Journal & Recipes

scoop it chop it cook it

Los Angeles, Here We Come!

I've spent the past 20 months all over the East Coast and Texas talking about Scoop It. During that time my family and I have settled comfortably in L.A.—which means I'm ready to make some appearances at some of SoCal's best retailers. I'm in the process of building a schedule, so please stay tuned and thank you for checking in! xo

Save the Planet

Vino in a box just got chic. The Australian wine outfit One Planet has released its line of world-class wines in Tetra Pak—you know, the cardboard packaging we typically associate with milk cartons? 

 

I was thrilled to have our agency take on U.S. representation for One Planet last year. Though some consumers still balk at the idea of “boxed” wine, we’ve launched the brand’s four varieties at Kroger supermarkets across the country to positive response. While One Planet’s wine doesn’t come in a box exactly, considering how attached wine-lovers are to tradition, it’s been fascinating to watch consumers accept Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in entirely new packaging.


Of course, One Planet wines offer more than just novel presentation. Tetra Pak is not only immensely portable (no need to worry about delicate glass bottles), but it’s also environmentally kind. Carbon emissions and transportation fuel, not to mention landfill trash, are drastically reduced when wine is packaged in Tetra instead of glass.


Interestingly, the Millennial generation—those born around 1990—don’t attach the same stigma to boxed wine like earlier generations do. If you don’t happen to be a Millennial, don’t let that stop you from bucking tradition and giving One Planet a try on your next outdoor excursion or picnic. Because One Planet’s four varieties feature all the complexities of bottled wine, you can experiment with your favorite food pairings, including sandwiches, salads and cheese plates. 


Sending a Holiday Gift? Send Zabars!

Zabars holiday catalog is complete!   Send your loved ones a taste of the Mediterranean and NYC through www.zabars.com. 

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For fifty years, Zabar’s has been a New York City landmark and byword for exceptional quality. It has also been the city’s go-to cheese counter. With its diverse international selection, thousands of individual cheeses and collections to choose from, and uncompromising quality, it’s no surprise that New York has made Zabar’s its headquarters for cheese. For those who can’t pop around the corner to the Broadway store, Zabar’s whisks its cheese to anywhere in the U.S. overnight.

 

The First Rule of Book Club Is...Let's Eat!

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Every month I host a book club. The lead-up is somehow always the same: me, madly rushing home from work or errands, or en route from picking up one of my children. Meanwhile, the book-clubbers (including myself) are counting down the minutes to an all-girls night of chatting, opinion-swapping and lots of eating. When I took on the once-a-month responsibility, my intentions were pure: I’d cook delicious meals! Leave the office early! Plan ahead by getting a sitter! It never quite works out that way, but somehow I manage to pull something together.

For quick crowd-pleasing, I like to go with an assortment of the following:

-Hard cow’s-milk cheese. At last night’s book gathering I went with Piave, an Italian cow’s-milk cheese named after the river in northern Italy. This cheese is protected with a DOP, which translates to "Protected Designation of Origin." This ensures that only real Piave is produced in the Dolomites, the mountainous area at the northeast tip of the Veneto region.  

[Similarly to Piave, educational sidebar regarding Champagne: only real champagne is produced in the Champagne region of France, demoting all others to “sparkling wine,” I'm afraid, regardless of how high the quality}

-Always a soppressata—Italian dry salami. Or prosciutto—dry cured ham. With prosciutto, I tend to add fresh bread and grain mustard for mini one-bite sandwiches.

-Olives. You know how opinionated I am on the topic of olives! I prefer them naturally cured, stuffed with garlic or real peppers (never pepper paste!). I like to keep these in the refrigerator for snacking (for both kids and adults).

Add any fresh fruit in the refrigerator and crackers (La Panzanella peasant bread is a favorite right now). 

I ask the girls to bring a beverage of their choice—and I entrust one book-clubber with the task of bringing cookies or brownies. I hope this gives you some ideas for your next get-together. Enjoy!

P.S. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is an amazing Book Club read. Wow.

Stuffed-Olive Martini & Hors d’Oeuvres

I had a birthday this past week, and what better way to celebrate than to hire a renowned bartender whose specialty is delicious cocktails, mocktails and witty presentation?

