A Kitchen Inspired by Goats in the Spring
I’ve been playing around in my kitchen creating various cultured dairy products for years now, but just in the last few months embarked on some more serious cheese making endeavors. This meant pots of milk occupying my entire stove, staying up late to cut the curd and drain the whey, and rigging my wine refrigerator to become my cheese-ager. I may have gotten a little bit carried away. The art and science behind making cheese is awe-inspiring and possibly not for the easily distracted (my Outlook calendar now has appointments to turn the wheel and when the cheddar will be aged enough).
My first attempts at home cheese production have led to various results so far: a creamy tangy Gouda, a slightly sour and dry cheddar, and the best being a rich creamy salty goat’s milk feta. Paint Valley Farms in Beach City, Ohio distributes goat milk here in Columbus and I’ve had good success with making cheese from it. I don’t think I’ve garnered enough experience or knowledge to be writing about making cheese just yet. But, whether you are making it or not, it is spring and we should all be inspired by the season of goat cheese. Yes, cheese has seasonality too. In the spring, when the mama goats are giving birth, it’s time to celebrate the tangy rich goat cheese!
Most think of goat cheese and imagine the classic creamy, soft, fresh cheese that comes in a log called chevre. That is certainly the most popular form of coagulated goat milk and delicious for sure. But, it’s not the only form of goat cheese available. Goat cheese comes in a variety of forms from all around the world. American goat cheese producers are some of the best. Strong and pungent, to delicate and milky, with textures soft, crumbly, or semi-firm; there are many kinds to explore. A springtime bonus -goat cheese is generally lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than cow’s milk cheese. (Swimsuit season is just around the corner after all.)
For a simple but stunning treat before dinner (or maybe just as dinner if you like-I’m not judging), fresh chevre can be rolled in chopped fresh herbs like parsley, basil, dill, thyme, or rosemary, with a bit of black pepper and served with bread or crackers. I love to pair sweet with the tang and richness of goat milk, so just plop the log onto a plate, drizzle generously with local honey and sprinkle with your favorite chopped toasted nuts and/or dried fruits and you have a show-stopping cheese plate. Add some halved fresh figs to the plate and you’re entertaining status goes from Great Host/Hostess to God/Goddess of the Dinner Party.
Chevre can be used as a substitute in or as an addition to many dishes. One of the easiest ways to incorporate it is on a salad. The creamy and flavorful taste of this cheese is often paired with earthy, sweet beets, peppery arugula, sweet berries (dried or fresh) and even bacon and avocado.
Here are some great recipes to try:
Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Sherry-Walnut Vinaigrette
10 small red beets
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound baby spinach, roughly chopped
5 ounces arugula, roughly chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Heat oven to 400°F. Place beets on a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and make a pouch out of the foil, sealing it tightly. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let beets steam for 10 minutes. Open pouch and let beets cool slightly.
Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, mustard, agave nectar or honey, and garlic in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oils and season with salt and pepper. Set vinaigrette aside.
After beets have cooled enough to handle, remove and discard skins and cut into bite-size pieces. Mix beets with half of vinaigrette, then mix spinach and arugula with the rest of the vinaigrette. Transfer greens to plates and top with beets, walnuts, and goat cheese. Nutritional info.
Or try a Berry Goat Cheese Salad.
Don’t shy away from utilizing goat cheese in a main course, of course. It’s a great addition to a sandwich, wrap, pizza or quesadilla. I personally love to use chevre in quiche or frittata to add a little zip and richness with lots of grilled vegetables and spinach.
For a simple springy dish:
Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche
1 (9-inch) frozen pie crust (in pie pan), thawed 10 minutes
2 leeks (about 1 pound), trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup lowfat (2%) milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or chives
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick crust all over with a fork. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until just golden, about 15 minutes. Set crust aside and reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add leeks and simmer until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain leeks thoroughly.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, tarragon, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spread leeks in bottom of crust and dot with goat cheese. Pour egg mixture over the top and bake until puffed in the center and lightly browned, 40 to 50 minutes. Set aside to let cool until warm or serve at room temperature. Nutritional info.
If you want to venture into something a little less common, (I recommend asking your cheese monger about their favorites as well) I have never grown tired of California’s famous Cypress Grove Chevre’s Humboldt Fog, a tangy but subtle cheese with a distinct layer of edible vegetable ash and hint of herbal and floral notes. From the same company, Midnight Moon, is a 6 month or more aged Gouda-style cheese made in Holland with suggestions of nuttiness and creamy caramel. Drunken Goat, the semi-firm wheel from Spain made of goat cheese soaked in red wine, has a creamy taste as fun as its name. Feta cheese made with goat cheese is one of my favorites, hence the personal kitchen adventure of making it. While delicious on its own, if you marinate it in a jar refrigerated with extra virgin olive oil, roasted garlic, peppercorns and chili flakes… it’s quite like what I imagine heaven to taste like spread on a crusty baguette.
If by my mentioning the possibility, you just can’t forget the idea of making your own fresh cheese at home, go for it! I recommend New England Cheesemaking Supply as the best resource for supplies and knowledge. I’m warning you, before you know it, you’ll have pot of milk all over your kitchen, be plotting the perfect spot in the basement to store you wheels, be up till the wee hours of the night draining the whey from your curds and obsessively Instagramming it all too. I wonder if I can keep goats in my backyard in German Village…
With “A Kitchen Inspired” we will share with you the current and up and coming ingredients, products and cooking methods that inspire our team members, chefs and the kitchen at Whole Foods Market Dublin.
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company’s motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement.
All facts and information about our food waste in the United States came from the Natural Resources Defense Council website.