Crostini with Whipped Goat Cheese & Summer Herbs

Unlike cow’s milk, which much of the commercialized world is accustomed to for its milder taste, goat milk and cheese products have more of a musty and acidic flavor.  I’m talking about the French-imported, preferably unpasteurized chèvre.

Anyone else obsessed with Bucheron?

With goat cheese, the flavor can be very intense. Tasting it, you can just imagine some dairy farmer drawing milk from the goat’s teat that transformed into the cheese you’re eating at that moment.

It’s the same thing I’ve noticed with people who prefer dark meat and lamb meat – it tastes gamey and a bit funky. That’s why I like it.

For those on the fence about goat cheese, I discovered Ina Garten’s Salad with Warm Goat Cheese. I’ve been cooking that recipe for years now for any picky eaters who claim to hate the stuff.

No matter the vehicle it’s served on, you can’t go wrong with a slathering of whipped, soft cheese infused with flavored oils, spices, herbs and whatever else feels right. Ina Garten published a Tomato Crostini with Whipped Feta recipe that is out-of-this-world. I fully disclose I drew inspiration from her with this recipe here.

The lighter texture achieved by the whirring in a food processor makes it more spreadable, and gives it a lighter consistency more appropriate as an hors d’oeuvre for outdoor eating in the summer.

Just like vegetables and fruits can be in-season, herbs can be categorized the same way, to some extent.

The heartier herbs, which you can probably already guess, like rosemary, thyme and sage tend to thrive in cooler and drier climates and temperatures. Herbs like basil, tarragon, chives and the those with more delicate leaves are typically unable to survive once temperatures plummet.

Basil is a universal go-to summer herb. Tarragon and chives and dill taste like summer to me, too, because I plant them every late spring.

Let me know if you have a different recipe for a cheese-topped crostini on-hand. I’d love to hear about it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4 to 6 as an hors d’oeuvre.

F o r  t h e  C r o s t i n i

  • 1 crusty French baguette, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Olive oil, for toasting
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  W h i p p e d  G o a t  C h e e s e

  • 12 oz. high-quality goat cheese*
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

*Montrachet is a great French-imported brand to use, and can be found in most grocery stores. But if you can find a more uncommon variety of soft goat cheese at a specialty food store, it will be that much yummier. Humboldt Fog, Bucheron, Bonne Buche from Vermont Creamery (with rinds removed) would all be great as well. Appreciative of Serious Eats for their listing of goat cheese varieties beyond chèvre.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat your oven to *425.
  2. Cut the baguette on the diagonal, about 1 / 4 to 1 / 2 inch thin.
  3. Rub each piece with the garlic clove, and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle the baguette slices with salt and pepper.
  4. Toast the crostini for 7 to 8 minutes in the oven.
  5. In the meantime, place the goat cheese, herbs, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, half the lemon zest and salt and pepper in a food processor. While pulsing, pour in the olive oil.
  6. Pulse continuously for 30 seconds or so, until the mixture is combined and has emulsified & has thickened.
  7. If serving family style from a bowl, top with additional minced herbs of your choice, lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil. To make it easier for folks to grab-and-eat, smother each crostini with 2 tablespoons of the spread and place on a large platter, sprinkling with lemon zest and minced garnishing herbs of your choosing. This tastes best served room temperature.

Tuna Nicoise Deviled Eggs

Isn’t it weird they’re called “deviled” eggs? I think this characterization of them as being somehow affiliated with the devil himself, is wholly appropriate. I think of Momofuku’s Crack Pie.

Some foods are just so good that they’ll ruin your life. Just kidding.

And being curious, I looked it up. In the 18th century the term “deviled” originally referred to any food that was flavored in some form, usually made to be spicy or heavily seasoned.

But I discovered and was surprised to learn that deviled eggs have their roots in Ancient Roman cuisine – and would be served as an appetizer for nobles. They’d combine it with some liquid – wine, broth, and some spice – usually pepper.

They have evolved a lot since then. And other cultures have adopted different variations.

Lucky Peach, which was an amazing publication that I miss so damn much, posted a recipe several years back that I can’t locate online. But it was a traditional take on a home-style version of Asian stuffed eggs (I cannot remember which country it was indigenous to), and it was a presentation I was entirely unfamiliar with. The stuffed eggs were served whites side up, garnished on top with a thin slice of carrot, with rolls of sliced mozzarella cheese served in the middle of the plate.