We decided to feature FAIR Vodka as the house martini—an excellent brand based in France and crafted with a ton of passionBecause I represent FAIR at our agency, I’ve come to know their story. The vodka is distilled with quinoa instead of potato, and its superior quality  earned it the  Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition last yearBecause their ingredients are Fair Trade Certified, it’s a brand I can feel good about.

I thought long and hard about how to create a vodka cocktail that would present beautifully and make the station attractive to those who  wouldn’t normally order a martini. Ultimately, I opted for a Blue Cheese–Stuffed Olive Bacon Martini. The martinis were a hit, but the  appearance of cheese and bacon quickly turned the bar into an hors doeuvres destination.

I started with large, green naturally cured,  pitted olives and a wedge of creamy blue cheese. then pan-seared slices of smoked bacon until extra crispy.

Stuffed Blue Cheese Olives with Bacon Bites

Ingredients/ 1/2 lb. creamy Gorgonzola, 8 strips bacon, 1 lb. creamy Gorgonzola

1/ In a hot pan, sear bacon until cooked (7 minutes each side); set aside wrapped in paper towel.

2/ Hand stuff pitted olives with blue cheese using a teaspoon, rounding the edge.

3/ For martini: Shake 3 ounces vodka and 1 teaspoon (or less) vermouth in a frosty shaker. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cheese-stuffed  olives; place bacon slice on the edge of glass.

4/ As an hors d'oeuvre: serve olives with a 1/4-inch wedge of bacon inserted in the blue cheese.

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Elegant, salty and delicious addition

Elegant, salty and delicious addition

Celebration Time, Come On!

Celebration Time, Come On!

A Knife Even A Kid Can Use

I recently received a ceramic knife set as a housewarming gift. I had never worked with ceramic knives and was impressed with their clean lines, light weight and rust-proof material. I had no idea I would soon be handing over the set for my eight-year-old daughter Savannah to use.

Though these knives accomplish the same task of cutting vegetables, fruit and boneless meat, they don’t have the razor-sharp points and intimidating gleam of a standard metal blade—which makes them ideal for children who are eager to help out in the kitchen.

Savannah will often request the chore of prepping our dinner vegetables, and while doing so attract all of the kids around her. It’s quite common on weekends for our little guests to line up for their turn to jump in and prep.

Do I see a SilverMark Ceramic children’s line in bright, cheerful colors in the near future? 

When is it my turn?!

When is it my turn?!

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Elegant Peanut Brittle Bites

It’s a commonly held belief in the food industry that Bazzini Nuts produces the best nut products anywhere. It also happens to be true. It’s a classic immigrant success story: In the 1800s, Anthony Bazzini came to America as a boy from a small town in northern Italy. At his first job in a nut processing company he showed talent, vision, and dedication. He would stay at the plant for the rest of his life, eventually buying out the company he had dedicated his life to.

When I was working for a specialty distributor in Manhattan's Tribeca district in the mid 1990's, I sold Bazzini products for a few years. I can still remember getting excited about sliced almonds in the summer, when green beans are at their peak—and pignoli nuts in the winter for creamy pesto sauces. Or pecans for pastry chefs who toast and glaze them to decipher how brittle they might be.  

Bazzini's factory happened to be around the corner from our warehouse, and as a treat I would walk to their retail shop to pick up my favorite in their portfolio: the Peanut Brittle Bar. My memory of those walks are bright and sunny, and full of anticipation.

So tonight, when my girlfriend rang on her walk over for dinner to tell me she has was en route with a plate of homemade peanut brittle I got very excited. 

At the end of dinner, the caramel sweetness, pinch of salt and hint of sesame made for a delicious, elegant and simple dessert everyone in attendance went crazy for.  By the end, I was shaking out the parchment paper looking for crumbs; I imagine Anthony Bazzini is very proud!

And now, my homage to Bazzini brittle:

Elegant Peanut Brittle Bites 

*Place 1 cup of sugar over medium to high heat (a wok is ideal for direct bottom heat placement).

*Add a sprinkle of salt.

*Stir consistently with a wooden spoon for 12–15 minutes until sugar is soupy.

