It may rival goat cheese, feta, and ricotta as one of the best cheeses to have on hand during hot summer months, when lighter, fresh cheeses make the best accompaniment to grilled food and summer vegetables.
So what is queso fresco and how can you incorporate it into your cooking?
Queso fresco — "fresh cheese" — is a Mexican cheese, traditionally made from raw cow milk or a combination of cow and goat milk. In the States, we'll most likely find pasteurized versions.
The flavor is pretty innocuous — fresh, bright, milky, and mild — but is a perfect complement to a variety of dishes, by either providing contrast to a heavier dish like enchiladas or huevos rancheros, or by complementing something equally light, like salads or grilled vegetables. Queso fresco has a trademark salty-sour kick, and while it's creamy by nature of its freshness, it's not rich or buttery tasting.
The make process is simple: milk is acidified and left to curdle, and then strained in cheesecloth and pressed. The cheese can be sold immediately or is aged for a few days before being packaged for sale. Traditional queso fresco won't hold very long, but what we'd find in grocery stores can, since the cheese is cryovacked in plastic.
Try queso fresco in place of feta or even goat cheese. It's great with egg dishes or as a garnish on chilled summer soups. One of our favorite ways to serve it is with watermelon and mint, for a light appetizer or dessert. Even better is with corn on the cob, lime, and butter (see below).
• Find it! Queso Fresco (plus queso blanco and queso blanco with chiles and epazote), $14.90 /lb at Mozzarella Company
(Image: Mozzarella Company)