Goat Cheese Galore
Some people don’t like goat cheese (Chevre). I’m a real fan, and think it’s one of those foods you can blend with just about any type of flavor. Here are two beautiful party appetizers that are as delicious as they are stunning to the eye. One I adapted from a recipe. The other is an outright cheat after I had something similar at a party.
Sundried Tomato Cheese Torte
I first came across this eye-popping party treat in a Southern Living holiday magazine in (I think) 2003 (or was it 2005?) I was in the Pensacola, Florida airport waiting for a flight back to Northern Virginia. I’ve made it over a dozen times, and it never fails to impress party guests, both visually and in its amazing combination of flavors. The tangy, slightly sweet tomatoes, creamy cheeses and savory herbs are the perfect match.
Vegetable Cooking Spray
1 cup dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped in a food processor.
3 cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
10 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 stick butter (salted or unsalted) softened
6 cloves garlic, minced (I used 6 frozen garlic cubes)
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 cup (about) fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Garnish: fresh parsley sprigs
Lay plastic wrap on the bottom of a 6″ springform pan, stretch it tight, and put on the side ring. Lightly oil the inside of the ring.
Chop the sundried tomatoes (I used a nifty gadget: food processor attachment for a wand mixer) until essentially diced. Press the tomatoes into the springform pan nice and even and flat with a spatula.
Put all the goat cheese, butter, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and garlic in the bowl of a large food processor. I have a Hamilton Beach model that has a honkin big bowl. Mix on medium until it gets going, then up the speed to high until the cheese “lays down” and is smooth.
Scoop out half the cheese mixture onto the tomatoes and smooth it out with an offset spreader or spatula. Wipe the sides of the springform pan and get this as level and smooth as you can, so it makes a nice, even layered look when you unmold the cheese.
Here’s where I learned to save a lot of time and trouble over the original recipe. Using scissors, snip the tops off the parsely, straight off the bunch (you washed it first, right?) Then do the same with the fresh hydroponic basil you bought from the grocery store. Don’t bother too much with the exact amount of herbs—it really doesn’t matter!! You essentially want a “handful” of each. Then crack a generous amount (about a teaspoon) of black pepper directly into the processor bowl. That’s right…just put the whole herbs right into the bowl. Why chop them first when you have all that electric power!!
Put on the lid, mash the button, and whir away until the cheese mix is smooth and a nice, speckly green.
Spread this on top of the white cheese in the mold. It should fill the pan the rest of the way. Level it off, and cover with plastic wrap. Put it on a plate, so the oil from the tomatoes won’t go all over your refrigerator. Chill for at least 3 hours before you plan to serve it.
To serve, just pull of the plastic wrap, pop off the springform ring, and flip it onto a serving plate. remove the last bit of plastic and admire your “hard work.” Use a cake server to yield perfect wedges.
Cranberry Goat Cheese Log
I think you can buy something like this at Trader Joes and at some deli in New York City. I bet they aren’t as good as mine.
1 bag (5 oz) dried cranberries
1/4 cup brandy (any flavor)
2 tsp cinnamon
1-10 oz roll goat cheese (chèvre)
Chop the cranberries in a food processor. Add the brandy and cinnamon.
Spread the cranberry mixture evenly on a sheet of waxed paper in a rectangular shape that is slightly higher than your cheese log is long and about 6″ long. Put the cheese onto the berries about an inch from one edge.
Pick up the waxed paper from underneath and roll it around the cheese, pressing as you go, until the berry sheet is completely wrapped around the cheese. Use your fingers to pat the excess onto the ends of the log.
Transfer the coated log by rolling it onto plastic wrap (because the juices will soak through the waxed paper and cause it to disentegrate). Roll up the plastic and twist the ends to seal it. Refrigerate 2-3 hours to allow the cheese to firm up. Serve with firm crackers.