From Crottin to Feta
In France, chevre simply means goat cheese. In the United States, terms are different. Here is a buyer’s guide.
Chevre: Fresh goat cheese, drained to a soft, spreadable state, then sold loose in pots or rolled into logs. Sold in farmers markets at anywhere from a day to a week old. Perfect for spreading on a bagel or crostini. Supermarket versions will be older and drier. These are fine on bread or crumbled in salad, but they are excellent cooking cheeses that fluff up wonderfully and release the lactic perfume in an omelet or souffle.
Fresh chevre also comes shaped in discs and coated with cracked pepper or herbs.
Chevre from a farmers market should be treated like fruit: Buy small amounts and eat promptly. Always ask for a taste: It should be milky, bright and delicate.
Supermarket logs should be eaten within a week. Check the sell-by date, and beware of watery whey collecting in the plastic packaging. This signifies refrigeration failure or poor draining. Both mean a rank cheese.
Crottin: Made with buttery milk and mold-ripened from six weeks to three months. The inside, called the “pate,” is smooth and glistening white. The rind-ripening will impart a sophisticated, earthy flavor, but the overall taste will be delicate.
The traditional way to serve it is oiled, rolled in bread crumbs, then baked for five to 10 minutes before being set in sharply dressed salads of peppery greens. Judge its ripeness as you would a camembert: It shouldn’t feel rock-hard or completely soft--more like a well-toned stomach.
Goat feta: A fresh Greek-style cheese preserved in brine. The salt leaches the water from the cheese, which is dry and crumbly. Best in salad with plenty of olive oil.
Goat fromage blanc: This cream cheese consists of barely curdled milk that has been only lightly drained and remains unsalted. It is a rare pleasure to find it fresh, when it should taste like an adult version of milk, with the sweetness siphoned off, but a light milky flavor still intact. Perfect for desserts. A slight tang enlivens summer berries.
Marinated goat cheese: Fresh cheeses suspended in olive oil, often infused with rosemary. Perfect for spreading on toast or tossing in salads.
Tome, tomme, shepherd cheeses and Cheddar: Cheeses that have been made with rennet, then drained, dried and aged to become a hard or semihard cheese. Traditionally, a way of preserving summer milk throughout the winter. If the nutty and herbaceous notes are not immediate when the cheese is eaten cold, try melting it on toast and the perfume will rise.
Redwood Hill Farm, Sebastopol, (707) 823-8250; www.red woodhill.com. Chevre and mold-ripened cheeses sold in good supermarkets, by mail order or on Wednesday at Santa Monica farmers market.
Laura Chenel’s Chevre, Sonoma, (707) 996-4477. Chevre, mold-ripened, ash-covered and marinated cheeses sold in good stores.
Yerba Santa Diary, Lakeport, (707) 263-8131. Chris and Jan Twohy’s aged Alpine Shepherd cheese is available by phone or e-mail: email@example.com.
Goat’s Leap, St. Helena. Barbara Backus’ celebrated ash-coated goat cheeses, Sumi and Eclipse, and aged Carmela are available from Tomales Bay Foods, Point Reyes Station, (415) 663-9335.
Cypress Grove Chevre, McKinleyville, (707) 839-3168; www.cypressgrovechevre.com. Goat cheeses from chevre to Cheddar and the signature Humboldt Fog, available by mail order and in good stores.
Emily Thomson Fromage de Chevre, Ojai, (805) 649-4884. Fresh chevre, fromage blanc and marinated chevre sold at Santa Monica farmers market Saturday.
Harley Farms Goat Cheese, Pescadero, (650) 879-0480. Dee Harley makes a soft cream cheese filled with spicy condiments, such as sun-dried tomatoes and basil, imprinted on the top with edible flowers, and gives them merry names, such as Van Goat. By mail order, and in good stores.
Bodega Goat Cheese, Bodega, (707) 876-3483. Javier Salmon and Patty Karlin sell chevre and Peruvian-style goat cheeses at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market Saturday and the Marin County Civic Center farmers market Sunday.
