Date Night: Spring Salad with Goat Cheese Crostini

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This is a great starter for a spring time dinner party or adding a few more slices of crostini can make a light but filling dinner. Use medium-mild goat cheese for this. I like Montrachet for best results -- it has the perfect balance of creamy and tangy without overpowering the rest of the salad. This salad is completely vegetarian, but if you like you can add some pancetta bits. As for the crostini, I love using a roasted garlic chiabatta bread. You can find it in the bakery section of your super market; it's a pretty available brand now. If not, you can use a plain chiabatta bread and right out of the broiler, rub the slices with a fresh garlic clove for a more pungent garlic flavor. For a toned down version, spread the slices with roasted garlic (get recipe here) and then add your goat cheese right on top. Enjoy this light, springy salad! And a glass of Montrachet wine will go beautifully.

Spring Salad with Goat Cheese Crostini
1 package spring mix blend (leaf lettuces: baby spinach, baby radicchio, red and green lettuce, etc.)
1 cup mache lettuce (aka "lamb's lettuce" or "lamb ear lettuce")
1 bunch fresh dill, stems removed (or to taste)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil for the vinaigrette + 2 Tbsp for crostini
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of half of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
mild-medium goat cheese (recommend: Montrachet)
1/2 loaf roasted garlic ciabatta bread

Preheat your broiler to high.

Wash the lettuces and spin dry, then pat dry with paper towels if necessary. Place in a large bowl. Add the dill right on top and season with salt and pepper to taste. In a separate bowl, make the vinaigrette. Combine the 1/4 cup olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, and fresh thyme and whisk to combine and until thickened. The mustard will help emulsify the vinaigrette, making it stick together and become thick. Set aside and prepare your crostini.

Slice desired amount of the chiabatta bread 1/4"-1/2" thick. Brush one side of the slices with the 2 Tbsp of olive oil, and set out oil side-up on a baking sheet. Set under broiler and cook until toasted and golden brown. Watch carefully so they don't burn! It will take about 3 minutes or so! Remove and if using fresh garlic, rub the clove immediately on the toasted side of the bread. Spread some goat cheese and sprinkle with more freshly ground black pepper if desired on top and set aside.

Pour the vinaigrette on top of the salad and using two large spoons, lightly toss the salad, careful not to bruise the very tender leaves. Portion out on plates or bowl and add 2-3 slices of goat cheese crostini. Serve with a cold glass of Montrachet or other dry white wine.

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