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Say Cheese

What is your favorite cheese? Is it a blue-veined cheese or a goat or sheep variety? Do you like it as an appetizer or an entrée? Or how about pure decadence by enjoying mascarpone in a tiramisu or a yummy cheesecake? Whatever it is, indulge your passion for cheese this month.

CHEDDAR MUFFINS
1-3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-1/4 cups (5 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup milk
1 egg
3 Tablespoons grainy mustard
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mixed herbs or 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs (I use chives and dill)

In large bowl mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of the cheese; toss. In small bowl whisk milk, egg, and mustard. Add to flour mixture with butter and herbs. Mix just to blend. Spoon into 10 paper-lined or buttered 2-3/4 inch muffin tin cups. Sprinkle tops with remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes, until springy to the touch and toothpick inserted into centers of muffins comes out clean. Serves 10.

BLUE CHEESE, BACON ON RYE
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup crumbled, crisp-cooked bacon
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
8 slices rye bread

Combine cream cheese, blue cheese, bacon, and 2 Tablespoons Italian dressing. Spread cheese mixture evenly onto 4 bread slices; top with remaining bread. Brush sandwiches on both sides with remaining Italian dressing. Grill sandwiches in nonstick skillet over medium heat until golden brown on both sides and filling is melted. Serves 4.

CHEDDAR BRAID
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon dry yeast

Gently heat, on low, water, salt, sugar, milk powder, butter, and 2 cups of cheese in saucepan until the cheese is melted. Cool.
Add yeast, flour, and then the rest of the cheese. Mix in bowl with dough hooks or by hand until smooth, and leave to rest. Cover and leave in warm place to rise until double the original size. Punch down.

Cut dough into three strips, braid, placing on oiled cookie sheet. Lightly cover and leave bread to rise again after braiding. Bake at 375° for about 30 minutes or until golden.

PIMENTO CHEESE
1/2 lb. extra-sharp white cheddar
1/2 lb. extra-sharp yellow cheddar
1 (7-oz.) jar pimentos, drained and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne to taste, 1-2 dashes
Salt to taste
2/3 cup mayonnaise

Finely grate cheeses into medium bowl. Stir in pimentos, black pepper, cayenne, and salt. Stir in mayonnaise and mash with fork until smooth. Chill to allow flavors to develop.

BOWTIE PASTA WITH MUSHROOM RAGOUT AND BAKED CHEESE CRISPS
4 oz. bowtie pasta, cooked al denté
2 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded
6 large mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cloves garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
Olive oil
1/4 teaspoon basil, dried

Baked Cheese Crisps
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 cup coarsely grated Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. On stove, sauté tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper, and chives in small amount of olive oil. Mix in basil the last couple of minutes of cooking. When reduced to ragout consistency, toss with pasta and garnish with a few whole chives.

During last few minutes of cooking pasta, spray cookie sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle small rounds of Parmesan cheese. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with Romano cheese, and allow to cool a few minutes. Serve with pasta sprinkled with Romano cheese. Serves 2-4.

Coming Next Month: Sweeten Up with Fruit Curds

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