The Happy Tummy

for the love of food

Tag: cheese

A Taco

Here it is: a taco.

There is a type of carne that comes from Richmond, California, that only my BF’s brother knows where to buy. I don’t get it often, but I seriously seriously love it. I think about it a lot.

We can generally agree that tacos are awesome, and come in infinite varieties. This one has mystery-best-in-the-world steak, shredded cabbage, radishes, onion, tomato, avocado, queso fresco and my favorite hot sauce, Tapatio. It was good, the way a taco should be.

As you can see, it’s also fun to eat tacos out on the patio.

In addition: The place mats are a gift from my boss in Shanghai. They’re by Jim Thompson, the celebrated American textile-ist who, after successfully revitalizing the Thai silk industry, disappeared in Malaysia.


I recently dined at Delfina Pizzeria in the Mission district of San Francisco, and was reminded that I love arancini. Why? Because they are deep fried balls of cheesy rice. And not just rice, but risotto. And it just so happened that I made some risotto the other day. And it just so happened that I had leftovers.

Make balls, coat in egg wash and panko bread crumbs. Chill for an hour or longer, and fry. And mangia. Mangia mangia mangia!

If I’d had any fontina cheese on hand I would have tucked a little cube of it into each ball before frying. Why say no to more cheese? Restraint is the worst.

Weekend in Downieville

Downieville is a California gold rush town about 2.5 hours North East of Sacramento. Zoom in, there are many trees. About 280 people live in Downieville, and two of them are our good friends Jim and Yvonne, and four of them are their dogs.

We ate a great deal of cheese, including Manchego with honey, cambazola with pear and something really creamy with a grape on top. I would highly recommend Ak-Mak crackers, despite their name.

Some eggs I made for breakfast. Chunks of cheddar rather than grated cheese is a little trick I have up my sleeve.

Another breakfast, eggs baked with tarragon, leeks and gruyere cheese. Fat slices of toast slathered with butter. Coffee, sausage links and bacon not pictured.

Wow, I thought I took way more pictures. I blame wine.

PB&J Panini

Pear, brie and jambon.

That little  joke is courtesy of the gay dads on Modern Family.

I actually wasn’t that impressed with the final result. I think this is one instance in which it would have been better not to panini. The pear just got sort of unpleasantly warm and grainy, you know?

I mean, obviously I ate it all the way, but just saying for next time.

Christmas Eve

This is rather belated.

My mom has always made a pork loin with cracklings on Christmas Eve. We’re Danish, so the Eve is actually much more exciting than the Day.

And the sides to this feast always include brown sugar glazed new potatoes.

This year there were also brussels sprouts with gorgonzola and hazelnuts.

To make the gravy,  my mom uses a couple of tricks. First, she uses a fat separator (the thing below) to make sure she gets the juices of the roast without the grease. She also pan roasts onions then deglazes the pan and reserves the liquid. Those two things make bomb gravy.

There were lots more things, but I was really busy eating. Taking pictures of the food I’m eating on Christmas Eve is just not a priority for me, I guess.

Tortilla Soup + Pulled Pork Sandwich

I get a hankering every now and then for what I guess you could call tortilla soup, which is onion, garlic, garbanzo beans, corn kernels and chopped canned tomatoes stewed together with bay, cumin, chili and cayenne. Sometimes I throw shredded chicken into it, but not this time, dammit.

Usually I top it with cheese, avocado, sour cream (which is really Greek yogurt) and chips. But this time I just did some basil cheddar.

Braising is a way to get a lot of flavor into a piece of meat and be relatively lazy while doing it. The idea is to caramelize the outside of the cut, then let it simmer for a lovely long time until it breaks down, falls apart, and can be shredded by fork or by knife.

This started out with salt, pepper, olive oil and a strong sear on all sides. Then simmered in a bath of onions, garlic, tomatoes, a whole jalepeno, brown sugar and lime juice.

Cover that in chicken stock and let it bubble away, jollily, for a few hours. Eventually when the liquid has reduced by half or so I take the tenderloin out and shred it with two forks going at it from opposite directions. Then it’s back to the braising liquid, plus about a third of a cup of barbecue sauce. I like Kinder’s. Just look at those four hotties on the website. Also take out the jalepenos and lime halves at some point or they overwhelm everything.

I also made a simple slaw of red cabbage, celery and golden delicious apple from my dad’s backyard. A sneaky trick that I like to use is to hollow out the bread a bit before toasting so there is more room for the filling. Meat is the new bread.

