Thursday, July 10, 2008

Recipe: Whole Wheat Banana Bread

With a one year old that loves bananas and is particular about their degree of ripeness, we have a continuous supply of over-ripe bananas at our house. Not being able to waste a morsel of food, I have dug out my whole wheat banana bread recipe. The fact that it uses whole wheat makes this recipe a tad healthier than conventional banana bread. You can use either traditional whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour, also labeled whole wheat pastry flour, made from white wheat. The latter has a milder wheat flavor and I think it works better for sweet breads like this one. I skip the step of mashing the bananas before adding them to the batter. I find that the paddle attachment on my stand mixer does a wonderful job of breaking up the banana for me. If you'd like, make two small loaves instead of one large one by using the smaller size loaf pans. Then eat one immediately and freeze the other. If you find yourself with one or two ripe bananas or you don't have time to make this recipe when they are at their peek of ripeness, peel them, cut them into one inch chunks, place the banana chunks in a freezer bag and freeze until you have a third banana or time to make the bread. Then just remove the frozen bananas, allow them to thaw and use them in place of fresh bananas.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

1 cup granulated or brown sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature or softened in the microwave (not melted)
2 large eggs
3 ripe medium sized bananas
1/3 cup water
1 2/3 cup white whole wheat or traditional red whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line one 9X5" loaf pan or two 7X3" loaf pans with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Cream sugar and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer. Blend in eggs. Then add bananas in 1 inch chunks, increasing the speed of the mixer and allowing the paddle or the beaters to break the banana into smaller pieces. When the banana is sufficiently dispersed into the batter, add the water. Add all at once, the whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Then blend just until moistened. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan(s) and bake at 350 degrees until they test done and are nicely browned on top. About an hour for the large loaf or 45 minutes for the two small ones. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan, then cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

My earliest memories of rhubarb consist of walking along the patch in our garden as my mom harvested what seemed like bushels. She would cut the stalks close to the earth, trimming the large leaves off immediately, leaving them lie in the hot June sun to whither and wilt in the garden. My mom would warn me, "the leaves are poisonous, do not eat that part". She reminded me of this everytime she cut rhubarb, so naturally I was deathly afraid of rhubarb leaves as a kid.

We'd bring the freshly harvested rhubarb up to the house to be cleaned. Often after the first harvest of the summer, my mom would give us each a bright red sampling. We'd dip the end of the tart, fibrous stalk into a dish of sugar and take a bite... and remember that we liked it better cooked. I didn't particularly like the taste of raw rhubarb, I think I just ate it because I could and as a way to celebrate- summer was finally here.

Rhubarb is a vegetable that we treat like a fruit. We bake it into pies and layer it in tortes, crisps, and crumbles. It is no wonder- the tart, pungent vegetable tastes decidedly fruit-like and like most fruits is improved by adding a little, or a lot of sugar. Ice cream doesn't hurt either.

I was at home at my mom and dad's farm in Wisconsin for the first week of June- just in time to enjoy all the fresh cut asparagus I could eat and of course, rhubarb. I hauled home as much as I could fit into my suitcase and have since made two crunches, a pie, and some jam and still have enough for one more dessert. I bought some fresh organic strawberries from Ella Bella Farm down at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market for this simple Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

2 pounds rhubarb, diced
2 pounds strawberries, hulled and dried
7 cups granulated sugar

The night before you make jam, place rhubarb into a large, non-reactive saucepan or small stockpot. Cover with sugar, place cover on pot, and allow to sit overnight. The next day, clean, hull, and dry the strawberries and add them to the rhubarb mixture. Heat over medium-high heat stirring often until the mixture boils. Reduce the heat to medium and boil until thick, about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and skim off the foam with a metal spoon. Ladle into sterilized jars and seal. Yields 9 half-pint jars.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Key Lime Pie with Graham Pastry Crust

