Cathy Strange’s role as global cheese and specialty foods buyer for Whole Foods Market® puts her in the unique position of travelling the world to not only discover and encourage the world’s great cheesemakers, but also to help advance the artisanal food movement and investigate the world’s emergent food trends. If a new preparation technique is causing ripples in Berlin, or a centuries-old curing tradition is gaining a foothold in Seattle, Cathy knows about it.
One of the things I love most about my job is the joy of discovering amazing cheeses, little-known wines and delightful new foods. The world of food and drink has so much to offer and when I’m lucky enough to find something wonderful, I get to share it with you.
Several years ago in Mantua, in the region of Emilia Romagna in northernmost Italy, I happened upon mostarda. Although the name may evoke mustard, this spicy-sweet condiment is far from the mustards we know. Mostarda is made very simply, from candied local fruits preserved in sugar and a touch of mustard seed or mustard oil to give it a zippy punch.
I’ve enjoyed mostarda made from pears, figs, green tomatoes, crabapples and even thinly sliced watermelon rinds. Each fruit, or sometimes vegetable, adds its own character, flavor and texture. And although the ingredients are simple, the end result is not! Earthy aromas mingle with the sweetness of the fruit, touched by an almost wasabi-like jolt of mustard.
Spread It, Glaze It, Make It Yourself
Mostarda is one of those goes-great-with-anything condiments. Its versatility is amazing. Traditionally mostarda is served with boiled meats as part of a charcuterie plate, but I just can’t get enough of it when dolloped on top of a fresh, creamy cheese. Use it chutney-like as a topping for grilled meats, or glaze roasted pork chops or pork loin with it. Spread lightly on toasted ciabatta for one incredible turkey sandwich.
Small Batches, Locally Grown
The mostarda I’m loving right now comes from Le Tamerici in Mantua, Italy. Paola sources locally-grown fruits, which she slices, candies and then prepares in small batches with just a drop or two of mustard oil. The first taste is deeply pungent, savory and sweet, then comes a hint of salty tartness capped off with a horseradishy kick.
Layer a cracker with a generous topping of Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery Bonne Bouche goat cheese and a spoonful of Casa Forcello’s Crabapple Mostarda. The creaminess of the cheese rounds out the mostarda’s sweetness and makes room for that punch at the end. Tangy, sweet-spicy heaven!
Pick up a jar of mostarda and see where it takes you. I’d love to hear the creative ways you’re using it.