Friday, November 8, 2013

The Cheese Course

While renting a vacation apartment near Campo Dei Fiore in Rome, I took the opportunity to cook for friends and was drawing a blank when it came to dessert. Because I had seen so many cheeses in the nearby shops, it seemed like a good idea to finally try making a cheese plate, so I did.
After selecting several types of cheese, I decided to include individual condiments with each selection. Since I had a Pecorino Romano with it's salty, strong taste, I decided to pair it with a shallot and fruit jam to contrast sweetness with the saltiness. First I sauteed the shallots in olive oil, added chopped cranberries and for good measure, some apricot juice.
As it cooked down, it needed a little kick, so I added some balsamic vinegar and cooked it down even more until I had a reasonable density and textural contrast for the cheese.
I resorted to my old standby of goat cheese, walnuts and honey for the second course. I discovered that combination in the Dordogne area of Southern France and have been using it in salads ever since. Because I already had a strong cheese on the plate, I combined the goat cheese with the sweeter, more buttery tasting Mascarpone.
After mixing the equal parts of cheese together, each piece was rolled in chopped walnuts and a "dimple" was placed on each piece, so that they would  be able to hold some of the honey in place.
Although it is not shown in the first photo of this post, I also paired a semi firm truffle cheese with walnuts and that proved to provide a nice contrast in flavors and textures.
I've saved the best for last. I couldn't resist trying a sheep's milk ricotta, even though I had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be the sweetest most luscious ricotta I have ever eaten.
The condiment was so easy I didn't bother to photograph it. I merely heated some dried cherries in balsamic, let it reduce and develop a syrupy consistency and adjusted the taste with a little sugar.
It was so delicious, I used the leftovers for a small lunch the following day.

No comments: