Golly – who knew goat cheese was so healthy?

Published 12:09 am Saturday, September 17, 2011

On most visits to the grocery store I buy cheese. We just eat a lot of it, even though it is high in calories, but it is rich in calcium, and therefore has some healthy benefits. A type of cheese that I really love is goat cheese. It is very popular because of its tantalizingly tangy flavor. It is also a healthier option than cheese made from cow’s milk. While cow’s milk cheese generally has around 100 calories and 10 grams of fat per ounce, goat cheese only has 80 calories and 6 grams of fat.

Around a quarter of the American population suffers from lactose intolerance, a condition that makes it difficult to digest lactose-containing foods such as milk and cheese. People who are lactose intolerant are sometimes able to tolerate goat cheese, since the fat molecules in goat cheese are shorter making them more digestible.

Despite the fact that goat cheese is lower in calories than most dairy products, goat cheese is a good source of bone preserving calcium. The amount of calcium in goat cheese can vary from around 40 grams in soft cheese up to 240 grams in hard goat cheese, slightly higher than cow’s milk cheese which has about 200 grams in the hard version.

I love goat cheese because it is so versatile. Add fresh herbs to soft goat cheese or use it as a spread in place of butter. You can toss it into a pasta dish or use it in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich. It is also a delicious addition to mashed potatoes.

The following recipes highlight the many uses of goat cheese, from salads, to main courses, and to desserts.

Baked Goat

Cheese Salad

For 4 servings

4 (2 ½ “) rounds of goat cheese, about ½” thick

½ c. extra virgin olive oil

3 fresh thyme sprigs, plus 1 tsp. dried thyme

1 c. fine whole wheat bread crumbs

2-3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

8 c. (4 oz.) lightly packed lettuce leaves such as small green and red tip, arugula or curly endive

Place cheese in a shallow dish and drizzle with two tablespoons of oil; turn to coat completely. Sprinkle fresh thyme on top. Cover and refrigerate six hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and in a small bowl combine crumbs with dried thyme. Remove the cheese from the oil and coat completely with the crumbs. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake, without turning until golden brown and bubble, about 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, place two tablespoons of the vinegar in a bowl and slowly whisk in the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more vinegar, if necessary, to balance flavors. Toss the lettuce with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly and mound greens on individual plates. Invert a round of warm goat cheese in the center.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed

with Goat Cheese

Serves 4

4 boneless chicken breasts halves, skinned

½ c. fresh goat cheese, about 4 oz.

3 green onions, thinly sliced

3 basil leaves, shredded or 1 tsp. dried, crumbled

1 egg, beaten to blend

½ c. dry bread crumbs

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pound chicken between sheets of waxed paper to ¼-inch thickness. Pat chicken dry.

Combine goat cheese, green onions and basil in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread chicken mixture lengthwise over half of each chicken piece. Tuck short ends in. Roll chicken up, starting at one long side, into tight cylinders. Tie ends with string. Dip chicken in egg, allowing excess to drip into bowl. Roll in bread crumbs, shaking off excess.

Place chicken in an 8” square baking dish. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter over chicken. Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

From the cookbook, Harvest to Heat, by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer, published in 2010.

Goat Cheese and

Chive Hash Browns

Serves 4

3 large potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, peeled

1 large egg, beaten

½ cup rice flour (or cake flour)

1 cup crumbled goat cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil

Grate the potatoes in a food processor then rinse them in a colander until the water runs clear. Add the potatoes by the handful onto a clean kitchen towel, and then squeeze them dry (you’ll need to work in batches). Put the potatoes in a large bowl and stir in the egg, flour, goat cheese, chives and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat it on medium-high heat. Scoop out about ½ cup of potato mixture and drop it gently into the hot oil, flattening it with the back of the cup slightly. Repeat, spacing the pancakes out but filling the pan as much as possible. Fry each pancake on one side until golden brown, about two minutes, then carefully flip and fry the other side, cooking for another two minutes.

Remove with a spatula, letting excess oil drain off, and transfer to a brown paper bag or paper towel-lined plate. Tent with foil to keep warm until all the pancakes are cooked. Serve immediately.

This dessert is also from the cookbook, Harvest to Heat, but the restaurant Tru, in Chicago, contributed this recipe.

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Caramelized Figs

Serves 6-8

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

2 cups heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

1 cup fresh goat cheese, softened

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

4 ripe fresh figs, cut in half

Sprinkle the gelatin over 4 teaspoons water to soften. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the heavy cream and ½ cup of the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat but do not let boil, then turn off the heat and whisk in the softened goat cheese, whisking until the pieces of cheese are totally incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla and the softened gelatin and whisk again to dissolve the gelatin. Whisk in the buttermilk. Strain the hot mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher with a pour spout.

Lightly grease six large or eight small ramekins. Pour the mixture into the ramekins and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.

Just before serving, caramelize the figs: Dip the cut sides of the figs into the remaining ¼ cup sugar and caramelize them with a home-use blowtorch or by placing them under a broiler, cut side up, for one minute.

When ready to serve, carefully dip the bottom of each ramekin into a baking pan of hot water for about 10 seconds. Wipe the bottom of the ramekins dry, then run a thin knife around the edge of the molds to loosen the panna cotta. Set a chilled dessert place over the top of a ramekin, then flip the plate and ramekins over at the same time, inverting the mold onto the place. Repeat with the remaining ramekins. Garnish with the caramelized figs and serve immediately. You can also serve the panna cotta in the ramekins, with the figs on the top or alongside.