A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to the Sargento Cheese Headquarters in Plymouth, Wisconsin. Cheese is a pretty big part of my life and Sargento is a company that I love. I was thrilled to be asked to spend the year being a flavor correspondent discovering the top 10 food trends that Rick Bayless has identified for this year. I have been a huge Rick Bayless fan for many, many years. In fact, Mexico: One Plate at a Time was one of the first cookbooks that I ever bought myself and have been carting it around since college.
We began our day learning about the company, what it believes in, and about the products that they make and distribute. It seems like such a nice place to work, the people were happy and smiling, and everyone loves what they do. I was so impressed, I asked my husband if he would consider moving to Wisconsin when he retires. (I’ll get back to you on that.) After an incredible 5-course lunch, we learned about grading cheese, and experienced the life cycle of cheddar. My favorite was the 4-year cheddar, and I discovered that cheese curds are heaven. When friends discovered that I was in Wisconsin, I was asked to bring this delicacy home in my carry on. I get it now.
We moved into another room, only to be surprised to learn about the flavor trends from the horse’s own mouth. Rick (‘cuz we are totally besties now) spent the afternoon teaching us about the trends that he identified. To be honest, I was a little star-struck, I am a HUGE Top Chef fan, and he not only was my favorite on Top Chef Masters, but he won. He truly could not have been nicer, and I think that the thing that I love the most about him is his appreciation of the home cook. He understands that cooking in the home is truly necessary and that teaching people to cook and enjoy food is just as important. And if you have spent anytime here, you know that it is my goal as well to teach people to be more confident in the kitchen and to love cooking as much as I do.
What are the trends you ask?
Middle Eastern Flavors
Herbs in Desserts
I am going to be spending the year focusing on using herbs in dessert, just like in this recipe, and cooking with habanero peppers. And dabbling with the other trends as well. I decided to start off by making a ricotta cheese based ice cream. Making an ice cream like this is incredibly simple, you are just blending ingredients together and not having to make a custard. You could use this as a base for so many flavors. Strawberries and basil are a beautiful combination. Both are sweet, and the addition of the basil gives this ice cream an almost minty flavor. It is a great way to start playing with the idea of herbs in a dessert, instead of just a savory dish.
1 pound strawberries, cleaned and hulled
3/4 cup Dixie Crystals sugar
1 Tablespoon vodka
Zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup Sargento Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1 cup heavy cream Add the strawberries, sugar, vodka, lemon zest, and lemon juice to a bowl.
Toss and let sit for one hour.
Add the strawberry mixture, basil leaves, ricotta cheese, and cream to a blender.
Pulse to combine, or if you like smooth ice cream, process until smooth. Cover and let chill for 4 hours, or overnight.
Freeze according to the manufacture’s instructions for your ice cream maker. Freeze for 20 minutes, and transfer to a freeze-proof container. Freeze until hard. Scoop and serve.
The other great thing about this project is working with a great group of bloggers. We didn’t know each other before our trip, and I left with 4 new friends. You can follow their journey as well. (Kelsey was with us in spirit, she had just had a baby, so she participated via Skype.)
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