My motto is “I want to inspire you with food for thought and food for your table”. I get much of my inspiration from local producers, markets and restaurants. I tend to stroll through farmers markets and let what looks good and what’s in season inspire me. Last week, Cedar Farm scrapple caught my eye and brought great memories of my childhood; eating a big Sunday breakfast before we all headed off to church. Other times it’s reading what other people are making on sites like Don Rockwell and Chowhound.
On Saturday I went to the Del Ray farmers Market in Alexandria, knowing that shortly they will the shutting down for the winter. It’s a market that has grown on me as I’ve gotten to know some of the vendors. There’s the wonderful gentleman who’s farm is in Riva, VA and Tom the cheese guy from whom I’ve enjoyed wonderful herbed chevres. Other faces are more familiar such as Toigo Orchards.
Well, just like last year, most of the vendors cleared out early leaving only the hearty to proffer their goods during the last Saturdays of the season. With only a pear, a half gallon of apple cider and a log of chevre; where was inspiration to come from today?
All I needed to do was turn around and walk about 100 feet to the doors of Cheesetique. I wanted to get a small piece of gorgonzola since I’ve heard so much about how the cheese pairs well with pears. As I walked into Cheesetique, with the mélange of cheese smells wafting up my nose, I knew I was in good hands.
“I just bought a nice pear from Toigo Orchards and was thinking of pairing it up with a gorgonzola, perhaps a gorgonzola dolce”, I said. “Hmmm”, I don’t thing we have dolce. Are you sure you want gorgonzola? We have lots of blue cheeses which would work very well”, a helpful woman said.
“Sure anything moldy will do”, I replied. She laughed and had a look of “this one will try anything…..just my kind of customer”. And I was. I sampled 2 cheeses before I put into my mouth this blue cheese called ba ba blue. From the Carr Valley of Wisconsin, it is sheep’s milk blue which is piquant, salty and subtle with blue veins. It pops in the mouth, bringing an immense bang for the buck. I loved it. I bought it. I paired both the pear and ba ba blue cheese in a risotto which will knock your socks off. I served this with a roasted chicken and asparagus. Enjoy!
Risotto with Ba Ba Blue Cheese And Caramelized Pears
1 large shallot
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cup risotto
¼ cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken broth
¼ lb. blue cheese or gorgonzola
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. butter
2 pears, peeled and sliced and coated with sugar
Place chicken broth in a stock pot and heat to a gently simmer. Keep warm throughout cooking process.
Heat olive oil in a pan. Add shallots and cook until translucent, but do not brown. Add rice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add white wine and stir until absorbed. Add warm chicken broth ¼ cup at a time to the risotto. Stir frequently. When broth is absorbed, add additional stock. The risotto will continue to absorb stock and cook over a period of 15-20 minutes. When the risotto is al dente, add crumbled blue cheese and stir to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.
About half way through the risotto cooking process, heat 2 tbsp. of butter in a heavy bottom pan. Add pears and cook on each side until caramelized, about 3 minutes on each side.
To serve, plate risotto and top with 2-3 slices of caramelized pear.