This Month’s Selection:
VERANO, VERMONT SHEPHERD, WESTMINSTER WEST, VT
A raw sheep-milk cheese aged 3-5 months.
Vermont Shepherd cheeses are the oldest and most well known of the country’s sheep and mixed milk cheeses. David and Yesenia Ielpi Major and their family pasture and milk the sheep, make and age the cheese on a 250 acre farm in Westminster West, Vermont. Vermont Shepherd cheeses are descended from a variety of Pyrenees mountain cheeses, which is fitting because a large half of their family is Spanish. The cheese has won awards for Best Farmhouse Cheese in the country and Best of Show in the American Cheese Society’s annual competition since 1993. Today their family makes cheese in small, 10 to 30 wheel batches. Vermont Shepherd has been featured in The New York Times, Gourmet, Food and Wine, Esquire, and more.
Yesenia grew up summer’s milking cows on her dad’s farm in the Dominican Republic. David grew up tending his dad’s sheep in Vermont. Together, they make a mixed milk cheese called Invierno (winter) and a classic pure raw sheep milk tomme called Verano (summer). Verano has won many awards, including Best in Show at the American Cheese Society. The Robb Report called it “possibly the best sheep milk cheese in America.” Verano is a smooth and creamy, semi-hard cheese with a sweet, rich and earthy flavor. The rustic wheel has a rough, golden brown rind. David and Yesenia make cheeses only during pasture season when the sheep graze on clover, grasses and wild herbs.
Verano is superb on a cheese plate with some rich and tart cherry preserves, tomato jam or quince paste and some crusty wheat or olive bread. Here are a few recipes to try as with this fine summer seasonal cheese.
Mixed Baby Greens Salad w/ Verano and Dried Cherries
makes 6 servings
- 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- freshly ground pepper
- 9 cups mixed salad greens (such as baby arugula, frisée, mâche, and watercress)
- 1 ¾ cups ½ -inch cubes Verano; about 8 ounces
- ½ cup dried tart cherries
Whisk together vinegar and Dijon mustard in small bowl, then whisk in honey. Gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and white pepper. Vinaigrette can be made 3 days ahead. Cover; chill. Bring vinaigrette to room temperature before using to dress the salad. When ready to serve place greens, cheese, and cherries in large bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Mario Batali’s Pasta, Verano Cheese and Eggs
makes 4 servings
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 1 pound bucatini or thick spaghetti
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup Verano, coarsely grated
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- (optional) 4 of the very freshest eggs yolks for serving
(raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies or young children, or anyone whose health is compromised)
Fill a large pot with 8 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 3 tablespoons salt and return to a boil. Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and lightly golden, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add pasta to boiling water and cook, according to package directions, until almost al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Transfer pasta to skillet, along with 1/2 cup reserved cooking water. Place skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add eggs to skillet along with the Verano cheese; gently mix to combine. Let cook until eggs just begin to set, but not scramble. Remove from heat and add parsley and Parmigiano. Divide evenly between serving bowls. Top each with an egg yolk, if desired, season with pepper; serve immediately.
Zucchini Pancakes w/ Verano
makes about 18 pancakes
• 3 medium firm zucchini
• ¾ cup shredded Verano
• 2 fresh eggs
• bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
• bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped
• ½ to ¾ cup all purpose flour
• 1 package – about 2 tablespoons – of dry yeast
• 1 tablespoon salt
• oil for frying
Grate zucchinis into a colander, on medium-sized slots of a standing grater. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt on top and mix into the grated zucchini. Set aside for about 15 minutes. The zucchini will produce a lot of juice and you want to try and remove most of it.
After 15 minutes press down on the zucchini with a clean dish towel to squeeze out the juice. Repeat until most of the liquid is gone and the shredded zucchini is pretty dry.
Place the zucchini is a medium bowl and sprinkle with the dry yeast, add the eggs, the herbs, the cheese and mix until blended.
Sift the flour on top of this mixture and gently fold it in. You want the consistency of muffin batter. Cover the bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.
Heat enough oil in a heavy skillet to generously cover the bottom by ¼ inch.
When the oil is hot, scoop generous 2 tablespoon mounds of the batter into the pan. Cook on one side until golden brown, flip and brown the other side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with sour cream and lemon.
Verano Spanish Custard
makes 8 servingspre-heat oven to 325°
- 1 cup Verano cheese, finely grated
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 fresh eggs
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- ¼ cup walnut halves, toasted and finely chopped
- whipped cream for garnish (optional)
- Lightly butter 8- ¼ cup custard cups and coat the inside of the molds with the chopped walnuts.
- Heat the cream in a heavy saucepan until very hot but not boiling.
- Beat the eggs with the sugar, add the finely grated Verano and then slowly add the hot cream. Mix well.
- Ladle this mixture evenly between the molds.
- Place the molds, leaving space around each, in a large baking dish with sides. Pour hot water in the pan halfway up the sides of the molds.
- Bake until knife inserted into the middle of the custard comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Carefully remove the pan from the oven, remove the molds form the water bath and place them on a baking rack to cool.
- Refrigerate custards until ready to serve.
- Invert the custards on serving plates, or serve from the custard cups and garnish with the whipped cream, if desired.
Cave to Co-op is a partnership between Provision International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support local, artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. The NFCA is a network of more than 30 food co-ops in our region — including yours — that are working together to advance their vision of a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. For more information, please visit www.nfca.coop.