The more I travel, the less I bring back with me. (Sadly, it doesn’t work in reverse — I’m always traveling with more than I need.) In part it’s a reaction to my olive oil debacle. Many years ago, Michael and I fell in love with an olive oil we tasted in Paris, and so we bought a six-pack, had it wrapped well, labeled it fragile on every surface and and sent it through with our luggage. What were we thinking? Of course a couple of bottles broke, explaining why the bags that circled the carrousel had glistening Rorschach-like spots on them. But to add insult to injury, the following day, when we went shopping down the street at Zabar’s, we found the exact same olive oil and at almost the same price. Two lessons learned: 1) everything fragile gets carried on (we were newby travelers then); and 2) only buy things you can’t easily get at home (which, since we live in New York City, narrows our shopping list considerably).
But all bets are off when it comes to cheese (… and butter … and kitchen tools … and anything with a rooster), which is how we returned home with a wheel of Cabrales, straight from Asturias, the Spanish region it calls home, and ended up slicing it into a salad and, as always happens when you return with food, bringing back memories of our trip.
Cabrales is an artisanally made blue cheese much in the vein (oops, sorry) of France’s Roquefort. Like Roquefort, it is aged in caves, aging and blueing from the outside in, and brought to market wrapped in heavy foil. While Roquefort is made with sheep milk, Cabrales is made with a combination of sheep, goat and cow milk. Both cheeses are pungent, salty and slightly crumbly. And both go well with something a little sweet: dried fruit, honey, a dot of jam or a wine with some residual sugar, which is what we had on hand, quite accidently, yesterday. Last night a friend brought an Alsatian Pinot Gris to dinner, one he bought expecting it to be light and bright, but which, instead, was golden and syrupy and just right with the taste-of- Spain salad I’d made.