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Need some extra flavor? Break out the goat cheese

I have never been a fan of strong-tasting cheeses. My friend Arlene and my son, Avi, however, are and say “blue cheese forever” and bring on the chevre (goat cheese).

In fact, my 24-year-old taunts me with phrases like “it’s sooo yummy, mommmmmmy, here try some” as he’s trying to force-feed me a fork full.

He also occasionally throws in my personal favorite taunt, “I like goat cheese because I can taste their stubbornness.”

So after his last round of in-my-face snacking, he asked me what the difference is between feta and goat cheese because I referred to feta as a goat cheese in disguise. I explained that while feta contains goat cheese, it actually has a higher percentage of sheep’s milk than goat’s milk as its ingredients. His eyes glazed over.

Goat cheeses can have a flavor or taste ranging from super strong, sharp and crumbly, to light, mild and smooth. You can buy goat cheeses in a bunch of shapes (cone, disc, wheel, log and the ever-popular hockey puck shape). It’s sold fresh, aged or marinated in olive oil or wine, as well as coated in herb, spices and my son’s personal favorite cracked pepper.

Cooking with goat cheese is much the same as with other cheese. When you heat goat cheese, it softens but doesn’t melt the way cheeses made with cow milk do. In fact, if it has a rind on it, you can treat it much like you do a good brie and spread it on crackers or bread with roasted garlic, fruit preserves or grilled onions.

As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of goat cheese but several of my readers are and they sent in a few of the following recipes.

Yam and Goat Cheese Won Tons

3/4 pound small yams, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 leeks, white part only, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried

3 1/2 ounces mild goat cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

38 won-ton wrappers

Oil for deep frying

Cook yams in medium saucepan of boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer to a bowl. Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Mix in sage. Add leek mixture and goat cheese to cooked yams and mash with fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Filling can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in center of each wonton. Brush wonton edges with water. Fold diagonally in half, pressing edges to seal. Pour oil into heavy large saucepan to depth of 3 inches and heat to 350 degrees. Add prepared wontons in batches and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer wontons to paper towels and drain. Arrange on platter and serve. Makes 38 appetizers.

Goat Cheese, Olive, Red Pepper and Spinach Frittata

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon

1 large red pepper, diced

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh tarragon finely minced

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/3 cup diced black olives

6 ounces spinach, ends trimmed

Salt and pepper

8 large eggs

1 tablespoon milk

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 1/2 ounces goat cheese, such as Ile de France, crumbled (brie can also be used)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large, heavy 10-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over low heat. Add the red pepper, 1/2 tablespoon tarragon and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the green onions and olives and cook for 1 more minute then remove the vegetables to a plate.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet and add the spinach, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove half of the spinach to a plate and keep the remaining half in skillet.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, vigorously whisk the eggs with the milk, parsley, the remaining 1 tablespoon of tarragon, salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the skillet on top of the spinach and remove from the heat. Scatter the goat cheese, remaining spinach and the peppers on top of the eggs and place on the middle shelf of the oven.

Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until puffed and the egg looks cooked; there shouldn’t be any “wet” looking egg left. Remove from oven and serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 6.

Goat Cheese Macaroni

2/3 to 1 pound macaroni shaped pasta, cooked al dente, drained

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 1/2 to 3 cups milk or half and half

Ground pepper

2 tablespoons minced onion

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup goat cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

Topping:

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh

1/4 to 1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Grated pepper

Grease the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and set it aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour whisking to create a paste and cook 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking to create a smooth sauce. Let cook about 5 minutes or until it coats the back of a spoon. Immediately remove from heat and slowly add the Parmesan, onion and the goat cheese, whisking until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the drained macaroni back into the saucepan and pour the cheese sauce on top, stirring to coat. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. In a bowl combine the 1/3 cup parmesan, breadcrumbs, thyme, 1/4 cup goat cheese and a little pepper. Mix to combine. Sprinkle the topping over the macaroni and then top with the crumbled goat cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serves 4 to 6.

– Submitted by K.T. Meisner of Chicago; modified from about.com – Submitted by Andi Genese of Teaneck, N.J. Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@frontier.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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