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Value Guru and the Mystery Cheeses

By Susannah Simone, March 4, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Susannah Simone
cheese I don't know about you, but it is a rare moment that I can sample cheese in the store without buying some. Fortunately, they'll cut a piece any size you want so I can get the satisfaction of taking that little gem home without buying more than my budget can handle. My practicality seems to stall at home, though, when I end up with a half dozen morsels of different cheeses going hard or unintentionally blue in the "cheese barn" as I call it. First, however, I'm not ashamed to admit that I make a meal of cheese about once a week. I call it smorgasbord to create some excitement around the fact that it's also a good opportunity to clean out the fridge of this and that. On the other hand, this can be quite a healthy meal. cheese The cheeses take center stage, but day-old steamed vegetables, single romaine spears, carrot and celery sticks become appealing when arranged on a nice plate with a little cup of dressing for dipping. A few pickles and olives come out of hiding, sometimes chopped in with leftover meat or chicken and a spoonful of mayonnaise for a poor-man's pâté. Heels of whole-grain bread get cut into quarters and toasted, as do any withering whole wheat pitas or tortillas. Sometimes I brush them first with olive oil or melted ghee. cheeseBack to the mystery cheese morsels... I never throw them out. No matter how small, they're like magic flavorizers! If it's super hard, I grate it on the grater's tiny shredder holes. If it's getting mold, I cut that bit off (and regrettably throw it away). If it's smelly, all the more flavorful! Then what? There are many wonderful options. One is macaroni and cheese, using whatever combination of cheeses you have. If none of those cheese bits is sharp or blue, add a dash of Worcestershire for a little more flavor. Fondue is another catchall for mystery cheeses and you wouldn't believe how simple it is. Use this basic recipe as your starting point, knowing you can use any white wine or pale beer and all your cheese bits or shreds. And, remember, you don't have to dip bread cubes. Try raw or steamed vegetables, even rolled leaves of chard or kale. I also use leftover cheese in spinach dip, which fits right in to smorgasbord night! In fact, I always have a bag of organic chopped spinach in the freezer just for this purpose. Thaw spinach in the microwave or in warm water. Squeeze all the moisture out and add sautéed onion and garlic. Stir in your grated or crumbled cheese bits and mayo and/or yogurt and/or sour cream, but not too much if you want to keep it healthy! A teaspoonful of sesame tahini is nice sometimes, and a dash of Tabasco or some horseradish. Add chopped roasted peppers or artichoke hearts, if you have them. Spread into a pie plate. If you have grated parmesan, give it a sprinkle, then microwave or bake until warm. And then, for those always seeking an authentic European everyday experience, there's the incredibly addictive fromage fort (strong cheese). Basically, you throw into the food processor your leftover cheese bits-the more varieties the better-with a good number of fresh garlic cloves, a splash of dry white wine and dash of black pepper and process the heck out of it-about 30 seconds. I like it a little chunky and chewy glopped on a cracker or piece of matzoh. Others prefer it melted over a bagel or toast. Either way, if you cover it tightly, it will extend the life of all those precious pieces of mystery cheese another few weeks in the refrigerator. I know I'm not the only one who falls for more cheese than I can realistically manage. What do you do with your mystery cheese?
Category: Value - Whole Deal

 

