In a recent survey conducted by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), nearly half of the consumers surveyed (48 percent) said they cook Mexican food at home and it’s predicted that the Mexican/Hispanic food segment will continue to grow moderately (2 percent annually) through 2016. (Mintel, 2010).
Grocery stores are reflecting this trend. Consumers now have so many choices of authentic ingredients to choose from when planning their meals. With cheese and dairy products playing such an integral part of Latin cuisine, from fresh crema and drinkable yogurt to fresh cheeses, melting cheeses and aged cheeses, the choices in the dairy aisle are abundant with authentic products but it can be confusing for the non-Latina consumer which product to use. A smart choice is to look to the leader — California is not only the number one dairy state but also the country’s leading producer of Hispanic-style cheeses and dairy products. There are over two dozen types of Hispanic-style cheeses that carry the Real California Cheese seal, certifying they are natural cheeses made in California exclusively from California milk.
“Dairy is very important in the Latin culture because it not only offers flavor and authenticity but also serves as an affordable source of protein,” says Latina food blogger, Nicole Marie Presley of PresleysPantry.com. “With the availability of authentic Hispanic-style dairy products in almost every grocery store, it’s so easy to meld Latin and American cultures to create delicious results.”
To help with the confusion on which cheese to choose, the CMAB has assembled recipes, usage tips, trends and experts to illustrate the versatility and delicious flavor of Hispanic-style dairy products for both Latin-influenced and American dishes. When using Hispanic-style dairy products keep these tips in mind:
- Fresh cheeses, like Queso Blanco, Queso Fresco and Panela, soften when heated but don’t melt, so you can use them to make dishes like chiles rellenos with a soft, creamy filling that won’t run out onto the plate.
- Melting cheeses, like Queso Quesadilla, Oaxaca and Asadero, are creamy and mild, excellent for eating as a snack. They’re the preferred cheeses for quesadillas, queso fundido and tacos, but they’re also great for topping burgers and pizza.
- Hard cheeses like Cotija can be crumbled or grated for a garnish, or mixed into a casserole or sauce for added flavor.
- Crema (also called Crema Mexicana) is very versatile and can be used as a sauce, a base for sweet or savory flavors or drizzled on top of spicy ingredients to cut the heat.
From non-traditional uses such as pizzas and lasagnas to more typical dishes like zesty enchiladas and tacos, Real California Hispanic-style cheeses and dairy products lend rich, creamy flavor and authenticity to Latin influenced dishes.
Viva Hispanic-style dairy!