Farmers’ Market Fresh (Part 2): Artisan Cheese

If there’s anything my boyfriend and I are certain to come home with from the market on Sundays, it’s cheese. Whether it’s creamy chevre, smoky mozzarella or my personal favorite, ricotta, we can almost always agree that we need more cheese (even though we definitely don’t.)

One of the most memorable moments from early in our relationship was when I had attempted to reinvent a favorite but simplistic dish from my childhood, and when I went to serve it, I found he had smothered it with shredded cheddar! It was tasty, of course, but I was crestfallen — it wasn’t what I was going for — and he felt terrible. That was the moment I discovered the true depths of his love of cheese; though I will never rival his adoration for the stuff, I’m definitely a fan of it myself. I can find a way to work ricotta into any meal, given half an excuse.

The great thing about farmers markets is that it gives small, family-owned dairies the opportunity to create some really remarkable products and sell them to a broader audience, and it gives consumers access to the kind of quality dairy products you can otherwise only find in specialty stores, often at higher cost. There’s also something satisfying about knowing your money is going directly to the person or people who made the product you’re buying, rather than having a percentage shaved off here and there by various middlemen.

This post doesn’t really contain any recipes, per se. What follows are simply serving suggestions, with the hope that one of these dishes will inspire you to get creative in your own kitchen with some locally-made cheese from your favorite farm stand or market. These are simple dishes my boyfriend and I have prepared in our home, and you can easily recreate in your own.

Probably the easiest cheese to work with is chevre; I mentioned it in my previous market fresh post, in a pasta salad. It also spreads well onto pretty much anything you can imagine: bias-cut slices of toasted baguette as an easy appetizer, for instance, or in the case of this dish I prepared, a pounded-out cut of inexpensive beef (a marinating steak) which I then rolled up, roasted and sliced.

This roulade was made with “Sensational” chevre from Olde Oak Farm in Maxfield.

The most unique cheese we’ve purchased recently was halloumi, an unripened, brined cheese, typically made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. It fries and grills beautifully, getting brown and crispy on the outside and just a bit melty on the inside. I like to serve it with roasted veggies, such as zucchini and eggplant, and pan-fried beef tips or Italian sausage.

Halloumi from Lor Farm in Thorndike, with roasted zucchini and pan-fried Italian sausage, on a side-split hot dog roll.

Halloumi from Lor Farm in Thorndike, with roasted zucchini and eggplant strips, and pan-fried sirloin tips.

You can also, at some markets, find artisan sausages; we made a pizza with chorizo from Smith’s Farm Smokehouse in Monroe and smoked mozzarella from Olde Oak Farm in Maxfield, as well as some sliced baby bella mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.

And finally, my favorite cheese of all, ricotta. I made these stuffed shells with sauteed, chopped garlic scapes, spinach and mushrooms when my sister (who tries to eat vegetarian as often as possible) was visiting. Mixed with fresh ricotta and a few farm-fresh eggs from Common Wealth Farm, it made a great filling that you could put in shells, lasagna or canneloni.

Though it never made it into any dishes for cooking, the ricotta salata from Siberia Farms in Hermon deserves a mention as well. It’s firm and has a great salty flavor. We ended up snacking on it until there wasn’t enough left to cook with, and then we made what was left disappear. I did mention we like cheese, right?

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Fia Fortune

About Fia Fortune

Fia Fortune is a home cook who enjoys gardening, creating recipes for her two blogs, cooking for herself and her boyfriend, and trying to keep up with their blended family of four cats.