Holiday Goat Cheese Appetizers

Yuzu Marmalade and Coupole

This past week felt like a goat cheese re-commitment ceremony — the many pairings you suggested for the Vermont Creamery Giveaway filled my dreams with thimbleberries and Midnight Jam. Smooches to everyone who left a comment — you gave me some new flavors to imagine. Winner Margot C., who suggested shmearing goat cheese on a baguette and topping it with blackberry jam and Prosciutto di San Daniele, made me see stars. Congrats, Margot!

All of this has inspired me to flutter through a few long-ago posts involving goat cheese. I hope they infuse your holiday planning with some dappled visions. Goat cheese is easy to digest and the lightest of all cheeses, so if you’re looking to dial back the decadence without giving up flavor, well, just follow me…

Remember the Goat Cheese Beehive?

I’ve never forgotten this eye-popper from Chester Hastings, author of The Cheesemonger’s Table. Roasted garlic forms a layer between slabs of soft goat cheese that you press into a bowl. Then, the whole thing gets ceremoniously topped with honey. It’s a beautiful starter to serve with bubbly or a special wheat beer. I yearn to serve this with a gin cocktail, to add an herbaceous twinge. To make this recipe more wintery, try stirring some fresh rosemary into the goat cheese, and trim the hive with rosemary sprigs.

Goat Cheese Beehive

Buckwheat Honey and Fig Toasts?

One of my favorite snacks to take to a party is a tray of crostini, topped with goat cheese (I use local Shellbark Sharp II), garnished with fig halves and walnuts. I prep these before I go, then pop a jar of buckwheat honey in my pocket, along with some thyme sprigs. When I arrive, I simply drizzle and garnish. These are delish served with nut brown ale or sherry. Buckwheat honey is spectacular with goat cheese — musky and rich. For the holidays, I’m planning to make these with slivers of pear and salted pecans.

Shellbark Toasts

Baked Feta with Walnuts and Dates?

Here’s another beautiful marriage of honey and goat cheese. I ran this recipe on the Di Bruno Bros. blog several Novembers ago, and I still hear from fans who adore this easy dish. You simply take a hunk of feta (you can use goat’s milk or sheep’s milk), put it in an oven-safe crock, ring it with date halves and walnuts, and drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil over everything. Bake this dish at 400 degrees until the feta softens — about 8 minutes. Then remove the crock, turn the oven to broil, and brown the edges of the cheese — 4 to 6 minutes. Serve it with a drizzle of honey, some fresh thyme, and a dish of pita chips.

Baked Feta

Soft Goat Cheese with Chipotle Oil?

For something savory, I like to drizzle a crottin (a round of goat cheese) with a spiced olive oil, like chipotle oil. You can dress it up with pepitos or some roasted red peppers. To build a cheese board around this little tuffet, add some plump green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cured meats (mole salami would be incredible), and a dish of pistachios. Chipotle oil is gently smoky, so I’d serve this with a smoked beer or a mezcal cocktail. Add baguette rounds or pumpkin-seed crackers. You could also use a good rosemary-olive oil, if you wanted something less spicy — add some olive bread on the side and a dish of walnuts.

Chipotle Oil and Goat cheese

Pantleo with Kalamata Olives?

Pantaleo is my midnight-snack cheese. It’s a Sardinian cheese in the style of Pecorino, but it’s made with goat’s milk. The flavor is lemony and bright with a woodsy low note and a whiff of seaside. During the holidays, it’s my seaside vacation. With a few plump olives and a hunk of whole-grain bread, Pantaleo is the cheese I love to nibble while flipping through a pile of cookbooks.

Pantaleo and Olives

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Happy holidays, dear ones. I’m beginning to reflect about my favorite cheeses and cheese recipes from 2014 — what are your stand-outs?

P.S. Is anyone else eyeing the Gingerbread Waffles over on Smitten Kitchen? I think they’d be luscious with some whipped goat cheese and a touch of orange blossom honey.

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