I bought 100 key limes for our cinco de Mayo party we had a couple of weekends ago. Margaritas taste best when using key limes. Unfortunately, due to their miniature size, you need about 2 1/2 limes for each margarita, which can really give your wrists a work out, so wouldn't you know, the regular sized limes were used leaving me with a few dozen key limes. What does one do with key limes? Make key lime pie of course. And so I researched a few recipes for this classic southern dessert. I found little variance on the ingredients in the custard. Some recipes called for baking the pie, some relied purely on the reaction between the eggs and the lime juice to create a custard-like filling. I had no problem deciding to use the baked variation, as it claimed to result in a creamier consistency. The piece of this pie that kept me searching for a better solution was the crust. All the recipes I found called for a graham cracker crust, made by crushing either purchased or home made graham crackers. Of course, I didn't want to buy graham crackers that would contain hydrogenated oils and I didn't like the idea of having to make the crackers to ultimately crush them for a crust making a simple key lime pie an all-day ordeal. I thought why not make a home made graham cracker crust in one step? I looked back at my own graham cracker recipe and using the ratios from my favorite pastry crust, created a graham pastry crust. It turned out to be a simple and tasty alternative that contains no hydrogenated oils.
The following recipe can be made in a 9 inch pie plate, but the pastry crust works well in a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, plus it looks more elegant.

Key Lime Pie with Graham Pastry Crust

1 1/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Bob's Red Mill) or white whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed

1 1/2 Tablespoons cold water
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Blend in the cold butter with a pastry blender or your findertips until you have pea sized chunks. In a small mixing bowl, combine the cold water with the honey, molasses and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the butter and flour mixture, stirring with a fork to bring the dough together into a ball. When just starting to come together, turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and gather into three or four separate pieces. Them "shmear" each piece against the countertop once with the palm of your hand to distribute the fat. Gather the dough together forming a disc, wrap in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4 Large Egg Yolks
4 teaspoons grated lime zest (from about 12 key limes)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 14 key limes)

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and zest until thick and creamy with a light green tint. Whisk in the milk, then the lime juice. Cover and set aside allowing to thicken while baking the crust.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the cooled pastry dough from the refrigerator, unwrapping the dough, but leaving it on top of the plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on top of the plastic wrap until it is about 12 inches in diameter or is large enough to fit into your pie or tart pan. Using the plastic wrap to transport the dough, place the dough over the pan, plastic side up. Remove the plastic wrap and fit the dough into the pie or tart pan, trimming the excess from the sides. Cover the dough with tin foil and weight with pie weights or rice. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

When the pastry crust has baked for 20 minutes, remove from oven and reduce heat to 325 degrees. Pour the set custard filling into the baked crust and return the pie to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until the center is firm. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled. Serve chilled with sweetened whipped cream.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Dirty Dozen

There are many reasons to choose to eat organic food. My family's health is my main priority, but the fossil fuels used to fertilize and transport food is a growing concern, especially as the prices of oil and gas sky rocket. Unfortunately, organic does not mean local, so many foods that do not use petroleum-derived fertilizers are driven across numerous states before they are finally sold and consumed. Here in the bay area, we have the luxury of being able to buy sustainably grown food raised locally on small farms. We are able to use our food dollars to provide a better way of life for small farmers and in turn get a higher quality product.
I often hear the complaint that organic is too expensive. It can be more expensive, especially when your only option is to buy them from a store. Fortunately, farmer's markets are becoming ever more popular so more consumers have the option of buying directly from the source. Not only is buying directly from the farmer more cost effective, but it also gives one the opportunity to ask how and where something was grown. For example, if it isn't "certified" organic, the farmer can explain why.

I realize that not all of us have the time to shop at farmer's markets and sometimes you find yourself choosing between organic and non-organic produce in the supermarket. There are undoubtedly price differences between the organic and conventional and perhaps you cannot even find certain vegetables grown organically. As I mentioned earlier, my family's health is my main priority and it might be yours too, so here is a little tool from Environmental Working Group to help make those decisions. It's the Dirty Dozen, the twelve most contaminated vegetables and the twelve least contaminated. I am now more comfortable buying conventionally grown avocados (number 2 on the least contaminated list) and put more emphesis on buying those grown in California. You'd be surprised how often I see a "grown in chile" sticker on a bumpy skinned Haas. On the other hand, there are certain things I will only buy organic mainly because they taste so much better and those things just happen to be on the Dirty Dozen list. For example the celery I buy is actually green with slender stalks that have flavor- a far cry from the pale green, overgrown stalks you find in the grocery store.

