Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Say cheese

My mom is responsible for my love of cheese. When I was little, we would go shopping together at the local deli where our first stop would always be in front of the cheese counter. The heady smell of cheese made me dizzy and I'd tug her dress so we could move on to the more interesting counters where chocolate and cakes were displayed.






But no, she wouldn't give in. She'd sample every cheese that struck her fancy, from the Cretan kefalograviera to the Italian provolone and from the Greek mizithra to the French roquefort, making remarks about their acidity and creaminess to the owner of the deli.






As her culinary travel ended, she'd get three-four different kinds of cheese and we'd move over to the cold cuts counter and then on to the sweets. That's where I would go crazy; I'd glue my little face and hands to the glass, marveling at the view of candy and I'd ask her to buy me every single chocolate I laid my eyes on. Again, she wouldn't give in. She'd buy me a milk chocolate bar, my favorite kind, and that was it.






We would then stop by our greengrocer's for fresh fruit and vegetables and by the neighborhood bakery to get a couple of big loaves of crusty bread that I had the task of carrying all the way to our house. The bag always seemed so heavy to me but I was rewarded by the smell of fresh bread creeping out of the bag, enveloping my nostrils.






When we'd get home, a treat was in store for me. My mom would hastily put most of the stuff we had bought away in the cupboards and fridge and would ask me to go sit at the kitchen table. She'd bring the butter along with one or two different types of cheese and she'd break open the still warm bread loaf with her hands. She'd slather some butter on a piece of bread and then... then it was time for the cheese.






Sometimes she'd choose a hard cheese, which would be neatly placed on top of the buttered chunks of bread and other times she'd fancy a soft cheese, like Roquefort, and she'd spread it thickly on top of the bread, creating a perfect amalgam of creamy cheese and rich butter. She would then urge me to have a taste; a taste which I don't remember ever resisting.






The taste of Roquefort; I loved its saltiness and the tanginess I felt at the top of my mouth after a single bite. I loved its green and blue-colored wrinkled holes appearing inside the creamy off white of the rest of the cheese. I loved the smell that would hit me the moment I'd bring the Roquefort-smeared piece of bread near my mouth and the longing for a cold glass of milk afterward. I loved Roquefort almost as much as my mom loved it and you know what? I still do; as does she.






I sneak it anywhere I can, anywhere I can afford it won't be traced by S who, is not a great fan of blue cheese. I sneak it into tarts (like this one), pies, pizzas, grilled stuffed chicken breasts and steak sauces, and even though I can't say I'm artful enough to sneak it into a salad, still, I take my chances. And guess what? In this particular salad, it actually worked. S, despite noticing its obvious presence, loved it.






It's not a complicated salad but rather a simple, straightforward one, as all good salads should be. Slightly bitter Belgian and red endive, crisp apple, earthy walnuts, the almighty Roquefort and a vinaigrette that's made in heaven with raspberry vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard and honey.






Paired just with fresh, crusty bread, you have lunch. Paired with a big juicy steak, you have dinner. Serve it as part of a large festive meal or a casual dinner with friends along with a bottle of Cabernet-Sauvignon. Take it to the office with you for a light lunch. The possibilities for a salad of this kind are endless and you can definitely change it up by using pears instead of apples or hazelnuts instead of walnuts.






Speaking of changing things up, I got an uncontrollable urge the other day to change the banner of my blog. I played around with some ideas and some photographs I had taken and I came up with this. I really like it. It brightens up the place, don't you think?













Endive Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Roquefort Cheese with Raspberry Vinaigrette

I used Gala apples, which I love, because of their sweet and mild taste but also because they are crisp and firm and have a thin skin. You can certainly use any other type of apple you enjoy eating in salads, as long as it's slightly sweet rather than tart.

Choose Belgian endives with yellow colored tips rather than green because they taste less bitter.

In case you can't find raspberry vinegar, you can use red wine vinegar to make the vinaigrette. It won't be called raspberry vinaigrette anymore but it will taste fantastic.






