All about cheese. As a kid I get up not far from the Tillamook cheese factory here in Oregon. It was amazing. Seeing how some of the best cheese in the country is made, start to finish. I grew up eating a lot of cheddar and swiss. Pretty standard decent cheeses. I wouldn’t touch American cheese them, because I couldn’t do the taste and now, because I’ve learned it’s very close in composition to plastic.
However as I got older I realized that cheese isn’t a simple thing. There are thousands of different cheeses with different flavors and purposes. In this post I’m going to focus on a good cheese board and some differences in classifications of cheese.
First of all let’s look at the main way cheese is classified, by it’s hardness. Cheese is separated into 4 groups this way. Soft, semi soft, semi hard and hard. This makes it far easier to find the cheese you want. For a good cheese board you want all 4. A full, well rounded experiance of cheese. Below I will post a helpful chart on how some cheeses are categorized, so you better understand the idea.
The harder the cheese the more difficult it is for it to melt. American cheese melts extremely easy, because it’s a soft cheese. You can put a decent sized slab on top of it and it would melt just fine. That’s why pizzas are generally made with mozzarella, because it melts so easily. When I make my Alfredos when I add my Asiago or parmesan cheese it has to be shredded pretty fine to melt properly. Also the aging process makes cheese not melt as well. Most cheeses are hard because they’ve been aged a long time like parmesan. It changes the composition and makes it saltier and harder.
When I put together a cheese board I put one of several of each cheese on. I will also look to put a nice rustic bread on my board. Cheese and bread are so nice together. I love spreading a soft cheese over crusty bread. The texture and flavor are incredible. This is one of those simplicity is bliss things. I always warm my bread and slice it relatively thick. Try something with a gentler flavor like a light sourdough or a baguette.
Crackers are a classic on cheese boards. I prefer crackers for harder cheeses. Remember to slice your hard cheeses very thin. The cracker holds up much better than bread against these cheeses. Again likewise with bread pick a flavor neutral cracker. With it being eaten with a hard cheese that’s already salty, pick a cracker that is light on the salt.
The best fruit for a nice cheese board is something mildly sweet and tart. This lets the cheese bloom and is a good underdone to the rich and salty cheeses. I really like fresh figs and grapes of several varieties on my board. It gives you options and flavor and allows you to eat a lot of cheese. Apple’s can also be nice, especially a green apple.
Wine and cheese to me is almost as good as it gets. Due to the rich and salty nature of cheese a light red wine is my preference. It changes by what cheese I’m eating, but pinot noir is usually my go too. A generally smooth, gentle and fruity red wine it helps cut the fattiness of the cheese, without overpowering it. Never over power your cheese it defeats the purpose. Chianti can also be nice. It’s mildly spicy and aromatic it’s better for more flavorsome cheeses like a hard Asiago or blue cheeses. White wines can go well with a lighter, summery cheese board. If you choose a white wine make sure it’s fruity and tart.
Blue cheese is an interesting thing. It’s the least popular of all the cheeses. It’s packed in flavor and it has a pungent odor that is off putting for a lot of people. Blue cheese is moldy, it’s injected with penacillium to encourage the bacteria growth. This mold is what gives blue cheese it’s salty and sharp flavor. This is also why it has the pungent flavor and blue veins. Blue cheese comes in many types too some more mild than others.
For the longest time most thought of tuna as the cans you buy for 50 cents that you mix with mayo and put on bread. Tuna is much much more than that. Canned tuna is all the scraps and lesser quality tuna cooked way longer than it should be. It’s dry and bland. It needs tablespoons of mayo to be attractive to eat.
Tuna steaks can be really nice. You need to make sure the tuna is of good quality. Good tuna is deep read and stays together nicley when you slice it. Most tuna at the grocery store has been frozen, so I reccomend a fish market.
In my opinion, and that of most chefs, tuna should be seared all around and sliced. A nice tuna niscoise salad is great. Green beans, fingering potatoes and niscoise olives tossed in a simple dressing with your tuna sliced over top.
When I sear my tuna I use sesame oil and get it smoking hot and sear it all around until it’s a nice golden brown all around. I set it aside and let it rest a bit. Slice it thin, it’s relatively dense, the texture is nicer if it’s sliced tjin.
Eating fresh tuna raw is also nice. However when you eat raw fish you always need to make sure it’s never been frozen and it’s fresh. If it’s not fresh and it has been frozen i won’t usually eat it raw it’s just a safety thing. Being safe is the most important.
Poke is nice with tuna. It’s sliced red and green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and the tuna diced small. It usually has a little more than that, but that’s the just of it. Raw fresh tuna of course is always nice on sushi.
I love Indian food, the smell of the spices and the simplicity. Curried lentils I eat probably once a week. It’s very simple to make and there’s no fuss to it. It’s also extremely tasty and smells incredible. What you’ll need:
First off, I’ll get my butter nice and hot in a sautee pan, add your curry paste and lightly toast. I always prefer curry paste over powder. I think curry powder tends to be a little flat myself. Add your sliced onions, leeks and celery and sweat until translucent.
At this point I’ll go ahead and add my diced chicken and sliced mushrooms. Make sure you sautee these a minute before asking everything. The mushrooms cook much better that way. When your mushrooms are cooked add your lentils. Then add water or stock. I think water works just fine. Season and simmer until lentils are soft making sure to keep stirring and adding water as it runs out.
When your lentils are soft add your chopped cilantro and parsley and serve over rice.
Rice is eaten worldwide in large quantities. It’s generally cheap and not given much credit. It’s most often a base with things on top of it. P.F. Chang’s has a food percentage of 18%, which is almost half of most restaurants. In other words they spend about half of the revenue on food dollar to dollar than most restaurants. The biggest reason for this is the fact that most of what they buy is rice. It’s extremely cheap, especially when buying in mass.
Rice should be soft, fluffy and loose. It saddens me to see rice that’s molded and covered with toppings that make the rice seem insignificant. First of all rice should never be molded. You spend the time to get the rice nice and fluffy soft and then you ruin it by packing it tight. It looks pretty yes, but never mold it. It’s not a decoration. The second thing about most places and serving rice is the fact that they drown it in sweet and sour chicken or what have you. Rice should be served on the side. It’s a side, so use it accordingly.
Fried rice and sushi are the only exceptions i can think of to those rules. Sushi rice is the most important part of the sushi. A well seasoned rice packed just barley enough to keep it together is how sushi rice should be. Fried rice should be pretty self explanatory. It’s dried and then fried.
Rice production is a massive industry. The top two rice producing countries are China and India which combine for over 350 million metric tons a year. The United States consumes over 3.8 metric tons a year. So please, don’t take it for granted it’s a really amazing thing. There are so many varieties to try from.