Camembert Stuffed with Dates and Walnuts Starts the Party on a Snowy Night

The week before Thanksgiving my husband and I hosted our annual dinner for his freshman class at Amherst College. This year along with worrying about getting food cooked for fifteen, I was also concerned about the weather. Forecasters were predicting a hearty snowfall for the night of our party. Since we live two miles from campus, we were keeping our fingers crossed that the storm would start later than expected.

Luck went our way with the students arriving around 6, and no snow in sight. For appetizers I had set out a wheel of Camembert, halved and stuffed with chopped Medjool dates, dried apricots, and toasted walnuts, all scented with orange zest. Toasted baguettes slices and apple wedges made fine canvases for the stuffed cheese. A big dish of rigatoni baked with a spicy tomato sauce, a salad of mixed greens and shaved fennel tossed with lemon and olive oil, and a basket of warm artisan breads followed. Still, no snow.

But when the desserts–pumpkin brownies served with vanilla ice cream and caramel Continue reading

A Sublime But Simple Salad from Paris

Mache Salad with Crispy Camembert Croutons 1 3490x2560 3490x2560In Paris last winter I met a friend for lunch on a chilly January day. The right bank bistro we chose was called Clown Bar, the name a clue that it was located near the city’s famous circus, Le Cirque d’Hiver. The landmark restaurant had been recently revitalized by a young team, and its menu reflected this with an offering of new, inventive dishes. One of the first things I spotted on it was a Salade de Mache et Croquettes de Camembert. The waiter explained that it was prepared with tender mache lettuce and garnished with warm crispy Camembert croutons.

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The salad tuned out to be my favorite dish among many good ones that day. It was a brilliant pairing, both for its simplicity and for its contrasting textures and tastes. The tender mache lettuce tossed in a vinaigrette made a great counterpoint to the crunch of the fried Camembert. Continue reading