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Ode to Goat Cheese

Posted Sep 13 2009 10:39pm
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

Ingredients:
  • 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)
Directions:
  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?
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