My sister has a hyper-sensitive nose. She makes a face when she spies a wedge of pecorino Romano and she can identify the tiniest amounts of any goat product, no matter how fresh and pristine. “It smells like a musk ox!”, she would yell and that became our war cry, a kind of a goat radar, even though no one we are even acquainted with has come in contact with a musk ox.
Father’s neighbor at the ranch above our town in Serbia has a small herd of goats that she takes for a walk along the dirt road, allowing them to enjoy the overgrown hedges and brambles that flank it, while she walks slowly behind them, her knitting needles clacking and crisscrossing, a ball of yarn clasped firmly between her arm and her ribs. When she milks the goats in the morning, she fills white, reused one-liter plastic bottles with still frothy milk, loads them in canvas bags and dispatches her children on bikes to make rounds. The milk she gets at dusk she uses to make cheese the next day.
Father is one of her regular customers when we are in Serbia and my children have learned to enjoy the exotic, grassy taste of goat products. From time to time I even manage to persuade my sister to take a bite of young, lightly salted, unripened milky-white goat cheese cut in squares and laid in neat rows in a plastic box, or a few crumbs of older, yellow and drier cheese that spent some time developing its mature aroma. But she inevitably scrunches her face after a faintest whiff of goatness, and we all cry out in unison, “It smells like a musk ox!”
Almost two years ago the Internet sprinkled some fairy dust and made me stumble upon Stephanie’s beautiful blog Sale e Pepe. Her photography left me breathless and inspired me to strive for better every time I pick up my camera. When she told me that she has photographed a cookbook, I was not surprised. When she asked me if I wanted to participate in a virtual potluck to promote the cookbook, Tasia’s Table, I was ecstatic.
The author of the cookbook is Tasia Malakasis, a Southern girl of Greek origin, a fellow English major who switched gears a few years back and became a cheesemonger for her native Alabama company Belle Chevre. Most of the recipes in her book feature goat cheese in its many incarnations. Her writing is evocative and soulful, and Stephanie’s images bring forth Tasia’s enchantment with food and her desire to share it with her friends and family while tossing back a glass of red wine, laughing, and leaving all pretense behind.
My kind of cheese, my kind of girl, my kind of entertaining! The only bad thing about this endeavor was that I could not stop browsing the recipes. I wanted to make so many of them that my notebook became useless. I stopped only when I realized that I can make all these recipes in the future whenever I want. For the virtual potluck I chose an easy to prepare dish that would appeal to my girls, with ingredients that I usually have in stock: Tapenade-Olive Tart with Goat Cheese.
The puff pastry rose beautifully and the crust was rustic and imperfect in the best way possible, even though I tried really hard to make the edges even. Creamy, soft goat cheese cut the abrasive notes of capers and complemented the flowery taste of roughly chopped green Manzanilla olives in my tapenade*, while toasted nuts tossed with fresh thyme added another subtle undertone.
Tasia, you are right: this is a simple, but lovely dish to serve on a weekday with a spring greens salad, but also perfectly suited to grace a table at an informal party, or when guests appear unexpectedly. And my sister was probably dreaming about us nine hours ahead in Germany, as we chimed, as if on cue, “It smells like a musk ox!”
You can order a copy of Tasia’s Table on Tasia Malakasis’s site.
TAPENADE-WALNUT TART WITH GOAT CHEESE
from Tasia’s Table
- 6 ounces goat cheese
- 1 roll of store-bought puff pastry
- 4 tablespoons prepared olive tapenade
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
- ½ cup walnuts, crushed and toasted
Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle about 8 x 12 inches.
Roll up the sides slightly and prick the bottom with a fork.
Cook for 10 minutes at 400 degrees on a nonstick baking sheet.
Remove from oven and cool.
Spread the tapenade on the cooked pastry.
Sprinkle with thyme and walnuts, and cover evenly with goat cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400F degrees, until the cheese has melted and started to brown on top.
Several other bloggers are participating in this virtual potluck. I listed their blogs so you can visit them as well and enter again. Each of these bloggers will pick one response and send it to Tasia. She will then choose the winner and send them an autographed copy of Tasia’s Table. Good Luck!
- Cooking With Books
- Cheese And Champagne
- Blank Palate
- Deep South Magazine
- La Buena Vida
- Susan Greeley
- Cactus & Kudzu
- Story of A Kitchen
- Sugar and Spice by Celeste
- Once Upon a Cutting Board
- Miss in the Kitchen
- Sale e Pepe
- The Picky Eater
Disclaimer: I received a signed copy of Tasia’s Table and no other compensation. Opinions and photography are my own.