Posts Tagged ‘goat cheese’

Spring Ricotta

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This  time of year we are having some warm sunny days and the heavy meaty dishes of winter no longer feel quite right, but I still want something warming  and filling.

At the same time, my doe goat Magnolia is nearing the end of a lactation, getting ready to deliver kids in six or seven weeks. At this point she’s producing just a quart a day, but it’s still rich milk produced entirely on alfalfa and I’m not about to waste it.

So every evening, after filtering the milk, I make ricotta, and when I have a few days’ worth of ricotta saved up I make ricotta al forno. I stole the recipe from Sarah Raven many years ago, and I haven’t tweaked it very much over the years because it’s perfect as is. The main change is that I use egg yolks instead of whole eggs. Yum.

Ricotta, about 1 and a half cups, but a bit more or less won’t hurt.
Yolks of 5 eggs
Salt to taste
Half a cup of heavy cream
Half a cup of grated Parmesan
Half a cup of pine nuts
Cooked veggies as desired. Or none.

Kitchen note: homemade ricotta is drained until quite dry. If you are using store-bought ricotta, you might need to hang it in the sink in cheesecloth or a clean towel for a few hours and let it drain. Otherwise, the resulting dish can be watery.  Another alternative, if you don’t want to take time to drain, is to add one additional whole egg to help it firm up a bit, or leave out the cream.

Put the ricotta in the blender with the cream and add the egg yolks one at a time while blending.  Blend in the grated Parmesan just for a second or two. Add salt to taste.  Decide whether you want vegetables. This is an endlessly versatile way to use leftover but good cooked vegetables. The version shown above has a couple of cups of leftover grilled zucchini, red bell pepper, and eggplant.  In the early summer, fresh cooked peas are absolutely delicious in this dish.  A good handful of chopped fresh herbs may suit your taste.  Just be sure that the cheese mixture is already seasoned properly.  Pour it into a buttered 8 inch baking pan, adding any cooked vegetables or herbs that you wish as you go. Top with pinenuts and push them in a little bit so that they don’t burn. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until done.  Let it consolidate and settle down for 15 minutes, then serve in  generous wedges.    A topping of your best homemade tomato sauce adds pizzazz.  My husband likes it with a sprinkle of extra finally grated Parmesan on top and run under the broiler for a minute, which produces the brown spots you see above. Just keep an eye on it because it does burn very quickly.

In June this is absolutely glorious made with some chopped fresh herbs and topped with homemade pesto.  For those of us who eat low-carb, it is something to put pesto on.  This lactation will only last two or three more weeks, but by June I will have fresh glorious grass fed milk again and be back in the ricotta business.

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Goat milk in the morning, and a great goaty book


My goat does Magnolia and Cocoa are out being bred right now, and the back of my property is depressingly silent, with none of the constant cross-talk that occurs as they stand on the roof of their goathouse observing the antics of the rest of us. It makes me realize how much they’ve become part of our daily lives. In their absence, I’ll talk about some things that I do with goat milk.
Of course I make cheese, mostly soft cheese and halloumi. I plan to discuss cheesemaking in some later post, but for now let’s get on to the fresh milk. You will hear it said that goat milk tastes just like cows’ milk, to which I say “Not so fast.” On day 1, goat milk tastes much like cows’ milk but even when impeccably fresh it has a tangier flavor profile. However, it contains lipase that works on the lipids and changes the flavor. On day 2, it’s good but you will know that you’re drinking goat’s milk. On day 3 it’s quite strong and only good for making stronger cheeses, and on day 4, as far as I’m concerned, it’s chicken food (they love it, by the way.) So the goal is to use it up by the end of day 2.