And for your viewing pleasure:

Dolmas and Halloumi from the Road Stand

I was introduced to halloumi cheese at a barbecue in Shanghai. It was served with a grilled pepper, and it changed me. Halloumi is from Cyprus and is a salty, firm mix of goat and sheeps’ cheese that has a very high melting point. That makes it perfect for grilling, searing and baking. This below was seared in some olive oil on a hot skillet. They’re also out of control with some roasted peppers, chopped capers and balsamic atop.

Grape leaves stuffed with rice is a common type of dolma. They’ve got a pleasant tartness to them and when done correctly are firm and not soggy. I happened to buy these canned dolmas and the halloumi at a most awesome roadside stand between Davis and Sacramento called the Yolo Fruit Stand. They have every type of seasonal produce imaginable plus nuts, olives, oils, vinegars, coffee, tea, spices, dried legumes and loads of imported specialty foods. It’s quite surprising, and quite affordable.

Bacon Cambozola Gnocchi

Bacon and cambozola gnocchi is an incredibly rich dish – rich in flavor and rich in fattiness. So don’t eat too too much.  The sauce starts with grated (yes, grated) onion and garlic, sauteed in a combination of oil and butter. Then tomato, cheap white wine and you have this (below). I think I also tossed in a few stems of thyme.

Want to see my tomatoes?

The whole mixture is going to be strained, so seeds and skins are welcome to stay on the tomats during the initial cooking. You could also run the sauce base through a food mill, but I don’t have one of those. Ina Garten does though. She loves it.

I’m not ashamed of $4.99 magnums of wine. And no, I don’t just cook with it. As much as I would like to claim wine snobbery, I cannot. I’m learning, though. Slowly.

So cambozola cheese is a mix of gorgonzola (Italian blue) and brie cheeses, a triple cream that is super rich but not quite as pungent as a true blue (bleu). After I strained the sauce it went back into the pan to re-heat, reduce a bit, and get the bacon/cheese treatment (always stir cheese into a hot sauce while the sauce is completely off the heat).

Want to know a secret? I threw a spoonful of congealed bacon fat in the sauce for flavor and texture. My family has always saved bacon drippings from the pan, and my forbears used to frequently spread it on bread as a base for open-faced Danish style sandwiches on pumpernickel bread with cold cuts and usually something pickled. Sounds weird to most people, I think, but it’s business as usual for my family.

This Really Expensive Burrito Place

Casa Gourmet Burrito in Lafayette, California is an institution in the community.  During high school, I used to sneak away – risking suspension at the hands of Paul, the golf-cart driving campus look-out – during lunch to snag one of Casa Dave’s stupidly awesome wraps.  Dave also provided “special sauce”, which at one point we all thought he made from scratch in the far recesses of his kitchen but which in actual fact is just sweet chili sauce.  But still.  Who would have thought of putting Asian sweet chili sauce on a Cali burrito?  It rocks.

This is the standard chicken burrito with added sour cream, cheese and guac. And it’s not actually that expensive.  I just said that because it’s an inside joke, which amuses me but probably irritates you.

If you go (and you should), you’ll be forced to choose between awesome menu items like the spicy Thai chicken, garlic lime steak and artichoke chicken burritos. Dave will probably give you a nickname (mine is Cindy Crawford; he definitely doesn’t know my real name), and if you ask, a complimentary bag of chips.  There are many photos of high school sports teams on the wall, usually with a note thanking Dave for his support of their team, cause Dave’s a nice guy. And there is a salsa bar, a soda station and a TV.  And that’s about that.

Here’s Case Gourmet Burrito’s Yelp page.

Plum Plum Plum Plum Plum Plum

It’s definitely one of those words which, said upon rapid successive repetition, becomes meaningless. Or “plump”.

The plum tree in my dad’s back yard was swollen with ripe and overripe fruit so I picked a shopping bag full, then peeled and stewed about half of them with a stick of cinnamon and 1.5 cups of sugar for several hours.  It’s not quite as thick as jam.

It can work in breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Here’s what to do with it:

  • Warmed and thinned with a tablespoon or two of water; poured over pancakes, French toast or waffles
  • Room temperature on a buttered scone with clotted cream or crème fraîche
  • Chilled with Greek yogurt, chopped nuts and honey
  • Room temperature to accompany a cheese board
  • Heated through as a sweet/tangy sauce for a pork tenderloin
  • As a marinade and basting sauce for grilled chicken pieces
  • Combined with caramelized onions as a side to thick cut pork chops
  • Warmed through, as a topping for good vanilla ice cream
  • Warmed in a shallow bowl with a moat of sweet cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg

Today I’m paying it forward.  I’m giving it for family members in some pint-sized mason jars.  I found the doilies while rummaging around in stacks of old linens.  Kind of pretty, right?