by Kate Heyhoe
I may have nothing else fresh in the fridge, but I will always have cheese. And it's not always fancy cheese. Bags of supermarket shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, mozzarella) cohabitate with imported French brie, Middle Eastern halloumi, award-winning California goat cheese, and plain old-fashioned cream cheese. In fact, I have a whole shelf in the fridge devoted solely to cheese. I file the packages in plastic see-through boxes: One for opened zipper packages of shredded cheese (in the front of the shelf), another for blocks or chunks of cheese, and one for bite-size snackers and slices.
Cheese as a food category is as diverse as vegetables. Make the same dish with two different cheeses, and it can taste as different as radishes do from corn.
In my book Macho Nachos, I note that today's supermarket stocks a hearty supply of tasty cheeses, a few imports but mostly good-quality domestics. But if you want to break out of the standard Cheddar and Swiss rut, consider exploring cheese shops and ethnic markets for these far-from-ordinary cheeses:
Halloumi: Made from sheep or goat milk in Cyprus, this cheese has the ability to hold its shape and still be grilled, flamed or fried. When fried or grilled or barbecued on kebabs, it softens and takes on a crusty, golden exterior, but the cheese itself does not melt. It looks a bit like mozzarella, and can also be enjoyed fresh (uncooked). It has a mild flavor, laced with a hint of mint, and can be a bit salty, pleasantly so, like feta. It comes in sealed packages that will keep as long as a year in the refrigerator, so it makes a great addition to your emergency gourmet pantry. Look for it in Middle Eastern and Greek markets.
Kasseri: If you've ever eaten saganaki, you've eaten kasseri cheese which has been sautéed in butter, sprinkled with lemon juice and often flamed with brandy. Kasseri is a pale yellow to cream-colored Greek cheese made from sheep or goat's milk, and is similar to Italian provolone, but with more depth of flavor. You can munch on it plain and grate it into salads, but my favorite use is to cook with it. Try it on a pizza or in a pasta casserole.
Sapsago (or Sap Sago): Sold in 2-ounce cones wrapped in foil, this hard Swiss cheese is meant for grating. It's green in color, caused by the addition of a particular clover, and has a sharp, pungent flavor. It's a low-cal dieter's cheese, as it's made from skim cows milk, and just a small amount grated over hot dishes or salads packs a punch of flavor.
Spanish Manchego: Not to be confused with Mexican manchego, this sheep's milk cheese hails from Spain's La Mancha region. This buttery, semi-firm yellow cheese has a distinctive nutty flavor, and is good for both cooking and pairing with wine and fruit. As it ages, it strengthens in flavor. (Mexican manchego is not aged, is mild in flavor and more akin to Monterey Jack; though it shares the same name, it's an entirely different beast from Spanish manchego.)
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Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created April 2004
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