fruit

Cheese

New England Summer Cheese Plate

New England Summer Cheese Plate | www.hungryinlove.com
New England Summer Cheese Plate | www.hungryinlove.com

Cheese and rules do not pair well together. Cheese is cheerful; rules are a drag. That's why the suggestions below are not meant to be misconstrued as rules. There are countless ways to build a bliss-inducing cheese plate. These are some of my favorite tactics of late. Take them or leave them but I do hope you're inspired to replace an upcoming meal with a cheese spread of your own creation.

1. Go Topless - Eating cheese sideways in little wedges is the practical and obvious route but it's not the only way! Find a soft-ripened cheese amenable to serving with a spoon. Simply wriggle a knife underneath the top rind to shave it off revealing an inviting bath of gooey goodness. Pictured here is one of my all-time favorites, Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm. Other cheeses well suited to this treatment are Winnimere, also from Jasper Hill, and Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin.

2. Crackers Get Too Much Play - Crackers are great and all but they need not tag along each and every time the cheese comes out. In fact sometimes I find them downright disruptive. These days I'm into letting firmer cheeses fly solo and enjoying softer cheeses (see above) with bread. Bonus: axe the crackers and you can tell your gluten-free friends you've designed a cheese plate just for them.

3. Pick A Theme - Beyond aiming for a mix of textures, it can be a fun challenge to self-impose some parameters. Go for only cheeses from a one country or region, cheeses of a certain age, a milk trio (cow, goat, sheep) or a milk sweep (cow, cow, cow). It'll make the cheese buying experience less daunting and give your cheese plate a little story to tell. Here I decided to highlight three cheeses from New England because they're pretty much crushing it right now

Pictured above, from left to right:

Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm (Greensboro, Vermont) - This is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese made in the style of Vacherin Mont d'Or (that is, bark-wrapped gooey spoon cheese).

Ascutney Mountain from Cobb Hill Cheese (Hartland, Vermont) - This is an alpine style, Jersey cow, raw milk cheese. Fun fact: this cheese is made on a real live commune!

Ellie's Cloudy Down from Ruggles Hill Creamery (Hardwick, Massachusetts) - Is 'Cloudy Down' not the prettiest name for a cheese you ever did hear? I sure think it is. This cheese comes from hand-milked, herb-munching, NPR-listening goats. Truth.

Shishito Peppers | www.hungryinlove.com
Cheese Plate Cherries + Figs | www.hungryinlove.com
New England Summer Cheese Plate | www.hungryinlove.com
New England Summer Cheese Plate | www.hungryinlove.com
New England Summer Cheese Plate | www.hungryinlove.com
New England Summer Cheese Plate | www.hungryinlove.com

Fixings

Rhubarb Cardamom Compote

Rhubarb Cardamom Compote | www.hungryinlove.com
Chopped Rhubarb | www.hungryinlove.com

If you have fifteen minutes I recommend you resist the urge to save money on your car insurance, and whip up this prettiness instead. But you better make like the Easter bunny and hop to it. Rhubarb is here and gone  faster than you can sputter that irksome Geico slogan. It's like an elegant relative who only descends but once a year. And when she shows up she's ready for something glamorous. (For the record I do not have a relative like this. Perhaps someday.)

Earlier this year I thought pomegranate and cardamom might make good bedfellows. The flavors were pleasant but trying to coax a compote out of pomegranate was a proper fail. Lesson learned - pomegranate does not compute to compote. I knew I'd have better results with rhubarb if I could wait until spring. And yes, oh my stars, this time I nailed it. First of all this magic sauce is neon-electric pink. If you are a six-year old girl, or was one once upon a time, you'll probably love it on this merit alone. Second you can slather it on pretty much anything - yogurt, pancakes, cheese - and it'll make your day better. Third, it's a vehicle for using the cardamom my very cool husband brought home months ago that I haven't had much luck with until now (see pomegranate incident above). It's spicy, and citrusy, and herbal and apparently hearts rhubarb. Just like me.

Cardamom | www.hungryinlove.com
Rhubarb Cardamom Compote | www.hungryinlove.com
Rhubarb Cardamom Compote | www.hungryinlove.com
Rhubarb Cardamom Compote | www.hungryinlove.com

Rhubarb Cardamom Compote

Makes about 1 cup
 
Serving ideas: Use as a topping for yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, toast + butter; spoon over vanilla ice cream or poundcake; also very good as an accompaniment to cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb, about 6-8 stalks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6  pods green cardamom,  shells removed and black seeds ground into a fine powder
  • pinch of salt

Prep

  • Using a mortar and pestle crack the cardamom pods and discard green shells; grind black seeds into a fine powder
  • Toss chopped rhubarb with sugar and let sit for 10-15 allowing the fruit to release juice (you can do this right in the saucepan you plan to cook it in)
  • Add cardamom to saucepan with rhubarb and sugar along with a very small pinch of salt
  • Place saucepan over medium heat and bring rhubarb to a simmer; rhubarb will begin to break down
  • Cook for 5-7 minutes until rhubarb is completely broken down; remove from heat
  • Chill compote in fridge for an hour or two before serving