Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Love Oregon.. and Cheese

February 14 is not only that hallmark holiday all decked out in pink and red, it is also the anniversary of Oregon becoming a state. Since I love Oregon much more than I love pink hearts I am very happy that a friend of mine has a tradition of a "Oregon, Be My Valentine" cheese and wine party each year. We play Pin the Heart on Oregon, take prom-style photos in front of a giant map of Oregon, wear green instead of red and generally love up on our very lovable state. Oh, and eat a ton of local (and otherwise) cheese and wine. Oregon is known for both.

For two years running I have made cheese logs. Not only are they retro and delicious, they're a great way to stretch a little high quality cheese out to feed a party. One recipe I've made is the classic cheddar cheese log and then I made two others with blue cheese and goat cheese. Here's the cheddar recipe, with variations for the other two below it.

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Cheddar Cheese Log for the 21st Century

8 oz cream cheese or homemade yogurt cheese (see below)
6 oz shredded cheddar cheese (see below for links to directions to make it, or buy the best quality you can find. The sharper the better)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (look for High Fructose Corn Syrup free brands)
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp seasoned salt (like Chile Grill Salt)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste, optional)
1/4 tsp turmeric, if your seasoned salt doesn't have it in it
1/3 cup finely chopped almonds, walnut or other nut of your choice

*Combine the cream cheese and shredded cheddar in a bowl with a fork, or with a mixer. Sprinkle the seasonings in and continue mixing until everything is uniformly combined.

*Use plastic wrap and your hands to form the cheese mixture into a ball, log or several small balls. Wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate until firm, at least two hours.
*Unwrap the cheese and roll it in the finely chopped nuts. Serve with crackers or sliced apple.

Herbed Goat Cheese Log

-8 oz cream cheese or yogurt cheese
-6 oz soft goat cheese, with or without herbs
-Up to 2 tsp of two or three of your favorite dried herbs or a tablespoon or so of your favorite fresh herbs chopped finely. Try oregano and thyme or basil and rosemary or herbs de Provence.
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1/3 cup chopped pine nuts, hazelnuts or other nuts
-1 tbs ground sumac
*Combine cream cheese, goat cheese and herbs in a bowl or mixer. Use plastic wrap to form into a ball or log and refrigerate until set.

*Roll firm cheese log in either the nuts or the sumac, or a mixture of both. Serve with pita bread or sliced pears.

Honeyed Blue Cheese Log

8 oz cream cheese or yogurt cheese
6 oz soft blue cheese
salt and black pepper
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tbs dark honey

*Combine the cream cheese and blue cheese with a fork or mixer, adding salt and a little black pepper as you would like. Form, wrap and refrigerate.

*Unwrap the cheese and sprinkle liberally with black pepper. Roll in the chopped pecans and place on your serving platter. Drizzle the honey over the cheese and serve with sweet, crisp apples.

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Cheese is a healthy food when you choose the right kinds. Those right kinds, as Kristen the Food Renegade reminds us, are made from whole milk from healthy animals and not much else. Anything that says "cheese product" or "protein concentrate" anywhere on the package is not the kind of cheese worth putting in your body. Find a good grocery store or cheese store and start tasting different kinds of real cheese. Better yet, find a farmer who will sell you their homemade cheese or learn to make your own.

Making cheese is not terribly difficult but does take some time. I've never made hard cheese but drool over the directions on Dr. Fankhauser's cheese page regularly. I have, however, made cream cheese out of yogurt many times. Kelly the Kitchen Kop wrote up some great directions here, which is really handy since cream cheese is an integral part of making cheese logs.
These cheese logs were a huge hit at our party, and I bet they will be at yours as well. The cheddar log has a comforting, familiar taste while the goat cheese one is a little sophisticated without breaking your budget. Everyone raved over the blue cheese log this year. I think it's a particularly inspired flavor combination. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday! Check out this week's Mr. Linky for tons more great real food recipes.