My Love Affair with Gorgonzola

Beets served with Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts.

Gorgonzola and I are old friends but during the past couple of years, I have fallen deeply in love with it. I began to see it with new eyes when I ate a roasted onion and Gorgonzola pizza. I took to adding it to green salads, and recently saw a “recipe” for a pear, walnut and Gorgonzola salad that knocked my socks off when I tried it.

One morning last week I made breakfast out of onions sautéed in butter and olive oil, with chopped black Kalamata olives and beaten eggs added and crumbled Gorgonzola. Oh, groan, was it good!

When I was growing up in the fifties and early sixties, it seems that I recall blue cheese dressing, but I don’t remember that my mom ever acquired a hunk of blue cheese to serve on crackers or to add to a salad. I can’t even remember my first encounter with the stuff, but now I do try to keep some on hand all the time, and of all the different sorts of blue-veined cheese that I like, I like Gorgonzola the very best.

Then, as it happened, a couple weeks ago, my old friend Jamie told me about a beet, Gorgonzola, and walnut salad he ate at a retreat that he really enjoyed. Lindsay Bowker of Stonington made it, and he asked her for the directions. I emailed Lindsay who wrote back, saying that it is, “a wonderful dish, universally appealing and fun for the palette, many flavors and textures, and also much nicer with yellow or Chioggia beets.”

I have beets stored in the cellar from last summer. I grew several sorts, and a Chiogga type was among them. Sometimes when I pull them out of the storage bucket, I can’t tell whether it is a red beet or a yellow or what. I cook them and find out what they are when I cut into them.

So I did the Lindsay-recommended hour-long slow roasting for the beets at 300 degrees, peeled them, and assembled the salad. Lindsay also recommended toasting the walnuts in a little butter. That really enhances their flavor. She also adds a little rosemary to the beets while they are in the oven but I am not that fond of rosemary so I didn’t.

P.S. About tamarind paste: One of you kindly let me know that I don’t have to go too far to acquire tamarind paste for Pad Thai. The Natural Life Center in Bangor has it and so does Rooster Brother in Ellsworth, good news for folks a little further Downeast.

P.P.S. Next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Camden at the Library, I will be wearing my food historian hat as I participate in a month-long series on food history. My topic will be “Beyond Baked Beans: Early American Foodways.” It would be lovely to see you there.

Beets, Gorgonzola, and Walnut Salad
One or two small beets per person
Olive oil
Rosemary (optional)
Gorgonzola cheese
Walnuts toasted in butter

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Brush or rub the beets with olive oil, and roast with rosemary sprinkled in if you wish for an hour or until they are tender and the skins slip off. Peel them, slice and put them on a plate to serve. Dribble lightly a little more olive oil on the beets, sprinkle on crumbled Gorgonzola to taste, and add a few toasted walnuts.

Makes a variable number of servings.

Looking for….Multi-layer beans and other stuff dip for tortilla chips. Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, and it is a national holiday of sorts. Even though the Patriots won’t be playing, I expect lots of us will watch the game anyway, and need some of that multi-layer dip with beans and cheese and guacamole. I looked in my cookbook collection and don’t find it, and even though there are lots of possibilities online, I’d rather have a good, highly-recommended recipe from one of you to work with. Anyone?

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.