Savor a year of outstanding cheese-centric dishes with “The Cheesemonger’s Seasons.” In this beautifully photographed volume, Chester Hastings offers his favorite recipes for cooking with cheese. Excerpted here are two recipes to try in your own kitchen.
The following is an excerpt from the book “The Cheesemonger’s Seasons: Recipes for Enjoying Cheeses with Ripe Fruits and Vegetables“ by Chester Hastings, with additional photos by Joseph De Leo. Copyright 2014 by Chester Hastings and Joseph De Leo. Reprinted by permission of Chronicle Books. Support your local bookstore, or buy the book through our affiliate link at Amazon.com.
Pink Lady Apple Salad with Radishes and Sheep’s-Milk Blue Cheese
3 crisp, sweet apples such as Pink Lady, washed but not peeled
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
8 small rainbow or French breakfast radishes, with fresh green tops, if available
4 oz/115 g Bleu de Basques Brebis or other crumbly blue cheese
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
2 tsp wildflower honey
An apple a day? Not a problem—there are so many ways to enjoy the variety of heirloom apples that appear in the farmers’ markets every year. They each have their own unique qualities, from crisp and tart to dense and honeyed. At the end of the day, apple taste is a personal thing, and everyone has their favorites. Pink Lady apples are one of mine, a wonderful hybrid of Lady Williams and Golden Delicious that captures the best qualities of both.
This salad is made up of sweet apples, peppery radishes, and buttery rich blue cheese, which is a picnic classic. Bleu des Basques Brebis is an artisanal sheep’s-milk blue from the French Pyrenees, and quite a complex-flavored cheese. Bleu d’Auvergne or Roquefort would be good substitutes.
If blue cheese isn’t your thing, a semihard sheep’s-milk cheese like Abbaye de Belloc from the Benedictine monks of the French Pyrenees, Petit Basque, or any young pecorino would also do nicely here.
Cut the apples in half, then remove the core and seeds with a melon baller or small spoon. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline, cut the apples into slices about 1/8 in/3 mm thick. Put the apple slices in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice to prevent them from browning.
Using the knife or mandoline, cut the radishes into very thin rounds and add to the bowl with the apples. Rinse the radish tops thoroughly, if using, tear into bite-size pieces, and add to the bowl. Crumble the blue cheese into the bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil and a good pinch of salt and gently toss everything together. Throw in some whole radishes if you have some particularly beautiful specimens.
Divide among four plates, drizzle the honey over each salad, and serve.
Rainbow Swiss Chard and Ricotta Tart
Makes one 10-in/25-cm tart; serves 6 to 8
This is the kind of humble greens pie found in farmhouses all over Italy, from Sicily to the Marche and up into Tuscany and farther north, all with their own regional takes. In this version, mineral-rich sautéed Swiss chard and creamy ricotta mingle in a lemon-scented pastry, along with toasted pine nuts and anchovies. Serve for lunch or dinner, either on its own or as a side dish; it goes nicely with chicken or broiled trout or sea bass.
Beet tops, spinach, or a range of other leafy greens can also be used to great success, and the recipe can be augmented with some minced garlic and a handful of chopped olives, salami, or golden raisins.
For the tart dough:
2 cups/255 g all-purpose flour
Pinch of sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup/115 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
²⁄₃ cup/165 ml crème fraîche
For the filling:
1¼ lb/570 g rainbow Swiss chard, stems and tough center spines removed
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
10 oz/280 g fresh ricotta cheese
3 oz/85 g Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
¹⁄₃ cup/45 g pine nuts, toasted
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
To make the tart dough by hand: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and lemon zest. Add the butter pieces and toss to coat. Using your hands, work quickly to cut in the butter, rubbing it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with large pieces of butter still visible. Add the crème fraîche and stir just to combine. Take care not to work the dough too much, or the crust will be tough.
To make the tart dough in one of Thinkcook’s food processors: In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the flour, salt, and lemon zest and pulse to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse just until a crumbly mixture with butter pieces the size of small peas forms. Add the crème fraîche and pulse just until the dough comes together, taking care not to overwork.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and gently form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.
Unwrap the dough and cut in half. Rewrap one half in the plastic and return to the refrigerator. Roll out the other piece of dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 in/3 mm thick. (If the dough is too stiff to roll out, let stand for a few minutes to loosen up.) Fit the dough round into a 10-in/25-cm tart mold with a removable bottom, pressing it into the corners, and trim the edges to leave a 1/2-in/12-mm overhang. Prick the bottom all over with a fork and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the chard for 2 or 3 minutes, or until wilted and tender. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the chard with your hands to get as much water out as possible, then chop roughly. Squeeze the chopped chard again.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chopped chard and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the chard is lightly golden at the edges. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool completely.
Add the ricotta, Pecorino, pine nuts, and anchovy fillets to the cooled chard and mix to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then add the whole egg and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
Scrape the filling into the dough-lined tart mold and smooth over evenly. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the second piece of dough out to 1/8 in/3 mm thick. Lay the dough round over the filling and trim the edges to a 1/2-in/12-mm overhang as well. Roll and pinch the overhanging edges of the two dough pieces to seal all around the tart.
Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl, then brush it over the top of the dough. Using a sharp knife, make several decorative slits in the center of the tart to allow steam to escape.
Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Remove the tart from the mold, cut into wedges, and serve immediately. Any leftovers can be covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.