Cheese Bread

Wally and Terry in Italy

If there is just one thing I love about my husband (and there are many) it is his attention to detail. This trait of his is one reason he is known for his Cheese Bread. He’s made it ever since I’ve known him. Even when on the road with his band in the 70s, Wally had an electric skillet in the bus so he could make it.

Yes it is simple, but the taste is in the details. He toasts the bread (sourdough) just so, fits the cheese like a tile layer putting together a mosaic, then the salt… I’ll let him give you the full rundown, if he will indulge.

If every chef has their star dish, this would be Wally’s. It has been his staple for breakfast for many a year. Our kids grew up on it. Today I watched him as he grabbed the Point Reyes Toma, like an artist with new paint. “Ahhh…Toma and my fresh tomatoes….”

Cheese Bread. I like the fact that it still excites him after more than 35 years of making it.

But that is another thing I love about him…

Wally: How I Do It.

Ah, so much hoopla about so little.
The first and most important thing is to start with good ingredients.

Bread: No light, airy, squishy breads, please. I generally like a good sourdough although a bit of the fig bread from the Breadbar is also a wonderful choice.
(The Fig Bread is also available at Fancifull and is finding its way into many of our gift baskets.)

A good cheese: Almost any kind of cheese works – but nothing pre-sliced! Cheddar, Brie, Goat Cheese – and today’s choice Toma, are all great.

Options: Fresh tomatoes from your garden are a great addition. Fresh herbs if you like. Slices of hard boiled egg would be great, too.

Toma Cheese Bread

1) Slice the cheese thinly – 1/8th inch. Could be grated but it’s easier to use slices.
2) Slice the tomatoes, chop the herbs and have ready any other ingredients you might want.
Tomatoes need to be at room temperature. (They should never be refrigerated anyway.)
3) Turn on the broiler or toaster oven to 400 degrees.
4) Toast the bread lightly in a toaster. For a richer version you can pan fry the bread in butter lightly on each side. Mmmmmm… Today I just used the toaster.
5) Lay out the cheese slices on the bread. I try not to leave any gaps. Don’t let the cheese hang over the edge – it will melt off and fall into the oven. Cover the bread
completely with the cheese.
6) Place the bred in the oven – you can put it on a piece of foil to catch drippings.
7) Let broil for 2 – 4 minutes. Time will vary depending on the type of cheese! Watch it. When it’s melting over the entire surface it’s ready.
8) Pull the rack out and add the tomatoes.
9) continue to broil for up to 1 minute.
10) Add fresh basil if desired. A pinch of salt if desired.
11) Enjoy the aroma while the cheese cools enough to eat!

You remembered to make your tea or espresso, right?

By the way, it was delicious! And my tomatoes this year are absolutely mahvelous.

Zucchini and Asparagus Melange

With summer, and asparagus season, slipping away I thought I should get this out right away. I’ve been meaning to post it for months now. I began making this a few months ago, trying to add variation to my veggies. It was so good, I’ve been making it weekly in big batches. I, and Wally, never get tired of it.
Zucchini Asparagus Melange
As with most of my recipes, especially sautés like this one, it is wildly variable.
I put down some guidelines, the rest is up to you.

This could be great done on a BBQ as well, in one of those grilling baskets (without the shredded cauliflower variation)

This takes about 15 minutes from start to finish – it is so easy yet so delicious, the perfect recipe!

Basic Ingredients:
Tomato (red pepper is good too, but there are so many options)
Olive Oil or Butter
Fennel Seed
Salt, Pepper, Basil (fresh or dried) and whatever else tickles your fancy.
I have a lavender salt from Sonoma (I carry it in my shop) that I love in this recipe.
The lavender adds a hint of sharpness
Touch of Balsamic

Add ins:
Leek or onion (sauté first and then add zucchini)
Red Pepper
Shredded Cauliflower (I put my in the Cuisinart and do a whole head and use it all week in various things – great sautéed with an egg in the morning, just like hash browns)
Once again, I will let you tickle your fancy on this one. Go for it.

Optional, but delicious
Pecorino Cheese or Vella or Manchego or Parmesan or any cheese you like

Here’s what I do:

Cut up the zucchini in strips, a julienne if you will
If using leeks I do those as well now
I also cut up the asparagus – I use the tips and part of the stem
Cut your tomato – or do it as your zucchini is cooking

Get a good frying pan and put in olive oil or butter and melt over medium to medium high heat.
When hot add in leeks if using or just add in zucchini.
Sauté until soft, add seasoning (the lavender salt is good here).

Take out of the pan.

Add in Asparagus (may need a bit more oil, I like butter with asparagus but that is me)
Add in Fennel seed – just a touch and season as you like it.
After just a minute or so, add in the tomatoes. You just want to heat them.

