Cooking With Reduced-Fat Cheese
If you have ever seen the 1995 movie “French Kiss” then you will remember the scene where Kate (played by Meg Ryan), swoons over a platter of cheese as she travels by rail from Paris to Cannes. You will also remember that Kate is extremely lactose intolerant. Nonetheless, she cannot resist the charm of cheese, and as fate would have it, she suffers after gorging on everything from Camembert to Brie de Meaux.
I too find cheese ineluctible despite its’many perils. Fortunately, I am not lactose intolerant, but if I indulged in cheese the way I would like to indulge in cheese, my cholesterol would soar as would my weight. Which is why I relegate my favorite varieties to the provence of ‘special occasion treat’. Then, I will indulge in a small piece of the stinkiest, strongest Blue I can find, or the creamiest Cambozola, a luscious marriage of Blue and Brie.
There are cheeses, however, that one cannot avoid when cooking. Feta, Swiss, Mozarella, Ricotta, Cream Cheese, Cheddar, Parmesan and Cottage Cheese, to name a few. Cheese not only adds flavor, it melds flavors, and when melted, adds a creamy consistency. Lasagna, mac & cheese, enchiladas, cheesecake, spanakopita and ravioli. These are just a few of the dishes that utilize cheese. All of these recipes also contain a hefty number of calories and are high in fat, so my goal has been to find a lower fat content cheese that can stand alone or deliver the goods in your favorite dish. In the process, I have developed some rules of the (cheese) road:
1. Don’t ever use non-fat cheese when you are cooking. You sacrifice both taste and texture. A good rule of thumb is that if you try a bite and find it rubbery or bland, then that’s exactly how it will play out in your recipe.
2. If a more robust full fat version of the called for cheese can be substituted in a smaller quantity, then by all means use it. A perfect example is Sharp Cheddar versus low fat Cheddar.
3. Unless your recipe calls for a huge quantity of Parmesan cheese, stick with the full fat version. At only 23 calories and one gram of fat per tablespoon, it is well worth it.
4. Use part-skim Mozarella in a cooked dish, and fresh full fat in salads (think Caprese salad.)
5. Shop around. Not all reduced fat cheeses are alike.
Favorite Feta and Spinach Omelette
3 egg whites
1/3 red onion thinly sliced
¾ c. chopped fresh spinach
¼ c. thinly sliced mushrooms
¼ c. reduced fat feta cheese
sea salt, black pepper & red pepper flakes to taste
Spray small non-stick skillet with olive oil. Saute onion and mushrooms until onions are carmelized. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove vegetable mixture from pan and set aside. Respray pan and add egg whites that have been stirred. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. As egg white mixture begins to firm, sprinkle with feta cheese. Place the sauteed vegetables on one side of the egg white and fold the other half over.