Friday, November 19, 2010

Shepherd's Basket: A Simple Supper

This is what my favorite meal looks like: a hunk of cheese, some good bread, roasted garlic, and some fresh herbs and vegetables. As winter comes on and holidays approach, I’m entering my lean cheese phase. All that means is that I forego meaty meals and heavy sauces for simple cheese boards at night.

Take yesterday, for example, I scrounged through the fridge and found this little wedge of Shepherd’s Basket, a cave-aged raw sheep’s milk cheese in the style of Romano. Cheesemonger Albert Yee, who sold me this hunk, told me he’d used it in a wonderful risotto for his wife. Risotto, I thought! Oh, risotto…

But then life got hectic-shmectic, and risotto became a pipe dream, so I set out to eat this cheese alone. I remembered that Shepherd’s Basket had a distinct smell of brown butter and lamb chops, so I poured some wine and went on impulse. What would I fix with lamb? Hummus. Garlic. Something green.

Out came the cast iron skillet, and soon I was roasting brussel sprouts in a little olive oil (350 for 30 minutes) with a few scraps of bacon. Then, I dug out my last radishes and sliced them up to garnish some hummus.

Lit the candles. Put on some jazz. And oh, what a feast. Of course, I had to ruin it by turning on all the lights and snapping a bunch of photographs, but then we sat down, and we ate, and the day darkened, and it felt like something essential had descended: warm food, rustic cheese, the smell of bacon.

Tell me, what is better?

Shepherd’s Basket comes from Valley Shepherd Creamery in Long Valley, New Jersey. It is a beautiful cheese, robust and sheepy with a walnuty hook. It paired so well with roasted garlic and olive bread that I don’t think I will ever eat it any other way again, unless it’s with chestnuts and honey.

Something for another supper perhaps.

Shepherd's Basket is available at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market and at farmers' markets around Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For a full list, visit Valley Shepherd's website, or stop by the farm for a tour.


  1. Gorgeous!! Sounds like the perfect meal (delay notwithstanding)... I'm a fiend for sheep's milk cheeses, so I will definitely be checking out that Shepherd's Basket (I also really like the name).

  2. I just made some risotto with Shepherd's Basket last night. Used most of the delicious rind on the hunk I got from the Farmstand.

  3. This looks delicious. Our favorite meals are the simple ones as well. The Brussel Sprouts look particularly appealing. We have both been dying for them and it looks like my CSA will finally have them on Tuesday. So Yummy!

  4. Best meal ever! I'm definitely favoring small meals in winter. Just ate a small bowl of potato leek soup with whole grain bread and dutch mill dance smoked cheese. Mmm!

  5. Gorgeous photos, makes me want to dive into my computer screen and take a bite out of that bread and break off a chunk of cheese!