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.

La Tur-rific Macaroni & Cheese

There’s a cheese called La Tur that you should know about. Full disclosure – it is one of those smelly and bloomy kinds.

The small, circular crottin is derived from sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk and has a semi-soft center, oozing outer rim that’s enclosed in a wrinkled rind.

At room temperature, you slice into it and the cheese comes pouring out of its mold. Like slightly thickened cream.

If this appeals to you, keep reading.

Luckily you can almost always find it at Whole Foods, and more often than not I have luck at specialty cheese shops or gourmet markets.

Because I want to give you a reason to go out and buy this cheese, I combined two of my favorite foods, one of which is ubiquitously loved, probably by you too. So you have no excuse. Let me just acknowledge out of the gate – saying macaroni and cheese is your favorite food doesn’t make you unique.

It’s like, no shit, we all do.

I just winged it with this dish, and it turned out great. How couldn’t it though? To amplify the funkier flavor I replaced cow’s milk for goat’s milk, and it took it to another level.

We should rethink macaroni and cheese entirely, because there is so much you can do with it– why don’t we try swapping out American or cheddar for the good stuff we like to eat on its own? Not to say American processed cheese product does not have its own home in my heart. Sometimes, only good old Velveeta will do.

Meltability and retaining moisture in the oven have something to do with why some cheeses are better than others, but try this dish with La Tur (or something you’re partial toward that’s a little out of left field), mix it with some melty cheese go-to’s, and you’ll regret not doing it earlier.

Carbs and cheese, people. Divinity in food form. Hallelujah.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This makes enough for several people, probably 4 to 6 – but again, how bad could leftovers be? Or just cut the recipe in half. Instead of reheating leftovers in the microwave, try reheating in a toaster oven. It’ll revive more of that crispy on the top / bubbly on the inside texture.

  • 1 lb dried short pasta of your choosing
  • 1  La Tur crotin, crumbled
  • 4 cups high-quality aged cheddar or another high-quality cheese, or a combination of cheeses, grated (I used 2 cups aged Cabot cheddar I had in my fridge and 2 cups good-quality Gruyere)
  • 1 quart goat’s milk
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons salt, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted), plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 / 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and finely minced
  • 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Butter a 12 in. by 9 in. casserole dish, although a smaller casserole dish will work as well (i.e. a 9 in. circular casserole dish). You could even split it evenly amongst smaller gratin dishes for a fancier presentation, if you wanted.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt to flavor the water.
  3. Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter and add the 1 /4 cup of flour in a separate heavy-bottomed large pot, stirring constantly with a whisk on medium heat until lightly browned to remove some of the raw flour taste.
  4. In the meantime, in a small pan, warm the goat’s milk on medium-high heat until just before simmering, when there are small bubbles on the sides of the pot. Do not boil.
  5. Cook the pasta until al dente or slightly before al dente if you prefer your pasta to have even more of a bite. That’s how I like it. It will cook more in the oven.
  6. Once the roux has been whisked for a few minutes, add the quart of the warmed goat’s milk, stirring constantly until no lumps of flour remain. If you’ve warmed the goat’s milk enough, the mixture should start to thicken relatively quickly. Keep stirring and turn the heat up to medium high if need be to speed up the thickening process. You’ll want to get to a consistency where the mixture lightly coats a spoon.
  7. Off the heat, add the grated cheeses, the nutmeg, the minced thyme, the 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 / 2 teaspoon of pepper.
  8. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture. If you can time the pasta so that it goes straight from the cooking water into the cheese mixture, it will be that much better. Taste for seasonings once combined, making sure it has enough salt.
  9. Combine the 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Evenly top the dish with the buttered panko crumbs.
  10. Place the casserole dish on a larger baking sheet, covered with foil to eliminate the need for clean-up. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the edges of the casserole are browned and the dish is bubbling hot.