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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Gourmet Cheese

No, this isn't a post about making your own cheese. I have tried my hand at a couple simple goat milk cheeses mostly because I had access to fresh goat cheese and my daughter is allergic to cow milk and really wanted cheese. Good goat cheese is hard to find in stores. But cheese making is an art that requires time and patience to master. If you're interested, I'll post the recipes and my experiences with goat cheese. Considering I'm allergic to goat milk, I can't tell you how it tastes but my kids say the cheese is delicious.

Today, I'll give you some tips on gourmet cheeses you can find in your local supermarket. More and more stores are carrying exotic cheese, usually in very small packages. So try a flavor or two. Here are some of my favorites:

Havarti is a soft cheese with a fairly mild flavor. Plain havarti has a slight tang and a mild smoky taste. It goes great with fresh apples, crackers, or ham. Havarti also comes in a lot of varieties. Smoked havarti goes great on burgers. Try it paired with bacon in a BLT. Dill havarti has dill added. Try it in a green salad with pears and honey mustard dressing. Havarti with caraway is another great one for the fruit and cheese tray.

Swiss in all its varieties is a great cheese. It adds zip to melted cheese sauces. Use Swiss in your cheese balls with green onions. I've got a great recipe for cream puff type goodies with shredded cheese added to the dough. Don't fill that one with pudding or cream, fill them with scrambled eggs and ham or stuff them with chicken salad and greens. That's basic Swiss. If you like it milder, buy baby Swiss. A good Swiss will run you about $6-10 a pound. Try some rather than the cheaper stuff, you won't be sorry.

Provolone is a very mild, slightly sweet white cheese. Think mozarella but firmer. Provolone goes great on sandwiches of all types. It's another good choice for a fruit and cheese sampler.

Meunster is a fun cheese. My kids call it "monster cheese". It's a pale yellow with an orange edge. It's softer than mozarella. It's good on sandwiches, especially grilled cheese. Try pairing it with Cream of Tomato Soup.

Blue cheese has a bad rap. Yes, it's a very strong flavored cheese and smells a bit like stinky feet. Keep the portion very small and the taste will be less overwhelming. Try blue cheese with steak or beef stew. Sprinkle it on salad along with chopped apples and pears and a good vinaigrette dressing. Add a touch to cheese balls or cheese sauce for added flavor. If you like it milder, buy Gorgonzola or Roquefort. This site has all sorts of fun info on Blue Cheeses.

Fresh mozarella, the kind that comes in water, is very different than regular mozarella. It melts into a bigger gooey mess, for one. The flavor is milder and fresher, more like cream cheese. Drain it well before using.

Everyone knows cheddar cheese. Have you tried sharp? I rarely buy mild anymore. Medium has a good flavor, but sharp is better. The best I've eaten is Dubliner cheese, a white very sharp cheddar. It's pricey but a little goes a very long way. It's so good just by itself.

Check out your store deli and see what fun surprises are waiting. While you're trying a new variety of cheese, why not try a new variety of gourmet olive or pickle or something else? Expand your taste buds and try something different.