Top Nine Varieties Of Cheese’s Enjoyed By Food Lovers

collage of various types of cheeseWho doesn’t enjoy cheese, either as snack, on a sandwich, or topped over leafy greens? There is many ways to include cheese in your culinary delights.

There are many different kinds of cheeses, and they each have their own flavor and best uses. Among the many cheeses throughout the world, the following are the top nine varieties enjoyed by food lovers.

Feta Cheese

Feta is a white cheese made in Greece from sheep’s milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. The cheese is bathed in a brine, that is a 24% salt concentration. Salt is said to be important in cheese making as it keeps the fermented cheese from molding fast. Salt also helps to draw out the whey.

Read more here from the Curd Nerd on Using Brine In Cheese Making.

This is a common cheese in Greek dishes. Crumble it over salads, use it on sandwiches like Gyros, and broil it with olive oil. You can sprinkle it over the top of Greek pizza or pasta. It’s tangy and moist and can be crumbly or creamy. Try pairing it with fruit as well.

Mozzarella

college of Making homemade cheeseMozzarella  is a southern Italian cheese, and is traditionally made with milk from the from Italian water buffalo.

There are two basic ways to make mozzarella, there is the direct acidification of the milk to form the curds or the culture, also known as rennet method.

In both methods, raw milk is pasteurized and then coagulated to form curds.

This is most commonly used in Italian dishes, mozzarella being the number one go-to cheese for pizza. You can also eat it sprinkled with olive oil or have it with tomatoes and basil. This soft cheese has a mild, yet creamy taste with a great texture.

We tried our hand at making homemade Mozzarella (crumble style) with organic pasteurized non-homogenized milk and fresh lemon juice.

All you do is bring 2 to 3 cups of organic pasteurized milk to a soft boil, then add the juice of half a lemon. Stir and wait for the curds.

Once the process has stopped making curds, using a slotted spoon, remove the curds to cheese cloth placed over a bowl, so the whey can drain off.

We added lemon-garlic seasoning and Himalayan salt for flavor. Store cheese in a glass topped with a tight lid. Cheese is crumbly and can be used to top your favorite salads.

Listen to a NPR 2014 interview with Claudia Lucero, the author of, “One-Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chèvre, Paneer–Even Burrata. Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make in an Hour or Less!”

Click the link (opens in new window) and listen to the 3 minute interview: How To Make A Faux Cheddar In One Hour.

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/363349698/363842868

Monterey Jack

Monterey Jack is a semi-hard, cheese make from cow’s milk. It has a mild flavor and is gooey-when-melted. It is an excellent match for a deli or meat sandwich, grilled cheese sandwich, melted over casseroles and chili, and any Latin American dish that calls for cheese, like quesadillas, tacos, and enchiladas.

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on a table topThis cheese is a hard, granular cheese. In Italian the word “Grana” means “granular” and refers to a texture well-suited for grating.

The hard, granular cheese can be grated and sprinkled over pasta, soups and salads. It is used in most Italian dishes, as it adds flavor, even to Italian soups.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is aged up to 24 months, to give it that intense, complex flavors it boasts. Nutty, sweet, grassy, creamy, and fruity.

Do you know the difference between Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano? Actually, they are the same. Parmesan is the English and American form of the Italian word Parmigiano-Reggiano.

There is also evidence that in the 17th to 19th centuries Parmigiano-Reggiano was called Parmesan in Italy and France (History of Parmesan Cheese).


Some Great Recipes Using Parmesan Or Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese: National Spaghetti Day

Gouda

This cheese melts very  well when it’s a young cheese, but if it’s aged, it is best sprinkled over salads or used in casseroles. It can have a mild taste, or deep and flavorful.

Swiss Cheese

swiss cheese on a cutting board with a walnut Swiss cheese originated in Switzerland, and cow’s milk is used just about 99% of the time. There are 450 different kinds of Swiss cheeses, and are put into five categories, which are extra-hard, hard, semi-hard, semi-soft and soft.

The Swiss cheese you may be familiar with has holes, known as eyes. But not all Swiss cheese contains holes.

According to The Nibble, three types of bacteria are used in producing the types of Swiss that contain holes. The bacteria includes, Streptococcus thermophilis, Lactobacillus, and Propionibacter shermani.

