2 New Cheese Books You Need

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returns with a look at two new books dedicated to cheese. Want to learn more about cheese? You might lean toward Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. Looking for inspired recipes built around cheese? Both books are inspirational, but The Cheesemonger’s Seasons adds a seasonal twist.


Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

by Sue Conley & Peggy Smith
Photographs © Hirsheimer & Hamilton

Facts: Chronicle Books, 256 pages, $35.00, Digital: $24.99 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.07, Kindle $9.50)
Photos: about 72
Recipes: 71 including techniques

The induction of new members to the Guilde des Fromagers Confrérie de Saint-Uguzon took place last November during a conference of Les Dames d’Escoffier International in Austin, Texas. The Guilde, founded in France, honors “dairy professionals” or cheese producers; the Confrérie is for educators, writers, chefs, i.e., those who share the knowledge. I was expecting a rather solemn ceremony when I saw the robes, insignia and medallions worn by the members, but they were having great fun, obviously based in their common love of cheese.

That doesn’t diminish their serious attitude about cheese-making and who they induct. The Guilde has more than 5,600 members world wide and includes Sue Conley & Peggy Smith, the “cowgirls” of Cowgirl Creamery, founded in 1994. Since then they have received numerous awards for their flavorful cheeses.

Their recently released Cowgirl Creamery Cooks underscores their cheesemaker ability and educates. It answers questions. Can I drink tea instead of wine with cheese? Should I eat the rind? What do I need to consider for a cheese course? What should I serve with the cheese? What is a vertical flight of cheese vs. a horizontal flight? (Personally, I was rather surprised that it had nothing to do with whether one is standing at a bar or lying on a sofa).

The recipes are divided by fresh cheeses (Crème Fraîche Scones, Ricotta-Asparagus Soufflé), soft, young-aged cheeses (Gougères), aged cheeses (Raclette with Boiled Potatoes and Quick Pickles), grating cheeses (Cheese Fricos, Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Paillard), blue cheeses (Sweet Smokey Blue and Bacon Soufflé) and (almost as important) the end bits (Classic Mac and Cheese).

Consider the techniques and summary section, combine those with the photography of Hirsheimer & Hamilton (our friends from The Canal House), and the result is an informative, thought-provoking and mouth-watering book.

The Cheesemonger’s Seasons

by Chester Hastings
Photographs © Joseph De Leo and Chester Hastings

Facts: Chronicle Books, 192 pages, $35.00; Digital: $27.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $25.37, Kindle $15.39)
Photos: 37
Recipes: 90

Chester Hastings is a chef and cheesemonger. His 25 years of experience and the training under Carlo Middone at Vivande Porta Via in San Francisco sharpened his palate.

This man creates enticing combinations. I could almost taste the dishes from the names of his recipes in The Cheesemonger’s Seasons: Roasted Broccoli Romanesco with Scamorza − Lemon Olive Oil, and Toasted Sesame Seed − Roasted Beets and Fresh Strawberries with Orange Syrup and Goat Cheese − Savory Pumpkin Tarts with Bûcheron – Cannellini Beans with Sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano. YUM – you know how those recipes are going to taste!

As implied by the title, the book is divided by season. Of the 90 recipes, 30 are summertime recipes. My guess is that is the result of the availability of so many fresh fruits and veggies. There is no pantry, nor glossary. No techniques section, nor where to shop. Just intriguing recipes with great headnotes which are the bridge between us and Chef Chester Hastings.


Pea Shoots with Burrata, Lemon Olive Oil, and Toasted Sesame Seeds

photo © Joseph De Leo

Serves 4

When I was visiting Princess Marina Colonna many years ago in Rome, she was in the process of developing a line of citrus-infused olive oils, and tasked my mentor, Carlo, and me with developing a few recipes featuring these exotic creations.

“Infused” is not really the right word here, however, as these oils are made by crushing whole citrus fruits (peels, seed, and all) with the olives at the time of pressing to create a blend of oil so deeply permeated with fruit it will blow your mind. Agrumato, in Abruzzo, is another producer who uses the same technique to create a variety of oils that are outstanding for drizzling raw over grilled vegetables, fish, chicken, and salad greens.

If you can’t get your hands on a lemon olive oil for this recipe, use a good fruit extra-virgin olive oil and add freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste. There should be a nice balance of acidity to fat.

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 cups/115 g fresh pea shoots
1 pound/455 g fresh Burrata cheese
4 tablespoons/60 ml/ lemon-infused olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until just barely turning golden, taking care not to burn them. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the seeds into a small bowl. Let cool completely.

2. Trim any tough lower leaves from the pea shoots, then rise and dry well.

3. Cut the Burrata into four equal pieces and lay them, cut sides up, on a serving platter or four individual plate.

4. Divide the pea shoots evenly around the Burrata pieces. Drizzle the olive oil over the pea shoots and Burrata and scatter the sesame seeds over the top. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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