Posts tagged goat cheese

the crust goes… crustless

Here at The Crust life has been going through a lot of ups and downs. Jobs found, jobs quit, jobs found again. We’ve moved three times. It’s no wonder my poor little journal here fell by the wayside. And in the meantime our eating habits haven’t exactly been wonderful. Just four or five posts ago I promised to take my diet in a different direction, but life got in the way again. This time the hubs and I are in it together, and we’re trying it on for six weeks.

The Plan:

  • vegetarian 6 days per week
  • grain-free, refined-sugar-free
  • no soy protein replacements
  • no (well, few) “replacement” baked goods using alternative flour
  • Breakfast: fruit crumble with granola topping of coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. OR soup (miso or broth base with vegetables and poached egg)
  • Lunch: nut-free energy bars for hubs, fruit and nut butters for me
  • Dinner: lettuce wraps, stuffed vegetables, chili, stews, roasted veggie bowls, etc.
  • Snacks: cheeses and lentil/chickpea flour crackers, fruits, nuts

Yesterday was our first day. For me:

  • Breakfast: garlic broth with poached vegetables and stirred in egg (like egg drop)
  • Lunch: apple with peanut butter
  • Dinner: roasted broccoli and sweet potato bowl with beet greens and miso dressing
  • Late Night Snack: pineapple; leftover half-poblano stuffed with corn, goat cheese, and chickpeas

And today:

  • Breakfast: skipped – I still fast when I can
  • Lunch: grapes, apple, peanuts
  • Dinner: pumpkin chipotle chili
  • Late Night Snack: roasted pumpkin with maple syrup and tahini

No pictures tonight, I’m afraid, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things gradually. To make up for it, double recipes!

 

Stuffed Poblanos with Grilled Corn, Goat Cheese, and Chickpeas

(serves 4 as a light meal; add a salad or, if you like, some roasted chicken. if you are sensitive to spicy foods, feel free to use bell peppers or even tomatoes or zucchini)

Ingredients:

  • 4 poblano or anaheim peppers
  • 2 ears corn
  • 5 oz. goat cheese (herbed or peppercorn work nicely here)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 c. creme fraiche or yogurt
  • 1/2 red onion, minced

Directions:

  1. Grill corn directly over the heat, turning every few minutes, until well browned–even slightly charred. Let cool and shuck into the bowl of a food processor. Add goat cheese and chickpeas, and pulse several times until it resembles a chunky paste.
  2. Stir creme fraiche and red onion into goat cheese mixture.
  3. Halve peppers and remove seeds. Fill pepper halves with goat cheese mixture.
  4. Grill 10-20 minutes, or until peppers have softened and charred slightly.

 

Pumpkin Chipotle Chili

(serves 4; in order to make this meal quicker, I “cheated” a little and added a can of refried beans–or in my case a package of delicious seasoned red beans–in order to get a thicker texture and richer taste without an hour of simmering)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small sugar pumpkin
  • olive oil
  • ancho chile powder
  • smoked paprika
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 large or 2 small bell peppers, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • chili powder
  • 1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 green onions, diced
  • 2 avocados, diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Peel the pumpkin, cut in half, and remove the seeds and pulp. Set aside half of the pumpkin for another use (I roasted them along with the seeds to eat later). Dice the other half of the pumpkin. Separate the seeds from the pulp, toss with a little olive oil, sprinkle with ancho chile powder and smoked paprika, and spread on a baking sheet. Bake about ten minutes, watching to see that they don’t burn.
  2. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin and cook, tossing often, until lightly browned on all sides. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook a few minutes, until softened, and then sprinkle with chili powder to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan over high heat. When hot, add cherry tomatoes and cook, shaking the pan often, until blistered and some have popped open.
  4. Add chipotle peppers, chicken broth, refried beans, black beans, and cherry tomatoes to the pot. Stir until well combined. Heat to boiling, then cover and reduce heat. Cook for about ten minutes, until pumpkin is cooked through.
  5. Divide into four bowls and top with avocado, shredded cheese, green onions, and pumpkin seeds.
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pasta with goat cheese + veggies

This was dinner tonight.  Around here, we love pasta, and we love our goat cheese.  And as for vegetables, ahhh, well we can take them or leave them, and try to make them as delicious as possible so they’ll be more fun to eat.  This is a perfect recipe for those who like the taste of goat cheese, but find it a bit too strong and, well, goaty.  Thinning it out with chicken broth and a bit of the salty, starchy pasta cooking water makes a luxurious and creamy sauce to coat the pasta with.

