Friday, October 5, 2012

Cheese Rinds and Wax – October 5, 2012

I was in Lotsa Pasta a great local specialty foods store last week and was ordering at the deli counter.  While waiting, I noticed they had a basket that said free, please only two per person.  I looked to see that it was big chunks of Parmesan cheese rinds that they had cut off when cutting the cheese into smaller sections to sell.  I had often heard of saving these rinds to make soup, so I thought this was a great way to give something new a try and use up my own cheese rinds in the future.  I decided to make a minestrone and I started with a recipe from Food Network but adapted to my tastes.  The cheese really thickened things up, actually to the point that this might be classified more as a stew than a soup.  Either way, it was quite yummy.

Minestrone Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 ounces pancetta or prosciutto, coarsely chopped (you could leave out and add a bit more oil)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 russet potato, peeled, cubed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
2 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind
2/3 lb. ground chicken, browned (you could leave this out)
1 c. macaroni, cooked
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, ham and garlic.  Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the potato; saute for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and seasoning.  Simmer until the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1/4 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth.  Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan cheese rind to the vegetable mixture.  Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the whole beans, pasta, chicken and parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Discard Parmesan rind.  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

I found many other soup recipes using the rind, so I’ll have to give them a try as well next time I’m in the store.  Leek and potato sounded especially good.

While it is a different type of cheese rind, if you go back to my blog about mushroom growing, you’ll see that I also found a use for the food grade wax on some cheeses like cheddar.  You can melt it and use to cover your mushroom holes or any other place you need food grade wax.

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