*Drop approximately 1 pound of quality peanuts into sugar while turning over slowly.

*When you’re happy with the nut/sugar ratio, lay mixture on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

*Sprinkle sesame and let sit at room temperature for several hours (or refrigerate to expedite).

I'll start looking for jam jars to fill as holiday gifts later this year. Can you see how beautiful this will look in a classic jar wrapped in ribbon?

 
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This recipe officially comes with a Warning!

This recipe officially comes with a Warning!

On the Ranch

There is something special about Labor Day weekend. For me, it triggers memories of running around as a little girl—barefoot, sun-kissed skin—wanting to drink in every last moment of summer. Ice cream, no bedtime, the excitement of school…new teacher, new friends, the next grade!

With that same energy in the air, we had family arrive from New York City a few days ago. And so I set about finding an activity that my seven-year-old niece would find memorable and fun.

In the mountains of Malibu there are extraordinary national parks and views of the Pacific Ocean. Set in the Malibu hills, near streets evocative of the Mediterranean—Amalfi, Spoleto Drive—there is the picturesque Big Heart Ranch (bigheartranch.org).

Big Heart is a farm and non-profit foundation devoted to rescuing both children and animals through the unique and holistic approach of animal therapy.

The ranch generously has no associated fees but accepts tipping. If you’re able to set aside some time for a magical afternoon, I encourage a visit.

After our hands-on time with the animals, our hosts provided a snack. We agreed that their Pellegrino Limonata and vanilla cookies were the perfect refreshment for a hot and steamy afternoon.  

 

Goliath is the grandson of a very famous racehorse who was pushed extremely hard as a pony. Deceivingly scary, he was quite literally a gentle giant. The children adored riding him bareback and just walking with him.

Goliath is the grandson of a very famous racehorse who was pushed extremely hard as a pony. Deceivingly scary, he was quite literally a gentle giant. The children adored riding him bareback and just walking with him.

Before each ride the children were encouraged to greet the horse by hugging him and whispering a hello.

Before each ride the children were encouraged to greet the horse by hugging him and whispering a hello.

Chickens, roosters and hens, oh my!  The children were positively engrossed in finding their own eggs to take home for breakfast.

Chickens, roosters and hens, oh my!  The children were positively engrossed in finding their own eggs to take home for breakfast.

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Weekend Lamb Feast with Claire's Dreamy Greens

My dear friend Claire Woolner has a wholesale produce company that specializes in organic baby greens and vegetables. Each week, she harvests dozens of flats of beautiful works of art that are diminutive in size but enormous in flavor.  

The look, color, flavor, aroma and texture of her produce is truly something special.

To my delight, following a productive work session with Claire last week, she sent my family a delivery—a basket of herbs and veggies, which I immediately began planning our Sunday meal around.

Marinated and Grilled Leg of Lamb  

*My butcher suggested pre-butterflied leg of lamb.

*With a mortar and pestle, crush your preferred herbs. I used Claire's Thai basil, Black Cobra hot peppers, and generous amounts of rosemary with olive oil to stick.

*Grill lamb for approximately 8 minutes over hot coals—grill an additional 4 minutes on the flip side.  To avoid overcooking, move the leg to indirect heat for the second side (this also imbues the meat with a smoky flavor).

*Serve with heirloom tomatoes, dough puffs and oven-roasted cauliflower.

Dough Puffs 

*I take store-bought pizza dough and roll it into small balls, using olive oil and flour to shape.

*Place over indirect heat while you grill your leg of lamb, rolling the balls around the grill regularly.

Roasted Cauliflower  Since falling in love with roasted cauliflower in Italy many years ago, I include it with most weekend meals.

*Pull cauliflower florets off and cut base into bite size portions. (Don’t be afraid of the base! Tons of nutrients...)

*Line a roasting pan with olive oil; rub cauliflower with oil and available herbs (or salt and black pepper, if you’re feeling minimalist). Roast for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.


 

Claire's Greens

Claire's Greens

Yay! Nothing like coming home from a playdate to a bag of treats at the doorstep. “Mama, may I cook with you?” Um, YES! 

