The Other Girl and the Goat by Robin Nathan

With the first chill of fall in the morning air, twelve or so other food adventurers and I boarded a small tour bus yesterday morning – courtesy of Marche – for the drive to Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Champaign.

Owners Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband have created a dairy and creamery oasis in Central Illinois, the first ever goat cheese producing farm in the state, while practicing core principals of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

We toured their busy, working farm, got up-close-and-personal with the goats, and were served a lovely lunch under the trees with foods that were grown, harvested and created within yards of where we sat. Pretty freaking cool.

A stop in their farm market at the end of the day means that I have some of their fabulous, brie-style goat cheese in my refrigerator right now, just waiting to be tempered and enjoyed in some, delicious, creative way that truly pays homage to Prairie Fruits Farm and their mission. For the past two years, I’ve taught many classes at Marcel’s that feature Marche cheese in every course. The next class, celebrating autumn flavors is running October 10 (shameless plug, a few seats are still available!) Honoring small farmers and producers who respect our planet, and bringing attention to their efforts is a one of the most important things a chef can do. All you need to do to try some of Prairie Farm’s product is pop into Marche!

 I plan to pay my respects to that small wheel of “Little Bloom on the Prairie” goat cheese in my refrigerator with white wine poached pears for a delicious salad!rd

White Wine & Rosemary Poached Pear Salad with Goat Cheese
Serves 4
  1. 2 firm-ripe pears, preferably Bosc or Bartlett (note: Bartlett pears turn from green to yellow as they ripen)
  2. 3 cups dry, fruity white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier)
  3. 1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar
  4. 1 large bay leaf
  5. 2” fresh lemon zest
  6. ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  7. 4 tablespoons whole rosemary leaves
  8. 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  9. ¼ cup fruity olive oil
  10. 6 ounces mixed baby greens (be sure to use some bitter greens, too)
  11. 4 ounces Prairie Fruit Farms Goat Cheese, at room temperature, cut into small wedges (or try their fresh goat cheese in crumbles)
  1. Peel the pears and cut them in half from stem to blossom end. Use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds and use a small knife to trim out the tough strip extending from the stem down to the seeds.
  2. Combine the wine, sugar, bay leaf, lemon zest, peppercorns and rosemary leaves in a deep saucepan (the pears should all be submerged). Taste and add more sugar if the mixture is very tart. Bring to a quick simmer. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes to allow the flavors to really combine. Add the pears to the simmering mixture. Return the pot to a slow simmer until the pears are just tender, about 12-15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pears to a cutting surface to cool.
  3. Ladle out ¼ cup of the mixture from the pot, put it into a small bowl and add the balsamic vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange the baby greens on individual salad plates and chill. When the pears are cooled, thinly slice them horizontally and using the knife as an aid, lift from the cutting board and gently fan onto the salad greens. Place a wedge of the cheese (or crumbles if using the fresh cheese) on top of the salad and spoon the vinaigrette over. Finish with a tiny crumble of flaked sea salt and serve immediately.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

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