by Kemp Minifie
Spiced Goat CheeseI'm not one to fall for the cute factor often, but Dan Torrison's multi-flavored Goat Cheese Nubbins totally captivated me one recent Saturday morning, when I walked a mere four blocks to my little local farmers' market, rather than take the subway to the big daddy Greenmarket at Union Square in New York City. Torrison's stand, Rabbits' Run Farm, was a natural draw. In my mind, rabbits = childhood pet = chocolate Easter bunnies. But it's not rabbits or chocolate bunnies he sells. It's goat cheese.
I spied Torrison's Nubbins (in photo above), a colorful mosaic of short rolls of fresh (mild) goat cheese coated in various combinations of seeds, herbs, and spices, right away. It's such a great--and simple--idea I wished I'd thought of it myself.
To his credit, Torrison readily admits inspiration from the description of Bernard Soreda's Perigord goat cheeses in Steve Jenkins' The Cheese Primer. Soreda arranges small hand-rolled balls of goat cheese in rows, then sprinkles each row with chopped dill, paprika, or ash. Jenkins described them as looking like a nest of quail eggs. Soreda also makes trompe l'oeil cerises (cherries) by rolling balls in paprika and sticking each with a pine needle. Why not do the same with rosemary leaves?
Torrison cuts his thin logs of goat cheese (they're about 1-inch in diameter) into 1-inch lengths, then rolls them in various coatings: Hungarian paprika; a mixture of dried thyme and parsley; a blend of toasted white sesame seeds, dried onion, dried garlic, ground ginger, powdered rosemary, and cayenne; a hodgepodge of black sesame seeds tossed with cayenne, chipotle chile powder, and black pepper; and a medley of sweet and hot curry powders along with with shavings of toasted hazelnuts.
Although I liked them all--the curried hazelnut was my favorite--I couldn't help thinking of how I'd adapt them. I'd skip the Hungarian paprika in favor of Spanish smoked paprika, either dulce (sweet) or picante (hot). In place of the dried onion, dried garlic, and powdered rosemary with the white sesame seeds, I'd use minced fresh versions. And instead of the black sesame seeds, I'd be inclined to go for nigella seeds (a.k.a. kalunji), which are also black, but with a more intriguing flavor.
If goat cheese isn't your thing--for some it's just too barny--there's no reason why you couldn't use cream cheese. It rolls into logs as easily as Play-Doh. Since I'm hosting Easter dinner this year, I'll be heading down to Torrison's stand on Saturday to buy some plain goat cheese to make coated nubbins of my own, or maybe even Soreda's cherries. What seed, herb, and spice combinations and/or shapes might you use?
Photo: Kemp Minifie
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