Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens ... wait, scratch the kittens since I'm horribly allergic to cats. However, while I'm pondering my favorite things I would definitely have to put cheese on my list. In my early cooking life my roommates and I would joke that any culinary disaster could be salvaged by a thick layer of cheese - which usually did work, though sometimes it needed to be in tandem with a lot of garlic.
Back to cheese though. Often even better than cheese, is cheese that is melted. Take brie, for example. Growing up in Midwest, cheddar was our family standard. Goat cheese, gouda, Havarti and brie with that rind, well, they just weren't part of the culinary repertoire.
In college, however, a friend spent the summer in France and came back insisting that I try brie that was toasted and melted on bread. That made all the difference. I tried, I liked. Then along came a recipe for honey-nut glazed brie that is too good not to share.
To make prep time on this recipe even faster, buy pre-sliced apples and just pour the warmed honey mixture over the brie, though I prefer to have the brie baked as well.
Feta is another cheese that happily came into my life. For a long time I simply used it in Greek salad, then for a while I used it every weekend in our breakfast eggs with herbs, but eventually the kids got a bit tired of that. Then, while visiting friends up in Cottonwood, our hostess served a simple baked feta as an appetizer. So simple, so good paired with warm, crusty bread and red wine.
So here is a warm cheese to start your evening and one to end it with. They are so good, you might want to skip anything in between.
1 large baguette or artisan bread
1 package plain block feta cheese, halved horizontally
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bread and wrap loaf in aluminum foil. Place the feta halves in an ovenproof dish. Combine oil, paprika, oregano and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over feta. Bake bread and feta in oven for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Honey Nut Glazed Brie
8 ounces of brie cheese (can use a round or a slice)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 Tablespoons honey
2-4 large apples, cored and sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cheese in a shallow ovenproof dish. In a skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat and stir in walnuts until coated. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg until blended. Add honey to the pan and warm, stirring constantly until it begins to bubble. Pour honey mixture over the brie and bake for 10 minutes. Serve hot with apple slices.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Lori Rossi began collecting recipes at age 14, but her real love affair with cooking started after picking up a December 1989 Bon Appetit magazine. Today, she shares her love of the kitchen with her two kids, Nathan, 13, and Nicole, 10. Contact her with a question or idea at firstname.lastname@example.org.