Pasta with Goat Cheese + Veggies (2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. linguine
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth

Directions:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil.  Salt generously and add pasta.  Cook 10 minutes, or until not quite al dente, still slightly chewy.
  2. In the meantime, heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook 2 minutes.  Add squash and tomato and cook another minute or two, until vegetables have softened somewhat.  Remove vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the saute pan.  Add chicken and cook until browned on all sides.  Add to bowl with vegetables.
  4. Deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of chicken broth and then add the goat cheese.  Stir until the goat cheese melts, adding the remaining chicken broth.
  5. Add chicken and vegetables back to the pan and stir until coated.  Heat until bubbling and cook another few minutes, until the pasta is done.
  6. Measure out 1/4 c. of the pasta cooking water and set aside.  Drain pasta and add to the saute pan.  Toss with tongs until well coated and let cook for two minutes.  If the sauce looks thick and stickier, add the cup of pasta water and cook a further two minutes, until the sauce is silky and coats the pasta well.

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Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Radishes, and Kumquat Vinaigrette

Holiday dinners around our house are often an expression of excess, as with most people.  For the past few years, our family has adopted a new tradition, where we cook the foods of another country for our Christmas dinner.  Sometimes it is foods they eat on Christmas, or other festival/ceremonial foods, or just something that sounds delicious.  In the past, we’ve done Spain (an assortment of tapas and a roasted leg of lamb), Portugal (Portuguese Fisherman [a dish of spicy sausage, onions, and peppers], and condensed-milk-free flan), Switzerland (traditional fondue), etc.

This year, exhausted from months of planning and executing my wedding, we opted for something a little bit more American-traditional.  No specific menu in mind, just good, solid, Fall-season celebration foods.  Not wanting to go overboard on fat and calories, I thought a good salad was in order.  Now, I should specify, I almost never really eat salad anymore.  I have generally limited myself to Caesar salad, chinese chicken salad, and any of a variety of chunkier vegetable salads, such as panzanella (Italian bread and tomato) or the like.  Then I discovered my love of beets, especially roasted beets, and my love of goat cheese, and dear goodness, my love of them together.  Amazing.  I know they do well in salad.  I just needed to find the right accompaniments.

A small bin of fresh kumquats at the grocery store pretty much sealed the deal for me.  I brought them home without an idea of what I would do with them (and still haven’t used most of them, so ideas are welcome), and finally pulverized them into a delicious, creamy vinaigrette for this salad.  All in all, I really thought it was pretty well-balanced.  If you like nuts in your salad, I could see a good walnut or almond being put to use here.  Other roasted and cooled vegetables might also be a good match – carrots, asparagus, etc.

Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Radishes, and Kumquat Vinaigrette (10 first-course servings)

Ingredients:

For Kumquat Vinaigrette:

  • 10 kumquats, quartered and seeded
  • 6 oz. rice vinegar
  • spoonful of sugar (yes, really, I didn’t measure), or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 4 – 6 oz. olive oil, or to desired texture

For Roasted Beets:

  • 4 medium beets, each scrubbed under running water (no need to peel), and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For Salad:

  • 16 oz. baby spinach leaves
  • bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
  • 8-16 oz. soft goat cheese (or other cheese of your liking)

Directions:

To Make Roasted Beets:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Take washed beet wedges and toss in a large bowl with olive oil and salt.
  3. Spread on a baking sheet, and cover with foil.
  4. Roast about 30 minutes, then remove foil and roast another 15-30 or until beets can be pierced easily with a fork.

To Make Kumquat Vinagrette:

  1. Blend kumquats and rice vinegar in a food processor, blender, or a cup with an immersion blender, until thoroughly combined.  While the blender is running, add in as much olive oil as you desire for your preferred dressing consistency, somewhere between a half cup and a cup.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar.

To Assemble the Salad:

  1. Toss spinach leaves with vinaigrette until they are coated evenly.  Divide among salad bowls.
  2. Top each serving with 2-4 beet wedges, some of the radish slices, and about an ounce of the goat cheese, crumbled.

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Goat Cheese-Mascarpone Fig Ravioli Hack

Whole Foods had a sale on mascarpone cheese a couple of weeks ago and, it generally being prohibitively expensive for what’s really sort of a gourmet condiment, I don’t usually buy it.  This was a 2 for 1 sale, so I was excited to pick up two tubs, but didn’t really have a clue what to do with them.  Surveying the fridge and realizing I also had a huge log of goat cheese and a package of wonton wrappers that I’d bought ages ago, I thought I would make a goat cheese and mascarpone ravioli.

My thought was that the mascarpone would even out the sharp taste of the goat cheese to make a tasty filling, and I was right, though it was still pretty sharp and goaty – but then, I like goat cheese.

Dinner was delicious, but not very attractive, so I chalked it up to one more blog post I wouldn’t be able to write with a picture, but after we’d forked up the last of the ravioli, we looked at each other and said, “man, I’d love to have more of that.”  Luckily, I’d made way too much filling, so, after thinking all we needed was a sweet element, I set to work.

So why is this a ravioli “hack,” you ask?  I guess you could also call it a “cheat,” and it’s because it’s not actually a filled pasta.  In boiling water, wonton wrapper ravioli are notorious for splitting and some of the filling spilling out into the boiling water, so I said, “screw that, I’ll just place the filling on top.”  It was pretty rich, so a smaller plate than we ate should go a long way.