Yay! Nothing like coming home from a playdate to a bag of treats at the doorstep. “Mama, may I cook with you?” Um, YES! 

A butterflied leg of lamb takes approximately 12 minutes to cook. I generally stick to 8 minutes on one side and 4 on the other,  rotating grill placement  from direct to indirect heat. The direct creates a charred texture, and the indirect a smokiness.

A butterflied leg of lamb takes approximately 12 minutes to cook. I generally stick to 8 minutes on one side and 4 on the other,  rotating grill placement  from direct to indirect heat. The direct creates a charred texture, and the indirect a smokiness.

These heirloom tomatoes were so succulent, it would have been a sin to change their chemistry by placing over heat. I chose to serve them fresh on the side. But if you simply must cook your tomatoes, grill them whole for 3–5 minutes to just warm and soften. Cut the tomatoes on a serving platter; the juicy insides will deliver healthy and flavorful moisture to your bites of lamb and puff.

These heirloom tomatoes were so succulent, it would have been a sin to change their chemistry by placing over heat. I chose to serve them fresh on the side. But if you simply must cook your tomatoes, grill them whole for 3–5 minutes to just warm and soften. Cut the tomatoes on a serving platter; the juicy insides will deliver healthy and flavorful moisture to your bites of lamb and puff.

RGF Momentarily Out of Stock

I know—a scarcity of cheese is never welcome news. Unfortunately, there are some shorts of Real Greek Feta across the country (“shorts” being the industry term for when stores receive less than they order)—so we’ve had to push back some of the Murray’s in-store events and my personal appearances.

In the past few days, I’ve gotten confirmation from some of you Feta-lovers in New York and Seattle: The first shipment of Real Greek Feta has sold fast and the inventory is close to depletion.

I’ll let you know soon when the next fresh shipment of Real Greek Feta is scheduled to replenish supermarket shelves near you—as well as the details of rescheduled events. It shouldn’t be more than a few short weeks. My apologies, and thank you for your patience!

It's All Greek To Me in NYC

Sunday, August 4th: a quintessential hot and humid day in NYC.  Our Real Greek Feta Event was an example of exactly why Murray's now has a national presence; stellar!  The European Union secured hundreds of books to support our Buy 1lb of Real Greek Feta and receive a complimentary signed cookbook! promotion.  Staff was prepared, eager and dressed for the Event.  

New Yorkers are a distinct breed: while casual on a Sunday afternoon, don't let the shorts fool you.  They are sharp, well educated and always open to being shown something new.  There were a lot of questions on my recipes and this was really well received as most surprising simple and deliciously elegant.

Cherry Tomaotes stuffed with Real Feta and Olives served with Prosciutto Chips 

Ingredients/ Real Greek Feta, Pitted Kalamata Olives, 15 Cherry Tomatoes, 10 slices of Prosciutto and Olive Oil

1/ With the handle of a teaspoon, gently scoop out seeds from the cherry tomatoes.

2/ Using your thumb to gently press, insert a wedge of Real Feta and a slice of olive into the tomato halves.  

3/ Lay prosciutto flat on a tray and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. 

4/ Arrange stuffed tomatoes on a baking pan using folded aluminum foil to hold them in place.  Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and bake for 5 minutes with the prosciutto.  

The NY Crew: Nicole, T-boye, Kali, John David, Alethia, John and Rebekah to name a few.

The NY Crew: Nicole, T-boye, Kali, John David, Alethia, John and Rebekah to name a few.

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My Real Feta Quiche recipe was inspired once giving in and buying a pre-made pie shell on a busy day with too high inspirations to make one from scratch. Yummy and creamy and sweet (see Hawthorne Brunch Prep post for recipe details). Kitchen staff could barely keep up!

My Real Feta Quiche recipe was inspired once giving in and buying a pre-made pie shell on a busy day with too high inspirations to make one from scratch. Yummy and creamy and sweet (see Hawthorne Brunch Prep post for recipe details). Kitchen staff could barely keep up!

Foods of NY Tours has long had Murray's on its stop of historic West Village classic specialty food shops.  Maya and Ana reside in NJ taking guests from the Philippines to sight see.  They packed up on recipe ingredients excited to make a celebratory Sunday night feast.

