Calvin went shopping with me a couple months or so ago, and at the health food store, spied the goat cheese in it’s tiny, round package. He asked what it was, and proceeded to beg for some the rest of the shopping trip. I felt sure in my heart that he would not like goat cheese, and I didn’t really have any good ideas of how to use it if no-one in the family liked it. I have had a dessert of goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and honey, but I don’t really make dessert that often, so it seemed like too much of a burden to buy the dang cheese.

Well Calvin didn’t let up. He asked for chèvre every day. He reminded me, any time I went to the store, that he really wanted some goat cheese. Sometimes, he’d forget what it was called, and he’d ask me for “that stuff that’s white, and round?” I took him on another shopping trip to Costco about a month ago. In the cheese aisle, he asked what all the different cheeses were. This is a child who loves a good cheese. Among his favorites is aged Gouda. I don’t buy it because it’s so freaking expensive, but if we ever do have it, he wants it. Anyway, he spied the 1 pound log of chèvre, and commenced with the begging.

I decided to humor him, because I didn’t want to drive to the health food store for one little thing. We bought the cheese. We also bought the 3-pack of Boursin garlic-herb cheese, as a backup. We took them home, and the boys, including the Derek, devoured on of the Boursins, but I was reluctant to break out the chèvre.

Then, about 3 weeks ago, I went to dinner with some lovely girls, and I ordered the special salad. Arugula, strawberries, pine nuts, and goat cheese, with vinaigrette. It was a decent combination. So I came home with goat cheese on the brain.

For the next few days, I experimented with our salads, using baby spinach and arugula stolen from a neighbor’s garden, toasted pine nuts, and dried cranberries, since I’m unwilling to purchase those baseball sized, white-cored “strawberries” they sell at the supermarkets around here, and balsamic vinegar.

When we spent the weekend with Derek’s parents, I made them a couple variations of the salad, which were eagerly devoured, in spite of them being pre-dressed. I personally prefer salads as an ensemble, with the dressing being a main ingredient. And I cannot abide the dressings that come in a bottle, so I always make my own. But Derek’s parents didn’t have any goat cheese, so I went to the Costco around the corner from their house and picked up a log, figuring I’d leave it there for them to deal with. Except they didn’t want it.

So with my 2 logs of goat cheese, I resolved to find delicious ways of consuming them before the dreaded expiration. (The expiration of a cheese is where, with one last dying gasp, the cheese heaves itself onto it’s haunches, staggers, and collapses into a sweaty, smelly heap.) So I give you two salads and a spread. Do not be afraid of the log. Go buy yourself one, and discover the beauty of a mellow, slightly tart, slightly sweet, soft cheese.

Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese

1 bunch arugula
6-8 ounces tender baby spinach
mixed greens
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 T balsamic vinegar
a handful of fresh strawberries, sliced, or a handful of dried cranberries
3 T toasted pine nuts
1-2 ounces goat cheese, in small pieces

Rinse and spin the arugula and spinach, and place in a salad bowl with the mixed greens to fill the bowl. Add the oil and the vinegar, and gently massage the leaves until mixed and coated with dressing. Add the remaining ingredients. I like to put the small stuff on top, instead of tossing it. I hate it when you get just a bunch of lettuce, and all the nuts and fruity things fall through to the bottom.

Salad with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

10 ounces mixed salad greens
1/4 cup chopped dried pears*
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
2 ounces goat cheese
1 1/2 T hazelnut oil
1 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

In a jar or small cup, mix the oils, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Place the greens in a salad bowl and pour the dressing over. Massage to coat. Add the nuts, pears, and cheese.

*My dried pears are extremely leathery. I think I dried them about a day too long. So I put them in a small bowl with water to cover, then microwave them for one minute. They get soft enough to chop without giving me carpal tunnel syndrome, and are just slightly juicy, but not hydrated. You only need to do this if the pears are hard. If they’re soft, like raisins, just chop them without the soak. (Then I use the pear water to mix the baby food for Kiki.)

Goat Cheese Spread

4 ounces goat cheese
2-4 T Trader Joe’s India Relish, or some other spicy chutney
3 T currants

Mix all in a bowl. This stuff is great on crackers. I had something like this once at Trader Joe’s, when they were giving out samples. I bought 5 jars of the India Relish right then, because I liked it so much. I guess if you don’t have goat cheese, you could do it with cream cheese, but it wouldn’t have that tang.

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