7.01.2017

Goat Dressing

In the 1920s, goat dressing became a tradition at the Louisiana State University rodeo, and is still an event at many rodeo competitions around the country. Basically, they dress a goat in human clothes - the sillier the better! I am sure the goats aren't physically harmed in this practice... but their pride? Ouch! But that isn't the kind of goat dressing I want to discuss today; we will be dressing up little logs of goat cheese.

Sunday morning shoppers at the Rillito Heirloom Farmers Market in Tucson are very fortunate to have Fiore di Capra. Run by Alethea Smith and her family, this wonderful goat farm is about everything made with grade A goat's milk: raw milk, cheese (chèvre, feta, ricotta, crottin, soft ripened), yogurt, kefir, cajeta, caramel, and fudge. I hope your local farmer’s market has such a purveyor, too.

A variety of Fiore di Capra's cheeses at the Heirloom Farmers Market.
Their products are truly amazing. When I make homemade ravioli or eggplant rollatini, I use their ricotta. If I want the perfect cheese for a fruit platter after dinner, I reach for their soft ripened Brie - or their ash-coated blue. Their yogurt is wonderfully tart and complements many of the Middle Eastern dishes I make.

For pre-dinner snacking, though, we like to serve fresh goat cheese, or chèvre. It is lighter than most cheese and helps whet the appetite for what comes next. While Fiore di Capra offers a variety of herbed and flavored fresh chèvre, we like to make our own, often showcasing herbs from Mark's garden, or my own peppercorn mix.

We are fortunate our climate allows us to have a great herb garden at our fingertips year round. This makes the herbing of the cheese very easy. Mark or I simply pop outside, snip a few sprigs of our favorite tender herbs, and, with some quick rocking of our mezzaluna, a simple log of goat cheese is transformed.

Our blend changes each time we make it, whether due to our whim, or seasonal changes in what is flourishing in the garden. If you don't have an herb garden, fresh herbs are readily available at most grocery stores these days. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can use as few or as many herbs as you like, catering to your own personal taste.

In addition to the herbed cheese, we also like to make a pepper-coated cheese. Alethea makes one, and our friends Lynn and Lee make theirs, so why not make my own? After all, I have many different peppercorns in my spice rack from which to choose: black, white, pink, green, Szechuan, Indonesian or Indian long, and grains of paradise. On occasion, I will also add some chile flakes - hot or mild - to the mix. Just a few seconds in your mortar and pestle (or spice grinder) and you are set to go.

Both versions are incredibly easy to prepare and, more important, they are casually elegant and will be a treat for your guests. Serve with plain crackers or bread, as flavored versions will compete with your handiwork. I recently served these with a 2015 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol when we had a few friends over for a glass of wine. It was a hot day - over 104°F (40°C) - and a perfectly-chilled bottle of rosé was just what the doctor ordered. To read more about the pairing, visit the Provence WineZine.

My words of wisdom today? Don't leave your goat dressing to the rodeo cowboys... do it yourself!

Yee-ha!

~ David

Herbed Goat Cheese

4-ounce log of fresh goat cheese, chilled
1/2 cup mixed chopped herbs, such as
   chives, basil, thyme, marjoram, oregano, mint, myrtle, tarragon
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
pinch freshly ground black pepper
pinch salt

Wash and thoroughly dry the herbs. Strip the leaves from their branches and place all of your herbs - along with the lemon zest, pepper, and salt - on a cutting board. Give the herbs a quick mix with your fingers to distribute the flavors. Using a mezzaluna or sharp knife, finely chop the herbs. Arrange them on a bed the width of the log of goat cheese - about 3 inches - and double that size in length. Roll the chilled goat cheese in the herbs, pressing lightly so that the herbs adhere to the cheese, being careful not to get many herbs on the ends (it just looks nicer that way!). Wrap tightly in plastic or wax paper, and refrigerate until ready to use. To serve, unwrap, plate and bring to room temperature.

Serves 4-6.

