NORMALLY AN all-inclusive consumer of cheese, I spent a few months this year cooking exclusively with chèvre while writing a small collection of chèvre-centric recipes. That quality time with my favorite fresh cheese only deepened my appreciation for its bright acidity and compact texture. Both of these traits make chèvre a uniquely versatile ingredient.
Agile as the goats whose milk makes it possible, chèvre is like the lemon juice of the cheese world. It complements as well as focuses other flavors, coaxing sweetness, tempering saltiness and quelling bitterness. Its perky character works well in many recipes, but as summer temperatures stretch on into September, chèvre makes especially great no-cook dips.
Because chèvre is so dense, you may want to loosen it up a little by beating in yogurt, cream or milk until you reach the consistency you’re looking for. This cheese can be substituted in most dip recipes that call for ricotta: Simply whip room-temperature chèvre (by hand or with a mixer or food processor) along with your thinner of choice; I prefer to pair goat’s-milk dairy products with chèvre to reinforce the tanginess.
Play around until you find the dip that suits your fancy. You can season whipped chèvre with fresh herbs, drizzle it with olive oil and scatter thinly sliced Thai chiles on top. Or blend it with tahini, honey, orange zest and toasted pistachios. Tomatoes, olives or roasted eggplant will bring its savory side to the fore. Whatever direction you choose, count on the chèvre to provide some kick.
Chèvre & Walnut Skordalia
TOTAL TIME 20 minutes SERVES 4-6
The Greek dip skordalia typically uses potato and nuts to bind together an impressive amount of garlic and olive oil. This recipe swaps out some of the potato in favor of flavorful chèvre.
Peel 1 medium Russet potato and cut it into 1½-inch cubes. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cool water. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are very tender, 10 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside. // In a food processor, combine5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped, 5 ounces chèvre, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper. Pulse until smooth. Add potatoes and all but a handful of 4 ounces (1 cup) toasted walnut pieces. Pulse until very smooth. With motor running, slowly drizzle in ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil until fully incorporated. Adjust seasoning to taste. // Place dip in a serving bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and remaining walnuts. Serve with pita chips or pumpernickel toasts.
—Adapted from “Chèvre” by Tia Keenan (Short Stack Editions)