I obsessively handpick the ingredients for this column, but this month, I did something unheard of: I placed myself in the hands of an experienced local cheesemonger. She led me to a selection of aged bloomy-rind goat cheeses coated with ash, and I fell. Hard.
What is it? I enjoy fresh chèvre as much as the next person, but it can be chalky, tangy and limited in terms of flavor. Goat milk can be used to make a range of cheese styles, like the three bloomy rinds featured here. I tested Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog from California, Capriole's Sofia from Indiana and Hervé Mons' Ovalie Cendrée from France for this recipe; for a local option, try Angel Food or Little Bloom on the Prairie from Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery in Champaign, Illinois. Visually, they're stunning: The cratered rinds give way to smooth inner pastes that straddle liquid and solid.
What do I do with it? Each of these aged goat cheeses offer a clean and mellow alternative to fresh chèvre, with complex flavor that’s softly assertive and never overpowering; all three feature hints of lemon, mushroom and grass. Charcuterie platters are a given, but summer is upon us: Amp up your burgers (turkey or beef) with melted slabs of aged bloomy-rind goat cheese and a peppery green like arugula or cress. Crumble it into green salads with summer berries, toasted nuts, a sturdy grain like farro and a simple vinaigrette. These aged goat cheeses also invigorate a classic pasta primavera.