Last night I was abandoned by the Critic (important business dinner, boo-hoo...) and so I decided to experiment a bit and set myself some conditions. The mission: to make something original using only the food in the apartment, that would not be TOO fattening and would involve vegetables. Sadly, condition number two nearly always goes out the door when I start experimenting and I'm afraid it was the case again last night. I decided to try mixing cheeses and vegetables.
Despite my recent postings about spring vegetables, my vegetable bin was still full of the same old winter vegetables so I chose potatoes and zucchini for my dinner. I quickly scrubbed the potatoes and ran a metal skewer through them and put them in a hot oven to bake. In the meantime, I sliced one medium zucchini in strips about 1 cm deep and 4-5 cm long. I brushed the slices with olive oil and set them aside as I knew they would take less time to bake than potatoes.
I turned to the cheese drawer to choose my cheesy comestibles. For the potatoes, I opted for a blue cheese called Fourme d'Ambert. I had been reading Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food on the metro home and he mentioned that Fourme d'Ambert was heavenly with potatoes. I decided to see if he was right. For the zucchini, I decided to try a departure from my usual choice of parmesan and pulled out the Beaufort that was leftover from a fondue some time ago.
Then I went to watch the Simpsons because it was obvious the potatoes were going to take a while. I like this kind of cooking.
Simpsons over (i.e. one half hour into the baking of the potatoes), I slid the tray of zucchini slices into the oven. My old kitchen only had ONE rack and I am so happy now that I can fit more than one dish in the oven at a time! I prepared the Fourme d'Ambert by crumbling about 1/2 cup of it. I grated enough Beaufort to cover the zucchini (about 3/4 cup grated) and then tossed the grated cheese with about a 1/4 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, a dash of salt and some freshly ground pepper. By now, the zucchini slices were nearly done and the potatoes felt soft, so I removed the zucchini tray, sprinkled the Beaufort mixture on the slices and put it back in the oven. While the cheese was melting, I removed the potatoes, split them open, buttered them (um, yes, low-cal...) and tossed the crumbled blue cheese over them. I gave them a good grinding of pepper as well. When the cheese had started to brown on the zucchini I plated them with the potatoes and a little salad. It wasn't very pretty, but it was very very tasty!
A note about the cheeses:
Beaufort is a hard, flavourful cheese made from the milk of the Beaufort cows, called the Tarines or Tarentaises. The younger cheeses have a mild slightly fruity taste, but I like it better when the Beaufort has aged a bit and takes on some nuttiness. Beaufort is an essential element in a good fondue, and the more you add the more flavour your fondue will have. It was because I was familiar with how well it melts for fondue that I chose it for my zucchini.
According to the Fromages.com site, Fourme d'Ambert is one of the oldest cheeses in France, dating back to Roman times. It is made with Pasteurized cow milk and is produced the Tours region of France (in the Loire valley). It's a very creamy blue cheese, sliced in large thick rounds. Unfortunately, I was eating it Out Of Season but hopefully the cheese police won't catch me.
Although I am normally opposed to doing anything to oysters (other than devouring them raw, that is) this recipe on the Fromages.com site for Steamed Oysters with Fourme d'Ambert sounds delicious (scroll and click on link to get recipe). Maybe I can convince the Critic that he does like oysters...providing I hide them under spinach and cheese!