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Sheer luxuries, with chevre

I love to cook. But if there’s one thing that I like even more, it’s having someone else cook for me. Playing hostess is very nice, but it has nothing on the sheer luxury of sitting (or heck, even standing) in someone else’s kitchen, sipping a glass of wine (or, in a pinch, a cold Pabst), and watching that someone whip up a meal for me. Just tell me where to show up and when, and I’ll be right over. I’ll also reward you with a prompt thank-you note. I don’t care if it’s a cheeseburger or a four-course country-French hoop-dee-doo: it’s all pretty wonderful to me. And as luck would have it—which is also pretty wonderful—I have, over the years, amassed a good collection of Friends Who Like to Cook, which means that often I don’t have to. Among types of friends, this is my favorite by far. Cooking is what we do, and even more importantly, it’s what we do for each other.

Just last week, for example, there was Jimmy, who baked eggs and bacon while I sat, thanked my lucky stars, and sipped a Mimosa. The week before that, there was Shauna, who served up pork chops with a sweet-tart sauce of Italian plums, and all I had to do was set the table. [A blessedly low-pressure task, since I was, ahem, a bit slowed by our champagne aperitif.] And then there was my friend Keaton and her man Mark, who invited us to dinner this past Saturday. The evening was billed as a birthday celebration for Brandon and me—both Virgos, born on the 10th and 14th, respectively—but really, mainly, it was an excuse to spend a few hours together, and to stand around the kitchen and sip something cold on a warm night. Best of all, it was a delicious meal, and all I had to do were the hors d’oeuvres. Keaton knew just what I wanted for my birthday.

In keeping with the spirit of things, I wanted to make something that was supremely unfussy. So, recalling a recipe that I once clipped from Saveur, I sliced a log of goat cheese into thick, white discs, which I lay like loose paving stones in a shallow dish. Then I ran a bath of olive oil over the top and scattered around lemon zest, herbs, and sea salt. Standing in Mark’s kitchen, we scooped up drippy hunks of the soft cheese and ate them with water crackers and beer, which I highly recommend.

It was almost as good as the late-summer meal they made for us: a salad of sweet onions, okra, and homegrown tomatoes; slices of pan con tomate with slivered manchego; eggplant involtini filled with onions, sweet peppers, and something else that I ate too eagerly to identify; a spicy, brothy stew of olive oil, artichokes, and potatoes; and a two-layer coconut cake. It was sheer luxury, the stuff of great birthdays—right up to the sad moment near midnight when Brandon and I were soundly defeated at Trivial Pursuit. But we got to take home the leftovers of the marinated goat cheese, and no crappy Millennium Edition can cast a shadow over that.

In fact, we so loved this cheese that on Sunday, I found myself making a second go-round—a one-off riff this time, inspired by a recipe of my sister’s—for a second birthday gathering with friends that night. Next to not cooking at all, it is the easiest thing I can imagine.

Marinated Chèvre with Lemon Zest and Fresh Herbs
Inspired by Laura Chenel and Saveur

This recipe marks one of the rare occasions on which I am choosing to not give precise quantities—mainly because I didn’t use them myself. [Brandon is so proud of me.] I put this dish together by eye, mostly, and so far as I can tell, it would be hard to go wrong. The original formula calls for Italian parsley and chives, but I used basil, thyme, and marjoram instead, because that’s what we had on the patio. The only element to be careful with is the lemon zest, which can easily overwhelm the other flavors. I like this best after it has had a good day to rest in the refrigerator, where the lemon flavor softens wonderfully and melds with the oil and herbs. It makes for an easy, refreshing, end-of-summer appetizer.

About 6 oz. fresh, mild goats’ milk cheese, such as Laura Chenel’s Fresh Goat Log
Good-tasting olive oil
About 4 pinches of finely grated lemon zest
About 1 Tbs chopped fresh basil
About 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
About ½ tsp chopped fresh marjoram
Sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Slice the cheese into ½”-thick slices, and place them in a single layer on a serving platter or in a shallow dish. Drizzle olive oil over the cheese to just—or nearly—cover. Scatter the lemon zest and herbs over the top, and season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow the cheese to sit for a couple of hours at room temperature, or, preferably, in the refrigerator for a day or so. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving with crackers, such as water crackers, or warm, crusty bread.

Yield: 4 or so servings


My Sister’s Marinated Chèvre

My sister Lisa made this delicious mixture at Christmastime a few years ago, and with a bit of prodding, she wrote the recipe for me on a sheet of lined paper, which I have kept in my clippings file ever since. My mother thinks that the recipe may have originally come from my father’s cousin Sharon, so perhaps I should call it “My Father’s Cousin’s Marinated Chèvre, as Made for Me by My Sister.” Either way, it makes a rustic but elegant appetizer and, like the recipe above, is wonderfully easy. If you can, make it a day ahead, and stash it in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld.