Peppered Goat Cheese

4-ounce log of fresh goat cheese, chilled
1 teaspoon each:
   - black, green, white, and pink peppercorns
pinch salt

Place all the peppercorns and salt in a mortar and pestle and pulverize with the pestle until most pieces are equal in size. (This can also be done in a spice grinder, although take care not to make the mixture too fine.) The pink peppercorns will not break down as well, so you will have some larger pieces, which makes it colorful. Make a bed of the peppercorns the width of the log of goat cheese - about 4 inches - and double that size in length. Roll the cheese in the pepper, pressing lightly so that the peppers adhere to the cheese, being careful not to pepper the ends. Wrap tightly in plastic or wax paper, and refrigerate until ready to use.  To serve, unwrap, plate and bring to room temperature.

Serves 4-6.

28 comments:

  1. Looks delicious and so very easy.

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  2. This does look nice! I'm very fond of cheese with lots of black pepper. How does fiore di capra rate on the acidity scale? I ahe to say that I have an ambiguous relationship with goat cheese. Some I love, others I find just too tart for my taste. Not sure what drives the difference—I've been meaning to look into it.

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    1. Frank - the Fiore di Capra cheese is very sweet and creamy - no tartness at all. I think you would like it. My friend Holly just responded to your question - there are many factors that make a cheese tart. Check out her response - she is a goat farmer in México!

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  3. Love this posting David! Owning goats & being trained as a Cheesemaker you are speaking my language.
    Lots of things influence tartness of the cheese. The food goats eat, particular time of their milk (cycle), cultures used, age of the cheese or as often is the case a buck nearby which gives that goaty flavor many don't like.
    Come visit us at the ranch & we will make cheese together!!!
    Abrazos!
    Holly

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    1. Thanks, Holly! I am so glad you answered! Mark and I will get down there sometime and look forward to cheesemaking and frolicking with you!

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  4. Your farmers market sounds wonderful, will definitely have to check it out next year. Another fabulous appetizer, love how you "dressed" up the cheese;)

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    1. Please do come down this winter, Cheri - I would love to show you around the market!

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  5. ... I am right now trying to wade through the whole meat production/environment pollution/sustainability (after watching the documentary Conspiracy) and I was meant to check also the "goat" chapter, about which I know nothing, a part from the fact that I love goat cheese.stefano

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    1. It is a big issue, Stefano, and there are so many more, as will. Will be curious how goats come out on this...

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  6. I love the sound of that farmers' market! These goat cheese logs are incredibly easy to put together, and such an elegant appetiser. I miss goat cheese so much, so may have to seek some out now that we're in NYC!

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    1. There are so many good, local cheeses available in NYC! Try some for the Old Chatham Sheepherding Farm, if you can! Enjoy the city, John!

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  7. I love the goat cheese you get at the farmer's market. I can taste the different flavors that you added to the cheese rolls. Very nice David, Have a great 4th of July.

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    1. Thanks, Gerlinde - yes, the local cheese is wonderful! Hoping for a quiet 4th - enjoying being in the cooler part of the state!

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  8. Those cheeses look fantastic, really like the idea of rolling them in your own herbs and spices too.

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    1. Thanks, Caroline. I think the possibilities are pretty much endless here!

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  9. I love goats cheese and this is a great idea to fancy it up a little bit :D

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  10. Love goat cheese and... yes, we prefer this kind of "dressing" not the original one. :)
    ciao da ANna e Giovanna

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    1. We prefer this kind of goat dressing, too! :)

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  11. Cheese rolled in whatever is "flourishing in the garden" sets a delightful mood for a dinner party. GREG

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    1. I think most of our friends think we are wizards fro growing and using our own herbs - I wonder why more people don't grow them. They are generally so easy, and the benefit is wonderful!

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  12. We are getting tons of herbs in the CSA boxes. This would be a perfect use for them! (And a lot less dangerous than dressing real goats)

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    1. Yes, Inger - a lot less dangerous, infinitely easier, and much tastier!

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  13. I apparently forgot to tell you--or at least publicly record here--that we dressed a small goat in pepper! It was quick to do for a wonderful surprise visit! Okay, we live across from a cheese store!

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    1. And I am sure your guests were duly impressed, Susan!

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  14. I love all of these wonderful appetizers you've been sharing lately, David. We enjoy our small bites around my house and I love the way you've dressed up the goat cheese up with fresh herbs. So pretty and it's got to be delicious!

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    1. We eat a lot of "apps for dinner" around here. Sometimes it's just fun to snack while watching a movie!

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