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I’ve been known to eat mascarpone by the spoonful. I can’t resist luscious, slightly farmy sheep’s milk ricotta at the farmer’s market even though it often costs more than I want to spend. And when I lived in France, I was thrilled to eat tangy fromage blanc every night for dessert with a swirl of jam. Basically, I have a thing for fresh cheeses, and it seems Americans are having a love affair with them, too.
When we first noticed their takeover of the supermarket refrigerator case, we published a guide to fresh cheeses in April 2006. F&W's Grace Parisi developed five fast corresponding recipes, like addictive fried scallion dip with lebneh, a Lebanese cheese that’s tart and thick, like Greek-style yogurt. On a recent visit to Balducci’s, a museum-like specialty food store on 14th Street in Manhattan, I came across three fresh cheeses that sound like they’re out of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books: farmer’s, pot and hoop cheeses.
On a search for more information about them, I found different definitions, but it seems that each is some sort of derivative of cottage cheese, traditionally a simple cheese made with the milk left over from butter-making. I was familiar with farmer’s cheese in its foil-wrapped block form, but the one I bought is more for scooping and spreading rather than slicing. The flavor is almost exactly like cottage cheese, but texturally, it’s more like a dry ricotta. The pot cheese has a similar grainy texture but it’s slightly sweeter. The hoop cheese looks like cottage cheese curds without the milky slime binding them together; the curds have an appealing bouncy chew.
I hope to come up with some inspired dishes for these cheeses, but for now, I’ve just been topping each with fruit for breakfast or throwing dollops on green salads. And, of course, shamelessly eating them right out of the container.