1 lb. fresh, mild goats’ milk cheese, such as Laura Chenel’s Fresh Goat Log
2 cloves garlic, cut in half and smashed under the side of a chef’s knife
½ tsp dried rosemary (or a bit more, minced, if you use fresh)
½ tsp dried thyme (or a bit more, minced, if you use fresh)
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp peppercorns, either black or multicolored
1 Tbs chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 Tbs chopped fresh basil
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
Good-tasting olive oil

Slice the cheese into ½”-thick slices, and place them in a single layer on a serving platter or in a shallow dish. Place the garlic pieces among the slices, and sprinkle with herbs, pepper flakes, peppercorns, olives, and tomatoes. Add olive oil to nearly cover the slices. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow the cheese to marinate for a few hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator for a few days. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving with crackers, such as water crackers, or warm, crusty bread.

Note: On a whim, Brandon put part of a batch of this into the food processor, and it became a delicious creamy spread that would be perfect for sandwiches of grilled vegetables or meats, or on a crostini. Mmm, mmm.

Yield: Quite a bit


Blogger kickpleat said...

two goat cheese recipes? oh my! i think i've got all my late-summer snacking set!

11:49 PM, September 11, 2006  
Blogger Kalyn said...

They both look wonderful.

5:29 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger Julie said...

Well, these recipes would certainly be an easy way to eat an entire log of goat cheese before I even realize it. Great olive oil and goat cheese together really is sheer luxury...of course sharing it with friends is the best part. I like the idea of whipping it into a spread. Happy B-day!

6:40 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

We loved being in France and getting incredible Chevre everywhere we went! Tastes great toasted on bread :)

6:41 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger lobstersquad said...

too right, there´s nothing to beat louging around a kitchen and waiting for your food.

7:08 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger Alanna said...

Laughing, yes, about precision instrumentation skills and the occasional gift of "just cooking". Both the recipes ... I mean concepts ... look GREAT.

7:09 AM, September 12, 2006  
Anonymous kayenne said...

would it matter using extra virgin olive oil or will plain regular olive oil do?

good cheese isn't easy to find here, nor is it cheap. but i think the popular local fresh buffalo "white cheese" we have will do nicely.

white cheese

8:34 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger Garrett said...

Oooh, yum! I'll have to make my Rob make me some of those whilst I lounge around like the lazybutt I am.

8:39 AM, September 12, 2006  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Happy Birthday, Molly! Your birthday dinner at Keaton's sounds totally marvelous. Hope this year is even better than the last! ;)

8:56 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger Shauna said...

Well, since I ate a bit of both of these at your home the other night -- and played another game of that wretched Millenium Edition Trivial Pursuit -- I can vouch for the gorgeous joy and last-of-summer-warmth that both provide. And ay god, I love having you and Brandon in my home, with champagne and pork and lovely bites of laughter. Any time, my dear. Any time.

9:01 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger christianne said...

Sounds tasty! I've been into pan-fried goat cheese on top of grilled or roasted vegetables lately, so I might have to try Brandon's blended take to spread on bread with my leftover veg.

9:37 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger Lia said...

Happy Birthday, Molly! Now I understand why I feel like I have so much in common with you since I'm a fellow Virgo, born just three days (and a few years) before you!

Both your dinners sounded absolutely scrumptious. I too just finished a week of birthday celebrations and still feel full from all the amazing food. Good friends and good food really make birthdays that much better. Happy bday to Brandon too!

11:05 AM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Kickpleat, I'll be thinking of you up there in Vancouver, with your late-summer goat cheese snacks...

Thank you, Kalyn!

Julie, I hear you. We had some leftovers of the second recipe with dinner last night, and wow, is it ever easy to wolf down huge hunks of the stuff at a time, especially when you want to be sure to get a little bit of kalamata, some herbs, and plenty of yummy, fruity oil in each bite! Very dangerous. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wheresmymind, I know exactly what you mean. When I was in France, I fell head-over-heels in love with crottins, those squatty, cylindrical, aged goat cheeses that they halve, set atop a piece of bread, and run under the broiler. I salivate a little just thinking of it...

Lobstersquad, maybe one day we can lounge around the kitchen together? And put our men to work? I wonder how quickly I could get to Spain...

Thank you, AK!

Good question, Kayenne. The most important thing is that you use an olive oil that you like. It doesn't matter whether it's extra virgin or not. I tend to like a nice, round-flavored, fruity oil for these recipes, but I'm not using anything terribly fancy - just my regular stuff (which does happen to be extra virgin, but that's just me). And thank you for showing me to your WellFed piece about Filipino "white cheese" - so interesting! I'll bet it would work just fine in these recipes...

