The way I used to eat is much the way I organize my refrigerator. Everything has its place: The vegetables in a drawer, the pickles and mustard on one shelf and the milk and eggs on another. The cheese in its domain and the fruit far from it, in a basket.
Flavors weren't to be mixed: There is the sweet and there is the salty. For years I proudly claimed, "I'm a salty person, and I do like sweet, but never mixed!" When out to dinner, my eyes would scan the dessert menu for the cheese option. When there was one, I would order a plate of the chef's selection--a scandal to my friends who translate dessert directly into cake and ice cream.
Years have passed since then, and I have become open to the delight of mixing and matching tastes and textures. Eating has evolved from black and white choices to a palette of colors. The combining of fruit with cheese is a metaphor for this newfound passion of mine. I now experiment with pairing what I previously thought unfit as a marriage of oil and water.
I proudly admit to be a convert to the school of fusion eating! And what better time is there than fall to allow for a great many combinations of fruit with favored cheeses! A delicious breakfast is a fromage blanc with a sweetened compote of fresh cranberries. The Basque brebis, a semi-hard nutty cheese, also is a good match for stewed cranberries instead of the traditional groseille, or currant preserve. A tasty snack is a sharp and dense cheddar with a crispin apple. The juicy and crunchy apple with the rich texture and buttery taste of cheddar is very refreshing--a strong contrast that does not overpower the sweet undertone.
Depending on mood, fresh Spanish sheep's milk, queso de Burgos, and quince paste or preserve is just right. It is traditionally eaten at breakfast, but it's a lovely dessert. I like the cheese served cold and the quince paste or jam at room temperature, accentuating the contrast of the pristine cheese and the rich quince. Last but not least is the autumn pear. I adore the sweet and rugged bosc pear with the nutty and cheesy smelling Taleggio. It is such a lush and special treat, I can only think of it as something to be indulged in on special occasions.
However, fall with its delicious fruit is reason enough to feel festive. Crossing the sweet, salty, nutty, sharp and sometimes smelly barriers can become a habit. The markets, abundant with state-grown fruit and locally produced cheeses, call for a daily celebration.
Note: Quince paste can be bought in any specialty store as well as in Latin American markets.
| 10 Tasty Cheese Pairings:
| Parmigiano Reggiano
Tomme de Savoie
Queso de Burgos
| Anjou pear
Cranberry compote or Mission figs
Granny smith or Ginger gold apples
Figs or Concord grapes
Mutsu or Crispin apple
Quince paste or preserve
A simple recipe for cranberry compote from Baking with Julia, William Morrow & Co, 1996:
- 1 cup fresh or frozen (not thawed) cranberries
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
Put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil, stirring occasionally, until most of the berries have popped. The compote will seem thin, but it will thicken as it cools. Remove the pan from the heat and cool at room temperature. The cranberry compote can be made up to 4 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.