Jersey Blue: A tale of cheese (and sports)

by kirstin on April 16, 2014

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No one would have ever said I was an athletic child. As an asthma sufferer who grew up during the eighties, I belonged to the group of kids that was encouraged to sit on the sidelines, put on a leotard instead of knee guards and sneakers, and by all means, walk instead of run. At that time, a large sector of the medical profession was convinced that as soon as asthmatic child’s heartbeat even considered rising above a very, very quiet sitting rate, the child would be in grave danger of having asthma attack immediately. So with an inhaler in my pocket, I grew up hanging out on the outskirts of the playground at lunch time (after I used my nebulizer every day in the nurse’s room of course), watching others play dodgeball.

When accounting for my complete inability to dodge a round object, my lack of hand-eye coordination, my tendency to run into things, and my slow lap time, I point to this period in my life. It’s possible that it’s not related, but I’m hopeful.

With all this in mind, it’s probably clear why I fell in love with blue cheese. Finding my classmates unimpressed by the way I could power-read for three hours straight in library corners, and without a way to prove my prowess through brute physical strength or athletic ability, I needed a way to prove my bad-ass-ery. I proved my strength through food. In the cheese world, blues were a measure of my fierceness.

Everyone could run faster than me. But no one, no one, could eat more blue cheese than me. Or stronger blue cheese. I think I even put it on a peanut butter sandwich once. Blue cheese dressing was always my salad topper of choice. Gorgonzola and Roquefort went on everything I could put it on. I couldn’t run around two blocks, but I could crumble the hell out of a wedge of Stilton in an era when “sharp” Cheddar was considered an acquired taste.

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It is through this attempt to prove that I had a vein of fierceness in my body that I fell in love with blue cheese. I love all sorts of blue cheese. The strong ones (I often will pair them with dried figs or honey- I admit, I’m a bit pansified now), the soft ones (solo), please, and the weird ones.

Today I still always have a wedge of blue at home. My most recent blue discovery? Jersey Blue.

Imported by the awesome Swiss cheese importer Caroline Hostettler, Jersey Blue is made in the Valais region of Switzerland by Willi Schmid. Willi Schmid, in case you don’t know (don’t worry, I haven’t met him either), is a Swiss wondercheesemaker that’s been turning heads in the country that used to be only celebrated for cheese with big holes. After Switzerland stopped rewarding mass market cheese producers with heavier subsidies, artisan cheese makers like Schmid have been freer to create, and compete in the market.

The buttery, creamy flavors and color of Jersey Blue is thanks to it being made with raw, Jersey, cow’s milk. It has light veining, and the rind often acquires a wrinkled texture not unlike La Tur or Rochetta that, after sitting in a cheese fridge covered with foil for a bit, acquires quite a punch. Too feisty for you? Cut off the rind. Overall this is a rich, sweet blue that is fantastic for beginners and vein-lovers alike. I’m fond of it in thick slices, or, crumbled in a salad like the Fava, Sweet Pea & Blue Cheese Spring Salad.

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And don’t think less of me, but I wouldn’t eat it on a peanut butter sandwich anymore.

 

 

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Fava, Sweet Pea & Blue Cheese Spring Salad

by kirstin on April 9, 2014

Fava Blanching (1 of 1)Nudging broccoli and parsnips into the corners of farmers market tables, sweet peas, asparagus and favas are taking over. Lambs are dotting the Sonoma hills, and the amazingly cute pics cheesemakers are posting of newborn goats are suggesting that winter has had its way with us. For now. The seasons have spoken. Bunnies, strawberries, goat’s milk cheeses and lamb are ready to rule our world.

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To celebrate this taste takeover, I’m sharing a recipe for one of my favorite spring salads. It combines favas, sweet peas, chick peas, and mint.

The first time I heard about the combination of blue cheese, peas and mint was from an ex that was attempting to help me deal with my cheese consumerist issues by finding us recipes to utilize my purchases. That day I learned of the combo, I had just gotten home from buying what was perhaps a pound too much of Roquefort. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue. However, because a day or two prior, I went on a French cheese binge at Cheeseboard, we were also housing large amounts of Époisses, Comté, Tome de ____, Tomme de ____, and, you get it. I overbought, and every cheese was at it’s ripest and gooiest, because that’s how I roll at the cheese shop.

