Fromage Fort Cheese Spread

Fromage Fort is a French Cheese Spread consisting of leftover cheeses blended together with wine.  The flavor of the different cheeses blends together and becomes stronger over time.  I used Reggiano Parmesan, Asiago and Pecorino Romano because that is what I had on hand.

Fromage Fort Cheese Spread My friend Leif is a wood working artisan who creates beautiful hand crafted pieces like the amazing cheese board in these photos.  I had planned on redoing the photos of a cheese board post I did a few years back.  I recently saw a picture of an amazing cheese board that Leif posted on Instagram and decided that this would be a great opportunity for both of us.  I asked him if I could use his cheese board in my photo shoot and that he could use the photos as well.  He said of course and we were both very stoked!

Fromage Fort Cheese Spread The photos turned out great but when Leif saw them he said, “Where’s my board?”  Haha, I had it buried under all the food.  Woops!  So I told him that I would do another photo shoot to showcase his beautiful board properly.

Fromage Fort Cheese Spread A few days later I met up with a couple of friends at the farmer’s market.  We were talking about cheese and one of them had mentioned Fromage Fort.  I hadn’t heard of it before and she explained that you take all your leftover cheese to make a whipped dip out of them.  Right then, I immediately knew what I was going to make for my reshoot of Leif’s cheese board.  I looked around the web for inspiration and found Jacque Pepin’s recipe and adapted my recipe from his.

Fromage Fort Cheese Spread You can serve this spread with a variety of wines like a Soave, Pinto Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, White Rioja or a Sancerre for a white or a Pinot Noir, Tempranillo or a Red Rioja for a red.

Fromage Fort Cheese Spread Fromage Fort Cheese Spread Recipe:

Approx. 2 Cups

  • 1/2 Cup Reggiano Parmesan – finely shredded and packed
  • 1/2 Cup Asiago – finely shredded and packed
  • 1/2 Cup Pecorino Romano – finely shredded and packed
  • 1/4 Cup White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand which has strong notes of grapefruit)
  • 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • Dash Black Pepper
Milder Variation
  • Add in 4 oz. Chevre Cheese
Spicy Maple Pecan
  • 2 Cups Raw Pecans
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Other additions options:
  • Crostini or French Bread
  • Pears – sliced
  • Quince Jam
  • Olives – your choice
  • Manchego Cheese Wedge
Garnish
  • Sprigs of Rosemary
Instructions:
Fromage Fort

Finely shred the three kinds of cheese, measure and add to a food processor along with the wine, olive oil, garlic and pepper.  Puree until creamy.

Pecans

Add everything to a cast iron or a saute pan and turn the on stove onto medium heat.

As soon as it starts to bubble, stir continuously.

In about 3 – 6 minutes they will start to get sticky.  When the moisture is ALL gone, turn off the heat.
Spread onto parchment paper or a baking sheet.  Don’t worry about them sticking together, when cooled you can separate them.  Wait until they are completely cooled.
Assemble

Arrange everything on a wood board or platter except the cheese spread and jam.  Serve the spread and jam in small bowls.

Fromage Fort Cheese Spread

 

 

Black Sesame Crumb Cake

This decadent Black Sesame Crumb Cake is like no other.  The black sesame seeds add a subtle kick to the overall flavor.  The Crème Fraiche adds a delightful rich quality.  There is no shortage of crumb topping and I wouldn’t have it any other way!  It goes perfectly alongside a cup of tea, coffee or even a glass of wine.

Black Sesame Crumb Cake Valentine’s day is right around the corner, so I decided to create this decadent black sesame crumb cake as a special treat to celebrate the holiday of love.

Robby and I were married about 2 years ago on March 18th, 2015.  Something you may not know is that Robby and I both grew up in Santa Monica and met through mutual friends when we were teenagers.  He was in a punk rock band with my first boyfriend. At the time there were around ten of us that would hang out together and go to punk rock and reggae shows.

