I want to share a recent discovery. My cheese friend Paola just returned from a trip to her homeland in Italy and sent me a delicious recipe for Focaccia col formaggio. Here is what she says:
Focaccia col formaggio is a typical dish that originated in Recco, a small town located on the Italian Riviera very close to Genoa, Liguria.
It seems 'focaccia col formaggio' was already known in Liguria at the time of the crusades in 1200. History books relate that it was offered to soldiers before their departure from San Frattuoso Abbey located in an enchanting tiny village close to Portofino in Riviera Ligure.
Being such a popular and delicious dish, you can find it in many places throughout Liguria - even in bakeries. However, in my opinion the best version is the one you eat sitting down in a focacceria.
I just started eating Crescenza, in a serious way. It's actually called Crescenza Stracchino (or just Stracchino), and it's a soft-ripened cow's milk cheese without a rind that's bright, clean and quite undiscovered as a cheese. It originated in northern Italy and was named Stracchino because it was made from the milk of the "stracca" (tired) cows making their way up the mountains. Oddly, the resulting milk from this hard work is very rich. Domestic versions use whole, pasteurized milk that resemble this.
What's it like? It's halfway between cream cheese and fresh mozzarella in taste and consistency. It's simple and young, and it comes in sealed plastic because the whey hasn't been drained out completely (which is why it's so soft and runny).
How to eat it? On toast, with honey or jam. On pizza (put it on at the very end, like ricotta). Best of all, stir it into polenta, or put a dollop into tomato soup or on top of pasta. It melts beautifully, making everything it melds with extra creamy and luscious. Comfort food in all kinds of weather.
Who makes it in the U.S.? Belgioioso Cheese, from Wisconsin, and Bellwether Farms, California. Look for it!