Despite common misconceptions about the supposedly high fat content of goat cheese, have no fear, goat cheese (in moderation) won't enlarge your derrière. :) Rich in calcium, tryptophan, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) & phosphorus, goat's milk-based cheeses are actually lower in calories, cholesterol, & fat than typical cow's milk-based cheeses & higher in protein (17.4% DV vs. 16.3), phosphorus (27% DV vs 23.2%) & calcium (32.6% DV vs. 29.7%) too. Yes, that's right, I said lower in fat. It just tastes fattening because it's so creamy. :) And, it doesn't have to be homogenized like cow's milk-based cheeses do, which means that more of its nutrients remain. Additionally, goat cheese can also be used as an alternative for those who have a sensitivity to cow's milk. So, leave all of your misconceptions about goat cheese at the door. :)
And, as for the other ingredients: Walnuts are a good source of Omega-3's, a topic that I've already covered extensively in this post . Lemon juice & fresh herbs also have many health benefits as well, but I've blathered on about nutrition long enough.... Time for the recipe!
Mushrooms Canapés Stuffed With Goat Cheese, Kalamata Olives, & Fresh Herbs
16 oz. (2 oz. boxes) crimini mushrooms, washed, cleaned, & patted dry (with a paper towel), stems removed & then reserved (about 12 large mushrooms)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 c. bread crumbs
1/8 c. kalamata olives, pitted (about 8 olives)
4 oz. plain goat cheese ( chèvre )
1/2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (about 1 large clove)
1/2 c. walnuts
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt, or to taste
Directions: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place mushrooms in a large bowl & set aside. Pour olive oil into a small custard dish. Lightly brush each mushroom with olive oil using a small pastry brush, transferring the mushrooms, one at a time, to a large metal baking tray covered with aluminium foil (for easy cleanup). Mushrooms should be evenly spaced so that none of them are touching each other or the tray's edges. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until tender & light golden brown. Remove from oven & let cool for 10-15 minutes. After cooking, there will be little pools of liquid inside each mushroom. When mushrooms are cool enough to touch, drain each mushroom and then place back onto the tray again in the same configuration as before.
While mushrooms are cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet & brown the bread crumbs for about 1-2 minutes on high heat, or until golden brown. Remove from heat, place into the same emptied custard dish, & set aside. Next, toss mushroom stems, olives, goat cheese, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, & all herbs & spices into a food processor, & pulse until just combined. There should still be detectable bits of mushroom stems, olives, & walnuts in the mixture after you're done pulsing everything together; no need to pulverize the ingredients into oblivion. ;) Scoop out about a spoonful's worth of the cheese mixture into the mushroom caps, & return to the oven, baking them for about another 5 minutes. Sprinkle with bread crumbs & garnish with a small spring of rosemary (really, just a few leaves) for artistic effect/enhanced presentation. Place onto an hors d'œuvres tray & serve.
Yield: 12 servings.
Chef's Notes: You might wonder, why is the pre-chopping of the rosemary leaves & the garlic necessary if they're just going to be chopped up in the food processor? Well, the reason for doing this step is that these ingredients are harder to process & don't typically become as finely ground in the processor as they should. They tend to stick to the sides of the food processor, & then remain in larger pieces, which obviously won't taste as good. Plus, the texture will be a little off unless you pre-chop these ingredients. So, they need a little help. :) The texture of the cheese mixture should be smooth with little visible bits of olives, mushroom stems, & walnuts for the most pleasing appearance & taste.
The cheese mixture can made in advance & will keep in the fridge for a day or two. (Be sure to cover it when you put it in the fridge. Even so, you might have to add a bit of water or plain nonfat yoghurt to re-hydrate it, as mixtures with liquids in them tend to dry out in the fridge. To make things easiest, I just keep it in the food processor bowl, with the lid left on it.) Then, on the same day you plan to serve the canapés, all you have to do is re-blend the cheese mixture to smooth out any clumps that might've formed during refrigeration, cook the mushrooms, make the bread crumbs, & assemble the canapés. And that's all there is to it! Pretty easy, huh?!