Say Cheese: My Bombe's a Hit
If I had to pick one cheese that speaks of summer more than any other, it would have be goat cheese: the fresh, unripened kind that comes in a vacuum-packed log. It is dense yet fluffy in texture and as white as the sun-bleached houses on a Greek isle.
Tangy, earthy and bright, this simple cheese seems to have been created just for summer’s parade of glorious fruits, vegetables and herbs. Raspberries and peaches, tomatoes and peppers, basil and oregano . . . all are pairings equally at home sharing a plate with fresh goat cheese.
A log of goat cheese in your fridge is an insurance policy for entertaining; no matter who comes to call, you won’t be caught off-guard. My next-door neighbor, Anne, makes a ridiculously simple yet divine appetizer of artfully arranged goat cheese buttons (sliced from a log) seasoned with paper-thin slices of garlic, good olive oil, cracked black pepper and herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary or whatever she's got). When she serves it, it’s usually the first thing to disappear.
As an ingredient, goat cheese invites inspiration and experimentation in the kitchen. I look at a log of goat cheese one day and I may think: frittata. The next day: a cheesecake (sweetened with honey) or a green salad or a dish of pasta atop which the goat cheese is crumbled.
The other day I happened to see a bombe. (Recipe follows....)
Well, sort of. A real bombe is a frozen French dessert made of various flavors of ice cream or sorbet layered in a domed mold. I decided to make a savory goat cheese bombe -- something similar to the layered goat cheese tortas you see at gourmet supermarkets and cheese shops. Usually they feature alternating layers of goat cheese and different fillings: basil pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto and tapenade.
I find too many layers to be distracting and frankly overwhelming for the cheese, so I decided to stick with a single filling: a fresh basil pesto made with almonds instead of the usual pine nuts (to which my daughter is deathly allergic).
To make the bombe, I mixed the goat cheese with a little mascarpone, then seasoned the mixture simply with salt and pepper. I layered the cheese mixture and the pesto in a small metal bowl that I had lined with plastic wrap and refrigerated it until it was firm. Then I unmolded it onto a small serving platter. Since I am a sucker for — dare I say it — cheesy green, white and red combos, I garnished my bombe with a few strips of julienne sun-dried tomatoes.
Our neighbors Meredith and Andrew had invited us for dinner, so I took my domed creation along as an appetizer. I’m happy to report that my bombe was a hit.
And because I had such fun creating it, I decided to bring some other friends into the process. I gave four friends each an eight-ounce log of goat cheese and asked them to come up with their own creations (either original or adapted from a favorite recipe of theirs). In a few weeks, I’ll report back with the results.
In the meantime, what are some of your favorite ways to use fresh goat cheese?
-- Domenica Marchetti, whose Web site is DomenicaCooks.com.
Goat Cheese and Pesto Bombe
Serve with crackers or thin slices of baguette.
MAKE AHEAD: The bombe needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours to set firmly. It can be assembled and refrigerated a day in advance.
2 cups packed basil leaves
3 tablespoons (skin-on or blanched) sliced almonds, lightly toasted, plus more for garnish (see NOTE)
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch for the cheese mixture
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino Romano
3 or 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the plastic wrap
8 ounces fresh goat cheese (chevre), at room temperature
4 ounces mascarpone, at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry with paper towel and cut into 7 very thin strips (julienne), for garnish
Combine the basil, the almonds, garlic, salt and the cheeses in the bowl of a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped and just combined. With the motor running, add the oil to taste in a slow, steady stream; process to form an almost-creamy paste (it should be a little coarse). Transfer to a small container and hold at room temperature.
Whisk together the goat cheese and mascarpone in a small bowl until thoroughly blended and creamy. Stir in a generous grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
Have ready a 2-cup bowl and a large sheet of plastic wrap. Line the bowl with the plastic wrap, pressing it against the bottom and sides. Be sure there is overhang to cover the cheese once it is in the bowl. Use a pastry brush to coat the plastic wrap with a little of the oil.
Carefully scoop one half of the cheese mixture into the bottom of the bowl, spreading it out in an even layer. Firmly rap the bowl on the work surface to help even out the layer of cheese. Spoon the pesto over the cheese mixture, spreading it out evenly. Then spoon the remaining cheese mixture over the pesto, taking care to spread it evenly so that no pesto is visible. Fold the overhang of plastic wrap over the cheese and press it lightly so it has direct contact with the cheese.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until the bombe is firm.
When ready to serve, unwrap the top of the molded cheese. Place a serving plate over the bowl and invert it to unmold the bombe onto the plate. (If it sticks, you may need to loosen it by gently pulling up the plastic wrap. Once it is loose, place the serving plate over the bowl once more and unmold it.)
Arrange the strips of sun-dried tomato around the top of the bombe and sprinkle with a few toasted sliced almonds.
NOTE: Toast the almonds in a heavy, dry skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are lightly browned and begin to smell toasty. Watch carefully; nuts can burn quickly. Let cool.
Per serving: 170 calories, 6 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 27 mg cholesterol, 176 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar
The Food Section
July 28, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Recipes , Say Cheese | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, goat cheese, recipes
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