SWEET PANEER BITES
which is soft and therefore spreadable.
She simply simmers milk at 150-160°F,
then adds vinegar until the curds and whey
separate. She adds the Middle Eastern
spice za'atar for a woody, earthy flavor.
She spreads the cheese on raisin/currant
or raisin/rosemary bread and drizzles with
local honey. “It’s great for a breakfast or
brunch item,” she says.
a table cheese or incorporated in the dish.
“Originally, it was wrapped in mint leaves for
preservation, so generally, you see mint on
it or it’s served with mint-type condiments.
It also pairs well with such fruit as grapes or
melon in the summer,” Perillo says.
Kristine Subido, Executive Chef
Wave, W hotel
Yield: 6 servings
Labneh and halloumi are other Middle
Eastern cheeses of interest to chefs.
Labneh is a Lebanese yogurt/cream
cheese extremely common in Turkey.
Yogurt is easy to culture: Simply tie it up in
cheesecloth, hang it to strain out the whey,
and dry it out for about 24 hours. Preserve
the ball of cheese in olive oil, says Robert
Perillo, a lecturing instructor in the cuisines
of Europe and the Mediterranean at the
CIA. Labneh is a common table cheese to
be eaten with pita, but it can also be cooked.
Because of Mexico’s proximity and the
popularity of its cuisine, Mexican cheeses
such as queso fresco, queso blanco and
queso oaxaca are becoming well-known
in the U.S.
Before hanging it, herbs such as mint or
lavender can be added. In true Middle
Eastern style, Perillo likes to begin with
a good Greek yogurt and mix in za'atar
before tying it up in cheesecloth. “I like it
with honey on top for dessert or before a
meal,” he says, adding that yogurt is easily
digestible for the slightly lactose intolerant.
In Hispanic tradition, cheese used in
Mexican cooking is often of the crumbly
sort that tops food. “In that regard,
usually it’s non-melting cheese. They
want it to stay there without flowing,”
says Mark Johnson, senior scientist at
the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research
on the campus of the University of
Wisconsin, Madison. Queso fresco and
queso blanco are non-melting.
1 t. cornstarch
1 t. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 T. cold water
3 T. vegetable oil
8 oz. paneer cheese, cut in ½-inch cubes
1 medium onion, sliced in rings
4 green chilies, such as jalapeño or serrano
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 t. Demerara sugar or white sugar
½ t. ground black pepper
2 T. malt vinegar
2 T. ketchup
2 T. dark soy sauce
4 T. boiling water
Culturally, cost is a big factor with Hispanic
cheese. “In other countries, they can
remove milk fat and add vegetable oils to
cheapen the price,” Johnson says. This
gives it a slightly different flavor. “It’s hard
for us to do that. It’s illegal for us (and can
still be called ‘cheese’). So if you’re looking
for real ethnic, that’s hard for us.”
Halloumi, which originated in Cyprus, is
generally a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s
milk, and has a unique slightly rubbery
texture as a firm cheese, making it
conducive for frying and grilling, Perillo
says. Because it holds its shape well, it is
an easy skewer item on kebabs with lamb
or vegetables. Another option is to grill
or pan-fry it and use as a salad topping,
although in Cyprus, it is frequently used as
While Italian cheeses have typically been
the most popular in the U.S., Hispanic
cheese popularity is burgeoning, says Regi
Hise, corporate chef/director of culinary
development for cheese manufacturer Emmi
Roth USA Inc., Monroe, Wis. Mexican culinary
tradition is now merging with ours, making its
cheeses the most newly discovered category.
1) In medium bowl, mix cornstarch, flour
and salt with cold water to make thin
paste. Toss cheese cubes in mixture
to coat. Heat oil in medium skillet over
medium-low heat. Add cheese cubes;
fry about 5 minutes or until golden-brown, turning to brown all sides.
Remove with slotted spoon; drain on
paper towel. 2) Add onion rings to skillet;
sauté until lightly browned. Remove;
drain on paper towel. 3) In same skillet,
combine chilies, garlic, sugar, black
pepper, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce and
boiling water. Cook over low heat about
2 minutes. Add browned cheese cubes;
mix well, smothering cheese cubes with
sauce. 4) Serve hot with onion rings.
Recipe is courtesy of Wisconsin Milk