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As American as Goat Cheese

May 07, 1997|ABBY MANDEL | Mandel is a cookbook author. Her latest book is "Celebrating the Midwestern Table" (Doubleday & Co., 1996)

When goat cheese began to appear in gourmet shops and on restaurant menus in the early '80s, it was imported from France. Now there are many American cheese makers producing high-quality goat cheeses.

Although fresh, soft goat cheese is the most popular and versatile, I am especially fond of the ripened and aged goat cheeses that have distinctive tastes and varied, firmer textures. Seek them out; they need only a great baguette or a crisp cracker to make them a success.

These recipes reflect my personal taste for using fresh goat cheese with bright flavors so that its intrinsic great taste is the main attraction.

GOAT CHEESE TORTILLA CRISPS

2 (10-inch) flour tortillas

Olive oil cooking spray

1/4 pound Chihuahua cheese, hilled

1/2 jalapen~o, minced (seeded if desired)

2 large green onions, cut in 1-inch pieces

2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled into 1/2-inch chunks

Cilantro leaves

3 tablespoons seeded, diced tomato

Tomatillo salsa, optional

Tomatillo salsa is a perfect complement to these crisps, but other salsas can be used.

Place tortillas in single layer on baking sheet and spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and move oven rack about 7 inches from broiler. Turn on broiler.

Tear Chihuahua cheese into chunks and chop with jalapen~o and green onions in food processor. Divide cheese mixture between tortillas, spreading evenly. Scatter goat cheese over top.

Broil until Chihuahua cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Garnish with cilantro leaves and sprinkle with tomato. Use kitchen shears to cut each into 6 wedges. Serve with salsa.

2 main-course servings or 4 appetizer servings. Each main-course serving:

430 calories; 594 mg sodium; 68 mg cholesterol; 26 grams fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 22 grams protein; 2.37 grams fiber.

FUSILLI PASTA WITH TOMATOES, BASIL AND GOAT CHEESE (30 MINUTES OR LESS)

Salt

Water

1/2 pound fusilli pasta

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chunky stewed tomatoes

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

3/4 teaspoon minced garlic

Red pepper flakes

2 1/2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled in 1/2-inch chunks

1/3 cup torn basil leaves

Bring large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

Simmer tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon garlic in 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, uncovered, until somewhat thickened, about 3 minutes.

When pasta is cooked al dente, drain and set aside 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Toss pasta with 1 teaspoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon garlic. Add sauce and toss well. Add some reserved cooking liquid if pasta is too dry.

Add salt and pepper flakes to taste. Add half of cheese and all but 1 tablespoon basil leaves. Toss until cheese melts. Sprinkle remaining cheese and basil over top. Serve hot.

3 servings. Each serving:

418 calories; 289 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 62 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams protein; 0.89 gram fiber.

WARM GOAT CHEESE-ARUGULA SALAD WITH TWO-TOMATO VINAIGRETTE

Use young, small arugula leaves that are not as strong-tasting as larger leaves. If the arugula is strong-tasting, use half red or green leaf lettuce. I prefer sun-dried tomatoes that require soaking to the tomatoes packed in oil.

VINAIGRETTE

1 sun-dried tomato, soaked, drained, minced (about 3/4 teaspoon)

2/3 cup seeded, diced tomato

3/4 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons torn basil leaves

2 tablespoons diced red onion

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

SALAD

3 1/2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled

Olive oil

4 cups packed arugula leaves, stems trimmed, chilled

VINAIGRETTE

Combine dried tomato, fresh tomato, garlic, basil, onion, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside at room temperature 1 hour.

SALAD

Cut cheese into 4 pieces. Gently shape into small rounds and arrange on lightly oiled baking sheet.

Bake at 250 degrees until cheese is very warm but not melting, about 7 minutes.

Stir vinaigrette, then toss 1/2 cup with arugula. Divide among chilled salad plates. Put cheese in center of each salad and spoon remaining dressing evenly over salads. Serve immediately.

4 servings. Each serving:

209 calories; 281 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.23 gram fiber.

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