Saturday, February 16, 2008

Say Cheese! : The Good Shepherd

To start off with: cheese of the week has been not very "weekly" lately, so I wanted to apologize for that. Hopefully, now that one of my lenten promises (the other was to give up soda) is to blog six days a week, these cheese posts will show up more regularly. Really, it isn't hard to blog about cheeses here in Italy: first off, I am a cheese-loving person, and secondly, cheese is everywhere here! It's huge! There aren't enough weeks in a year to cover even local cheeses! So I guess what that means is I really have no excuse, huh?

Now, back to the regularly scheduled cheese post...

Last Sunday evening, Antonello and I barely made it to the mercatino that happens here in Macerata only the second Sunday of the month. I love the mercatino. Yes, they sell a lot of weird stuff, it's true, and they sell a lot of antiques that are nice to browse through, but I've never actually bought any of them. What I like to look through the most is the arts and crafts part of the market. I really like crafts in Italy--I like the fact that there is history and tradition behind hand-made things here. So when we can, we hit the mercatino to look through the ceramics and the hand-made purses and the jewelry. And at times we buy things too.

Another nice thing about the market is the food stalls. There are not always food stalls, but sometimes, if there's nice weather or something, the food stalls open, often selling olives and hot peppers and onions from Puglia, sometimes selling Sicilian cookies and sweets. There are also cheese markets, and I tend to be drawn to these especially (well, these and the olives), where they sell all sorts of pecorino cheeses all on display, men offering samples, practically making it impossible not to buy a good hunk of cheese to take home. So that's where I got this week's cheese: a half a pound of a pecorino from Arezzo called "Il Buon Pastore."

Il Buon Pastore is a pretty tasty pecorino. It's really a simple cheese, and it doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary. For an aged pecorino, it's actually quite mild. While it doesn't really stack up to the other Tuscan cheese I now am addicted to, Scoparolo, it seems to be a pretty reliable pecorino to try, and it's something you can eat very well all by itself, with a bit of fruit, or a nice little glass of red wine.

A lot of it we did eat in the above-mentioned ways--cutting off chunks of it and snacking, which I think is one of the best ways to enjoy cheese, but I also decided to add this pecorino to our little Valentine's Day lunch of sausage (for Antonello), sauerkraut, and Frico, a potato and cheese dish from the northern region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. I've made Frico ever since we returned from a wonderful holiday up north, sampling this delicious, simple dish in the historic town of Cividale del Friuli. Frico is really just a mix of cheese and potato, where the caciotta cheese on the outside fries up to a golden brown. It's quite simple to make, although it's taken me a while to get it just right (and actually I'm still working on that!). We loved the food in Friuli though--it is an underrated food region, in my opinion, and it offers and excellent mix of Austrian-influenced-Italian, from big cities like Trieste to the smaller towns like Cividale. Friuli is unique--from its delicious food to its beautiful cities and towns. And Frico is something you'd have a hard time finding outside of this region.

Anyway, Frico calls for slices of caciotta cheese and grated pecorino, so I decided to grate up some Buon Pastore. Why not? It turned out fine, a very tasty addition to a nice, Friulian Valentine's Day meal, and Antonello gave the Buon-Pastore-style Frico two thumbs up. In this dish, and on its own, Il Buon Pastore was a good, versatile cheese, not too sharp, not too mild. Just right.

Despite my love for pecorino, next week I'll try to do something a bit different. Have a great weekend!



At 2:56 AM, Blogger Texas Espresso said...

YAY! cheese of the week is back =) and man, I would love to got o a mercatino - that sounds like fun.

Do you have a frico recipe for us? the dish sounds delicious and crispy cooked cheese - YUM.

Have a great Monday

At 9:19 AM, Blogger dario said...

Ciao, Jackie.
I tuoi post sui formaggi sono sempre interessantissimi (anch'io sono un "cheese monkey", come te!).
Interessante anche l'esperimento con il formaggio pecorino, che, immagino, lo rende un po' piu' piccante (di solito e' fatto con latte di mucca - credo si tratti di un formaggio che si chiama appunto, "Frico").
A me piace anche il frico croccante, che e' la versione senza le patate... il risultato e' una frittatina sottile della consistenza di un cracker.

Io, nelle tue descrizioni dei formaggi, aggiungerei anche il giusto vino da accostare (non so chi disse che un buon formaggio non puo' essere apprezzato senza il giusto vino).
Nel caso del frico, sia morbido che croccante, io mi affiderei ad un bianco. Un buon Muller Thurgau o ad un Gewurztraminer del Friuli sarebbe l'ideale.
Forse, pero', con il sapore del pecorino ci vuole un vino piu' intenso e meno floreale.



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