Black Sesame Crumb Cake After my first boyfriend and I broke up, I didn’t hang out with them anymore and ended up moving to Maui, then on to Oregon.  A few years later, Robby had moved to Boston.  Many years would pass until Robby and I would see each other again.  In 2007 I moved back to Venice and a year later Robby moved back as well.  We hadn’t seen each other since we were teenagers yet it seemed like no time had passed.  You can read about how we ended up together in this post.

Black Sesame Crumb Cake Of course, there were a lot of things that we originally didn’t know about each other and have discovered since we have been reconnected.  One of the things we discovered was that we both went to the same elementary school and that we were both obsessed with Hostess crumb cakes, so I thought I would come up a healthier version that we could both enjoy for Valentine’s day.   I replaced white cane sugar with coconut sugar due to Robby’s cane sugar allergy and I used wheat free flours because of my wheat allergy.  It was a tough recipe to nail down but I finally did it!

Black Sesame Crumb Cake Five attempts later, I had my recipe dialed in and it turned out phenomenal and quite addicting.  My favorite way to serve this crumb cake is with cream but it is also insane with ice cream or whipped cream.

Black Sesame Crumb Cake Black Sesame Crumb Cake Recipe:

8 to 12 servings

Crumb Topping
  • 1 1/4 Cups Coconut Sugar – packed
  • 3/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) Butter
  • 3/4 Cup Millet Flour
  • 3/4 Cup White Rice Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Oat Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Ground Black Sesame Seeds
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Cake
  • 3/4 Cup White Rice Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Oat Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Millet Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Ground Black Sesame Seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Tapioca Flour
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) Butter – room temperature
  • 1 1/3 Cups Coconut Sugar
  • 2 Chia Eggs – 2 tablespoons ground chia seeds whisked with 5 tablespoons water
  • 4oz. (1/2 Cup) Creme Fraiche
  • 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar
Instructions:
To start

Grease your 9 1/2 inch springform pan with butter then line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sesame Seeds/Chia Seeds
Add the seeds to the bowl of a food processor or coffee grinder. Pulse the seeds in a food processor until finely ground.  Set aside.  Do the same with the chia seeds.
Crumb Topping

in a small sauce-pan, melt the butter on medium-low.  While butter is melting, in a medium bowl, mix together the flours, sugar, sesame seeds,  and salt.  When the butter is melted add it to the flour and toss with a fork until moist clumps form. Set aside.

 Cake
In a large bowl, add the flours, sesame powder, tapioca flour, baking soda and salt.  Whisk together really well.  Set aside.
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  In a small bowl, add the 5 tablespoons of water and quickly whisk in the 2 tablespoons of ground chia seeds until it becomes gelatinous and then set aside.
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In a food processor, cream the butter and sugar together well and then add the apple cider vinegar and vanilla.  Add the chia egg to the butter and pulse until just incorporated.  Next, add the creme fraiche and mix in.  Add the flour in two stages and roughly mix then dump into the large bowl that the flour was in and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands.
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Add half of the cake batter into the prepared springform pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the crumb topping evenly on top of the batter then plop spoonfuls of batter around the top of the crumbs and very carefully spread the batter over the crumbs.  You need a little bit of patience but don’t worry it will come together.
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Put the cake onto a cookie sheet and place into the preheated oven on the middle rack in the middle of the oven.  Bake for 60 minutes.  Carefully remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for at least 1 hour but it is best to let it cool completely. The cake will still be cooking as it cools.
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Black Sesame Crumb Cake

Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad with Spicy Maple Pecans and a Toasted Walnut Feta Sherry Vinaigrette

This is a beautiful healthy salad that will absolutely satisfy the soul.  This vibrant Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad is absolutely intoxicating!  The subtle spiciness from the arugula and pecans blends seamlessly with the freshness of the cucumbers and blueberries.  The luscious walnut vinaigrette ties this wonderful salad together.

Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad My mom was here for a visit last week, which is always a treat.  We had a couple of crazy days during this visit that started with our drive to Los Gatos for a photo shoot.  We were on Highway 17 and all of a sudden the traffic came to a complete stop.  I looked at my maps app and noticed it was red for a very long way.