I’m always looking for nutritious, tasty, and interesting things to eat for breakfast. They have to be very quick, because getting to work in the morning is not optional. And they have to hold me for hours so that I’m not tempted to snack.
One of my favorite breakfasts is a sort of warm pudding of goat’s milk and rice. The flavors are based on an Indian drink of warm milk sweetened and flavored with saffron that I read about in my early twenties. I recommend cooking this in an unglazed clay pot for the ineffable earthiness it confers, but do use a flame-tamer device or a simmer burner, because scorched milk adheres to clay like stucco. You can make several days’ worth at once and it will keep in a good cold refrigerator for up to a week.
Start with eight cups of fresh goat milk. Add half a cup of unwashed uncooked basmati rice or jasmine rice. Start the burner on low, and as your clay pot warms up, increase the heat gradually to medium. Add half a cup of agave nectar (important for its low glycemic index), a half teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of saffron crumbled between your fingers, and a half teaspoon of cardamom crushed finely in a mortar and pestle (please don’t use the preground stuff.) For the first half hour you will need to stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot well all over with a wooden spoon so that the grains of rice don’t stick and scorch. Once the milk comes to a good simmer, turn the burner down as low as possible and add the flame-tamer under the pot. Add a large handful of raw shelled pistachios or slivered almonds. Let simmer, uncovered, for 4-5 hours. Stir occasionally. When a milk-skin forms on the top, stir it in. The rice will swell and the milk will cook down. You are aiming for something about the consistency of half-and-half, although naturally it will be lumpy with softened rice grains. It will thicken as it cools. Eventually you will have what looks like a cream-soup of a beautiful creamy-gold color. Turn off the burner and let it cool. Taste when cool, and add a little more sweetening if needed, but keep in mind that this is a breakfast, not a dessert. Store in a container in the refrigerator and ladle out into pretty little bowls, heat gently in the microwave (I use two minutes at the defrost setting for two bowls) and eat. I like to pour a tablespoon or so of extra fresh milk across the top for extra gleam and “juice.” It turns breakfast into a little ten-minute island of luxury, and the boost from my own chemical-free hormone-free alfalfa-fed goat milk is considerable.

Goats are compact, hardy, and economical, and the amount of milk they produce relative to body size is prodigious. It’s no surprise that they were among the earliest domesticated animals (although well after dogs) and that they still help people eke out a living in marginal circumstances all over the world. They are the ideal dairy/meat animal for small properties. And yet, rarely are the meat or milk seen in American cookbooks. This book changes all that, with scores of carefully composed recipes for the meat, milk, and cheese that goats produce. Buy it if you have goats or access to goat products. If you don’t, it’s still a great read, full of stories about the authors’ interactions with these highly interactive animals.
Also, checl out Mark and Bruce’s marvelous blog about making and eating real food, Real Food Has Curves.

Passing pleasures, gratitude, and September 11th


Some of the pleasures of having a little piece of land to call your own are direct. The joy of a perfect bacon, avocado, and tomato sandwich in late summer, with bacon cooked on the grill campfire-style and bread toasted likewise, and the juices of a perfect beefsteak tomato running down your chin, gratifies a hunger that goes well beyond the physical: the hunger for one simple thing in your life to be exactly right. Then there are the hungers that aren’t physical at all, and that you don’t even know you feel until they are unexpectedly fulfilled. I was reminded how lucky I am to be able to have a mini-wildlife refuge in my back yard when a couple of mornings ago, while I trudged around feeding the animals and wishing I was back in bed, I realized that a little flock of Wilson’s warblers was bouncing around in my sunflower jungle. They came out to watch me, and one graciously posed for a picture before heading down the flyway.

Then there’s hearing the “clomp” as my doe kid, Cocoa, practices her newfound skill of leaping onto the roof of the goathouse.

A breakfast of grainy bread spread with homemade goat cheese and drizzled with honey makes me purely happy to be where I am in the morning.

On September 11th we were reminded as a nation that life contains tragedy, disappointment, and sickening despair. Only a fool finds it easy to live in a stance of perpetual gratitude. But there are these radiant moments that push us to remember that there is also beauty, connection with the Earth, and genuine reason for gratitude. May our lives, and the intertwined lives of all the creatures of the planet, continue to draw us toward wholeness.

The First Tomatoes

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A grill offers wonderful vegetable cooking options. It’s a pity that most people only cook meat on their grills, because grilled vegetables make wonderful and satisfying summer meals. If you are a grilling enthusiast, or would like to become one, I highly recommend the elegant cookbook by Francis Mallmann Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. My husband, the family grill-wallah, was intrigued by the directions for Burnt Tomatoes, and set out to make a great tomato sandwich. All the hot work stays outside, and your kitchen is spared. Of course you can buy tomatoes at the Farmers Market if you don’t grow them yourself, but if you plant a few around your house, you’re likely to realize why they were grown as an ornamental even back when they were thought to be poisonous.
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Click here for the recipe! Continue reading