The Mighty Spoon: Cheese for beginners, garlic for all

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Late last year, I moved out of student housing and into my very first solo apartment. It was a time of great change: I finally had control over my own kitchen. One night, I had an epiphany about my new situation, and like many of my epiphanies, it took place in the grocery store.

First, some context: I grew up in a house with several extremely picky family members. A new brand of honey-garlic sauce was barely tolerated. In retrospect, it’s not surprising that when it came to cheese, I only ate cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan and maybe marbled cheese. Cheese was a functional food — an ingredient that got added to other ingredients.

I was a cheese hick. The deli counter at the Market on Yates was like the Big City: bright, colourful and intimidating, with more than a few odd smells wafting out of the corners. To me, it was a brand new world — and a scary one. But I was determined to learn and grow and flourish, dammit. I would use the elements of what I knew I liked as a foundation. I would go at my own pace and always be game to try something new.
Cheese, in this case, became a metaphor for adulthood.

Literary devices aside, I found myself hooked. Cheese was no longer just something I melted on nachos; it was something I ate on its own because it was delicious and weird. I discovered smoked gouda, which is tasty despite looking slightly plasticky, and is great on strong crackers. I found semi-hard cow cheese encased in a rind cured with dark port wine, which makes an excellent midday snack. And goat cheese — goat cheese goes on everything, except perhaps chili dogs. When my vegan paramour decided to go back to being a vegetarian, I took him out for baked goat cheese and eggplant.

But I would still call myself a cheese beginner. With cheese, as with adulthood, you can never claim to have tried everything.

I’ve never gotten up the courage to try Limburger, which is infamous for its pungency. Heck, I’ve never really tried a decent blue cheese (the mould weirds me out). But the point is, I’m getting there. And in the meantime, I can put together a halfway decent cheese plate, making me a card-carrying member of the Fancy Dinner Party Club. All you need is three to four types of cheese, some crackers, some olives and, of course, roasted garlic. Arrange on a dish, pour out some wine and play some smooth jazz, and suddenly that poster of Justin Bieber becomes an ironic art piece.

Roasted Garlic

For cheese plates, sandwich spreads or general tastiness.

Ingredients:

2 heads of garlic
2 tsp olive oil

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel the loose outer layers of the garlic head, leaving the individual cloves intact. Cut off the top of the head, exposing the cloves; use a paring knife to get at any smaller cloves of garlic you may have missed. Put each head of garlic on a separate piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle 1 tsp. of olive oil on top of each, making sure you cover every clove. Wrap the heads in the aluminum foil, making separate packets, and roast in the oven for 50–55 minutes, or until golden. Serves two, and keeps well in the fridge for three days.

To read all of Mia Steinberg’s Mighty Spoon columns, including recipes for tasty risotto, melt-in-your-mouth meringues and summery pesto-pasta salad, visit here.

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