Year of Grace, Day 211. Discovering Tetilla: A Galician cheese

We drove along the coast yesterday through 3 towns: Tres Calas, St. Jordi, and Calafat.

St Jordi

St Jordi

The beach at Calafat, the cloudbank on the horizon is over the Mallorcan Islands.

The beach at Calafat, the low cloudbank on the horizon denotes the Mallorcan Islands.

And on the way back, we checked out the Mercadona, a sprawling supermarket just outside Ametlla de Mar. Until now, we’ve been buying at the Mercat Central and the local Spar supermarket close to the flat, as we prefer walking when doing our shopping. Besides learning that sweet corn is called “Blatt de Moro” in Catalan (blatt = wheat), we bought a curiously shaped cheese called Tetilla, its shape recalling a part of the female anatomy has given it its name. Our curiosity was rewarded by its attractive and distinctive flavour: creamy and buttery with a mild undercurrent of sourness, unlike any other cheese we’ve eaten. Yet another culinary discovery.

Tetilla is best eaten within a few weeks, and because of its distinctiveness to Galicia, it has a “Denominación de Origen Protegida.” Aside from eating it on its own, I tried Tetilla as a melted topping on my improvisation of the Mallorcan dish, Tumbet, which is similar to other Mediterranean dishes, such as Ratatouille, that feature aubergines, tomatoes, and olive oil. Even at a very low temperature (I’d turned the oven off before deciding on a last-minute elaboration on the Tumbet), the slices of Tetilla melted readily. And they did complement the vegetables very nicely. Even without the cheese, this is a scrumptious dish.

An Improvised Tumbet — A Baked Aubergine Dish
½ cup (or more) virgin olive oil (I used the local Arbequina variety)
2 large aubergines, sliced into 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick rings (these do not need to be presalted – the usual procedure to rid aubergines of bitterness; these were not at all bitter)
1 large onion, sliced into half rings
4–6 fat cloves garlic, chopped (less if you’re not a fan)
1 red bell pepper, sliced into half rings
1.5 – 2 cups chopped juicy tomatoes, fresh or canned (I used a 400 g can)
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped parsley
5–6 slices of Tetilla or other melting cheese (optional)
5–6 fresh large basil leaves, torn in half

Procedure
In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil at medium heat and quickly fry the aubergine slices, one layer at a time. They do not need to brown. Set them aside.
Add more olive oil as needed, as aubergines absorb a lot of oil.
Once the aubergines are all fried, fry the onions gently over low heat and when wilted, add the garlic, stir-frying until aromatic.
Stir in the red pepper slices, tomatoes, and parsley; season to taste, and cover.
Let the tomato mixture simmer for about 5 minutes and turn off the heat.
In a baking pan or casserole, arrange the aubergine slices in overlapping rows.
Salt and pepper them, then cover them with the tomato sauce.
Place in the middle shelf of the oven and bake at 200°C (~375°F) for 12 -15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling up the sides and the aubergines are tender (check with the tip of a knife or fork – if the knife goes through without resistance, the aubergines are ready).
Turn off the oven, and add slices of Tetilla or other melting cheese such as Mozzarella on top. Close the oven door: there should be enough heat to melt the cheese.
When the cheese has melted, remove from the oven and garnish with basil.
Serve at once. We partnered this with locally grown short-grain rice from the Ebro Delta, but a baguette or other crusty bread is also good for sopping up the copious and delicious juices. A local, unpretentious white wine from Nulles,Tarragona, called Adernats Blanc, also went well with it.

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