In the later stages of cheese production, the bacteria will excrete the lactic acid called P. shermaniconsumes, which releases the gas, known as carbon dioxide, and in turn forms the bubbles that make the “holes” or “eyes.” The cheese industry refers to Swiss cheese without holes or eyes as “blind.”

Cheddar Cheese

cheddar cheese on a cutting board with a small ceramic bowl of jam  This cheese is hard and off-white in its natural color, and can be acidic-tasting. The orange cheddar that most of us are accustom too, is such because a spice called annatto among others is added.

Cheddar Cheese originated in the British village of Cheddar in Somerset, though this cheese is produced beyond this region today in several countries around the world.

Cheddar is great mixed in salads and eaten with crackers. It melts well and is often used in Mexican dishes like tacos and fajitas. It can be added to casseroles as well. The sharper the cheese the better the taste for your macaroni and cheese.

Blue Cheese

blue cheese on a cutting board with green grapesBlue cheese is a general made of cow’s milk, though goat’s milk can also be used. It is called Blue cheese as it has blue or blue-green mold throughout.  The blue mold in these cheeses is due to mold spores from Penicillium.

Most blue cheeses produced today are either injected with the mold or the mold is mixed right in with the curds to insure even distribution of the mold. Early blue cheese makers used bread to start the mold process and waited for the mold to spread naturally to the cheese curds (Food Reference).

This cheese has a strong effect. There’s a reason why spicy hot wings are served with blue cheese dressing. It cuts the heat well when eaten with spicy things. You can also crumble it on top of salad. It’s best used closest to its use by date because then it will be at its peak of flavor.

Pecorino

This Italian cheese is always made from sheep’s milk. The flavor is sharp, nutty and herbaceous. When using this cheese to prepare a meal, be careful about how much extra salt you add to what you’re cooking, as Pecorino can be quite salty.

A Great Recipe Using Pecorino CheeseGluten Free Rigate with Roasted Butternut Squash and Smoked Bacon

Perhaps you use these cheeses all the time, or maybe you have never given them a try. If not, purchase them and give them a flavor taste and see which ones may fancy you.

A few times a week, The Whole Foods Market (USA – U.K) will have cheese samples to try, as well as Trader Joe’s (USA) on Saturdays during there wine sample hour.

There are so many different cheeses, that there has too be one, two or more that could be your favorites.

Starting this month thru October, if your interested in World Cheese Tour classes by cheese authority Janet Fletcher, link here for more information: Napa Valley Register.

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National Meatball Day

raw meatballs on a cutting board with vegetables and herbs on wooden rustic background - National Meatball DayCloudy with a Chance of MeatballsWho remembers the movie – Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs? We personally seen the movie, as we enjoy movies with a twist of culinary action in it (other greats: No Reservations).

A meatball is a small or large ball of ground meat, especially beef, often mixed with other ingredients of choice, like breadcrumbs, eggs, and seasonings

The preparing of meatballs is an individual’s expression of culinary creativity. Everyone who loves cooking has a different meatball recipe. 

There is no rule to cooking meatballs, as they are cooked by frying, baking, steaming, or braising in sauce.

The meatball dates back all the way to between 221 BC to 207 BC in China, with their culinary – Four Joy Meatballs.

Yes, there really is true love for a meatballs. How so? Just look at the different ways of taking ground beef (or meat of choice) and preparing them into little balls.

This list is not complete, but there are many meatball recipes out there.

Do you question the hedgehog meatballs? Well, it really isn’t hedgehog, but as Anglea Day Kitchen says, “This recipe is so called, because when cooked, the rice sticks out, making them look like hedgehogs.”

Hedgehog Meatballsceramic baking dish with Hedgehog Meatballs

2 1/4 pounds ground beef (can also use chicken, turkey, lamb, or pork)

3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, finely chopped

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

salt and pepper

Sauce:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 40 ounce can of chopped tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

salt and pepper

pinch of sugar

Combine the ingredients for the meatballs and mix well. Shape into balls about the size of a golf ball. Prepare sauce, and place meatballs into an ovenproof baking dish, then pour sauce over the meatballs.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

SAUCE:
Heat the oil in a small saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, herbs, seasoning and sugar.
Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pour into a blender or food processor, and puree to a smooth sauce.
Pour the sauce over the meatballs.

Meatballs Are Not Only For Spaghetti

Spaghetti with meatballs is not an authentic Italian dish. As is bowls of olive oil set out for for dunking bread at Italian restaurants (USA), so is spaghetti served with a red sauce and topped with meatballs, both an American creation. The pasta recipe may have made its appearance in New York or New Jersey (USA) in the late 19th century.

