September 13, 2009

Ode to Goat Cheese

Or: How to Make 4 oz of Goat Cheese Disappear in 24 Hours

Incidentally, I'm just realizing that I originally got both of the below dinner ideas from Shannon's blog. She must like goat cheese a lot too!

Friday night I had the proverbial dinner rug yanked out from under me, so I needed to come up with something to put in my hungry belly kinda spontaneous-like. I was feeling too stingy to buy take-out, though. So what did I do? I bought food to make dinner for myself. Which cost as much as a restaurant dinner would have. Make sense? Only to me, I'm sure.

Luckily the farmer's market by work was still operating at this time, so remembering one of Shannon's posts that I'd bookmarked, I picked up the stuff to make zucchini & corn pizzas. I already had spelt tortillas (my lazy base of choice for homemade pizzas), so I bought an ear of corn, a small zucchini, a tub of grape tomatoes and 4 oz of plain (goat) queso blanc.

Instead of spreading cheese on the tortilla as the "sauce" layer, I blended up a quick tomato sauce (I'm a pizza traditionalist) of about 1 cup tomatoes, 2 sundried tomatoes, 1 tsp dried Italian herbs and 1 tsp EVOO.

That got spread on two tortillas. I cut the corn off the cob and cubed up the zucchini, distributed all that over the tortillas, then crumbled half of the goat cheese block on top and added a few leaves from my basil plant. I spritzed both pizzas lightly with EVOO.

Just a quick broil for five minutes and dinner was done! Topped with a sprinkle of homemade Vegan Parm, it was a lovely, low-maintenance Friday kind of meal!

...And yet, the other two ounces of goat cheese remained. Half the tomatoes, too. Enter the Tomato Goat Cheese Strata, which I spied on Shannon's blog some time ago, which became the basis for Saturday's dinner. Somewhat randomly, however, I decided I was up for the challenge of veganizing it. Well, except for the goat cheese part. It was just the topping, anyway.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, I ended up changing pretty much everything! I didn't want to buy anything additional to make it, nor did I want to use any canned ingredients. The premise and flavor combination were still there, though (I imagine), and it came out pretty darn well, if I do say so myself. It would make a great breakfast, too! Generous soul that I am, I hereby pass the adapted recipe on to you.

Vegan Tomato-Carrot Strata

  • 1 cup hemp milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 5 flax "eggs" (mix 5 tbsp ground flax with 3/4 cup water and let stand 'til thickened)
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 2+ cups shredded carrots
  • fresh torn basil (several tbsp? I didn't measure)
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, etc.)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup tomato sauce (fresh-blended, if possible--I used the leftovers from the pizza above)
  • 1-2 cups fresh diced tomatoes (depending on your taste for tomatoes--I used closer to 1 cup because that's what I had)
  • 8 cups (1-inch) cubed whole grain bread (recipe calls for sourdough; I used whole wheat-oat)
  • crumbled goat cheese for topping (optional; I used about 2 oz)
  1. Preheat oven to 450*.
  2. Combine milk and flax eggs (already set) in a large bowl; stir together with a whisk.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots and garlic; sautee until moistened and reduced a little--5 minutes or so.
  4. Add herbs, spices and tomatoes + tomato sauce. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute.
  5. Stir bread cubes into the skillet and combine until evenly distributed.
  6. Transfer contents of the skillet into the large bowl containing flax and milk. Stir so that everything becomes moistened.
  7. Pour everything into a casserole dish (8" or 9" square or round) prepared with nonstick spray. Top with cheese, if using.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes or until set and browned on top. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into 4 wedges/squares.

Like the pizza, I also topped this dish with the Vegan Parm once out of the oven. It's the best topper! Of course, it pairs particularly well with Italian-flavored dishes. And to be honest, this one can totally live without the goat cheese--or at least the cheese I bought, which was too mild to do much for the flavorful strata. The carrots gave it a nice sweetness that countered the savory Italian/tomatoey-ness unlike anything I've ever had before.

As for the egg factor, I would need a vegan baking expert to tell me how my first egg-substitution effort fared. If you've ever had a traditional strata before, you know that basically the whole thing is held together by eggs, making it a particularly touchy ingredient to replace! The flax "eggs" did not hold the dish together like real eggs would have, and it was also far more moist inside than it would have been otherwise. It was thisclose to being runny, so if I try this again, I might reduce the milk to 3/4 cup or so.

