Cheese doesn’t last long in our refrigerator. I just need a little protein, is what I usually tell myself as I sneak ever-increasing slices of everything from Camembert to Colby-Jack. Cheese left in our fridge isn’t snacked on, it is ravaged, and usually in just a matter of days. Huzzybee also seems to have this same “need for protein” that I do, and Small Boy, if given a piece of cheese, will abandon his healthy meal of whole wheat toast and tomatoes and yip like a hyena until I toss more of the yellow stuff on his high chair tray. I had almost given up buying this dairy delicacy all together when it occurred to me that I would never idly snack on a piece of hard, stinky parmesan*, and thus another refrigerator non-essential was discovered.
I am not talking about pre-shredded cheese in a resealable plastic bag, and if your thoughts wandered over to that green can of powdered chemical crap that is shaken over a reeking plate of spaghetti and Prego sauce then I beg you to reconsider your definition of “cheese”. Yes, the pressurized green can of cheese dandruff is less expensive, but a hard block of parmesan is a refrigerator investment that will usually last a reeeeeeally long time in your fridge (some sources say over 9 months). It has been named one of the 12 power foods for women by Shape magazine and it is one of the handiest ingredients for quick, simple, and tasty meals. Forget shredded over spaghetti! Toss a handful of freshly grated parmesan into your salad, sprinkle it over roast chicken, grate it over apple slices, grilled asparagus, roasted cauliflower, or any other hearty veggie that needs a culinary lift.
Small Boy is learning to enjoy parmesan and gave his sticky-fingered seal of approval to this quick toddler lunch. It’s not sophisticated, but it’s fast and tasty.
1/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan
3 tbl olive oil
1/4 cup diced onions
1 cup chopped zucchini and yellow squash
A handful of dried pasta
Fresh basil leaves (or 1 tsp dried basil)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Fill a pot with water, some salt and a little oil for the pasta. I used angel hair pasts because it cooks quickly, but any kind of pasta will work. While the water boils/pasts cooks heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skilled and lightly saute the onions and squashes until they are tender. If you are using dried basil add it to the sauté with a little pepper. Set aside and drain the pasta, returning it to the pot and tossing with the remaining olive oil. Add sauteed onions and squash, fresh basil leaves, tomatoes, and parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste.
*I am using the term “parmesan” very liberally here because I am writing this blog post at 5 a.m. and I am too sleepy to go into all of the specifics of why you must be careful with the name of this cheese and how American companies are need to be more careful how they label, etc. Thank God we have people like Larry Olmsted who writes about parmesan cheese impostors (and probably gets paid). Check out his article on the subject here.