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All cheese considered: whey cheeses. (Case & Counter Perishable Prepared Food Update).

The coagulation of fresh milk that separates the curds (solids) and the whey (liquids) is the most fundamental step in the cheesemaking process. The curds, of course, are pressed together and treated in various ways to make cheese. The expelled whey is looked upon by some as waste, while other, more practical cheesemakers view it as another valuable raw material. In some areas, especially in Italy and Spain, the whey is used as food for pigs, who in turn supply succulent hams of the highest quality. Others use the whey to create yet another type of cheese, or more accurately, a cheese by-product, known collectively as whey cheeses. Whey cheeses may be used fresh and moist, while others benefit from salting and aging processes, which result in firm, sharp cheeses that have various uses. In the strictest sense, whey cheeses are not cheeses at all since they lack rennet, but they are considered cheeses in terms of how they are used and eaten. The most famous example is Ricotta, the "re-cooked" whey from the making of such cheeses as Mozzarella in the south of Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano in the north, and Pecorino Romano in the center. Fresh Ricotta is a soft, slightly sweet cheese with nutty overtones that may also be salted and aged into ricotta salata, a firm, crumbly cheese that is excellent for all sorts of cooking applications. A versatile cheese, Ricotta is a worthy companion to fresh fruit, or as a component of pasta sauces and fillings. Gjetost, the singular caramelized Norwegian whey cheese, fueled the Vikings on their trips around the world. The name Gjetost (literally "goat cheese") implies the original source of milk used, although today it is often a combination of cow and goat's milk. Here, the whey is slowly cooked until it begins to take on a deep, leathery-colored brown as the milk sugars caramelize. When Gjetost is made entirely from goat's milk, it is designated Ekta, or "authentic" (technically, if only cow's milk is used, the cheese is known as Mysost). Scandinavians eat Gjetost in thin slices as a snack or for breakfast, either as is or slightly melted over toast. Other well-known whey cheeses include France's Brocciu from Corsica, and Myzithra and a firmer version called Manouri, both from Greece. The entire family of whey cheeses is a reflection of European cheesemakers' thrift and cleverness, as they turn a material that would otherwise be thrown out (with severe ecological impact) into a delicious, versatile ingredient.
Recipe: Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Ricotta and Feta (Serves 8.)

This variation on a traditional Greek
salad was provided by the California Milk
Advisory Board, which represents the
state's dairy farmers and cheesemakers.
California produces several excellent
brands of Ricotta and Feta, as well as a
huge variety of traditionally made cheeses.
This dish should be served at room temperature,
making it a good choice for summer
entertaining.

Dressing

1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano
   (or 1 tablespoon dried)
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Salad

1 pound fusilli (corkscrew) or penne pasta
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
   (about 2 dozen), halved
1 large English cucumber, quartered
lengthwise, then sliced crosswise
1/4-inch thick
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) Ricotta cheese
3/4 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Feta cheese,
   plus 1 ounce for garnish

To make the dressing, combine the first set of
ingredients except for the oil, salt, and pepper.
Slowly whisk in the oil until it is thoroughly combined
with the other ingredients. Season with salt
and pepper and let stand for at least 30 minutes.
The dressing may be made the day before and
refrigerated.

To make the salad, cook the pasta in salted
water until it is tender but still slightly firm to
the bite--about 10 minutes. Drain and let
cool to room temperature. When cool, place the
pasta in a large bowl and add the dressing.
Gently mix until the dressing is well distributed.
Add the remaining salad ingredients
except for the salt, pepper, and one ounce of the
Feta. Let stand for 1/2 hour. Mix well and season
with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining
Feta and serve.
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Author:Mellgren, James
Publication:Gourmet Retailer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:746
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