Sue, owner and writer of “The View From Great Island” says, I love meatballs.  They’re like little soldiers, all lined up, just waiting to be of service…” She even like’s these little bite sized Bourbon Meatballs which are drenched in apricot chili bourbon sauce, and she says, “They’re perfect for the cocktail hour.”

Bourbon Meatballs on a small white plate with dipping sauce

Image credit: The View From Great Island

3/4 pound ground beef

3/4 pound ground pork

1/2 cup  Ritz Cracker, finely crushed into crumbs (you can opt for plain bread crumbs)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

lots of fresh cracked pepper

1 egg

2 tablespoon olive oil

Bourbon Sauce

1 jar apricot preserves

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoon hot chili sauce

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1/4 cup water

Set oven to 350F

Put the above ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large mixing bowl, breaking up the meat as you put it in. Mix together, using the tips of your fingers to gently combine everything without compacting the meat. Form into small 1 inch balls.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs, working in batches. Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until cooked through, about 160 degrees.

Place cooked meatballs into the sauce, and let heat through until ready to serve. Serve on a plate with toothpicks, a drizzle of sauce, and lots of napkins. Serve a bowl of sauce on the side for extra dipping.

To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a skillet and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes until thick.

Sue even makes Herbed Meatballs and says, “You can eat these meatballs on pasta, on a split French roll with sauce and melted mozzarella, or all by themselves in a little bowl.”

Yes, meatballs are not just for topping a plate of spaghetti any more.

Orange Ginger Pork Meatball SoupOrange Ginger Pork Meatball Soup

1 lb. ground pork

2 green onions

3 clove garlic, minced

1 piece (1-inch) peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped

4-5 teaspoons of orange zest

4 cups vegetable broth

8 oz. snow peas, cut into thirds at an angle

1 cup of cooked brown rice

1 cup cooked black beans

Arrange oven rack 6 inches from broiler heat source. Preheat broiler on high. Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil.

In a medium bowl, combine pork, green onions, garlic, ginger, orange zest, and 1/2 teaspoon each of Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper (both optional). Form pork mixture into bite-size meatballs (about 1 inch each).  Arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Broil 5 to 7 minutes, or until browned.

Meanwhile, in covered 5-quart sauce pot, heat broth to simmering on high. Once the broth is simmering, add snow peas, rice, beans and cooked meatballs. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through and snow peas are tender.

There’s even a – Meatball Stuffed Baked Potato – recipe found here at Homemade By Elle.

Enjoy some meatballs however you choose, this day – National Meatball Day!!

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Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas

Orecchiette with Chorizo and ChickpeasThe first time we used pasta Orecchiette was around 2009. We had seen a recipe in a food magazine using the pasta, so to the store we went. We had a hard time finding it, but our local co-op (sell’s all natural – organic foods) had the pasta. When we described the pasta (as we had forgotten the name) the sales lady new right away what we wanted. She referred to the pasta as little pope hats. Ever since Orechiette has become a staple in our pantry.

About.com talks on Italian food and describes Orechiette as a distinctive Puglian type of pasta shaped roughly like small ears, as orecchio in Italian means eat, and Orecchiette means little ears. The pasta is roughly 3/4 of an inch across, slightly domed, and the centers are thinner than the rim of the pasta. The pastas texture is soft in the middle and more chewy along the rim or outside of the pasta.

Barilla (store brand that sells Italian products) says that Orecchiette is the signature pasta of Puglia, describing Puglia as a humble farming land situated along the southeastern coast of Italy.

Here is a video posted to You-Tube of Italian women in Italy making fresh Orechiette pasta.
Now for our featured recipe: Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas, and here is what you will need.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small shallots, chopped

3/4 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casings removed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups chicken broth

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed

12 ounces Orecchiette

Garnishes:

Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley

Finely grated Parmesan and lemon zest

cooking Mexican chorizoHeat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute, stirring often, until beginning to brown and smell fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add chorizo to pan and break up with a spoon, and cook meat until browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.

adding chickpeas to meat sauceNext add tomato paste and red pepper flakes to meat mixture and mix in. Next add the broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened a bit, about 15-20 minutes. Next add the can of chickpeas, and mix in, cooking 2 minutes more to heat the chickpeas through.

adding orechiette to meat sauceMeanwhile, cook pasta according to packaged instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Next add the pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to meat sauce. Continue to cook until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Add the pasta liquid as needed. You might use the whole cup, and possibly less.