 The Waze app told us to get off on Bear Creek road.  It took us over thirty minutes just to get to the exit.  We finally got off of highway 17 and drove for about 20 minutes on Bear Creek road in an attempt to circumvent the traffic.  When we got to where Bear Creek connects back onto highway 17, we saw that highway patrol had closed the on-ramp.

So we decided to try to continue further on Bear Creek road, but Waze directed us right back to the closed on-ramp where we started.  I started to panic at this point because the cell reception isn’t very strong in that area of the woods and I had less than a quarter tank of gas.

Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad I decided to call Robby because he knows these roads pretty well from his daily commute to San Jose.  He was able to get us back on the Highway right after the closure.  We really lucked out because most of the traffic ended up on the service road next to highway 17 and it was backed up for miles with cars trying to get back on the highway further down than where we got back on.  We were so relieved when we finally made it to Los Gatos because we believed that the escapade was over.

The photo shoot went well and then we decided to head back home.  I looked at my maps app and noticed everything was red.  I called Robby again and he said it looked like we could drive through Saratoga on highway 9 to highway 35.  We drove up highway 9 for 25 minutes only to find out that it was closed before the connection to highway 35.  I started to freak out at this point because it is getting dark, I have night blindness and all I had to eat were some French fries.

The crazy thing is that the maps app didn’t show that highway 9 was closed.  So we drove back down to Saratoga and decided that we would get something to eat and wait for the traffic to improve.  Come to find out, a guy had robbed a bank in Scotts Valley and the police chased him down highway 17.  He had crashed into a number of cars during the chase, had a shootout with the police and ditched his car.  So, there was an armed and dangerous fugitive hiding in the woods where we were driving through.

Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad We decided to get a room in Saratoga and stay the night.  I had no change of clothing, no toothbrush or anything for that matter.  We left at 6 am the next morning and as soon as we got home I went back to sleep for a few more hours.  This experience has taught me to always keep my gas tank full and to keep food, water and other essentials in an emergency bag in my car.  I highly recommend you do the same.

This salad would have been the perfect lunch to pack as it is a healthy and satisfying salad chocked full of energy producing vegetables.  The salad contains a good amount of B vitamins that are very helpful in stressful situations.  Cucumbers are known to ease anxiety and buffer the damaging effects of stress.  There is also a fair amount of water content from the cucumbers, blueberries and arugula.  Arugula is made up of 90% water and is known to keep you hydrated.  The pecans have a high protein content that is immune boosting.

Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad I served a light Pinot Noir with this salad but it is also wonderful with a Pinot Gris.

Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad Recipe:

4 – 6 servings

  • 8 Cups Arugula
  • 2 Cups Spicy Pecan – recipe below
  • 1/2 Cucumber – thinly sliced or cubed
  • 1 Cup Blueberries – or to taste
  • 1/2 Cup Red Cabbage – thinly sliced or roughly chopped
  • 1/4 Red Onion – thinly sliced or minced
  • Feta – crumbled – to taste
Toasted Walnut Feta Sherry Vinaigrette – whole recipe
Approx. 3/4 Cup
  • 1/2 Cup Toasted Walnut Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons + 2 Teaspoons Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Small Clove Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Shallot – minced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Feta
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper
Spicy Pecan
  • 2 Cups Raw Pecans
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Instructions:
Dressing
Add everything to a food processor or blender and puree.
 Transfer finished dressing to your bottle or jar of choice and refrigerate.
Pecans

Add everything to a cast iron or a saute pan and turn the on stove onto medium heat.

As soon as it starts to bubble or get hot, stir continuously.

