During the past year, David and I have really gotten into container gardening — also known as the my favorite benefit of suburban Northern California apartment living. It started out innocently enough last year — only a few tomato plants, peppers and herbs occupied our deck — but it has really blossomed (yes, I went there) in recent months. This year we expanded onto the front porch, leaving us with an ever-shrinking walkway to our front door and twice as many plants to tend to and reap the benefits from. In my pride-and-joy half wine barrel and wine crate herb garden (an unintended theme), the dill and cilantro are already on their second sowing, while the chives and parsley (amongst others) are finally begging to be harvested bit-by-bit.
With the herbs ready for the pickin’, there’s no better time than now to make this herbed goat cheese. I’m looking forward to packing it in my cooler this summer, along with slices of no-knead bread and slivers of cucumber (or summer squash, also in the garden) for alfresco tea sandwiches. If cheese dip is more your thing, this goes wonderfully with crudités, crackers, pretzels or potato chips (trust me on the last one, it is fantastic with thick, kettle-style chips or Ruffles). (Growing up, my family would stir together Borsin, Rondelé or Aloutte with a little sour cream to make a quick and easy dip; this recipe is quite reminiscent of that.)
I’ve just recently paired it with Mary’s Gone Crackers Sea Salt Sticks and Twigs and quite enjoyed the flavor combination. While I appreciate that these “pretzels” are made with tons of whole grains plus assorted seeds (instead of the usual corn starch), please be warned that they taste nothing like “real” pretzels (beides being salty). Additionally, they are super crunchy, so if you have braces (or other expensive dental work), these are probably one of the worst things you could eat (akin to chomping on an ice cube). With that said, they do have an delightful, unique flavor all their own, and I’ll pick up another bag at Whole Foods when they’re on sale again.
For those you who prefer a more typical pretzel experience, Glutino, Ener-G Foods and Snyder’s of Hanover all make some tasty twists and sticks that aren’t terribly difficult to track down (Whole Foods, in bulk on Amazon.com and through their own online shops).
Perhaps this recipe will inspire you to start an herb garden of your own (it’s really very easy and worth it!), or at least give you another idea for your existing summer bounty. Enjoy!
Garlic and Herb Goat Cheese
Active Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Preparation Time: 2 hours+
Makes: 2 cups (plus a few tablespoons)
- 8 ounces Cream Cheese
- 8 ounce log Goat Cheese (Chèvre)¹
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) Half and Half
- 10 grams (2 teaspoons minced, about 2 large cloves) Garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Parsley, minced
- 1/4 cup Chives, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon Dried Whole Thyme Leaves or 1 teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, finely ground
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment¹, beat together cream cheese and goat cheese until well-combined and fluffy (a couple minutes). With mixer running on low, gradually pour in half and half until nearly combined; increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.
Mince garlic, then sprinkle with salt and mash it into a paste using the side of your knife or the back of a spoon. Add garlic paste through black pepper to the cheese mixture. Stir well or beat together using a mixer until herbs are evenly distributed. Check for seasoning, keeping in mind that the dried thyme take a little time to re-hydrate and get to its full flavor level, and if serving with chips or pretzels those will add a fair amount of saltiness.
Refrigerate mixture for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight) before serving to allow flavors to meld. Keeps refrigerated up to 1 week.
¹ Laura Chenel Chèvre, Inc. makes some of the best, domestically produced goat cheese. Around where I live, it’s available at Whole Foods and some Costco locations. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Trader Joe’s brand 8 ounce Chèvre log (orange and black label with a goat) is simply a private label of the name brand. They are both made in Sonoma and taste identical (not tested side by side). The latter is what I typically purchase since it’s significantly cheaper.
² Can also be made using a hand mixer or wooden spoon; the stand mixer isn’t 100% necessary, just helpful. Alternately, you can make it in a food processor with the following adjustments: reduce half and half and garlic amounts by half. Combine everything but the green stuff (parsley, chives, thyme) in the bowl of a food processor. Run machine until smooth and blended (scrape down the bowl several times to make sure all of the garlic is chopped up). Stir in herbs by hand.