Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cheese for a Wednesday - pt 28 Cheese for an Insane Student

Dear CheeseDreaming Fans,
I miss you!  I miss gorging on cheese and telling you about how fun it was!  I miss talking about artisinal cheeses in depth, using poetic turns of phrase to make you hungry even if you've just had a 12 course meal!  I miss starting conversations about organic and raw milk and cheese production!

But until April 17, I am just swamped!  Swamped I say, with homework, papers, case studies, Excel spread sheets and other things that are sooooo not as much fun as cheese.  After that, I'll have a piece of paper that says that I did a lot of work and learned the difference between a Balance Sheet and an Income Statement and how to calculate Net Present Value.  That said, whilst attempting to finish all of this, I'm still procrastinating on the World Wide Webs, and have been finding lots of wacky fun facts about cheese that aren't necessarily worthy of a full post, but make for a great Facebook update.

So, please join me on Facebook if you are missing me as much as I'm missing you!  Look for me at CheeseDreaming and join the fun!  I promise to be back to long form entertainment as soon as possible

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cheese for a Wednesday - pt 27 Fol Epi and the Return of the Cheese Ghost!

Another long week.  Lots going on at work and at school.  I am in need of a little comfort food!  And I need cheese.  Like, really NEED cheese.  And then I realize that there is a beautiful wedge of Fol Epi in the fridge, waiting patiently for me to make grilled cheese sandwiches!  It's been waiting patiently for over two weeks, which I realize is a bit blasphemous, but it was carefully wrapped by the cheesemonger, so I'm not too worried.  So I go to the grocery store on my way home and pick up some bread from the deli counter, and select the reddest tomato available in early March at the grocery store, and head home to unwrap my Loire Valley cow's milk "swiss" cheese.  Much to my surprise, my wedge of cheese has turned into a, well, a wedge with the end cut off!  (Geometry buffs, please help me out here.)  The Cheese Ghost is back!

Thankfully, the ghost had the forethought that if he ate all the cheese, he might get a severe lecture around dinnertime!  There was plenty of cheese left to grate up to make some pretty yummy grilled cheese.  Thick bottomed skillet on medium high heat, plenty of butter on the bread, a good 1/3 cup of shredded cheese, a few thin slices of tomato, and melt.  I like to shred my cheese for grilled cheese because I think it melts more evenly.  Everyone has their own method.  Deelicious any way you melt it, and perfect with tomato soup, but I don't have to tell you that.

And Fol Epi is a great cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches.  This is a high protein cow's milk cheese is aged for three months, and has a very creamy, rich, nutty flavor.  It tastes a lot like a good Emmenthaler (swiss) cheese, but sweeter and with a little something special that I didn't figure out until I went searching for info on the web.  The rind of this cheese is really grainy, which really threw me as I started grating it.  It turns out that the rind is dusted with toasted wheat flour, adding "that something special" to the flavor of the cheese, and helps it stand out from the crowd. In fact, "Fol Epi" can be translated in French as "wild wheat stalk."    I'm not sure how much extra flavor comes from this coating, but I think it definitely has some effect.

As an aside, I always check out Wikipedia for basic info on all my tasty finds, but I didn't find a single entry for Fol Epi in English, though the Europeans are all over it in French and German!  Hmm.  Anyone up for the challenge?

I sure hope the Cheese Ghost hasn't eaten up all the leftovers before I get home tonight!  Sweet cheese dreams!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cheese for a Wednesday - pt 26 Happy California Sheep!

Oh my has it been a week.  And it won't be getting any better until mid-April.  Apologies in advance for the lack of posts, but I'm almost done with my MBA, and after that's done, I'll be extra cheesy!

In the meantime, it is a Wednesday, and so I owe you a new cheese!  La Panza Gold  is a sheep's milk cheese from Rinconada Dairy north of Los Angeles in San Louis Obispo County.  It is one of the few dairies that I've found in Southern California (the SoCal:NorCal ratio is heavily weighted in favor of Northern California).  They have 200 sheep and a small herd of goats happily munching away on the grasses of the chaperral overlooking the Pacific.  They also have a farm-stay program, where you can go for the weekend, milk goats and work on the farm.  It sounds like a lot of fun to me - I just have to convince the DH to come with me!

