Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

While reading Slate this week I saw a recipe for a frittata, it seemed like something easy enough to do and a nice break from the everyday bread / butter / cheese dinners which we usually have at home. Getting home I realized I definitely could not use the recipe from Slate (it was called “frittata with greens, feta and dill – I didn’t have any greens, feta or dill). So whatever was on the fridge became the recipe of the day.

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Since I had never cooked one before, I had no idea of quantities or even the material (pan) to use. I ended up using a very large (>12”) oven-safe skillet which I had, which ended up being too wide (the dish in most pictures looks deeper, mine ended up quite shallow), but the taste was actually pretty good. I ended up using the ingredients found in traditional omelettes, tomatoes / cheese (a Mexican shredded cheese blend, leftovers from a taco day) and mushrooms. It was indeed quite easy to make, being ready in about 30 minutes.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (Mexican blend)
  • 4 eggs
  • 6oz. sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter (onions)
  • salt & pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). On a medium, oven-safe skillet over high heat, add the olive oil and the butter then add the onions, season them with salt and pepper and sauté them until they’re golden. Add the tomatoes (adding a little more salt & pepper) and cook them for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and mix well, cooking for another 5 minutes.

On a medium bowl, beat the eggs then add the cheese and the nutmeg. Remove the skillet from the heat, then pour the eggs over the onions / tomatoes / mushrooms, stirring gently to distribute the ingredients in the skillet. Transfer it to the oven and bake it until the top of the frittata is firm, about 10 minutes. Serve it immediately.

Enjoy!

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Shrimp in a gorgonzola sauce

Posted: January 12, 2012 in Cheese, Food, Seafood
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I love shrimp. It has been one of my favorite foods growing up, both because it tastes really good, and because it used to be quite expensive, so we didn’t have it often and the wait often makes a dish taste better. After moving to the Seattle area and meeting Costco for the first time, with their quite inexpensive (huge) bags of shrimp (already peeled!) it seemed like I found my place to live :), and so far I always have some of the shrimp in my freezer for some special dinner.

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My love affair with gorgonzola wasn’t that clear. I know that, like most kids, I didn’t try it at first because I didn’t like its smell. Probably some day (which I don’t really remember) I decided to try it and liked it. Nowadays I really like it, so much that any time me (and my wife, who shares this taste) will order a salad in a restaurant, if they have one with it (or another blue cheese), odds are that we’ll end up choosing that.

One thing which I like about gorgonzola is that its flavor is strong enough that it doesn’t need much to make a very good sauce. I’ve started with about 5 and kept removing ingredients until I decided that, for my taste, you don’t need anything other than this wonderful cheese and some milk. Even salt and pepper aren’t really necessary for the sauce itself (some cooks will likely start browsing out of this page now), as long as the meat it goes with is properly seasoned.

So this was a very quick, and quite delicious dinner which I made in a week day last month. The fingerling potatoes (easy to make) and the quinoa (interesting texture) in the dish are two of the ingredients which I started using recently (somehow I always passed by them in the supermarket), and they ended up going quite well with the shrimp.

Ingredients:

  • Shrimp
    • 1lb shrimp, cooked, thawed
    • juice of 1 lime
    • salt & pepper
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Sauce
    • 4oz. gorgonzola cheese
    • 1 cup milk

Mix the shrimp with the lime juice, salt and pepper, then leave for at least 15 minutes. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic. Pat the shrimp dry and add it to the pan, frying it for 5 minutes, to get the garlic flavor, then remove the shrimp and reserve.

In the same pan, add the cheese and the milk, then mixing it over low heat until the cheese is dissolved. Add the shrimp back to the pan, mix it to coat with the sauce and serve immediately. I used for side dishes the quinoa salad (both red and white, with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper) and roasted fingerling potatoes (drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper).

Enjoy!

“Catupiry” shrimp

Posted: February 26, 2011 in Brazilian, Cheese, Food, Seafood
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Source: Modified from the series “Cozinha Regional Brasileira” (Brazilian Regional Cuisine, http://www.cozinharegional.com.br), book 7 (Espírito Santo)

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History: Catupiry is a creamy cheese quite common in Brazilian cuisine, usually present in sauces for chicken or shrimp recipes (and also in some pizza flavors). I found this recipe in the book for the state of Espírito Santo, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find it in many of other states as well.

Variation from the original: I used store-bought tomato sauce instead of chopped tomatoes; I grated the onion instead of chopping it; I skipped the garlic (didn’t have at home) and cilantro (guests didn’t like it) which the recipe from the book asked; I also skipped the “urucum oil”, since I have no idea what “urucum” is, probably some tree which is native of that state; I didn’t use as much cheese as the recipe asked for (it asked for 4 cups, I only had about 1, and it turned out to be enough, with the addition of 1/2 cup of milk).

