High-temperature cheeses offer several benefits. Because they have high melting points, they only soften when cooked, and they often have a smooth consistency and creamy texture. They can withstand high temperatures as a result of high-salt, high-acid or high-whey content. High-temperature cheeses are suited for most dry heat cooking methods, including grilling, roasting, broiling and frying.
Many fresh cheeses can sustain high temperatures; their high-salt content acts as a preservative and prevents them from melting. Queso fresco, Indian paneer and several types of goat cheese fall into the “fresh” category.
Queso fresco has a creamy consistency and soft texture, similar to whipped cream cheese, and is very salty. Indian paneer, a cheese of South Asian origin, has several regional variations, although all have high-acid content. Well-made paneer has an exceptionally white color, a velvety consistency and high density, which results from wringing the whey from the curd with cheesecloth.
Fresh goat cheese, or chevre, has a creamy texture, an off-white color and a mild nutty flavor. Fresh goat cheese seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and sauteed in olive oil pairs well with a salad of fresh summer greens.
Halloumi is perhaps the most versatile high-temperature cheese. It has a high melting point and high protein content, and works well with several cooking methods, most notably grilling and frying. It is made primarily from sheep’s and goat’s milk, and it has a low-acid content as well as moderate-saltiness when unripened. Halloumi often has a taste redolent of mint, as it is traditionally stored in mint leaves, which act as a preservative.
Halloumi can be eaten out-of-hand, and is often crumpled on cold preparations, such as salads, and hot items, such as couscous. A simple, yet elegant, preparation of Halloumi entails seasoning it to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, sauteing it to a golden color and finishing it with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Ricotta is a traditional Italian fresh sheep’s milk cheese made from the curd of Pecorino-Romano, a hard cheese similar in taste and texture to Parmigiano-Regianno. It has a high melting point and is commonly fried or baked. It is often used in lasagna preparations, as it holds its texture and maintains its consistency when exposed to baking temperatures. It has a mild taste, little saltiness and a tangy flavor from a short (12- to 24-hour) fermentation process.
Feta cheese, like Halloumi, is of Mediterranean origin, and is commonly grilled or fried. It has a very salty taste, a mild tartness and a coarse texture. In the classic preparation feta skhara, slices of feta are topped with tomatoes, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, olive oil and oregano, wrapped in a grape leaf and grilled or roasted.