I am back after one month of vacation and preparation of the launch for my book #3 , just published last weekend.
It is so vivid in my mind how many times I have eaten cheeses at the end of each lunch and dinner in this last trip back home to Europe.
Europeans eat cheese with ease because they walk a lot, thus burn those calorie day by day. Cheese is not seen as something to entertain with, but something to enjoy everyday with a glass of wine.
In Europe we serve it without any pretense, we take cheese out of the refrigerator while we are preparing dinner and we leave it on the counter at room temperature to bring out the full bloom of each taste. The same is valid when serving cheeses at parties.
(Find cheese pots and boards at: MyHabit.com)
Many serving utensils are part of the ritual of putting cheese on the table, from knives, cleavers, marker signs to fondue pots, raclette grill and cheese cart.
There is nothing sophisticated about serving plain cheese. It comes from the milk of an animal and often is kept in rustic stone cellars, or left to ferment for months.
I can’t wait to have a bunch of boisterous friends sitting around a fondue pot tasting the latest cheese I brought from Europe. I have a Canestrato Pugliese, aged in caves for a year, with a hard rind and dark yellow interior color. The mature version is savory and aromatic. Best paired with a red Primitivo from Manduria, a wine with a lot of round body.
The vessels needed to serve any cheese are slate stones, wooden boards, marble slabs, or clay platters, the rougher the better. It is good to mark each cheese with the proper marker fork to distinguish goat cheese from cow or sheep milk products and in the absence of these small markers, a hand-written tag placed near each specialty will suffice. The basic cutlery is simple: a cleaver and a semi-heart shaped knife will cut hard and semi-hard cheeses; a thin blade knife will cut a semi-soft cheeses and a round knife will be the spreader for soft cheeses; a shaver will help shaving the cheese, although this utensil is more used at the table to shave a hard cheese directly over the plate. If you want to get fancy and make a good presentation add grape scissors to all cheese cutleries.
One of my favorite cutters is the Swiss scraper “Girolle” used with “Tête de Moine” or Monk’s Head, a cheese from switzerland. The Girolle will shave the “Tête de Moine” cheese in small florettes, or ruffles. It is an expensive cheese, but it is worth it.
(Photo above found on: http://cookingguide101.blogspot.com/2010/12/tete-de-moine-cheese-real-gourmet-swiss.html)
I have seen cheese paired with jelly, grapes, edible flowers or other extravagant food. My favorite accompaniments are raw celery or fennel slivers, olives, nuts, or chicory heads to cut the sharp smell and balance the flavors. Don’t be afraid of serving smelly cheeses. The fermented cheeses at the end of a dinner are good to help the digestion. If you add truffle sliced paper-thin over any soft cheese, mamma mia, what a kick in flavor and in the presentation!
Stores are filling up with all kinds of food and table accessories. This is the right time to get some of these fun utensils and make your food look really good for the holidays.
Once they are in your kitchen repertoire, you will find that it is easier to treat yourself everyday, rather than waiting for the holiday to roll around to use them again.
Cheeses are a good source of calcium and protein. Don’t be afraid of having small bites everyday. Visit my Pinterest board for food inspiration – http://www.pinterest.com/vcvalentina/food-with-character Ciao.
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola has been a lifetime designer in fashion and interiors. Her extensive knowledge of colors and materials led her in both directions successfully. Besides her regular work, Valentina is now teaching etiquette, table manners, table setting and life-style. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being, then finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on the subject of colors. Find Valentina’s three books on