The Great Goat Cheese Giveaway!

French goat cheese infographic

My love for cheese, namely French cheese has remained no mystery here.  In fact, I recently made and chronicled two pilgrimages to France, specifically to explore and taste French cheese.  I spent the majority of that time in a state of transcendent bliss, savoring many examples of uniquely shaped French goat cheese.

Fortunately for you, there is a wide range of goat cheese – both domestic and international available in the U.S.  From fresh chèvre, to runny and pungent triple crème styles, to firm aged goat examples.

To learn more about goat cheese as well as great pairings, head over to the Culture Magazine site.  Today you’ll find my post with two recipes: one for Stone Fruit Chutney which pairs beautifully with Le Chevrot and another for Pasta with Chèvre d’Argental and Slow Roasted Early Girls.

GIVEAWAY!

I am giving away 5 French goat cheeses so you can test, taste, and create your own recipes. You will also receive a package of tried and true recipes for inspiration, trivia cards so you can learn a little bit of history on French goat cheeses, and temporary tattoos to wear your love for Original Chèvre.

TO ENTER: Write a Haiku about your love for French goat cheese. A Haiku is 3 short lines (1st line 5 syllables, 2nd line 7 syllables, 3rd line 5 syllables). Post your Haiku in the ‘Comments’ section of this post. You MUST leave your email address in the field where it is requested, it will not be visible to the public, only to me. Do not leave your email address in the body of your comment. You can also enter to win on the CWC Facebook page – there, simply leave your Haiku, no email address, and I’ll make contact if you’re the winner. The winner will be selected on October 1.

Disclaimer: My thanks to Culture Cheese magazine and Goat Cheeses of France for sending me goat cheese samples and providing me the opportunity to participate in this promotion, I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post on the blog. 

Advertisements

Part I: What Happens in Paris…

11160146_10152807235311938_863927337_n

…gets blogged about the moment I return!

Just home from three days in Dublin, followed by a week in Paris with my family, I am basking in the glow of every moment spent exploring together. We’ll call it ‘the taste of two cities’ or ‘the Soltero walking and eating (and eating and eating) tour’.

The Food in Paris

Both Caleb and Sadie were amazing, hiking for miles around the city, day after day with little to no kvetching. The trick? Promises of flaky croissants and warm chocolate chaud….and some French cheese for good measure.

When we were on to a good lead, the food in Paris was phenomenal: from a buttery croissant just out of the oven, to an ice cream cone enjoyed on Île Saint-Louis, to onion soup – gooey melted cheese atop a slice of bread soaking up the soup beneath, slow cooked lamb stew, buttery, flaky mille-feuille, poached egg spilling over a batch of white asparagus, escargot with parsley pesto, perfectly ripened unpasteurized goat cheese shmeared on a baguette de tradition…I could go on and on.

Experiencing Paris through Caleb and Sadie’s eyes (and taste-buds) was a rare treat and I was impressed by their utter sense of adventure, especially when experiencing new cuisine. Paris is certainly the city to fall or be in love…and in love I was with my amazing family.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Prelude to Summer: Soupe au Pistou

soupe Last Sunday, my family honored this Jewish-earth-mama with a home-cooked breakfast of luscious lemon ricotta pancakes, fresh berries, and crispy bacon, followed by a much needed reprieve from my share of the household duties. After a relaxing morning of feeding on love and lazing about in the sun with a good book, I could stand it no longer – I had to labor away at something!

In an attempt to prolong the afterglow from my trip to Paris, I recently began reading Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah. This delicious memoir is at once relatable, mouth-watering, and an edible journey through France. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, Mah embarks on a year of discovery – one regional specialty at a time.

I recently made the steak frites from her first chapter – receiving Dino hugs and rave reviews – and on Sunday, I decided to spend the afternoon exploring another recipe from the book: soupe au pistou.

With the summer harvest nipping at the heels of late spring, the time was ripe to put the latest stars at our local farmers market on display. Soupe au pistou, a Provencal summer soup reminiscent of minestrone, seemed an optimal way to taste the season.

With a little assistance from my favorite prep cook (give Caleb le Cuisinart and he’ll wiz and whir the day away), we prepped the ingredients and started the slow process of making the soup. The beans had begun soaking the night before, I rinsed them off and began cooking them in the Dutch Oven first. Then came the diced vegetables, and other ingredients; lastly, the pistou (think pesto).

After several hours, the fragrance emanating from the kitchen, redolent of basil, left us eager to spill out onto our patio and dine al fresco with a close friend who had joined us for dinner. The finished soupe au pistou, with a blend of emmental and parmesan sprinkled and melting on top was heavenly, and elicited happy sounds and compliments from all. Enjoyed with a simple arugula salad, Acme’s Bread Company’s pain au levain, and a glass of chardonnay laced with crème de cassis (for the grown-ups, of course), we were transported from the San Francisco Bay Area to Provence for a few delicious hours and the perfect end to Mother’s Day.


