This weekend, after a long bicycle ride, I found myself perusing the cheese counter at our local specialty foods store. I took my time browsing through what the case had to offer, picking up plastic-wrapped parcels of perfection in every hue and hardness, as if the cheese counter were not a cheese counter at all, but instead a case full of exquisite jewels. After a few minutes of window shopping, I turned to my fiancé and asked, “Can I live here? In the cheese case? Please?” He knew I wasn’t entirely kidding. There I go again, waxing poetic about the one food group I’ve admitted I could never give up. For me, a farm-raised formerly omnivorous Texan who has been able to give up meat (including moist brisket) without much problem for the last eight months, the thought of going without cheese would make this life not worth living (have I told you before about my flair for the dramatic?). What’s not to like? The tang, the creaminess, the range of soft and hard cheeses, the ones that are spotted with character, that one version of cheese that’s totally melted and mixed with peppers (indeed, I’m referring to queso, the golden nectar of the Tex-Mex gods). . . lest we forget the sheer cheesiness of cheese. If you’re not in the cheese-eating crowd, I do apologize. This time of year, I find myself especially drawn to goat cheese. It’s light, fresh, and tangy—the perfect compliment to warmer temperatures. Today’s recipe was inspired by a lunch I had at an East Austin eatery called Blue Dahlia. The special of the day happened to be an open-faced goat cheese sandwich with an incredible olive spread that I have yet to duplicate. In the meantime, this recipe comes in a close second. Goat Cheese Tartine with Olive Tapenade For the tartines: 1 loaf artisanal wheat bread, sliced 1/4-inch thick 6 – 8 ounces goat cheese Roasted red peppers, sliced Mixed greens For the tapenade: 1/2 cup olives of choice, pitted 3 to 5 tablespoons of capers, drained 2 cloves garlic, peeled 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil Making the tapenade: In the bowl of a food processor, combine olives, capers, and garlic. Pulse until coarsley chopped. With the processor running, add olive oil slowly, until mixture well combined but not pureed. Assembling the tartine: Lay slices of bread on a plate. Spread generously with the goat cheese. Top with one small dollop of tapenade, and lay a slice of roasted red pepper on the top. Serve on a plate with mixed greens and a glass of wine for good measure. A few notes: Local goat cheese (also called chevre) is always the best. Chances are you’ll be able to find it at your local specialty shop or the farmers’ market. It’s a soft, tangy cheese and brings a lot of life to this sandwich. As for olives, kalamata or Greek work well, but any olive will really do. For instance, I made a batch with jalapeno-stuffed olives, and that was wonderful. Capers tend to illicit a love/hate relationship in people. Add to your tapenade accordingly.
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