So - La Panza Gold is a hard sheep's milk cheese, with some crystalization, kind of like pecorino romano.  The rind of this cheese is washed with sheep milk whey as it ages, which gives is a really beautiful golden color.  The cheese is shaped in a basket mold, which gives it a really cool look.

You could easily serve this nutty, earthy, sweet cheese by just breaking it up into free-form chunks, and serving it on a cheese plate with some grapes to help bring out the sweetness in the cheese.  It also lends itself very easily to the same kinds of uses a pecorino romano or pamigiano-reggiano - grating onto pasta or what ever you grate hard salty/sweet cheese on.  The other night, I had made some mushroom barley soup that turned into a kind of pilaf when all the moisture was absorbed.  It still tasted great, so I steamed up some brussels sprouts (I just love how cute they are!), and used the carrot peeler to shave curls of this beautiful cheese on top, which really added to the dish.  See the little holes in the peels?

Sweet cheese dreams friends!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cheesy Oscar Party Ideas!

OK Cheesedreamers, I just got back from Andrew's Cheese Shop (thanks Andrew for appreciating my humor!), and am all set for the Oscars.  Pictures to follow, but I wanted to take a moment to inspire you to cook with humor and creativity for the Oscars.  If not now, when?  Oscars are about creative artists and talented technicians coming together to make something that is so much more than than the sum of its individual parts.

So, in honor of a few of the films up for Best Film, might I suggest the following snacks.  I apologize for the fact that I am not yet even remotely versed in real recipe writing, but I'm sure you can muddle through.  Just remember to take your French Bread loaf and slice it into 1/2" pieces, drizzle with a little olive oil and toast in the oven on 350 until a toasty, about 5-10 minutes.  Then, put enough cheese on each slice, and pop back in the oven to melt.

Bruschetta with Blue Cheese, caramelized onion and a fringe of scallion.  Neyteri and Jake Scully they're not, but they are blue, and they do have funny little fringe to connect with the earth (or your taste buds)

Saute sliced onion in about a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat and stir until soft, golden brown and translucent.  Once the cheese is melted, layer on the caramelized onion and top with a little fringe of green onion.

Inglorious Basterds
Bruschetta with melted muenster (the real stinky stuff!) and garlic with a bit of chopped tomato to represent the aggressive strength of Brad Pitt's team of merry men.

After the bread is toasted the first time, rub each slice with a piece of sliced garlic and then top with the muenster.  Once that's all melted, top with a little fresh tomato

OK, this is a bit of a cheat, but there is a brand of Mozzarella at my grocery store called Precious, so how about a Tomato/Precious Mozzarella/Basil Caprese Salad.  Just slice and layer and drizzle with a little olive oil and dust with cracked pepper.

I'm kind of stumped with the others.  What cheese represents The Blind Side?  District 9?   An Education?  Up in the Air?  Up?  A Serious Man?  Hurt Locker?  I figure 3 out of 10 is pretty good for a small party.  Any one else doing something cheesy for their Oscar party?   Help me out with some more fun ideas!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cheese for a Wednesday - pt 25 The Mysterious Disappearing Cheese

There is a ghost in our house.  A cheese eating ghost.  We're not calling in Ghostbusters (though Fanboy Wife could probably hook us up...).  We're just going to have to get a more realistic about portion control.    See, Darling Husband fell in love with the La Florette cheese at the tasting we went to a while back, and under the influence of lots of Loire Valley wine we ended up with a quarter pound of this goat's milk "brie style" cheese (Easily identified by the cute goat on the label.)

Now, this tasting was kind of belated birthday present for DH, and as such, he decided that he was going to buy some cheese, and not let me eat any of it.  Rude, yes, but you've got to appreciate his passion. I, being a good wife, let him be the boss of this cheese.  Plus, I was at the tasting, so I wasn't completely denied.  DH is a big fan of sandwiches, and as a High School teacher, he enjoys freaking out his students with exotic cheese sandwiches, some with incredible "nose."  I love the fact that he doesn't treat his cheese with kid gloves.  It isn't precious to him.  It's food.  Food that is amazingly tasty, rich, and joy providing, but just food.  So, he made himself a LaFlorette cheese sandwich with some sliced ham.  I'm assuming that he slathered on the cheese pretty thick.  (It has a very soft, spreadable paste.)   He said it was an excellent sandwich, and effectively freaked out his students.  Mission accomplished.  

