Fresh Goat Cheese Salad

Remember this glorious salad?  It’s funny how fast a year goes by…  What’s even more surprising is that I don’t embrace salads all that often.  It’s probably because my dominant meat lover side usually screams for decadently rich and mostly porky goodness.  But that changes significantly in the summertime.  Remember this family classic?  We eat it almost every day in the hot season.  
Last year, it felt as if we turned to the Warm Goat Cheese Salad for the sole purpose of detoxifying our bodies after a week of undeniable binge eating in Las Vegas.  But it was also because it was summer, a season when I’m instinctively inclined to get rid of the clutter and heavy food from my eating routine and make room for fresh, clean, light, and vibrant alternatives.  I’m also a goat cheese junkie.  And the chief ingredient of this salad is… you guessed… goat cheese.  On top of that, this salad is good, really good!  Yet, I felt that it needed some tweaking and a new spin to make it utterly delicious.    
My new version of the salad, the Fresh Goat Cheese Salad, is a riff on the Barefoot Contessa favorite without the fried element and with a couple of extras.  It’s a snap to assemble; uses only simple and unspoiled ingredients, and I find it to be more suited for the scorching heat than its sister.  Still, the salad is abundant in textures and lovely flavors.  The raisins give it a pleasantly sweet chewiness; the walnuts bring a toasty crunchiness; the goat cheese makes it hearty and creamy; while the drizzle of light homemade lemony dressing adds a touch of acidity.  A no muss, no fuss colorful summer salad, so graceful in its simplicity you’ll be eating it all season long!
Fresh Goat Cheese Salad
Inspired by Salad with Warm Goat Cheese by Barefoot Contessa
Makes: 6 servings
·         6-7 cups mixed salad greens
·         ½ cup golden raisins
·         Heaped ½ cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
·         4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
·         Juice of 1 large, juicy lemon
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         ¼ teaspoon black pepper
·         ¼ cup olive oil
·         Optional: freshly ground black pepper
To toast the walnuts:  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Spread the walnuts on a large baking sheet.  Roast the nuts in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.  Allow them to cool completely. 
Place the mixed salad greens in a large bowl.  Add the golden raisins, walnuts, and goat cheese. 
For the dressing:  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly until the dressing thickens slightly.  
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to combine.  Divide the salad among plates and add more freshly ground black pepper if desired.    
Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

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