After school on Friday’s my 11 year old grandson Leo and I have time together. This past week we prepared for his father’s birthday celebration, which naturally meant making an abundance of Leo’s favorite cheese balls!
Cheese balls come from my Aunt Louie, who with piled white hair and a brave bosom, who would drive down the village street bowing right and left to her friends in the manner of the Queen Mother. Aunt Louie was lucky. Her tombola tickets invariably won a prize, and once earned her a valuable diamond brooch in the shape of a bow as pioneered by Cartier. I have it to this day.
I once asked Aunt Louie where her recipe came from and she looked nostalgic. “We went on our honeymoon to Monte Carlo, and I made rather a lot of money in the Casino. Your uncle would get very tired of waiting for me and always said that the only compensation were the cheese balls in the bar. So I tried them at home and they became a family tradition.”
We have Aunt Louie’s cheese ball at nearly every family occasion and now I’m passing along the tradition to the next generation.
AUNT LOUIE’S CHEESE BALLS
Makes about 20 1-inch balls
1 1/4 cups flour, more if needed
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and dry mustard
1/2 cup melted butter, more if needed
Put the flour, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and mustard in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to mix. With the blades running, pour in the melted butter, and continue working to form crumbs, about 20 seconds. Press a few crumbs together with your fingers: if dry, add a little more butter, or if sticky add 2-3 tablespoons more flour. (see Leo on the right)
Butter a baking sheet. Turn the crumbs into a bowl, press them into balls the size of small walnuts and set them on the baking sheet. Chill for 30 minutes and heat the oven to 375˚F/190˚C. Bake the cheese balls until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. They keep well in an airtight container, or they can be frozen.
A delicious bite for dinner parties and a great way to entertain my Leo.
This June I was very honored to be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the UK Guild of Food Writers. I’m grateful to be invited to join such a rarefied group of food writers who have already received this award. If you’d like to watch my acceptance speech at the Guild of Food Writers Awards at Opera Holland Park, London, click here.
Now that I’m settled in London I’ve joined the London Les Dames d’Escoffier chapter and I’m deep into working on a new culinary history book, which traces the evolution of the American cookbook through key works all written by women authors, and I’m enjoying being closer to my family, teaching my grandchildren in the kitchen weekly.
So much depends on the plums for a tart, they should be almost bursting at the seams with juice. Their season is short, but when the moment strikes, a rare treat awaits with this simple tart — the dough is like a sugar cookie, with only the butter holding it together. I suggest a
The local fruits in Alsace—apricots, bilberries (blueberries are a close relation), and half a dozen varieties of plum—are so juicy that cooks go to great lengths to avoid a soggy crust. They use a puffy yeast dough (popular, too, with German cooks across the Rhine) that soaks up juices from the fruit with help from a
Old Emily was a champion baker. She lived with my mother and me in a big, cold house half a mile from our nearest neighbor on the farm. The most welcoming place was the kitchen where I parked myself immediately after breakfast in a dining room where there were just Mummy and me. Despite our tiny household, hierarchy must be maintained and Emily ate in the kitchen.
Thursday was baking day. Emily rose an hour early to stoke the fire with logs cut from the spinney behind the house, boosted with a few precious lumps of coal which was strictly rationed — this was World War II. Just about everything else was rationed too, certainly food. We had 2 ounces of butter each per week (that’s 4 tablespoons) and at one stage half an egg (i.e. one every two weeks). More than a cup of sugar per person per week sounds a lot, but it soon disappears when that is all there is. It was the farm that saved us, the 30 cows were milked twice a day, and Mrs. Wilkinson kept hens that supplied a more or less steady supply of eggs. (more…)
Hello all! This will be the last La Varenne class in Los Angeles for some time as Anne is preparing to return to Europe. Chef Alain Giraud is a wonderful friend and familiar face to La Varenne.
On October 1st at 2:30pm we will be featuring Chef Alain Giraud in our seasonal class. Since moving to Los Angeles in 1988 Giraud has opened a number of esteemed restaurants including Lavande, Bastide, and Anisette. He was named “Chef of the Year” by Bon Appétit Magazine in 2003. Today he is waiting upon the reopening of his Pacific Palisades restaurant, Maison Giraud, while working for private parties and catering. Learn more about Chef Alain at http://www.maison-giraud.com/bio-alain-giraud/.
We will also be featuring a Lavender Blue pop-up shop hosted by Catherine Giraud where you will have the opportunity to glance at a plethora of gorgeous French Provençal goodies which can be previously viewed at http://lavenderblue-la.com/.
Class will be available for no more than 15 students who will savor five delicious seasonal foods and a glass of wine along with an intimate group setting beside Chef Giraud at a fee of $250. Recipes will be provided to take home as well as a personal gift from Anne. Reserve your seat now as space is limited! To sign up call 310.396.7464 or email email@example.com
For me as a child in rural Yorkshire in the north of England, harvest time was the high point of our agricultural year, only comparable in excitement to Christmas. Over the previous weeks, we would eye the ripening fields of wheat spreading down from our house on the hill, debating when the gold of the grain was dark enough, and dry enough, to start gathering the harvest.
An early morning start on cutting the grain was not possible because of damp from the overnight dew. So near to midday I would walk the half mile to the farm to help Mrs. Wilkinson, the farmer’s wife, to carry the lunch baskets out into the fields — the churns of tepid, milky sweet tea would be my job. We would choose a sheltered corner, if possible under a tree for shade, and lay out a massive coarse white cloth to flatten the harsh, prickly stubble of cut stalks. I would carefully set my churns of tea upright, chipped enamel mugs beside them. (more…)
I’m currently traveling through France with family and close friends — how I wish I could smuggle some foie gras! Here’s a nostalgic list of some wonderful illicit treats I’ve enjoyed over the years:
1. Ginger biscuits for a midnight feast at my boarding school.
2. Exotic fruits and vegetables from Manaus on the Amazon, confiscated in Miami.
3. Fresh truffles for Julia Child, packed with camphor balls to distract sniffer dogs.
4. American bacon for the French chefs at La Varenne—so much crispier, they said.
5. Trunks of American flour to France for testing recipes.
6. French Mars bars to the United States for the best hot chocolate sauce for the children.
7. Christmas gingerbread houses from America to France; if the roof collapses it still tastes the same. 8. Ypocras, a medieval spiced wine, labeled “Spiced Vinegar” so it can cross the state line.
9. A vinegar “mother” from Italy for our U.S. kitchen.
While we don’t condone or encourage smuggling things back, we’d love to hear what’s on your list!
When I go to southern France and mushrooms are in season, I look forward to the particularly meaty, pungent ceps (also called boletus and porcini or “little pigs’, the Italian name). Ceps dry wonderfully well, an intense, fragrant addition to sauces and soups. They are outstanding with game birds such as guinea hen or pheasant,