Chef's Hat: Check out the wide world of wonderful cheese
Try these recipes for Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese and Grilled Cheese with Turkey and Fresh Pears
Cheese is a great snack and is extremely versatile when used in cooking.
Cheese is one of those items you pick up for a recipe - such as Swiss for sandwiches, Parmesan for spaghetti or mozzarella for pizza topping - and you don’t put much thought into it.
A quick glance around the dairy aisle in any grocery store reveals dozens of varieties of cheeses in all shapes and forms. A store’s deli section usually contains a few more unique, albeit expensive, cheese selections.
That’s just a small part of the wide world of cheeses.
Sources vary when cheese was first created, with sites stating this food came about any time from 4,000 to 7,000 years ago. Even if it was just 4,000 years ago, that makes cheese something that has been around for a very long time.
The selection seen in most stores is a fraction of the types of cheese that are produced. Worldwide there are almost 2,000 varieties of cheese.
Cow’s milk is frequently used in the cheese making process; but sheep, goat, buffalo, reindeer, camel and even yak milk is used to make cheese. Very few ingredients are needed to make cheese - milk, salt and live microbial cultures. It takes 10 gallons of milk to turn into one pound of cheese. The finished product ends up being an excellent source of protein, calcium and phosphorus.
Cheese is broken down into several categories:
- Fresh cheeses that have a creamy wet to crumbly texture. Cheeses in this category include cream cheese, ricotta and mascarpone.
- Soft ripened cheeses are creamy, earthy cheeses and have a thin white rind of blooming mold around them. These cheeses include brie, Camembert and Muenster.
- Semi soft cheeses must have a moisture content between 36% and 45%, making the cheese flexible. Cheeses that fall into this category include Jarlsberg, Chaumes and American.
- Washed rind cheeses are creamy to hard and can be briny, fruity or meaty. This category includes the stinky cheeses such as Limburger, taleggio and Epoisses.
- Semi hard cheeses have a savory or tangy flavor and are firm. This category of cheeses includes mozzarella, cheddar, Gouda and Swiss.
- Hard cheeses are dense and rich in flavor. Parmesan, Asiago and pecorino cheeses fall into this category.
Homemade macaroni and cheese takes a few more steps than that boxed stuff, but it is so worth the effort. This recipe uses a combination of cheeses, including cheddar and Gruyere, which add a richness to the recipe. With the cheese left over after making macaroni and cheese, slap together a mouth-watering grilled cheese sandwich with turkey and fresh pears.
A bit of a bizarre accident is what produced the world’s first cheese. Legend has it that the creation of cheese happened when an entrepreneurial shepherd stored some fresh milk in a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach. When the pouch was opened, the milk had settled into curds and whey, thus producing the world’s first cheese.
This mishap has now turned into thousands of flavors that are enjoyed by people around the world. Expand your horizons and try a Gruyere, Gouda or BellaVitano Gold grilled cheese sandwich. The flavor of your dishes will be greatly enhanced. Happy Eating.
Homestyle Macaroni & Cheese
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 teaspoon paprika
If you are not making this for a crowd, make half the recipe.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large 3-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set it aside. Combine the cheddar, Gruyere and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese together in small bowl and set aside.
Cook the pasta according to package directions just until it is slightly softened. It should still be a bit firm. Remove the pasta from the heat, drain and place it in a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the pasta and stir to coat the pasta. Set this aside and prepare the cheese sauce.
Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a deep saucepan or large pot. Slowly whisk in the flour over medium heat and continue stirring for about 1 minute until the mixture is bubbly and slightly golden.
Gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream. Stir constantly to get the ingredients well mixed and smooth in appearance. Continue cooking and stirring until bubbles appear. Cook and stir an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Add a small amount of salt and pepper and stir.
Remove from heat and add two cups of the mixed cheeses and whisk until smooth. Add another two cups of shredded cheese and continue whisking until creamy and smooth. The sauce will be thick. Stir in the cooled pasta and mix until combined and pasta is fully coated with the cheese sauce.
Pour half of the macaroni into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining 2 cups of shredded cheese and then top with the remaining macaroni.
In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, 4 tablespoons of melted butter and paprika. Sprinkle it over the top of the pasta and place the baking dish into the oven. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Grilled Cheese with Turkey and Fresh Pears
- 2 slices wheat bread
- 1 ounce thinly sliced cheddar cheese
- 1 ounce thinly sliced Gruyere cheese
- ½ ripe pear, thinly sliced and peeled, if desired, with core removed
- 2 ounces sliced turkey
- Butter or margarine
This recipe can be doubled.
Place a small frying pan on a stove burner and turn up to medium heat.
Butter one side of each piece of bread. Place the buttered side of one piece of bread down on a plate. Place the cheese on top of that slice of bread and top with the sliced pear and then the turkey. Place the remaining piece of bread, buttered side up, on the turkey.
Place sandwich in the preheated pan and cook for approximately 3 minutes until the first side is browned. Flip the sandwich over. Cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes just until the bread is lightly browned. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Grilled Cheese with Garlic Butter
Makes 6 servings
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 12 slices white bread
- 6 tablespoons pizza sauce
- 36 pepperoni slices
- 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Garlic butter (follow recipe)
To make the garlic butter, in a small microwave-safe bowl add butter and melt in the microwave. Stir in olive oil, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.
Place a 10-inch skillet or pan on the stovetop and preheat it over medium-low heat while you prep the sandwiches.
Place 6 pieces of white bread on a cutting board. Brush one side with the garlic butter. Flip the pieces of bread over and top each with 1 tablespoon of pizza sauce. Use the back of a spoon to spread the sauce. Add 6 slices of pepperoni to each piece of bread followed by ¼ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese to each.
Place another piece of bread on top of each of the sandwiches.
Place a sandwich, garlic butter side down, in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully flip the sandwich over and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.