Pairing Cheese and Fruit
If there’s one food combination I can’t get enough of, it’s cheese and fruit. These two food groups were obviously made for one another. They’re like twins separated at birth or like soul mates—they’re different in a lot of ways, but when they’re together, it just feels right. Of course, fruits and cheese can be paired in nearly infinite different ways. Here are some of my favorites. If you’re new to the beauty of the fruit-cheese combo, this is a good place to start.
Apples and Brie
This is a match made in heaven. A classic combination of fruit and cheese, you might have heard of this one before. I like to cut half an apple into really thin slices and top them with semi-thin slices of brie. Be careful not to slice the brie too thin. Apples are juicy, so the flavor will rush all around your mouth and overpower the brie. Of course, you can use a whole apple if you like, but I stop at half an apple when I think about how much brie is involved! Pretty much any type of apple will do, but it’s best to use something with a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. Fuji apples work well.
Figs and Smoked Gouda
This is a combination I discovered on my own just recently. Figs are one of my favorite snacks, so I always have some lying around. Last week, I bought some smoked gouda on a whim, and on another whim I tried eating these two together. It might have been the best idea I ever had! I was surprised at how well the mild fig flavor was able to tone down the slightly overwhelming smokiness of the cheese. Gouda also has a sourness to it that brings out the fig’s complexity. I definitely recommend trying these two together if you have a chance.
Cranberry and Mozzarella
When you buy dried cranberries at the store, they are usually sweetened. In fact, they are usually sweetened way too much for my taste. It’s true that cranberries should be sweetened to a certain extent—they are just too bitter to be eaten plain—but a little can go a long way. Natural grocery stores sometimes sell dried cranberries that haven’t been sweetened beyond recognition, so if you can get a hold of those, I’d recommend it. Cranberries are excellent with many different kinds of cheese, but a mild white cheese like mozzarella is best in my opinion. This pairing creates a new gustatory sensation that is more than the sum of its parts! Cranberry is often paired with gorgonzola or Wensleydale as well.
Besides these, there are some other delectable fruit and cheese combinations that you can try out.
Camembert with Almonds, Apples, and Pears:
Serve this decadently rich and creamy cow’s milk cheese at room temperature with the fruits to experience sheer indulgence.
Cotija with Berries, Bananas, and Mangoes:
This hard cow's milk cheese of Mexican origin is grainy, firm, dry, and quite a few degrees saltier than other cheese varieties. Grate it over the fruits and enjoy!
Red Wax Gouda with Apples, Grapes, Olives, and Pears:
Creamy, hard cheese with a mild fruity flavor and made from milk that has a slightly higher fat content, Gouda is a natural winner with fruits.
Parmigiano-Reggiano with Pineapple:
Commonly called Parmesan, this cheese has a gritty texture with a strong savory flavor and a sharp, fruity-nutty taste. Grate Parmesan atop pineapple slivers to experience concentrated shots of gastronomical euphoria.
Manchego with Apples, Almonds, and Pears:
Manchego cheese is made from the milk of Manchega sheep within the assigned parts of the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, and Toledo in the Spanish region of La Mancha. This cheese is aged for a minimum of 60 days and a maximum of 2 years. The flavor of this cheese varies with maturity. E.g., Fresco (aged for 2 weeks) has a rich but mild flavor. Curado (aged for three to six months) has a sweet and pronounced nutty flavor. Semicurado (aged for three weeks to three months) has a flavor meeker than that of curado. Viejo (aged for a year) has a sharper flavor with a rich, deep spiciness to it.
Pecorino Romano with Pears and Walnuts:
While the Italian version is made a 100% from sheep's milk, the American version is churned out from cow's milk. Aged for about eight months to a year, the flavor of the cheese is sweet and aromatic when young and sharper and smokier when the aging duration exceeds eight months.
→ Cut about eight ounces of spicy, sharp, tangy Pecorino Romano cheese at room temperature into eight thin, rectangular slices.
→ Slice and core two ripe pears and place atop cheese pieces.
→ Warm about four tablespoons of honey and drizzle it over the pear-topped cheese slices.
→ Top with freshly ground pepper and toasted and chopped walnuts.
Blue Cheese with Pears:
Sharp and salty blue cheese is made using raw cow's milk and is aged for 60-90 days in temperature controlled enclosures. Now this fruit and cheese combination is just way too special and, therefore, I shall end the list with a bang in the form of a recipe that will blow your mind. Here goes.
Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese
• Anjou pears, 3 (ripe, firm, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored and seeded with a melon baller)
• Lemon juice, yield of 3 lemons (freshly squeezed)
• Baby arugula, 6 ounces
• Blue cheese, 3 ounces (sharp, coarsely crumbled)
• Apple cider, ½ cup
• Brown sugar, ⅓ cup (light, lightly packed)
• Cranberries, ¼ cup (dried)
• Walnuts, ¼ cup (halved, toasted, and chopped)
• Olive oil, ¼ cup
• Port wine, 3 tablespoons
• Kosher salt
What to do:
→ Preheat oven to 375ºF.
→ Toss pears with lemon juice to keep them from becoming brown.
→ Place pears on a baking dish, core side up.
→ Toss the blue cheese, cranberries, and walnuts in a small bowl lightly and then place equal amounts of the mixture on the pears, right where the scooping out of seeds left spoon-like indentations.
→ Commingle the apple cider and the port wine well. Dissolve the brown sugar in the liquid completely.
→ Drizzle just enough of this liquid on the pears to coat them well.
→ Bake the pears for half an hour. Baste the fruits every 10 minutes.
→ Once done, let the roasted fruits cool.
→ Mix the olive oil with ¼ cups of lemon juice and the basting liquid each.
→ Use the arugula to make the bed atop which the pear is to be served on 6 plates.
→ Place half a pear with topping on each plate and drizzle the olive oil mixture on the arrangement.
→ Season with salt and serve fresh and warm.
The best part about snacking on cheese and fruit is that, as long as you don’t overdo it, it’s basically guilt-free. It’s true that cheese has a high fat content, but if you only eat a couple of slices once a week, it won’t do you any harm. And, of course, fruits have all sorts of health benefits with their high contents of vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fibers. Take my advice and prepare yourself a few slices of cheese paired with the perfectly complementary fruit. It’s more delightful, nutritious, and satisfying than potato chips any day.