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Newsletter - March 2015

I created our Montasio over 25 years ago. It began as a combination of cheeses that I learned to make in Northern Italy and a recipe for Montasio from a cheesemaking book. Our Montasio is made from goat's milk and it is a hard cheese. When I created Montasio I fantasized that it was similar to cheeses made high up in the mountains and thought the name fitted it well, since monte means mountain in Italian. I had never tasted the real Montasio, a famous Italian cheese from the Veneto. If you know me, you will realize that this is a typical! Nonetheless, our Montasio is delicious! And it is also unique.

We make our Montasio by adding cultures and then coagulating the goat's milk with animal rennet. Once the milk has set, we cut the curd until it is the size of corn kernels. Then we heat and cook the curds in the whey. Finally the matured curds are drained into large squares of cloth that are twisted closed to contain the cheese. They are knotted and the cheeses are pressed overnight. You can see the indentations from the knots on our cheeses. They are rubbed daily with salt for two weeks. Finally they are left to dry for several months. At this point our Montasio is ready to sell plain or to be encased with a puree of ancho chiles and aged for another month. Our Montasio is a mellow, flavorful cheese. It is a wine friendly cheese and is wonderful with white and red wines. It also can be grated and used in any dish where a hard cheese such as Parmigiano would be appropriate. Our goats' milk Montasio is available in two varieties ... plain and with a dark red ancho chile rind. Our cows' milk Montasio is faintly flavored with fresh rosemary.

Recipe of the Month
Fennel Salad with Rosemary Montasio
2 lemons
4 large fennel bulbs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
One 4- to 6- ounce piece Montasio
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
6 to 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cut 1 lemon into 4 to 6 wedges and squeeze the juice of the other lemon. Set aside. Cut off the feathery leaves and fibrous stalks of the fennel. Set aside the feathery fronds. (You can also chop the leaves and use them as a fresh herb. The stalks are not tender enough to eat, but they will add a delicate flavor and fragrance to a homemade chicken stock.) Trim the root ends and discard. With a sharp knife, cut the fennel vertically into paper-thin slices.

Distribute half of the fennel on a large platter, sprinkle with a little salt, cover with a layer of Montasio shaved directly over the salad with a vegetable peeler, and garnish with half of the parsley leaves. Repeat with the remaining fennel, salt and Parmigiano, and parsley.

Drizzle the salad with the olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Serve garnished with the lemon wedges and fennel fronds.

Serves 4 to 6