It’s a parmesan party! Literally. Well, it was.

Earlier this month I was invited to a food writer education event hosted by Parmigiano Reggiano Academy (best “school” ever??) at one of my favorite places in Austin, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. You guys. It was SO. MUCH. CHEESE.

Austin Parmigiano Reggiano Academy Bites

Not only did we get to sample wine & aged parm pairings and enjoy parmesan-infused bites from Chef Andrew Curren (superstar of ELM Group), but all of us students got to experience a full-blown cheese tasting. Similar to a wine tasting, but – you guessed it – cheese.

Parmigiano Reggiano Block

Since I am a good cheese student, I came away with a lot of new knowledge. Not to mention a kick-ass gift bag full of parmesan cheese wedges. Some of my favorite tidbits…

  • Parmigiano Reggiano is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, meaning it’s linked so a specific area of origin and only products from said origin can be a true Parmigiano Reggiano. In this case, we are looking at the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the west of the Reno River, and Mantua to the east of the Po River. Whew. Specific.
  • Parm cows are milked twice a day and the milk is taken to the cheese house within 2 hours of milking.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano is always made by hand and it a very laborious, traditional process.
  • Look for a certification mark! Only approved Parm wheels get an oval marking reading “Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio Tutela”
  • Very interesting: Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the most highly digestible cheeses and its proteins can quickly be utilized by the body. Athletes in Europe actually pop chunks of PR right before a race, etc.

Needless to say, I came away from this event with a huge appreciation for Parmigiano Reggiano. I mean, I always loved parmesan cheese, but learning about the tradition, care, and craftsmanship that goes into it was really something. I guess we could say I’ve been motivated to take my dedication to working on my night cheese to a whole new level.

Last night I was finally feeling fall-ish (even though it’s still in the 90s here in Austin) and wanted to do a warm kale salad. I’d usually use a soft cheese like blue or goat in a recipe like this, but since there are so many wonderful chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano now in my possession, I decided to incorporate some of the 24-month aged parm.  The result? Amazing, duh.

Warm Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato and Aged Parmesan

Warm Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Aged Parmigiano Reggiano

3 cups kale, roughly chopped or hand-torn
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 avocado, cubed
2 cups crimini mushrooms (or your favorite wild mushrooms), quartered
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I like using aged but pick your favorite. The more aged, the stronger the flavor.
olive oil or coconut oil
cracked black pepper, sea salt, & chipotle powder to taste

juice of 1/2 lemon
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
cracked black pepper & sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Toss your sweet potato chunks in a glug of olive oil or melted coconut oil and a pinch of sea salt, black pepper, and chipotle powder. Toss ’em in the oven and let them roast for about 25-30 minutes, gently tossing halfway through.

Put a small skillet over medium heat and add a bit more oil and the sliced onions. Once they start browning, add the mushrooms and let them hang out on medium, slowing caramelizing, while you put together the rest of the salad. Stir occasionally.

In the meantime, massage your dressing into your kale and add more lemon, vinegar, etc. to taste. If you like your salads a little sweeter you could also add a touch of honey or agave.

After the potatoes are cooked through, let them cool for about five minutes then add them to the kale along with the avocado, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. Toss gently and add most of your pumpkin seeds and parmesan. Toss again and separate into 2-4 portions (2 portions for main course, 4 portions if this is your side). Top with more shredded parm and pumpkin seeds!

Warm Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato and Parmesan

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