Healthy Labneh with Honeycomb and Seeded Crackers

Homemade fat free labneh served with honeycomb and pistachios.

Homemade labneh has become a salvation. September has come barreling in with its usual madness. The days are whirlwinds of new routines, the sorrow as Summer fades, and the scramble to make sense of the new feel and rhythm of the season.

I am back to graduate school and this semester is packed. I’m only taking 3 classes, but they are all reading and writing heavy. This week alone was approx 400 pages of books and articles. It’s all wonderful stuff, and I am not the least bit unhappy about the subjects- it’s just well… whew! The tomes and pages are lined up at the end of my desk and they just haunt me. Reeeead meeeee. Reaaaad meee nooooooooow!

In another week or so I will get into my groove. I always do. Patterns will develop and a cadence and pace will fall in line and soon all will be in lock step. But for now- it’s more like organized chaos and that just freaks me out. Sometimes a lot, sometimes only a teeeny bit.

Cooking always brings me solace, and though it’s time away from demanding pages- it’s also a break from my thinking mind. There is quiet in my kitchen, and satisfaction in seeing something come to life in my hands as a result of time spent. There is something to that right? This is one of the reasons we like to cook, isn’t it? After putting in time and energy and your own particular flair into your food, there it is. On a plate. Looking all yummy and lovely. Look what I made!

And then, of course, you get to eat it.

Every day is theater. Every go round is a creation. Sure, not every day is award worthy, but hey, that’s okay- but I find it so soul satisfying. Sort of like coasting on a bike after long uphill climbs. What a blessing.

Homemade Labneh is a wonderful snack to have around. Making your own Labneh requires little more than time. Somewhere along the line I acquired a yogurt strainer (which I also use to make homemade ricotta btw). I dumped in a carton of Greek yogurt, covered it, and forgot it over the weekend. After 2 days I had lovely thick “cheese”. A very similar consistency to cream cheese with 0% saturated fat. Awesomeness. Nibble on it for your breakfast, or dress it up, like here, when you want to impress.

Rosemary fig seeded crackers

For now it’s the perfect snack for me to nibble on while I read. The Seeded Fig Rosemary Crackers above are the perfect accompaniment. I made these for a post earlier this year. I keep an unsliced loaf in the freezer and then defrost, slice and bake off when needed. There recipe is here. The beauty of that? I can slice off just as much or little as I need. (just a nice little aside).

The honeycomb I brought back from Thailand. Yes, it did ooze a bit into my luggage. Yes, I did have it wrapped up, but what can I say? It’s worth it. I am a bit excited about honey these days. I’m falling in love with it the way a sommelier can fall in love with Pinot Noirs. They are all so different tasting and aromatic. Sort of like golden jewels of deliciousness. My friend Gail Dosick has a friend who started a bee colony not too long ago (Thank you! the world needs people like you!) and I’m hoping I might get a bit of a taste of her first harvest. I hear it’s floral and divine. {fingers crossed}

Here come the holidays. This is a great go to. Lovely and rich tasting- but healthy and wonderful.

So no real recipe- like I said, strain a container of 0% Greek yogurt through a fine sieve or cheesecloth in the fridge for a day or so and you’re good to go. If you can’t find honeycomb regular honey is just fine.

Happy early Fall my darlings!

Rustic Apple Tart with Dulce de Leche Glaze

Apple Tart with slices of Roelli Cheese Dunbarton Blue- a cheddar Blue combination.

I’m not trying to rush Fall by baking with apples, I just had to create a vehicle for this gorgeous cheddar/blue cheese that I found. I may be crazy but I just think this cheese is gorgeous! It has a beautiful ombre golden color with an interesting and striking line of moldy blue cheese running through. It is of the earth, something created in time with an artisanal hand- a creation. If this was granite I would use it on my countertops.

 Roelli Cheese is located in Wisconsin, the land of dairy and cheese. The family heralds from Switzerland and for years produced high production cheeses of little note. In 2006 the newer generation took on the challenge of creating small production artisanal cheeses and experimenting with different and exciting combinations- this is one of them.  The cheeses are handmade and spend 4 months in the creamery’s underground cellar to mature. The gorgeous blue vein comes from an inoculation of Penicillium roqueforti, which is introduced a week into the the aging process.

The result is a dense cheddar with a gorgeous earthy quality. It’s not the sharp variety you find in mass plastic packs at the market, but rather it’s meaty and woodsy, it’s toothsome and delicately aromatic. The blue adds just a fine layer of muskiness to the cheese, which makes a flavor profile that is pure genius.

What got me to make an apple tart had to with with the fact that my Dad has been on my mind a lot lately. He passed almost 4 years ago now, and from time to time I just miss him. He comes around in my thoughts and sits on my shoulder and just hangs with me for a time. This was one of those weeks where he has been my ethereal companion. He was the one that got me thinking about an apple tart.

Phil could get into his sweets. He would deny it, but I remember many a morning watching him eat Entenmen’s coffee crumb cake with a pat of butter on each bite. Remarkably he did not die with high cholesterol, in fact he never had a cholesterol problem and tended to be too lean. A fact that I still find to be astonishing. Those genes I did not inherit, (I have my Mother’s Latina hips).

Dad liked apple pie fine, but he liked his with a slice of cheddar cheese on top. Something I never, I mean NEVER, understood as a kid. Ice cream- sure! but cheese? A sweet should have a sweet, no? Not a savory! As you can see I’ve come around.

The tart out of the oven and glazed while still warm.