Unfortunately, two days later, when he went to make another sandwich with the La Florette, he accused me of eating some!  (I hadn't.  Sometimes, a promise is a promise)  His proof?  It was almost all gone!  Had it shrunk?  Impossible!  Had he simply forgotten how much he used on his uber-sandwich?  Ridiculous!  I protested my innocence, blamed it on the dog, and we finally decided that it would just remain a mystery.  So, if you pick up some La Florette, be forewarned!  It has a tendency to disappear.

It is quite a spectacular cheese, so I don't blame it for having a tendency to vanish.  See the sample at twelve o'clock?  With the waterfall of butterfat oozing out of the middle?  That's our cheese!  It's called a brie-style cheese because of it's gently flavored bloomy rind and soft, creamy paste.  It is a goat cheese, so it does have a little more tang - my tasting notes say "barnyard lite."  I would never try this cheese out on Man Who Sneers at Goats (Cheese), but it had a really lovely, delicate, complex grassy flavor that reminded me that spring was coming (eventually).  

We may have to get more La Florette soon.  Not only is a perfect, spreadable cheese for DH's lunchtime sandwiches, but it is great with a nice Chenin Blanc and good conversation too (when it isn't sneaking out of the fridge and disappearing all on its own!)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cheese Curds in California?

I always thought the only place for cheese curds was Wisconsin.  Probably people in Wisconsin would say that anything calling itself a cheese curd that doesn't hail from Wisconsin is a total imposter.  But that isn't to say that they aren't available elsewhere. In fact, when I braved my local Farmer's Market this morning - dodging triplet strollers and huge stalks of lilies, focusing instead on the rainbow of beautiful fruits and vegetables - I stopped at the Spring Hill Cheese Company stall.  The creamery is in Petaluma (ie - Sonoma County and pretty far from LA!), so I'm not sure if the cheese drove down that morning, or was shipped to a local distributor.  Must check.  I'm assuming it took longer than a few hours for them to get to my Farmers Market.  Next to the quark (a kind of German yoghurt cheese.  I may need to try that next week), I spotted lumpy vacuum bags of cheese curds nestled in some ice.  White, not the traditional orange, but none-the-less, what a find!

I'll mention here that I am from Michigan, but have never been to Wisconsin, and have never eaten world famous Wisconsin cheese curds.  But I've always felt a little deficient because of this.  To understand some of the hype surrounding those bright orange Great Lakes curds, check out this awesome website.  This site comes complete with cheese curd etiquette including  "Never yell out that you have fresh Cheese Curds in a crowded Wisconsin theater."  The site also features info on how curds are made, and curd poetry.  It's a very extensive. 

Cheese curds are simply fresh curds (generally cheddar curds) that haven't been put into a shaped mold and let to sit and become aged cheddar cheese.  They have a characteristic squeak because there is still a lot of air trapped inside them.  There is a great quote from the New York Times that equates the squeaky sound to "balloons trying to neck."  How fun is that! 

The squeak is elusive, however.  Curds must be fresh, fresh, fresh!  That is one of the reasons you can't find them in many places.  They tend to start loosing their squeak within 24 hours, and extreme cold doesn't do them any favors.  They must be eaten at room temperature for full harmonic convergence.    Sadly, even after I got my curds home, broke them up into individual curds and brought them to room temperature, I couldn't detect the slightest bit of squeak.  And they needed salt.  I suppose they were already a little too old to squeak in the traditional way, though they still tasted very milky and fresh.  They might be tastier if I do another Mid-Western thing - dip them in beer batter and deep fry them!  What's not to love there!  If the DH doesn't consume all of them the minute he gets home tonight, I will give that a try and post the results.  

Any cheese curd lovers out there?  Apparently, you never forget your first one.