Goat Cheese-Mascarpone Fig Ravioli Hack (serves about 8 for dessert, I’d guess, or 3 for dinner and dessert, or 4 for a dinner portion leaving out the fig)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 c. fig spread, melted, if making dessert
  • freshly grated Parmesan, if making dinner
  • melted butter

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine cheeses, zest and juice of the lemon, salt and pepper.
  2. To make filled ravioli, place about 1 teaspoon of filling onto the center of one wonton wrapper.  Brush edges with water or egg, and then top with another wonton wrapper, trying to squeeze out air bubbles.
  3. Bring a pot of water to boil, salt generously, and then turn down to a medium boil (as opposed to full, rapid boiling).  For filled ravioli, place ravioli into the water and cook until ravioli float and are tender.  For the “hack,” just place wonton wrappers into water separately, waiting several seconds between each one so they don’t stick.  Cook until they are tender, just a few minutes.
  4. For filled ravioli, divide between plates.  For dinner portions, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.  For dessert portions, toss wonton wrappers in a little melted butter to keep them from sticking together.  Then crumble goat cheese mixture on top, followed by a drizzle of the melted fig spread.

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Leek & Bacon Pasta

Now I admit this is probably the sort of recipe that most people have stashed away in their recipe files or their brains, but they might not know it yet.  I see this recipe as one of those that can be endlessly varied based on the ingredients you have on hand – seriously, endlessly.  The formula basically goes like this: fat + aromatics + deglazing + grain etc. + liquids = delicious.  (PS – this is sort of a teaching post.  For those of you who know all this already, skip down to the recipe)

Typically, the fat will be either olive oil or butter, a combination of the two, or fat rendered from a meat, such as bacon, pancetta, or any of the dozens of types of sausage meats out there.  Aromatics are vegetables typically used to create a base of flavor in a dish, or a soup.  The most common aromatics used are onions, garlic, carrots, and celery, but you can also use shallots, scallions, leeks, chile peppers, herbs, and spices.  Often, different cultures or regions will have their own particular mix that is commonly used, such as the French mirepoix, which is two parts onion to one part each carrot and celery.  More on aromatics here.

You might notice as you are sweating or sauteing your aromatics in your chosen fat that a brown, crusty substance is developing on the bottom of the pan (at least if you’re not using non-stick).  If you don’t know what this is, you might think your pan just got a lot more difficult to clean, but never fear, this is what deglazing is for.  Deglazing the pan uses a flavorful liquid to dissolve the brown crust and begin developing a delicious sauce.  Most commonly, cooks use wine or any of a variety of broths, but practically speaking any liquid can be used – just be sure it’s a taste you like.  The liquid will bubble and spatter rapidly, and soon evaporate.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown crust off the bottom of the pan – wooden always works best for me.  Silicone utensils I find next to useless for this.

Once there is a wet, slightly sticky kind of mixture in the pan, it’s time to finish off the dish with grains and anything else that goes into it, like vegetables or bigger pieces of protein like chicken.  Grain in this case most often refers to pasta, but feel free to branch out!  In addition to the similarly common rice and potatoes (not a grain, but starchy), there is quinoa, couscous, amaranth, teff, millet, Israeli couscous, and the wide world of legumes: lentils, split peas, chickpeas, beans of all kinds.  In this case, pre-cook the grains, vegetables, and/or protein, and then add at this stage.

It’s ready to be finished!  To finish creating the sauce, add any flavorful liquids, such as melting cheeses, cream, or broths.  Then, as it cooks and thickens, if the sauce needs additional liquid with a little thickening power, the best and easiest option is often the liquid your pasta (or potatoes, etc.) has been cooked in.  A ladleful or two of this provides that certain something that can cause a pan full of soft stuff to coalesce into a cohesive sauce.  Garnish with anything extra, such as Parmesan cheese shavings, olives, capers, really whatever you want, and you’ve got a delicious plate of food just waiting to be devoured.

Here’s the version I made tonight:

Leek & Bacon Pasta (serves 2)

As you might imagine from the lengthy introduction, I encourage substitutions, omissions, and additions to this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 oz. pasta
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 medium leeks, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, 2 of them minced
  • 4 baby potatoes, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 2-4 oz. soft goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Set a pot of water on to boil.  When boiling, salt generously and then add pasta, and two cloves of garlic whole.
  2. While water is heating, add bacon to a saute pan over medium-low heat.  Cook several minutes, or until fat has rendered, and bacon is beginning to brown.
  3. Add butter, and swirl to melt it.  Then, add leeks, potatoes, celery, and remaining garlic.  Cook about ten minutes, stirring often.  If you start boiling your pasta just before adding these ingredients, when the pasta is ready to drain, you will be ready to move onto the next step – no timing required!
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 c. pasta’s cooking water.
  5. When the vegetables are soft, brown, and beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan, add wine, and cook, stirring, until wine has mostly evaporated.
  6. Add goat cheese, and pasta water as needed to create a creamy sauce.

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