The good people of Grana Padano were kind to send me a huge slab of their namesake cheese and requested me to cook with it about a week ago. Thinking initially, “Crap, that’s a lot of cheese.” As they’ve sent me about a pound and a half’s worth of this lovely, semi-fat, hard cheese that’s not super salty like Parmigiano-Reggiano, I thought of ways that aren’t too far-fetched to use this for an entire dinner.
The easiest thing to do is make a sandwich with it (for lunch). I used an organic Italian loaf from Whole Foods, smoked ham, organic baby spinach, tomatoes from my backyard, and Grana Padano.
As for the actual dinner, I started off with an organic mixed greens salad with cherry tomatoes in a Grana Padano frico (cheese crisp). I grated the cheese coarsely and bake it in a 400 degree F oven until it’s golden brown on the edges. While it’s still hot, pick it up and mold it into greased bowls. The idea is to have an entirely edible salad. Of course, there’s extra salad on the side.
Along with the salad, I made golf ball sized gougeres (a savory cheese puff). I flavored these cheese puffs with espelette pepper with the Grana Padano and Maldon sea salt. It’s ethereally light with a touch of crispness from the exterior. The espelette gave it a very subtle kick of heat.
The main course was roasted pesto chicken. I made the pesto by using Italian flat leaf parsley from Union Square’s Farmers’ Market, basil from my backyard, garlic, black pepper, salt, extra virgin olive oil and grating the Grana Padano the last minute, then coat the chicken inside and out and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator overnight for marinating. Roast it for 45 minutes at 375 degrees F, it’s very juicy and succulent.
For dessert, is my typical summer-long treat: homemade ice cream but I’m sort of keeping the cheese theme. The flavors of the day are goat cheese ice cream and honey lavender ice cream. My aim was to mimic the cheese plate since goat cheese works well with honey lavender (in real solid food form). It still works except my goat cheese was a bit too mild that it sort of tasted like cheesecake with the slightly goat-y tang. It’s still fine since my parents aren’t too fond of funky flavored cheese like I do.
For the rest of my dinner and decor photos, please see the slideshow below.