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Cooking School: Organic Goat Cheeses, With Recipes
The unanticipated is the essence of Rainbeau Ridge farm
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A sustainable organic farm in New York's tony Westchester County? Admittedly not the norm. Equally unexpected are award-winning goat cheeses, farming camps for children, and cooking classes that cover categories from seasonal produce to basic knife skills. But for Lisa Schwartz, the unanticipated is the essence of Rainbeau Ridge farm.
After living in Japan and becoming enamored with the culture's love of fresh ingredients and meticulous preparation, Lisa began teaching Asian cooking in her Bedford Hills home. Eventually she and husband Mark, a financial consultant specializing in renewable energy resources, purchased a neighboring property and reconstructed the original 15-acre gentleman's farm.
For 10 years Lisa has been farming Rainbeau Ridge, preserving the land through traditional agricultural practices. She balances overseeing the extensive gardens and a livestock menagerie-33 goats and 16 kids, sheep, cows, llamas, heirloom turkeys, free-range chickens, and a couple of peacocks-with the production of her award-winning goat cheeses and the cooking classes.
Today we're at Rainbeau Ridge to attend a "Cooking with Goat Cheese" class, held in the airy farmhouse kitchen. Limited to 12 students, classes are held weekday mornings and are taught by coordinator Nicki Sizemore, local chefs, or Lisa herself. Most of my classmates-several are frequent attendees-find their way to this off-the-beaten-path farm from the surrounding metro area.
Our convivial group gathers for coffee and instruction around the spacious island. "There's hardly a vegetable that doesn't pair with goat cheese, especially those that can be grilled or roasted," Lisa explains. "Find quality ingredients that are seasonal, local, and fresh. Go to the market, see what's there, and say, 'That's what I'm having for dinner.'Then add goat cheese," she says with a wink.
Our lesson begins with Pumpkin-Goat Cheese Cheesecake, which bakes while the other recipes are prepared. The flavor combines pumpkin scented with classic pumpkin pie spices-cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg-with a layer of tangy whipped goat cheese. A gingersnap crust lends additional zing. "Choose the freshest, creamiest goat cheese you can find for baking, preferably within 10 days to two weeks of production," Lisa says.
Nicki takes over to guide us in making Beggar's Purses-small phyllo packets filled with goat cheese-which will top off a hearty Wild Mushroom Soup. The soup is a woodsy combination of shiitake, oyster, cremini, and dried porcini mushrooms served in their own broth. Break the purse open, and swirls of goat cheese add extra creaminess.
For the main course, classic risotto gets a makeover with chicken, dried fruits, chunks of pear, white wine, and, of course, goat cheese. As our group sits down to enjoy the meal, we've started to feel like family. "A class here is a great way to start the day," says Tom Cohn. His wife, Lisa Cohn, agrees. "It's something we like to do together. There are great chefs here and lots of new ideas."
Rainbeau Ridge inspires students to embrace sustainability a step at a time. "Do something that gives a meaningful tie to food, whether starting an herb garden or supporting local growers," Lisa says. "It's not just about feeding our families, but connecting them to their meals."
Photography: Colleen Duffley
Rainbeau Ridge's handcrafted goat cheeses continue an artisanal cheesemaking tradition dating back to Greek and Roman times.
Lisa Schwartz (right) and class coordinator Nicki Sizemore review recipes with the class.
Cheeses, left to right:
A light, tangy, and aromatic bloomy-rinded cheese with a hint of Camembert. Serve it with pear or fig jam, slice over light greens, or place on top of bruschetta.
Big flavor; hints of lemon and salt from ash veining. A good pairing with grilled vegetables or beet salad.
ChevreLait (below Meridien)
Creamy, mellow, tangy. Stir into mac 'n' cheese.
Creamy, but dense and firm with a slight touch of blue cheese. The complex flavors make it a perfect cheese to pair with oaky chardonnays and peppery zinfandels.
Cranberry-Walnut (in bowl)
A spreadable cheese with fresh, clean, bright flavors. Lovely for breakfast spread on a toasted grain bread or for dessert on sweet brown breads such as fig or date.
Wild Mushroom Soup with Beggar's Purses
Simple additions: Top goat cheese with chopped toasted pecans or add herbs to the cheese before assembling purses.
