The last time I was in France, visiting Comté producers in the Jura Mountains, I thought I might find a beautiful old cheese plane in an antiques shop. But I didn’t know how to ask for a cheese plane in French, and my French host—a veteran of the cheese business—was no help. He had no clue what a cheese plane was.
I love firm cheese shaved in silky, paper-thin slices, but apparently no French person would eat Comté that way. Too bad. I think shaving cheese releases a lot of the aroma. And the texture experience completely changes: shaved cheese melts on your tongue. Try shaving sheep's-milk cheese into a “carpaccio” with shaved zucchini and arugula, one of my favorite summer salads.
Manouri, the Greek cream cheese, is a great choice for this purpose and one of the best values at any cheese counter. (I paid $10.99 a pound for it recently.) It is not 100 percent sheep’s milk—it includes some goat’s milk—but sheep’s milk predominates and gives manouri its buttery texture. Such as under-appreciated cheese.
Also consider a pecorino toscano that is not too dry or Bellwether Farms San Andreas or Blackstone (a goat-sheep blend). Ricotta salata also works, especially a moister, younger one. Don’t have a cheese plane? A sharp vegetable peeler works, too.
Summer Squash Carpaccio with Sheep Cheese, Arugula and Almonds
When shaved thinly with a vegetable peeler or other manual slicer, vegetables that you might not normally eat raw present new possibilities. Long, straight-sided summer squashes like green and gold zucchini look like wide ribbons when shaved for this salad. A brief rest in a garlicky vinaigrette renders them supple, so they can be tossed with arugula and shavings of firm cheese.
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1 pound small zucchini, preferably green and yellow varieties, no more than 5 inches long
- 2-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce, optional
- 1 small clove garlic, minced to a paste
- Kosher or sea salt
- 2 large handfuls of arugula or other tender greens (about 3 ounces)
- Chunk of Greek manouri, pecorino toscano, Bellwether Farms San Andreas, ricotta salata or other medium-aged pecorino cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet until golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool.
Remove the ends of the zucchini. With a mandoline, V-slicer or vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini thinly lengthwise. Discard the first and last slices, which are mostly skin. Put the zucchini in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, fish sauce, garlic and salt to taste. Add the dressing to the shaved zucchini and toss gently with your hands to coat it evenly. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Let stand until the zucchini slices are supple, about 5 minutes.
Add the arugula to the zucchini. With a cheese plane or vegetable peeler, shave about 3 ounces of cheese, or as much as you like, into the bowl. Add several grinds of black pepper, then toss gently with your hands. Transfer the salad to a serving platter, leaving any watery juices behind. Top with the toasted almonds. Serve immediately.
Cheese Class: Blended Beauties: Cow, Goat, Sheep
Thursday, August 16
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Trefethen Family Vineyards
Blending cow, goat and sheep milk is one way to add complexity. Join me for this sit-down guided tasting as we explore stellar examples of two-milk and three-milk cheeses from the U.S. and beyond.