The Big Cheese

Recipes for this quintessential snack food.

It’s not just about sliced cheddar and charcuterie plates. Serving up a dish with cheese as the main ingredient is sure to put a smile on your guests’ faces, and your own. This down-home comfort food pairs with various fruits, vegetables, meats and grains to satisfy cravings from sweet to salty to savory, and works for breakfast, lunch, dinner and every snack time in between. So go ahead, indulge a little.

Corn Cakes with Smoked Gouda

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium red onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh corn
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced thin
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 eggs, separated
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup milk
½ cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup smoked Gouda

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté over medium heat until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add corn and cayenne, and sauté until tender. Add jalapeno and lemon juice and heat. Set aside in a bowl to cool.

Beat egg whites into stiff peaks. In a medium bowl, combine yolks, ricotta and milk. Stir in flour, remaining ½ teaspoon salt and baking powder and mix. Add gouda and sautéed corn and onion mixture, and fold in egg whites. Spoon batter into a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat to make 3-inch cakes. Cook about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Serves 4

Parmesan Crisps with Goat Cheese Mousse

½ cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
6 ounces goat cheese
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of grated Parmesan cheese onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper or surface of non-stick baking sheet. Using fingertips, spread the grated cheese into a 2-inch circle. Repeat process, making about a dozen rounds.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Remove using spatula and transfer onto paper towels (for flat crisps) or into clean egg carton cups to form small cups. Let cool. Can be stored in airtight container for up to two days.

For the mousse:

Combine goat cheese and heavy cream using a beater to fluff up the mixture. Spoon small amounts into cooled cheese crisps and serve.

Pimento Cheese Dip

2 cups grated Cabot white Vermont mild cheddar
2 cups Tillamook yellow sharp cheddar
1 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon hot sauce
½ cup minced leeks, white only
1 ½ cups chopped roasted peppers with juice

Mix all ingredients, adding mayonnaise a little at a time. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

Before serving, allow to come to room temperature. Serve with your choice of crackers.

Makes approximately 2-3 cups

Stuffed Phyllo Purses

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¹₃ cup honey
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
4 phyllo pastry sheets
3 ounces sheep’s milk cheese, grated

Melt 1 tablespoon butter and oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions and sugar, stirring about 30 minutes until caramel in color. Add vinegar and honey, and cook 10-15 minutes until thickened. Stir in thyme. Melt remaining butter. On a greased baking sheet, lay out a sheet of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat with remaining 3 sheets. Cut into six 5-inch squares and spoon a small amount of onion mixture into the center of each. Top with cheese. Take opposite corners of each phyllo square and twist together. Place pockets on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden.

Serves 2-3

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