Top 15 Cheeses
& Cheese Recipes

Cheese is more than just a fabulous food. It is a deliciously diverse category of nearly endless enchantment, says chief cheese editor Patricia B Dailey in the premiere issue of Say Cheese, a quarterly magazine devoted to all things cheese. Offering a wide variety of tastes, textures and aromas, cheese is a delicious eat by itself, and this delectable dairy product can elevate ordinary dishes into magnificent meals. Here's a list of the top 15 cheeses with serving suggestions and recipes.

Variety of Cheeses

Top 15 cheeses

Whether you prefer an elegantly assembled cheese plate with fruit, nuts and wine, or enjoy sinking your teeth into a savory meal that includes cheese, some cheeses are more popular than others. According to the Winter 2010 issue of Say Cheese, the following 15 cheeses are most often featured on restaurant cheese plates, menus or courses. We've added a cheese description and some of our favorite recipes that include these fabulous cheeses.

1. Mozzarella

Mozzarella is an unaged white cheese traditionally made from the milk of water buffalo in Italy. Buffalo-derived mozzarella that is imported from Italy sports a high price tag. In the US, mozzarella is typically made with cow's milk and is readily available in the dairy aisle. Because of the way mozzarella is made, its texture can be soft and elastic, and is referred to as string cheese. Mozzarella is a popular cheese on pizza, and is equally delicious melted on top of this Turkey Breast Parmesan.

2. Blue

Blue cheese is a generic term used to describe cheeses made from cow's, sheep's or goat's milk, that have had Penicillium cultures added during the cheese making process, resulting in a strong aroma and blueish veins running throughout the final product. Examples of blue cheese include Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton. Blue cheeses are sharp in taste and pungent in smell and can be crumbled or melted into foods. They can also be pureed or whisked into dressings. These Blue Cheese Muffins are a hit for breakfast or served alongside a savory supper.

3. Goat

White in color and earthy in flavor, goat cheese is made from goat's milk and is often called chevre. Bold in aroma and taste, the majority of goat cheeses are made in France, but excellent goat cheeses are also produced in North America. These Goat Cheese and Raspberry Filled Crepes are courtesy of Canadian-based Woolwich Dairy.

4. Cheddar

Ranging from mild to extra sharp flavor, depending on how long it is aged, Cheddar is a well-known, highly versatile cow's milk cheese. A hard, smooth-textured cheese, cheddar varies in color from white to a dark yellow, and can be part of a cheese board, sliced for sandwiches or shredded into salads, soups, casseroles and other dishes. This popular cheese is exquisite on these Jalapeno Cheddar Burgers.

5. Gouda

According to Cheese.com, Gouda cheese is named after the Dutch town of Gouda, just outside Rotterdam, and accounts for more than 60 percent of the cheese produced in Holland. Gouda, which exudes a sweet fruity taste that grows in complexity as it matures, is now made globally and can be served as a table cheese or dessert cheese. It is especially delish in this Kale Gouda Salad.

6. Feta

Available in small bricks or crumbled, feta is a famous Greek cheese originally made of sheep's or goat's milk. Most of the feta you'll find today in the US is made of cow's milk. Feta is fabulous crumbled over salads, pizza or roasted vegetables, pureed into dips, or used as a filling for phyllo or puff pastry. It adds a tantalizing tang and bright accent to this Beet, Feta and Walnut Quiche.

7. Sheep's milk

Sheep's milk contains twice the fat of cow's milk, which is why it makes such excellent cheese, according to FoodReference.com. Though not as readily available as other cheeses, sheep's milk cheese is a safe choice for those allergic to cow's milk. You can find it as specialty shops, artisanal markets, local farms and farmer's markets. If you've never tried sheep's milk cheese, sink your spoon into this decadent Sheep's Milk Ricotta with Blueberry Compote; it will easily pique your interest in trying more of this wonderful cheese.

8. Parmesan

Beyond the dry textured crumbs found in cans, Parmesan cheese is a fabulously flavored hard cheese that can be shaved onto salads, shredded onto soups or other savory dishes, and grated into a tasty garnish. True Parmesan, more accurately referred to as Parmigiano-Reggiano, is named after the Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantova areas in Italy. Parmesan cheese is flavorful and lends a great range of culinary versatility, adding a delicious dimension to this Red Snapper Parmesan.

9. Ricotta

Ricotta is a fresh unaged cheese with a creamy yet grainy texture and a slightly sweet flavor. You'll find it in tubs in the cheese aisle, often near the cottage cheese. Ricotta is an excellent cheese to use in sweet or savory fillings for crepes, canneloni, phyllo, or puff pastry. Here ricotta stars in Turkey, Ricotta and Broccoli Crepes.

10. Monterey Jack

Developed in the late 1800s, Monterey Jack was developed by dairyman and landowner David Jacks in California. Monterey Jack has a mild taste and can range in texture from semi-soft to hard enough to grate, depending on its maturity. Monterey Jack melts easily and is a delicious component in this Cheesey Cauliflower Casserole.

11. Tomme

Tomme is a type of cow's milk cheese, and the generic name given to a class of white colored cheese produced mainly in the French Alps and in Switzerland. Tommes, generally lower in fat than other cheeses, have a circular round shape, distinct (and oftentimes edible) rind, nutty flavor, and range from semi-soft to firm in texture. Check with your local cheese shop or gourmet market to give a tomme a try.

12. Pecorino

A hard, grateable light-colored cheese with a lovely nutty flavor, Pecorino cheese, or Pecorino Romano, is made of sheep's milk and can be used in place of Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano in most recipes. This delectable cheese gives this Wild Greens Soup with Egg and Pecorino Romano a flavorful earthy accent.

13. Taleggio

The cheese experts at Epicurious.com define Taleggio as a semisoft cow's milk cheese hailing from Italy's Lombardy region, ranging in flavor from mild to pungent, depending on its age. Its rich taste is particularly suited for salads or sandwiches as well as served with fruit as a dessert cheese. Instead of an ordinary American cheese sandwich, try Taleggio in this Gourmet Grilled Cheese recipe.

14. Queso fresco

Similar in texture to farmer's cheese, queso fresco is a fresh white Mexican cheese that is also called queso blanco, that has a tangy, salty flavor. It is available in Mexican markets and most well stocked supermarkets. Use it for your Mexican dishes or experiment with it in your everyday recipes for a change in flavor.

15. Manchego

Considered Spain's most famous cheese, Manchego cheese is a rich yet mellow flavored, semi-firm cheese. Traditional Manchego cheese is made of sheep's milk from Machego sheep residing in Spain's La Mancha plains. This light-colored cheese melts easily and can be cut into slices and served with fruit or preserves, as it is in this popular Spanish appetizer of Manchego and Guava Paste.

Editors note: Top 15 cheeses are based on findings from Mintel's Menu Insights database.

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