Does cheese really heal? I am certainly betting on Taleggio to help restore me from my cheese-less existence. Yes, I have been without a good cheese for a few months. Chip and I loved cheese, and he especially loved very STINKY cheeses. Say hello to Taleggio.
What is Taleggio cheese?
I am not going to attempt to reinvent the cheese-wheel, so I turn to cheese.com to give you an overview:
Taleggio is a smear-ripened Italian cheese named after the caves of Val Taleggio. It is one of the oldest soft cheeses produced every autumn and winter. During cheese making, the acidic milk is brought to the lab and kept on the wood shelves in the chambers as well in caves according to tradition. In order to prevent the cheese from mould infestation, it is washed with seawater once a week. The maturation takes 6 – 10 weeks forming a thin crust.
These days the cheese is made from both pasteurised and unpasteurised milk in factories. These factory-made cheeses have brighter and moderate flavours.
Taleggio has been granted a PDO designation and contains 48% fat. The cheese has a strong smell, but the taste is relatively mild with an unusual fruity tang. Taleggio can be served grated on salads. Since it melts well, it can be used in risotto or on polenta.
Taleggio is sheer perfection.
Wow. When I opened the paper wrapping, the pungent smell hit me at first yet softened as I breathed it in. It was as if it was telling me to give it a chance. I carved a few slices and plated them with water crackers, fresh raspberries, and pine nuts.
At first bite, it has a familiar salty taste that I cannot place. If you let the cheese sit in your mouth, you can simultaneously enjoy both the aroma and taste. It is unique for sure. The raspberries add a sweetness that finishes the flavor perfecting. The pine nuts? I love nuts, so I added a few to the plate.
The suggestion for a red, fruity, cool wine is perfect given my introduction to the pairing by adding the raspberries. A slight drizzle of balsamic glaze would not be unheard of and would also bloom with a fruity red, a little cooler than room temperature but not cold.
Not yet. My mojo is painfully absent, but the culinary creativity in my head seems to be returning. In other words, I can see it and think about it but cannot bring myself to cook it. However, it would be selfish not to share my thoughts or offer my email to chat with you about some options for incorporating this little gem into your repertoire.
Cheese from Lombardy
The cheese section of any supermarket or specialty store was always a favorite for Chip and me. We would disagree about our selections, each choosing one, then falling in love with both! I find it interesting that of the over 50 cheeses on that case, Taleggio caught my eye. I did not know Taleggio’s origins were in the Lombardy region of Italy. How fortuitous.
Cooking with Taleggio
As I finish my afternoon treat and savor each bite, my thoughts turn to cook. A sadness comes over me, longing to share my findings with Chip and create a unique recipe just for him and all of you, of course.
I cannot bring myself to cook. For the past 206 days, I have not cooked anything other than egg whites and pastina. However, should you all feel the urge, here are some thoughts for the best use of Taleggio in simple cooking:
- There are numerous recipes for Risotto with Taleggio cheese. I imagine the creamy blend of the risotto grains and taleggio would be fantastic. I would up my game and add some figs, maybe a grilled peach, or just enjoy the simplicity of the risotto and cheese.
- Grilled Taleggio Cheese? Yes, either between two pieces of polenta slices or a piece of good crusty bread. Again, add a fig or fruit spread and yummo-licious! A little prosciutto never hurt anyone either.
- Four-cheese baked tortellini would be a game changed with Taleggio!
- Envision a baked mac & cheese with taleggio, pancetta, and chives. I love mushrooms, so I would sprinkle a few in for good measure.
- …and the best for last: Pizza possibilities. Be still, my vacant cooking soul. Someday, return to me for pizza extraordinaire!
I am not sure it can play nice on a charcuterie board. It commands its presentation so respect the cheese.
The cheese will heal me, I am certain.
Cheese and I just need to respect each other’s space, and it will come. After all, my cheese grotto has been empty for over 200 days. Chip would not want that.
PS if anyone comes up with a spectacular Taleggio recipe and would like to be a guest blogger, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.