WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:
Warm goat cheese salad, a French classic, can easily misfire, becoming nothing more than flavorless, oozing cheese melted onto limp greens. We wanted creamy cheese infused with the flavor of fresh herbs, surrounded by crisp, golden breading, all cradled in lightly dressed greens. For cheese rounds with an exceptionally crisp crust, we found that white Melba toast crumbs beat out fresh bread crumbs and other cracker crumbs. Freezing the breaded goat cheese rounds for 30 minutes before baking them ensured a crunchy coating and a smooth—but not melted—interior. Just like in the finest French bistros, we served our warm breaded goat cheese on hearty greens, lightly dressed with a classic vinaigrette.
This recipe works equally well with dark purple Mission or Golden Figs. Hearty salad greens, such as a mix of arugula and frisée, work best here. The baked goat cheese should be served warm. Prepare the salad components while the cheese is in the freezer, and then toss the greens and vinaigrette together while the cheese cools a bit after baking. Since the recipe makes 12 goat cheese rounds, you can serve the salad with 1 piece of goat cheese and keep the rest in the freezer for later use. Or, for a heartier salad, serve with 2 pieces of cheese.
Salad with Apples, Walnuts, California Figs, and Herbed Baked Goat Cheese
- 3 ounces white Melba toasts
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- 12 ounces firm goat cheese
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Figs stemmed and quartered
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 14 ounces mixed hearty salad greens
- 2 Granny Smith apples cored, quartered, and sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 1/2 cup walnuts toasted and chopped
- For the Goat Cheese. Process Melba toasts in food processor to fine, even crumbs, about 11/2 minutes; transfer to medium bowl and stir in pepper. In separate medium bowl, whisk eggs and mustard together. In third medium bowl, combine thyme and chives.
- Using cheese wire or dental floss, slice cheese into 12 equal-size pieces. Roll each piece of cheese into ball, then roll in herbs to coat lightly. Working with 6 pieces at a time, roll in egg mixture, then coat with crumbs, pressing to help coating adhere. Flatten each ball into 1-inch-thick disk and lay on large plate. Freeze cheese until firm, at least 30 minutes. (Breaded goat cheese can be kept in freezer for up to 1 week.)
- For the Salad: Soak dried figs in 1/2 cup hot water in bowl until plump, about 10 minutes; drain. Combine vinegar, mustard, shallot, ¼ teaspoon salt, and sugar in large bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in oil. Season with pepper to taste.
- Adjust oven rack to top position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Brush tops and sides of cheese evenly with oil. Bake until crumbs are golden brown and cheese is slightly soft, 7 to 12 minutes. Using thin metal spatula, transfer cheese to paper towel–lined plate and let cool for 3 minutes.
- Combine greens and dressing in large bowl, toss gently to coat, and divide among salad plates. Sprinkle with figs, apples, and walnuts. Arrange warm goat cheese on top of salad and serve.