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June Book Review: In a Cheesemaker’s Kitchen

June 5th, 2011 by

A few years ago, I learned how to make cheese at home. Really simple, fresh cheeses, just some mozzarella and some nice yogurt cream cheese. It was very empowering, the act of turning plain and simple whole milk into another food altogether. I was very proud of myself, it felt like magic, like a form of food alchemy.

I chose Allison Hooper’s book, In A Cheesemaker’s Kitchen, to review in the spring because I wanted to enjoy the freshest flavors possible in the freshest season, and I wanted to repeat that feeling of kitchen magic. My hopes were completely fulfilled by this book. Every recipe we tried was a delight.
It is a delight to look at as well, with bright, fresh-looking photographs highlighting the dishes, the ingredients and locations around Vermont. The Vermont Butter & Cheese Company (co-founded by Allison Hooper) provides the inspiration behind the dishes. A third of the contents are dedicated to a history of the company, a description of small-scale goat dairy industry in Vermont, a listing of the many fine dairy products from Vermont Butter & Cheese Company, as well as a quick primer on preparing a cheeseboard and pairing wines to go with it. The book is interspersed with profiles of influential food industry figures, each of whom has contributed a recipe to this collection.
Allison Hooper’s slim volume is divided into a few simple sections; Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Everyday Fare, Main Courses and Desserts. Each recipe appears clearly laid out with the dairy ingredients highlighted in the list and a photograph.
Our favorites were the Crème Fraiche Cucumber Salmon, the Winter Crème Fraiche Baked Potato Soup, the Crème Fraiche Potato Gratin and the Vermont Decadence Brownies, which contain crème fraiche, of course. But before you assume that recipes involving crème fraiche is all that this lovely book has to offer, there are a few more morsels I would recommend.
We hosted a garden party over Memorial Day weekend and served the Crudite Platter with Three Dipping Sauces. Included in this luscious trio are a Tarragon Dip featuring quark, an Ancho Chili Dip featuring mascarpone, and a Greek Dip featuring fromage blanc. At the same party we served some of the Cheese Party Gems, including the Bacon Wrapped Bijou and the Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche Canapes, which were beautiful, elegant and delicious.
For a luncheon with some gluten-free friends we made the Leeks and Fromage Blanc Quiche, in which the traditional pastry crust is replaced with cabbage leaves. Skeptical at first, we became quick converts, and I am thinking of making this dish again soon.
After a prolonged winter it feels delightful to feel the fresh spring breezes blow once again, and I am glad that I celebrated spring’s arrival with Allison Hooper’s cookbook in my hands.

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