By Terese Allen, Organic Valley Food Editor
“Many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese—toasted, mostly.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
If I was taking a word association test and was given the word “autumn,” the first match that would come to mind is “crisp.” I’d imagine the season’s crisp, cool air in my face, its crisp-crunchy leaves underfoot, and those crisp, humidity-free views of azure sky and jewel-colored hills.
But when it comes to fall food, “crisp” isn’t the first thing on my mind; in fact, it’s just the opposite. To me, autumn fare evokes something warm and rich, smooth and soothing. Something like melted cheese.
This is the season that finds me hauling out the fondue pot I’ve stored in the back of my pantry since last winter. I bought the pot for one dollar at a garage sale years ago, when fondue was out of fashion. It’s still out of fashion, I suppose, but I don’t care because at least once every fall my cheery red vessel with its long-handled forks is the centerpiece of one of the easiest and most celebratory meals I make.
The meal is easy because all you do is cut high-quality organic cheese into cubes and slowly melt it--with minimal additions--over a low flame. Wine, beer or apple cider gives the sauce an added flavor dimension and its “dipping” texture. Whether you serve it for Wednesday night supper or as a special course on Saturday night, fondue can make a celebration happen because, well, any repast that involves dunking good bread into top-rate organic cheese is sure to be a festive one. Indeed, add an all-organic salad and a bottle of good wine, and life may suddenly feel like a party.
Another pleasure along these lines is grilled cheese sandwiches. For me it brings back happy memories of meatless Fridays, when my big Catholic family would get out a hefty cast iron griddle and crank out batches of hot, oozing grilled cheese sandwiches. We didn’t have access to organic cheese back then, but I do now, and these days I’m happily making delicious new (and healthier) memories with hormone-free, nutrient-rich grilled cheese sandwiches.
Now that I think of it, just about any dish that involves melted cheese can make me cheerful: a lusciously creamy Cheddar soup; a toasty, open-face stack of Italian vegetables blanketed with melted provolone; eggy pastry puffs filled with warm mornay sauce.
Here’s to autumn, melted cheese and happy times!
Apple Cider Cheddar Fondue - Fondue is fun food, not just because of its everyone-around-the-pot way of bringing people together, but because you can get it to the table in less than twenty minutes.
Savory Puffs with Swiss Cheese Sauce – A special-occasion first course or vegetarian entrée.
Polenta with Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onions – Try this simple, no-stir method for making polenta. Folded with sweet, slow-cooked onions and oozing with Organic Valley’s blue cheese crumbles, it is positively voluptuous.
Breaded Cheese Cutlets - The next time you have guests over for dinner, forego the cheese and crackers platter and make this warm-hearted specialty instead.
Italian Open Face Melts - Cheesy, easy, and organic—what more could a hungry Italian-ophile want?
Upside-Down Pizza Bake - Vermont Organic Valley farmer Beverly Thurber likes to make this dish during maple sugaring season.
Honey Almond Stuffed French Toast – For an autumn brunch, serve this with maple syrup or fruit preserves, plus Organic Prairie Brown & Serve Breakfast Links.
Hot Bacon and Blue Cheese Dip – A smoky, molten party dip from Organic Valley farmer Patti Brunner.
Parmesan Lace - Serve these lace-like disks as an appetizer (they’re delicious with wine), or as “crackers” to crumble into soup.
Root Vegetable and Swiss Cheese Gratin - A hearty make-ahead dish that uses the best of cold-weather crops and Organic Valley cheese.