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Thursday, April 16, 2009

WHY GOATS? WHY NOT? GOAT CHEESE LOVE IN THE MODERN WORLD



There are events in my childhood that are embedded in my memory.

Why some memories are there and others are completely faded is a mystery.

Often what I DO remember is not particularly important, or it does not seem
to be..

When it comes to food though, my memories tend to be quite "sharp" as though
they were yesterday...(child "foodie" before there was such a thing...)

There is an entire vacation with my family that I have forgotten, but it seems
as though if food was involved, I remember...

When I was growing up, we lived next door to a Jewish family.
We'll call them "The Jacobs" for reasons of privacy..
They were a very interesting family.
Most of their family/relatives were either killed or barely escaped from Germany
during the *Holocaust..

*A fascination and obsession with the Holocaust and everything I could find to
read or see about it, started early in my life.."The Diary of Anne Frank" was read/seen so many times I cannot count...I am one of the few people that I know
who has been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC...Even my friends
who live there will not go..It is a sad, stark, and humbling experience which I
will never forget..
I made my son go as well...they don't really teach these unbelievably horrific
set of events in school..from what I can gather, they barely "touch" on it...

The "Jacobs" were also relatives (nephew/great nieces) of Albert Einstein's.

(This was WAY before Paul McCartney characterized an "Uncle Albert" in any song)

His personally signed photos were here and there around the house.

I didn't know who he was as a child.
I thought that he looked a little creepy.
Come to find out that a lot of geniuses do...
So do those with feeble minds
"Creepy" does not discriminate

Now I LIKE creepy looking geniuses...
I still don't care for creepy looking feeble minded individuals
But then again...that's just me...

I found the "Jacobs" to be intriguing and so different from my own family.
This extended not only to their observing different holidays and customs than
we did, but also to the "everyday" food that they ate.

Their house was the first place that I ever saw a bagel.
They were "Lenders" from a frozen bag...
We weren't in New York.
I thought that the frozen bagels were unsweetened doughnuts...
I couldn't imagine why anyone would be interested in them..

I grew up in a "white bread" mostly Christian middle class suburb in Dallas
in the late 50s'/60s..
"Leave it to Beaver" seemed fairly realistic,(except for the fact that our Mothers didn't wear high heels at home during the day...)

When I spent the night with my friend next door, we had a breakfast that I will
never forget, as it spawned my love for creamy spreadable cheeses to this day,
(as well as ANY food that is found at Jewish gatherings, delis, and the like..
Lox, cream cheese, sour cream in herring, and other Jewish cultural foods and I
are well acquainted and maintain a mutual love and respect.)

Next door the breakfast table was laden with a basket of warm toasted rye bread
and a crock of herb cream cheese...I was in heaven...It was so delicious...

Cream cheese has always been one of my favorites, even the "light" version!

It's also been a "No-No" though, because it IS high in fat and calories..(low
in carbs though, in case anyone wants to know...)

Therefore, I was relieved when in the early 80s', I began to see "Goat Cheese"
or "Chevre" on some of the restaurant menus where I dined.

It was "Love At First Bite"

At that time, the main way it was presented was usually on a plate with whole roasted garlic swimming in delicious extra virgin olive oil, crusty bread, and accompanied by some Greek Olives...
With a good bottle of wine, it was a dinner in itself...

Slowly I began to see Goat Cheese incorporated into more recipes, like tarts,
salads, souffles, pasta, gratins, etc.

In the beginning, one could only acquire goat cheese at places like Whole Foods,
but presently it can be found almost anywhere in local supermarkets...

That's a good thing, because I LOVE to cook with it.

There are SO MANY delicious recipes containing goat cheese, one of which I have previously posted at Foodbuzz, a tasty Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast with
Basil.

Just a good, easy, simple, and straight forward dish.
I've taken a liking to that kind of cookery these days...

This is a good place to insert my number one thought about good cooking/food....

"QUALITY INGREDIENTS YIELD QUALITY RESULTS"

I know that sounds obvious, yet many restaurants/cooks try to get away with using
lower quality ingredients, and you simply can't if you want extraordinary results...

I realize that food products are expensive these days, but I still believe that
if one shops carefully and omits the "junk" and processed or "quick" foods, that good quality ingredients can still be had...

Admittedly though, and unsettling, I see that "junk food" is cheap, and fresh veggies, fruits, and leans meats are ridiculously expensive..

