Plank Grilling with Cheese

planked cheeseI’m a big fan of plank grilling, I love the subtle smoky flavor that the different woods infuse. I’ve planked salmon and other fish many times, also scallops and portobello’s but never tried cheese, until now. Wow, have I been missing out! I have to say this is a spectacular appetizer, just open up a few bottles of wine and let the party begin! This would be perfect to start off your Memorial Day weekend BBQ’s.
outdoor gourmet Whatever flavor board you decide to use just make sure you soak them really good, I went with cedar and maple since I wanted to do a a sweet and savory version. Make sure you anchor the boards under the water, I soaked mine for 3 hours and I never got a flare up thanks to Outdoor Gourmet, they have great products! Brun-uusto cheese I had every intention of using some sort of an Italian cheese for my first try, I already knew that a wheel of Brie would work but I was afraid I might have puddles of cheese dripping down the board. I wanted a cheese that was a little more sturdier so I asked my cheesemonger who gave me quite a few suggestions one being a special romano, but then he insisted I try this Brun-Uusto cheese from Brunkow Cheese in Wisconsin. It’s known as a “bread cheese” because the crust on the cheese is similar to toasted bread. He just went on and on how good it was, and he was right!

If you can’t find this cheese in your area you might want to try a halumi type, but if you live in the Chicagoland area this cheese will be available at Whole Foods, Standard Market, farmers markets and possibly Trader Joe’s, although I can’t confirm that.

It’s meant to be eaten warm and is delicious with sweet or savory toppings.

 I purchased everything so it was easy to put together, I bought a jar of sour cherry preserves for the sweet topping and for the savory I picked up a container of sundried tomatoes that were tossed in olive oil, garlic, oregano and capers. I toasted a loaf of crusty bread and bought assorted crackers and a brioche toast.planked cheese with tomatoes This cheese melts perfectly, it doesn’t ooze out all over it stays contained but yet it’s still creamy and soft with a nutty flavor and the cedar infusion takes it over the top!  Crusty toasty bread, warm creamy cheese plus savory tomatoes makes this a match made in heaven! For the sweet version I used a maple board which added a delicate smoky flavor to the warm cheese.

 The sour cherry topping combined with the nutty warm cheese spread on brioche toast was truly amazing! I think this was my favorite!

I hope I inspired you to plank some cheese.   Happy Grilling!


Caprese Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Pesto Sauce

Here’s a little appetizer I put together in minutes. I fortunately have access to good quality fresh pasta sheets so it made the process go really fast!
I pre-roasted grape tomatoes ahead of time, bought some fresh mozzarella balls and basil for my ingredients.
Now believe me, I like to make fresh pasta, but I can’t just make a little bit, it ends up being an all day project with tons of pasta and flour all over my kitchen, and besides I like to do it in the winter.
 So I’m grateful to purchase these neat little sheets all perfectly cut and ready to go!
I used a 3 inch cutter and was able to make about ten ravioli, enough for four people, about two each.
The perfect starter while your grilling up something!
Look how simple this is! Wet your cut pasta around the edges then place a basil leaf, a roasted tomato, (make sure it’s not too juicy) and top it off with a mozzarella ball.
Crimp them together with a fork close to the mozzarella ball so it doesn’t move around.
Boil until tender and then drain on a kitchen cloth, you don’t want them to be wet!
For a very quick sauce you can take some good store bought pesto like I did, add in a few of those extra roasted tomatoes you have, and a little lemon zest for freshness, mix together and spoon it all over!
 And if that’s not enough, drizzle your plates beforehand with the best balsamic glaze you can find, here’s mine.  Oh My!



This is such a great summer appetizer, side dish, or even a light lunch. Savory ricotta on flaky puff pastry that is studded with vine ripened tomato slices that have been roasted with a hint of garlic, thyme and olive oil. Now pour yourself a glass of your favorite crisp white wine, and your good to go!

Lay parchment paper on a baking sheet, add your sliced tomatoes, fresh thyme, ( you can use fresh basil also, but add it later you don’t want it to get brown) ) salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and drizzle them all with EV olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees till juices are more concentrated. These could be done ahead of time until ready to use.

Next mix up your ricotta with salt and pepper, egg and lots of grated cheese, I used Romano, because it has a more intense flavor. This also can be done ahead of time.

Place 1 sheet of puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet, and with a small knife form a 1″ border around the pastry and slice diagonally all around like it is shown above. Be care full not to cut through. With in the frame, poke with fork all over, and lightly brush border with olive oil.

Place ricotta mixture within the frame, now layer the roasted tomato slices all over.

Bake for around 20 minutes at 400 degreesF, till golden brown. Let it rest for a while before you cut into it. Serve warm.
Buon Appetito!!