These are the ones you'll want to choose organic varieties of if at all possible:

1) Peaches
2) Apples
3) Sweet bell peppers
4) Celery
5) Nectarines
6) Strawberries
7) Cherries
8) Lettuce
9) Grapes (imported)
10) Pears
11) Spinach
12) Potatoes

And, when organic is not available or very cost prohibitive, these are the least likely to have pesticide residues:

1) Onions
2) Avocados
3) Sweet Corn ( frozen)
4) Pineapples
5) Mango
6) Sweet peas (frozen)
7) Asparagus
8) Kiwi
9) Bananas
10) Cabbage
11) Broccoli
12) Eggplant

You can download a wallet-sized version at FoodNews from Environmental Working Group.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Road Back to Mexico City

We find ourselves back on the road leading out of Oaxaca and I again have some time to write. Traveling with a 9 month old gives me little down time, but it is a very rewarding vacation. She has been stimulated by new faces and languages and the Mexican people love children. This is a great place to travel with kids. She is napping in her car seat as we head back to Mexico City. It turns out the bus ride is one fifth the price of the flight and the trip to Oaxaca took 5 hours instead of the planned 6 1/2, and so we risked taking the bus and are hoping we have smooth travels once again.

We spent one week in the central southern town of Oaxaca. I say town because the city of 250,000 felt very small. With a compact city center and a population that congregated in the Zocalo nightly, Oaxaca was not only a journey in distance but also in time. I imagined that the activity of the Zocalo might have been what was experienced in our own pre-TV society’s small town squares. On any given night, Oaxacans come out of their houses to be entertained by street performers, to enjoy almost any genre of live music, to watch the tourists play with the long, tubular balloons that are sold there, or perhaps just to people watch as tourists and locals alike stroll around the perimeter of the Zocalo. Last night, our last night in Oaxaca, we went to Terranova Cafe for a taste of their crepes with cajeta and their chocolate caliente. Marissa had fallen in love with cajeta, which is caramelized goat’s milk and sugar. This topping is thinner, more syrupy than the caramel we often enjoy in the states and I have determined I will need to replicate this concoction at home. The hot chocolate was the perfect strength for our tastes and we are not worried about duplicating this at home because earlier in the week I had bought one half of a kilogram of ground up cacao mixed with cinnamon and sugar. That was the minimum amount the shop owner would sell and so we have enough Oaxacan chocolate to enjoy for a year. Well, knowing Lou, make that a month or two.

Last Saturday, we went to the main market, Central de Abastos. Marissa gave us the tour. The market consisted of everything from Nike shoes to handmade clothes to fresh and prepared foods. Here we captured our first glimpse of the ingredients of Oaxacan cuisine such as fresh and dried chilies, tomatillos, and cacao. The fresh produce was similar to what we see now in San Francisco with more abundance of certain things such as Chermoya and Nopales (cactus leaves). We got our first taste of the bright purple-pink Jamaica drink, which I am told is Hibiscus petals steeped in hot water, then cooled and sweetened to taste with simple syrup. It is something that should be easily duplicated at home and I have decided to either buy the dried Jamaica petals or find them at home. Marissa tells me they can be bought at health food stores. The drink was very refreshing and hydrating on that very hot day.