What to do in these times?

Hope it gets better quickly, and still buy as much of the "good stuff" as you
can..(some of the leading economic advisers came out this week on CNN, to announce
that they think that our economic downfall will be over a lot quicker than they
had originally projected)

Cook more "simply" with less ingredients, but with an emphasis on quality.

Example..try not to buy an "exotic" spice that you are only going to use in one
recipe...OR..try to get only as much spice as you need for a dish (like you can
do at Whole Foods)

Get the Butcher to give you only what portion of meat is needed in an already packaged container, if you don't need the whole lot...
(They WILL do this, even if they are not thrilled by it...I mean, when is the
last time that you saw a butcher "thrilled" anyway?)

Another idea is to try to make the extra time and effort to cook more at home,
(not always possible, but let's face it...most of us waste a lot of time, I
know that I do..Planning ahead of time and having the ingredients needed on hand makes this one a lot easier..)

Off the "Soapbox" (though at times it just FEELS good, doesn't it?)

My Sister is a Teacher, so she gets to do that everyday.
She is VERY GOOD at it...
Practice makes perfect, as I always say...

In my profession, I can only "gently" speak to the smokers with lung disease,
and even THEN, I must be politely professional in my "lectures" to them.

I digress as usual...

I am the type of person that simply must do a little research about anything
that I really like..(though my research about men/relationships has done little
to enlighten me so far...i.e. see poems)

Still, my research goes on, and today it is a little about Goats, and even more
about Goat Cheese.

The reason that I started my research on Goats, instead of just goat cheese, was because of the Goat's picture shown above...

Now take a close look at that...

What's wrong with that picture?
Goats reside in pastures, in rolling hills.......

With "Heidi's" Grandfather in the ALPS!

AND BESIDES...I RECOGNIZE WHERE THIS GOAT IS!!!

WHO KNEW THAT GOATS TOOK LEISURE VACATIONS, "TAKING IN THE SIGHTS" AND DOING A
LITTLE SHOPPING IN THE SOHO AREA OF NEW YORK?

WHAT...THEY GET A LITTLE STRESSED PUMPING OUT THE MILK, WANDERING ON THE SLOPES
OF GRASS?

GOATS THESE DAYS REQUIRE A LITTLE "R AND R"?

HEY I'M NOT MAKING THIS STUFF UP...PICTURES DON'T LIE...TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT THIS..

I'M JUST THINKIN THAT THE POPULARITY OF THE "CHEESE" HAS GONE TO THEIR HEADS
A LITTLE...THAT'S ALL...

Wisegeek.com filled me in on the following info, (though no mention of travel)

"In the rugged, rocky Mediterranean landscape goats do rather well. They can climb and find food in places where cows would not be able to get to. The landscape used to be rather void of vegetation in many areas because goats would eat everything in sight. Now it seems that those areas are much greener. Does it mean that there are fewer goats?"

No, it means that they're taking vacations and eating at touristy vegetarian restaurants, instead of the landscape...They're bored...They take advantage of
specials on Travelocity and the like...They've gotten "SOPHISTICATED"...

Back to the research...

"All goat breeds share the traits of being very hardy, curious, and intelligent, and they can be very interesting animals to have around, whatever one's use for them might be."

For what?..A shopping companion?
Personally I like to shop alone...

Now onto a bit about ultra delicious and pretty "good for you" Goat Cheese

What is goat cheese? Let's ask "Wisegeek"...

"Goat cheese has been made for thousands of years, and was probably one of the earliest made dairy products. In the most simple form, goat cheese is made by warming goat milk, mixing it with rennet to curdle, and then draining and pressing the curds. Soft goat cheeses are made in kitchens all over the world, with cooks hanging bundles of cheesecloth filled with curds up in the warm kitchen for several days to drain and cure. If the cheese is to be aged, it is often brined so that it will form a rind, and then stored in a cool cheese cave for several months to cure.
Goat cheese is less calorie dense then cheeses made from milk from cows or sheep. Fats in goat's milk and cheese are easier to process in the digestive system, therefore some individuals who can not have other milk products, might be able to have goat's milk and cheese.
It also seems that the cheese from goat milk does not put strain on the heart, as some other cheeses do specifically because of it's lower fat content, and easy digestibility."

