Jaques Pépin’s Camembert with Pistachio Crust! or Mon Dieu, le fromage!!!!

Oh, my friends, it’s been too long! I’m going to have to resist recounting the wondrous food adventures I’ve had in all these long months away including a trip to the French countryside where every single thing I put in my mouth was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Honestly, those people understand the beauty of fresh food! And the fromage! Mon Dieu, le fromage!!!! I never said no, why would I? Another wonderful adventure that took up a good portion of the summer was Caitlin Freeman’s Modern Art Desserts. I would definitely suggest you take a trip to the French countryside if you are able and I would definitely suggest you make the Mondrian cake and several other of these desserts if you are completely insane. I enjoyed both experiences very much, but let’s just jump back in here with a lovely, simple, dish to bring or serve at any gathering, Jaques Pépin’s Camembert with Pistachio Crust! Recently I’ve started downloading cookbooks to my mini iPad. I don’t necessarily prefer it, but there are some very nice things about a cookbook on an iPad, and let’s face it, I basically do this because I’m reading an article about food in bed and I can’t wait to start reading the recipes. Also, I’ve come up with my very own kitchen hack -which is hanging the iPad from a skirt hanger off the knob of one of my cupboards. Like so! Which is a very handy space saver.

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I am loving this new cookbook, Jaques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen. It’s full of lovely stories, and pictures and recipes. It’s one of these books which makes whipping up delicious things for friends popping-by actually doable with what you have in your pantry or a quick trip to the market with a very limited list. I very much like the trend I’m seeing where cooks list out what they keep in their home larder either at the front or back of the cookbook, maybe this is something that has always existed but I’m learning so much from reading these sections, and a lovely little book along those lines is My Pantry by Alice Waters, but back to the cheese, please!

Camembert with Pistachio Crust

1/2 c. pistachio nuts

1 Camembert cheese round (about 9 ounces), preferably from France and made with raw milk.

1 tbsp honey ( I used thyme infused honey which I will explain at the end, it was gorgeous)

1/2 c dried cranberries

crackers, or bread, or whathaveyou

Process the nuts in a food processor until pulverized but not ground into a powder–small pieces of nuts should still be visible.

Brush the top and sides of the cheese with the honey, sprinkle a layer of nuts on top of the cheese, and pat more nuts around the sides with your hands, put the remaining nuts in the center of a serving platter and place the cheese on top. Sprinkle the cranberries around the cheese and serve at room temperature.

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So you see, this is a very quick and easy recipe and makes such a lovely presentation for a starter or a bring along. No muss, no fuss for the hostess when you just plop this down on the table with crackers or bread, and so tasty. But… to make it extra tasty I used thyme infused honey, and that was heavenly.

The thyme infused honey idea came from a the wonderful Eat Boutique book  food gift love by Maggie Battista. I am having a field day with that one! Beautifully prepared food is a gift, and beautifully prepared and wrapped, and mailed food is extra gifty! I am a very lucky girl to have not one, but two friends who have apiaries, one on the rooftops of Harlem -aptly named Harlem Honey, and the other in beautiful Elgin, Ill, named Naughty Girl Apiary -( don’t get excited, it’s a Betty Boop thing.) Both of these dear friends are so kind to share the bounty so I’m always happy to take a jar out of the pantry and make something wonderful with it. I usually have several bunches of dried herbs hanging around the kitchen and all you need is 4 tbsp of dried thyme (or lemon balm, sage, oregano, mint, lavender -anything you like), and 1 cup light flavored honey. I used lavender for a gift for my sister, and my apartment smelled so heavenly, but I cut it to two tablespoons, because four seemed overwhelming.

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1. In a double boiler set over medium heat, place a bit of water in the bottom pot–making sure the water doesn’t touch the underside of the top pot. Assemble the double boiler (If you do not have a double boiler, place a metal or glass bowl on top of a medium pot.)

2. Crush the thyme leaves between your fingers. Place the thyme and honey in the top of the double boiler. Heat until just shy of 180°F on a candy thermometer, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. If you don’t have a candy thermometer it’s not essential, you’re just loosening the honey and infusing the flavor so follow the time allotment with the water softly simmering below the pan. You don’t want to cook the honey, just loosen it. (Candy thermometer’s are cheap though, just get one next time your out if you’re able, mine was under 10 bucks, and it has a kind of retro look to it that makes me think candy making is fun, instead of generally scary.)

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3. Strain the honey through a sieve into a bowl to remove the herbs, pushing on the herbs with a spatula to extract all the honey; discard the herbs.  Pour the honey into jars and store at room temperature up to 6 months.

Here’s just a small note on the double boiler, I have a universal one, so it fits on a variety of pans, I think it’s made by Cuisinart and I got it at an after Christmas sale somewhere, but I have to say, I use it all the time. It lives on the shelf above the refrigerator, which lives in a space that was once a closet, so it stays out of the way. I just bring this up because maybe you have bowls that fit in pans or you can rig something up, but for me it was well worth the investment. And it comes with a lid, which I just found hidden in the back of my cupboard still in it’s wrapper, so the lid? eh, not so much, but the boiler itself, yes.

I have to say, the thyme honey really did add something to this dish, but naturally you’d never know the difference if you hadn’t tasted it.

Still… why not try it?

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