We had another market visit as part of a cooking class that Marissa and I took at Casa Las Sabores on Tuesday. Pilar Cabrera is a well known and respected cook in Oaxaca. She runs the bed and breakfast as well as a restaurant in the middle of town called La Olla, where we ate our first meal in Oaxaca last Friday. Pilar started the class going through a market list of ingredients we were to buy. Most of the ingredients were familiar, but their names were not. We had for the second time run into the Yerba Santa, also seen spelled Hierba Santa. It is a unique, large leafed herb that was like a mix between mint and basil, with a strong minty-licorice flavor. We made a rice pudding for our dessert that was topped with the flesh of tuna, the fruit of a cactus. The name suggested the thought and the color of the fruit supported that perhaps it was called tuna because of its similarity in looks to Ahi, with its scarlet hue. It tasted like kiwi fruit. I asked about the rice and where it came from, assuming it was from Asia. The teacher confirmed this, adding that Oaxaca doesn’t have enough water to grow rice. I wondered why we were making rice pudding, but didn’t want to press the issue. We also made what Pilar called a quick mole with few ingredients compared to the traditional moles. To make the mole, we basically made salsa from a combination of dried and fresh chilis and then thickened it with masa. The mole did not have as deep or rich of a flavor as a traditional mole, but it was repeatable and easily could be made at home, so I think it was an excellent choice for a cooking class for a bunch of Gringos. We also made a corn soup with squash blossoms. For us, squash blossoms are quite seasonal as is fresh corn, so this might be harder to reproduce as I am not sure I will be able to find squash blossoms when corn is being harvested. To make the soup, we cut kernels of corn from the cobs and blended them in a blender along with some chilies and chicken stock until they were liquefied. Then, we poured the mixture through a sieve to filter out the skins of the kernels. Pilar had a handy way of tapping the sieve to roll the solids off its floor and allow the liquid to pass through the mesh to the soup pot. She said it was how her grandmother did it. Blocks of raw sugar were added to the soup to sweeten it. I volunteered to stir the soup while I wondered if I could even find this type of corn in San Francisco. It was not the sweet corn we buy on the cob, it was a tender white corn filled with starch. In fact, our hands and cutting boards were covered with the dry white starch after we cut the kernels from the cobs. If I cannot find similar corn, I can perhaps try to duplicate the soup by using sweet corn and deleting or reducing the added sugar while adding a thickener such as corn starch to make up for the lack of natural thickener in the less starchy sweet corn. The most interesting part of the meal was the salsa we made from dried red chilies that were roasted then ground in a molcajete along with salt, roasted garlic, and if desired, worms. To this paste we added roasted tomatillos. It was good, classic salsa rioja and definitely something I’ll duplicate at home, without the worms.

As I mentioned earlier, we ate our first dinner in Oaxaca at La Olla. Lou and I each had a different type of mole- red and black. Moles are found at most every restaurant in Oaxaca and they were not of the characteristic black mole that you often find in the states. Every single mole we tasted over the course of the week was unique. I wouldn’t say I absolutely loved any one of them, but I also didn’t find a single one that I wouldn’t eat.

Fresh Fruit Stand (above) and dried beans (below) at the Central de Abastos market.

Red and Black Mole pastes. Kind of like Mexican Hamburger Helper.

Friday, March 21, 2008

On the Road to Oaxaca

There is a field of Sonoran cacti outside my window. Some of the Saguaros are as large as trees with multiple arms branching out and reaching for the sky. Some are just tall poles standing alone in the desert. We are on our way to Oaxaca – a 6 ½ hour drive from Mexico City. We’re 3 ½ hours into it and have decided we should check into flights for our return as the road to Oaxaca is long and monotonous. Little resides between these two cities save some makeshift cafes and a couple of churches, which by the way are packed on this Good Friday. Mexicans are passionate about Semana Santa, or Holy Week and on this Good Friday, reenactments of Christ’s crucifixion take place across the country.

