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Life is too short to eat bad food! Sharing great recipes, farm life, stories and photography from our Northern California dairy farm.

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March 10, 2010

Tips on Choosing Cheese & A Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread

How to Choose Cheese We, as Americans can’t get enough cheese. Gourmet and specialty foods sales, including cheese, are growing at quadruple the rate of overall spending, according to Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank. With hundreds of domestic cheeses to choose from, how do you choose? Tip #1 Take time to stop and smell the cheese.Read signs and descriptions. Chat with the cheese expert. Ask for samples. Tip #2 Shop around. With 300 or more domestic varieties, many cheese counters offer a variety of unique cheeses. An in-house expert can usually answer your questions and offer suggestions for food and drink accompaniments. Tip #3 Read the rind. Since artisanal cheeses are made by hand, they are shaped irregularly. You can spot the cheese by its rind or crust. They should have a natural rind that is buffed, brushed, washed or cloth covered. During the ripening process, a rind can be “washed” periodically with a liquid such as brine (salt & water), wine, beer or water to give the cheese a distinctive flavor and aroma. Tip #4 Seasonal selection. Aging varies with each type of cheese. Some cheeses, such as Parmesan and Cheddar, are less seasonal in quality. Tip #5 Fresh is best.To capture the cheese’s flavor, ask to sample fresh from the block. Tip #6 Age is an advantage. Many cheeses are mild if they are not aged. Choose one that has been around the “cheeseblock”. But be careful! An over aged cheese may taste too sharp and is best used to enhance a recipe. Having a party? Here's something fun to do~ Serving suggestion to tempt tastedbuds: Create individual cheese plates for guests. On a dinner plate, assemble 1-ounce servings of a variety of cheeses -- blue, Dry Jack, Cheddar – along with crusty sourdough bread, thin slices of domestic prosciutto and honeydew melon wedges. Pair with some yummy wine! Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread The classic combination of pears, walnuts and blue cheese isn't just for salad. Toss the same ingredients onto purchased whole-wheat pizza dough and make your own gourmet flatbread at home. Any type of ripe, firm pear will work—red pears look great. This is fabulous and very simple to prepare for an appetizer. The combination of the pear and the blue cheese is DIVINE! Enjoy! Ingredients 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil 3 cups thinly sliced onions 20 ounces prepared whole-wheat pizza dough 1/3 cup chopped walnuts 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage Freshly ground pepper, to taste 2 ripe but firm pears, sliced 1/2 cup finely crumbled blue cheese Preparation Place oven rack in the lowest position; preheat to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and golden, 5 to 8 minutes more. Meanwhile, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to the size of the baking sheet. Transfer to the baking sheet. Bake until puffed and lightly crisped on the bottom, 8 to 10 minutes. Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir vinegar, sage and pepper into the onions. Spread on the crust and top with pears, walnuts and cheese. Bake on the bottom rack until the crust is crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, 11 to 13 minutes. Slice and serve. Nutrition Per serving: 361 calories; 9 g fat (3 g sat, 3 g mono); 8 mg cholesterol; 54 g carbohydrates; 12 g protein; 5 g fiber; 410 mg sodium; 250 mg potassium. Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (15% daily value). 3 Carbohydrate Serving What's your favorite cheese? And how do you like to serve/eat it? Happy Wednesday! Pin It


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're in California. So many are out of state. I live in Paso Robles and organic veg garden, 3 chickens and 3 acres of wine grape. I'm just learning how to make cheese for fun and thinking about a couple mini cows. Any thoughts?

Nancy Grossi ~ Churned In Cali ~ The Wife of a Dairyman said...

Hi Cel,
I haven't heard of mini cows, how about a couple of goats for some goat cheese? Your place sounds lovely in Paso. We usually pass by on our way to San Luis Obispo....I just LOVE it down there!
Thanks for visiting ~ nancy