Behind every cheese there is a meadow, of varying green under a verying sky . . . There are different herds with their stalls; And transhumance; There are secrets of works transmitted over the centuries (Italo Calvino)
A wonderful way to see and savor Italy is through Italian cheese. Each regional variety reflects each Alpine pasture, each field of wildflowers; the ash, leaves or hay used in ripening, the animals and artisans who make it.
An Italian cheese flight paired with regional Italian wines is a great party invite. I have done this and it has always been a big hit. Every cheese has its own story and a cheese tasting is a great way to learn about and appreciate the culinary and cultural history of Italy. Every time I’m in Italy I make a point of visiting a caseificio (cheese factory or dairy farm). It will give you a true taste of Italy. You will need a car and a sense of adventure as most are off the tourist radar but well worth the effort.
At almost every grocery store in the States you can find popular varieties of Italian cheese like Mozzarella, Provolone, Ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Asiago but try to find something different like a Tomino cheese from Piedmonte. Here is a recipe for a cheese cartoccio. The word cartoccio means a paper bag or cone shaped container (cornet). There are several variations of this recipe and you can substitute Fontina if you cannot find Tomino. Tomino cheese can also be found packed in olive oil with herbs and spices. If this is the case, use olive oil in the jar to spread on slices of eggplant. Serve with a Piedmontese wine such as Nebbiolo d’Alba.
CARTOCCIO OF EGGPLANT WITH TOMINO CHEESE AND BLACK OLIVE CREMA
Preheat the oven grill. Cut the eggplant in thin slices, brush the slices of eggplant with extra virgin olive oil and place them on the grill rack with baking paper to be grilled on both sides. Let cool. Pre-heat the oven at 350 F.Wrap the soft tomino with two slices of eggplant. Spread with a thin layer of black olive crema. Secure with kitchen string or wooden skewer.
Put the filled cartoccio in a baking dish, drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with thyme. Place into the oven for 10 minutes.
– salt and pepper to taste