When he told me he thought we should test out a recipe he just read that combined mint, peas, and blue cheese I thought he was crazy. I thought the recipe writer was crazy too. But because I’m never one to turn down food when someone cooks it for me, especially when it involves any sort of dairy -this one also involved copious amounts of butter- I said I’d be willing taste it if he cooked it. I loved it.

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The peas act as a sort of honey with the blue cheese, offering their sweetness to tame any overwhelming piquant notes, and the lively mint brings out the peppery notes in the blue without dwelling on the cheese’s fierceness.

This salad could also be made with a fresh goat’s milk cheese, as might be typical with the season, but if you haven’t tried blue and cheese, try it. If your reasoning for wanting to substitute chevre is because you think you might miss out on the lively spring goat cheese, never fear- chèvre recipes are forthcoming!

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I used Jersey Blue in this salad. Details about the cheese next week. If  you can’t find Jersey near you, try another creamy, buttery blue like Roquefort, something lush from Willapa Hills, or Rogue Blue. The rest of the salad is all snap and crunch, the cheese will serve to add a little softness.

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How to Chiffonade Mint (1 of 1)

Fava, Sweet Pea & Blue Cheese Spring Salad

makes 2-3 servings

Salad

3/4 pound fava beans, in pods and shells

6 oz sweet peas, de-stemmed

1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas

2 green onions, white part thinly sliced

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon salt

40 mint leaves, washed and patted dry

 

Vinaigrette

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon dijion mustard

3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 dash freshly ground pepper

1-2 ounces of blue cheese per person

 

Bring a medium pot of salted water (salt so it tastes like the sea) to a boil. While the water’s heating, de-pod the favas. If it helps, think of the de-podding minutes as valuable time provided to you to space out, as I do. Once the water is boiling, drop the fava beans, skin-on, in the pot. After 3 minutes, take out a large fava bean (doesn’t have to be the largest, but, a big one) and taste it. If its flavors are sweet and buttery, without any raw notes, it’s good to go. If the bean tastes still slightly raw, give it 30-60 sec, and check another. When the beans are ready, take the pot off the stove, keep the water, but scoop out the beans from the pot, and toss the beans in an ice-bath to stop the cooking process. Bring the water back to a boil. Add the sweat peas to the pot and blanch for four to five minutes, until the pea’s edible pod is still crisp, but no longer fibrous. Drain and cool.

Next, peel the favas. Use your thumb nail to break the fava skin, then pop the beans from their package. If the beans are tiny, don’t worry about shedding the skin, it’ll be thin and taste tender.

To a large bowl, add the chick peas, favas, and sweat peas. To this, add the white part of the green onions, parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Chiffonade the mint. As is shown in photo six (above), stack about 6-10 leaves at a time, and roll them horizontally until they look like a mint cigarette. Slice with a sharp knife into thin strips. Toss 2/3 of the strips into the bowl with the chick peas. Lightly chop the rest of the mint and also add to the bowl.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the garlic, dijion, lemon juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and pepper. Pour this vinaigrette over the chick pea mixture and lightly toss. Let set for at least 20 minutes if possible. Taste. If you think it needs more salt, add.

Divide the salad between 2-3 plates. It makes two hearty lunches, or three larger side portions. Crumbling into larger chunks, top with cheese.

I love this salad with a Chenin Blanc- dry, or lightly sweet.

 

 

 

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Dorset: funky, sweet, and finally on the West Coast.

April 1, 2014

Before you think I’m shirking my food writer duties by not writing about the glories of springtime produce or dairy, I’ll have a post for you next week on that topic. With a recipe. In the meantime, let’s talk Dorset. I’m not sure if it’s the storm brewing outside (thank you, water, for occasionally falling […]

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Behind the Scenes: Montebello ♥s Cali Cheese.

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Idiazabal: A story of two smoked cheeses

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  I was fourteen the first time I tried a smoked cheese. It was a gouda and belonged to my friend’s parents who were known for enjoying “cultured” and bohemian activities like going to plays, drinking wine they made themselves, and, my friend told me, even keeping something that may have been marijuana-related in a […]

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Chocolate Cherry (or not) Bread with Cheese: Alexandra Cooks Guest Post

February 12, 2014

I am honored, excited, and stoked that today’s post is not my own. That’s right, it is the guest post from Alexandra of Alexandra Cooks that I promised last week. How did this happen? Via Twitter. I saw Alexandra, whose tweets and posts I follow religiously, asking what cheese to pair with chocolate. There was […]

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