I discovered Cotija cheese several years ago when I hosted my husband’s 40th birthday party, which had a Mexican theme and was catered by Tacolicious, a fantastic California-style taqueria in San Francisco. Cotija has become a staple in my house ever since. Cotija is a cow’s milk cheese named for the small Mexican town in which it is made, Cotija, Michoacan. Cotija comes in two types: “El queso Cotija de Montaña” or “grain cheese” which is dry, firm and on the salty side. That is the version I tend to use. The other type is “Tajo”, which is moister and fattier, and very similar to Greek feta cheese.
Readily available in most grocery stores, Cotija typically ages for 100-362 days. Unlike most cheeses out there, this one is inexpensive and does not spoil quickly. This delicious cheese is made by milling the curds into small pieces before pressing and aging. When cooked, it softens slightly, but does not otherwise change its shape or consistency. In the mouth, the cheese has a slightly grainy consistency, which can add to the texture of dishes. This cheese can be purchased in small rounds or brick-like blocks. It can add a real burst of flavor to simple roasted vegetables. Its versatility is remarkable and I think it is more interesting and flavorful than feta or goat cheese that are often added to salads.
I am a big vegetable fan and I credit that to my mom. Looking back on what we know now, I ate a lot of bad stuff growing up. But my mom always served fresh vegetables and I quickly learned to appreciate them. It was not until later in life that I discovered my preference for roasted vegetables. Now, I roast absolutely everything. One of the things I love about a roasted vegetable is the striking color variation. You get crispy darker outer portions with beautiful vibrant greens, yellows and oranges mixed in. If you don’t make the mistake of overcooking the vegetables, you also get great texture variation. In addition, roasting vegetables is surprisingly easy. Through them on a sheet tray; season lightly; put them in the oven; and they are basically out of mind. This I welcome. I typically roast my vegetables at high heat for a short period of time. Convection ovens work great for this. Cotija is my secret weapon. I crumble it up and garnish roasted brussels sprouts, asparagus and corn with this wonderful cheese. Yet I don’t stop there, since cheese makes everything better….Cotija is also great on tacos, nachos, baked potatoes, steamed artichokes, salads, shrimp dishes, and almost any soup out there.
Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts + Cotija
- 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, cleaned
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Step 2 Trim the ends of the brussels sprouts, pull off and discard any yellow outer leaves and slice in half lengthwise.
- Step 3 Place brussels sprouts on a sheet tray and toss to coat with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Step 4 Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and roast for about 25 minutes, or until you start to see coloration. Shake the pan halfway through cooking to help brown the sprouts more evenly.
- Step 5 Remove the brussels sprouts from the oven and cool slightly. Place in a serving bowl and top with crumbled Cotija cheese. Serve warm.