Just imagine .... warm goat cheese, flavored olive oil and warm crunchy bread - now that is my idea of heaven in my mouth. The infusion of citrus, spice and earthy herbs is a sublime combination along with the tangy goat cheese and crunchy baguette. Add a touch of fluer de sel and this bite is simply perfect. Goat cheese has a pristine white color and distinct flavor that is one of the most amazing cheeses in the world - a humble basic for some, a gourmet delight for others.
The key to this delightful simple last minute appetizer is the assortment of herbs and spices. The sweetness of the allspice berries and cardamom are best with a tad of toasting in a saute pan to bring out the height of flavor to infuse with the oil. I am fascinated with the look and fragrance of the star anise which is indigenous to northeast Vietnam and southwest China. The distinct shape adds to the visual appeal of this dish.
The other secret to the success of this appetizer is the garlic and orange peel. There is just something about fabulous citrus and garlic have a unique marriage that is a lasting bond. I added quite a bit of garlic since when it gets soft in texture and taste, it is so perfect to smear over crunchy bread.
Wine Notes: I would suggest serving this appetizer with a crisp, chilled Sauvignon Blanc which is one of the classic pairings with goat cheese. One of my favorites is the one from Kim Crawford in Marlborough Australia. It has a pale yellow color with aromas of lifted citrus, tropical fruit, and crushed herbs. This wine has a vibrant acidity and a fullness mouth feel and you can identify tropical fruit, passion fruit, melon and grapefruit. It is typically about $15.00 to $18.00 per bottle and widely available. Run, don't walk, to pick up a bottle today.
WARM GOAT CHEESE WITH HERBS AND SPICES
For the flavor infused oil:
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2 teaspoon Allspice Berries
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon Cardamom Seeds
8 Cloves Garlic, peeled and lighly smashed
3 3-inch strips orange zest
2 Fresh Bay Leaves
2 Star Anise Pods
1/2 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Take the allspice berries, coriander and cardamom and slightly crush with a large knife and the palm of your hand, then add to a sauce pan and toast over medium heat for a couple minutes. Add the olive oil, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, star anise and garlic. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes, then let sit for 20 minutes to slightly cool.
For the appetizer:
Warm baguette, torn into small pieces or slices
8 Oz. Fresh Goat Cheese - room temperature
Fleur de Sel
In a shallow bowl that is at about 12 inches wide, break the goat cheese and spread evenly. Take the olive oil mixture and pour over the goat cheese. Serve with a couple knifes to scoop of the goat cheese, herbs and spices along with the infused oil. Season each bite with a bit of fleur de sel.
*Adapted from Bon Appetit