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Food Pairings: Fresh Herbs and Artisanal Cheese

Pair fresh herbs and aritisanal cheese in these 5 sensational recipes by award-winning chef, Jerry Traunfeld.

| February/March 2008

  • Sharp, pungent or mild, there’s an herb for every cheese. Cline
  • Mild-flavored parsley, chives and dill blend easily with ricotta and goat cheese to make a quick and delicious pasta sauce.
    John Granen


Imagine a warm crouton topped with goat cheese laced with thyme and lavender … or a salad of fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella layered with spicy basil leaves. Or, how about a towering soufflé accented with sharp cheddar and dill?

Herbs and cheeses are natural partners in the kitchen. Just as the variety of fresh herbs available to American cooks has grown dramatically in recent years, so has the selection on our cheese board. Not only do we have access to a huge variety of cheeses from all over the world, but now that the artisan cheese movement in North America is flourishing, we also have superb local cheeses that can compete with the finest European wheels.

Sharp, pungent or mild, there’s an herb for every cheese. The fun comes in discovering the most winning combinations and trying them out in the endless number of dishes that have cheese as an ingredient. 

Matchmaking Made Easy

When you start to experiment with herb and cheese pairings, begin with the familiar. The next time you grill a cheese sandwich, toss a bit of chopped dill or chives on the cheddar or Swiss. Making homey macaroni and cheese? Try adding a few tablespoons of chopped fresh marjoram or tarragon. And your Greek salad of feta, tomato and olive will get raves if you toss in some torn mint or basil leaves.

My golden rule for any type of herb and food pairing is to match the robustness of the herb to that of the ingredient or dish. For instance, a delicate ricotta cheese filling would team well with lemon thyme or chervil, while a strong pecorino would be complemented by hot Greek oregano or strident rosemary.

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