Recipe: Grapefruit & Avocado Salad with Haystack Mountain Peak

Ruby Star grapefruit: in season now. Photo credit: Backyard Fruit

As a child of California, I grew up immersed in a culture awash with citrus and avocados. I recall plucking tangerines from orchards and eating the sun-warmed fruit as a snack, and marveling over the many varieties of avocado at our county fair. Years later, as a farmers market vendor in the rain-drenched Bay Area, I overcame the winter doldrums by admiring (and eating) the vibrant array of citrus fruits sold by my colleagues.

One of my favorite ways to use citrus is to combine it with goat cheese. The acidity and residual sweetness in the fruit compliment the tang of the cheese, making them the ideal companions for a winter salad. Balance things out with a bitter or spicy component (think kumquats, dates and watercress, or orange and endive).

The following recipe celebrates one of my favorite things from Texas: Ruby Red grapefruit, now at its peak. Combined with the nutty, creamy avocado and the piquant, earthy notes of Haystack Peak, it’s a simple, grounded dish that speaks of sunny days to come.

Serves 4

Vinaigrette

½ small shallot, minced

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

 

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

 

Salad

2 pink grapefruit such as Ruby Red, peel and pith removed and sliced crosswise into ¼-inch thickness, or cut into supremes

2 ripe avocados, sliced ¼-inch thick

4 ounces Haystack Mountain Peak, sliced lengthwise to ¼-inch thickness

Flaked sea salt, to taste

Daikon radish sprouts or microgreens, for garnish (optional)

 

Arrange grapefruit and avocado on a serving platter. Rewhisk vinaigrette and drizzle atop fruit, and season with salt. Add slices of Haystack Mountain Peak and finish with a scattering of radish sprouts.

How to section citrus fruit. Photo credit: Patricia Salzman

 

©The Sustainable Kitchen®, 2017

Farm-to-Table Cheese Class: Goat Cheese Trio

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Join us for a hands-on interactive cheesemaking experience at the small Boulder County dairy goat farm that was the inspiration for The Art of Cheese! Registration is required at www.theartofcheese.com. We’ll start by meeting and interacting with our small herd of Nubian and Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, including the newest Spring kids. You’ll get to try your hand at milking a dairy goat in our cozy milk house and then we will take the milk into our farmhouse kitchen and learn how to pasteurize it. The fun and education continues as we learn how to make several types of soft cheeses with this high quality milk including Chevre, Feta and Blue Capricorn. At the end of class we’ll sit down together for a light lunch featuring our freshly made cheeses, fruit and bread. Class size is limited to 6 for a truly personal farm-to-table experience!

A guide to common goat breeds

Photo credit: Gamsutra

Photo credit: Gamsutra

There are dozens of different goat breeds from around the world, but here in the U.S., we tend to see just a handful (sad, but true). Goat breeds fall into three main categories, depending upon their intended use: meat, milk, or fiber. Some breeds are used for cross-purposes.

As for why breed diversity is slim pickings Stateside, one needs to understand that we’re one of the few cultures in the world that doesn’t routinely eat goat. Goat is the most widely consumed meat worldwide, and a staple throughout Latin America, Africa, Central Asia the Caribbean, Middle East, and parts of Europe.

While goat is gaining ground on North American high-end and ethnic menus, we’re just too squeamish (and anthropomorphic) for it to catch on as a mainstream protein source. It’s a shame, because goat is good eating (look for future posts on this topic).

Cultures that consume goat meat also prize their milk as a source of vital protein and other nutrients, often in the form of yogurt or cheese. In certain parts of the world, goats are even used as pack animals. For most of the planet, goat and its by-products provide subsistence, and have serious economic, as well as social, value.

We also don’t prize goats for their fiber, although we’re all familiar with cashmere (derived from the fine, silky hair of the Kashmir or Cashmere goat, or Pygora or Nigora goats), and mohair, which comes from the Angora goat (not to be confused with the Angora rabbit, which is also used for its wool).

What North Americans love goats for (besides their inherent cuteness and ability to clear brush) is milk, primarily for use in cheesemaking. The most popular dairy breeds here mostly aren’t American in origin, but were brought to this country as dairy animals. Over the generations, due to improvements in breeding stock, these breeds have become prized for their various attributes, which range from milk yield and butterfat content, to temperament and mothering abilities.

Below, a guide to the most common American goat breeds:

Nubian: Although they have a rep for being a bit bratty and exceedingly vocal, this Middle Eastern/North African breed with the beguiling long ears and Roman nose produces high-butterfat milk. The Nubian’s yield is lower than that of other breeds, which is why they’re sometimes cross-bred. In color, they often have intricate spotted, patchy, or stripey patterns.

Photo credit: Buffalo Creek Farm

Photo credit: Buffalo Creek Farm

Alpine: These robust, prolific milkers originated in the French Alps, and are one of the most popular breeds amongst cheesemakers.

