March 1, 2017

Dear friends,

After a couple of failed marriages and a string of doomed relationships, I gave up on love. I concluded romantic love never leads to happily ever after. That’s a myth. It leads to disillusionment and either a painful split or a long, soul-sucking marriage. I thought people who remained in marriages were either too lazy or too afraid to end them when the chemical attraction wore off.

I was pretty happy being single. I had lots of friends, an adorable dog and a great job. Then I met Tony. Bear with me. I’m getting to the Fontina and Prosciutto Soup.

At almost exactly this time 11 years ago, I walked into his sushi bar and began a terrifying romance. I was gun-shy. He was persistent. I fell hard. It was like stepping out of a plane with no parachute. I didn’t trust the feeling for a minute.

Next month will be our tenth wedding anniversary and I’ve learned that love can stay. You just have to do a lot of forgiving and stop expecting perfection. I read somewhere that a successful marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other. That pretty much sums it up.

I was reminded of all this when I came across a soup recipe I developed in 2006. I created it after tasting a similar soup at West Point Market. It is a luxuriously rich Fontina cheese soup studded with bits of prosciutto. It’s the last dish I made for a gaggle of girlfriends just before I met Tony. The soup triggers memories of good times that were about to get even better. Much better.

FONTINA-PROSCIUTTO SOUP
1 head garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. butter
6 paper-thin slices prosciutto, chopped
1 cup diced yellow onion
1/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 cups whipping cream
1 lb. Fontina cheese, shredded
1 tbsp. Marsala wine
Salt to taste

Discard any loose outer skin from the head of garlic but do not separate the cloves. With a sharp knife, cut off the tips of the cloves (no more than 1/8 inch), leaving head intact. Place in a small oven-proof bowl or pan and drizzle with olive oil. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 1 hour, until brown and soft. Remove from oven and cool.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a soup pan and saute prosciutto until frizzled. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Melt remaining butter in pan and saute onion until soft and golden. Sprinkle flour over onions and cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth. Squeeze garlic from the papery skins into the broth. Add bay leaf and cream, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until onion is very soft.

In batches, puree the soup in a blender. Return to the pan. Add cheese a handful at a time, stirring until melted. Stir in Marsala and season to taste with salt. Return prosiutto to the soup and simmer a couple of minutes. Ladle into bowls. Makes about 10 servings.

TIDBITS

The new West Point Market is starting to look like the store we knew and loved. After a spartan opening before the holidays, when about the only things on the shelves were chocolate and wine, the store has begun to grow into its new space at 33 Shiawassee Ave. in Fairlawn.

There is already a large, full-service cheese department and an extensive seletion of teas and coffees. The wine department, which looks almost as large as the one in the old store, has settled into a separate room adorned with West Point’s iconic British telephone booth. Another room holds cafe tables and the fully staffed wine bar. Although a cafe is not planned, customers eventually willl be able to buy prepared salads and sandwiches in the deli and eat them at the cafe tables, says manager Jovanna Gionti.

“We’re growing every day,” she says. “We’re adding to it.”

A meat department should be up and running in a couple of weeks, she says. Ditto for the soup bar. A gift shop and full-service chocolate shop were being installed last week.

The black wire shelves that hold dry goods are still emptly in spots, but products are arriving daily, Gionti says. Already customers can find such gourmet essentials as snail shells, Maille Dijon Mustard and Maldon Sea Salt.

The store looks roomy, although at 10,000 to 12,000 square feet it is only about one-third the size of the former store in Wallhaven. There’s no on-site kitchen, so the deli items and soups are made in a leased kitchen in the Merriman Valley and transported to the store.

The store is closed Mondays. The website is http://www.westpointmarket.com.

THE MAILBAG

From S.H.:
I got rid of my old cookie sheets and replaced them with dark ones. I noticed that when I used them to bake (lined with aluminum foil) the underside of the baked item turned dark very quickly. I always watch when I bake without the foil and remove the cookies, etc. when they are lightly brown on the edges; but now I believe I either should turn down the temperature and/or decrease baking time even when I line with foil. Am I right?

Dear S.H.: Your first mistake was buying dark-colored baking sheets. They absorb heat and can burn the bottoms of your baked goods. The solution is not foil, which also conducts heat a bit too well. Instead, line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Parchment does not require greasing, and you can reuse the paper until it begins to turn brown.

Reducing the heat is not a good idea because that would not only prevent the undersides from browning too quickly, but also prevent the top and interior of the item from baking at the ideal temperature for proper rise, etc. Instead, even when using parchment, you may have to shorten the baking time. Watch carefully and remove the item from the oven when it appears to be done.

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