I'm fairly inexperienced in the world of goat cheese, but I know I like it. Do you have any particular varieties/brands to recommend?
UPDATE: Just had some leftover strata for lunch and, predictably, it was way better the second time! Not even close to runny or gooey--just perfectly moist inside with the nice crusty top, plus the flavors developed really nicely. Now I'm not sure I would adjust the liquid amounts after all! Might be better just to let it stand for a good half hour or so once it comes out of the oven.


Dori said...

I loooooooooove goat cheese! I got Missy into it, too. It is just the greatest. And I recently found a goat mozzarella at Whole Foods! It was awesome and it made a really delicious spelt tortilla pizza. I've got to find that again...

Gina said...

Great recipe, thanks!! I know what you mean about buying ingredients for meals as a way to save, only to then spend more than you would have at a restaurant! But hey, you'll have plenty of leftovers.

The only goat cheese I eat is feta. That's goat, right? I get mine at Trader Joe's, and it's really fresh and delicious. I love all of their cheeses.

Devan Geselle. N said...

i used to love goat cheese when I wasnt vegan! go local! its always best :)

thanks for the recipe!

emily said...

goat cheese is my favorite thing ever, this post made me drool!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said...

Sorry can't help you on the goat cheese...vegan and dairy free for awhile. I just wanted to give you props for veganizing a sorta tricky recipe! Go Diana Go!

Cheddar Cheese said...

Yummy! I simply loved this recipe. That was deliciously made.

Shannon said...

haha, you got that right-- i LOVE goat cheese :) props to veganizing that strata! i don't think there's a goat cheese i haven't liked... i usually go with the cheapest b/c i eat so much of it ;) you made my day!

K from ksgoodeats said...

I've never tried goat cheese. Is it very different than cows (?) cheese?

That pizza and strata look awesome!

Diana said...

Gina -

Feta is traditionally a sheep/goat cheese, but these days most commercial feta is made from cow's milk. I do think that includes TJ's--I've bought their feta many times!

K -

DEFINITELY give goat cheese a try. Generally speaking, I find it more flavorful than cow's milk cheese, so you can use less and have it pack a good punch. Goat's milk is also said to be more easily digested. Plus some varieties are spreadable a la Laughing Cow, wink wink!

Gena said...

What an awesome recipe! I am totally impressed by the notion of a vegan strata!

As for *raw* goat's cheese, my clients give their best reviews to Alta Dena and Shiloh farms. As for the soft stuff, I defer to other foodies, but I know there are some awesome artisanal cheese stands at the farmer's market!

Missy said...

Ah you goat cheese pizza looks so good! Dori is right..she got me hooked! I tried it for the first time last year and have been hooked since!

Anonymous said...

MMM, LOVE goat cheese! I think the fresher you get it, the more soft and creamy it is. I try to pick it up at Union Square Farmer's Market when I can, but I've gotten the TJ's brand before and it's pretty good.

Love your strata recipe! I haven't made one in a while.

Erica said...

mmmmm I saw both these recipes on tri to cook and drooled...and now i'm drooling again ;) I loveee goat cheese, but I usually only get it when I'm out (never bought some for the house). I'll be interested to see what brands people like!

Hope your Monday is going well ;)

Hayley said...

Oh wow..both of these meals look amazing!! I'm seriously digging the strata one right now. Since I'm not really vegan, using egg whites would be ok right? At least that's what I'm thinking...I'm not sure about egg substitutes, but I'm curious what to do if not using eggs. Your idea seemed pretty good!

Diana said...

Hayley -

Yeah definitely try this with eggs if you want a more traditional strata! I'm sure the result will be much more reliable, anyway. I linked to the original recipe (non-vegan, with eggs) above but here it is again so you know how many eggs to use. If you do end up making it with eggs I recommend following the original recipe in terms of assembly!

Diana said...

Duh--left out the link.

Jenny said...

all your goat cheese is definitely making the kraft singles I have in my fridge right now look like chopped liver.

Anonymous said...

I haven't put it up on my blog yet, but I made the strata tonight and it was out of this world!!! Honestly it tasted so good and I made it exactly as you did. Even my husband ate it and liked it! :) I'll be sure to give you a shout out when I write about it. Thanks so much for your recipes...they are awesome!