When I was a kid, my cheddar cheese usually came in individually wrapped slices, and Parmesan cheese came in a green can. Now plain cheddar seems almost run of the mill and Parmigiano Reggiano is the standard. (Although nothing beats a grilled cheese sandwich made from our own Tillamook cheddar!) There is such a huge selection of cheeses in most grocery and specialty stores that there is often a person hired to help you navigate a vast bin of choices.
It is important to remember when choosing cheese that it comes from these three sources; cows, sheep or goats. The nuances in cheese, however, come from many sources. Some cheeses are a blend of different milk. Some are infused with herbs and spices or aged to develop concentrated flavors and textures. Remember that the animal’s diet and its environment distinguishes the cheese.
Tumalo Farms is tucked in the Central Oregon triangle between Bend, Sisters and Redmond. It was started in 2004 by Flavio DeCastilhos and produces a variety of some of the tastiest goat cheese you will ever eat. There they have researched and perfected the tradition of Dutch and Italian cheese and then added some local ingredients to develop new recipes with a touch of Oregon. Tumalo Farms’ goats live on a carefully controlled diet of alfalfa, orchard grass and grain, all natural and from nearby farms in Central Oregon. The cheeses range from semi-hard to creamy and buttery, and are infused with such things as exotic fenugreek seeds, zesty rainbow peppercorns or Cascade hops.
To make my version of a “kicked-up” jalapeño popper, I used Tumalo’s “Fenacho,” my favorite. The fenugreek seeds give the cheese a nutty, sweet flavor that balances beautifully the smoky and spicy grilled Poblano peppers and crunchy Oregon hazelnuts. Raisins add a sweet and chewy texture and tastes great with the melted goat cheese. Serve alone as an hors d’oeuvre or with a crunchy corn and jicama salad as a first course.
Char Grilled Poblano Peppers stuffed with Tumalo Farms goat cheese, golden raisins and toasted hazelnuts
Serves 8-10 as an appetizer
8 whole fresh Poblano peppers, uniform in size
2 cups Tumalo Farms goat cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Carefully cut peppers in half lengthwise trying to keep a bit of the stem on both pieces. Using kitchen shears or scissors, remove seed pod and large ribs out of peppers to create a Poblano boat. Place pepper halves on a well-oiled baking sheet that has been lined with foil. Coat outside of pepper halves with the oil. Fill each half pepper with a few cubes of the cheese, then a few of the raisins and top with some of the toasted hazelnuts. Heat grill to medium high. When grill is hot, carefully place peppers in between the grill bars so as not to spill any of the filling. Grill peppers until skins begin to blister and peppers take on a nice dark green color. Remove from grill and place back on baking sheet. Place in an oven at 300°F to continue roasting the peppers and melting the cheese—about ten minutes. Serve immediately.
Cut recipe in half and serve on this crunchy salad as a first course.
Albuquerque Corn Salad
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup chopped jicama
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
1 ¾ cups thinly sliced green onions (about 8 onions)
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add jicama and jalapeño to pan; sauté two minutes,