I am way above average.
Not in a Michael Phelps way, but somehow, some way, way above average.
I always believed it, but now I have proof.
The average American eats 32 pounds (14.5 kilograms) of cheese per year. And if that's true, I am above average. I'm sure I eat more cheese than that.
My refrigerator always has a stash of hard cheese and soft, white and blue, spreadable and sliceable, and grated or shredded cheese.
For my grated cheese stash, I have Julia Child to thank.
On an episode of one of Julia's American television series in the late 1970s -- I think she was trying to us get over our collective fear of souffle -- she pulled a plastic container of leftover shredded cheese from her freezer.
Freeze cheese? Who knew?
Not I. Not then. But now I know: leftover bits of hard cheese need not go to waste, turning into a petrified forest in my cheese drawer. I shred or grate the cheese, and add it to a container that's always in the freezer.
Keep like-minded cheeses together, though it's fun to mix in some crumbled leftover mild blue cheese with even milder shredded cheeses like Jarlsberg. Cheddar, fontina, gruyere, emmental, asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano -- all freeze exceptionally well.
You can store shredded or grated cheese for up to six months, so that when you need some for lasagna or vegetable tarts, gratins or quesadillas, mac and cheese or fondue, it's in the freezer, ready to go. In many recipes, you can use the cheese directly from the freezer without defrosting.
If you don't have a cheese "bin" in your freezer, please start one right away. I use a two-quart container because, as you now know, I'm way above average. If you are average -- an average cheese eater, that is -- you'll probably want something a bit smaller.
To ensure that your frozen cheese is always fresh, write the date on top of the container when you first put it into the freezer. Six months from that date, empty whatever is still in the container and combine all of the cheese bits in a wonderful frittata. Cross out the old date, write the current date, and start saving again.
Frittata, served with a green salad, is my summer go-to dinner, and with grated cheese in the refrigerator or freezer, it's fast and easy. And frittata is not fussy; it's delicious cold, for picnics, or at room temperature. Serves 2; can be doubled.
5 large eggs
3/4 cup mixed shredded cheese
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 large mushrooms, sliced
1/4 red bell pepper, minced
In a large glass measuring cup (I use an 8-quart measure) or a bowl, beat the eggs and cheese together with a wire whisk, until the eggs are fluffy. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the herbs, and set aside.
In a small nonstick frying pan (a 10-inch pan works well), heat the olive oil. Add zucchini, onion, mushrooms and bell pepper, all at once, and sauté over low heat until the zucchini and onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Pour on the egg mixture. Reduce heat to simmer, and cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the cover, lift the edges of the frittata to let some of the uncooked egg flow underneath, and continue to cook, covered, 6-8 minutes more, or until the top is just set. Turn off the heat, remove the cover, and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
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