Saturday, April 08, 2006

Taleggio – Stracchino Cheese from the Val Brembana

Located in the Italian Alps, the valleys of the province of Bergamo are well known for their fantastic skiing, savory foods and flavorful cheeses. Just to the east of Milan about 30 km this is a favorite destination for winter vacationers from all over the hinterland. Traditionally these valleys were the summer destination of the cattle herds. The climate is much cooler and the grass is sweeter. Because of its location the town of Talegaio became a meeting place for the herds several times during the season.

The herds produced more milk than could be easily transported back to Milan so the excess milk was made into cheese using the traditional methods. Each Taleggio is a quadrangular parallelogram, 18-20 centimeters thick and a weight 1,7 to 2,2 kgs. The skin is soft and rose colored with streaks of light sage. The cheese is uniformly compact, soft in the outer areas and slightly crumby towards the center. Generally the color is white to pale yellow. The taste is sweet, with a hint of acidity, a bit aromatic, and will leave an aftertaste of truffles.

Taleggio is a table cheese, excellent with a piece of bread, but doubles as a primary ingredient in many typical dishes from the Valley of Bergamo and the hinterland of Milan. Taleggio should always be consumed at room temperature. It is not necessary to remove the outer skin, a quick scrape with a knife is sufficient. Personally I remove most of the skin when consuming with fruit or simply bread while the concentration of flavors in the skin is perfect when part of polenta or risotto. Taleggio is widely used in pasta, risotto, soups, omelets, pizza, crepes and salads.

Taleggio is versatile in kitchen recipes because it liquefies easily: it is therefore suitable in the preparation of fillings or as a compliment to other bases because it easily amalgamates with the other ingredients.

I fell in love with this cheese when I first arrived in Italy. A good friend would serve salami and taleggio with fresh hot bread as appetizers. I was in heaven. Non industrial Taleggio is not easily found in all of Italy but in northern Italy just about any Salumeria will have several types of “nostrano” Taleggio. Taleggio like Gorgonzola will also have a creamy and dryer version. I prefer the soft, rich creamy version. You will get your hands dirty when you eat Taleggio, do not worry about it. It will take years of practice to clean the Taleggio with a fork and knife, believe me I know…

Some of the great ways to use this marvelous cheese are:

Polenta Soda
Polenta Morbida
Cooked Apples and Pears
Polenta Nera
Mostarda di Cremona
Any sandwich with Prosciutto or vegetables
Grilled cheese (of course the cheese is Taleggio)
Breaded and Fried as an appetizer
In a cheese plate with other important cheeses

Taleggio should be consumed within forty days of packaging. It should be stored in a clean towel and not in plastic wrap. It may be closed in Aluminum foil and frozen for up to six months, thawing in the fridge.

Oh, and did I say, this is my favorite cheese. When in Milan you may find it interesting to take a day trip into the Valle Taleggio and visit the museum and perhaps one of the local producers.

One little recipe you may like to try is:

Multicolor Party Tray

Ingredients for 4 persons:

100 gr. of Taleggio cheese
100 gr. of carrots
100 gr. of cucumbers
100 gr. of red peppers
100 gr. of celery

¼ cup Olive oil
2 oz. Lemon juice
1 tablespoon mustard
Pepper and Salt to taste.

Cut the vegetables and Taleggio into thin slices.
Put the vegetables in a little water and ice, just to cover them.
The ice is necessary to keep the vegetables fresh.
Before serving dry them and position them evenly around a serving tray. Place the Taleggio strips on top of the vegetables.

In a mixing bowl stir together the Olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. You may either pour the dressing directly over the Taleggio salad or place it in a separate serving dish.

Serve immediately.


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Blogger ChickyBabe said...

I can't say I'm a huge fan of Taleggio, but once in a while, I don't mind it.

10:49 PM


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