It was a hot, sunny day in the Bay area last summer, and our destination was Napa Valley. Our first stop was the Robert Mondavi winery. Just the sheer expanse of the grape plantation was breathtaking. Each grape plant was identified by the type of wine it produced, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Syrah. My first stop before the wine tasting room was their food shop, the variety of condiments, cheeses and pates could easily satisfy my hunger through my sense of sight. After the wine tasting, it was time to move to another winery, but before that it was time for lunch.
We went to a rustic eatery, set amid the lush green gardens of a vineyard, with wooden benches and large umbrellas. The aroma of the charcoal burning from the grill was inviting, but since I was in the wine county, perfection, for me, was a selection of cheeses for lunch. I headed underground to a den dedicated to different sorts of cheese, but the first to catch my eye was something that resembled the Italian flag. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, thus I just had to try it. It was three layers of cheese, red, white and green. As I put the first bite on the freshly baked baguette, instantly there was a burst of flavor on my tongue, with the red flavored with sundried tomatoes, white, plain goats cheese and the green was basil flavored
With my palate acting as my recipe book, I attempted to recreate my Napa food adventures in the kitchen. I came pretty close to replicating the flavors.
For the cheese:
- 1/2 kg yoghurt
- Muslin cloth
- Basil leaves
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Chilli Powder
- Crushed garlic
- Sundried tomatoes
- Sundried tomato oil
- Chilli Powder
- To make the cheese, hang the yoghurt in a muslin cloth overnight. Make sure the cloth is tied tightly so that all the water from the yoghurt has been drained out.
- Take the cheese out of the cloth and put it in a food processor along with a generous bunch of basil leaves and olive oil.
- Blitz the mixture till it softens and turns a shade of mint green.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz for another minute
- The cheese should taste of freshly picked basil with a kick of chilli
- Cover a mould with clingfilm and pour the mixture into it. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or possibly overnight, till the cheese hardens
- Add sundried tomatoes to the cheese along with the oil in the sundried tomato jar. (Note: Buy the sundried tomatoes which come in oil)
- The mixture should slowly turn red.
- If you want the cheese to be spicy, add a pinch of red chilli powder.
- Place it in a mould covered with clingfilm and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight.
Serve it with crackers to your guests, or just enjoy it on a freshly baked baguette over the weekend. Each time I make this cheese, I am taken back to that balmy, summer afternoon spent in Napa Valley. At the end of the day, there is nothing like good cheese on fresh bread. Simply heavenly!