Kitchen Call: Goat cheese recipes worth bleating over
People who love to cook are fearless about new recipes.
Often these call for ingredients not regularly on the pantry shelf. This can go two ways: Substitute something already on the shelf to create your own tweak of the recipe, or go out and buy the designated product. But what to do with the inevitable extra, because it never measure out exactly? Dried herbs or spices wait patiently on the shelf for months. But a product with a “use by” date can go two ways. Throw it out immediately or let it linger, pushing it farther and farther back in the fridge until it turns green and fuzzy. And then, the third choice: actively looking for another recipe.
Goat cheese is one of those products. A cook can go into a trance wondering what to do with the rest of a log. The tangy cheeses make a great alternative to mozzarella on a pizza. Especially when adding other slightly off-kilter toppings like homemade jam, fresh fruit, and pungent greens. Goat cheese won’t go all melt-y in the oven like mozzarella does. It does its own thing, beautifully, deliciously.
If you’re planning a baby or bridal shower where your mother and aunts expect little tea sandwiches, try shaking them up with goat cheese filling. It’s the best departure from the usual cream cheese to hold cucumber to bread. The minty, cheesy sandwiches will look familiar to the mature ladies and grab applause from the rest of the crowd. The sandwiches work for a little girls’ tea party, too, as long as you keep the main ingredient a secret. More mint, less cucumber appeals to the young palates.
Spring is the best time to discover artisanal goat cheeses. Baby goats are born during February and March, and the surplus milk is made into cheese for a growing market. Goat milk is ultra-rich in butter fat and milk solids. Fresh goat cheese, called chevre, tastes best in spring.
Try out the following recipes. Don’t hesitate to substitute apples for pears on the pizza. In summer, I use peaches and cook the pizza on the backyard grill. Or try different herbs in the sandwiches, maybe even finely chopped sweet peppers.
GOAT CHEESE PIZZA WITH FIG JAM, ARUGULA, AND PEARS
Makes about 4 servings
Hot salad; cool topping. Sublime.
2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 cup dried figs, stemmed and quartered
1/2 cup dry Marsala (wine)
1 tablespoon very finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus freshly ground black pepper
1 pound pizza dough, homemade or purchased from a bakery
8 ounces goat cheese
2 cups arugula
1 pear, cored, thinly sliced.
To make the jam, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot, stirring 5 minutes until tender. Stir in figs, Marsala, and rosemary. Raise the heat, add 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, 15 to 20 minutes. Add water by tablespoon it seems too thick. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. (This can be done up to 3 days ahead, and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.)
Preheat oven to 450 F. Roll out two 10-inch rounds of pizza dough on floured surface. Cover with towel, 30 minutes. Place on baking sheets to partially bake, 3 to 4 minutes.
Spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of jam over each crust; scatter with 2 ounces goat cheese. Return to oven until crust is crisp, 4 to 5 minutes.
Toss together arugula, pear, remaining goat cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Top the cooked pizza with this salad. Serve hot.
HERBED GOAT CHEESE SANDWICHES
Makes 35 to 40
8 ounces cream cheese
10-12 ounces goat cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
6 tablespoons milk
Salt, pepper, to taste
2 loaves of multi-grain bread, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, skin on
Leave cheeses out on the counter to soften for 20 to 30 minutes so they blend easily. Slice cucumber into thin rounds; drain on paper towels.
Blend cheeses, garlic, thyme, parsley, 5 tablespoons milk, salt, pepper. Add more milk, if needed. Spread half the bread slices with this spread; top with cucumber, then remaining bread. Trim crusts; cut sandwiches into 4 triangles.
GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI
Makes 8 crostini, doubles or triples easily
Try this with bowls of soup on a rainy day or beside a bright salad in warmer weather.
A 3-ounce package goat cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced 8 slices sourdough bread
Preheat oven to 400F. Combine cheese, thyme, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl.
Place bread on a sheet pan in a single layer to toast for 7 to 8 minutes. Turn slices over; spread with cheese mixture; bake 5 minutes longer. Serve hot.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, read her blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @Kitchencall.