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Good old teleme: a classic Western cheese comes around again.

A Western classic and a California exclusive, teleme is a creamy white cheese made from whole milk. Once ranked as the best-sell ing specialty cheese in California, it slipped from attention in the late '60s, when some early producers stopped making it.

The invention of teleme is credited to a Greek cheese maker in Pleasanton, California. Shortly thereafter, production was begun by others, including one California family of Italian heritage, the Pelusos. The Pelusos began commercial distribution in 1925 and, three generations later, still supply Westerners with this distinctive cheese. Authoritative classifications group teleme with feta. But it's much more like Italy's stracchino in taste and texture. Both cheeses have a mild but refreshingly smooth-tart flavor (without feta's saltiness). Teleme, however, is smoother and creamier throughout; when beated, it melts into a delicate sauce a property of which these recipes take advantage. The process of making teleme and feta starts the same way, but feta turns out firm and crumbly; teleme goes the opposite direction, in an operation that's more difficult to control. Not surprisingly, it was an unexpected development in a batch of feta that created teleme.

Teleme is made in 10- to 12-pound blocks. The cheese is ready to eat in about 10 days but can age up to two months. As it ages, it develops more complex flavor and creamier texture.

The cheese is finished in three styles, sometimes identified, sometimes not.

Easiest to recognize is "flour teleme." Blocks of the fresh curd are dusted with rice flour, then aged exposed to air. The surface dries, forming a crust that darkens somewhat as the center ripens to the ideal creaminess. The floured exterior may develop mold, which can be trimmed off. Try flour teleme with fresh fruit, as shown at far left.

The other ways to finish the cheese both start by sealing blocks of curd in plastic bags. If it gets no further aging, it is sold just as "teleme." If the cheese is then aged, it becomes "semisoft teleme." Compared with the younger cheese, aged teleme is more flavorful and softer overall. (If you like, you can age young teleme in your refrigerator.) Both forms are crustfree, of uniform color throughout, and protected from surface mold.

To store teleme several days, wrap airtight and chill. Past its prime, teleme gets bitter and has an acrid-stale smell. Frozen teleme keeps longer; it's inclined to crumble, but melts smoothly.

An ounce of teleme has 77 calories, 4.98 grams of protein, 5.87 grams of fat, 1.06 grams of carbohydrates, 150 milligrams of sodium, and 5.1 milligrams of cholesterol. (Cheddar cheese has about a third more calories and twice a's much fat.)

Though teleme is widely sold in California supermarkets, cheese shops, and Italian delicatessens, availability elsewhere in the West is spotty-look in Italian delis or cheese shops. But you can order teleme (in cool months, for best quality) from Peluso Cheese: 429 H St., Los Banos, Calif. 93635, or telephone (209) 8263744. Cost of the cheese is $3 to $4 a pound, plus shipping charges. If you're passing through Los Banos (about 10 minutes east of 1-5, 45 minutes east of I-101), you can visit Peluso's retail shop and also see the cheese made. Hours are 10 to 4 weekdays, 10 to 2 Saturdays (no cheese is made on weekends).

Melted Teleme with Brandy and Lemon

1/2 pound teleme, semisoft teleme, or flour teleme cheese, sliced

1 baguette (8 oz.), cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices

1 teaspoon coarse-ground pepper

1 lemon, cut in half or wedges

2 tablespoons brandy

Lay teleme slices in a shallow baking dish (about 1-1/2 cups). Also arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a 12- by 15-inch baking sheet.

Bake cheese in a 400[deg] oven until melted and bubbly at edges, 8 to 10 minutes. At the same time, bake bread until crisp and toasted; turn slices for even color and remove from oven as lightly browned, af

ter about 10 minutes.

Set cheese on a heatproof platter, sprinkle with pepper, and place toast and lemon alongside.

In a 2- to 3-cup pan, warm brandy over medium heat until hot. Ignite brandy (not beneath a fan or near flammables) and pour over cheese. When flames die, scoop cheese with a spoon, a portion at a time, onto toast and add squeezes of lemon juice. Makes 4 to 6 appetizer servings or 2 entree servings.

Per appetizer serving: 217 cal.; 10 g protein; 9 g fat; 25 g carbo.; 420 mg sodium; 7.9 mg chol.

Teleme with Roasted Vegetables and Chicken

2 medium-size eggplants (about 2 lb. total), stems trimmed off About 114 cup olive or salad oil Roasted vegetables and chicken (directions follow)

1 pound teleme, semisoft teleme, or flour teleme cheese, cut into 1/2inch slices

Cut eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Brush 2 baking pans (each 10by 15 in.) lightly with oil. Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer. Brush tops of slices lightly with oil. Bake in a 425[deg] oven until slices are well browned and very soft when pressed, about 45 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn slices over and alternate pan positions in oven.

With a wide spatula, transfer all slices to I of the pans and set aside. Use the remaining pan to roast the vegetables and chicken.

In a 10- by 12-inch (or 9- by 13-in.) baking dish, arrange half the eggplant slices. Gently spread vegetable-chicken mixture over slices, then top evenly with remaining eggplant. Cover tightly with foil. (If made ahead, cover and chill up until next day.) Bake in a 425[deg] oven until mixture is hot, about 25 minutes.

Lay cheese evenly over vegetables and bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and hot in center, about 10 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes, then serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Per serving: 387 cal.; 21 g protein; 27 g fat; 10 g carbo.; 420 mg sodium; 39 mg chol. Roasted vegetables and chicken. In a 10by 15-inch pan used to bake eggplant, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil or salad oil; 2 medium-size green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped; 1 large onion, chopped; 6 medium-size Romastyle tomatoes (about 3/4 lb. total), cored and cut in half; 1/2 cup garlic cloves (about 20); 1/2 cup chopped parsley; 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (or 1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano leaves); and 1 teaspoon pepper. Mix well. Bake in a 425[deg] oven until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 45 minutes; stir with a wide spatula about every 20 minutes. Push vegetables to side of pan.

Lay 4 chicken thighs (about 1-1/4 lb. total) in open space. Continue to bake until thighs are no longer pink in center of thickest part, about 25 minutes. Let vegetables and meat cool. Pull chicken ftom bones; discard bones and chop meat.

In a food processor or blender, combine vegetable mixture and 2 tablespoons drained, oil-packed dried tomatoes; whirl until coarsely pureed. Mix with chicken.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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