At Plated, our chefs love cheese. Head Chef Elana is all about the grilled cheese, Chef Giuseppe has been known to make his own mozzarella, and Chef Michelle has perfected the art of frying fresh cheese curds from her Wisconsin college days. (Take a deeper look into our chefs’ favorite cheeses here.) What’s more, the Plated Test Kitchen adores the versatility of cheese—the methods for cooking with it are practically endless and can transform the star ingredient into an elegant appetizer, rich main course, or star of a cheese board. So without further ado, here are our favorite ways to enjoy cheese, beyond slicing, shredding, grating, and, of course, eating it plain.
You don’t even have to turn on the oven for this one. Soft cheeses like feta and goat cheese can be satisfying on their own, but they’re prime for absorbing tons of flavor from a simple olive oil marinade. Just combine the ingredients in a glass jar and serve with crusty bread for a simple yet elegant appetizer. Bonus: Even once the cheese is gone, the seasoned oil can be sopped up by all the bread for a delicious final bite.
1 6-ounce block feta cheese
⅛ ounce fresh thyme
2 tablespoons pitted Kalamata olives
2 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Prepare ingredients
Cut feta into ½-inch cubes. Rinse thyme and pat dry with paper towel. Roughly chop Kalamata olives. Using the flat side of a knife, gently crush garlic cloves.
- Marinate feta
In a glass jar, layer feta, whole thyme sprigs, Kalamata olives, and crushed garlic. Add crushed red pepper, then season with ½ teaspoon salt and as much black pepper as desired. Pour over enough olive oil to completely cover. Close jar, transfer to refrigerator and let marinate at least 2 hours. Serve with crackers and slices of fresh bread or add to a cheese plate.
Several members of the Test Kitchen have an extreme fondness for fried cheese curds, and luckily, we have a resident cheese curd expert in Chef Michelle. This recipe is a State Fair classic, using lager-style beer in the batter for a special touch. The key to enjoying these gooey, stretchy bites of goodness? Eat them warm, fresh from the fryer, and pair with a pint of your favorite beer.
Beer-Battered Cheese Curds
1 cup lager-style beer
1 cup flour
½ tablespoon baking powder
1 pound cheese curds (we love white Cheddar cheese curds)
- Make batter
Line a large plate with paper towels for the next step. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ¾ teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired to combine, then add beer and mix until batter is smooth. Add cheese curds to batter and gently stir to fully coat.
- Fry cheese curds
In a large pot, pour enough canola oil to reach 2 inches up sides of the pot, then place over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add a dime-sized amount of batter to pot. If it sizzles immediately, keep going; if not, try again once the oil is hotter. Using a fork, remove cheese curds from batter, allowing excess to drip off, then carefully add to pot. Fry, gently turning halfway through to prevent burning, until golden, about 1 minute per side (work in batches as needed). Transfer to paper towel–lined plate to drain and allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before serving. Enjoy warm with ranch dressing for dipping.
We love grilling cheese, and no, we’re not talking about the sandwich. Did you know you can literally grill or pan-fry certain types of cheese? Though there are several different types you can use, perhaps the most well-known is halloumi, a brined Mediterranean cheese made from sheep and goat’s milk. Its high melting point makes it perfect for throwing slices on the grill, resulting in picture-perfect char marks and a satisfying crust. Enjoy it warm on its own, with fresh bread, or in a simple salad, like this classic horiatiki.
Greek Horiatiki with Grilled Halloumi
1 English cucumber
1 red bell pepper
½ pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
⅛ ounce oregano
⅛ ounce parsley
1 red onion
2 ounces Kalamata olives
1 8-ounce block halloumi cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Prepare ingredients
Preheat grill to medium-high heat (or preheat your grill pan in Step 3). Rinse all produce. Halve cucumber lengthwise, scoop out seeds with a spoon, and cut into 1-inch half-moons. Halve bell pepper lengthwise, discarding seeds and stem; cut into 1-inch pieces. Halve cherry tomatoes. Roughly chop oregano and parsley leaves, discarding stems. Peel onion, halve and thinly slice. Roughly chop Kalamata olives. Cut halloumi into ¼-inch thick slices.
- Make dressing and toss horiatiki
In a large bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, oregano and parsley, ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and black pepper to combine. Add cucumber, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, red onion (raw red onion has a strong flavor, so only use as much as desired), and Kalamata olives. Toss to combine.
- Grill halloumi and finish horiatiki
If using a grill pan, place it over medium-high heat now. Add halloumi to grill and cook until charred, 2-4 minutes per side. Top horiatiki with grilled halloumi, serve with a glass of chilled Greek white wine (we love Assyrtiko), and dig in!
Similar to grilling cheeses, but a beauty all their own, we’re a sucker for baked cheese. One of our favorite ways to bake cheese is by making frico, or Parmesan cheese crisps, which turn perfectly golden and lacy in the oven and are a perfect garnish for salads and pastas (try it for yourself—we love it in our Roasted Eggplant Panzanella with Parmesan Frico). Certain types of cheese, like block feta, are also prime for baking. If you like, slather over spicy harissa paste to balance the salty richness of the cheese, then bake until the cheese is gooey inside and develops a golden crust on the outside (let our Crispy Chickpea Bowls with Harissa-Baked Feta be your guide).
Who doesn’t like fondue? The rich, cheesy sauce is prime for parties and special occasions, turning simple hunks of bread, meat, and veggies into a decadent treat. Sound tempting? Try your hand at this fondue recipe, customizing it with your favorite Alpine melting cheese and accompaniments for dipping.
Looking to add a creamy topping to a hearty pasta dish? Want to upgrade your ordinary whipped cream? The solution is cheese—the process of whipping incorporates air to make it even lighter and fluffier. Whipped mascarpone is a decadent topping for desserts (like our Blueberry-Lavender Galette with Whipped Mascarpone), while whipped ricotta is an instant upgrade for savory dishes (like this Cavatappi alla Norma with Whipped Ricotta).
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