Monday, May 16, 2011

Warm Chèvre Spread

Whenever I visit Vancouver, Canada - not far from the Time-Zone Where I Live - I make a point of dropping in to the Gourmet Warehouse, founded in 1998 by cookbook author and cooking teacher Caren McSherry. There, I usually find some “must-have”  gadget guaranteed to make my cooking simpler and my space problem worse! Caren's a great cook, and I owe this Warm Chèvre Spread to her, though I've modified it from the original. Featuring sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, and chèvre (French goat cheese), this warm, chunky spread is great party fare. Toss the leftovers with your favorite pasta!

Warm Chèvre Spread: 

1 bulb (head) of garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (see Note)
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ - ¾ c. white wine
8 oz. (250 g) creamy chèvre
4 oz. (125 g) cream cheese, firm variety
¾ c. soft sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil, drained and blotted dry
14-oz. (398 mL) jar or can plain, unseasoned artichokes, drained, stemmed, and chopped into eighths
⅔ c. kalamata olives, sliced (see Note)
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.  Using a sharp knife, slice a thin sliver across the top of the garlic bulb, removing the tip of each clove. Lightly rub the entire bulb with oil. Wrap loosely in aluminum foil, baking 40 min. or until bulb feels soft. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic pulp into a small bowl. Set aside. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add sliced onions to the pan, stir-frying about 5 min., until softened and slightly brown. Sprinkle sugar over onions, stirring until caramelized. 
Pour wine into pan to deglaze it, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan (for a Note about deglazing, see my blog of April 16, 2011). Add the chèvre, cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, reserved garlic pulp, olives, and pepper. Lower heat and continue stirring until cheeses melt and the entire mixture is creamy. If mixture is too thick, thin with additional wine. Serve warm with slices of fresh baguette or water crackers.
Note: I used a simple mandolin to slice the onion in this recipe. I formerly owned a very complex, trapezoidal, restaurant-style mandolin that I could never quite get the hang of and eventually gave away. It cost me nearly $300! This simple, slide up-and-down kind was about $17. It takes up almost no room in the cupboard and needs only a quick rinse for cleaning. It’s a dream tool for making super-fine slices, as in Marinated Cucumber Salad. I'll give you that recipe next week!
Note: Caren’s original chevre recipe calls for niçoise olives. If you can't find them, kalamata olives are a great substitute. Once again, I want to tell you about a great kitchen gadget! I use an OXO-brand cherry pitter to pit my olives - not the old-fashioned kind that used to hurt your fingers, but the new kind that requires only a fast, gentle squeeze to shoot the pit through a tube. The third photo shows me doing exactly that. This gizmo cost me roughly $15 at Williams-Sonoma. Good kitchen tools speed and simply jobs, making cooking a real pleasure!

My mandolin slices onions paper-thin  
Combine all ingredients, heating through

World's best olive (and cherry) pitter!

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