Food Seattle Select Guide: Discovering Cheese
In this edition of the Food Seattle Select Guide we feature Scrumptious Cheese. Cheese has been around for almost four thousand years. Ancient Sumerians followed by the Greeks and Romans were known to have savored cheese. Easy to make, legend has it that cheese was accidentally ‘invented’ by early nomad horsemen when they discovered that the milk in their saddle bags had curdled after a hard day’s ride separating the curd from the whey, leaving behind a gold-mine of food. Easily portable, cheese became a main staple of their diet. Over the centuries cheese making became incorporated into the diet of many cultures the world over.
It doesn’t matter whether you say Parmesan, pecorino, feta, paneer, cheddar, brie, asiago, ricotta, raclette or Blumenthal. It all says Cheese please! Eat it plain or served on crackers, in your favorite mac ‘n’ cheese recipe or in a tuna melt. Kids love string cheese in their lunch-boxes. From the milder varieties to the riper ‘stinkier’ kind like Blue cheese, there’s always a cheese lover lurking around the corner. Cheese can be grated over pasta, shaved over your favorite arugula-pear salad, melted in a sauce, breaded and deep-fried or lightly dusted in flour and pan-fried like Greek-style saganaki. Mix creamier cheeses with cooked pasta or use in your party dips. Used any way it tastes great!
Think fondue parties are passé? How about throwing a raclette party? The simplest definition of raclette is melted cheese eaten with boiled potatoes, vegetables and pickled onions/gherkins all served with a nice chilled white wine. But a raclette get-together is more about having a great time with your close friends and family and less about eating the perfect meal. Popular in Europe and known as Switzerland’s best national dish, raclette recipes can be easily found on the Internet. Raclette grills for melting cheese can be found in many cookware stores and have accompanying recipe booklets. So the next time you run out of entertaining ideas go raclette. Pick out a simple recipe using Swiss or Brie cheese.
Cheese doesn’t just taste good. On a nutritional level it’s also good for you providing you with protein (great for vegetarians), energy, and essential vitamins (A, B12) and minerals (phosphorus, zinc and calcium). Your body easily absorbs and uses the calcium in cheese. So if you’ve been restricting yourself to processed cheese slices or plain old Cheddar, start using other varieties in your daily diet. Like Brie - known for its incredibly soft, oozy center and delicate taste, Brie became quite popular with French royalty in the early medieval period. Today it is used worldwide and although for Brie to be genuine it must come from the Seine-et-Marne area of Paris, many countries are manufacturing their own brands of Brie-type cheese. Extremely versatile, Brie tastes good in a variety of dishes from hot melting appetizers and fondues to vegetable and meat creations. Brie cheese can be seen on numerous restaurant menus and is a particular favorite in grilled pannini-style sandwiches. Nothing beats a grilled tomato-brie focaccia with a nice chilled glass of white wine on the side. Seasoned Brie lovers wrap the cheese in pastry dough and bake it for a scrumptious Brie en croute. With its mild yet rich and fruity flavor it’s hard not to fall in love with Brie. Varieties of Brie cheese range from Brie de Meaux - the finest French Brie to many commercial or supermarket brands which include brie rolled in nuts, herbs, dried fruit or peppercorns.
Bolder cheese aficionados swear by the sharper, ‘stinkier’ varieties. Blue cheese: with its stronger, sharper taste, blue cheese is unique for its blue veined mold that is actually safe to eat! Sharp and salty in taste with a smell similar to that of stinky feet blue cheese is considered by some to be an acquired taste! Popular varieties include Roquefort, Stilton and Gorgonzola. Blue-cheese salad dressings are incredibly popular with the spicy chicken wings crowd. Soft and crumbly this cheese is great on salads, in sauces particularly with steak or paired with fruit like grapes or pears.
So whether you prefer good old processed American cheese, Swiss, Gouda or fancier French varieties - eat a small portion of cheese daily. Not only does it taste good – it’s also good for your teeth as the calcium helps to harden them and prevent cavities. With cheese you can never go wrong.
By Sheila LoGuisto
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