In Support Of Cheese As The Star Of The Meal

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Quick reminder to all observers of Meatless Monday: when it is 18 degrees outside, please don't misinterpret this day of thoughtful consumption as instructions to go all crunchy and not cook or season your food. If you eat a vegan kale salad for lunch, you will stay frozen all day. Or is it just me who feels a lot better with a belly full of cheese?

Quick side note: praise the food gods for blessing my guts with the ability to process lactose. Amen. Hey, it's a day of thoughtful consumption, there are people out there who can't have chicken parm. Ugh, stupid Meatless Monday with no chicken parm.

Okay, before I get all bitter and tempted to screw the whole thing and go get a sausage and egg sandwich, the point of today's column was that I made this vegetarian squash soup recipe we posted last week from superb recent release Cowgirl Creamery Cooks. It was beyond delicious: crookneck squash is in high season and the floating island of creamy, tangy, earthy Humboldt Fog (one of the greatest beer-pairing cheeses on earth, according to my kid brother) was, well, the star of the party. I don't know how else to put it. The edges melted into the soup. The center got soft enough to provide a few bites on its own. The layer of ash. The layer of ash!!!

Then without thinking maybe lay off the cheese for a night (I added way more than the recommended ounce and a half per bowl), I ended up making saag paneer — Indian spinach and cheese curry — for dinner. Once, at an Indian restaurant, I realized the chef had subbed cubed tofu in for paneer and I literally lost my mind, went back to the kitchen and lectured him.

At first he was like get the hell out of my kitchen you crazy vaguely Indian harpie, but then I calmly explained that the Hindu god of not substituting things for cheese would bring upon wrath if he substituted tofu for paneer, and for shame, I remand restitutionary rasmalai immediately (which is also made of cheese). I get really worked up over being cheated out of cheese. If you have the same pet peeve, might I suggest we be friends and that you make these recipes for a fully satisfactory vegetarian winter lunch?

In conclusion, eat cheese, do not substitute tofu for said cheese, and may the Hindu god of not substituting things for cheese sprinkle luck on you like so much shredded cheddar. I'm posting a recipe for raclette today to really drive this point home.

More cheese for lunch on Food Republic: