What do you usually pack for picnics? We bring cheddar and crackers and grapes, but sometimes we’re in the mood for something more inspired. Well, Rachel of The Little Paris Kitchen agreed to share her delicious recipe for fresh French cheese, which would be a great twist on a summer day. Here goes…

The Best Picnic Dish You’ll Ever Have
By Rachel Khoo, author of The Little Paris Kitchen

Literally translated, the name of this dish—cervelles de canut—means “silk worker’s brains.” Fear not—no cannibalism, nor even carnivorism, is committed here. The recipe originated in Lyon, which was made the capital of French silk production by Louis XI in 1466. It is thought that by the nineteenth century the silk workers were treated with such disdain by high society in the city that they named this simple dish after them. This is delicious with fresh bread and raw vegetables like carrot sticks, peppers, and radishes.

More serving ideas: Sweet: a drizzle of honey or maple syrup or a sprinkling of sugar can be quite sufficient. Or serve with fresh or stewed fruit (berries are especially good). For a crunch factor, try nuts or granola. Savory: cracked black pepper, a pinch of chile, or freshly chopped herbs (chives, parsley, etc.)

Recipe: Cervelles de canut (Fresh Cheese with Shallots and Red Wine)
Serves 4-6

You’ll need:

8 oz. fromage frais (to make your own, see recipe below) or cottage cheese
3½ tbsp. crème fraîche
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, finely chopped
½ clove of garlic, crushed to a paste
½ tsp. sugar
4 tbsp. finely chopped chives
Salt and pepper

Drain any excess liquid from the cheese. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, saving some of the chives for the garnish, and taste for seasoning. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the cheese for 2 hours.

Sprinkle the cheese with chives and serve chilled.

Can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for several days.

Recipe: Fromage frais (Fresh Cheese)
Makes about 14 oz.

Fromage frais has a smooth, creamy taste and a subtle acidic note, making it less smelly socks and more freshly washed white linen. Of course, an additional plus is that it’s low in fat and cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean it’s low in taste.

You’ll need:

2 qt. 2-percent or skimmed milk, preferably organic but not UHT or homogenized
½ cup plain live or probiotic yogurt, preferably organic
Juice of 1 lemon (6 tbsp.)
A pinch of salt or sugar
2 tbsp. heavy cream (optional)

Pour the milk into a large pot. Heat very slowly, stirring gently, until it starts to steam and little bubbles form around the edge (it should not boil at any point). This should take about 20 minutes.

Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring in the yogurt and lemon juice. Leave to sit undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. Return the pot to the heat and bring the milk to a boil. Once it separates into curds (the solids) and whey (the liquid), remove from the heat.

Line a fine-meshed sieve with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel. Place the sieve over a bowl and pour in the separated milk. Scrunch the cloth tightly immediately above the cheese, like making a money bag, and twist to squeeze out any excess liquid. Now tie the corners of the cloth together to form a hanging pouch and thread a wooden spoon through the loop. Hang the cheese over a large bowl or jug (don’t let it sit on the bottom), and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. The longer the cheese hangs, the more the liquid will drip away and the drier the cheese will become.

To serve, twist the cloth as before to squeeze out any excess liquid, then remove the cheese from the cloth and season with salt or sugar. Serve as it comes for a firm version, or beat in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream for a smoother, creamier cheese.

Yum! Thank you so much, Rachel!

P.S. More best recipes, including panzanella and cheesy mashed potatoes.

(Recipe by Rachel Khoo, author of The Little Paris Kitchen. Thanks to Shoko for helping with this series.)