Cheese Profile: The Always Bold Parmesan

A little parmesan adds a lot of flavor. The flavor power of parmesan can take a savory dish from acceptable to amazing with a dusting of this delicious cheese. Lots of words are used to describe parmesan: rich, tangy, nutty, sharp, complex, fruity, and bold to name a few. It has a somewhat gritty texture and a strong umami taste. Umami is a word borrowed from Japan that refers to the savory taste - one of the fives basic tastes along with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness.

Not all parmesan is created equal. Historically, the cheese comes from Italy and is made with unpasteurized grass fed cow’s milk, brined, and aged for an average of two years. In Europe the name “Parmesan” is protected by law making it illegal to use the name to describe imitation cheeses. Here in the United States, no such legislation exists and the definition is much more loosely regulated. Most brands of grated parmesan in the US contain a small amount of cellulose (aka wood pulp) in order to prevent clumping, even if labeled 100% parmesan. Some companies have been accused of taking advantage of this cheap filler and using higher quantities of cellulose to dilute the product and save costs. And a handful of deceitful brands recently pled guilty in federal court for not using any parmesan cheese at all in their product! Take a look at the label on your parmesan to help you figure out the origin and ingredients in any given cheese. To ensure you are getting the real thing when it comes to parmesan, look specifically for Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is produced using traditional methods in a designated region in northern Italy, namely the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, and Mantova.

Pasta is a no-brainer when it comes to pairing food with parmesan. A sprinkle of parmesan effortlessly adds extra dimension to pasta dishes; pairs with the flavors of nuts, garlic, parsley; and enlivens breads, vegetables, salads, meat, and poultry. Try one of the following recipes the next time you want to appreciate the power of parmesan:

Parmesan Herb-Crusted Potatoes
Baked Parmesan Tomatoes
Parmesan Drop Biscuits
Parmesan-Crusted Green Beans
Artichoke Parmesan Pasta
Parmesan-Crusted Chicken
Grilled Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich
Toasted Walnuts with Parmesan and Aleppo Pepper
Grilled Steak with Parsley-Parmesan Salad
Old School Garlic Bread
Parmesan Bread Pudding with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta
Farro & Parmesan Pie

Check out the parmesan cheese profile on page 6 of the March 16-29, 2016 Co+op Deals flyer for additional serving suggestions. Here at the co-op, we offer a variety of parmesan so you can find what fits your budget and pleases your palate. Choose parmesans from Stella, BelGioioso, and Organic Valley and keep this flavor invigorating cheese on hand to dress up your next savory dish.