Last-minute entertaining for this Fourth of July is as easy as a visit your nearest supermarket. Buy a package of crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola, or a hunk of Stilton or Roquefort.
With these you can transform a salad, prepare an appetizer, dress up an entree, jazz up a side dish, or even make a cheese plate for dessert.
If the bold flavor of blue cheese seems too assertive to your palate, you ll be surprised at how a little of this cheese can bring new flavor to simple dishes like even cole slaw.
Blue cheese is the genre of cheese that has been treated with molds that form blue or green veins throughout and give the characteristic flavor. Blue cheeses tend to be strong in flavor and aroma, which intensify with aging.
Gorgonzola is named for a town outside Milan, Italy, where it was originally made. It is a cow s milk cheese that is rich and creamy, with a savory, slightly pungent flavor. The cheese usually comes in foil-wrapped wedges cut from medium-size wheels. It is said to be a perfect accompaniment for pears, apples, peaches, and hearty red wines. It can be melted over potatoes or crumbled in salads.
Roquefort is one of the oldest and best-known cheeses in the world. It has been enjoyed since Roman times and was a favorite of Charlemagne. It is made from sheep s milk that is exposed to a mold known as Penicillium roqueforti and aged for three months or more in the limestone caverns near the village of Roquefort in southwestern France. This is the only place true Roquefort can be aged.
The Food Lover s Companion describes it as having a creamy-rich texture and pungent, piquant, somewhat salty flavor. The name Roquefort is protected by law from imitators of this cheese. For example, salad dressings made from blue cheese other than Roquefort cannot be labeled as Roquefort. At the end of a meal, Roquefort should be served with sauternes, port, or other dessert wines.
Stilton is a blue cheese of English origin. It is made in parts of Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire, but received its name in the 18th century because it was sold in the small village of Stilton in Huntingdonshire. It is made from whole cow s milk and allowed to ripen for four to six months, during which it is skewered to encourage the growth of Penicillium roqueforti. This process creates a pale yellow interior with blue-green veins. The texture is rich and creamy, with 45 percent fat, but still slightly crumbly. The flavor is described as having a mellow cheddar-like quality with the pungency of blue cheese. Stilton is often served with a glass of port or a full-bodied dry red wine.
From Ireland comes Cashel Blue, a cheese that is tangy and crumbly when young and softens as it ages. Cabrales is a Spanish blue traditionally wrapped in sycamore leaves that impart a distinctly wood flavor, writes Paula Lambert in The Cheese Lover s Cookbook and Guide (Simon & Schuster, $35). Danish Blue was developed after World War I as an imitation of Bleu d Auverge.
Maytag Blue, a cow s-milk cheese made in Iowa since 1941, is based upon Roquefort. Point Reyes Original Blue blue cheese is from the Farmstead Cheese Co. in Point Reyes, Calif. (Farmhouse Cheese or Farmstead Cheese is cheese made on the same farm where the milk is produced.)
The Wisconsin Milk Market Board in Madison, Wis., notes that blue cheese consumption increased 28 percent between 1999 to 2002. Blue cheeses have shades of difference in flavor and texture. They can be dry and crumbly or creamy. The shorter the aging period, the sweeter the taste. In Wisconsin, blues from Holstein milk or Jersey milk tend to have a higher fat content.
Food service accounts for half of the blue cheese consumption in the United States. Blue cheese is often added to burgers, used to top salads, or used to stuff figs wrapped with prosciutto.
Use crumbled blue cheese as a topping on asparagus or cauliflower. Roll grilled corn on the cob in blue cheese crumbles. Stuff colossal green olives with blue cheese for an appetizer or addition to martinis. Top pizza with a mozzarella/gorgonzola mix.
Today s recipe for Gorgonzola, Grape and Nut Crostini bursts with flavor. It s a really delicious broiled baguette creation with a great presentation. The recipes makes 30 appetizers, which is good for a party.
Gorgonzola Couscous is a wonderful side dish for steak or grilled chicken. The recipe comes from the Marshall Field s Cookbook (Book Kitchen, $24.95). The couscous recipe was created by Chef Todd English of Figs restaurants in the Boston area, who is on the Field s Culinary Council, an advisory committee of 12 culinary stars.
In addition to recipes from the advisory committee, the cookbook includes the history of food at Marshall Field s, which began in 1856 in Chicago. Food was added to the dry goods store in 1890, which led to establishment of the Walnut Room on the Seventh Floor of the State Street store. Minneapolis-based Dayton s and Detroit-based Hudson s brought their flagship restaurants and menu specialties to the company in 1990. Hudson s famed Canadian Cheese Soup and the Maurice Salad phenomena are included in this cookbook.
The BBQ Queens Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, authors of Weeknight Grilling with the BBQ Queens (Harvard Common Press, $14.95), prove that you can add plenty of spunk to common ingredients with blue cheese. Blue Cheese Slaw is delicious, with no hint of vinegar in this cole slaw.
Include a blue cheese on a cheese plate of three to five varieties. Buy only one to two ounces per person of each. Serve the cheeses at room temperature by removing them from the refrigerator and unwrapping them at least one hour before serving. Decide on your accompaniments of bread and crackers, fruits or nuts and, of courses, the wines.
Since blue cheese packs big flavor, choose big wines, beer, and accompaniments to stand up to them.
Basic blues can be paired with pinot noir or burgundy; dessert wines such as sauternes, port, and late harvest riesling, and ales (nutty brown), cream stout, and amber lagers. Accompaniments suggested are pears, apples, walnuts, cashews, and almonds.
For gorgonzola, with it s earthy, piquant flavor and creamy soft interior, select red wines such as pinot noir, merlot, zinfandel, or dessert wines such as port or late harvest rieslings. Fruity ales and accompaniments suggested are pears, apples, walnuts, cashews, apricots, and figs.
With a blue cheese, add a red wine for a red, white, and blue celebration.
Contact Kathie Smith at: email@example.com