I’m a cheese-aholic. I’ve always liked cheese but it became an obsession when I visited my first Italian caseificio 25 years ago. I was “udderly” smitten by the big whisks, red cows and fire brands of Parmigiano, washed rinds and the time honored traditions of mobile pastoralism that give a true sense of the connection between the land and the cheese. Each regional variety, each Alpine pasture, each field of wildflowers; the ash, leaves or hay used in ripening, the animals and artisans who make it and the traditions behind it.
My experiences focus on Italian cheese (I even wrote a book about it) but I like cheese no matter where its made as long as its made well. Among the many ways I like to eat cheese is when its marinated because marinated cheese creates a whole different way of entertaining and enjoying it. You can double down on creating antipasti and appetizers with a lot of interest and flavor. When preparing the marinades, it's important to use the best quality ingredients (oil, herbs, spices etc) to showcase the flavors and aromas of the cheese. And remember like any cheese always serve at room temperature.
Just in time for holiday parties and house gatherings, these marinated cheese recipes will have your friends and family without hesitation asking you to "Bring your marinated cheese!”
Marinated Cheese in Olive Oil with Herbs and Spices
1 pound cheese (an Italian Pecorino, Asiago or Spanish Manchego) cut in to 3/4-inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
24 whole black peppercorns
Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and mix with a rubber spatula to combine. Cover with plastic and let marinate at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours, mixing occasionally. Store in a glass jar. Serve at room temperature with a crusty bread for dipping in the oil.
Marinated Aged Goat Cheese with Citrus, Olive Oil and Herbs
This recipe uses a popular aged goat cheese you can find in most grocery markets today. You can use any citrus that is in season. Do not crush peppercorns to avoid overpowering the cheese or olive oil. As always serve cheese at room temperature.
¼ pound Cypress Grove Midnight Moon aged goat cheese or any hard aged cheese
4 broadly peeled rind pieces (zest) of one blood orange, pith removed (any seasonal citrus)
4 broadly peeled rind pieces (zest) of one lemon, (Meyer if available) pith removed
10 whole black peppercorns
5 whole white peppercorns
1 cup candied kumquats, halved or 2 Tbsp of orange marmalade
1 blood orange, peeled and divided into segments, seeds removed (any seasonal citrus)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2-4 fresh, whole bay leaves
coarse gray sea salt to taste