Cheese is a staple in diets around the world. Knowing some of the more available types and how to use it can help you include this calcium and vitamin-rich ingredient in your meals Raclette Savoyarde.
The French call it fromage. In Spanish it’s called queso, and formaggio in Italian. No matter how you say, cheese, this divine, wide-ranging (in flavor and in usage) food is a part of nearly every culture on the planet. Most cheeses are made from cow, goat or sheep’s milk, but there are other animals used in some parts of the world, e.g., buffalo and llamas.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are as much an American staple as apple pie and hot dogs. There’s nothing as soothing and homey as a grilled cheese with tomato soup or cheese with tomato and spinach on pan toasted wheat bread. American, Cheddar and Provolone cheeses are widely known for their creamy texture and ability to not separate when heated, but there are literally hundreds of ways to make this classic sandwich. You’re only limited by your imagination and your preference for the many, many types, flavors and textures of cheese.
Here is a brief summary of popular cheeses—the one’s you’re likely to find at the local grocers or whole foods stores, and a couple of suggestions for how to enjoy it.
Asiago is a fruity and slightly sharp white cheese that makes a tangy topping for toasted breads, garden salads and baked potatoes.
Colby is a sweet and mild, semi-soft cheese that loses flavor a week after being exposed to air, so you’ll want to use it soon after buying. Colby adds a rich texture to white sauces you can poor over steamed vegetables.
Feta is Greek cheese made from ewe’s milk or goat’s milk. It tends to be salty, but you can soak it in cold water or milk for ten minutes to tame the flavor then crumble it over green salad or top a turkey burger with it.
Fontina is the cheese most often used for fondue. It has an earthy and nutty flavor when melted and compliments crusty bread and skewered melon or berries well.
Gorgonzola is sharp and spicy. It’s a little on the expensive side, but a little goes a long way. Try it crumbled over buttery pasta or a plate of sautéed greens.
Neufchatel is a soft cheese that has a mushroom-like taste. It’s wonderful spread onto crackers or crusty breads as an appetizer.
Parmagiano Regiano is a hard cheese that has a distinctive fruity and piquant flavor. Freshly grated can’t be beat if you’re looking for a tangy topping for soups, salads and pasta. You can also spread this grated cheese in 3-inch-wide circles on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven until it browns to create unbelievably tasty cheese crisps to accompany broth-based soups.
Pecorino Romano is another hard cheese; it’s made from sheep’s milk. It has a very sharp flavor that adds kick to salads, vegetables and soups.
Pepper Jack is Monterey Jack with jalapeno bits. This cheese is tart and spicy and can’t be substituted if you like your quesadillas with bite. It also partners well with honey dew or cantaloupe melon.
Smoked Gouda has a distinctive hickory smoke flavor. Gouda melts well and can top any open-face sandwich. It also pairs well with fruits.
Swiss has a buttery, nutty flavor and melts very slowly. It adds a great flavor to open-faced turkey or corned beef sandwiches.
If you’re into cheeses, treat yourself to a visit to your local specialty cheese shop. Ask questions. Sample the cheeses you’ve never tried. Open your palate and your mind to the many and varied types of cheese just waiting to be discovered and shared at your next gathering.