In My Kitchen: Summery Cheese Platter
If I'm being honest, this may have been my main motivation for undertaking the research and time necessary to write a series on cheese. I mean, how could I possibly avoid a taste test? ;)
The trickiest part for me though, was deciding on exactly what cheeses I would be testing. Cheese plates can get expensive in hurry, so while attempting a good variety, I really needed to restrict myself to just four cheeses.
As the experts suggested, I looked for different colors, textures, and moisture content - with just four shots to find the diversity, it was tougher than it may seem! Then I thought of sides - go for the classics or veer away a little? I decided to start with what I knew from experience was good and expand off that. Finally, and maybe the thing I was most pleased with was my decision to use fresh ingredients growing in my garden and wild around my house. In the end I had a pretty platter with good diversity and an end result that feel uniquely personal. I can't wait to put together another!
On my platter:
Queso Coqueya: Cabra Al Vino
A semi-soft Spanish goat cheese soaked in red wine for a hint of tang and a rich purple rind.
This was my first experience with a goat cheese besides the fresh goat cheese log varieties. Its texture is close to mozzarella and the goat cheese taste is much milder than those fresh cheeses. Because of this it would probably be a safe goat cheese to introduce to a pickier palate. This was the mildest of the cheeses on my platter.
Naturally Good Kosher: Double Cream Brie
A soft-ripened cheese made with double the cream and without any animal rennet.
My daughter would have been very disappointed if brie hadn’t made my cheese platter list. Like many people, warm melted brie slices are a favorite indulgence at our home. However, this was my first experience with the vegetarian variety. Conclusion? This brie was a bit more mild and less salty than the brie I’m used to, but if you hadn’t told me it was vegetarian, I would have never known. We loved it!
Mt. Sterling Co-Op Creamery: Smoked Raw Milk Cheddar Style Goat Cheese
An award-winning, naturally smoked semi-hard raw goat’s milk cheese.
Yet, another example of the solid goat’s milk cheeses I’ve been missing! I absolutely love smoked cheeses, but I’d never tried a goat milk variety before so I was immediately intrigued when I spotted it. While there was a yummy goat’s cheese flavor underneath that meaty, smoky taste, the biggest difference between this smoked cheese and one made from cow’s milk had to be the interesting just slightly crumbly texture. This is a cheese for people who enjoy big, bold flavors.
Landana: 1000 Days Aged Gouda
An extra-aged hard variety of the classic Dutch cheese, Gouda.
I picked this cheese up simply thinking my board could use a little color, and that I hadn’t selected any hard cheese varieties yet, but it ended up being my favorite. Creamy, smoky, rich, salty, it’s definitely a hard cheese, but it’s pleasantly softer than most other hard cheeses I’ve tried. This one, which I’ve read had lost 25% of its weight during the 1000 day maturation process, still manages to retain a bit of its moisture and crumbles slightly when you slice it. It was a little too much for my daughter’s developing palate, but the grownups loved it. I will be buying it again!
Olive Oil Salt and Pepper French Bread Toast
Simple, Yet Flavorful
I kept the bread simple. Half inch thick diagonally-cut slices of French bread brushed with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and cracked black pepper, then toasted in the oven until golden.
Sweet, Tangy, and Rich
While pears or figs may have been more refined and classic fresh fruits choices, the black raspberries (not to be confused with blackberries) bushes that grow wild around our house just came into season and I couldn’t resist them! If you’ve got’em, use them!
Cherry Tomato Basil Salad with Carrot Ginger Vinagrette
Fresh, Clean, and Palate Cleansing
Though, I’m a big fan of letting cheese shine on its own, mozzarella wrapped in tomato and basil is one of my favorite summer treats, so I knew right away I’d be including those two. To up the elegance just a little, I chose a variety of red, orange, yellow, and purple cherry tomato which I thin-sliced and tossed with minced red onion and chiffonade basil leaves from my own garden. I mixed these with a homemade carrot ginger dressing (one carrot, two tablespoons worth of fresh ginger, two tablespoons worth of sweet onion, water, rice wine vinegar, and sea salt plus a blender) and a pretty sprig of basil – just for looks.
Roasted Red Peppers
Sweet, Smoky, and Savory
Another of my all-time favorite cheese pairing. Roasted red peppers are so easy to make, and so delicious to eat, I could hardly not make them. If you're buying those overpriced jars STOP! All you need to do is char the outside of red pepper on one of your stove burners. Let it blacken all the way around, turning it as needed, then take it off to rest covered when done. After about a half hour, the charred skin will pull off easily. Pull off the top, rinse off any seeds or char pieces and put it in a container with olive oil, and whichever herbs you like – basil and garlic are my favorite marinade ingredients for them. You'll save a ton and get a way better, fresh, and more flavorful product in the end!
Chives and Chive Blossom, Chopped Hazelnuts
Pretty and Functional Garnish
I mostly added these for the pretty of the thing, but they are classic companions to cheese are well. With a pair of kitchen scissors handy, I'd snip of a little bit of chives to top a slice of cheese.