Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Moon is Made of This?

Sap Sago. A hard green cheese from Glarus, Switzerland. After several years of searching, I found it in New Glarus, the sister city of the original. A little stinky, it has a mild, herbal flavor. Made with blue fenugreek, similar to clover. Shred it on almost anything. I first became aware of it in the 1961 cookbook Wild in the Kitchen, by Minneapolis Tribune columnist Will Jones. Here's what he had to say about this unlikely garnish:
   In Praise of Green Cheese,Universal Ingredient X

   Let us get a few things straight on the matter of green cheese, a subject in which I fear the average citizen shows too little interest.

   The green cheese of which I speak is not the kind of which the moon is reputedly made, or cheese that is green in the sense that it is not ripe.

   The green cheese I’m concerned with is Swiss green cheese, called Sap Sago. It is green because it has herbs in it, and it is rock-hard, and good only for grating. A small lump of it costs only twenty-five to thirty cents. With that small lump a kitchen drudge can, for months and with very little effort, produce taste sensations that resemble those of a great chef.

   Green cheese is on the smelly side, but not strongly so. The herbs give it a distinct smelliness all its own. It is a smelliness that blends with other foods and them definite, but subtle, zip.

   I was first introduced to green cheese as a child by a neighbor woman who loved it so much she grated it, mixed it with butter, spread it thickly on bread, and ate it that way. Mixed with butter or cream cheese, it’s great for canapés.

   I’ve used it in all the ways other grated cheeses are used—in soup, or on toast in soup, in salads, on casseroles, on spaghetti and pizza, and in other Italian dishes.

   My favorite spaghetti—or macaroni, or noodles, or any of the other dozens of kinds of pasta found in Italian stores—is that served with a sauce made only of butter and green cheese, and a touch of black pepper.

   Maybe I’m a bug on the subject, but I have yet to find anything edible that can’t be improved, or at least given interesting variety, with green cheese.

   It is magnificent on a baked potato, or on any other kind of potato, including raw. I’ve had it on all sorts of vegetables, raw and cooked. It’s great on raw or cooked fruits. I have enjoyed it on meats, on apple pie, even on chocolate cake. I have enjoyed a wee sprinkling of it on top of a dry martini.

   And on eggs!

   Eggs and green cheese were made for each other. The simple way is to sprinkle the cheese on whatever kind of eggs you like best…

   …Somewhere, I know, there are citizens for whom this sermon has been entirely unnecessary. But I haven’t met very many of them. The most common reaction I have had whenever I mention green cheese is, “Huh?” This is too bad. It’s too good a thing not to be more widely used.

   Almost any week you can pick up a beautifully printed magazine of some kind and find a new article that tells you how a little shot of wine in the pot can give new stature to almost any dish. Such statements are about seventy per cent hooey.

   Wine has its uses as a cooking ingredient, but it doesn’t deserve such sweeping endorsement. Green cheese, on the other hand, does, and if the authors would treat it to some of the same kind of prose they’ve been devoting to cooking with wine they could do a great public service.
So now you know.

By Professor Batty


Blogger Jono said...

Sounds tasty!

Blogger Shoshanah Lee Marohn said...

Well, thank you very much for the green cheese! We haven't tried it, yet.

When Z was four years old, we saw a fake moon, as big as a Volkswagen, hanging from the ceiling of an office building in Verona. It looked perfect- just like the moon. We stood underneath it, gazing up, totally alone, the building empty except for us. She nudged me and I leaned down to hear what she was whispering,

"You know it's made of cheese, don't you?" she said.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

So far, the best use I've found for it is on buttered cooked cauliflower, it is pretty subtle.

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