There is an ongoing debate about where kunafah, a sweet cheese “pie” usually eaten for breakfast, originated. Some claim Turkey as its country of origin, others swear it is Palestine, and others claim it is from Syria. There isn’t enough research for us to tell for sure, but what is certain is that there are two main types of kunafah. In kunafah Nabulsiyah, from Palestine, the kataifi pastry— called “hair” pastry because it is made in very thin, long strands—is colored red and used as is. The Lebanese version is known as kunafah mafrukah (meaning “rubbed”), because the strands of kataifi are buttered, then rubbed and rubbed until they become like fluffy breadcrumbs. Also the Lebanese version has no coloring. In Lebanon kunafah is made into a sweet sandwich by stuffing it inside the fat part of a sesame bread that looks like a handbag, with a handle and a fat pouch part, then drenching it and the inside of the bread in sugar syrup.
It is fairly simple to prepare and all you need is to buy kataifi fresh or frozen from a Middle Eastern store.
You can make this in the oven (as below) or on the stovetop. You can vary the cheese by using 1 pound (450g) Arabic clotted cream (qashtah) and follow the instructions as below.
Sometimes I serve this with a little bowl of finely based unsalted nuts, and dip the cheesy exposed sides for extra flavor and crunch.
Golden, crunchy, and covered in a salty, frico-like layer of baked Parmesan, this is sort of like a giant gougère-style cheese puff meets Yorkshire pudding, with a crisp outer crust and a soft, cheesy, custardy interior. If you’re not shy (or not serving this to a shy group), feel free to tear this apart with your hands to eat, licking the salty bits of cheese and herbs off your fingers when you’re done (if this is too tactile for you, use a large spoon for serving). You can serve this for dinner with a big salad or with some kind of roasted meat, or try it for brunch in place of the usual sweet and fruity Dutch babies that people expect. Or, for something completely out of the box, this also happens to make a fantastic cocktail nosh—serve it right out of the oven, still in the pan, to your guests and let them tear off pieces. It’s quite delicious with a gin martini.
Aligot | Tuber Fondue
Traditional: Cantal, Laguiole, Tomme d’Auvergne
Substitutions: Spring Brook Farm Reading, Grafton Village Truffle Cheddar
Cottage cheese was a favorite of early colonial settlers, who made it at home in their “cottages.” I especially love it with warm egg noodles, a habit formed as a kid in my own home and at the homes of Jewish friends, where it was served as kugel. Over the years, I’ve gussied up the basic concept by adding creme fraiche, leeks melted in butter, and a sizable amount of dill (by far my favorite fresh herb). Lemon zest lends brightness, and a flurry of creamy feta adds salt and soul. My cottage-cheese-and-noodle dish is “good enough for company”—as my grandmother would say—while still satisfying my nostalgic craving.
We wanted a cheese soufflé with bold cheese flavor, good stature, a light, but not-too-airy texture, without the fussiness of most recipes. To bump up the cheese flavor without weighing it down, we added light-but-potent Parmesan cheese to the Gruyère. To get the texture just right while keeping the preparation simple, we beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, and then—rather than carefully folding them into the cheese-bechamel—just add the sauce right to the mixer, and beat everything until uniform.
A carefully made grilled cheese sandwich is a gustatory wonder. Its key ingredients are bread that’s firm enough to hold its own against heat and pressure but soft enough to produce a tender sandwich; full- flavored, high-quality cheese (my preference is Comté or an aged cheddar), cut about 1/8 inch thick; and clarified butter. The butter flavors the bread and allows it to color deeply without becoming too dark or, worse, burnt. Make the sandwich on a griddle or in a heavy skillet and use another heavy skillet to press it down. The greater the pressure, the more the ingredients will blend and the better your sandwich will be.
Here’s the recipe for the miraculous soufflé that Daisy Bonner prepared the day that her beloved president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, died. Bonner always served this dish with stuffed baked tomatoes, peas, plain lettuce salad with French dressing, Melba toast, and coffee.
Get that damn lobster out of my mac and cheese! Truffles do not make it better. If you add truffle oil, which is made from a petroleum-based chemical additive and the crushed dreams of nineties culinary mediocrity, you should be punched in the kidneys.
Below is a recipe from award-winning chef Chris Cosentino, chef-owner of Cockscomb in San Francisco, CA.