Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pecorino Romano, Week 4

Hiya folks! I can't believe it's been a month of cheese already!

Follow-up question from last week: What's up with the non-melting cheese and melting spatula?  Does that defy the laws of thermodynamics, or something?

Answer: I don't know. Wikipedia doesn't know.  The first couple of google results for "Why doesn't paneer melt?" don't know.  The best guess I've got re: paneer melting is its low fat content.  It's texture is more like semi-firm tofu. The spatula melting beats me, too.  Unlike the rest of my spatulae, the blue one didn't even bend. I don't know where I got it, but it's use may be relegated to tossing salads, or something.

I had planned on a dessert cheese this week, but when I went to find Lisa's suggestion, Brebis, there was none! So, this week's cheese has special inspiration from the National Gallery of Art. I went there yesterday and caught the second-to-last day of the Pompeii and Naples exhibit!  It was so cool!  In the summer of 2004, I went to Pompeii and the same museum they borrowed much of the collection from. Photographs were not allowed in the exhibit (probably because of the frescoes?), so I've got this one taken of me posing by the fountain right before being shooed away by security (closing at 5:00 is so sad).

I read some more about the exhibit online, and it turns out the Gallery's cafe has some of its recipes inspired by the exhibit posted!  As much as I wanted to make a dessert, I figured the Tomato Tart was close enough-- it is a tart, after all. 

The last January cheese of the week:

Pecorino Romano

Price: 19.99/lb
Smell: Sharp and salty. Kind of like Parmesan, but with a salt BAM!
Step One: Prepare crust.  This used 1/4 cup of Thyme for two crusts!  Whoa! 

Step Two: Bake crust.  But don't "bake-bake" it.  I don't have pebbles or beans not for eating, so I just put a plate on each tart crust and crossed my fingers.  It worked!

Step Three: Leeks. I have a new appreciation for leeks now.  Actually, I think they won over the cheese.  I had no idea how to "half moon" the leeks.  Google to the rescue!  My taking on the half-mooning process:
Step Four: Shred it, and forget it! 

Step Five: Layer it.  Leeks-tomato-oregano-cheese.
Step Six: Take out when golden brown, and enjoy!  This was problematic for me. This thing refused to be golden or brown.  Fifteen minutes turned into much more than that, and eventually I just took it out because I was hungry.  End result? Good idea...but I think I didn't need to put as many "dashes" of salt as I did. When Pecorino Romano is matured, it is dry-salted for 6-8 weeks.  Winner: Leeks.  

End tally: Manchego>Paneer>Comte> Pecorino Romano
Next week: Super bowl cheese!! 
Shout-outs to: Annie and Pete-- Italian cheese, Italian friends!  Erica-- Love your new blog about tea! Hope the cheese readers check it out

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Paneer, Week 3

What a week for the cheese blog! Check out the new additions on the right.  I added a world map of cheeses that highlights the regions of the world where my cheeses originate.  Also, I've begun a table to try to quantify the results of each week of cheese.  The long-awaited bracket o' cheese is in the works.

I think the main follow-up question to last week's entry-- "What is in your coffee cup?! What IS your coffee cup?? ...atigulosity??" The answer is....meticulousity. I got that mug, along with "pococurante" and "logorrhea" from Starbucks a couple of years ago as promotional swanky mugs for "Akeelah and the Bee." I never saw the movie, but I am a huge word nerd.

I also got a few cheese suggestions-- Brebis,  Sfingi (with Ricotta), Chevre, Rembrandt (kind of Gouda)-- and requests for dinner or dessert cheese.  Lastly, a request for cheese origin came in!  When I said it had been a week for the cheese blog, I was not kidding!  

This week, we ventured to India.  After being tipped a recipe for Cashew Nut Biryani from the really neat, I remembered this recipe for Absolutely Perfect Palak Paneer.  I also had been wanting to make this Moroccan Lentil Soup...and decided to make an event of it!

I present you with... 


Price: $5.703/lb
Smell Factor: Milky and plain.  The "wonderbread" of cheese smell.

Step one: Slice cheese.  This was easy to do, and absolutely not the first step.  The cheese fresh out of the package was great!  Here's the first photo of cheese I took.

Step two: Fry cheese.  This was fun.

Step Three: Avoid melting spatula in frying cheese. I can't emphasize this enough. It is not a good idea.  I was in a bit of blue-goo-cheese-shock, so the photo is a little sketch.

Step Four: Spinach. I just wanted to point out how messy this was. I used three pounds of frozen chopped spinach...for three people!  I drained the water out with a nuke-it-and-paper-towel-it process.  
Step Five: Eat. Here's the final product-- I took more in-process photos, but there were so many, I didn't want to dull down the blog.


One final note: the dessert on the table was a "special" mix we got at the really neat Indian grocery store conveniently located in an industrial parkway near the apartment.  We played dessert roulette and tried all of them.  Here's my ranking, from "eh...maybe I could eat this" to "pass the naan, I don't want to ever taste this again" to "excuse me while I go lick some concrete to see if my tongue can still taste."

"Special" is right.