That's the ticket, Garrett!

And thank you, dearest Luisa! Wish you had been there with us to celebrate. How are you at Trivial Pursuit, hmm? Brandon and I could have used some help.

Shauna, ma cherie, you are wonderful - as are your pork chops and plums! You're also pretty damn good at Trivial Pursuit, Millennium Edition or no. I'm going to stay out of your way, lady, where the board games are concerned. Ooh, and as for the marinated chevre, the version you tasted was my sister's, which I sadly had to make without rosemary or sun-dried tomatoes, and I do think it suffered a little. It wasn't quite right - not like it usually is. I guess that just means that I'll have to make it again soon. What a hardship...

Christianne, your idea for pan-fried goat cheese sounds wonderful. Do you use a fresh variety, or an aged one?

Happy belated birthday to you, Lia! Your extended celebrations sound right up my alley. We're headed to Oklahoma City this weekend - my mom is throwing us an engagement party - and I have a feeling that the birthday festivities will continue there too. I can't wait.

1:08 PM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger laura said...

Hi Molly,
I've been reading your blog for a while, but never commented - you inspired me to start writing about what I've been cooking up. The goat cheese looks totally delicious. Question - do you suppose it lasts longer once it is prepared like this? I always feel like goat cheese goes bad too quickly...
and, Happy Birthday!

1:49 PM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger supereric said...

holy cow. i never comment, but i always read. this is the best recipe i've seen you put up in some time. i'm stealing this one pronto. -E

2:58 PM, September 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These both sound delicious and I'm gonna make 'em for a party this weekend. One question: Anyone have good recommendations on yummy-tasting olive oil that won't break the bank? Thanks!


5:30 PM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger poopycat said...

Ohhh . . . .you've made me so hungry!!!

5:46 PM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger hannah said...

oh yes. i can do this and eat it all myself more than likely. they both look devine. while i love food, i have to say that i also love the standing and sipping in the kitchen that goes along with meals with friends. good times. and happy birthdays you two! i think brandon and david share one, the 10th? nice work.

9:54 AM, September 13, 2006  
Blogger Shari said...

happy birthday to you and b!

if there's one thing i love, it's good chevre. can't wait to try both recipes. xox shari

12:46 PM, September 13, 2006  
Blogger s'kat said...

I'm nearing the end of the work day, and this has my stomach all a-gurgle. Goat cheese rocks!

One of my go-to's is taking three or so varieties of minced herbs, and roll them onto the log. Simple but effective.

BTW, happy birthdays from a fellow Virgo- I'm the 13th!

Oh, and I love the serving size on the recipe, lol!

12:51 PM, September 13, 2006  
Anonymous Scott at Real Epicurean said...

You know, I've read about marinating cheese and seen in on TV, but never tried it.
I have a feeling chilli with Mozzarella might do the trick, but I need to try it...

8:22 PM, September 13, 2006  
Blogger Acme Instant Food said...

Nothing beats good friends and good food. Sounds like you are very lucky to have an abundance of both. Congrats!

10:00 PM, September 13, 2006  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Happy Birthday, dear Molly! I even timed it right with the comment, didn't I? And of course a (slightly belated) happy birthday to Brandon too. I hope your day is sunny, warm, and full of cheese (marinated? goat?), chocolate, and uncountable other delicious things.

And so funny about the TP. The game has a long and convoluted history in my family - my parents, for example, are obsessive players and claim to have NEVER been beaten as a couple. Nevertheless, a few years ago Manuel and I came within one question of beating them, and since then they've always found a convenient excuse to avoid playing us. Perhaps you and Brandon will be up to the challenge at Xmas? ;)

4:22 AM, September 14, 2006  
Blogger Saltyknees said...

Hi! I've only just run across your Blog. I'll be a regular visitor now ... lurking, lurking, waiting for wee tasty morsels like these. You know, I made some of these a while back I think it was September, intent on marinating them in the back opf my fridge until Xmas as a special treat. They somehow did survive and my S.O. and I enjoyed them immensely during the Festive Season. The only thing that I experienced that I didn't understand was that the EVOO I used solidified encasing the cheeses. I had to basically warm the contents back to room temp before enjoying and that was just too long!!! Doese anyone have a suggestion or remedy or is this just supposed to happen?

7:49 AM, September 14, 2006  
Blogger Who's Askin'? said...

on our 5th my now husband made me lobster medallions on a bed of wilted wild mushrooms with a champagne & vanilla reduction. i was nervous that he would be all sweaty and freaking out. he was cool as a cucumber. i swooned. years later he told me he had memorized the recipe so that he could appear so collected for me...mwaaawww.

