Heirloom tomato, basil, and Maine goat cheese salad

Still lingering from my trip to the Brunswick Farmers' Market this morning was a roll of fresh chevre. Curled into a tight roll of soft cheese and green peppercorns, the goat's milk cheese from York Hill Farm in New Sharon had barely survived the journey home.

En route, we'd eaten it on dried figs and thin crackers, promising to put it away as it crumbled against the leather seat and then reaching for another taste.

The cheese was unusually flavorful; in their twenty-fourth year as cheesemakers, John and Penny Duncan seem to have reached some sort of goat's milk pinnacle, converting the white liquid into a heavenly spread filled with herbs and spices and a great deal of taste. In addition to the Chevre Rolls, the couple also sells Capriano, a hard cheese formed into wheels and aged in its rind in their cellar for up to a year.

While the Capriano was more suited to topping pasta or grinding into a rich, green pesto, the soft peppered cheese made the ultimate twist on Caprese salad. With a bowl of heirloom tomatoes fresh from The Farm on Main Street in Yarmouth, I began to slice. Purple, yellow, red, and green slices layered atop a bed of spicy mesclun mix, followed by tiny green basil leaves and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. A bit of salt and pepper, a dash of oil, and the summer salad was ready for its final touch: soft, crumbling chevre.

For an impromptu creation, it certainly packed a punch.

For more information on York Hill Farm and its cheeses, visit the Maine Cheese Guild online at www.mainecheeseguild.org, or call John and Penny at (207) 778-9741. For more information on Massachusetts goat cheese, check out Westfield Farm at www.chevre.com or Valley View Farm at valleyviewcheese.com. Happy eating!

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