Food

Simple, Delicious, and Sophisticated Ways to Serve Fresh Cheese

Simple, Delicious, and Sophisticated Ways to Serve Fresh Cheese

Photos courtesy of John Kernick

Simple, Delicious, and Sophisticated
Ways to Serve
Fresh Cheese

The studies are in, and the Mediterranean diet is still one of the world’s healthiest, but Susie Theodorou, cookbook author and food stylist extraordinaire (she’s responsible for all the gorgeously styled food in GP’s cookbooks) sees it as a way of eating, rather than a diet. She centers her brilliant new cookbook, Mediterranean, around seasonal produce, with little to no processed food, lots of wholesome legumes and grains, small portions of meat, and copious amounts of both extra virgin olive oil and high-quality dairy in the form of yogurts and fresh cheeses. Throughout the book, Theodorou highlights multiple, seasonal riffs on the same dish, so they can be made each new season with a few swaps—but her ode to the fresh cheeses of the Mediterranean was our favorite. It’ll change the way you cook.

“Growing up Greek Cypriot in London, the staple cheeses in the fridge were halloumi and ricotta,” she says. “For a snack after school, I would have chunks of uncooked squeaky halloumi, black olives, and cucumber, and this simplicity is what I love about these ideas as toppings for all these white cheeses that cut across the Mediterranean.” Rich and creamy ricotta with warm, oil-cured olives, Calabrian chili, and rosemary. Zucchini blossoms and mint over mozzarella. Perfectly ripe figs with honey, thyme, and feta. All share the simplicity of Theodorou’s childhood snacks but make incredibly elegant starters and even light, sophisticated dinners. “All the toppings are seasonable and interchangeable,” she says. Once you’ve chosen toppings that most are in season, pick your fresh cheese (check out our guide to great fresh cheeses below), pour yourself a glass of wine (in keeping with the Mediterranean theme), and you’re practically halfway across the Atlantic.

  1. THE GUIDE TO
    FRESH CHEESE

    By Susie Theodorou

  2. Feta is a brined white curd cheese made from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk. Look for traditional feta made in Greece or Bulgaria; if it’s made in the UK or the US, it’s most likely made from cow’s milk and is often saltier than usual.
  3. Mozzarella and burrata are soft white creamy cheeses traditionally made with buffalo’s milk. If you can find buffalo mozzarella or burrata, it’s got an appealing tang and a slightly salty taste. When made with cow’s milk, it has a clean, almost-neutral milk taste.
  4. Halloumi is a semihard cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk and preserved in brine, so it’s always salty. It is extremely versatile and can be crumbly or squeaky-soft. Serve it cooked or uncooked, sliced or grated.
  5. Ricotta has a soft, creamy texture and a very fresh flavor. When buying ricotta, look for the type sold in a packet with an inner-draining container, and avoid ricotta stuffed in a plastic container with no drainage—the latter gets too gluey, sticky, and dense; the ideal, traditional texture is light.

THE RECIPES

THE RECIPES

  • Burrata, Sweet Peas, and Tarragon

    Burrata, Sweet Peas, and Tarragon

    This dish is such a celebration of spring flavors: The bright herbs and lemon contrast perfectly with the creamy cheese and sweet, crunchy peas.

    GET RECIPE

  • Feta, Heirloom Tomato, and Oregano

    Feta, Heirloom Tomato, and Oregano

    This is a brilliant summertime dinner when it’s too hot to cook and tomatoes are perfectly ripe.

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  • Mozzarella, Zucchini, and Mint

    Mozzarella, Zucchini, and Mint

    This dish will still be absolutely delicious even if you can’t find squash blossoms, but they are really special. If you see them at the markets (usually in late spring or early summer), you should absolutely buy them. The delicately sweet squash blossoms match perfectly with a mild fresh cheese and a soft herb like mint.

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  • Burrata, Escarole, and Chili Flakes

    Burrata, Escarole, and Chili Flakes

    Softly wilting the greens mellows their bitterness, and contrasting them with the heat of Calabrian chili and the richness of burrata is a perfect entrée into the many bitter greens and chicories available in the winter months.

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  • Ricotta, Pan-Fried Black Olives, and Rosemary

    Ricotta, Pan-Fried Black Olives, and Rosemary

    Warming the olives, rosemary, and chili flakes might seems like an extra step, but it allows those aromatic essential oils to really bloom and infuse the olive oil that you’re going to spoon over the ricotta. And your kitchen will smell incredible.

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  • Burrata, Peach, and Basil

    Burrata, Peach, and Basil

    This dish is summertime on a plate. On its own, it’s a dreamy starter or snack, but it is also lovely atop a pile of tender greens like mizuna, arugula, or mesclun

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  • Burrata, Pomegranate, and Pistachio

    Burrata, Pomegranate, and Pistachio

    Fresh pomegranate seeds add color and acidity that can really liven up your table, especially in late autumn or early winter, when pomegranates are at their peak (and it seems like not much else is in the fruit world). The pistachios add great crunch to the super creamy burrata.

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  • Feta, Figs, Thyme, and Honey

    Feta, Figs, Thyme, and Honey

    Peak-season figs are spectacular on their own, but serving them alongside salty feta really elevates their flavor. A bit of honey, a little thyme, and heat from the cracked black pepper make for a memorable, harmonious bite.

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