Winter Greens Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, Toasted Walnuts, Orange & Warm Goat Cheese Croutons
- WARM GOAT CHEESE CROUTONS AND TOASTED WALNUTS
- 1/4-lb. fresh creamy goat cheese, cut into 4 equal pieces
- 1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 C. shelled walnut pieces
- 4 long, diagonal slices French baguette loaf, each about 1/4 inch thick
- MUSTARD VINIAGRETTE
- 1 Tbs. Sherry vinegar
- 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 C. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 seedless orange, thickly peeled with a knife to remove the outer membrane
- 1/2 lb. arugula leaves, rinsed and patted thoroughly dry
- 1 small head radicchio, leaves separated, rinsed, and patted thoroughly dry
- 1 small head Belgian endive, leaves separated, rinsed, and patted thoroughly dry
Start marinating the goat cheese several hours ahead or the night before you plan to serve the salad. Put the cheese in a bowl, drizzle with the 1/4 C. olive oil, and add 1 tsp. of the thyme leaves, the garlic cloves, and some black pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator to marinate. Shortly before serving time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Spread the walnuts in a small baking dish and toast them in the oven until fragrant and slightly darkened in color, 3 to 5 minutes; transfer them to a bowl to cool. Leave the oven on. Remove the bowl of marinated goat cheese from the oven. Lightly brush the slices of baguette on both sides with the olive oil from the marinated goat cheese and place them on a baking sheet. Set aside briefly.
Prepare the Mustard Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the Sherry vinegar, mustard, tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisking continuously, slowly pour in the 1 C. olive oil to form a thick, smooth dressing. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary, with more salt and pepper and even a little more mustard or vinegar. Set aside.
For the salad, use a small, sharp knife to peel the orange thickly, removing along with the peel the membrane covering the fruit inside. Working over a bowl, cut each orange segment free from the membranes on either side of it, letting the segments drop into the bowl. Cut each segment into 2 or 3 pieces. In a salad bowl, combine the arugula, radicchio and Belgian endive leaves, tearing them if necessary into bite-sized pieces. Add the orange segments. Set aside. Put the bread slices in the oven and bake until light golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the oven and carefully smear a portion of the marinated goat cheese on top of each slice. Return the baking sheet to the oven and continue baking just until the cheese has warmed, about 1 minute more.
Meanwhile, toss the salad mixture with enough of the dressing to coat the leaves and orange segments lightly. To serve, divide the salad among four plates. Top each plate, slightly off-center, with a Warm Goat Cheese Crouton. Sprinkle the remaining thyme leaves over the goat cheese on each crouton and garnish the salads with toasted walnuts.
Yield: 4 servings
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