Warning to our dear readers: I am in the middle of very local cheese kick, so my next four posts will be about Minnesota cheeses. Why? There is no other explanation other than I went to Surdyk’s Saturday and found so many home-crafted cheeses I hadn’t tried before that I had to buy them all. I’m not sure where this hoarding mentality comes from, but if it provides fodder for the blog, I’m not too concerned.
But my first find, however, did not come from Surdyk’s, but rather the cozy Kingfield Farmers Market in Minneapolis. There I came upon a feta made just 55 miles away in Nerstrand, Minn., the home of Singing Hills Dairy. A small farm and cheesemaking operation by Lynne Reeck and Kate Wall, Singing Hills produces plain and flavored chevres and fetas, as well as goat cheese curds and yogurt. Wall and Reeck’s herd of Nubian and Saanen goats is small – just 17 does and two bucks, according to Facebook – but makes mighty flavorful cheese. The snow-white feta I purchased packs a salty punch like a traditional sheep’s-milk feta but without the usual oiliness. Instead, you get a clean taste, firm bite and a briney finish.
I knew any salad featuring the feta would need some sweetness to balance the cheese’s saltiness, so I roasted another farmers market find – small, colorful beets – and diced them into cubes roughly the same size as the feta. I sprinkled on a chiffonade of six or seven mint leaves and a healthy grind of black pepper, and then added a small glug of fruity olive oil and balsamic vinegar for good measure. The resulting salad ranks up with my white bean-cucumber-red pepper masterpiece – the sweet/salt combination gets a burst of freshness from the mint and a subtle depth from the vinegar.
How are you integrating cheese into your summer vegetable dishes? Feel free to add links to your favorite recipes below!