We landed 3 days ago in Mexico City, on the Tuesday afternoon of Semana Santa. As the days passed, the crowded city became even more congested as Mexican families flocked to their capital for what is Mexico’s most celebrated holiday. We had read that it would be a busy time to travel, but we decided that the rewards of being in Mexico during Easter Sunday would outweigh the inconveniences. I have yet to determine that, but the crowds are a spectacle in themselves. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I imagine it may be like Mecca, Saudi Arabia when Muslims of the world flock there for Ramadan. The Zocala in Mexico City, which is the city’s central square, is flanked by such sights as the Catedral Metropolitana and Palacio Nacional, and was a temporary home to a nomadic museum housing an exhibit named “Ashes and Snow”. The line for this exhibit was 5 to 6 people deep and stretched around the massive temporary structure. The Mexican people must be very patient, because the wait had to be hours. The congestion of Mexico City reminded me of Hong Kong and Shanghai, places where you just get used to waiting in line. There was a bustle of people at certain peek times, one of those being 7:00 in the evening, which is when we would venture out for a bite to eat. Last night, on Holy Thursday, or Maunday Thursday, the sidewalks in the Central Historico district were so packed, one could only move at a snails pace. We inched our way to the café lined pedestrian-only streets. With a 9 month old in tow, we no longer were seeking out an atmospheric bar, but instead a nice quiet café where we could relax with beers and a light meal. Not finding any “light” Mexican food, we ended up at a sushi joint where we ordered two rolls that were stuffed with far too much cheese and not enough fish, and soggy Udon noodles in a dark, over flavored broth. It was supposed to be shrimp tempura, unfortunately, they missed the mark a bit with shrimp that was covered in a heavy, overcooked batter. It was a disappointing meal compared to the one we had the night before in Condessa. Condessa, in contrast to the Central Historico, is a peaceful, relaxing neighborhood made up of picturesque tree lined avenues. When we stepped out of the subway stop, we felt like we were transported to an entirely different city. Trendy bars and cafes abound there and we had a hard time choosing where to eat. We decided to follow the crowd and scored a table at a bustling little open-aired eatery called the Village Café. I chose enchiladas verde and Lou had their soup of the day which was outstanding and a salad that was less so. With their delicious house vino tinto or red wine, a quaint atmosphere, and excellent service we were more than satisfied to spend our time there.

Our guide book took us to an upscale restaurant on our first night. Los Girasoles at 84 Tacuba “specializes in alta cocina Mexicana”, according to Lonely Planet, Mexico. The food was excellent and inventive. To me the food seemed like a fusion of French and Mexican: French in technique and Mexican in flavor. We were far from the ocean, but we both had fish that was perfectly seared and fresh- as if we had an ocean view. It was a great way to start a culinary tour.

The Crowds in and around the Zocalo on Holy Thursday.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Chocolate Snob

For a Christmas stocking stuffer, I bought Lou a pack of 10 bars of dark chocolate. Each bar was from a different growing region. We finnally broke them out a couple of weeks ago and we became chocolate snobs over night. After tasting the chocolate from Peru and the Dominican Republic, which were determined to be the favorites, the bars from Venezuela and Sao Tome seemed bitter and grainy while Grenada was just average- a good everyday chocolate. One day earlier, we wouild have gobbled any of these up without hesitation. We so enjoyed the chocolate tasting, (although, admittedly, I was a bit chocoloated out) that on my last trip to Trader Joe's I intended to buy another pack and one to spare for our friend, Marissa, who we will be visiting soon in Oaxaca and is in need of some good dark chocolate. Unfortunately, the specialy packaged chocolate bars were only available for the holidays so we were out of luck. (Don't worry, Marissa, I bought some other chocolate for you!) If Trader Joe's brings the chocolate back next Christmas, I will be sure to stock up, but in the meantime, I look forward to seeking out and tasting some more regionally grown cacao and filling my new chocolate-snob boots.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Food Prices

There was much talk today in the news about the worldwide wheat shortage that has caused an increase in the price of commodity wheat, resulting in a higher price on flour and therefore a higher price on all things made with flour: bread, pasta, pizza, crackers, cakes, bagels, and donuts, just to name a few. Weather was to blame for much of the worldwide shortage and further reducing supplies, US farmers replaced wheat fields with ethanol producing corn.

