This year, 2009, is the 100th year anniversary of the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The creamery association began in 1909 with a few dairy farmers in Tillamook, Oregon, and today is an American favorite. Cheese is made today using the same recipe that cheesemakers used when the company was founded.
The ship that can be seen on the Tillamook Cheese label is the Morning Star of Tillamook, built in 1854 by farmers who banded together to transport butter from Tillamook County to Portland. A cheese from the creamery won it’s first award at the 1904 St. Louis Fair.
Grilled Polenta Torta with Tillamook Mozzarella Cheese
- 1/2 tube (abour 9 ounces) pre-cooked polenta cut into 12 slices (1/4 inch thick)
1 small eggplant, cut into 8 slices (1/4 in thick)
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 slices (1/4 inch thick)
4 ounces Tillamook Mozzarella Cheese, cut into 8 thin slices
1/4 cup pesto
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat grill pan that has been brushed with oil to medium high.
Lightly brush both sides of eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place eggplant on the grill pan and cook approximately 3 minutes per side or until soft. Remove from pan.
To assemble tortas: spread 1-1/2 tablespoons pesto on a slice of polenta, top with one slice eggplant, one tomato slice and one slice of cheese. Repeat to make a second layer and finish with a third slice of polenta on top. Secure with a small skewer through the center of torta. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 4 tortas.
To grill: lightly brush preheated grill pan with oil and heat pan to medium heat. Place tortas upright on preheated pan, cover with foil and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Serve with a salad of arugula dressed with olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Cook’s Note: This is a beautiful and delicious appetizer or vegetarian entree. It would be excellent served with grilled chicken or Italian sausages. In addition to grilling the eggplant I grilled 4 slices of polenta to crisp it up a bit and add grill marks to the top slices. I also added a little marinara sauce when I plated the tortas.
The Grilled Polenta recipe can be found in the newly released Tillamook Cheese Cookbook, a 225 page book filled with wonderful recipes and over 150 historical photos of the cheese factory and their home in Tillamook County. Visit their website to learn more about their history and how cheese is made. You can even join the Tillamook Cheese Fan Club where you can get a tour of the factory, learn about the events that celebrate the company’s anniversary, get lots of wonderful recipes using Tillamook Cheese products, and shop online. And you can purchase their cookbooks there also.
Permission to reprint recipes and images from The Tillamook Cheese Cookbook given by Tillamook County Creamery Association – farmer-owned since 1909.