In southern France, I’m reading they’re already cooking the first of the courgettes (zucchini) and beans while here on the edge of the Rocky mountains snow will fly tonight and we’re damned lucky to have the first of our garden’s bounty, which is always herbs. When spring is trying ever so hard to be sprung in Colorado and my herbs have just begun to come on, there’s nothing like focusing on all of them (and little else) to make an herbaceous melody of a cheese spread perfect for favorite crackers, grilled baguette, vegetables, stuffed tiny sweet peppers or cherry tomatoes, omelet fillings, and more.Jump to Recipe
Our zucchini is months away and that’s if the squirrels and deer don’t get it first. I never give up hope, but balk at complete fencing as it blocks our view and, in truth, I don’t mind a little sharing with the animals. A little, I said. In the photo above, you’ll see the squash has some see-thru temporary fencing, but it isn’t particularly effective for animals who easily leap to heights above four feet or, for that matter, those that can fly.
When it was time to plan my friend and student Jim Mahoney’s (pictured above mincing herbs) French Tarragon Class and I looked for an appetizer highlighting his favorite herb, I needed to look no further than my own garden’s first fruits to come up with the most local (!) ingredients for one of my simple-to-make, but special-to-eat cheese spreads — something I’ve made for years. A basic version is even in my soup cookbook, SOUPS AND SIDES FOR EVERY SEASON, from way back in 2014.
Check out the main course for the French Tarragon class, Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Chive Aioli and Lemon Asparagus here, posted last week. (I have one recipe left to share from the class; stay tuned!)
I wouldn’t blame you for buying the herbs for my easy app, but if you’ve an herb garden in your yard or in pots on your balcony/porch/deck, you’ll save a few bucks and the time it takes to shop, as well. I think your mouth will be happy when you try this:
Herbed Goat Cheese Spread
- 5 ounces goat cheese at room temperature
- 4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt-can sub milk
- 2 tablespoons EACH minced fresh French tarragon, dill weed, parsley, and red onion
- ¼ teaspoon EACH kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Dash hot sauce-I like Tabasco
- Mix together all of the ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined using a handheld electric mixture or a fork if you’ve a strong arm. Taste and adjust seasonings to suit your palate. Serve at room temperature with crackers +/or fresh vegetables. Store tightly covered in refrigerator for a week. I haven’t frozen this, but my gut says you could do it!
WINE: This appetizer deserves its own wine. You can use it for the salad, too, if you’ve enough. Sauvignon Blanc is the quintessential pairing for goat cheese and I’ll go right along with that. If you’re small-splurging on a French wine, try a Sancerre–my favorite wine hands down. Want American? Read up here. My friends Christa and Jim brought a Paso Robles Vermentino and we loved it. Lately it seems there’s little California can’t do. Please, God, keep the fires away this summer.
CHANGE IT UP:
- You could make this spread in the food processor and it would be fine. I like chopping and mixing by hand or electric mixer as the herbs remain visible instead of totally blended in. I think you taste the individual herbs more without the food processor, too, but for fast results — choose the power tool and be chowing down in seconds.
- Don’t have these particular fresh herbs? Use the soft herbs you have: cilantro, mint, basil, chervil, or tiny bits of oregano. You could even try using very young woody herbs like savory, sage, and thyme if chopped very finely and used sparingly (taste as you add and mix). Read up on soft/woody herbs here.
- Like spice or heat? Once you’ve spooned this spread into its serving bowl, cover the top with freshly ground black pepper — which is also a pretty and inexpensive garnish. Increasing the hot sauce is another way to add heat, but be careful not to sacrifice the taste of the fresh herbs and the red onion by using too much. I like the idea of choosing the individual flavors within a dish over heat.
- Garlic Guru? Swap in garlic for the red onion, but make sure it’s a fresh, plump clove. One is likely plenty.
- Lemon Lover? Lemon is a BFF to goat cheese and doesn’t need a lot else to make a tasty spread, though I do like lemon and garlic together with a strong accent of black pepper. If you’d like lemon in today’s cheese, try adding just a tad of grated lemon rind or a small splash of fresh lemon juice to see what you think before going wild with it as the herbs need to shine here.
TIPS FOR REDUCING FOOD WASTE FOR THIS RECIPE:
- If you’re a single or half of a couple, you won’t eat all of this spread at once. Plan ahead, wrap well, and store in fridge within two hours. Use the rest for sandwich spreads, veggie dips, to stuff cherry tomatoes or tiny sweet peppers, to fill an omelet, to spread on sliced cucumbers, to top a piece of grilled salmon or chicken, etc. What about a pizza or frittata topping? Another option is to share the spread with a friend or neighbor; they’ll thank you! While I indicate a two-day fridge storage window, this cheese will keep a few of days longer than that, but the flavor won’t be quite as good.
- You’ll have cream cheese leftover if you’ve bought the usual 8-oz package. Wrap it well and it will keep quite a while in your fridge — perhaps up to two weeks. You can make another batch of herbed or other cheese spread(!), add it to cheese sauce, stir it into scrambled eggs, lather it on English muffins with jam, or spoon spicy pepper (or other) jam on top for a different appetizer.
- Grow your own herbs in pots or in the garden if possible. You’ll pick only exactly what you need and, even better, can often bring some herbs inside for the winter. If you have to buy herbs at the grocery store (a more expensive option for sure) and know you’ll have extra, think ahead to how you’ll use them. An easy idea is to toss some leaves and minced stems into the very next green salad you make; you’ll be surprised at the difference even parsley alone will make in your greens.
If nothing else, freeze them in a small container or storage bag and later toss in the stock or soup pot. Before the first freeze in the fall, I freeze a lot of herbs on their stems and use them all winter long for stock. You can eat quite a few herb flowers, too, so don’t snip them off without checking. This is “Think Green” at it’s best and most real.
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One of my favorite books….
MORE INFO THAN YOU WANTED:
One of my favorite local (Longmont, CO) goat cheesemakers is HAYSTACK MOUNTAIN CHEESE. They teaching cheesemaking, too. If you live in Colorado, you most likely can find at least a couple of their products at your local grocery.
If you read the blog last week, you’ll remember our gorgeous ornamental crab tree bloomed. Saturday morning, as I readied the kitchen for the Tarragon Cooking Class, the wind began to kick up and while it didn’t decimate the tree, it looked like it was snowing in our front yard…
…and then, it really did snow. The robins are enjoying the moisture:
LIFE GOES ON:
below: my Blueberry-Rhubarb Cinnamon Crisp — to which I added pecans to the topping. Score! This little ditty is great for dessert with vanilla ice cream and even better for breakfast with plain Greek yogurt. The recipe makes a big old panful. Here, I’ve halved it, though I added an extra cup of rhubarb as I had it:
Thanks for visiting my kitchen. What spring cooking are you looking forward to?