Skyhill Farms, Napa Valley, (707) 255-4800. Yogurt, chevre and a ricotta-style cheese called “Ri-Goatta” sold at Trader Joe’s and health-food stores.
Goat Cheese Souffle
Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 40 minutes * Vegetarian
Mark Peel, chef at Campanile, didn’t miss a beat when asked for a goat cheese recipe. “Why don’t you do a goat cheese souffle?” he asked. “It’s delicious.” This version comes from the cookbook “Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton at Home” (Warner Books, 1994). The recipe calls for Montrachet goat cheese, a chevre-style cheese wrapped in a chestnut or grape leaf. A commercial log of chevre from the supermarket will do nicely. In two different tests, the souffle made with Emily Thomson’s looser, fresher cheese had a 10-minute longer baking time than a second souffle made with denser commercial chevre. Depending on the cheese you use, adjust your baking time accordingly.
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cloves garlic
3 sprigs fresh marjoram
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for preparing pan
6 tablespoons flour
3/4 pound goat cheese, divided
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Heat the milk in a small saucepan with the garlic and marjoram sprigs and bring just to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic and marjoram.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Cook over low heat, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm milk and stir until very smooth. Crumble in two-thirds of the cheese and whisk until incorporated. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Stir in the egg yolks.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Liberally butter a 2-quart straight-sided shallow baking pan or gratin dish.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Do not beat until dry. Thoroughly fold a quarter of the whites into the cheese mixture. Sprinkle in the chopped marjoram and pepper, stir to combine and fold in the remaining whites. Pour into the dish. Dot with the remaining cheese.
Place in the center of the oven. Bake until the top is puffed and golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately.
6 servings. Each serving: 427 calories; 414 mg sodium; 222 mg cholesterol; 34 grams fat; 21 grams saturated fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 19 grams protein; 0.33 gram fiber.
Goat Cheese and Walnut Crostini
Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes * Vegetarian
“This is an easy one,” says Mark Peel. “It involves almost no cooking, except for toasting some walnuts. If you’re talking about summertime outdoor dining, put some of this in a pot with grilled bread alongside some sliced tomatoes.” Add another tablespoon of olive oil if walnut oil isn’t available.
1 pound chevre
1/3 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 sourdough baguette
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chevre in a bowl and allow to soften at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the walnuts on a baking sheet until lightly browned, stirring once or twice, about 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Slowly add the cream to the cheese while stirring with a rubber spatula until the mixture has thinned to a spreadable consistency. Add the nuts, thyme, walnut oil, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Slice the baguette on the bias into slices 1/4 inch thick. Lay them on a baking sheet and dab each lightly with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toast until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
Spread the cheese mixture on top of the toasts and serve.
20 pieces. Each piece: 207 calories; 270 mg sodium; 21 mg cholesterol; 14 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.95 gram fiber.
Stuffed Peach and Raspberry Sauce
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes
This recipe comes from Laura Chenel’s 1990 book, “Chevre!” It is summer on a dessert plate. Chenel loved the combination of textures.
1 pint fresh raspberries (1 1/4 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
3 ripe peaches (about 1 pound)
5 ounces fresh loose chevre or drained fromage blanc
6 amaretti cookies, crumbled, or 1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds, ground
Press the raspberries through a sieve using a large spoon or rubber spatula. Combine with the sugar.
Halve and pit the peaches. Set them in a baking dish. Divide the cheese into 6 portions, roll each into a ball and roll in the cookie crumbs or almonds until well coated. Place a cheese ball into the pit section of each peach half, carefully arranging the peaches so they won’t fall over.
Heat the broiler.
Place the dish 10 to 12 inches beneath the broiler until the peaches are just warmed and the crumbs are becoming crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon a bit of raspberry sauce onto 6 dessert plates. Place the peaches in the sauce, then dress the peaches with the remaining sauce.
6 servings. Each serving: 178 calories; 70 mg sodium; 26 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 17 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 2.90 grams fiber.