Michael Romano, chef at Union Square Cafe in New York, makes a popular dish that is ordered as an appetizer or side dish. Romano’s dish, Creamy Polenta with Mascarpone, stars the traditional Italian cornmeal pudding with mascarpone cheese, embellished with toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola. Featured at both lunch and dinner, it sells for $4.50.
Mascarpone could be called the new-wave cheese of the 90s. It’s fantastic stuff, and really tastes great. Italian in origin, the fresh, buttery-rich unripened cheese with a texture of thickened cream was once available only as an imported item. Now it can be obtained from U.S. cheese makers. Mascarpone provides an excellent, simple accompaniment to fresh berries. The classic dessert Strawberries Romanoff Mascarpone, which dates to the 16th century, couples the cheese with strawberries, orange-flavored liqueur, sugar and kummel liqueur.
Finally, cheese paired with nuts and wine or liqueur serves as an after-dinner tidbit. For example, Smoky Jewels figs, dates or apricots stuffed with smoked Edam, Swiss, Cheddar or blue cheese and broiled) are easy to pr and provide a nice end to a
(Cynthia Pawleyn, Hotel Griffon,
San Francisco) Yield: 10 croutons
Flour 2/3 cup Butter 3 Tbsp. Chevre, crumbled 5 oz. Egg white, lightly beaten 1
Coarse sea salt as needed Method: Combine flour, butter and chevre in bowl or food processor into smooth dough. Roll mixture into logs the diameter of a quarter coin. Chill, wrapped in waxed paper, for at least 1 hour. Cut logs into coin shapes about 1/4-in. thick. Prick with fork; brush with egg white. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes until light brown. Cool and serve in salads or soups.
PETER’S TWO CHEESE TERRINE
(Chef David Foegley,
Peter’s Restaurant, Indianapolis) Yield: 12 servings
Cheddar cheese block, 7-x-3-in. 20 oz. Blue cheese, crumbled 10 oz.
Assorted seasonal fruits as needed Method: Preheat oven to 350[deg.]F. Line a 7-x-3-x-2-in. loaf pan with plastic wrap; reserve. Cut Cheddar cheese into uniform 1/4-in.-thick slices. Fit Cheddar slice across bottom of pan, trimming to fit. (If it is necessary to patch a small area, cut pieces to fit, pressing pieces together with fingers.) Top with a /4-in thick layer of crumbled blue cheese, pressing cheese firmly. Repeat layering, ending with a Cheddar slice. Cover with foil; bake until cheese is just softened around edges, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven; weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. Refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours. Using slicing knife with thin blade, cut cheese into vertical slices about /4-in. thick. Serve with seasonal fruits and greens.
SESAME CHEDDAR ROUNDS Yield: 60 rounds
Sharp Cheddar, small pieces 1/4 lb. Unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces 4 Tbsp. Flour 1/2 cup Kosher salt Red pepper Sesame seeds 1/2 cup
Method: Place cheese in bowl of food processor; process until chopped well. Add butter; process until well mixed and smooth. Add flour, salt and red pepper; process just until blended. Lightly flour hands; remove dough to work surface. Divide in half-, roll each half into a smooth cylinder about 1-in. in diameter and 5 inches long. Wrap in wax paper; chill for several hours. Place sesame seeds on sheet pan. Cut each cylinder into even rounds inch thick. Dip one side into sesame seeds to coat, then place on ungreased sheet pan, sesame side up, leaving about 1/2in. space between rounds. Bake at 40O[deg.]F for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.
TIRAMISU Yield: 6 servings
Large eggs, separated 3 Sugar 1/2 cup Espresso or strong coffee 1/4 cup Cognac 2 Tbsp. Mascarpone cheese 8 oz. Sugar pinch Ladyfingers, lightly toasted 16-24 Cocoa 2 Tbsp.
Method: Combine egg yolks, sugar, 1 Tbsp. espresso and cognac in large mixing bowl. Beat for 2-3 minutes. Add mascarpone; continue beating for 3-5 minutes until consistency is smooth. Reserve. Combine 3 egg whites and a pinch of sugar in another bowl; beat until mixture forms stiff peaks. Gently fold egg whites into mascarpone mixture. Pour remaining espresso into a flat dish; gently dip one side of a ladyfinger in coffee. Place ladyfinger on bottom of flat serving dish, about 12-x-7-in. with sides at least 2-in. high. Repeat with half of the remaining ladyfingers, making a single layer. Do not overlap. Add half of the mascarpone mixture and sift half of the cocoa over that. Repeat process with remaining ladyfingers, mascarpone and cocoa. Refrigerate for I hour before serving.
MOZZARELLA CON FUNGHI (Openers, Amy Nathan, Chronicle
Books, San Francisco, 1988) Yield: 4 servings
Unsalted butter 2 Tbsp. White mushrooms, thinly sliced 1/2 lb. Thin slices whole-wheat bread, crusts removed 8 Thin slices mozzarella cheese 8 Fresh oregano, chopped as needed Butter as needed
Method: Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in saute pan; saute mushrooms until tender. Lay out 4 slices bread. Top each with slice of cheese and some mushrooms. Sprinkle with oregano. Top each with another cheese slice and another slice of bread. Press together. Lightly pan-fry sandwich in a little butter, turning once. Cut each sandwich into 3 bars; top each with herb sprig. Serve hot. CREAMY POLENTA WITH MASCAPONE
Union Square Cafe, New York) Yield: 4-6 servings
Yellow cornmeal 1/2 cup Milk 2 cups Mascarpone 4 Tbsp. Salt, pepper to taste Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled 8 oz. Shelled walnut halves, lightly toasted 4 oz.
Method: Heat milk to boiling, stirring as it heats. Pour cornmeal into milk, stirring constantly to prevent it from lumping. Using a large wooden paddle, stir polenta almost constantly for about 35 minutes until done. Before removing from pot, stir in mascarpone. Adjust seasoning. To serve: Dot polenta with crumbled Gorgonzola Melt cheese slightly under broiler. Finish with toasted walnuts.