It is interesting to me that the hype surrounding ethanol, also largely fueled (pun intended) by the high price of gasoline, has resulted in increasing prices of food. Corn was originally commoditized and government subsidized to prevent this very thing. Corn, which before the ethanol boon had become cheap, found its way into possibly every processed food in the form of sweeteners, thickeners, fats, and fillers, creating a surplus of high calorie, convenient cheap food and an overweight population. Perhaps food that is too cheap is not a good thing either...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sprinkles' Strawberry Cupcakes

No, I don't watch the Martha Stewart show everyday, but once in a while, I'll have it on in the background. I just happened to catch it Tuesday, when Candace Nelson of Sprinkles' Cupcakes shared her recipe for Strawberry Cupcakes. I made these on Valentine's Day and these were the BEST strawberry cupcakes I have ever eaten. Both the cake batter and the frosting are made with a fresh strawberry puree-just enough for a delicate strawberry taste. The cupcakes were moist and slightly dense and the frosting was sweet, light, and creamy. A perfect balance. They were beautiful too. These pink treats would make a great treat for a little girl's birthday party.

Although the frosting is amazing, I cut the recipe in half for the 12 cupcakes. I thought it would make too much for our taste and I was right- half ended up being plenty. These were so good that I think next time, instead of cutting the frosting in half, I will double the cupcake recipe. I hope you find time to try them!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Happy Mardi Gras!

Today is Mardi Gras! It kind of snuck up on us this year since we are having an early Easter. Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, thus it is 41 days prior to Easter. Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday in French. The idea is you eat and drink to your heart's content on the last day before lent begins when it is the tradition to give up something you can't normally live without. The 40 days of lent are an acknowledgement of Jesus' 40 day fast in the desert. Whether they recognize lent or not, it seems everyone likes to celebrate Mardi Gras.

I have no new recipe for you, but will point you toward an old posting from February, 2006 for King Cake. I'm about to make one myself. Indulge a little and have a happy Fat Tuesday!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Cheese Fondue

The holidays are behind us and I never thought I'd say it but I am tired of sweets. Today, I had a hankering for something more savory and seasonal. Something I would want to eat while curled up in front of a fire in a Tahoe ski cabin. My thoughts turned to last year's ski trip to Chamonix and all that stinky cheese fondue! Chamonix had record low snow fall last year, and so the hightlights of the trip were not skiing down the steep slopes, but instead eating and drinking and enjoying the low elevation of the valley. Even with snow, that would likely be the highlight for me. With German Brick in my arsenal, and a fresh baguette ready to be dipped into a gooey concoction, I set out to make a fondue that might rival that which we devoured in a Chamonix restaurant so many months ago.

There's something about the taste of stinky cheese. It has so much depth, so many layers. As I added the grated cheese to the simmering wine, the flavors seemed to be unlocked in the pot, and the luscious, smooth, earthy smells of the cheese coupled with the acidic and citrus smells of the chardonnay brought me right back to Chamonix. I knew I was on track. We dipped cubed pieces of crusty baguette deep into the finished fondue twisting them on the end of a fork so as to coat each bit of surface area with the liquid cheese. As we continued to devour the cheese-coated bread, we reminisced about our ski trip wishing we were there, not on the slopes, but in the village, eating fondue.

Cheese Fondue

8 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
8 ounces Aged German Brick, grated
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

1 clove garlic, halved
1 cup dry white wine
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tablespoons brandy or dry sherry

French bread cut into cubes for dipping

Using a box grater, grate the cheese onto a sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Sprinkle the 2 Tablespoons of flour on top of the cheese and toss with the cheese to coat.

Rub the halved garlic on the bottom and sides of a medium saucepan or fondue pot. Discard the garlic. Add the wine and heat until simmering. Stir in lemon juice. Stir in the cheese mixture, a handful at a time, allowing the cheese to melt before each addition. Stir in the brandy or dry sherry.

Keep the fondue warm over low heat or pour into a fondue pot kept warm. If the fondue becomes too cool and stiffens, reheat over medium-low heat stirring constantly. Leftover fondue can be saved. Just reheat fondue over medium-low heat. If the fondue separates and becomes oily and chunky, add a small amount of milk and continue to stir, adding more milk if needed, until the fondue is creamy.