Monday, 31 August 2009

Cheese Goes with Everything

This next foray into cheese making is an easy one. No rennet required, the milk is just brought to temperature, curdled with vinegar and drained. Easy peasy. The resulting cheese, especially when salted, makes a great topping for pasta and salad and is so easy you will wonder why you have been spending so much in the store for such a simple cheese!
Heather of Girlichef and I have been exploring new cheeses together, discovering what can easily be made at home. Check out her site to see how she fared with this one.

Queso Blanco Recipe
This recipe is based on this one from The Cheese Wizard, with some changes as read in other cheese books.

1 gallon whole milk, cow or goat - I used a combination of both. Avoid ultrapasturized milk in cheese-making.
1/4 cup cider vinegar - I loved the flavour that the cider vinegar lent this cheese, makes me wonder how it would be with other tasty vinegars.

Heat milk very slowly to 180 F, stirring constantly. Be careful not to burn the milk. Hold at 180 for 10 minutes.
While mixing with a whisk, slowly add the cider vinegar. You will notice the milk begins to curdle.
Keep stirring gently for 10-15 minutes.
Line a colander with a fine cheesecloth.
Pour the curdled milk through the colander.
Allow the curds to cool for about 20 minutes.
Tie the four corners of the cheese cloth together and hang it to drain for about 5 - 7 hours (until it stops dripping).
The solidified cheese can be broken apart and salted to taste or kept unsalted. I like it salted.
*In my ricotta making experience... I have found that regular store bought cheesecloth it too loose a weave for draining. Either you have to fold and fold to get a tight weave (which can be expensive) or find another cloth. I use a white cotton napkin that drains well but has a tighter weave. I only use the napkins for cheese making. Even a good remainder bin might have something you can use and re-use. Wash it first and grab an all natural fabric. The cheese places use something called "butter muslin" but I have never seen it here.

This cheese was excellent on top of pasta. I just slow roasted two trays of halved and seeded tomatoes and a few chili peppers, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. When they were done I just pulsed them in the food processor and tossed with hot pasta. Drizzle with olive oil and top with queso. Delish!

Avocado, Cilantro and White Onion Salad
Tyler Florence, Food Network

1 garlic clove, chopped
2 limes, juiced
Pinch sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium, ripe avocados
1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh picked cilantro leaves
*I topped mine with my fresh queso blanco, and added a few of my garden cherry tomatoes for colour, yum!
In a large mixing bowl, add the garlic, lime juice, sugar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and give it a quick whisk to combine.
Split avocados in half and remove the pit. Spoon out the flesh, put on a cutting board and slice into chunks. Transfer to a serving bowl and add the onion and cilantro leaves. Add the vinaigrette and toss lightly to coat just before serving.
This salad was the optional August bonus dish for Tyler Florence Fridays, and was so wonderfully tangy and tasty. The recipe says serves four, but hubby and I ate it all in one sitting. It is just that good!