Foods of NY Tours has long had Murray's on its stop of historic West Village classic specialty food shops.  Maya and Ana reside in NJ taking guests from the Philippines to sight see.  They packed up on recipe ingredients excited to make a celebratory Sunday night feast.

Charles Carpenter recently moved to NY.  While apartment hunting he's staying with his sister and decided a home cooked meal and slew of recipes was the perfect gratitude gift.  I loved receiving this image of his citibike ride uptown.

Charles Carpenter recently moved to NY.  While apartment hunting he's staying with his sister and decided a home cooked meal and slew of recipes was the perfect gratitude gift.  I loved receiving this image of his citibike ride uptown.

Children love Real Greek Feta! Hilary sampled our Watermelon Salad and with an excited "Yes!", literally giving mommy and daddy her approval.  She too wants pizza tonight!

Children love Real Greek Feta! Hilary sampled our Watermelon Salad and with an excited "Yes!", literally giving mommy and daddy her approval.  She too wants pizza tonight!

We printed 3,000 t-shirts, aprons and hats anticipating staff would exclusively wear them.  Who knew so many customers would be interested in their own?

We printed 3,000 t-shirts, aprons and hats anticipating staff would exclusively wear them.  Who knew so many customers would be interested in their own?

Opa!

Opa!

All Greek Everywhere

All Greek Everywhere

Joy picked up a copy of SCC a few weeks ago and decided to come back for one as a gift when she saw the opportunity to learn more about both Real Greek Feta and easy-healthy recipes. She has great tales of having to skip through the paparazzi outside of her neighbor Sarah Jessica Parker's home each day on the way to her job of building literacy programs for NYC children.

Joy picked up a copy of SCC a few weeks ago and decided to come back for one as a gift when she saw the opportunity to learn more about both Real Greek Feta and easy-healthy recipes. She has great tales of having to skip through the paparazzi outside of her neighbor Sarah Jessica Parker's home each day on the way to her job of building literacy programs for NYC children.

Michael is a bit of a legend at Murray's. His style, eccentric humor and knowledge of cheese has given him a daily, loyal following. I was excited to see he and I would be working together; not surprisingly he checked in to ask if we needed cheese cut in only a way Michael can.  See his blog at http://realnooyawkaseat.blogspot.com

Michael is a bit of a legend at Murray's. His style, eccentric humor and knowledge of cheese has given him a daily, loyal following. I was excited to see he and I would be working together; not surprisingly he checked in to ask if we needed cheese cut in only a way Michael can.  See his blog at http://realnooyawkaseat.blogspot.com

Julianne works hard to make cooking and eating together an integral part of her family life.  While baby Anton is too young to decide, big brother Toby proved to be a huge fan of participating in their meal decisions.

Julianne works hard to make cooking and eating together an integral part of her family life.  While baby Anton is too young to decide, big brother Toby proved to be a huge fan of participating in their meal decisions.

I think we know what he and mommy will make for dinner tonight.

I think we know what he and mommy will make for dinner tonight.

Rebekah is absolutely darling. Her style is always well received but the double hat today was a topper. 

Rebekah is absolutely darling. Her style is always well received but the double hat today was a topper. 

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Run, Shop, Cook!

Run, Shop, Cook!

Natalie proudly announced that "my mommy is a nutritionist!" She certainly is... Julie manages dietician's globally. Delightful and smart; I can't wait to receive her review!

Natalie proudly announced that "my mommy is a nutritionist!" She certainly is... Julie manages dietician's globally. Delightful and smart; I can't wait to receive her review!

Cool Cats in Hawthorne

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hawthorne Fred Meyer in southeast Portland caters to some pretty hip clientele.  It was a lot of fun talking to so many twenty-something and college-aged shoppers, many of whom go to nearby Reed College and were looking for ways to maximize their Real Greek Feta purchases. Because young people tend to be short on funds and time, I walked them through some pasta and one-pot meal suggestions.

Sautéed Shrimp and Roasted Red Tomatoes over Orzo with Real Feta

Ingredients/ Real Greek Feta, Roasted red tomatoes, 4 jumbo shrimp, 1 box orzo

1/ Boil and drain orzo as directed on box.

