Say Cheese!

Yellow, blue, green, stinky, and with holes – while that might sound like a description of my teenager’s sock drawer, it’s much better suited to one of my greatest food weaknesses – cheese. I can honestly say that I’ve not encountered a variety that I don’t love. Eaten alone, on crackers or with fruit, cheese is something that always satisfies.

flickr.com/cc2.0/photos/ladymissmarquis

What’s wonderful about the local food movement is that we’re seeing an increase in cheese production. Yes, I still love the varieties that are shipped in from around the globe and you can find me devouring samples at a specialty deli on weekends but there are some local cheeses with fantastic bite that are making their way into my palate and my fridge. And the encouraging news is that this is happening in communities everywhere, so you’re likely to be able to experience the same. Food-worthy has published a list making it easier for some of us to identify local cheeses and even cheese CSAs.

Now for the dark side. On writing this post, my research uncovers that I am not alone in cheese love and this fact doesn’t delight me. Per capita cheese consumption in this country is rising sharply and has done so since 1970 when the average American was consuming approximately 11 pounds of cheese per year. Today that number is nearly 33 pounds per person per year and is predicted to surpass 37 pounds per year by 2017. Ewww! The Center for Science in the Public Interest has declared cheese the number one artery clogging food in this country and the number one source of saturated fats. Their suggestions include ordering pizza with half the regular cheese and sandwiches without. Be aware of the amount that you’re consuming and if you do like some of the stronger types, less still packs a lot of flavor.

Some facts remain. I love cheese. I love to support local business. There is a growing cheese industry in my country that is made up of farmers and artisans – and those are the ones I am going to support.

Fresh Tomato Popover Tart
Recipe from the Los Angeles Times
Serves 4
Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs lightly beater
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning , crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 medium fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup pitted ripe olives, halved
  • 1 and 1/4 cup white cannellini beans cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup hard cheese (such as Swiss) cut in 1/2 inch cubes.
Preheat oven to 450. Place 1 Tbs olive oil in an oven-proof skillet and heat in the oven for 5 minutes. In a bowl, combine flour, milk, eggs, 1 tsp of the Italian seasoning, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Blend well. Remove skillet from the oven; pour batter into skilled and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350; bake 10 minutes more. Remove skillet from oven. The popover will be puffy and golden.
Meanwhile, core the tomatoes and cut them in wedges. In a large non stick skillet, heat 1 Tbs olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender. Add reserved tomatoes, the remaining Italian seasoning and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook until the tomatoes are softened – approximately 8 minutes. Still in olives. Spoon cannellini beans over the bottom of the popover. Top with tomato mixture and cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes until the cheese is melted. MMMMMmmmmmm.
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57 Comments

  1. 33 pounds of cheese a year!! That puts a different perspective on it, no matter how local, organic or handmade the cheese is. Hearing that (and it’s easily possible to hit that mark) makes me even more committed to eating only the most special cheeses from local, artisan cheesemakers. Trying to do that mostly as a treat wouldn’t hurt, either!
    Eleanor

    Reply
    • Yeah, that’s sort of what I thought. 33 makes a difference. Reminds me of the saying on the back of a Rolling Rock beer when I used to live in PA. Here’s to you 33. I think your approach is exactly right. Let’s enjoy the good stuff.

      Reply
  2. I also LOVE cheese. And I like the idea of a cheese CSA. I am starting to see CSA’s popping up to include lots of items like cheese–an artisan pork farm here in NY began a 10 week pork CSA!! Great idea.

    In regards to eating 33 pounds of cheese a year, you are so right. Cheese is totally artery clogging. I used the calculator to figure out that that works out to less than 1.5 ounces per day. Uh-Oh. I am in trouble!!!

    Reply
    • I don’t think I eat 1.5 ounces per day but I do eat it and love it. Maybe a week of food journaling would tell more. I was reading on the Transition network about a Community Supported Bakery and a Community Supported Brewery. Both sound like fun.

      Reply
  3. Cheese! Swoon. I am constantly amazed that one product – milk – can produce so much variety. Cheese represents magic to me, and I love it as much as you do.

