January 2012/Prepared Foods -- Every country has its favorite cheeses for creating any number of cheese dishes. When cheese is present, it usually becomes the focal point of the dish. Often, the flavor of cheese is enhanced or piqued by the addition of an herb, spice or spicy seed. It becomes a happy marriage of indigenous cheese and spices.

One of the most interesting cheese specialties originated in Hungary, but is now made in Austria and other countries. Liptauer refers to a spread, often shaped in a mold. It originally was based on a sheep’s milk cheese from the northern Hungarian area known as Lipto. (Other countries currently use various kinds of available cheese as the base; the Americanized version calls for cream cheese.) The constants in Liptauer, wherever it is made, are Hungary’s favorite spices—paprika and sesame seeds. Mustard is common, too. Recipes also differ in other ingredients, such as capers, anchovies, sardines and even caviar, but the basic spicing does not change.

Italians stuff pork chops with provolone cheese—one of their “natives”—but, this is not the final step of the recipe. They go on to season it with native spices (oregano and thyme), and then it is “nipped” with some black pepper. The stuffing becomes bread crumbs, cheese, spices and a little chicken stock to complete the “flavor secrets.”

Americans make a delicious noodle, spinach and cheese casserole. Any of several types of cheese can appear in this dish, but the seasonings remain typical of the area—dill weed, and both black and white pepper. The spinach gets the dill weed, black pepper and onion, while the cheese gets some white pepper (because it does not show dark particles against the light-colored cheese).
The Swiss have a preparation for squash that includes Swiss, Gruyère or Muenster cheese, depending on the cook. But, just as important to this creation is its seasoning—onion, garlic, thyme, a bay leaf and freshly ground black pepper. The end-product is a stuffed squash in which the cheese, seasonings and ham go into the stuffing.

An unusual recipe in India consists of sautéed cheese slices in a tomato sauce. The sauce is given a characteristic Indian spicing of turmeric, red pepper, onion, cloves and cardamom. Again, various cheeses are used, but the top-notes in flavor come from the pungent spices. pf

Liptauer Cheese
The Liptauer cheese recipe was originally prepared exclusively for Prepared Foods by the test kitchen of the American Spice Trade Assoc. (FR0386)

1 tbsp powdered mustard
1 tbsp caraway seed
1 tsp minced onion
1 tbsp warm water
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 package (8oz) cream cheese
1 tbsp capers
2 tsp paprika, divided

In a custard cup, combine mustard, caraway, onion and water; set aside for 10 mins to soften. With an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Stir in capers, 1 tsp paprika and the onion mixture. Spoon into a 2-cup custard cup or bowl, pressing down firmly. Invert onto a serving plate, rapping on the bottom of cup, if necessary to unmold. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp paprika.  Serve with thinly sliced rye bread triangles, if desired.

Yield: 2 cups