Don’t overcook the Asparagus. It takes just a few minutes, they turn bright green and should be a bit crisp.

Splash the asparagus with a dash of Balsamic Vinegar.

Put all the vegetables in a bowl and if you want, grate a bit of cheese over it.
The Vella (an aged jack from Sonoma) is wonderful as is the pecorino, but I’ve used various cheese. I once added a little of the amazing Crave Brothers Mascarpone to this and it made it rich and decadent.

If you like the cauliflower idea, you can sauté that first and take it out or add the zucchini to it.
Shredded cauliflower has a rice like consistency and adds a nice texture, as well as lots of nutrients.

Be sure to cook everything lightly – undercook veggies rather than overcook.

I have added this mixture to the Trader Joe’s cooked lentils mixed with rice to lighten them up – delicious and a complete meal.

Of course this could be served with pasta.
And so on and so on….

Go ahead, get chopping and creative!

Kahlua Coffee Toffee Trifle

This is the recipe that started my love of trifles. It came from a woman who was a
customer of mine when I worked temporarily at the May Company on Wilshire (yes, I am dating myself) up in their coffee shop. Wow, that was a long time ago. This lovely woman, Phyllis Kitay, gave me this recipe on a napkin. I still have that napkin. Over 20 years later it sits in my recipe folder just as Phyllis gave it to me. It feels good to get it in some form that is a bit safer.


1 1-lb angel food cake, or you can use pound cake and I have made it with fresh chocolate cake – a great variation!
1 5.5 oz instant vanilla pudding mix made with half and half (I usually make my own pudding or patissiere cream, I prefer it to the packaged, but the packaged works fine if you are in a hurry)
3/4 C Kahlua
2 C Whipping Cream
2 tsp Instant Coffee
Crushed English Toffee (I have also used Heath bars and such)

Cut the cake into cubes and pour the Kahlua over evenly
Make up the pudding or cream and mix it gently with the cake

In another bowl pour in the 2 cups whipping cream and the instant coffee. This is left unsweetened because you have the sugar from the toffee and the pudding and Kahlua.
Let stand 5 minutes then whip the cream.

In a glass bowl layer the cake mixture, whipped cream, crushed English Toffee and repeat finishing with the toffee.
It is truly amazing.

Easy Fresh Fruit Trifle

Disclaimer: I feel the need to let you all know that I am a “from scratch” kind of gal.
I make my own ladyfingers for Charlottes, I never use a mix for a cake, I take great pride in my baked goods. However, there are times when you need a quick dessert and you are just too worn out to get out the flour and eggs and start melting chocolate. Plus, there are times when you can take ready-made things and combine them in ways that take them out of the ordinary. Here is such a recipe. It took a total of about 30 minutes to assemble.
Easy Fresh Fruit Trifle
I got excited when we got these sponge cakes in the shop. We tried them and liked the texture – a flavor similar to angel cake, but denser so it can hold up well to crème patissier. My mind started racing, thinking of all the things you could do with them.

We needed a dessert for an employee’s birthday, so here was a perfect opportunity to experiment. The staff proclaimed this experiment a rousing success!

2 packages Bavarian Sponge Cake (found here at Fancifull)
Lemon or Orange Curd (we have a great lemon curd )
Rice Pudding (you can use Trader Joe’s or Kozy Shack available at most grocery stores)
Note: You can also make Patissier creme or Custard if you want. It is easy and the texture is a bit stiffer.
3 Cups whipping cream
A tablespoon or two of Powder Sugar (for the whipping cream – sweeten to taste)
Cut up Strawberries
You can also use blueberries, bananas, peaches, whatever combo you like.
Optional: Meringues (can get tubs at any store or Trader Joe’s)

Whip the cream with powder sugar to taste until stiff.

Slather the sponge cake with the curd. Cut it up in bite size pieces.

Sprinkle a layer of cake on the bottom of a trifle dish. If you don’t have a trifle dish, use a straight side bowl, or anything where you can do a few layers.

Spoon a good layer of pudding on top of the cake. Layer with the strawberries and other fruit, add the whipped cream on top of that. Optional: add a layer of cut up meringues on top of whipping cream.

Repeat this whole process. Usually two layers are enough, but you can do three if you want. Decorate top with fresh fruit or the meringues if you have used them.

Personal Note: The rice pudding was good in this recipe, but a bit softer and runnier than a good stiff custard. The taste was great, but I think I prefer the texture of custard.

Trifles are a fun dessert in that the variations are endless. They are also great for a group because you can just spoon it up, rather than slicing cake. It makes it easier to portion out. They look dramatic and because you aren’t using a traditional icing they tend not to be too sweet.