I almost forgot-- new cheese ranking: Manchego>Paneer>Comte!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Manchego, Week 2

Lessons learned this past week:
1) Having a cheese blog makes me think about cheese a lot. When I say a lot, I mean it. I felt the need to eat cheese, any kind, everyday. The more people I told about the blog, the more I absolutely had to have it.
2) I bought too much cheese last week. Comte was great, but Comte with six meals in a row was a tad overwhelming.
3) Seriously, why did I eat cafeteria mac-and-cheese last week? Cheese cravings.

Follow-up questions about my blog:

1) How often will I be writing/trying new cheeses?
A) One cheese per week. I will post every Sunday. If I have leftover cheese, then I will probably write about it the following week.

2) How do you pick your cheese-of-the-week?
A) I don't have a system...yet. Feel free to leave a comment with a suggestion. (You don't have to have a Google Account to do so.)

3) Are you judging the cheese by itself or by its use in a recipe?
A) Just plain. I'll get a cool matrix of cheeses up soon.

4) Why Ready, Set, Kate? Do you have a cheese nickname?
A) I picked out way before I thought to blog about cheese. I just thought the title sounded fun and had recently decided to go by the name Kate. (That makes me Kate, the blogger formerly known as Katie.) I don't particularly have a cheesy nickname, although I was addressed as "Cheese Girl." My initial reaction was not positive. If you leave a comment written to Cheese Girl, I won't respond. (But secretly, I would still be thrilled to have comment!) Cheesekate was another nickname mentioned to me. I do like cheesecake. This is a "possible" for approved-by-me nicknames.

That said, I had no particular inspiration for this week's cheese. In spite of thinking about cheese all of the time, I ended up picking one out at random at Harris Teeter. Without further ado, I present:


Price: 19.99/pound
Smell: Good! Fragrant and oak-y

This week, I decided to make a hearty brunch and more importantly, use all of the cheese! I did not use a recipe, but I'm fairly certain that this is, thus far, "Kate's Ultimate Omelet."

Step One: Shred Cheese. All of it! (.35 lb) Sorry about the fuzzy picture, having some weird problems with the the good photo of the shredded cheese. Blame my excitement and ridiculous amount of sugar and caramel syrup in my coffee.

Step Two: Melt a generous Tbsp of real butter and caramelize half of a yellow onion. (This smelled fantastic! I am a sucker for the melted butter smell, and was super excited for omelet time.)

Step Three: Add chives to onions when they are translucent. Remove from pan and set aside. Whisk 4 egg whites and three eggs together with a splash of milk for omelet base. (This was too much egg goo, I would use one less of each next time.) With heat on low, pour eggs into pan. Salt and pepper it up for fun. Once the egg sets up and looks just about firm, add shredded Manchego (save some for on top) and onion-chive mix.

Step Four: The Flip. The most nerve-wracking part of omelets for me is the The Flip. Typically, this results in The Flop-- a scrambled egg and stuff concoction that tastes yummy but looks super messy. I used two flippers and was extra careful just so the blog would look pretty. Score!!

Step Five: Top with leftover Manchego and chives. I also had cantaloupe (buy one get one free, folks!) and fresh-squeezed Honeybell orange juice. Honeybells are the fruit of the month from Hale Groves in Florida. Kate <3 Citrus. Enjoy!

Result: Manchego > Comte. Manchego was firm, mild, sweet, and smelled nicely. Also, I tried the rind-- it was a tasty snack!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Comte, Week 1

On Friday, January 2, 2008, I finally decided what my New Year's resolution would be.  I had just read this article about the "Ultimate Grilled Cheese" in Saveur magazine.  I was hungry.  I went grocery shopping.  And I saw it.  Yes, the very cheese so exquisitely described in the article (Comte) was staring right back at me.  I had to buy it, and then it dawned on me: this is what I've been waiting for!  A reason to blog AND a new hobby!  

I've been a blog reader for years, but everytime I've wanted to put myself out there and do it, I've come up blank with ideas.  I definitely didn't want to write about work or grad school...because that just sounded like work.  I also didn't want to write solely about my friends and family...because that seemed too boring and invasive (even if I changed their names-- and honestly, who else can I count on to read this?).  What else is left in my life-- food and sleep.  Sleep is a no-go, so food it is!

As much as I love cooking, I'm no gourmand.  In fact, I barely know anything about cheeses that don't regularly star in deli sandwiches.  This should be fun.

So, first up: Comte

Price: $10.99/lb, purchased smallest hunk for $8.02 at Trader Joe's
Smell Factor: Kind of nutty

Recipe Time:

Step One: Shred Cheese. Shredding cheese for grilled cheese didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, as the bread of choice, sourdough, was tiny.  I didn't know what to do with the rind, but I tried some anyway. Result= tasted like it looked, nutty and hard.

Step Three: Eat. Okay, the step thing is sounding a tad ridiculous.  Just wait until I start the ultimate showdown of cheeses.  I'm thinking brackets by season or (and?) by price.  Go quantitative or go home, my friends!

The grilled cheese was okay. It took a long time to toast it "just so," and because the cheese melted as much as it did, the result was less than the super-cheesy grilled cheese that I had in mind for my "Ultimate Grilled Cheese."  However, the Tomato-Basil soup I made to go with dinner and eat for lunch all week was fabulous.

Dinner is served!