Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sweet and salty combinations to tease your taste buds.

By now, we’ve all heard about the chocolate bars and Starbuck’s coffee drinks that include salt and caramel. There are things in the cheese world that follow that same basic idea of combining salt with something sweet and turning the whole thing into something out-of-this-world.

The other night my fellow cheesemongers and I stumbled upon a wonderful food combination, Papillon Black Label Roquefort cheese and Spanish fig and almond cake. Most of us are familiar with Roquefort, the all natural ewe’s milk cheese. Roquefort is a distinctive blue cheese from the Auvergne region in France. Balanced and slightly salty, it blends beautifully with the chewy and sweet Spanish fig and almond cake. 

This very firm cake accompaniment may not be well-known, although it is available in most good cheese shops. This is a no flour, no egg, no bake cake. Figs and Marcona almonds, that is it. The cake is pressed and dense. Cut small slices, place small amounts of creamy  Roquefort on top. It is perfect, the two simple and delicious foods work together on many levels. It is wonderfully paired with a Spanish Sherry. Out of curiosity, I tried the Roquefort with some dark fruit cake that I had sitting in the kitchen, and I liked that too. If you cannot find the fig cake, fruitcake could be substituted.

Some additional ideas: A Stilton blue with  dried cherries, cherries in syrup, or even better, fresh Bing cherries.  Stilton goes with many fruits and don’t forget the Port for a pre-dinner “amuse-bouche” or after-dinner treat. 

Ewephoria, a delicious, slightly salty sheep milk gouda, paired with a drizzle of honey, Turkish apricots or other fresh sweet fruit in season, such as pears, or WAAG, an intensely aged gouda with salty crystals paired with a thin square of chocolate atop could all be great pairings. Pecorino Romano, a staple for many households, is delightfully salty and wonderful accompanied with a dark brown fig spread, plum or quince paste.

We are going back to the beautiful Roquefort for one more pairing  with which to leave you. A slice of sweet watermelon, the Roquefort, thinly spread and a dash of balsamic vinegar. It’s cheating a bit as I’ve added the tangy bite of the balsamic rather than just salt and sweet. The balsamic just adds a bit more depth to this treat.

I urge you to try what at first may seem like unusual things together;  it’s most likely that by using your own expertise you will create something delightful to the taste.  Believe me, there are many things I’ve thought, “huh?” and been so very good, that I was glad I tried it. Being adventurous in food means being your own food designer.  It is an art form to put two or three foods together to create a taste that comes together to enrich the quality of our lives. It just involves a little daring and a little tasting along the way.

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