Note: In order to combine two of the author’s blogs, this post has been relocated from KathleenCremonesi.com. For those of you who have already viewed this post, my apologies for the repetition, and thank you for your patience. Original post date: February 28, 2015.

It’s wonderful to discover, and rediscover, a gem in your backyard. While attending the Seafood and Wine Festival in Newport, Oregon, I had the pleasure of rediscovering the amazing artisan cheeses of Oregon’s own Rogue Creamery.

Located in the Willamette Valley, Rogue’s cows graze in pastures that sit at 1,650-foot elevation along the Rogue River. The creamery was opened in the 1930s by Tom Vella and originally produced cheddar. According to their website, they produced 1 million pounds for four years running during WWII to ship to troops. After an enlightening trip to France in the 1950s, the creamery began to produce the first blue cheese produced in caves west of the Missouri River.

The creamery currently handcrafts a variety of cheeses from raw, certified sustainable, rBST-free milk — cheddars from delicate rosemary to spicy habanero, and blues from the lighter Oregon Blue to the earthy Smokey Blue. My hands down favorite, at least this year, is the Rogue River Blue.

Rogue River Blue is made but once a year, from milk gathered between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, and is cave-aged for one year. After aging, the forms are wrapped in syrah grape leaves that have been macerated in Clear Creek Pear Brandy. Doesn’t that sound amazing? It’s not cheap, and it shouldn’t be with what goes into making it, so I ponied up and brought a wedge of heaven home from the festival.

Oh, what a beautiful cheese. Tiny crystals speckle the deep blue veins, producing a party for your tongue which is creamy and crunchy, smooth and striking all at once. Although there are certainly myriad ways to enjoy this beauty, I’m not willing to dilute its flavor just yet and have focused on simple pairings, such as a slice of perfectly ripened pear.

It’s no wonder Rogue River Blue has won so many awards, including Best Blue Cheese in the World (London, 2003) when up against such powerhouses as British Stilton, Italian Gorgonzola, and French Roquefort. It has also won Best American Cheese, Super Gold World Cheese Award, and Best in Show twice at the American Cheese Society (2009, 2011).

Rogue Creamery’s motto, “handmade locally, celebrated globally,” is spot on. Yet, I’ve never turned an I5 road-trip into a “Rogue trip.” With all the times I’ve made the jaunt between Eugene and San Francisco, I’ve never detoured five-minutes off the interstate in Central Point, Oregon, to visit their shop. Next excursion south, I will, and I expect it will be the highpoint of the drive. In the meantime, specialty grocery stores, here I come.

Winter is a good time for hearty pastas drenched in rich and dense sauces, and this sausage and tomato sauce is one of my favorites. I’m not big on plain tomato sauce unless the fruit is just-picked, perfectly ripe, and barely cooked. One of the reasons I love this sauce is that once the tomato is cooked with sausage, grated zucchini, and fresh rosemary, and then doused with cream, the tomato flavor plays only a bit part.

My friend Rosa is one of those women who can make or bake anything to perfection, and her prowess in the kitchen is enviable. Recipes gush out of her like uncorked spumanti, and I only wish I could remember half of those she’s shared with me — or make them half as well as she does. We’re often cooking or eating when she shares those recipes, so they end up scribbled on napkins or paper scraps. I’m lucky if I get all the ingredients down, much less the quantities. I doubt my version of this sauce tastes as good as hers, and I’ve surely adjusted the quantities to fit my tastes (heavy on the meat and rosemary), but it usually turns out good all the same.

This last time, however, something wasn’t quite right. Since I was hoping to turn it into a post, I called up Rosa and ran through the list of ingredients.  She assured me I was in the ballpark with the quantities, and we decided that it must have been the sausage that wasn’t quite up to the quality needed for the quantity I used in a meat-based sauce. (I usually use our favorite link sausages, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I settled for bulk sausage at the local market.) The sauce wasn’t terrible by any means, it just wasn’t amazing. (The leftovers were already better than the original dinner, though, likely due to the flavors melding with the pasta and the addition of a little more cream while reheating.)

Starting with good sausage is key, and find the freshest rosemary you can (since it’s going to fall apart into the sauce, use only the softer tips). Even though the tomatoes play a supporting role, if they’re not good tomatoes, you’ll know. Unless it’s the middle of a sun-kissed tomato season here in Oregon, I strictly use imported tomatoes in sauce.

(Kathleen’s version of) Rosa’s Sugo di Salsiccia e Pomodoro

  • 1/2 onion, chopped small
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 – 1 pound good sausage, ground
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 small to medium zucchini, grated
  • 4  tips fresh rosemary, each about 3″ long
  • 1 28 ounce can Italian tomatoes
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 pound hearty pasta, such as penne rigate or rustic linguini
  • fresh-grated Parmigiano

Saute the onion in the oil.  As you’ll be adding additional fat with the sausage, you need only enough oil to coat the onion, but if it’s not coated, add a bit more.

Once the onion is translucent, add the sausage and mash into small bits. Cook at a medium/low heat until the exterior looses its raw, pink color. Add the wine, and raise the heat to medium.

 

Meanwhile, grate the zucchini. When the wine has mostly evaporated from the sausage mix, add the zucchini and rosemary and cook until the zucchini is soft.

