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Lets get cheesy!
I don't know about you all but when I think of food I think of cheese. Be it appetizers or entrees - I love a plate of things stuffed or topped with cheese. Heck, I don't even leave them out in desserts - my plate has a sinful chocolate cheesecake - every time!
Stuffed mushrooms, mozzarella balls, grilled cheese sandwiches, margarita pizzas ... your mouth watering yet? Don't judge me.. I'm just very cheesy.
Which cheese to choose?
Now we all know the popular cheese slices we use everyday. But what about the world of 'natural cheeses' hidden behind these processed slices? There is an infinite variety of cheese, coming from all over the world, in their natural 'unprocessed' state. Each of these come with their own distinct color, flavor, smell and a mesmerizing melt. Natural cheese can be made from yeast, fungus or any other element which gives it its own taste.
One may ask why should we opt for the expensive chunks of real cheese as opposed to the affordable processed cheese? The answer lies in the 'process' itself. Lets see which one makes more sense.
Natural Cheese vs. Processed Cheese
The end product is 100% real cheese
Made from 51% real cheese (approximately)
Made of 100% natural ingredients including good quality milk and salt.
Made of a portion of melted natural cheese, artifical ingredients and a lot of salt!
Comes in a form of a loaf or a triangle which you can cut, cube or shred
Comes in slices, cubes, tubes, boxes, bottles etc.
Natural cheese ages naturally; from anywhere between 2 months to 5 years
It is formed into the desired cheese product and packaged immediately
Shipped to stores after months/years of aging
Shipped immediately upon processing and packaging
Made from high quality milk, salt and enzymes
Made from milk, milk-protein concentrate, whey, milk fat, sodium phosphate, enzymes, dye color and other artificial ingredients and preservatives.
How 'gooey' IS that cheese?
What do we love most about natural cheese - it melts! It becomes soft, smooth, gooey and so aromatic. Among the hundreds of cheeses we can choose, from not all cheese melt in the same way though, but one can enjoy these with different dishes or on their own too. The question is - which is the right cheese to go for?
We can understand this only if we understand cheese. The melting factor of cheese can be determined by the amount of salt, moisture and acidity it holds. The high moisture cheeses will melt easily while the low-moisture cheeses are the ones that won't give in so easily. Then again, firmer cheese, like Gouda, melt because they are low in salt and acidity. Cheeses like cheddar which are quite acidic in nature will melt, but they would not be as free flowing. So it is all about the combination of salt, moisture and acidity, among other factors, of the cheese that make their melting quality distinct.
Our favorite cheeses
I love cooking and I do it a LOT with different kinds of cheese. My grocery bills usually always have cheese on them, and I use them for both, cooking and nibbling between meals (guilty pleasure!)
So here are some of my favorite cheeses and some of the dishes I make with them:
Provolone: It is an Italian cheese that originated in Casilli near Vesuvius, around the end of the 19th century, The term provolone means 'large provola' and the smaller sized variety is called 'provola'. Provolone is made using a technique called 'pasta filata' or 'pulled curd' which softens the cheese and gives it the chewy texture. An aged provolone tastes heavenly.
Suggested Dish: Top a generous amount of provolone on a homemade pizza crust along with the sauce, roasted peppers, eggplant and thyme - bake.
Asiago: Asiago is a nutty flavored cheese hailing from Europe. The originating region is known as the Asiago High Plateau, which lies within the Italian Alps - thus the name Asiago. Asiago cheese comes in two forms - fresh and smooth Asiago known as 'Pressato' and firm and mature Asiago, called 'fresco'. Fresh Asiago has an off-white color and is milder in flavor. Mature asiago is yellow colored and grainy.
Suggested Dish: Asiago cheese and garlic dip. Blend the cheese, cream cheese, parsley and salt together. Add roasted garlic and blend again. Top with asiago and mozzerella cheese and bake. Enjoy with bread or crackers!
Mozzarella: Mozzarella is a cheese from southern Italy traditionally made from buffalo milk by the pasta filata method. It gained fame as a pizza topping - and it definitely stays unbeaten.
Suggested Dish: Mozzarella sticks or load it on a pizza.
Blue cheese: It is a general classification of cow's milk, sheep's milk, or goat's milk cheeses that have had Penicillium added so that the final product is spotted or veined throughout with blue, green or brown molds and carries a distinct smell from the bacteria. Blue cheese flavor is sharp and a bit salty.
Suggested Dish: It can be eaten by themselves with crackers because of its strong flavor. Or it can also be crumbled over food/salad.
Cheddar cheese: It comes from the village of Cheddar, England. Made from cow's milk, cheddar cheese is a firm cheese that ranges in flavor from mild to sharp. They have various dyes added to them for different colors. Cheddar ages slowly and sometimes take 5 years.
Suggested Dish: Cheddar in a creamy potato Au gratin.
Feta cheese: It is one of the oldest cheeses in the world and said to be one of the healthiest. It originates from Greece and is made primarily from sheep milk. Feta is white in color, is a bit sour to the taste and rich in smell.
Suggested Dish: Crumbled feta on salads - yum!
Cream cheese: Its a fresh cheese, since its not aged. The flavor is subtle and sweet. At room temperature cream cheese spreads easily and is used in various dips and desserts.
Suggested Dish: One word - Cheesecake.
Goat cheese: Goat cheese is usually soft and spreads easily. It is distinct in taste due to the tangy flavor of goat milk.
Suggested Dish: As a topping in a salad, a roasted veggie frittata or even a spinach pizza.
So go ahead, spend a little extra on those natural cheese blocks and make every meal yumilicious !