Remember the first time you had a cool green salad with a round of pan-fried goat cheese? How the two flavors and the two textures and the two temperatures did a little ballet -- no, a tango -- no, a flamenco -- and you announced, to no one in particular, "Now that's a salad."
Because I remember, and I've been a fan of goat cheese ever since. But, and this is important, I've always favored aged goat cheeses -- those covered in rinds, whose outside is a bit yellow and whose inside is creamy-white, whose tang is assertive, edgy.
I like crottins.
And it's not that I don't like the more pedestrian logs of soft, fresh goat cheese, but I do find they pale in comparison to their more complex cousins.
So when my 2nd Ile de France cheese arrived* and I saw it was a creamy log of traditional chevre (a buchette), I didn't violate the plastic and whip out the crackers like I did when the Saint André thunked on my doorstep a few weeks ago.
But the buchette is friendly. It's the nice neighbor you'll invite for coffee, or the banana in the fruit bowl. Not something you get all wide-eyed and breathless about -- not a new boyfriend or a fresh, succulent fig -- but something you're perfectly happy to have in your life that doesn't cause you any trouble.
I coaxed some life into it by snuggling it among freshly sautéed spring vegetables. The residual warmth caused the cheese to slip and ooze, and I could almost hear the proper asparagus, favas, and snap peas purr at the creamy stranger nestled among them.
Sure, I'd dance with this cheese, but only if a little heat gets things going.
Spring Vegetable Trio with Goat Cheese and Pistachios
Pretty and quick, this dainty vegetarian lunch or elegant side joins seasonal spring veggies with dollops of creamy French goat cheese. It also whispers Mother's Day, doesn't it?
Serves 2 for lunch
20 fava beans
4 teaspoons olive oil
20 spears pencil-thin asparagus, ends snapped off and discarded, remainder cut on the bias into 1-1/2"-lengths
20 plump snap peas, trimmed
1/4 cup toasted pistachios
1/4 cup crumbled, fresh goat cheese
Fill a small pot with salted water. Shell the fava beans, discard the pods, and plunge the beans into boiling water. Cook about 3 minutes, then run under cool water. Slit each bean with your thumbnail and squeeze gently to release the inner bean into a medium bowl. Discard the shells
Meanwhile, place a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the olive oil. Toss in the snap peas and asparagus and saute, shaking the skillet, for 2 or 3 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add to the bowl with the favas and immediately nestle in the cheese so it begins to warm. Sprinkle with pistachios and serve immediately.
*Disclosure: Ile de France occasionally sends me cheese samples for review. I am not paid by the company and am under no obligation to like their products. If they suck, you'll know.