Photo credit: The Goat Guide

Photo credit: The Goat Guide

LaMancha: Despite its misleading name, this “earless” breed originated in Oregon in the 1930’s. LaMancha refers to the windswept plains region of central Spain, as the breed is believed to have likely descended from the native Murciana goat. LaMancha’s do have ears, of course; it’s the pinna, or external portion, that’s missing.  They’re prized for their high yields of butterfat-rich milk, friendly nature, and hardiness.

Photo credit: etcFN

Photo credit: etcFN

Toggenburg: This very old breed from the Switzerland’s Toggenburg Valley is the Honda of goats: mid-size, sturdy, and moderate (with regard to milk yield and butterfat content).

Photo credit: Goat Genetics

Photo credit: Goat Genetics

Saanen: One of the most “goaty” looking caprines, Saanens are white-to-cream in color, with forward-pointing, slightly floppy ears and a calm temperament. They have the highest milk yield, but a low butterfat content.

Photo credit: Patteran Dairy Goats

Photo credit: Patteran Dairy Goats

Oberhasli: If ever there were a goat beauty pageant, these gregarious, russet-to-bay animals with their black dorsal stripes, legs, and muzzles (a pattern known as “chamoisee”) would kill it. Oberhasli’s are growing in popularity here, but they originated in the Swiss Alps, where they’re widely used because of their high yield and butterfat content.

Photo credit: Tangled Roots Farm

Photo credit: Tangled Roots Farm

Nigerian Dwarf: These miniature goats  of West African origin. While some cheesemakers such as Oregon’s Pholia Farm use Nigerians for their production, the breed is really making its mark on the urban goat husbandry market. Most cities require backyard goats to be crossed with Nigerians or Pygmy goats, to keep them at a manageable size. Despite their small stature, Nigerian’s produce a high volume of milk, making them ideal for caprine-loving urbanites.

Photo credit: Kivuli Kids Farm

Photo credit: Kivuli Kids Farm

The “solid” facts about winter cheesemaking

Milking time at Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador. Photo credit: Laurel Miller

Milking time at Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador. Photo credit: Laurel Miller

Most people don’t realize that cheese is a seasonal product. Since its discovery sometime around 2000 BC, fresh cheese has been a way to use surplus milk. The process of aging cheese is actually one of the earliest methods of food preservation, and provided crucial protein and other nutrients during the lean winter months, when certain species of dairy animals don’t usually lactate.

Despite advances in the dairy industry over the centuries, cheesemaking has changed little, and on a small scale, remains a highly seasonal endeavor. Since milk is the main ingredient in cheese, it’s important to understand how its chemical composition changes over the course of a year. These factors are additionally influenced by species, breed, terrain, and climate.

Milk comes from lactating mammals, i.e., those that have recently given birth. In the case of cheese, that milk comes from a ruminant, or cud-chewing mammal with a four-chambered stomach. The stomachs of ruminants are specially adapted to break down their entirely plant-based diet.

Now, think about the seasonal nature of grasses and other woody, leafy plants (goats are browsers, rather than grazers, and so prefer to strip branches of shrubs and trees or nibble thorny grasses to obtain nutrients). Here in Colorado, pasture is either covered in snow, or fairly barren, as is the case with our high-desert dairy in Cañon City. In that part of the state, there’s little in the way of forage for goats, even during the spring and summer months, which is why we supplement our goats’ diet with alfalfa hay and grain year- round.

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Time for milking at the Skyline Correctional Center dairy in Canon City, Colorado. Photo credit: Barry Staver

The change in diet is one major reason why milk undergoes compositional changes with the seasons. In the case of our herd, the biggest change that we see is in the ratio of solids (fats and proteins) in the milk, which become higher in winter.

Climate changes can also affect milk. There’s  a sharp contrast in seasonal temperature in Colorado (in Cañon City, it routinely tops 100 degrees in summer,  and drops to the mid-20s in winter). Goats are naturally inclined to drink more water in hot weather (which is also generally when they’re lactating), which results in lower levels of milk solids during the summer months. The variance in milk solids requires our cheesemaker to carefully review their levels and make slight recipe adjustments throughout the year.

The timing of breeding season also depends upon goat breed and climate. Goats naturally lactate for up to 10 months after kidding. Ideally, they’ll be given a break before being bred again, to allow their bodies to regain strength. For a cheese company of our size- we maintain a herd of 1,100 milkers- we can stagger the breeding. This enables us to keep a small, but continuous, supply of milk throughout the year, so we can continue to make cheese. Like us, many cheesemakers also have aged cheese in their line, so they have product to sell during the winter months.

Fortunately, our does have just started kidding again, and a plentiful supply of milk and bouncy baby goats are just around the corner. We look forward to seeing you soon at the farmers markets!

For more detailed information on goat milk composition, go to the DRINC (Dairy Research & Information Center, UC Davis) website.