For some reason its simplicity appealed to me. I think that’s why deviled eggs have stuck around for so long.

Regular American deviled eggs nowadays, the sad, couple-day old ones you find sitting in the prepared food section of your grocery store, will typically combine the yolks, go heavy on the mayonnaise, of course – because, why not – toss in some yellow mustard and sprinkle a bit of paprika.

Do not get me wrong, I love the classic good-old-American deviled egg.

But for those looking to expand their deviled egg horizons, here’s a fun, more elevated version of the classic. I hope you’ll like it. There’s infinite ways to transform the incredible, edible egg.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This recipe will produce 12 deviled eggs. Double (or triple) the amount as necessary. 😊

  • 6 high-quality fresh eggs (the larger the egg, the better)
  • 2 oz. high-grade raw tuna, finely minced
  • 1 1 / 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 Teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon capers, minced
  • 1 Teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 anchovies, finely minced
  • 4 Nicoise olives, finely minced*
  • Pinch of pepper

*If you don’t have Nicoise olives (I know I can’t always find them), black olives will work just as well as a substitute.

O p t i o n a l

For those of you anchovy lovers like me, in addition to the tarragon leaf, top each egg with an anchovy filet cut in half for extra salty and fishy goodness.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Submerge the eggs in cold water so all the eggs fit in one layer in the pot, and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover. Once boiled, remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, submerge the eggs in ice water until they are cool enough to peel.
  2. In my experience, the easiest way to peel boiled eggs is to lightly smash either side of the egg, roll it lightly from side to side, and then peel the shell off.
  3. Slice the eggs in half, removing the yolks into a small bowl. Arrange the egg whites on a plate and put them in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
  4. Vigorously combine the egg yolks with the rest of the ingredients with a fork until fully incorporated. Taste for seasonings. They’re shouldn’t be a need for additional salt, but add if needed.
  5. Remove the egg whites from the fridge. With a small 1-inch scoop, fill each egg white half with the filling.
  6. Garnish each egg with a tarragon leaf. Place the eggs back in the fridge for at least 15 minutes so the flavors have a chance to combine and the eggs have a chance to chill. If you can’t wait, room temperature works too.
  7. Serve, making sure you eat one (or two) first, because you never know how quickly they will disappear. It’s been known to happen.

Cocktail Garnish Olive Tapenade

After I finish a jar of pickles, I keep the remaining pickle juice in the fridge. So I can drink it, pickling spices and all.

I’ve been all about anything salty, briny or vinegary ever since childhood. It started with a fondness for good old bottled Italian salad dressing you buy at the grocery store. Which I’d pour on everything.

I won’t go into detail about what some of those choice foods were. I will say that of all the foods, the least gross was cold, leftover spaghetti, which I would make soup out of.  My parents had to bring bottles of it with us in our luggage when we went on trips. It was that depraved.

As an adult, it manifests itself with a proclivity for pickled anything, especially McClure’s Pickles, and very dirty martinis.

The only other person I know who loves brine more is my larger-than-life Italian uncle Mark, who, while on vacation one time, ate somewhere around one-hundred martini olives in a night.

According to his account, it all happened when the bartender was more than happy to give him free bowls of garnish olives. Fast forward a few hours, and it was so bad that his mouth and eyes puffed up, sealed shut from the dangerously high level of sodium he had ingested.

What the fuck is wrong with you, Mark?

So compared to Mark, I don’t actually like brine that much. But it’s still a mainstay craving I must succumb to on a regular basis. This hors d’oeuvre was born of the cocktail garnishes that make the quintessential, timeless martini look, and taste, like a martini. That, mixed with a take on the traditional, Provencal olive tapenade.

You should you eat this alongside a martini, too.

Actually, don’t even bother eating this without a martini in hand.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 – 4 as an appetizer.

  • 1 16 oz jar high-quality pimento-stuffed Manzanilla olives, drained & minced *
  • 1 / 2 16 oz jar cocktail onions, drained & minced (that much better if you can get your hands on a jar of Sable & Rosenfeld Vermouth Tipsy Onions)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pinch sugar

*Go beyond the traditional pimento-stuffed variety if you’d like – blue cheese-stuffed olives would be great, as would garlic-stuffed olives. Or goat cheese-stuffed olives. You see what I’m getting at.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Blend all the ingredients by hand in a bowl, mixing well.*
  2. Serve chilled or at room temperature, smothered on slices of fresh baguette or Carr’s Table Water Crackers.