15 Comments

Comments

Super Healthy Kids says ...
I will stir any kind of cheese over some whole wheat pasta. Add a little slightly cooked broccoli and my whole family will eat the entire pot!
03/04/2009 8:11:17 AM CST
Amy says ...
Wow, great ideas!
03/04/2009 9:51:58 AM CST
Alfy says ...
hmm sounds like you live in my house lol
03/04/2009 11:45:49 AM CST
Louise Ross says ...
I trim old cheese of moldy bits then toss it into vegetarian or bean/pulse casseroles, stews, soups, boiled rice etc., anything hot really, because then the cheese melts and acts as a thickening agent while also adding flavor and a rich, creamy texture!
03/04/2009 11:57:14 AM CST
caroline says ...
I use the rinds of my Parmegianno Reggiano (sp?) in creamy potato soup (and other soups that it would go with), and it adds a great kick to it. I wanted to find something to do with these things besides throw them out. They just got too small to grate safely. I just make sure to rinse it well with warm water to remove all the oils on the outside part. Then dry with a paper towel, and put in your soup.
03/04/2009 12:15:29 PM CST
Laura says ...
Thanks for the great post. I LOVE cheese!! I usually find myself working it into just about every dinner - in moderation of course. Marinated mozzarella on top of a spinach and walnut salad is one of our favorites. When in a super hurry... Prepare whole wheat couscous or quick cook brown rice, stir any kind of cheese into warm grains while still in pot, add leafy green (once again spinach is our first pick). Eat. :)
03/04/2009 1:20:09 PM CST
JJ says ...
I use it to make a strata since I always have bits of bread in the freezer (to make fresh breadcrumbs or use in a strata) and eggs. I must admit I'll throw small bits of leftover cheese into the freezer in a bag, shredding or chopping them into smaller bits. It doesn't really matter too much whether or not they'll freeze well since I'm going to throw them into the bread and egg mixture anyway. I've found that most cheese will just crumble when thawed - so I take them out while preparing everything, and "whack" them on the counter to separate and mix them into the rest of the ingredients. No problems yet. :)
03/04/2009 2:15:36 PM CST
Suzanne says ...
If the cheese isn't too hard and will melt easily, quesadillas work well, especially paired with a hearty bowl of soup. Whole wheat tortillas and a veggie heavy soup make it a healthy cold weather dinner. I always keep a can of whole black beans and some frozen spinach around so I can hide more veggies and some protein in with the melty cheese!
03/04/2009 2:22:37 PM CST
kelly sharp says ...
i love all the mystery cheese ideas. we end up with so many tiny pieces in the fridge - now i know what to do with them - i have some ideas about how to help people track their favorites too!
03/04/2009 11:52:23 PM CST
Sherri says ...
Smorgasbord! What a great idea. We call it "leftover night" and it's usually met with a lackluster response. But as I well know, with kids, presentation is key. I bake bread on Fridays so perhaps that should be our Smorgasbord night. Even 3 day old steamed carrots are better with fresh bread!
03/05/2009 7:58:06 AM CST
Katie says ...
I haven't tried the cheeses yet at Whole Foods, but I'd like to try the gorganzola! I like to have it in salads with walnuts and fruits - well that's pretty much how everyone likes it, right!? haha
03/06/2009 7:10:51 PM CST
Laura says ...
When I was growing up, my mom billed it as the "surprise plate" for supper. It would be what might be a cheese/chacuterie plate with veggies (avocado was my favorite), seasonal fruit and French bread. It is like comfort food. Years later I arrived at my mom's house after driving across the country east to west). What was for dinner? The Surprise Plate with fresh, seasonal produce, cheese and fresh San Francisco Sourdough bread. It was the best.
04/01/2009 8:45:35 PM CDT
Leah says ...
My hubby & I eat only gluten & dairy free meals, so what I do with the abundance of sheep & goat cheese in our fridge is make an 8 layer lasagna. Brown rice pasta (spirals ... live dangerously) Buffalo meat (garlic & onion power) and 4 - 5 different cheese varieties (hard & soft) Then pile it up in a glass pan after cooking & pop it in the over for the cheese to get done. There you have it :)~ PS I layer X2 pasta X2 buffalo plus cheese in all the cracks
06/09/2009 7:42:18 PM CDT
tt says ...
Something my family has always done with the rinds of hard, aged cheeses (we tend to have parmigiano reggiano rinds around) is to scrape off the waxy exterior, cut it into small cubes (about fingernail size) and toss them into risotto. If you do this at the beginning of the cooking process they get nice and gooey...like little bites of cheesy happiness. I remember fighting with my brother when we were younger over who got more rind bits in their risotto... I suppose you could do the same in soups and casseroles provided you cook them long enough.
07/29/2009 3:21:48 PM CDT
J.B. Bulharowski says ...
I usually save any of the rinds from Parmigiano Regianno and when I want to flavor soups, stews tomato sauce, I throw in a chunk. After cooking it's almost soft enough to nibble on, or if you must, throw that away. Best, jb
07/29/2009 4:21:09 PM CDT