Ingredients from specialty stores: The Catupiry cheese. My wife returned from a trip where she got it in a Brazilian store, but I’ve seen it in some stores around the Seattle area as well. If you don’t have it, a friend of mine made a similar recipe with equal parts of cream cheese (Philadelphia, Neufchatel) and Muenster cheeses.

Ingredients:

  • 20oz shrimp (shelled, deveined)
  • juice of 1 lime (about 3 tbsp.)
  • 8oz catupiry cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Season the shrimp with the lime juice, salt and pepper, leave it for at least 15 minutes. In a large frying pan, sauté the shrimp in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan; in my large pan I used two batches) with about 2 tbsp. of oil for each batch, then reserve it.

In the same pan, heat 2 tbsp. of oil, then add the onion, until it starts to change color. Add the tomato sauce, and stir well for about 2 minutes. Add the cheese, and stir to blend. Finally add the milk and the shrimp back.

Serve with rice and sautéed potatoes. I also had a small fennel/tomato/green salad along with it.

Enjoy!

Queijo de Coalho

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Brazilian, Cheese, Food
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This is not a recipe per se, but the quest for “queijo de coalho” in the Seattle area. It’s a kind of cheese so common in our hometown, that many times we don’t realize how much we like it until we can’t find it.
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“Queijo de coalho” is a kind of pasteurized cheese, with a slight acidic taste. There are actually a few varieties, some more “packed” (dense), some with more holes in the middle. They also vary depending on how they hold on when fried – some will melt almost completely, some will hold more of its shape, while some lie in the middle, creating a wonderful crispy crust which is almost as good (and sometimes even better) as the cheese itself.
Back to our search. Granted, we didn’t expect to find it here. But we thought that we’d find some similar kind, after all, it’s quite inexpensive and seemingly so easy to make (you can find it in even the smallest street markets in our home city). No such luck.
The first “candidate” for the “coalho” replacement was a Mexican-style cheese which actually looked promising at first: the “Ranchero ® Queso Fresco”. Not too expensive (less than $7/lb), found in most supermarkets (at least in our region), it looked like the real thing. Eaten raw it doesn’t resemble queijo de coalho at all – it tastes more like another Brazilian cheese (“Minas”). But it actually fries quite well, melting just enough to create a nice crust, while staying firm if you use thick pieces, or melting away more if you use thin ones. It still doesn’t taste like coalho after fried, but it can be used as an adequate substitute in most recipes.
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That’s when we then discovered plain cheese curds. They taste really close to the real thing (a denser version) when raw. The brand we found (Beecher’s) was also quite moist (especially fresh ones). When fried, they also taste like the real thing, which is a huge plus. And they also melt great – I’ve already used them in a recipe in which the cheese is melted to create a kind of sauce. But they’re not as easy to find as the previous one – I only found it near the Pike Place Market in Seattle (where I don’t go as often as I should) or in some farmer markets (which are closed between November and April). They’re also pricier than the Ranchero ($16/lb), and their biggest drawback is that they don’t look anything like the real thing – I could only find them in small, bite-sized pieces. Only a problem for recipes which have a nice presentation, as they lack the original shape.
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Recently a friend mentioned that he discovered the grail of coalho-wannabes: Halloumi (thanks Mario!). A Greek/Cypriot-style cheese, it has the taste of the coalho when raw (albeit a dry one), and it actually looks like the real thing (although it’s even denser than the curds). It is the most expensive of them ($20/lb), but what makes it stand out is that you can fry it and it holds its shape really well (it’s self-described as “the cheese that grills”). So for recipes in you need a pretty slab of fried cheese (like the “cartola” – a topic for another post in the future – pictured here), it’s the way to go. The only thing that I didn’t like too much about it (besides the price) was that it is quite dry and it doesn’t melt well, so you can’t get a nice crust as you could with the other “candidates”).
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So which one is the best? As almost everything, it depends. The “queso fresco” is definitely the one which resembles the original the least, but since it’s cheap (and easy to find), we use it often to quell our fried cheese fix. As far as taste, I personally prefer the curds (both raw and fried), but sometimes if you’re making something that you want to look nice, I’d say go with the most expensive one. The table below compares the three kinds of cheese in their level of “coalhoness” (1 = pretender, 5 = contender).
Cheese Queso Fresco Plain Curds Halloumi
Brand we tried (price) Ranchero (~$6.65/lb Fred Meyer) Beecher’s (~$16/lb near Pike Place or Whole Foods Market) Shepherds of Cyprus (~$20/lb Whole Foods Market)
Taste (raw) OneStar FiveStar FourStar
Taste (fried) TwoStar FiveStar FourStar
Appearance FourStar OneStar FiveStar
Texture ThreeStar FourStar FourStar
Melting Point FiveStar FourStar OneStar
Crustiness FourStar ThreeStar TwoStar
Let me know if you find any other candidates!