*For a finer texture, mix all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you reach desired consistency.

Pearl Diver’s Oysters

There are few food-related experiences more blissful than slurping a clean, ice-cold oyster.

Oysters have that mysterious, pearl-producing, hand-collected by island-dwelling natives who dive to the ocean floor holding their breath for 1 hour underwater-thing going on. All the best foods are the ones that play hard-to-get, or make you wait literally years for them. Think about it.

This led me to confirm whether or not there are people who still pearl dive, and yes there are, but it’s less risky nowadays. Lame. I guess not everyone can be as badass as that guy Kino from The Pearl.  Remember that book?

Speaking of badass, let’s learn how to properly shuck an oyster together, which you will need to do for this recipe. I found this video helpful as a shucking amateur. You will need to buy an oyster knife too, so add one to your cart in your next Amazon order.

oystersbig3

In terms of sourcing the oysters, you either 1) have a dedicated fish market that you know supplies superbly fresh oysters on a regular basis 2) only have access to a hit-or-miss market that may or may not stock satisfactory shellfish 3) are willing, financially or otherwise, to order oysters online.

I fall somewhere between camps 1 and 2 – so I elected to buy them at a good local seafood market. One note on ordering oysters online. It’s unexpectedly highly recommended over taking a risk of purchasing or storing the sub-par stuff.

I will not pretend to preach expertise on different varietals of oysters, ever.

There are upwards of 150 distinct types harvested in North America alone distinguished by where they are sourced on a highly local level. This recipe calls for the variety or varieties you prefer, with a huge emphasis on whatever is freshest available to you.

And of course, get a bunch of types too, if you’d like. If you’re limited to U.S. varieties, on average, West coast oysters tend to be smaller and sweeter, while East coast oysters tend to be larger and slightly brinier (and dare I say, funkier).

So here’s a homage to the sinisterly delicious oyster.

Us devotees thank you for existing.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 – 4 as an appetizer, depending on appetites.

  • 1 – 2 dozen fresh oysters in their shell, variety of your choosing *
  • 3 fresh sea scallops, or 6 fresh bay scallops
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized shallot, minced
  • 10-12 sprigs of fresh dill, minced
  • 2-3 large lemons (enough to produce 4 tablespoons of juice, saving enough lemon fruit to squeeze 1 – 2 tablespoons of juice for finishing)
  • 1 / 4 cup high-quality, very dry Champagne or Pinot Grigio
  • 1 / 4 tsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red, white wine or champagne vinegar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Pinch of Maldon salt or another good-quality finishing salt

*Adjust according to the size of the oysters – the oyster estimate is based off of a “medium” sized oyster, or an oyster with a shell approximately 2 and ½ inches in diameter.

O p t i o n a l

  • 1 / 2 lb cup uncooked pearl couscous
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Shuck the oysters carefully, and place the meat in a small bowl. Pour any excess liquid from the oysters into a separate small bowl. Reserve half the oyster shells for plating the final dish.
  2. Cut each oyster in half crosswise. Small dice the fresh scallops in a similar size to the fresh oysters and add to the bowl with the oysters. Put the shellfish meat in the fridge.
  3. In a small sauté pan, heat the oil, and add the minced shallot, sautéing on medium-low heat for 5 or so minutes until heavily reduced and the shallot is transparent, making sure that the shallot does not brown.
  4. Add 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice to the pan, the 1 / 4 cup Champagne or Pinot Grigio, the reserved liquid from the oysters, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 / 4 teaspoon of sugar.
  5. Simmer for 7-9 minutes longer on low heat, allowing the liquid to reduce by about half.
  6. Off the heat, take half of the minced dill and add it to the vinaigrette.
  7. Allow the vinaigrette to cool, about 10 minutes.
  8. Once cooled, pour the vinaigrette over the raw oysters and scallops. Mix well.
  9. Place the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill. After ten minutes, remove the shellfish mixture, stir, and return to the fridge to chill for an additional 10 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, take the reserved oyster shells and place them on a bed of crushed ice, preferably in a wide, shallow metal pan, such as a paella serving dish.
  11. Take 1 tablespoon of the combined shellfish mixture and place in each of the reserved oyster shells. Sprinkle the shells with the remaining dill, lemon juice, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  12. Serve with cooked pearl couscous mixed with melted butter on the side, if desired as a palate cleanser.