In our two-part interview with D.J. Mitchell, the self-taught cheesemaker was telling us why he and his wife, Suellen, started making cheese. ("We bought 20 acres in the middle of nowhere... after that that first winter, when the snow melted, we found out our soil was terrible.") And why the L.A. couple ended up in Utah in the first place. ("The only traffic in Utah is a herd of cattle crossing the road.")
It seems waiting for the cows to cross the road worked out just fine, as Mitchell's goat and cow's milk cheeses are impressively mature for such a young cheesemaker. The 51-year-old didn't start selling his cheeses until three years ago.
His goat chevre is almost yogurt-like creamy, with a balanced tang, so you really can spoon it straight from the package. But if you have any leftover, Symbria Patterson at neighboring Red Acre Farm CSA in Cedar City, Utah, likes to pepper the cheese with chopped nasturtium leaves and petals and use it as a filling for fried squash blossoms. She gives the batter a hit of yeast to lighten it, then tops the fried squash with more of the flower petals. Pretty beautiful. Turn the page for the recipe.
If you don't nasturtiums on hand, they're incredibly easy to grow, and keep an eye out at the farmers' markets in the coming months. They tend to show up at specialty vendors like Maggie's Farm right around the time those squash blossoms hit their Spring-into-Summer stride. If their market days don't coincide, you can always stuff your nasturtiums with the chevre and eat them straight up, sans the batter and pan fry, as in the above photo. Or simply stuff those fried squash blossoms with fresh basil and that Jackrabbit chevre. After all, the end game of so many things in life, including these appetizers, is simply really good cheese.
Jackrabbit Ranch goat and cow's milk cheeses are available directly from the farm online.
Fried Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Nasturtium Chevre
Note: Patterson prefers female squash blossoms because they are easier to stuff. "Female blossoms tend to be short and wide, whereas male blossoms are larger overall," she explains. An instant cocktail hour conversation starter.
Serves: 4 to 6 as a first course
16 ounces Jack Rabbit chevre
12 large male squash blossoms
1 t active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup ice water, ice removed
Oil for frying
About 1 cup nasturtium leaves and blossoms, plus additional blossoms for garnish
1. Carefully pinch off the stamen from inside each squash blossoms. Trim the stems, leaving about two inches of stem on each blossom. Set the blossom aside.
2. Combine the yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and a pinch of salt. Slowly whisk in the yeast mixture, then add the ice water to make a smooth batter. Strain the batter through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Set aside for 20 minutes.
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3. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat 2 1/2 inches of oil to 375 degrees.
4. While the oil is heating, bruise and lightly chop the nasturtium leaves and petals. In a small bowl combine the leaves and petals with the chevre. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Fill each blossom with about 1 teaspoon of the chevre mixture, depending on the size of your blossoms, and gently twist the top of each to close the blossom.
6. Holding a blossom by the stem, dip it into the batter and let the excess run off. Carefully slide it into the hot oil. Fry only a few blossoms at a time until golden brown and crisp, about 1 min. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper if desired and garnish with Nasturtium blossoms.