by Maria Ribas.
It may be wintertime, but you know what’s seasonal right now in Massachusetts? Cheese. Sweet, creamy, salty, cheese.
Fine, there may not really be a cheese harvest season. But it is one of the local foods we’re lucky to have available and at top notch quality all year round. And according to Bon Appetit, the Cloumage cheese made by Shy Brothers Farm in Westport is one of the hot new ingredients of 2014.
Andrew Knowlton, the food and drinks editor at Bon Appetit, listed our very own Cloumage one of “the next big ingredients…that will shape how we eat.” And the really awesome thing about that? Shy Brothers is still a small operation, so our state is one of the very few places where you can easily find this amazing cheese.
Cloumage is modeled after a French cheese, but it’s made with a proprietary blend of molds that makes it incredibly versatile and insanely flavorful. You can use it in place of ricotta, mascarpone, cottage cheese, sour cream, or even toothpaste. Just kidding on the last one. (I wish.)
It has a somewhat salty and tart but smooth flavor and about a million times more personality than ricotta. It’s like ricotta’s better-looking and more fun brother. Sorry, ricotta.
It’s fabulous just smeared on toast, or prepared as a simple dip with olive oil and fresh ground pepper. It’s also the perfect dash of coolness over a hearty meat sauce, or the ideal creamy undertone for a nut-less pesto. It’s endlessly versatile, but beware—you may find it’s a show stealer on your favorite dishes!
Penne with Browned Butter Beets and Cloumage
This recipe is a simpler version of this one, but it highlights all the amazing local ingredients you can find at this time of year—bright beets, rainbow chard, and creamy Cloumage. I’ve also simplified it to have a lot less ingredients (i.e. less trips to the store), quicker instructions, and more nutrition and beautiful color from the chard.
4-5 very small beets (1 ½ cups when grated)
6 tablespoons butter
1 pound penne, or other short pasta
1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup Cloumage, or ricotta
3 large leaves of rainbow chard
Set a large pot of salted water over high heat to boil. Wash and peel the beets, quarter them, and grate them in a food processor.
Place a large skillet over medium heat and add 5 tablespoons of butter. Allow to cook butter finishes foaming and browns to a deep hazelnut color, but doesn’t burn (about 4-5 minutes). Add the beets, turn the heat to low, and season with 1 ¼ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
Add the penne to the boiling water and cook for 6-8 minutes. While the beets and pasta cook, roughly chop the chard and set aside. Once the beets have cooked for 10-15 minutes and are soft, stir in the vinegar. When penne is a minute from being al dente, drain, reserve 1/3 cup cooking liquid, and add to the beets. Toss the pasta to coat in the sauce, add remaining tablespoon of butter, most of the cooking liquid, and season to taste.
Top with a dollop of Cloumage to serve.
Maria Ribas is an editor, blogger, and connoisseur of all things pecan pie. By day she acquires and edits cookbooks and lifestyle books, and by night she cooks, writes, and snaps photos for Cooks & Books. She thinks a good cookbook can help anyone create restaurant-worthy meals and take control of how and why they eat. You can find her talking publishing, cooking, and life at www.cooksplusbooks.com.