Our friend, Joe, has turned me onto a summer-lover of a cheese – Prima Donna. Maybe it’s the name I love -- it’s so pageanty. But no, the name is just the satin banner, and it happens to be perfect because Prima Donna is the Miss Universe of Gouda-style cheeses.
Now, supposedly, this is not a real Gouda, according to a recent blurb in Culture, a new cheese magazine which I’ll post about shortly. Prima Donna doesn’t have quite enough fat content to live up to Gouda-hood (48% is required). Not a sad day, though. Prima Donna is my new salt caramel. Its sweet-salty, nutty-rich taste is great all by itself or with a pat of quince paste. But why gild the lily? I’ve been eating it straight out of the crisper, cut into strips, as if it’s celery.
Shocking? Blame it on those flavor crystals, yes, yes, those little diamonds of what I now know to be lactic acid, something that only appears in an aged cheese. They dazzle me. They add a little crispy accent I die for. Who can explain?
On a recent summer night, we paired Prima Donna with some Ricotta Salata, another one of Joe’s favorites. These two cheeses were great together – mild, summery, salty. I have always been a ricotta hound, but I’d never had this firm version of the soft Italian cheese I’m used to getting from my local cheese counter (love it with lemon zest and fresh basil, as a spread). I’m curious to try Ricotta Salata again, on its own, when the Prima Donna isn’t around to steal the stage.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE: If you've never tried the Goat Gouda that Trader Joe's sells, you're missing out. It's a mild, creamy cheese -- not nearly as fabulous as Prima Donna -- but absolutely decent and rather interesting. I'm dreaming of a gouda tasting...
1. Prima Donna
2. Goat Gouda
3. and a really nice baby gouda