Soupe au Pistou

Makes 6 servings

For soup

  • 1/2 cup dried white beans, such as cannellini, sorted, soaked overnight in water to cover by 2 inches
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberry beans (or borlotti beans), sorted overnight in water to cover by 2 inches
  • 2 pounds zucchini, trimmed
  • 2 to 3 medium-size red potatoes
  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For pistou

  • 2 to 3 plump garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil, washed, dried
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • Pinch of salt
  • Garnish: 1 cup grated Gruyère or Parmesan cheese, or a combination

Preparation

      1. Drain beans. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, add beans and enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to boil on medium-high heat, skimming off foam from the surface. Lower heat and simmer until beans are tender, about 11/2 hours. The cooking time for beans varies greatly, so make sure to test the beans for tenderness from time to time (they might be tender after 50 minutes or so).
      2. Meanwhile, peel the zucchini lengthwise, leaving half of the skin on, making stripes; cut into 11/2-inch pieces. Peel and cube the potatoes into the same size. When beans are tender, add zucchini, potatoes and green beans. Bring to boil, lower heat and gently simmer until zucchini starts to disintegrate (about an hour, adding more water if necessary); use a fork to mash a few pieces of potatoes and zucchini against the side of the pot to thicken soup. Raise the heat slightly and add macaroni, cooking until very soft. Taste and season as needed.
      3. While the soup is cooking, make the pistou. With the motor running, drop garlic into feed-tube of food processor. Add basil and process until finely chopped. Add tomatoes and pulse to very finely chop, intermittently stopping motor to scrape down sides. Add olive oil and process to combine. Add salt and pulse to combine. Taste and add more olive oil or salt if needed.
      4. Remove soup from heat. Stir in pistou and combine thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve, passing the grated cheese at the table for topping. The soup can be prepared in advance and reheated.

Source: adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Eating” by Ann Mah

A Paris Memory: Bacon and Egg Pizza

photo2

Who doesn’t love a satisfying breakfast of bacon and eggs? Then, why not fall in love with bacon and egg pizza like I did on my recent solo trip to Paris?

On my second night staying in le Marais neighborhood in the 4th Arrondissement, and after a fulfilling day of walking my ass off through one of the most breath-takingly beautiful cities I’ve ever visited, I ducked into what appeared to be a very popular Italian restaurant. After looking around at the individual wood oven-baked pizzas sitting in front of the guests at the neighboring table, I quickly surmised that I should order the pizza. The waiter came to take my order, and with my very limited French, I promptly ordered something far different from what I had in mind.

What arrived after my glass of vin rouge, was the happiest of accidents: an ambrosial and heavenly looking pancetta (bacon) flecked pizza with a large egg, sunny-side up in the middle. Not a big fan of farm egg on everything – still a craze on restaurant menus ranging from farm-to-table to Asian eateries – I pulled a c’est la vie and expectantly dove in. I quickly observed that what set me apart from the Parisian diners (apart from the fact that I wasn’t looking tres chic or planting kisses on the cheeks of friends at my lonely table), was that I impatiently sliced my pie into quarters, scooped the slice up in my hands, then hungrily stuffed it in my mouth. Other, more well-mannered patrons, had fork and knife in hand and were politely slicing bite-sized pieces – feeding their hunger slowly and with intention. Whatever! My pizza – a delicious dance of flavors including smoky, salty bacon, four cheeses, and a rich egg atop – was absolutely mind-blowing! I had left my camera back in my room and had no one to witness my perfect moment of blissful food transcendence, with a little egg dripping down my chin.

photo1

Funny, that one of the best eating experiences I had in France was at a trendy Italian pizzeria. Once I returned home, I vowed to re-create this pizza in my kitchen. On a recent trip to TJ’s, I picked up pre-made pizza dough, shredded quattro formaggi, and diced pancetta – the organic eggs were waiting for me at home.

Last night, after a full day at work, I rolled up my sleeves, kicked everyone out of the kitchen, and summoned my inner pizzaiolo. Taking the advice of Phyllis Grant, a fellow blogger and skilled baker of sweet and savory, I made a round trough with my fingers in the center of each pizza, to eventually crack the eggs into. I then pre-heated the oven to 500F, assembled a larger pie for Mateo and I, and smaller pies for Caleb and Sadie. Once in the oven for 8-10 minutes (light golden topping), I pulled the racks out and gently slipped one raw egg in the middle of each pie, then let them bake for an additional 4-5 minutes.

I can say with confidence that I nailed it, having created the closest version of what I had enjoyed in Paris and was very pleased with myself as I bit into the first hot, salty, cheesy, and egg-oozy slice. Mateo quickly exclaimed that he has absolutely loved everything I have been cooking since my return, and Caleb ran over to me with a Dino hug and kiss. If you have any questions about how to make this at home, just ask. I hope you try…it was that good!!

 photo3

Faking French

DSC_0191

The end of summer is fast approaching. I reflect on this season and take pride in the two vacations my family enjoyed; first to New York for our family reunion, then to Shasta Lake for a week of water play. This is all well and fine, but to know me is to know that I have a Grand Canyon-sized travel bug, especially in the summer and sadly it feels unfulfilled.