10:54 AM, September 15, 2006  
Blogger Boring said...

Oh, yum, this sounds so good. I just saw Barefoot Contessa make a salad with pan fried chevre the other day and I have been craving it.

(Side note: I had to check your blog this morning because last night--I promise I'm not a creepy stalker--I had a dream that you were married and everyone in the world was talking about it and I didn't believe it until I came here and noticed that every picture of food also had a picture of your left ring finger with a wedding band on it).

7:32 AM, September 16, 2006  
Blogger Natalia said...

Sometimes simple, easy recipes are the best. Especially if they're followed by a meal someone cooks for you. Looks delicious!

8:07 PM, September 16, 2006  
Anonymous LPC said...

I enjoyed reading this entry and how "forgiving" chevre is. It's one ingredient that is versatile and can be used in many dishes. I like B's chevre spread idea.

1:04 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger hello jamie: said...

OK, your goat cheese sounds and looks fantastic (you know if it contains any lemon at all I'm on board). I would also add some fresh cracker pepper I think... but can you please, please, please finagle that sweet onion/okra/tomato recipe out of your friend? It sounds simply heavenly. You can e-mail it to me if you don't feel like posting it. Thanks~

2:42 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you for the birthday wishes, Laura! And welcome to the blogosphere! Very happy to have you. But now, as for the lifespan of goat cheese, hmm. I haven't noticed its short shelf life, but maybe that's because I eat it so quickly! If you're having trouble with spoilage, yes, these marinated versions should last a good deal longer. The olive oil helps to preserve and protect the cheese. I can't say for sure, though, just how long it will last, because honestly, this stuff usually gets eaten right away...

Go for it, supereric. Steal away!

Annie, I'm so sorry that I didn't get a chance to answer your e-mail sooner. Your party is now long over, I'm afraid! So sorry. I hope you found a good, affordable oil - did you? If so, what did you choose? I find that Whole Foods's 365-brand olive oil is quite good for everyday use, but for recipes like this one, I also like a more refined flavor. For that reason, I try to keep a couple of types in the pantry - nothing too expensive, but good. Unfortunately, I almost never buy the same one twice, mainly because I can never remember what I bought! Argh. Do you have a specialty store nearby that will let you taste a few oils? If not, I can tell you this: a California company called Stonehouse Olive Oil makes nice ones for not-too-terrible prices. I think they may even be available at Williams-Sonoma stores, which makes them somewhat easy to get your hands on. Here's their website.

Poopycat, hope you found something to nibble on...

Hannah, how funny that Brandon and David share the same birthday! Wish we could have had you two over for a little sipping and standing around and good times...

Thank you, dear Shari! And xo too.

S'kat, happy belated birthday to you! Hope you had a good one - maybe with some goat cheese and herbs?

Scott, I hope you give this a whirl - it's about time! And if you do try it with mozzarella, let me know. Sounds like a great alternative...

Thank you, Acme Instant Food. I feel very, very lucky.

Yikes, Melissa! Brandon and I are going to have to start bulking up on trivia in anticipation of Christmas. You and Manuel had better play nice! Perhaps if I ply you with some of my great-grandfather's boozy egg nog, we can win by default? Heck, it's better than losing outright, I guess. But in the meantime, thank you for the perfectly timed birthday wishes! I was in Oklahoma when I read them, gearing up for an evening of rare steak and Grand Marnier souffle. It was a very happy birthday.

Welcome, Saltyknees! So glad that you found me - and by the way, I love your screen name. And as for this business of solidified olive oil, I know just what you mean. The oil solidifies slightly when I refrigerate my marinated goat cheeses too, and also in my vinaigrettes and other oil-heavy things. I know of no way to get around it, I'm sorry to say. It just means planning ahead a bit, so that you leave time to let the oil and cheese warm up before serving. You know, a little delayed gratification.

Susan, that is SO sweet - and it sounds SO delicious. Brandon, are you reading this? Where are my lobster medallions? Harumph.

Boring, that dream is too funny! Really, really funny. But I promise, when we do get married - which, I assure you, isn't until next July! - I will try to stay low-key about the wedding band shots. Only one. Or maybe two. I think.

My thoughts exactly, Natalia.

LPC, it is pretty amazing how versatile chevre is. It's sort of the cameleon of cheeses, you know?

Jamie, I should have guessed that you'd be all over the okra! I'm going to e-mail Keaton right now and see if I can get the recipe...

3:48 PM, September 19, 2006  
Anonymous kellypea said...

It's been forever since I had a lovely marinated chevre. Both of your recipes sound wonderful. Skipping dinner quality ; )

3:56 PM, September 15, 2009  

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