    Reply
    • A huge surprise to me was learning that AZ is the second highest producer of blue cheese after Wisconsin. huh?

      Reply
      • Pamela Hamilton

         /  April 18, 2011

        Hmmm, as a daughter of the badger state that’s hard to believe – but much of the AZ-produced blue cheese is actually shipped to Wisconsin for aging.

        Reply
        • Yes, Pamela. I think most of it is shipped to a cave in WI. I started to tackle that from a food miles standpoint and then left it alone.

          Reply
  4. I love cheese too, but like you, I doubt that I could eat an ounce and a half every day of the year.

    Reply
    • Yes, I do wonder what my real number is…

      Reply
    • An ounce and a half each day wouldn’t be out of the question in our house… should we be ashamed, lol?

      I avoid industrial cheese as much as possible and buy cheese as I do milk – supporting farms who treat their animals well and process as little as possible.

      Milk Protein Concentrates from China anyone?

      Reply
  5. I’ve moved away from most dairy, but I must admit, I too love cheese. Eat WAY less of it than I used to, but still it’s a food I really love. This summer my friend Jen and I are going to dive into trying to make cheese – looking forward to that adventure. too! Thanks for another great blog entry, Tammy.

    PS – more synchronicity – I just blogged tonight about Transition network and it sounds like you are in a Transition Town too – cool!

    Reply
    • OOOh, I’m heading on over to check it out. Really impressed with the work that they are doing and still trying to decide if it’s too idealistic. Hope you’ll blog about making cheese.

      Reply
  6. In one of my past lives, I must have been a mouse :) A happy one living in a big castle where they cooked every day with cheese, cheese and more cheese. I sprinkle a little on most of my meals. Well, except cream of wheat and pb and j’s sandwiches.

    Reply
  7. I’m sure I don’t eat anywhere near 33 pounds of cheese a year, as much as I love it. I expect that BFF and I each eat about 4 oz. of cheese a week ~ or a pound a month.

    Although, occasionally at parties, I’ve been known to consume nothing but cheese and crackers. YUMMY!

    Reply
  8. Thanks so much Tammy for all the great cheese info. Are some kinds better for us than others? I have a daughter who loves cheese too . . .and isn’t everything better if it’s cheesy? :) Thanks for the recipe too! It sounds wonderful.

    Reply
    • I’m sure you know this but “American” cheese is not a healthy option. Look at this list of ingredients: MILK, WHEY, MILKFAT, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SALT, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM CITRATE, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATE, SORBIC ACID AS A PRESERVATIVE, APOCAROTENAL (COLOR), ANNATTO (COLOR), ENZYMES, VITAMIN D3, CHEESE CULTURE. What is a milk protein concentrate? eeew. I’m not sure where you are located but looking for cheese from cows without hormones and that have been grass fed are two great indicators. You may pay more but then, you’ll eat less of it. It’s a good trade off.

      Reply
  9. The stinkier the better when it comes to cheese, in my opinion! Sadly I’ve yet to find any cheesemakers in my neck of the woods, but I’m trying to buy from small scale artisan cheesemakers in Australia :)

    Reply
  10. We had a well-loved chef moved from Toronto to our tiny island where he and his wife bought a farm. They now produce fabulous gourmet cheeses that are sold all across the country. At our Saturday market, they keep an endless supply of crackers so we can taste test. Excuse me, I’m salivating…!

    I watch my dairy products. For a couple of years, I only ate Feta and that would have been about once or twice a month. I’ve been slipping in some of these gourmet cheeses of late, however.

    Reply
    • Dairy is a good thing to watch and how lucky for you that this couple have moved in! You’re treating it just right.

      Reply
  11. Trust me … you are not alone with regards to your love of cheese. I have been exploring the cheese world and am astonished to find exponentially more information about cheese and cheese lovers on a daily basis. Enjoy the ride.

    http://canadacheeseman.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  12. I too love cheese. We just had friends for dinner and enjoyed a chunk of manchego along with a St. Pats. I suppose moderation is the key but with a lovely walnut bread how do you stop at one taste, especially when supporting a local business. Nonetheless, I will keep in mind that less is more. Thanks!