Orecchiette with Chorizo and Chickpeas in the panServe pasta topped with cilantro or parsley (your choice), Parmesan, and lemon zest.

Orecchiette with Chorizo and ChickpeasWe have had this for left overs a few times, and each time we add cilantro, cheese, and lemon zest. The zest adds great flavor to this dish. Be sure to use it.

For the side salad using candy cane beets, see our recipe here: Shredded Candy Cane and Green Apple Slaw with Pecans.

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Orecchiette with Andouille Sausage and Pesto Chipotle Sauce

Orecchiette with Andouille Sausage and Pesto
Using Italian ingredients makes for a delectable meal, and pasta orecchiette is no exception. Orecchiette according to Recipes Wikia, is a pasta typical of the Apulia (Italian: Puglia) region of Southern Italy.
Orecchiette Pasta - uncooked

The shape of the pasta is what gives it, its name. The pasta resembles a small ear.

In Italian, the word “orecchio” means “ear”, and the suffix ‘etto’ means ‘small’. The pronunciation of Orecchiette is : ohr-ay-KYEHT-ee.

In another article we noted that Andouille Sausage is thanks to French cuisine. The sausage is double smoked pork, that is once the meat is prepared it is smoked, then put into a sausage casing and smoked again.

Our featured recipe is actually a mix of two pasta recipes, which are Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage and Gluten Free Creamy Pesto Fettuccine (click links to view recipes).

Now for our featured recipe Orecchiette with Andouille Sausage and Pesto Chipotle Sauce, and here is what you will need.

16 ounces of cooked orecchiette

2 Andouille sausage links, about ½ pound, sliced

3/4 cup fresh basil pesto (link here for recipe – History of Pesto Sauce)

2 teaspoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

15 symphony cherry tomatoes (about), sliced in half to measure 1 cup

1 pound green beans, trimmed, cut in half

Prepare basil pesto, and add the 2 teaspoons of adobe sauce to one cup of the pesto (get ingredients by following link above). Or if you are using your favorite store bought brand (preferably in a jar) remove one cup and mix in the adobe sauce. Set prepared pesto aside.

If you have any left over basil pesto sauce, store in a glass jar and pour a thin layer of olive oil over top of pesto to keep it from browning, and place a lid on jar and tighten. The pesto should keep in cooler for 7 to 10 days. Pesto sauce makes a great spread for sandwiches as well.

fresh green beans and cherry tomatoesPrepare green beans and symphony of cherry tomatoes and set aside.

adding greens beans to pot of  boiling water with Orecchiette pastaCook pasta according to package instructions. Last three minutes of cooking time for pasta, add prepared green beans.

cooked Orecchiette and green beansDrain, but do not rinse. Set aside.

adding Andouille to pastaSlice sausage into 1/2 inch slices. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, add meat and move about until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan.

In the same large skillet, add the pasta green bean mix, the cup of pesto, sausage, and mix until coated with pesto chipotle sauce.

Orecchiette with Andouille Sausage and Pesto

Plate and serve.

 

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The History of Pesto Sauce

Pesto Sauce

Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy, and from the time the Italians invented pesto it has always been prepared with crushed garlic, basil, and European pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and including Fiore Sardo, a cheese made from sheep’s milk.

It is possible the mineral-rich seaside soil and temperate climate of Liguria is why pesto sauce has  become a beloved sauce in northeren Italy, as they have the perfect conditions for growing basil.

The Meaning of Pesto

Different Materials to make Mortars and Pestles

Click To Enlarge For Better Viewing

The Italian word for pesto: pestare, means to pound, or to crush. Pesto was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle.

The ingredients were pounded or crushed with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar.

The book “Pesto Genovese: an Ageless Benchmark of Great Italian Cuisine,” writes that the ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, prepared by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together.

Because the term pesto is a generic word for anything that is made by pounding or crushing, that leaves the original pesto sauce recipe open to flexible and differing ways to prepare the sauce.

