This has a taste all its own, something like a cross between Swiss and Parmesan? While I'm not sure if that's a good description, Asiago is a wonderful flavor enhancer in many dishes.
For certain results, there's no substitute for bleu cheese, at least not that I've found. It's unsurpassed for a good combination of texture and tang.
We use extra sharp cheddar almost exclusively. Cabot makes a wonderful one and uses vegetable, rather than animal, derived enzymes to produce it. When Cabot is on special we almost always buy it.
Some preparations call for sliced cheese, plain and simple, of any number of particular varieties.
We use cream cheese in various ways. However, most often it is an ingredient in some kind of baked goods. Cream cheese is certainly a staple item in our kitchen.
Hard boiled eggs are used in such a variety of ways, from appetizers through desserts. Used whole, or sometimes separated, they add a unique taste and richness for which there is no substitute.
What a versatile ingredient the egg is. The white separated from the yolk does wonders for a variety of dishes. White cakes, cake frostings, meringues, and a number of other dishes depend on the virtures of well-whipped-whites. If you are making a recipe which requires egg yolks but not whites, there is a simple way to save the whites for a future use. Place the unneeded whites in a freezer-worthy container. Leave the container in the freezer. When you plan to use the whites, let them defrost to room temperature and proceed to use them according to the recipe directions. One large sized egg white is a scant quarter cup. Also, many recipes give ingredient measures by liquid ounces. In that case, the whites may be measured in a glass measure.
I use egg yolks mostly for certain baked items. However, some sauces and puddings are much enhanced with egg yolks. The yolks, when cooked, also serve as a thickener. One does need to be careful to heat them very gently, since they will curdle and separate if overheated. Once or twice, when pressed, and when the yolks indeed did curdle just slightly, I ran the mixture through the food processor to smooth is out. The result was very acceptable, though not at its best.
We make every effort to purchase "cage free" eggs, that is eggs hatched from chickens which are allowed to roam free. I used to buy eggs from a local resident who had her own chickens. Since that opportunity is no longer available, I have taken to buying eggs which are labeled as hatched from "cage free" chickens as a second best. I miss buying them straight from "the farm" and hope to once again find such a source. There is a difference in the quality of egg as well as a greater confidence in the care of the animals. I have not chosen to give up the use of eggs and continue to find them a very necessary ingredient in our kitchen.
While I don't use this often, when I do there are no subsitutes, such as in pumpkin pie.
This is a wonderful cheese something like Swiss in texture, and, even in flavor except that is has a distinct tang instead of sweetness, without a heavy aftertaste. I particularly enjoy using it in baked dishes, such as Christmas Eve Kuchen.
We use half and half in a number of sauces. Depending on what we have available, we sometimes substitute light or heavy cream with very good results, perhaps adding a bit of water to compensate for the extra richness, but then, sometimes richer is better.
This ingredient has become a staple item in our kitchen. We use often, in addition to using it for coffee. Half and half adds a richness to sauces without heaviness. It also works well with many desserts and is indispensible for our easy-to-make-very-delicious hot fudge sauce.
In our supermarkets, cream is designated according to its fat content, going from "half-and-half," to "light cream," to "whipping cream," to "heavy cream." I find uses for all except whipping cream. I have found that heavy cream consistently makes the best whipped cream. Heavy cream is also an ingredient in chocolate ganache, and in some sauces. This cream, used in a variety of ways, is a staple in our kitchen.
For me, butter is an indispensable ingredient. I use the lightly salted variety for certain vegetable dishes and for some sauteing, in both cases somewhat sparingly. It has such wonderful flavor. Not too much is needed.
My preference is for whole milk produced on dairy farms which give their cattle the space needed to live in contentment. We do purchase milk from organic dairies and have done some checking to learn about the care given the cattle which produce the mild for these dairies. As yet, the vegan choice is not for me.
I use mozzarella infrequently and am embarassed to say that I've never used the fresh mozzarella. Perhaps that's why I'm somewhat ambivalent about mozzarella. I only use it incombination with other cheeses and chiefly for its melting consistency.
I only buy the sharper version of this cheese. I think it has a slightly smokey flavor and enjoy using it sparingly.
I use ricotta almost exclusively for one of our lasagne recipes, the traditional one. An alternative that works well I believe is cottage cheese. Perhaps best is a combination of ricotta and cottage cheeses in equivalent amounts.
There are so many varieties of Swiss Cheese available. Choose your favorite.
What can I say about butter. For me, it is an indispensable ingredient. I use the unsalted variety almost exclusively for baking. Sometimes when people comment about my baking, I wonder if it's the butter that makes the difference. Nothing can substitute for it.