Baked Goat Cheese and Baby Greens

Baked goat cheese is such an easy way to top a salad. In fact, this whole salad is about as easy as one can get for a weeknight dinner, and sometimes, that's just what I need, especially when the spring itself seems to be barrelling along at its own pace, complacently disregarding its own potential easy everyday-ness. Let's insist on easy today, shall we?

Everyone seems to have a recipe for these baked goat cheese rounds, and I urge you to try whichever one catches your fancy. However, you can't go wrong with the tried, the true, the Irma Rombauer. I have a soft spot for Irma, as The Joy of Cooking was my first post (complete with darned abysmal photography). Her work smacks of home, that clear, standard fare of foundational cooking. This salad is not going to win any awards, impress any that you deem worth impressing, or surprise any save those little blessed with excitement in their lives. However, if it's a Monday, you need dinner, and you love soft goat cheese sidled up to tangy vinaigrette, then you, my friend, have found a friend in Irma Rombauer.

Life has been a little hectic around here, and I am counting the days to spring break for no other reason than I have a stack of books on my bedside table, including Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens, Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, good old John Milton's Paradise Lost (I am five books behind for my book club, but I can catch up!), Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and Joshua Braff's The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green.  Have you read any of these, my highly (and enviably) literate friends? What kind of ride am I in for?  I can finish them all in a week, right?

Other than that, I ran the 5K portion of the Oakland Running Festival, and I ran my fastest race yet. I was 87th in my age bracket. Precisely where was my podium, I demand to know.  Luckily, no one is listening to my demands. Additionally, I have been falling behind in my own cooking (and thus my blogging), and I began a bullet journal as an attempt to keep some sort of order in my life.

Thus, with all of this sweet and slightly hectic mundanity, it seems only fitting to have a simple, highly spring celebratory salad such as this. Gather your favorite greens while ye may, throw together a simple vinaigrette, and warm some goat cheese. That's it.  And you'll be set for the night.

Baked Goat Cheese and Baby Greens
Adapted from  The Joy of Cooking

4 servings

6 cups mixed baby greens or mesclun
1 cup fine dry unseasoned bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup and 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 rounds fresh goat cheese, each about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick
1 small garlic clove, peeled
salt and pepper to taste
1/3-1/2 cup red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a small baking dish.

2.  Wash and dry the greens and set aside.

3.  Stir together the breadcrumbs and the thyme in a small bowl.  In another shallow bowl, pour the olive oil.  Coat the goat cheese first with the olive oil, then the breadcrumbs.  Place the cheese on the baking dish and bake until golden brown and lightly bubbling, about 6 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a small bowl, mash together the garlic and 2-3 pinches of salt.  Add vinegar or lemon juice, shallot, mustard and salt and pepper to taste.  In a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to create an emulsion, 1 cup extra virgin olive oil.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.

5.  Toss the greens with just enough vinaigrette to coat and divide among 4 salad plates.  Place a round of baked cheese in the center of each salad and serve at once.


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