 55 minutes.
  • Remove the gratin dish from the oven and sprinkle with the grated cheese, then dab the gratin with crème fraîche.
  • Return the dish to the oven and bake until the top is very crisp and golden, about 15 minutes.
  • Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

 Serves 8

Fondue Neuchateloise


What better way to ring in the new year then with good friends and a bubbling pot of cheese fondue. We love fondue in our house and made it special (and ordinary) occasions before it became trendy again. But here in Belgium, where fresh French Bread, crisp German Reisling wine and Swiss cheeses are all readily available, making this dish is a natural. So in honor of New Years, here’s our old family recipe.

Happy 2015. May the new year be filled with health, happiness and lots of good food!


1 pound shredded cheese (I use a variety of Jarlsberg, Emmenthaler, and Greuyer)

3 tablespoons flour

1 garlic clove

1 3/4 cups dry Reisling wine

1/4 cup kirsch

salt & pepper to taste

  • Dredge the shredded cheese in flour.  I like to use a large Ziploc bag to combine everything.
  • Rub the inside of a fondue pot with sliced garlic.
  • Slowly heat the Reisling in the pot until small bubbles form.
  • Add the cheese, a handful at a time, until the cheese melts, stirring well after each addition.
  • Keep mixing until the mixture bubbles slightly.
  • Add the kirsch and season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove from heat and keep warm on a table warmer while eating.




Caprese Mac ‘n Cheese


If you love homemade macaroni and cheese but not the time it takes to make it, this is the dish for you. I think of it as middle of the week comfort food. The recipe is from Cooking Light so it is a healthier version of an old standby but it is so flavorful that you would never know that it is good for you. A combination of cheese, in this case mozzarella and parmesan makes the sauce taste rich while the roasted tomatoes add a deeper flavor than expected. And because the tomatoes are mixed right in, your kids will be so busy scooping up the pasta and sauce that they won’t even realize they are eating tomatoes. (At least that is the case in my house). Serve it with a salad—a Caprese salad would continue with the theme–and dinner is good to go.


2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 ounces uncooked penne, or other small tubular shaped pasta
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons panko crumbs
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Preheat the broiler to high.
  • Combine the tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 3 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Leave the broiler on.
  • Cook the pasta in a large saucepan according to package instructions. Drain and return to the saucepan.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in the flour then add in the milk, salt and pepper, stirring continually with a wire whisk.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer then good for 1 minute or  until the sauce has thickened.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheeses until blended.
  • Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and toss well.
  • Add the tomatoes and torn basil to the pasta and fold well to combine.
  • Spoon the pasta mixture into 4 6-ounce gratin dishes which have been coated with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle the top of each dish with the panko crumbs and the crushed red pepper.
  • Broil for 2 minute or until the panko is browned.
  • Garnish with additional basil leaves if desired.
Serves 4

Caramelized Onion & Apple Empanadas


Here’s the perfect autumn appetizer that combines fresh apples with sweet caramelized onions and sharp and tangy cheese. They are inspired by a tart recipe from William Sonoma which I have taken and made into a hand held appetizer. These little pies are so tasty and easy to make and they can be served hot or at room temperature. They are definitely going to be a part of my pre-Thanksgiving dinner spread.

I prefer to use tart apples since I think they contrast nicely with the sweetness of the onions. If your apples aren’t tart enough add a few squeezes of lemon juice. I used Beemster Royal cheese that I picked up at the cheese market in Almaaker, Netherlands. It is sharp and flavorful and my new favorite cheese. If you can’t find it substitute your favorite sharp cheddar or Gouda cheese instead. The results will be just as good.


Pie crusts

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large red onions, diced

2 tart apples, diced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (packed) shredded sharp cheese

1 egg white

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onions to the skillet and immediately reduce the heat to medium-low. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and have become a light golden brown.
  • Stir in the apples and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes.
  • Season with the thyme and salt and mix well.
  • Remove the onion – apple mixture from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts.
  • Roll out each pie crust to a 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Using a 4 inch round cookie cutter or juice glass, cut circles out of the dough. Continue re-rolling the dough until you have 20 rounds.
  • Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of the onion-apple mixture into the center of each circle. Fold the dough over to form a half moon and pinch the ends to close. The tines of a fork work well for this.
  • Place the filled empanadas onto the prepared baking sheets leaving 2 inches of space between each one.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Brush the egg wash over the top of each empanada.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the crusts are golden brown.
  • Allow to cool slightly before removing from the baking sheet.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yields: 20 2-inch empanadas

Mashed Potato Stuffed Peppers

photo 1-306

I love mashed potatoes. Whether chunky or creamy smooth they are the ultimate in comfort food. Confession time here: I’ve been known to eat a bowlful all by themselves for dinner. Yes, I like them that much. And mashed potatoes make a wonderfully easy dinner side dish for any number of meats. But if you want to dress up your potatoes a bit, or even have leftover ones from the night before that you want to repurpose, try these mashed potato stuffed peppers that are inspired by the Washington Post. They are easy and a great way to combine your starch and vegetable all into one dish and if you are already grilling, will cook in the same amount of time as most cuts of meat. If you like, you can experiment with the types of cheese you use. I love this Parmesan and Gouda version but Gorgonzola and mascarpone or Swiss and ricotta are also good. Just let your imagination go wild.


3 large russet potatoes

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)

1/4 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded aged Gouda cheese

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium red bell peppers

1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • Scrub the potatoes well and wrap them in aluminum foil. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until they are baked through when pierced with a fork. Alternatively, scrub the potatoes and bake them in the microwave according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Allow the potatoes to cool slightly then scoop out the insides and place them in a large bowl. Discard the skins.
  • Add the creme fraiche, milk, butter, cheese salt and pepper to the bowl and mix well until everything is combined and the potatoes are smooth and lump free.
  • Preheat a grill to medium-high.
  • Slice the peppers in half lengthwise, discarding the core and seeds.
  • Scoop the mashed potato mixture*** into the pepper halves, mounding the potatoes so that the peppers are overflowing.
  • Sprinkle with the paprika.
  • Place the peppers on the grill over and cook for 10-15 minutes until the potato is heated through and the peppers begin to char and turn soft.
  • Remove from the heat and serve.

*** If you are using leftover mashed potatoes, reheat them in the microwave until they are warmed through otherwise you may end up with cold pockets inside of your peppers.

Serves 4

Cheesy Baked Gnocchi w/ Pancetta & Sage

photo 2-245

It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

If you love baked macaroni and cheese but wanting something a little different and a bit faster? Then try these super fast and even easier gnocchi from Williams Sonoma. Making your own gnocchi is easy and fun but with so many good tasting gnocchi available in the markets I make sure I always have a package in my pantry for last minute dinners. Pancetta adds a bit of complexity to the dish cutting down on the richness of the cheese. I used sage as my aromatic but fresh minced thyme is also good.



2 13 ounce packages prepared gnocchi

1/4 pound pancetta, diced

2 tablespoons fresh minced sage

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1/2 pound aged cheese, rind removed, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (I used Chimay Grand Classique)

1/4 cup) panko crumbs

Freshly ground black pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish or pie plate.
  • Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large frying pan, saute the pancetta over medium heat until it starts to brown, about 4 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the sage, half-and-half, cheese and gnocchi.
  • Pour the gnocchi mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  • Season with the black pepper then sprinkle the panko crumbs evenly over the top of the gnocchi.
  • Place the dish in the oven and bake the gnocchi until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and serve.

Serves 4



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