Thursday, February 27, 2014

Herb and Olive Oil Marinated Goat Cheese

I'm still on my "spring is on it's way!" kick.  I can't really help it, my body is craving fresh, simple foods with lots of veggies and herbs and the markets are responding in just the most perfect way.  And just in time too because frankly, I'm about done with stews and braises and trying to find winter veggies that my family will eat (they are just not squash or root vegetable people so I can forget butternuts, turnips and the like...).

Here in Germany we get to celebrate our first Fasching this coming week.  It's pretty much the German version of Carnival or Mardi Gras that gets celebrated in other parts of the world.  There are parades, costumes and parties in every big city in our part of the country and in many of the small towns too.  As I was walking out the door this morning with two costumed kiddos all excited and ready to go to school, I ran into my German neighbor.  She asked if we have Fasching back in the US.  When I said no, she just chuckled and replied that there isn't anything like Fasching anywhere in the world and that we are in for some fun.  I can't wait to check it all out! 

There are many stories about the origin of the celebration, most having to do with the start of lent, but I like the version that my oldest came home from school with yesterday.  His teacher described the first Fasching as a celebration of the end of a particularly long and hungry winter and the first signs of spring.  I can dig that sort of celebration.  That's exactly how I'm feeling these days so I'm ready to party with the best of them.  Or at least I think so- those Germans really know how to have a good time.

So if you feel like celebrating spring along with me, I've got a simple party appetizer sort of recipe for you today.  I honestly can't think of a reason NOT to have a jar of this beautiful cheese in your fridge.  It's about the easiest thing ever to prepare and after just a few days of the herbs mingling with the oil and cheesy goodness, you've got something that is more than the sum of its parts.  Pure perfection.

Herb and Olive Oil Marinated Goat Cheese
Makes 1 pint jar.
For the printable recipe, click here.

There really is no specific recipe here, I am simply inclined to give you suggestions and send you on your way.  Truly, the direction you go with this is all your own.  I went a decidedly Mediterranean route with my herbs choosing to use basil, oregano and Italian parsley.  It would be lovely with tarragon or dill instead if you are so inclined.  And if you can get your hands on a french feta (which is milder than it's Greek counterpart), you might try that in place of the goat cheese.

The only rule to really follow here is that you should use a really good quality olive oil.  I know it seems like you would use a lot, but the flavor of the oil is really important to the final result.  I used a good sharp, grassy Greek oil.  When you use the cheese, save the oil and strain it.  You will have a wonderful herb-infused oil that you can use for all sorts of things (think viniagrettes or to brush over a flatbread before tossing it in the oven).

1 log of fresh, soft goat cheese
fresh herbs, rinsed and dried, at least 1 small bunch in total (about 6 stems of one variety or a total of 6 mixed)
good quality olive oil, about 1 cup

Using a clean pint jar, layer about half of the herbs in the bottom of the jar.  Slice the cheese into 1 inch thick discs and place them into the jar until it it almost full.  Tuck the remaining herbs around the cheese and over the top.  Fill the jar with the olive oil almost to the top.  Make sure to cover the herbs completely.  Cover the jar and store in the refrigerator for at least three days to really flavor the oil and cheese.

When ready to serve, remove the cheese slices from the jar and serve alongside toasted baguette slices, crackers or warm flatbread.  The cheese will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator stored in the oil.

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