This classic bistro-style warm cheese salad satisfies with its warm center, crispy coating, and a tumble of cool tender greens. Freezing the breadcrumb-coated goat cheese helps keep its shape when it hits the heat, but any wayward and misshapen crispy bits are just as welcome to the party. If you prefer to forgo the pan-frying, you can also make this by lightly toasting some baguette slices, rubbing with garlic before topping with plain goat cheese and broiling until bubbling. A drizzle of honey is optional but the combo of sweet honey and a crack of fresh black pepper brings it all together. — Kim Sunée
Crispy goat cheese salad
Makes 4 servings
8 ounces fresh soft goat cheese (log)
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
6 to 8 cups salad greens such as spinach, frisée, romaine
2 tablespoons champagne, red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
6 to 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil for shallow frying, such as grapeseed, olive, avocado
Lightly toasted almonds or walnuts
*Roasted tomatoes and olives; liquid honey; fresh thyme leaves (see below)
• Place breadcrumbs in a shallow glass baking dish or on a plate. Slice logs into 4 to 8 equal-sized pieces; quickly shape, using hands, to form quarter-inch-thick rounds; place goat cheese rounds in breadcrumbs. Turn rounds to coat thoroughly with breadcrumbs. Place coated rounds on a baking tray or dish and place in freezer, 30 minutes and up to overnight; this helps keep them firm as they cook.
• Wash and dry greens. Make vinaigrette by whisking together in a small bowl, vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil until well-blended. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed; set aside.
• When ready to cook cheese, remove rounds from freezer. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to cover bottom of pan by about one half inch. Add rounds, being careful not to overcrowd pan; cook in batches, as needed. Let rounds cook, without disturbing, until golden brown; flip and cook other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Rounds should be golden brown and slightly soft around the edges but shape intact. Keep any crispy bits for garnish.
• Toss salad with vinaigrette. Top with toasted nuts and roasted tomatoes and olives, if serving. Add toasted goat cheese rounds; drizzle with liquid honey, some fresh thyme and freshly-ground black pepper; serve at once.
* For roasted tomatoes and olives: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut five to six medium firm ripe tomatoes in halves or quarters. Place in a baking pan and scatter black or green olives around tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Roast 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle tomatoes with dried herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning. Add minced garlic and stir to coat with olive oil, adding more oil as needed. Roast tomatoes another 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.