- 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup minced shallots
- 6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
- 6 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms, sliced
- 6 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 cups chicken broth
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 3 sheets frozen phyllo dough (14x9-inch rectangles), thawed
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 ounces goat cheese (chevre)
Place dried porcinis in small bowl. Add boiling water to cover; set aside 10 minutes or until softened. Strain mixture through fine mesh strainer, reserving liquid.
In 4-quart Dutch oven or pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots; cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes. Add shiitake, oyster, and cremini mushrooms. Cook and stir about 8 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.
Coarsely chop porcinis. Add porcinis to pot. Cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in flour.
Stir in reserved porcini liquid and chicken broth to pot. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. With slotted spoon remove half of the mushrooms. Place in food processor; cover and process until nearly smooth. Return mushrooms to pot; stir thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Lay one sheet of phyllo dough on clean work surface. Lightly brush with some of the melted butter. Place another sheet of phyllo on top; brush with butter. Place remaining sheet of phyllo on top; brush with butter. (Keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap until needed.) Cut layered sheets into eight 4-1/2 by 3-1/2-inch rectangles. Divide goat cheese between each phyllo rectangle. Pull up corners of each rectangle, pinching just below the top to form beggar's purses. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Ladle soup into bowls; top with beggar's purse. Makes 8 servings.
Technique: Beggar's Purses
1. Layer 3 sheets of thawed phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with butter. Cut layered phyllo into 8 equal rectangles.
2. Spoon goat cheese into center of each phyllo rectangle. (Use about 1-1/2 teaspoons goat cheese for each.)
3. Gather four corners of each rectangle to create a beggar's purse. Gently pinch phyllo together below the top of purse.
4. Place purses on baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone baking mat. Bake in 350°F oven for 13 to 15 minutes.
Chicken & Goat Cheese Risotto
- 1/4 cup light olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 2 ripe Anjou or Bosc pears, cored and coarsely chopped
- 2/3 cup dried fruit (such as cranberries, cherries and/or apricots), snipping any large pieces
- 8 ounces goat cheese (chevre), crumbled
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add olive oil and onion; cook until onion is tender. Stir in garlic; cook and stir 2 minutes. Add rice; cook and stir until rice begins to brown.
Meanwhile, in medium saucepan heat broth to simmer. Reduce heat so broth continues to just simmer. Slowly add 1 cup broth to rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition has been absorbed. Add wine, 1/2 cup at a time, in same manner until mixture reaches desired consistency and rice is tender (about 30 minutes.)
Stir in chicken, pear, dried fruit, and goat cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings.
Pumpkin-Goat Cheese Cheesecake
- 1-1/2 cups crushed gingersnaps (about 30 cookies)
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 24 ounces goat cheese (chevre), softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
For crust, in small bowl combine gingersnaps, butter, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Press into bottom and 1-1/2 inches up the sides of prepared pan. Bake 5 minutes or until firm. Cool; wrap outside of pan with double thickness of heavy foil. Set aside.
In very large bowl beat together goat cheese, 1 cup granulated sugar, and flour until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition just until combined. Add vanilla, beating on low just until combined. Remove 2 cups mixture; set aside.
Stir pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg into remaining cheese mixture just until combined. Pour 2/3 pumpkin mixture (about 2-2/3 cups) into prebaked crust. Dollop plain cheese mixture over pumpkin mixture. Top with remaining pumpkin mixture. Swirl layers with sharp knife.
Place cheesecake in shallow roasting pan; add hot water to roasting pan to depth of 1 inch. Bake in preheated oven 50 to 60 minutes or until top is set. Open oven slightly; turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in water bath 1 hour.
Remove from water bath and cool on wire rack 15 minutes. Carefully loosen sides with a sharp knife. Let stand 45 minutes more. Remove sides of pan; cool. Cover; chill 4 hours or overnight before serving. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
An easy 50-minute drive from Manhattan, Rainbeau Ridge is located at 49 David's Way, Bedford Hills, NY 10507. Classes are held weekdays, 9:30-11:30 a.m., and average $75 per class. For information, call 914/234-2197 or visit rainbeauridge.com.