Add the tomatoes and their juice, mash well, and cook until the liquid created by the zucchini and the tomato water condenses. Once you’re sure the sausage has cooked (shouldn’t be more than 10 minutes into this stage), taste for salt and add if needed. The quantity will depend on how seasoned your sausage is.

Start your pasta water boiling if you haven’t already.

Because of the moisture in the zucchini and tomatoes, this sauce can easily take 45 minutes to condense. This could help you pass the time:

When the oil starts pooling on top of the mix, you’re nearly there.  Once you’re sure your sauce is almost ready, cook your pasta al dente.

Strain the pasta, add the cream to the sauce, and toss it all together with the pasta. Serve with freshly-grated Parmigiano and a bottle of hearty red wine.

Unless you like your pasta swimming in sauce, this recipe makes enough for up to 8 servings (2 pounds of pasta). Keeps refrigerated for 4 or so days or frozen for 30. Add a little cream when reheating leftovers to keep the sauce smooth and creamy.

Buon Appetito ~

Puff Pastry is my Enemy

December 30, 2010

Well, at least my waistline’s enemy. It’s just too darn easy to make beautiful and yummy treats out of the stuff!

But first, my apologies for my absence these past few weeks. I had hoped to find time to post a recipe or two, but the season’s production schedule and sales kept me busy. No complaints, but I’m glad for more free time to play in the kitchen, dig through those drawers, and find long forgotten toys!

Cream-Filled Puff Pastry Horns

Last winter, I bought a couple packages of “cream horn molds” from an outlet kitchen shop. Six metal tubes in each for $2.99. Stuck the things in a drawer and didn’t open them until last week when I decided it would be a lovely idea to experiment for our family’s dessert on Christmas.

Cream Horn Molds

Cream Horn Molds by Norpro

Now, I don’t generally recommend experimenting for large family gatherings, but anything that turns out this wonderful on the first go around gets two thumbs up. With puff pastry, it’s just too hard to go wrong. No time to find these molds? There are a dozen ways to prepare your puff pastry without them; from making two equal-sized circles, cutting out the center of one, and layering it on top of each other; to folding up these triangles.

The hardest part to making these yummy desserts is deciding what to fill them with. I couldn’t decide, so I made three:

  • zabaglione cream (tiramisu filling – mascarpone, eggs, sugar, vanilla), 1/2 batch with only half the eggwhites to make it more dense (1.5 whites to 3 yolks)
  • 1/2 batch easy chocolate mousse with chopped, dried cherries
  • 1/2 batch mocha chocolate mousse (just add espresso)

They’re all simple to make, but they do need to be made at least 4 hours before you use them so they’ll be firm enough to stay where they’re put.  No time? Whip some cream, spoon it into a Ziplock bag, cut a corner off the bag, and squeeeeeeeze into the baked horns. Grate a little dark chocolate on top and you’re golden. Kick it up a notch by adding fresh berries or flavoring your whipped cream with almond or lemon or….

What You’ll Need

  • one or more packages of puff pastry (2 sheets each)
  • cream horn molds or other creative way of making a receptacle for the filling (see “triangles” link above)
  • filling
  • whipped cream for garnish and for filling the very base of the baked horn
  • grated dark chocolate for topping
  • pastry tubes or Ziplocks to disperse the fillings

The Puff Pastry Horns

  • Thaw the dough for 40 minutes, unfold, and smooth with a rolling pin on a lightly floured board.
  • Depending on how many molds you have, each sheet of puff pastry (two sheets per box) can be cut into eight or nine 1″ strips.
  • Squeeze one end of the strip around the point of the mold and twirl the strip around the metal. Lay on a cookie sheet with the end of the strip facing down.
  • Per the instructions on the back of the mold package, let the pastry rest for 1/2 hour between wrapping and baking. We waited on the first batch, didn’t on the second, and didn’t notice any difference. See that  glass of red wine in back of the wrapped molds? Might of had something to do with it. (I highly recommend having one or two of those on hand during this process.)
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
  • Cool for a few minutes (just enough to not melt the fillings), and fill. The Ziplocks weren’t getting the dense chocolate mousse all the way to the bottom of the horn, so we dispensed just enough whipped cream in each one to fill up the point.
  • The zabaglione cream was by far the favorite, but I think the chocolate mousse complimented it well. Whatever you decide on, spoon it into a pastry tube or ziplock (cut off a small corner), flill up the horns, grate some dark chocolate on top, and serve.

Baked and Ready to Fill

Puff Pastry Cream Horns

Yum! Yum! Yum!

Between thawing, wrapping, baking, cooling and filling, it does take a bit of time to make these. Once the dough was thawed, we were filling and serving these to order within 40 minutes. During a large holiday meals, a break between the meal and dessert can be a welcome pause. If you want to serve them right after dinner, the horns can be made ahead of time, although the ones we ate that were still a bit warm were melt-in-your-mouth good. A minute or two under a broiler did the trick for leftover horns. We didn’t have any filled horns leftover, so I can’t tell you whether they’ll store well or not if once they’re filled.

My husband’s one complaint? Why hadn’t we ever made these before! They were such a success, I’m planning on making them for New Year’s Eve. Something tells me they’ll go very well with champagne.

Buon appetito~