2/ Place roasted red tomatoes and their marinade in a hot pan. Add shrimp, sautéing for 2 minutes each side until pink.

3/ Pour pan’s contents over orzo. Top with Real Feta and serve.

Cut, crumble and cube that Feta girls!

Cut, crumble and cube that Feta girls!

Hawthorne Rocks!

Hawthorne Rocks!

Look for our Real Greek Feta Story Center at your local Murray's Shop.  Each center features detailed recipes including Ingredients and easy-to-follow steps.

Look for our Real Greek Feta Story Center at your local Murray's Shop.  Each center features detailed recipes including Ingredients and easy-to-follow steps.

Yay, baby loves education and product stories!

Yay, baby loves education and product stories!

Val takes her granddaughter shopping on their weekends together.  While she and I were chatting, we turned around to find Lucia chomping on the olives and Feta right out of the container.  A poster child for the idea that eating habits are developed through exposure.  Absolutely delightful!

Val takes her granddaughter shopping on their weekends together.  While she and I were chatting, we turned around to find Lucia chomping on the olives and Feta right out of the container.  A poster child for the idea that eating habits are developed through exposure.  Absolutely delightful!

Hollywood Brunch Prep

Saturday, 7/27/2013

Hollywood Fred Meyer is located in Portland’s Hollywood District, in a northeast section of the city. Vast in size, the store carries virtually anything your appetite could dream up. A few steps into the store, turn the corner and you’re taken aback by a large, beautiful Murray's Cheese Shop.

With Sunday approaching, the Murray’s staff and I were continuously asked: Any ideas for brunch? Well, how about…

Real Feta Quiche with Spinach, Bacon and Peppadew

Ingredients/  Real Greek Feta, Peppadew, 6 strips bacon, 1 bag washed spinach, 5 eggs, 1 premade pie crust

1/ In a hot pan, sear bacon until cooked (7 minutes each side). Chop and set aside. 

2/ In the same pan, sauté spinach quickly (3 minutes), tossing frequently. Set aside.

3/ Whisk eggs in a bowl and pour into pie crust. 

5/ Gently lay leaves of sautéed spinach on top of quiche mixture. Bake at 350˚F for 35 minutes. 

 

Mother and daughter Ana and Ellen shop and cook together regularly; it was immediately decided that Sunday's brunch would be Real Greek Feta Quiche with Spinach, Bacon and Peppadew!

Mother and daughter Ana and Ellen shop and cook together regularly; it was immediately decided that Sunday's brunch would be Real Greek Feta Quiche with Spinach, Bacon and Peppadew!

On Saturdays, after getting a workout, Mommy loves to shop with baby Lucia.  Lucia was c-u-r-i-o-u-s about everything , including our Real Greek Feta samples. "Yum!" she says...

On Saturdays, after getting a workout, Mommy loves to shop with baby Lucia.  Lucia was c-u-r-i-o-u-s about everything , including our Real Greek Feta samples. "Yum!" she says...

Real Greek Feta, welcome to our family!

Real Greek Feta, welcome to our family!

Burlingame celebrates the launch of Real Greek Feta

Burlingame Fred Meyer is located in the southwest section of Portland—it’s  updated and upgraded but steeped in 1950s charm. Friday, July 26, was a gorgeous day: unusually  warm  and populated with  shoppers eager for some healthy, summery  fare.

The staff at Murray’s Cheese Shop prepared our refreshing and delicious-

Watermelon and Real Greek Feta Salad with Red Onion

1/ Cut watermelon into chunks; thinly slice red onion.

2/ Place cubed Real Feta over melon and onion, and toss.

3/ Drizzle balsamic vinegar over salad.

Tip: For added sweetness, caramelize the onions by tossing them in a hot pan withbalsamic vinegar for 3 minutes before serving.

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Didi had friends coming over tonight so she loaded up with ingredients for a giant, healthy Antipasti Salad!

Didi had friends coming over tonight so she loaded up with ingredients for a giant, healthy Antipasti Salad!

Thea cooks with mom on weekends. She left the department to shop for the rest of the ingredients needed for a dinner she plans to make all by herself! 

