On the night I met my husband, Bob, I had a blind date with a very tiny urologist named Howard. It was November, 1984. Bob was introduced to me by a friend with whom, previously, I’d had a brief, secret fling. The friend introduced us and suggested we go out for a beer. I said I would love to have a beer, but was expected across the highway in a few minutes to meet a man with whom I’d been fixed up by my gynecologist. The gynecologist had performed this clever bit of matchmaking WHILE he was examining me. Dr. Ginsberg, the yenta, failed to mention that Howard the Urologist was mind-numbingly boring and that it is not sexy to drive a Camaro if you can’t see over the dashboard.
The blind date was not a total loss because Howard introduced me to Ernie’s, a wonderful restaurant in Hackensack. And once I had the beer with nice, tall, fun, and interesting Bob McGrath two days later, we spent countless delicious evenings there. It was at Ernie’s that I first tasted the duck pasta dish that would become the inspiration for many of my subsequent flavor combinations. And, Ernie’s was the first place I tasted goat cheese. That’s right, millennials, we didn’t have goat cheese until I was your age! I had friends who were and still are alarmed and grossed out by its very slight barniness, but to this day, we love the stuff and can’t get enough.
While I remember where and how I met both my husband and cheese made from goat’s milk, I don’t remember how or when I developed this appetizer. It was probably a few years later when I found out that there are edible flowers.
Like so many “recipes,” this has endless variations. Use it as a springboard for your cheese imagination.
Goat Cheese Appetizer
This is a perfect make-ahead for a pot-luck or holiday. It makes enough for 6-10 people to have for nibbles with a drink before dinner. And leftovers are a treasure.
8 oz soft goat cheese
4 oz cream cheese
Suggested fillings and toppings: minced olives, minced sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced scallions and/or chives, pesto, chopped cooked mushrooms, finely diced fresh tomato, chopped roasted red pepper, finely minced herbs (cilantro, basil, or dill), smoked salmon, nuts, edible flowers.
Bring ingredients to room temperature. Mix the cheeses well. You may do this by hand or use a food processor or standing mixer. I like the texture if you whip it a little in the food processor.
Choose one or more containers that look like the right size(s) and shape(s) to hold your creation(s). Remember that the finished cheeses will be inverted. Place a piece of plastic wrap into each container. Place a topping ingredient, like a flower or some herbs, in the bottom and carefully add a blob of cheese mixture to fill the container about halfway. Now, add your filling. Top with enough mixture to fill the rest of the container. Enclose with the wrap and press down to compact. Repeat as needed. Refrigerate for at least 90 minutes before unmolding.
To unmold, use the wrap to help pull the cheese out of the container. Serve with bread or crackers. For a wonderful, gluten free option, Mindfulness Bread is terrific!
Leftovers make a wonderful addition to salads or pasta. Stir some into sautéed, steamed or roasted veggies. Pop some under the skin of a chicken before roasting.
The moral of the story: The next time your gynecologist says, “Take my advice, marry a Jew,” don’t be offended. You might get a blog post out of it 32 years later.