Typically I make a nice old fashioned crust. In the old days when there was Crisco in my kitchen, I would have used that. I really can’t recommend it as a nutritionist, but it does make the flakiest crust. As always I tilt more to the healthier, so I did a little research to find a “better” crust. I landed on Eating Well’s site to this recipe which uses a little canola oil and low-fat sour cream, which lowers the saturated fat level and reduces the calories by 60%. This recipe also exchanges a little whole wheat flour for the white. Not bad- and the crust was quite enjoyable.

I won’t kid you, it does not rival the classic, but but it yielded a satisfying crunch and texture. The whole wheat is also a better foil to the cheese, and the caramel in the dulce de leche. A full on whole wheat crust can be too tough for me, I found this to be a healthy happy medium.

The tart is pretty easy to make. The crust is rolled out and hand rough formed. To be a good ecologist, I place mine on recycled brown paper bag “parchment”.  Layers of apples march down the middle, and then a healthy sprinkling of sugar and a few dots of butter get layered on top.  Then into the oven it goes.

A slice of apple tart with the gorgeous cheddar-blue on top

Phil would have liked this recipe. He pretty much liked hippie versions of things, and the crust makes this tart read this way. He could poo-poo desserts, claiming the evils of sugar, but I can imagine him having at least 2 slices. Probably with extra cheese. It’s that good.

Rustic Apple Tart with Dulce de Leche Glaze
makes two tarts, serves 8
This is as simple as they get. Choose a good baking apple that is tart with good body, and don’t skimp on the sugar on the apples either- it’s one of the best parts.
1 recipe for Healthy Whole Wheat Crust, found here
2 large baking apples, peeled and sliced into .25″ half rounds
1c granulated sugar
2T butter, diced
3T dulce de leche, my recipe can be found here
.25# Dunbarton Blue, that can be ordered here
Preheat oven to 425˚
Roll out the dough into two 6″ x 12″ strips and place onto lined baking sheet.
Lay down the apples, then sprinkle tops with sugar and dot evenly with the butter.
Crimp the sides of the tarts in to finish.
Bake for approximately 30 mins- keeping an eye on the apples. 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Prepare dulce de leche glaze by adding 1t of water and stirring smooth. Brush glaze over the apples.
Once completely cool, slice the cheese and lay on top of the tart and serve.
Best served and room temperature.

Rogue Creamery and Magical Moments: Broiled Tomatoes with Smoked Blue Cheese

Rogue Creamery Smoked Blue and Roelli Cheese Dunbarton Blue (Cheddar Blue mix)

Right before I headed out to Portland for the IFBC conference, I was roaming around the Flat Iron District and got drawn into Beechers Cheese Shop like a magnet to metal. It’s a cheese lover’s play pen. At every turn is a gorgeous case full of delights, crackers, jams, books and displays. Wonderland! And in the back is a take out section for way too awesome grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ve been in before and walked out in bliss with a perfectly crusty hot gooey grilled cheddar with fig jam. Had you been able to see the look on my face you would have thought me tranced- which I was.

I had just come from the Union Square Farmer’s Market, which is only steps away, with a cache of New Jersey beefsteak tomatoes and a few yellow ones too. Man do I love August’s bounty. I’ve been trying to slim down a tad, so standing amongst rows of delectable cheeses is extremely dangerous.

I decided to then just innocently do a little reconnaissance, you know, for FUTURE posts, and then just like that- I became overcome with lust. My little eye spied a gorgeous cheese from Oregon- the above pictured Rogue Creamery Smoked Blue. After a small tease of a taste, I had to have a chunk. While standing at the counter I overheard another cheese fool wax poetically about the Dunbarton Blue, which is not only beautiful like a watercolor, but remarkable in ways I promises to explain in an upcoming post.

Tomatoes and Cheese ready for the broiler

What was even MORE remarkable though, was just a few days later, during a speed tasting even at the IFBC conference- who came ambling over to our table, but one of the owners of Rogue Creamery with this EXACT same cheese! Such a sweet woman, who so sweetly and quietly promoted her cheese, that I had to jump up and start blathering away about it (my NYer comes out at the most interesting of moments). I think I startled her a little bit- but seriously- this is good stuff and and should NOT be underplayed in my opinion.

Presenting the Smoked Blue Cheese
I’m a bit of a sucker for coincidences- so I took this as a sign from the heavens that this cheese and I are meant to be. I know this is a silly statement- but in a way, it’s very true, and I am grateful.

I think what’s best about this story is that it’s just affirms for me that the good things in life are not that complicated. Once I stopped putting things off, or restraining myself for made up reasons- that the goodness began to generate it’s own natural flow.

One of my favorite quotes about success is: “Success is when opportunity meets preparedness”. I’ve always attributed this to the work place, but I am being reminded on a daily basis, in myriads of small ways, that successes are all around us.

I used to be very successful in business, and had all the attributes that come with that- but I didn’t have these quiet, soul fulfilling moments. What’s even more exciting is that they come one after the other! I don’t seek them out, I have no intentions when I walk out the door, or click on a new blog, or start a conversation while standing on a line somewhere- but the riches are spilling out all around me constantly.

After returning home with my tomatoes and cheese I set about making this simple afternoon treat. Great on it’s own or as a side dish, but I think it’s also great to serve with cocktails or a glass of wine.

I simply sliced my tomatoes nice and thickly, sprinkled them with some of the cheese and ran it under the broiler for a few minutes- just to warm and sweeten the tomatoes, and melt the cheese. A quick sprinkle of flaked salt and a grind of pepper went down before topping it all off with some paper thin sliced red onion.

Delving into serendipitous bounty.

I hope these little magical moments happen for you. I want this to happen for you. As the school year begins and we start hurtling toward the end of the calendar year- my wish is that we are able to enjoy these moments of joy and deliciousness.