Thea cooks with mom on weekends. She left the department to shop for the rest of the ingredients needed for a dinner she plans to make all by herself! 

Ava shops with Grandpa on weekends as a treat. This was her first taste of Feta; she loved the suggestion of Fig and Real Greek Feta Pizza, so off to the produce section they went!

Ava shops with Grandpa on weekends as a treat. This was her first taste of Feta; she loved the suggestion of Fig and Real Greek Feta Pizza, so off to the produce section they went!

What a team!

What a team!

Who is Murray's Cheese Anyway?

As a student in 1990 I was waitressing at the Riviera Cafe on 7th Avenue South in Manhattan’s West Village. On late summer afternoons after our shifts ended, my coworkers and I would slip around the corner to Murray’s Cheese Shop for a little something to savor on a blanket in Washington Square Park.

Back then Murray's was a jam-packed corner store on Bleecker Street, stocked with a zillion types of cheese. Just a few years later, while pitching smoked salmon around town, I would meet the store’s owner and learn firsthand why that itsy-bitsy store had such a colossal presence in retail Manhattan. Murray’s simply knew more and was choosier about its product than its competitors.

A few years ago, Kroger supermarkets launched their Murray's “store within a store” concept, and has now opened more shops inside King Soopers, Fred Meyer and QFC.

It’s now possible to find an entire Murray’s Cheese Shop nestled within your local supermarket. Under the company’s now famous red banner, you’ll find cheese experts clad in their signature red jackets—which, I might add, are only bestowed after successful completion of Murray’s Red-Jacket training course.

 

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In the Can!

Scoop It Chop It Cook It is less about any particular ingredient than it is about uncovering the treasure chest of beautiful food that is available at your local market from fields and farms around the world.

Industry executives and buyers have boundless information on what makes a certain product so special.  And while busy working mothers may have good intentions about learning a product’s origins, pedigree and terroir, they don’t necessarily have the time or mental bandwidth to seek out these details. That’s exactly why retailers who take the time to clearly communicate their product to shoppers do so well. 

In that spirit, we are currently in throes of producing Scoop It’s first episodes, which will capture the heart and soul of my MedBar cookbook.

Call it what you like: Meals in MinutesHealthy for LessFood You Can Feel Proud to Serve. I call it Delicious!   Stay tuned for episode footage. 

 

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Stinky Gift

With each child, the first packages delivered in their name are surreal. When Beckett received this Murray's Cheese tee a few months ago it brought a lot of laughs. This soft tee is both cozy for the kid wearing it and giggle-inducing for siblings and friends. With its old-school design and iconic Murray's logo on the back, it's a must-give baby gift for your cheese-loving friends (www.murrayscheese.com).

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Holiday Catalog Shoot

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Stone! My new absolute favorite for displaying cheese—particularly Drunken Goat, a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from the Murcia region of Spain. The cheese is washed in red wine during the ripening process resulting in the rind’s rare purple hue. The color was so interesting that it got me playing with unusual display ideas before finally hitting on stone. I found this particular slap in the stone yard next to my local lumber store.  

I purchased ten pieces of assorted slate, stone and granite in unusual and beautiful shapes for $24.00! 

Now the grassy, flowery and mildly milky flavored cheese is showcased beautifully, as it deserves.

A holiday tip: think how elegant a wedge of cheese will look wrapped in silk ribbon on a slab of stone as a hostess gift... 

Mouthful of Heaven

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When I received this wedge of pecorino cheese I was curious how I could distinguish it from Parmigiano Reggiano for a consumer who might not know the difference. Parm is made with cow's milk and is sometimes aged up to 24 months, while Il Forteto Pecorino Toscano is made with sheep's milk and aged only 3–4 months. It's brittle and milky: the ideal midpoint between semisoft and hard cheese.  

This cheese pairs perfectly with sweet jam and prosciutto. Your brain processes first silky, then sweet, then flaky, then firm—and at the same time creamy. Heavenly.

To prepare-

*cut cheese into slin rectangles

*spread generously with fig spread and wrap tightly with a thin slice of proscuitto

No oven needed and kid friendly.  Children can even make themselves or roll depending on age!