It is official. I am addicted to food blogger events. When I saw that Holler from Tinned Tomatoes was hosting her No Croutons Required event for July and that the category was vegetarian soups and/or salads showcasing herbs I was thrilled. I lovey love love fresh herbs. Since I have parsley and chives growing in abundance the question was not which herbs I would use, but how I would show them off to their best advantage.
Enter my dairy goat farming friend from up the road. I occasionally get wonderful goat milk from her. Some of the best cheeses I’ve made have been from her goats’ milk. Happily, she brought me about a gallon late last week and also happily, I had chevre culture in my freezer. I immediately set about making the chevre. The plan was to stir in finely minced garlic, chives and parsley from my garden. If you have never made chevre, or any cheese for that matter, don’t be impressed. It’s so deadly easy that you really have a difficult time paying the gobs of money they charge for it in the store once you’ve made it.
There are several ways to make chevre. I think the easiest way is simply to use direct set chevre culture. It’s available from many mail order sources under many names, but I’ve been pleased with the quality of the culture I get in five-packs from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. (click here for product unformation and current pricing) Once you see how easy it is to make you’ll be glad to have made the $6.00 investments to keep a couple packets handy in the freezer. (You can also purchase butter muslin through New England Cheesemaking.)
The recipe is as simple as can be. I follow the directions printed on the culture package:
“Directions: Heat 1 gal. pasteurized milk to 86F, add &mix in 1 packet, let set at room temperature undisturbed for 12 hrs. or until thickened (as in yogurt). Ladle curd gently into a butter muslin lined colander, hang & drain 6-12 hours. Refrigerate & Enjoy!”
I can add a couple observations that are based on a few years of home cheesemaking. When setting out your milk after mixing in the culture, make sure you cover it to keep the fruit flies and other winged buggies away from the party. Your room should be at least 72F. This temperature is also ideal for proper draining when you hang the cheese in the butter muslin.
To make the herbed chevre as I did: (Please note [in the upper right hand corner of the picture] the mighty hunter, Diggedy, cunningly stalking the wild chevre and praying fervently that I need to run back into the house for a spare camera battery or to pull the boys out of the toilet or some other well timed interruption…)
1 batch freshly drained chevre (approx. 1 1/4 lbs)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh herbs (any combination of chives, parsley, chervil, etc…)
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced (according to taste)
1/2-1 teaspoon cracked black pepper (according to taste)
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt- or any other non-iodized salt (according to taste)
Add all ingredients to a medium mixing bowl and mash together with a wooden spoon until evenly combined. Transfer and pack into molds or form into a log on a piece of parchment paper (roll up in parchment paper for storage). Place in fridge and eat within two weeks. This cheese does not freeze particularly well.
To make the salad as pictured above…
Herbed Goat Cheese and Roasted Beet Salad
To Roast the Beets
3 large beets, scrubbed and trimmed of greens
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400F. Lay the beets in a large sheet of heavy duty foil, raise the edges of the foil around the beets to form a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Cinch the foil up the rest of the way to form a closed packet around the beets. Place on a rimmed baking dish and roast for 20-45 minutes (depending on the size of the beets) or until the beets are easily pierced to the center with a sharp knife.
Remove from oven and cool until you can handle them. Use your hands or an old towel to slough off the beet skins and slice into batons for your salad. Set aside.
For the Vinaigrette
1 Tablespoon coarse dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (or canola oil)
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
pinch kosher salt
Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a mason jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until emulsified. Set aside.
To assemble the salad
Leaf Lettuce (fresh from the garden if you have it!)
Additional chives, parsley, whatever fresh green herbs you can rustle up
Pile greens on a plate and top with the roasted beet batons, drizzle lightly with the dijon vinaigrette. Crumble chevre over the beets and top with additional minced chives, parsley and edible flowers.
This salad was sooooo delicious that my husband and I are going to sow more rows of beets so we can eat it more often.
This recipe definitely gets 4 enthusiastic thumbs up (my husband and I) and 10 non-committal thumbs pointed any direction that didn’t require them to hold their forks. The idea of the beets and goat cheese didn’t really ding the boys’ chimes so they opted for plain greens dressed with ranch. Ah well. Can’t win ’em all. (The only time I got the boys to eat beets was the time I told them that if they ate the entire pan full of beets they’d pee pink. The trick has not been repeatable.)