Janet Fletcher
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The Cheese Course: This Cheese Needs a Shave

Janet Fletcher - June 11th, 2014

Janet Fletcher, author of Cheese & Beer, Cheese & Wine, and The Cheese Course, and cheese columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle for more than a decade, brings her cheese expertise to FoodArts.com. Sign up for her weekly email newsletter, “Planet Cheese,” or sign up for her cheese-appreciation classes on her website, JanetFletcher.com.

Some cheeses don’t reveal their charms until you take a cheese plane to them. Ricotta Salata, for one. It’s a dense, salty, chalky bite when sliced with a knife, but a close shave makes it bloom. With a sharp cheese plane, you can unleash its sheepy scent and produce papery sheets that melt on the tongue. A vegetable peeler works, too, but the plane makes wider flakes.

Made by molding and lightly pressing fresh ricotta, then salting and air-drying the young wheels for a few days to a few weeks, Ricotta Salata often replaces Pecorino Romano in Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily. It shines with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, fava beans, green beans, beets, and sweet peppers. With these summer vegetables waiting in the wings, it’s Ricotta Salata’s moment. A few ideas for warm-weather menus:

• Golden beet salad with shaved fennel, avocado, and Ricotta Salata
Perciatelli with cherry tomatoes, Calabrian chile, and Ricotta Salata
• Haricots verts and frisée salad with red torpedo onions, toasted walnuts, and Ricotta Salata
• Shaved green and yellow zucchini with arugula, sliced almonds, Ricotta Salata, and lemon vinaigrette
• Fire-roasted sweet peppers with capers and Ricotta Salata
• Fava bean bruschetta with Ricotta Salata