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Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
  • Kitchen Call: Cheese, cheese and more cheese

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  • When I’m making room for groceries in the refrigerator, I might find a (not-long) forgotten wedge or container of cheese. The ricotta from that night last week when I didn’t have time to make lasagna. The blue cheese leftover from a game-day platter. Or foil-wrapped slices of cheddar, Havarti, Swiss or American bought for sandwiches.
    Time for something more exciting than grilled cheese. Like whisking ricotta into pancake batter. Easy enough to do, adding grated citrus zest, the colored part of lemon, orange or grapefruit skin, to brighten the flavor.
    A wedge of Blue Hill or Maytag blue cheese crumbles into basic cole slaw. The whole thing works if the slaw is made ahead and a country ham from Vermont or a rack of ribs cooks slowly in the oven while you’re outdoors building a snowman. Add hot cider with cinnamon.
    How about those bits and pieces of cheddar or mismatched cheese? They combine with mayo for the Southern picnic staple, pimiento cheese, mashed into egg yolks to stuff into devilled eggs, or celery stalks, or to dollop onto Southern-style cheeseburgers.
    Chopped or grated over a few kitchen staples, the leftover ends and slices and bits of cheeses combine for an old-fashioned New England meal. Bread, mustard, eggs, milk and cheese combined for a cheese-and-bread pudding, a.k.a. strata — chopped ham, roasted red bell pepper strips or a slathering of caramelized onions between two layers of luscious. A crunchy tossed green salad turns it into dinner before a late night movie. Or sitting in front of a roaring fire — real or one of those fakes streamed on the flat screen.
    Like all other industries, the cheese world hosts annual awards. At the Cheese Shop of Concord, Mass., staffer Brie Hurd (how about that name fitting the job?) recommends two USA standouts. Ameribella, from Indiana, made by a husband-and-wife-team on a family farm dating back to the 1800s, is soft, mild creamy yellow with a yellow-brown rind.
    Hildene chevre, a goat cheese from Manchester, Vt., is produced from a herd of only 25 on land that, until recently, belonged to Abraham Lincoln’s descendents. (You can actually tour the house, and take a hayride or sleigh ride in season.) Says Hurd of the rich, dense cheese, “In summer, it’s got a lemony tang.”
    In Marblehead, Mass., Shubie’s Marketplace is known for its cheese counter where customers can browse for favorites in categories like fresh, semi-soft, firm, washed and so on. The American-made cheeses feature a soft white round from Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vt. The shop’s experts happily take the time to help customers arrange “Artisan American Cheese Boards” recommending crackers and jams that go along with them so that no flavor is forgotten.
    RICOTTA-CITRUS PANCAKES
    Page 2 of 3 - Makes 6 servings
    • 2 cups ricotta cheese
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 t vanilla extract
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 3 T vegetable oil
    • 2 t citrus zest
    • 3 cups flour
    • Garnish: fresh orange slices, maple syrup, butter, powdered sugar
    Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, sugar, oil, zest and ricotta in a bowl. Add flour, a cup at a time, whisking until smooth. Add a few drops of cold water to thin the batter, if needed.
    Spray a griddle or stick-free with nonstick spray and heat. Ladle in circles of batter, cooking one side until tiny bubbles begin to surface. Flip pancakes and cook until golden. Do this in batches repeating until all batter is used. Keep finished pancakes warm in a 200-F oven while finishing the batch.
    BLUE CHEESE COLESLAW
    Makes 8 servings
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 2 T cider vinegar
    • 1 medium to large cabbage head, cut in half and cored
    • 2 carrots, peeled
    • 1 large tart apple, e.g. Granny Smith
    • 1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
    • Salt, to taste
    Whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise and cider vinegar in a large bowl. Slice cabbage thinly, about 1/4-inch thick, directly into the dressing.
    Grate the carrots, then the apple, on largest holes of a hand grater directly into the bowl, so that the apple does not darken. Add the blue cheese. Toss to coat. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
    CHEDDAR-HAVARTI-SWISS-AMERICAN CHEESE STRATA
    Makes 4 servings
    • 12 slices firm white or sourdough bread, crusts removed
    • 3 to 4 T Dijon-style mustard
    • 2-1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese or a mixture of cheeses
    • 4 eggs
    • 2-1/2 cups milk
    • 1/8 each t each salt and ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup chopped ham, chopped roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, or other filling
    Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch-square oven-proof dish.
    Spread each slice of bread thinly with mustard. Fit half the bread, cutting slices if necessary, into the baking dish. Sprinkle the desired filling and cheeses over it. Top with remaining bread. Set aside. Salt and pepper lightly.
    Whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, salt, pepper, in a mixing bowl. Pour this mixture into the baking dish, pressing the bread down to absorb the milk. Let this sit on the counter about 20 minutes.
    Bake, uncovered, until the whole is golden on top and puffed, about one hour. Check for doneness by piercing with a knife; the blade will be clean when removed. Serve hot.
    PIMIENTO CHEESE
    Makes 2 cups
    • 1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
    • 1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise
    • 1/4 cup sliced pimientos or 1/4 cup roasted red bell peppers
    Page 3 of 3 - • 1/2 small onion, finely grated, about 1 T
    • Cayenne pepper, to taste
    Mix together all ingredients, seasoning to taste with cayenne.
    Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at KitchenCall@aol.com. Read Linda’s blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com. Follow Linda for quick recipes on Twitter at @Kitchencall.

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