Idiazábal, smoked Spainish cheese, is marinated in a rosemary-thyme-infused oil seasoned with garlic and black pepper. A simple snack or tapas.
Spanish cheeses are as varied as they are exquisite. From a smoky Idiazábal to the red-wine-infused Murcia al vino. In Asturias, the blue cheeses range from the powerful Cabrales to the creamy, delicate Gamonedo. In the plains of La Mancha, they make the classic Manchego — perhaps Spain’s best-known cheese. Such variety helps to make Spanish cheese an exceptionally versatile part of our cuisine.
Idiazábal, the national cheese of the Basque country, is made from sheep’s milk and is usually smoked, which gives it an unusual flavor and aroma. To many, it’s the best cheese produced in Spain. This marinade makes the cheese very juicy and flavorful. It’s a tapa that you see in many bars across Spain because it’s simple to create and it keeps the cheese well.
This would work well with any semi-hard cheese, if you can’t find Idiazábal. Add any of your favorite herbs — chances are that it will be great.–José Andrés
Marinated Idiazábal Cheese with Rosemary
- Split open the garlic cloves by placing them on a chopping board and pressing down hard on them with the base of your hand or with the flat side of a knife.
- Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, coating the cheese thoroughly in the oil and herbs.
- Cover the bowl and leave it overnight at room temperature.
- Spear the cheese cubes on toothpicks and serve them on a plate.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Idiazábal cheese is worth discovering even before it’s marinated for this tapa recipe. It wasn’t difficult to locate, so I purchased it along with Manchego and smoked Gouda, two of the cheeses mentioned as viable substitutes. Though the smoked Gouda was very good, and the Manchego excellent, the Idiazábal cheese far outshone them, in part because it’s such a unique ingredient: its quiet smokiness marries perfectly with the garlic-herb marinade, and its texture does become what Andrés intends—juicy and flavorful.
The recipe’s accompanying photograph appeared to depict a fresh leaf, so I went ahead and used one. Not only do the fresh leaves impart better flavor, but their bright dark green makes for a more appealing presentation. I also invested in the Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, as noted in the ingredients list.
I served this in a bowl rather than a plate, keeping the cheese cubes marinating throughout the serving time for the buffet where I presented this trio of cheeses. Had I been serving this as an appetizer or as part of a tapas meal, I might have gone the plated route, but this approach did retain the fresh look and taste of the cheese.
Originally published April 16, 2005