Yield: 6 salad course servings or 4 main course servings

Ingredients

for salad
2 heads Belgian endive, around 170 g each
2 heads red endive, around 120 g each
2 Gala apples, around 160 g each
60 g walnuts, roughly chopped
100 g Roquefort cheese

for raspberry vinaigrette
35 ml raspberry vinegar
130 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped tsp honey
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preparation

for salad
Cut the stems off of the Belgian and red endives, separate the leaves and rinse them under running water. Cut each leaf in half lengthwise.

Rinse and cut each apple into 16 wedges without removing the skin.


for raspberry vinaigrette
In a medium-sized bowl, add the vinegar, olive oil, honey and mustard and whisk well until the ingredients emulsify.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

assemble the salad
Arrange the endive leaves on a big platter and top with the apple wedges. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts and crumble the Roquefort cheese on top. Using a spoon, dress the salad with the vinaigrette.
Serve immediately. Place the rest of the vinaigrette in a small bowl in case anyone wants to add more on their salad.

You can make the vinaigrette one day ahead and store it in the fridge, covered with cling film.







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29 comments:

  1. Endives and blue cheese are such a great pairing. This salad looks absolutely delicious!

    Nisrine

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  2. I saw cheese and came fast!!....I love cheese too....nice story....similar to mine when I was a little girl....In my fridge I have roquefort cheese, gala apples (that I love), walnuts and for sure tomorrow I will but the endives!!.....I have to make this salad!!...If you like roquefort and nuts together (as me), then please read my last post .....you will love it!!......Abrazotes, Marcela

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  3. It is a nice bright banner! Reminds me that I love grapefruit and avocado salads too...

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  4. love your banner i am like "s" not liking blue cheese lovely looking salad though:))

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  5. Nisrine — thanks

    Marcela — we have similar taste in cheese. I'll check it out, thanks

    Nicole — thanks. I really like it and I love grapefruit and citrus fruit in general. They remind me of home.

    linda — thanks!

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  6. Love that banner, do use it!
    Oh and the salad is fantastic; I had been concocting an apple salad the last 2 days and thought of endives too! they seem to go well together; by the way, your story reminded me of these cousins who were visiting last summer and I had bought unbeknownst to them a Danish blue (they are Danes) and served it and they thought it was a Roquefort and were saying to us how they loved roquefort, that is was the only blue cheese worth eating and that Danish blue was mediocre, all the while inhaling that very Danish blue I was served; I was really enjoying this.

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  7. Wonderful salad and flavours.

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  8. Your post brought me a lot of memories! Me and my sister would beg my mum on any occasion for 'pane e zola', bread with gorgonzola, a pungent blue cheese. It was the only food we both absolutely adored since we were very young. We actually even preferred it to chocolate.
    What a lovely looking salad, thanks! And love the banner, too.

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  9. What a fabulous collections of foodie memories you've got, love the trip to the deli. I'm a huge cheese fan too.., can go nuts on a cheese tasting expedition. I do love this simple salad too...., its got some wonderful flavours playing there, just love it.

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  10. The banner is beautiful and vibrant. The salad also is so full of colour and pretty, it has to be good. I love the combination of blue cheese, nuts and apples or pears. Plus the bitterness of a crunchy salad. Who said winter salads are boring or monochrome?

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  11. Gala apples are my favorite for a salad such as this one. How lucky that you found Red Endive to use, too---so beautiful. I have made a similar salad as an hors d'oeuvre---where the apples, nuts, cheese are chopped, dressed, and spooned into bites at the tip of the endive leaf. The arrangement of stuffed leaves becomes a flower on the plate.

    Love the new banner; change is very very good.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your memories- your stories are so vibrant I could smell the bread and taste the cheeses...mmm delicious.
    I love salads- this one I will be sure to try.