Now if that's not good news, I don't know what is! The next time you indulge in something with Goat Cheese, you can say with great confidence...

"I'm trying to eat a bit more LOW FAT...This is VERY Mediterranean, the way we
were MEANT to eat. Please pass more of the Wine, Goat Cheese, and Bread..."


I have always been the one who is "selected" to choose the restaurant, menu, etc. when there is a gathering, because most of my friends/coworkers know that I
know something, (or I think I do), about food, restaurants...

No exception to that rule back in the mid-nineties, for a Holiday Party at a restaurant for the Management team where I worked and was a part of.

I had a budget and a restaurant picked out, and the menu was pre-arranged and
worked out between myself and the "Food Director" at the restaurant...

It was a delicious dinner, if I say so myself. (What a surprise!)

Our first course was a delicious Bruschetta with Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes,
and Basil that was sprinkled with a Balsamic Vinaigrette...really yummy...
It was a big hit...
To this day, I love "Toast" or "Croutons" with a Goat Cheese Topping.

I came upon this recipe a few years later...
I am positive that this is the recipe that the restaurant used...

This recipe hails from the wonderful "Mustards Grill" in Napa Valley.

It is a restaurant that has passed the test of time, and is still quite popular
today.

The "Goat Cheese Toast" was around when the Grill first opened...

It is a wonderful "Showcase" for a good Goat Cheese...

This is one of those recipes that I highly recommend that you try...(it is
especially great for parties...and as I always ask...Does anyone give parties
anymore? My friends "meet" for dinner at restaurants...Well, even if you don't
make this for a "party", try it for a light and delicious lunch/dinner)

First for the "CROUTONS"

THE BREAD-(use an oval crusty Sourdough Loaf, or any good quality French or Italian
baguette, just make sure that it is "good" bread. Even "day-old" good bread will
make good croutons.)

1 French Baguette or Italian Loaf of Bread
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Cut the baguette or Italian loaf on the bias into 1/4 inch slices, brush with the olive oil and toast on a baking sheet in a 325 degree oven or under a broiler until golden brown. Don't try to rush this: croutons need to be cooked slowly as they are crisp all the way through.
Often for soup, they are cut or torn into small pieces, mixed with oil, salt, and pepper, and baked until crisp.
For purposes of the Goat Cheese Bread recipe, you will keep the slices whole.


Mustards Grill's Goat Cheese Toast
Serves 6-12

8 ounces fresh goat cheese (Laura Chenel's Chevre Chabis, if you can get it...If
not, then the best quality that you can find/afford)
8 Tablespoons heavy cream or Creme Fraiche*
2 minced shallots
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons dry sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Pinch of Salt
6 Tablespoons light olive oil
12 "Croutons"
1 Tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
6 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into lengthwise pieces
6 Tablespoon chiffonade of Basil
(chiffonade is taking all your basil leaves and stacking them on top of each other...roll the "package" up tightly; it should look like a hand rolled cigarette, then cut it crosswise with a sharp knife, into thin slices ...you will then have "chiffonade"..)

(trying to be "user-friendly")

In a mixing bowl, mix the goat cheese and cream or creme fraiche together with a wooden spoon until it reaches a spreading consistency. Do not chill. To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallots, mustard, vinegar, and salt in another bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, and continue whisking until emulsified.

Spread the croutons with the goat cheese mixture. Return the croutons to the broiler and broil just until the cheese is warm. (WATCH IT EVERY SECOND)

Place the croutons on a serving plate. Drizzle a little bit of vinaigrette over the cheese, sprinkle with cracked peppercorns, and top with pieces of sun-dried tomato and a little bit of "chiffonade" of basil....
You only need a bit of vinaigrette per toast...
Any leftover is great with a mixed green salad.

*Creme Fraiche

This is so easy to make at home. Refrigerated, it will keep about a week to ten
days. Swirl a little into this or that; or whip it and add a dollop to a soup or
stew. Sweeten it and use it like whipped cream. Tex Mex enchiladas are often
topped with creme fraiche instead of sour cream. Virtually endless ways in which
to use it..

Makes 1 1/4 cup

1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup cream

Thoroughly mix the cream and buttermilk and let it sit at room temperature,
loosely covered, for 8 to 12 hours until thick.
Keep refrigerated after that.

1 comment:

Ricardo said...

Well posted and great simple recipe for it...:) xx