If you have taken a look at some of my previous posts you will probably notice that I have a love of cheese. Not just a love, but a love affair. This love affair has been going on for as long as I can remember. As a kid I always preferred savory food instead of sweet foods and cheese was my favorite thing to eat (on pizza, macaroni and cheese, plain, etc). I was the only kid on the block to give away my Halloween candy, but I would wrestle you for a chunk of cheese. Luckily, I grew out of that phase, but I still have a major fondness for cheese.
I could eat cheese at every meal, all day long. I do realize that if I did that I would have to live at the gym to burn off all those calories. Yes, cheese is high in fat, but on the flip side it is also high in calcium and protein. My take is that everything is ok in moderation! I do have a few rules that I try to stick by. If I am eating a hard cheese such as cheddar I try to buy a reduced fat version. I stay away from fat free cheese as they are mostly made of chemicals and you really sacrifice on flavor and texture. Not all reduced fat cheeses are great, but you can find some good ones. If you are going with a full fat cheese then use a really flavorful and strong cheese, like a really sharp cheddar or really pungent blue cheese, so that you do not need to use a lot of it for your flavor pay off. Goat cheese and feta cheese tend to be lower in fat than hard cheeses so I feel I can be a little more generous with portion sizes for those. My final rule is that if you are going to eat cheese – ENJOY IT!
I have recently been buying a lot of Cabot cheeses. It can be readily found in most supermarkets which is nice and it is kosher (although not cholov Yisroel). They have a good 50% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar and a Reduced Fat Pepper Jack that has quite a kick. Their Extra Sharp Cheddar has a great sharp taste and their Seriously Sharp Cheddar is perfect for anyone who really loves the bite of a STRONG cheddar.
I really do not discriminate against any type of cheese and have yet to find one that I do not like. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some personal favorites.
Brie – One of the things that I love about this cheese is its texture. It is typically from France and is made with cow’s milk. It has a plastic-like rind on the outside (yes, you can eat it) and the cheese on the inside is creamy, smooth and rich. It is best served at room temperature so that the middle of the cheese ripens. You can spread it on baguette slices, crackers or fruit. Another great way to serve it is baked with preserves or jelly. Seriously delicious!!
Cheddar – Other than processed “American cheese” (which I do not really consider cheese) this is the cheese that I most associate with the U.S. of A. We produce some really good cheddar at reasonable prices in places such as Vermont and Wisconsin. If you are looking for an imported cheddar then English cheddars tend to be very nice. I have already said that I enjoy a seriously sharp cheddar. It is hard to describe the tang and bite that goes along with it. Again, I do not discriminate and think pretty much any cheddar cheese is wonderful! It melts really nicely so it is perfect for fondue or macaroni and cheese. The taste can stand on its own in a cheese sandwich, grilled cheese or with eggs. It is also delicious in quesadias and in Tex Mex cooking.
Feta – Traditionally from Greece, this sheep’s milk cheese is unique and delicious. It is brined and has a crumbly consistency. It is normally sold in blocks and can also be found in crumbles. It has a tangy and salty taste. It is commonly found in Mediterranean cuisine and is great in salads (Greek salad), omelets and sandwiches.
Goat Cheese aka Chevre – The name says it all. This cheese is made from goat’s milk. It has a distinctive and tangy flavor and is also known for its smooth , soft consistency. At room temperature goat’s cheese is easily spreadable which makes it perfect to eat with crackers, baguette slices or fruit. I also spread it on sandwiches and crumble it into salads. When melted it has a very creamy consistency. I will stir it into sauces or use it as a filling in omelets.
Gorgonzola – I actually used to have an aversion to the “blue” cheeses. It was only in the last five or six years that I started to really appreciate them. I do like a good blue cheese and fell in love with creamy gorgonzola. I often use it in salads or eat it with crackers and/or fruit on a cheese platter. It is made with cow’s milk and traditionally comes from Italy. Yes, the blue veins are a product of mold spores being injected into the cheese, but it is best not to think about that. Besides mold can be good for you – look at penicillin – right?
Mozzarella – I had to include this cheese on my list if for no other reason than it is traditionally on pizza, one of my all time favorite foods. There are two types of mozzarella that you can readily find. Fresh mozzarella is sold in a brine, is milk white in color and has an almost spongy consistency. This type is often referred to as buffalo mozzarella. It is delicious paired with tomatoes and fresh basil for a caprese salad or sandwich. I use part-skim mozzarella in a variety of dishes. I like that it is a low fat cheese and that it is easy to find sacks of it already shredded. It is one of the cheeses used in my Spinach Artichoke Dip. I often use shredded mozzarella when making Italian dishes such as lasagna, ziti and yes, pizza! It also makes a good high protein, low fat snack on its own.
These are just a few of my favorite cheeses. What are yours?