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  13. I have a cheese obsession which is quite well documented on my blog. As the only blue cheese lover in our house (and also count in goat's and soft cheeses like Brie and Mont d'Or) I have to climb the cheese mountain single handed (but I'm quite good at it). This salad is right up my street - I adore the pairing of cheese and fruit (just had my last Stilton and cranberry sandwich from the Christmas leftovers!).
    Like the blog header innovation btw.

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  14. tasteofbeirut — hehe you got'em! It's funny when people make such fools of themselves, heh

    Ivy — thanks

    Caffettiera — I very much like gorgonzola as well. Well, I'm a sucker for all kinds of blue cheese

    Anna — thank you!

    Nancy — yes! This salad would work wonders as a kind of an appetizer as well. Great idea!

    A Dutch Brit — do try it. you're gonna love it

    Sally — blue cheese obsessives unite! Stilton and cranberry... perfect combination

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  15. I love your story! It reminds me so much of my childhood and all the memories I have of the same nature: walking to the stores with my mom and being enthralled during our weekly stop at the Greek/Italian grocer we would visit; the smell of cheese, cured meats, briny olives and dried bakaliaro filling the air. I too would hold the bag with the bread and my mom would let me break the corner of th ebrea doff and eat it during our walk home!

    My family has always been big on cheeses but early on it was more about the Greek and Italian cheeses for us. The blue cheeses came along much later. I love, however, how you enjoyed such a cheese as Roquefort at a young age. I now think I should introduce such cheeses to my children who already love any other cheese I've put in front of them.

    As for the salad, I love it! I don't ever buy endive though ... I get turned off by the price. But I should indulge every now and then ;)

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  16. What a divine looking salad. Apples (and pears) go so well with cheese. Unfortunately i feel like i have to be a tad careful with any kind of blue cheese. I eat it, but not a lot. I am allergic to penicillin and I sometimes worry that the blue cheese can cause a reaction if i have too much.
    ... and i can eat a LOT of cheese!
    Have a great weekend.
    *kisses* HH

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  17. By the way I love your new banner- your photo's are beautiful, what camera do you use?

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  18. Aha I see - a Casio exilim EX-Z75 I just read 'about me'.
    I'm impressed!

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  19. Such a delicious combination! This would go great with krasi too :)

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  20. Maria — it seems all Greeks have vivid memories involving food. Yes, form a very young age I ate a lot of things that seem more "adult" in flavor; Roquefort was one of those things.

    Heavenly Housewife — ouch, allergic to penicillin. Sorry to hear about that. You have to skip on the blue cheese and add something like goat's cheese instead for this salad.

    A Dutch Brit — thank you and yes, it's a simple point-and-shoot camera but with great results :)

    Anna — krasi is a must with this dish!

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  21. The best salads are the ones that have vibrant colors and this one looks absolutely gorgeous. I can just imagine the tang of the vinaigrette with the sweet crunchy apple, creamy cheese, and bitter endive. Amazing how food can brighten a day...

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  22. Love all the gorgeous photos! I love cheese but not as much because of the calories....

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  23. Love the new banner! This is my kind of salad because like you, I adore cheese, especially Roquefort. Many people dislike it because it's blue and smells strong so it's nice to meet someone who shares my passion. The story of your shopping trips with your mother is wonderful and I can imagine how great it must have been coming home with those fresh loaves and other goodies.

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  24. My kind of salad, love lots of fruits and veggies with a perfect spread.

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  25. I think i could have an apple salad every day for the next three months and not get tired of them. Cheers!

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  26. Fabulous salad. I love all types of blue cheese. Like you, I began eating a variety of cheeses with my parents at a very young age. The memories of those special times with your mother that you've shared are priceless. It's nice that you've shared them with us and that you now have them written down. Perfect.

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  27. Beautiful Header! Beautiful stories.

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  28. Francesca, SaignonMay 22, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Popular salad here in France-bien sur! I add raisins too! Never tried adding honey & mustard to the dressing but will give it a whirl next time.
    Francesca, Saignon

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  29. Hello Francesca. Love the idea of adding raisins. I'll give it a try!

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