In about 3 – 6 minutes they will start to get sticky.  When all moisture is gone, turn off the heat.
Spread onto parchment paper or a baking sheet.  Don’t worry about them sticking together, when cooled you can separate them.  Wait until they are completely cooled.
Salad
Either mix everything together or layer them on a large platter starting with the arugula.
Dress individual salads to your liking.
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Arugula Blueberry Feta Salad Health Benefits:

Arugula is a super food that cleanses the blood and detoxifies cells. It is an extremely high anti-oxidant making it a free radical absorbent and increases oxygen levels. It has a cooling effect on the body and contains 90% water so it keeps your body hydrated making it a great addition to your diet in the summer heat. Arugula has very high levels of chlorophyll, which helps with liver damage and contains phytochemicals that fight cancer-causing carcinogens. The leaves have an excellent source of vitamin A helping with vision, skin and respiratory health. It has good levels of vitamin C that is great for cell and skin health.  Arugula also contains decent levels of minerals, especially copper and iron. It has high amounts of calcium and vitamin K that strengthens the bones. Its high fiber content helps with colon health and reduces chronic inflammation as well. It is high in folate (B9), which helps to slow down the aging factors of the brain and supports your metabolism.

Blueberries are high in Vitamin C.  They are a superfood and are one of the highest in antioxidants compared to most fruits.  They are a great source of fiber.  The fiber helps reduce abdominal fat, lower cholesterol and helps lower glucose.  They are great for brain health, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and they are known to heal damaged brain cells.  So they help you keep your memory intact.

Almond Lime Italian Soda

This Almond Lime Cream Soda will satisfy your soda and sweet tooth needs without all the refined sugar or corn syrup.  The almond extract combined with lime is an incredible flavor combination and the maple syrup and coconut sugar add wonderful caramel notes.

Almond Lime Italian Soda I have been in love with Italian soda ever since I bought my restaurant many years ago.  I bought my restaurant from a woman who had turned an old house into a deli and she had offered a long list of Italian sodas that I continued to serve once I took over. One of my favorite flavors was almond topped with cream. I haven’t had one in so long and I was craving something sweet, so I thought about the ingredients that I had on hand and had one of those ah-ha moments.I’m m going to try to make a healthy version of an Italian soda.  I made the recipe below but without the lime.  It was missing something and as soon as I added lime I knew I was onto something great!  This drink has been my obsession for a few months now, so I thought it was time to share it with you.  It is great with or without the cream but I love anything creamy so I usually add a lot.

Almond-Lime-Italian-Soda-9 Almond Lime Italian Soda Recipe:

2 – 4 serving

  • 3 Cups Sparkling Water – Sodastream or store-bought
  • 1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Coconut Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Lime Juice – fresh Squeezed
  • 1 Tablespoon Almond Extract
  • 3 Pinches of Nutmeg
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick per glass
  • Splash of Cream, Half n Half or Coconut Milk – optional
* Half and half will separate a little but don’t worry, it’s due to the carbonation and lime which doesn’t affect the taste or texture.
Instructions:

Pour the sugar into the sparkling water.  Stir, then let sit for a minute to dissolve. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.  Add a cinnamon stick to each glass (crushed ice) and pour the soda into the glasses then drink it as is or top with cream.

Gorgonzola Rosemary Pesto Cream Sauce over Spaghetti

If you love cream sauce and Gorgonzola like I do, you will love this Gorgonzola Rosemary Pesto Cream Sauce.  I sautéed shallots in red wine and then added some cream along with my Gorgonzola Rosemary Pesto to make this glorious sauce.  I used arrowroot to thicken it so it is naturally gluten free.  It is a rich and decadent sauce perfect for those cold winter nights.  Serve it with a simple green salad and a glass of red wine and you will have yourself a lovely meal.

Rosemary Gorgonzola Pesto Cream Sauce We have had quite a bit of rain this year and it has been much appreciated!  Sometimes it’s nice to be stuck inside but after a couple of weeks, one starts to yearn for the sun.  Don’t get me wrong, I know we have it easy compared to all my friends in Oregon but it’s all relative, right?

