Reprinted from the July issue of Ink Magazine
Let’s put the number one appetizer to work for the summer. We know how easy and how enjoyable cheese is the rest of the year.
Barbecues and Cheese
How about melting real cheese on your next burger, instead of processed cheese? Here are some of our favorites.
Dutch Beemster Vlaskaas
This is one of our longtime favorite cheeses. It is a cow’s milk Gouda cheese that’s aged for twelve months. We consider this a medium aged gouda. It has a nice creamy flavor with a slight yellow appearance due to the annatto natural coloring present. It makes a great Mac and Cheese and it will help fool the kiddies who still will not eat white Mac and Cheese. Remember, all cheese is naturally white, if you see any color then there is color added.
This cheese pairs well with red grapes and walnuts. It’s also great shredded on chili and nachos.
The cheese is flavored with onion and chive and it also uses annatto for yellow coloring. A favorite for cheese trays but nice on burgers. Like many English cheeses, it uses a mild cheddar base.
I don’t have to be specific as to what blue or what country because any blue is great melted on a burger or a steak for that matter. This process is usually done at the last minute before taking burgers off the grill. You can also try adding a little blue to your raw burgers if you make your own patties. Include chopped onions and mushrooms for an added zest.
Try using Italian Fontina and Italian Fontal for a quick melting topping. They are used in many of Italian recipes. They are very creamy and mild which won’t take away from any other subtle flavorings you might be adding.
A longtime favorite cheese is Cruculo from Trantino Italy. This is a great quick melting cheese that I use in making pizzas instead of mozzarella. It melts quickly and adds a tangy flavor without over powering other flavors.
Fresh Mozzarella & Tomatoes
A staple in most Italian restaurants, Caprese salad is so common it is easy to overlook. But I would be remiss in my job as cheese monger if I did not at least mention it. Toppings include fresh basil, olive oil and Balsamic vinegar or a fresh Pesto.
I know most of us think of Raclette as that winter dish sitting by the fireplace but the new Swiss Raclette cookers are so much more. With the addition of the top grill we find ourselves using the cooker as much during the summer. The reason for this is the ability to grill shrimp, scallops, salmon, steak, sausage, vegetables, etc. and of course a little melted cheese to have a great Raclette-Beef Fondue going on. You can add some Mango ginger sauce for the shrimp, steak sauce for the beef, pesto for everything, or even some Bearnaise Sauce. Add a side salad and you have a fun creative Summer meal. And best of all, you can prepare everything in advance and everyone can cook at their own pace.
Cheese is a great topping for so many types of salads. Reggiano on Caesars, blue cheese on Cobb salads, Gorgonzola in vinaigrettes with walnuts, or my go to dressing, creamy blue cheese dressing on any salad. Where would Buffalo Wings be without it?
Feta and Watermelon
Here’s one you might not have tried. This is a simple but delightfully refreshing salad that can even be served as a dessert. Start by balling or cubing watermelon in a bowl. Then add small chunks of feta. You can stop here if you want or get a little creative. Try a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or some fresh, julienned mint or basil sprinkled over top.
Other ingredients pair well with watermelon and feta. Some enjoy adding fresh avocado or even a squeeze of lime juice. For a little crunch, walnuts or pecans are among my favorite add-ins.
Did you know?
So many people use goat cheese and blue cheese as a salad topping but did you know you can freeze both cheeses and then grate them directly on to your salad when needed. The frozen pieces will defrost almost instantly. This actually makes it easier to spread the cheese evenly over your salad and it eliminates waste. I guarantee you will not taste the difference.
Summer Desserts, Triple Crèmes, Pears and Dessert Wines
A triple crème is a soft-ripening cheese similar to Brie, but butterfat content is increased to 75%. When in good condition, triple crèmes should be extremely soft and runny with a white, bloomy outer layer. If overripe, you will see an outside layer of brown and it will have an ammoniated taste. This condition means the cheese is ruined, spoiling any attempt at creating a great dessert. Many of these types of cheeses have been over-stabilized to provide longer shelf life for supermarkets, but in so doing have been ruined. I suggest you not look for a specific name, but rather a triple crème that is in perfect condition. There are many cheeses I no longer carry because of over-stabilization. The triple crèmes I do buy are a result of their condition, not their name. This is really a classic instance of a cheese to try before you buy.
The other part of this pairing is the wine. Be careful to choose a white wine that is sweet due to grapes that have been allowed to over-ripen on the vine. This creates a preferred natural sweetness compared to a wine made with added sugar. Naturally sweetened wines can be expensive and are often hard to find. Examples include dessert wines such as French Sauterne and Barsac, German Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, and many available Ice wines.
Try to buy pears that are still a little on the firm side because you will be using them like a cracker. Spread the triple crème on the pear and if you have it drizzle on a little Acacia honey and be sure to follow the bite with a taste of wine. Even a dry red wine drinker like me loves this combination.
Although this great combination of flavors can be served as an appetizer or anytime snack, it is truly a great dessert. In addition to pears, you can also use strawberries or other fruits.