Summer is here, and our first heatwave is in next week's forecast. We're ready to turn off the oven and have cheese for dinner out on the patio. But instead of the fondues and raclettes of winter, summer weather calls for light and versatile, fresh cheeses like Feta, mozzarella, burrata, ricotta, and fresh chevres. Fresh cheeses like these - anything white, rindless, milky in flavor, high moisture, soft and spreadable -are not made to age, so you'll need to enjoy them more quickly than their aged counterparts. Fresh cheeses are perfect when paired with fresh local produce from the farmer's markets and can be the centerpiece of light and refreshing summer dinners. Here are a few facts about fresh cheese:
1. Fresh cheeses don't have a rind.
2. Fresh cheeses have a lot of moisture, so they are prone to spoilage. They should be consumed quickly and not stored. Eat within a few days of purchasing.
3. Fresh cheese is rather mild in taste and lacks nuance and complexity. While the flavor range spans mellow to briny, fresh cheeses should all taste of clean, fresh milk
4. They have little to no aroma. A strong smell or sourness indicates not fresh cheese.
Also known as a "pasta filata" cheese, the curds for mozzarella are heated and stretched. Fresh mozzarella is stored in water and has a very soft texture. Ours comes from Liuzzi Cheese in North Haven, CT, and is made fresh with 100% whole milk.
Burrata is similar to mozzarella but has a creamy, loose interior. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and cream, making it rich and decadent.
Ricotta is a creamy, spreadable cheese with a slightly sweet, milky flavor. The best ricotta has a fluffy, smooth texture and is not grainy. It is excellent in pasta dishes, on crostini with some honey or EVOO, are enjoy a scoop for breakfast with some fresh berries. Our ricotta is made from whole milk by Liuzzi Cheese.
Fresh Chevre or goat cheese is a light-textured, rindless cheese similar to cream cheese. Good quality fresh chèvre is mild and smooth with a right lemony tang and should never be goaty or gamey in flavor. Once you break the cryovac packaging, you need to consume the fresh chevre within 3-4 days.
Feta PDO is the real Feta. All the others are knock-offs. Feta PDO only comes from the island of Lesbos in Greece. It must be made from sheep's milk, and some mixed in goat's milk is permitted. Not all Feta is created equal, and if you haven't experienced the real thing, yet we encourage you to come to have a taste. Our Feta PDO is 100% sheep's milk and is made by the Tastanis family. The first thing you will notice is this Feta PDO is not too salty. It is mild, firm but still melts in your mouth, and most of all, the flavor is bright, herbaceous and lemony. The PDO protects production and ensures authenticity.
Watermelon and Feta Salad with Arugula (adapted from Ina Garten)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup minced shallots (1 large)1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup EVOO
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/8th seedless watermelon, rind removed, and cut in 1-inch cubes
12 ounces Feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced
1/2 cup (2 ounces) whole fresh mint leaves.
Place the arugula, watermelon, Feta, and mint in a large bowl.
Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, honey, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in the olive oil, constantly whisking, to form an emulsion.
Drizzle salad with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well. Taste for seasonings and serve immediately.