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Goat Cheese and Mesclun Salad

This classic salad, with its crisp goat cheese rounds, is a longtime restaurant standard. Look for a log-shaped fresh goat cheese, often simply labeled chèvre, and use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to ensure neat rounds.

Ingredients:

For the vinaigrette:  

  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 Tbs. Champagne vinegar 
  • 1 shallot, finely minced 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  •   
  • 1/2 cup walnuts 
  • 1/4 cup fine dried bread crumbs  
  • 1/2 lb. fresh goat cheese without rind 
  • 8 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 6 cups mesclun greens 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Directions:

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Let the vinaigrette stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 325°F.

Spread the walnuts in a single layer in a pie dish. Toast, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are fragrant and their color deepens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool, then coarsely chop.

Spread the bread crumbs on a plate. Using a thin-bladed knife, cut the goat cheese into 4 rounds of uniform thickness. Brush each round with 1 tsp. of the olive oil. Place in the bread crumbs and turn to coat evenly.

In a large bowl, combine the mesclun and the toasted walnuts. Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat evenly. Divide among individual plates.

In a fry pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 4 tsp. olive oil. Add the goat cheese rounds and cook until nicely browned, 45 to 60 seconds. Turn the rounds over and cook until nicely browned on the other side, 45 to 60 seconds more. Do not allow the cheese to burn or melt.

Place 1 round atop each salad. Season with pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).