    Reply
  13. I’m a sucker for cheese too and this recipe sounds heavenly!

    Reply
  14. I love cheese, too. It’s sad that I’m going to have to cut back on it. :( Thanks for all the great information.

    Reply
  15. I have some cheeses I like………..but some I am not so fond of. Not sure if I eat that much of it………however, I cook a lot with it for my family. blessings,Kathleen

    Reply
  16. I am a cheese lover, too. I’ve been serving less meat, which is causing me to serve more cheese. Perhaps this is not a good trade. I should lean more heavily on beans for protein. Thank you for the information. Blessings to you, Tammy…

    Reply
    • You got it. Beans have fiber and protein and are a great replacement. One of the reasons that some vegetarians have such a hard time with their weight is because of the dependence on dairy.

      Reply
  17. Great post! Love cheese, always have, always will, and I’m a strong cheddar kinda gal. I love the strong cheese goes further tip. These days I simply cannot indulge as much as I would like to, but a really beautiful mature cheddar grated over some pasta with tom sauce suits me just fine.

    Reply
  18. No denying it….I LOVE cheese! I think it all comes down to moderation and what else is in your diet. I use cheese many times as a protein, so eating more than most works for me. Physicals in Feb for both me and my hubby shown us in perfect heart/cholesterol health so we must be doing something right! :-)

    Reply
  19. I hope that when I move back to the States, I end up in a place where I can get a cheese CSA. What a great idea!

    Reply
  20. Kathleen Bartolomei

     /  April 18, 2011

    Oh AgriGirl … I learn as much from your global subscribers as I learn from your blog! Bravo! Bravo! And Transition Town is what UrbanLab is growing up to become a part of! Oh to have time to blog about it since I’m working it full time!

    Keep the good posts coming!
    kb

    Reply
  21. Thanks for those interesting facts and delicious-sounding recipe, Tammy. As a fellow cheese lover, I appreciate it!

    Reply
  22. Everything in moderation! Although, tonight I plan to make Asparagus and Morel (well, actually, oyster mushroom) Pudding, which uses quite a bit of Swiss Cheese. I read about it in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Mircale,” which also has an awesome story about the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. It made me want to learn to make cheese.

    Here’s a link to the Asparagus Morel recipe http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/BREAD%20PUDDING.pdf

    Reply
  23. I am on this truck too! Growing up poor we only had one cheese in our house and it was my dad’s choice, Colby- once I had ‘real’ cheese via friends from NYC, I knew the Pied piper of cheeseville would lure me to all cheese, especially smelly ones LOL

    Reply
  24. I love some cheese but have to admit that as I’m getting older my stomach seems to like it less and less!

    Reply
  25. And here I was planning on having a buffet of cheeses for breakfast! Seriously, though, I am a cheese lover. I am the person that stands in front of the specialty cheese case at LGO for an hour trying to decide what kind of cheese suits my mood. Forget the candy store! Moderation & local…sage advice and words to live by!

    Reply
    • I also move away from candy counter in favor of cheese! And I always have it in my basket! Thanks for visiting Sharon.

      Reply
  26. My question is what kind of cheese makes up all those pounds, and where is it coming from? Pizza? Burgers? Some of that doesn’t even seem like real cheese to me, just some byproduct that started out as dairy.

    Reply
    • Great question and I need to do some more research. I’m guessing that you might be right about it being large quantities of “cheese food”.

      Reply
  27. Cheese… is something we eat on a daily basis here in Switzerland. Probably too much but they all taste so good ! Lately I had to eat less cow milk cheese and replace it with goat or ewe milk cheese. My stomach – and me – feel much better and I was amazed at the choice of local cheese of both of these sorts. Thanks for another interesting post, Tammy.

    Reply
    • It sounds like you are doing it just right Isa. I was surprised by the amount of cheese consumption and as LouAnn pointed out, it might not be very good cheese.

      Reply

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