This weekend was so incredibly gorgeous that we were able to have a nice picnic on the beach with a few of our closest friends!  Beto and clan, as well as Erin, Leif and Taj, all met up at our house on Sunday before heading down to the beach.  Beto brought a new portable grill and grilled up various meats including Jill’s homemade shish-kabobs.  We had a nice bottle of wine, pesto, Robby’s sourdough bread, my famous shortbread cookies that lasted about 5 minutes and an assortment of salads and cheese.  It was the perfect day and the kids had a blast!
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Have you ever used arrowroot powder before?  It’s a fantastic thickener.  I prefer it to cornstarch because I know it is not going to be GMO.  Even though Arrowroot is a starch, it has one of the highest amounts of protein compared to any other starches or flours.  I have used it for many years with great results.  It thickens without getting gummy and it leaves no trace of flavor.  It can become slimy if you use too much, though.

These are just some of the health benefits.

  • It is super high in potassium, which is great for heart health.
  • It increases bile production that helps lower cholesterol.
  • Its high Iron content is helpful for circulation.
  • It has an alkalizing effect that helps balance the body’s pH, which is so important for keeping inflammation down.
  • Its fiber content is fantastic for the digestion and weight control.
  • As if that’s not enough, it’s full of vitamin B that helps boost your metabolism.

I believe that arrowroot is undervalued.  If it is new to you, I recommend trying it out. I think you will like it.  It works wonderfully in gluten-free baking, in a sauce, gravy or as a soup thickener.  It is best added towards the end as it can lose its thickening properties if over cooked.

Here’s a great explanation from “One Green Planet

Gorgonzola Rosemary Pesto Cream Sauce This sauce pairs nicely with a light Pinot Noir or a Tempranillo for a red wine. For a white, I recommend a Sauvignon Blanc.

Gorgonzola Rosemary Pesto Cream Sauce Gorgonzola Rosemary Pesto Cream Sauce Recipe:
  • 1 Large Shallot
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1/3 Cup Dry Red Wine
  • 2 Cups Half and Half or Milk – or both
  • 1 Recipe Gorgonzola Rosemary Pesto – recipe below
  • 1 Tablespoon Arrowroot Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
Pesto
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Rosemary Leaves
  • 1/3 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 2 Tablespoons Gorgonzola Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil – or to taste
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 Small Clove Garlic
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Garnish
  • Crumbled gorgonzola
  • Sprig of Rosemary
Instructions:
 Pesto
Remove the leaves off of the rosemary stems and add to a food processor or blender.  Measure everything else and add to the rosemary, then puree until really smooth.
Make sure to scrape the sides down at least once.
Sauce

 Add the shallots to a sauté pan with olive oil and sauté on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, add the garlic, continue cooking for 5 – 7 more minutes until the garlic starts to brown.

Continue to check the shallots and when they are soft, add the white wine.

Cook until wine is reduced and syrupy.

While the shallots are cooking, put a large pot of salted water on and bring to a boil.
 When the wine has reduced, add the half and half or milk to the onions.  When the half and half/milk is warm, whisk in the pesto until it is dissolved, then the arrowroot powder, salt and pepper.  Turn the sauce to a low simmer and cook the pasta according to the package directions or until al dente.
Spoon the sauce over the drained and rinsed pasta.
*Make sure to rinse the pasta.  Brown rice pasta is very starchy.
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Gorgonzola Rosemary Pesto Cream Sauce Health benefits:

Rosemary is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants that stimulate the immune system and is good for your brain. It contains carnosic acid that can significantly promote eye health and fight off free radical damage in the brain and helps protect the brain from stroke and neurodegeneration conditions like Alzheimer’s. It also helps with normal aging on the brain by enhancing memory and concentration.  Rosemary has anti-inflammatory compounds that help to reduce asthma attacks and is rich in dietary fiber, which improves the digestion.  It is super high in vitamin A and for optimal vision, you need just a few leaves a day to almost meet the requirement.  It blocks estrogen which helps prevent breast cancer and it helps with liver function.

*It may interfere with some medications like Lithium, diuretics, diabetes medication, high blood pressure and blood-thinning medications.

*If you are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid large quantities.