Sep 24

It is rare to find multiple attributes in one cheese (soft or hard, sweet or pungent), but Montasio is like some of the most famous wines of Italy that have several characters (normale, riserva, superiore) and many high notes, when it comes to taste.  The reason for this is that three separate cheeses are produced and fall under one name. Montasio is a DOP, Denomination of Protected Origin, cheese that originated in the northeastern region Friuli- Venezia Giulia, but today it is also manufactured in the provinces of Belluno, Treviso, Padua, and Venice in Veneto.

The cheese is made from cow’s milk and can be found in fresh, semi-aged, and aged versions. The fresh Montasio is available after two months and has a soft, smooth, and pliable texture with a mild taste and a hint of sweetness. After 5 to 10 months the semi-aged cheese is ready for consumption and has developed a firmer consistency and slightly stronger flavor, but is still on the mild side; also the color has changed from off-white to straw-yellow. In its final act, the fully aged cheese, which is typically used after one year, completes its transformation and becomes darker, compact, flaky, and pungent.

Montasio can be used in many ways. The younger versions are characteristically eaten as a table cheese, whereas the matured cheese is frequently used for grating. However, both semi-aged and aged pair beautifully with cured meats, such as prosciutto or salame, as well as fruit, like pears and apples, while the fresh and aged varieties melt easily and create a flavorful sauce for pastas, meats, and vegetables.

Gnocchi with Montasio Sauce and Leeks
Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
1⁄4 cup flour
2 cups milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
nutmeg, freshly grated
10 ounces fresh Montasio, diced
1 1⁄2 pounds potato gnocchi
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

In a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for 2 minutes over medium-low heat without allowing the flour to take on color. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, heat the milk until it’s almost boiling. Slowly pour the milk into the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat, whisking often, until thick, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat if the sauce starts to stick to the bottom of the pot. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer the sauce to a double boiler and add the Montasio. Stir until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the gnocchi and cook until they float to the surface. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks and cook until translucent. Remove the gnocchi from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the sauce. Add the leeks and toss well to coat. Serve immediately.

 Wine Pairing: Fruity light-bodied white

  • This Montasio recipe and article was featured in the Septmeber 2010 issue of our e-magazine Cibo. To subscribe, please click here.

 

Sep 16

From sweet, shiny bell peppers to spicy peperoncini (chili peppers), here’s how to choose, core, slice and dice them.

Bell Peppers:
  1. Cut bell peppers vertically on one side and around the stem with a paring knife to core and remove the seeds. Be sure to choose shiny, firm and heavy peppers, which will be the most flavorful
  2. Open the pepper and remove and discard the inner white ribbing. Use a knife to trim off any spongy membranes or seeds that cling to the inside.
  3. Slice the pepper into strips (it’s easier to cut with the skin side down). For a convenient dice, line up the strips and slice again. Chopped peppers can be frozen for up to 6 months.
   
Chili Peppers:
  1. Cut chili peppers across the top and discard the stem. Open the chili pepper by making a vertical incision along 1 side. Generally, the larger the chili pepper, the milder it will be.
  2. Remove the seeds and membranes to reduce the chili’s intensity. Capsaicin, the compound that makes the chili pepper so hot, is extremely potent in the seeds and ribbing.
  3. Dice as you would a bell pepper. Just be sure to wash your hands afterwards (as well as the cutting board) because the oils contained inside can irritate your skin and eyes.
Sep 9

 

Florence fennel is often mislabeled as sweet anise, causing it to be confused with the herb anise. Although its flavor recalls the licorice-like taste of anise, it is sweeter and subtler tasting than anise, so those who don’t like the flavor of licorice, may still enjoy eating fennel. There is also a second type of fennel called common fennel, which is used for its seeds.

Chicken with Fennel

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra
4 chicken breast halves, about 6 ounces each, cut into 1-inch strips
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 fennel bulb, cut into wedges, fronds reserved
1⁄2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add it to the skillet and cook until golden on all sides. Add 2 tablespoons of water, the rosemary and fennel and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Add the olives and cook for 1 more minute. Serve drizzled with olive oil and garnished with the fennel fronds. Serves 4

Sep 2

You Can Make All Year-Round

Sadly summer is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean that your grilling has to also. Whether you live in a year-round mild climate or are already putting on your cold weather clothes, here’s a great grilled skewer recipe featuring swordfish, cherry tomatoes, red onions and rosemary. It’s easily made on an outdoor grill or inside with a grill pan. So when it’s too cold to do anything but stay indoors, make these skewers and you can get a taste of summer again!

Swordfish and Cherry Tomato Skewers

12 ounces swordfish fillet, skin removed and cubed
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only, chopped
juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced into wedges, then cut in 1⁄2
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, combine the swordfish, rosemary and lemon zest. Drizzle with the olive oil, toss and set aside to marinate for at least 20 minutes. (For added flavor, marinate overnight.)

Meanwhile, preheat a grill or grill pan. Squeeze the lemon juice over the swordfish and toss. Thread the onion wedges, cherry tomatoes and marinated swordfish cubes through presoaked wooden skewers, alternating the ingredients. Season the skewers with salt and pepper and transfer to the grill. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked through and grill marks begin to form. Serves 4