Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pepito and the Last of the Radishes


Sometimes the earth makes my head spin, like when I cut open this giant Beauty Heart Radish from our community garden and the cleaved halves looked like a pair of pink lungs.

This radish was spicy. Almost too spicy to eat, but I couldn’t stand the thought of it lobbing so much beauty into the compost bucket. So I found it a mate, a hot-headed companion: Pepito.

Pepito is made by Yellow Springs, a goat dairy in Chester County, PA. The recipe is based on a traditional Italian cheese, called Pepato (meaning “with pepper”), a Pecorino speckled with whole peppercorns. It’s not a fancy dancer, but it has some can-can. When you need a kick, Pepato – or Pepito --  can be a frisky addition to the cheese plate. It's also great with a crisp, summery beer.

This particular Pepito landed in our fridge via the goat cheese CSA I signed up for this summer. Look at that rind – it almost looks like the surface of a root vegetable. You know I like a little surface mold. It’s the sign of a healthy cheese. A living cheese.
The taste of this cheese is sublime – it’s fudgy and clean-tasting, not at all tangy. The only zest comes from the spicy peppercorns, which add a springy, almost floral note.

This is the key to cheeses with “flavorings” or spices. They shoudn’t overpower the milk. Next time you nibble a flavored or smoked cheese, see if you can still detect the milky taste of the cheese itself. If you can’t, that’s a flaw.

For an example of this balance, try Marco Polo, a sharp cheddar from Seattle, dotted with green and black peppercorns. The company, Beecher’s, just opened a cheese omniplex in New York. It's worth making a trip for a wedge.
Or, grab a hunk of original Pepato.

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