Wine With . . . Chèvre Salad
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
One of France's most appealing summertime dishes is a salad of fresh greens topped with baked goat cheese. Though generally served as a first course, this salad also makes a tasty and light main dish -- the perfect, relaxed meal for a warm summer evening.
The most classic version of chèvre salad comes from the Loire Valley, where it is made with Crottin de Chavignol, an AOC designated goat cheese. (Like wines, France's best cheeses receive an Appellation d'Origine Controllée, indicating that they come from specific regions and are made in traditional ways. Today 35 out of France's approximately 500 different fromages are AOC designated). Although there are no specific rules for this recipe, it is a simple one - salad greens (a mixture, perhaps, of leaf lettuce, radicchio and endive), good chèvre cheese (by itself or on a round of bread), and a basic oil and vinegar dressing. The cheese may be dusted with bread crumbs before grilling or baking it, and one variation has the slices of cheese dipped in egg and flour and then fried, so that a light crust enrobes a warm, soft, cheesy heart. Of course you can start adding tomatoes, avocado, green beans, beets, or whatever strikes your fancy, but doing so gets you far from the pure simplicity of the original concept.
8 slices fresh goat cheese (about ¼ inch thick)
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
8 slices French bread (baguette)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Approximately 4 cups mixed salad greens
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Brush the slices of goat cheese on both sides with olive oil. In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the thyme, and coat both sides of the cheese slices with the mixture. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and top each with a slice of cheese. Just before serving bake them in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, whisk together the 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Place the salad greens in a bowl and toss with the dressing. Divide the salad among four plates and top each with two slices of bread and cheese. Serve immediately.