Crumbly and creamy textured, veined, sheathed in a grape leaf, soft and gooey, cheeses so appealing I had to sit them down and take their picture. Charisma and character, they have it. It makes sense considering how carefully cheese can be coddled and nudged toward artisinal perfection. As chocolate and a fine glass of wine are irresistible, so it is with good cheese.
We humans have been making cheese for thousands of years, at least since the heyday of Neolithics. We have much in common with our ancient cousins, including, apparently, our reverence for cheese. (Cheese & Culture: A History of Cheese and Its Place in Western Civilization, Paul S. Kinstedt).
Good cheese is pricey, we love it anyway and use it sparingly at times. Stir cheese into soup, scrambled eggs, risotto, sprinkle on salad or melt it on toasted bread. The following recipe ideas feature Beecher’s, Mt. Townsend and Rogue River in smallish amounts along with a few seasonal ingredients. Wicked good stuff. Kids can definitely help slice the cheese or stir the pot with these – they’ll lick the pot as well.
Tomato-Cheddar Soup Recipe
Recipe from Pure Flavor cookbook, by Kurt Beecher Dammeier. About twenty minutes start to finish, six servings.
Ingredients: 2 T unsalted butter/ 1/2 medium onion/ 1 28-ounce can plus another 14 1/2 ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree/ 3/4 t white ( or black) pepper/ 3/4 t kosher salt/ 2 1/2 C Beecher’s cheddar cheese (or any semi hard cheese)/ 1/2 C heavy cream (I used half & half).
Directions: In a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter, add the onion and sauté until soft but not brown, about 4 minutes/ Add crushed tomatoes (or, use whole canned tomatoes, blended lightly), 2 1/2 C water, pepper and salt/ / Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally/ Add the cheese and cream/ Stir until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes/ Serve hot.
Add croutons to make it even more like a tomato soup-toasted cheese sandwich. Then take a wee nap. Life can be so delicious.
Beecher’s & Rhubarb Rosemary Compote
Make Rhubarb Rosemary or Rhubarb Thyme jam. Serve it in a bowl with slices of cheddar (or the Mt. Townsend soft cheese) and crackers.
Risotto with Mt. Townsend Cheese Recipe
Ingredients for 4 servings: 2 T butter, 2 T olive oil/ 3 T finely chopped shallot or 1/2 medium onion/ 1/4 C white wine/ 1 1/2 C Arbrorio rice, 4 C broth of any kind/ 3 T each finely chopped fresh oregano and chives/ 2 T lemon zest/ 3 T Mt. Townsend Cirrus cheese/ Salt & pepper to taste/ Plenty of other ingredients, herbs or vegetables, chopped finely or in small pieces would be excellent additions. I added a few pieces of asparagus during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Directions: Heat the broth to a bare simmer/ In a separate pan, on medium – low heat, sauté the shallot or onion in olive oil and butter until transluscent/ Add the rice, stir and cook for a minute, stirring/ Add the white wine and cook until wine has mostly disappeared/ Stir in the heated broth and adjust heat so that mixture simmers/ Cook for 25 or 30 minutes until tender and creamy, stirring occasionally/ Taste along the way to determine when rice is almost done/ Finished risotto should be a little soupy and the rice tender/ Heat and add more broth or plain water if needed/ Add herbs, lemon zest and any fresh vegetables after 20 minutes of cooking, or during the final 10 minutes/ Off heat, stir in cheese and a few more fresh herbs/ Best eaten right away.
This risotto is imbued with the subtle flavor of Mt. Townsend’s signature soft cheese – or you could use their Sea Stack. Same thing with scrambled eggs. When eggs are almost done stir in a tablespoon or two of this soft cheese. Finish cooking, serve with steamed asparagus and crispy fried potatoes on the side if you’re trying to impress, or just feed somebody on a Sunday morning.
Rogue River Blue
Sprinkle it around like fairy dust. There’s nothing to do with a blue cheese this good, but to eat it as is.
Serve it nestled in a piece of celery; or sprinkled, at the last minute, on top of a green salad or a plate of beets; on a sliver thin slice of apple or pear; stir a tablespoon into ½ cup of hot cream until it’s melted and pour over asparagus, kale florets, mashed potatoes. A little goes a long way so that using just a tablespoon adds a big flavor kick to whatever.
Make a blue cheese spread made with a small amount of Rogue River Blue, some cream cheese and a little milk, chopped nuts optional. A ratio of 3:1 cream cheese to blue is a good way to start; add a little milk to create an easily spreadable consistency. Blended or mixed by hand it’s delicious on crackers or stirred into hot pasta or risotto – a good way to stretch the big flavor of this delectable blue cheese.
The other thing about cheese is that it’s the traveler’s champion, wrapped in paper and tucked into a backpack. Vagabond fare for millennia. On a recent early morning train ride to Portland, we took along cheese, bread, and fruit, something like our ancient cousins might have done. Happy to be part of that cheese loving ancestral herd.