I’ve suffered through friend’s Facebook updates from France, Croatia, Hawaii, & Mexico and I have felt a palpable ache inside to be somewhere more romantic, more exotic – especially France.

That daily fantasy of gallivanting off to France, frolicking through the countryside, apprenticing at a goat cheese dairy, sampling every cheese in every fromager in Paris, sipping an artful café au lait at an outdoor café watching the sharply dressed world go by, has to remain just that for now – a fantasy. Here is my life in the Bay Area demanding my attention: school, childcare, full-time employment, a mortgage, and all of the other pressures piled high on my plate.

So what to do with this can’t-fly-off-to-Paris angst? Cook French food! Yesterday afternoon, after arranging a culinary play-date with my close friend Cecile – who just returned from three weeks in her native France – I planned a menu that included coq au vin, a savory roasted early-girl tomato tart, just-picked arugula tossed in a homemade vinaigrette, and bittersweet chocolate pot de crème for dessert. Not to mention the stinky French brie for an appetizer.

With a close girlfriend at my side and a glass of chilled white wine in my hand, we effortlessly fell into sync assembling the coq au vin. I had a cookbook open, but I followed my friend’s lead and observed her make a roux like this was everyday-business. Cecile had never made coq a vin, but she naturally took the lead and helped me to produce what smelled and tasted authentic and mouth-watering.

Caleb and Sadie had helped make the chocolate pot de crèmes earlier in the day, which were cooling in the fridge. After preparing the tart dough in the morning, I quickly assembled the savory, custardy, tomato and anchovy-filled tart alongside Cecile and placed it in the oven. Finally, we assembled the arugula with vinaigrette, set the table, poured the Bordeaux, and we were off to France!

While not the same as an airplane ticket in hand, or a baguette jutting out of my bicycle basket while peddling through the streets of Paris, this meal was fulfilling on many levels. Truly delicious and very satisfying, every bite held promise that one day – perhaps not too far off from now – I could be enjoying this meal in France.

DSC_0180DSC_0184

DSC_0201DSC_0205

A is for Affineur

Le Meunier & Beillevaire

I attended yet another outstanding cheese course at The Cheese School of San Francisco. This was a master class: Cheeses of Affineurs Rodolphe Le Meunier and Pascal Beillevaire, led by two fabulous and very knowledgeable instructors: Colette Hatch and Andy Lax.

Affinage, a skill that takes many years to perfect, is the most crucial step of cheese-making, involving the aging process. The affineur is the person who ages cheeses once they come in a fresh state from the dairy—often when the milk is still warm. In France, cheese-makers frequently send their cheeses to the best affineurs, who are highly regarded (and most often come from a long line of cheese makers), to tend to their cheeses and mature them to perfection.

The Streets of San Francisco

A well-trained affineur is extremely conscientious and cares for the cheeses in such a way that they acquire their own unique characteristics. They are responsible for aging the cheese, assuring that it’s in the right humidity and temperature. Depending on the type of cheese, they may brush, wash, and rotate the wheels. The affineur is a doting foster-parent or mother-hen of sorts.The affineurs we studied, Le Meunier and Beillevaire are considered to be rock stars in their field. It was so fascinating to taste their cheeses side-by-side (a sensorial tour of the French countryside), and to learn about the training and special care that goes into the process of making fine, artisan cheeses.

Cremeux de Citeaux

For me, the standouts were two by Le Meunier: the ripe Cremeux de Citeaux, a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from the Burgundy region and the Morbier, a raw cow’s milk cheese from the Jura region. All of the cheeses were well-balanced, delightful, and unique in their own way. However, these two (both transcendent, happy-dance makers) made a lasting impression on my mind and palate.

I’ll leave you with the complete list of cheeses we sampled:

Rodolphe Le Meunier

Cremeux de Citeaux (two samples: young and ripe) 

Le Jeune Autize

Morbier

Fourme au Moelleux

Pascal Beillevaire

Secret du Couvent

Morbier

Columbier

Trois Lait

Roche du Sulens au Fenouil

Petits Pains Au Lait Au Chocolat…and Pizza

Last weekend, Caleb, Sadie and I went over to our friend Cecile’s home, where we spent the afternoon and evening baking pain au chocolat and pizza with she and her children, Eva and Hugo. It was a magical and memorable visit.

Eva and Caleb originally met in the early days of preschool and are close friends to this day. Eva is now attending Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, where she learned the ‘petits pains au lait au chocolat’ recipe. She was so eager to teach it to Caleb, they had us over for a baking date.

Cecile (who hails from France) and kiddos had prepared the dough the night before and when we arrived, all we had to do was knead, add chocolate, eat chocolate, and bake. Oh, and have fun! We also made an easy pancetta and cheese pizza from scratch…with a little help from TJ’s pre-made dough.

Eating the pizza for dinner, then the chocolate bread for dessert, was the best part. There’s nothing like an afternoon spent with good friends, enjoying bread and chocolate, fresh-baked pizza, and stinky cheese with baguette.

This short video really tells the story of our special afternoon spent together. Apprécier le film (with volume)!

Recipe: Petits Pains Au Lait Au Chocolat