Flexible Ways to Prepare Pesto Sauce

In accent Provence, France the pesto was prepared without using pine nuts, as no pine trees grow there to provide the nuts. Sometimes almonds are used instead of pine nuts, and mint leaves are mixed in with the basil leaves. Some have even used spinach or cilantro in place of basil.

grated Asiago cheese

Grated Asiago Cheese

The interchangeable use of the nuts and greens just depends on your taste. In our kitchen at Splendid Recipes and More, we have used pecans in place of pine nuts, and almost always use Asiago cheese in place of the traditional Parmesan cheese.

Here’s the recipe for the traditional pesto sauce, though as we said, at Splendid Recipes and More, we use Asiago cheese. Here is what you will need.

Pesto Sauce - over head shot2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, no stems

¼ cup pine nuts

2 large garlic cloves

½ cup grated Romano/Parmesan or Asiago cheese

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, except oil, and pulse. Start to add oil slowly, pulsing until ingredients form a smooth paste.

Note: If you do not use right away, or there are left overs, store in a jar with a layer of olive oil on top to prevent discoloration, and top jar with a tight lid and store in the refrigerator. Will store for 3 to 5 days.

Pesto is no doubt one of the worlds most loved sauces, next to the mayonnaise and the Mexican traditional salsa.

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National Tortellini Day

National Tortellini Day

collage-of-places-in-modena-italyTortellini is a pasta that has made centuries of tradition for all the families that live in an Italian province called Modena.

The pasta is made on special occasions, using recipes handed down from one generation to another.

It is said the origins of tortellini dates back to the early 1600’s.

There is doubt and speculation as to who the person or persons are that invented the pasta.

Italian food is romantic

Today, February 13th is National Tortellini Day in the United States, according to The Nibble.

Italian food represents romance, and can bring out the romantic affection in anyone.

How is Tortellini Made

Here is a short video to demonstrate how tortellini is made. The video will present the preparation of Tortellini Bolognesi.

 

Nutritional Benefits of Tortellini 

Regular cheese tortellini, though it is pasta made from flour does have some nutritional benefits, like 72 mg of potassium, 20 mg of magnesium, also some small amounts of vitamin-A, iron and vitamin B-12 per 3/4 of a cup serving.

Recent studies have shown that a deficiency in vitamin B-12 can be associated with feelings of fatigue and low energy, including depression, irritability, anxiety, and dementia. So let’s eat some Tortellini.

Here’s three recipes from our kitchen to celebrate National Tortellini Day:

Mushroom Tortellini with Asparagus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Tortellini with Asparagus

Plated close up of Tortellini and Summer Sausage with Tomato Basil Vinagrette

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tortellini and Summer Sausage with Tomato Basil Vinaigrette

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

 

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Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti CarbonaraAs with many recipes, the origins of the dish Spaghetti Carbonara and its name are uncertain or ambiguous. There are countless speculations as to the origin of the name, which some have concluded the name Spaghetti Carbonara may be more recent than the dish itself.

The name is derived from carbonaro, Italian for charcoal burner. Some believe the dish was first made as a pasta meal for Italian charcoal workers. Another theory is American soldiers who combined bacon and eggs with pasta, after they had occupied Italy in the post-war era.

Yet another theory is Ippolito Cavalcanti a highly influential chef of nineteenth-century and Neapolitan cook book author, “Cucina Teorico-Pratica” (1839) which included a recipe for pasta with eggs and cheese.

The third edition book “On Cooking” (2003) written by  Sarah Labensky, writes about techniques from expert chefs., and included are the variations of Spaghetti Carbonara. She says outside of Italy may chefs include the addition of other ingredients with Spaghetti Carbonara, such as peas, broccoli, mushrooms, or other vegetables.

Here at Splendid Recipes and More we tried to stick to the original recipe, though we did not include any black pepper. Here is what you will need.

1 lb. spaghetti

12 slices thick bacon, cut into 1 inch slices

4 large eggs

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste (optional)

boiling water to cook pastaCook the spaghetti according package instructions. In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, combined the eggs, cream, and cheese, then set aside.

cutting bacan for Spaghetti CarbonaraNext, prepare bacon, and in a large skillet, cook cut bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate, and set aside.

cooked pastaDrain pasta, leaving some water clinging to it. Do not rinse pasta, but quickly add hot pasta back to a heated skillet and add the egg mixture along with the bacon, and toss to combine. The heat from the hot pasta will cook the eggs, though you don’t want the eggs to have a scrambled look.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Plate Spaghetti Carbonara on to a platter and serve immediately. You can sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, if you desire.

 

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