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Spinach Salad with Warmed Goat Cheese


One fall, a couple of years ago, Ryan and I attended a weekend conference near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.   The event was for a great cause, but by late Saturday afternoon I had reached my fill of meetings, brain storming sessions, and bad hotel catering.  I convinced Ryan that we should skip the last workshop and steal away to nearby Charles Town to see what we could find.

Such a cute little onion!  I was all out of shallots, so I used this little guy in the dressing. 
That evening was pure serendipity.  Thanks to our little side trip, we discovered Dish, a bistro that had just opened a few weeks before.  The menu was filled with simple "comfort" foods with a modern, healthy twist and everything was made from local, seasonal ingredients. In other words, right up our alley.  Everything we tried was so good.   We liked it so much that we skipped our morning events and returned for breakfast the next day. 

One of our favorite parts of the meal was a spinach salad with warmed, crusted goat cheese. So simple and yet it was to die for.  I may be a vegetarian, but I do not usually say this about salads. Ever.  When we arrived home after the weekend, I was determined to recreate this leafy morsel.   

Dental floss is a quick way to slice the cheese without "squashing" it with the weight of a knife

I think I've come pretty close.  This is such a great salad because it's so easy, very quick to put together and truly satisfying.  It's a wonderful blend of complementary textures and flavors -- creamy with crunchy, savory with sweet.

Because it's so quick and easy to make, the salad is the perfect week day meal.  The dressing makes enough for 2 dinner-sized salads and I usually have enough to make a salad for my lunch the next day.  When I pack the salad for lunch, I simply crumble fresh goat cheese over the top.  This is a lighter, even easier way to prepare the dish-- and it's just as delicious.

I don't normally add candied pecan topping to the salad, but it's been a tough week.  I decided to treat myself after a long, hard day!

Spinach Salad with Warmed Goat Cheese

Serves 2

You'll need...
(I don't normally measure anything when I make this dressing, so my measurements are approximate.)

2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar (white balsamic is also good!)
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
~1-2 Tbsp finely minced shallot
3 Tbsp olive oil

baby spinach (the amount depends on how much you want in your salad!)
4 oz goat cheese, evenly sliced into 4-5 disks (Tip: Use unflavored dental floss to slice)
1/4 c panko bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1-2 Tbsp butter or olive oil

a handful (or more) of dried tart cherries (cranberries could also work)
a handful (or so) of pecans
maple syrup (if you want to candy the pecans)


In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs with salt and pepper.  Dip the goat cheese slices (or "medallions" as I like to call them) in the beaten egg and then into the bread crumbs -- making sure the cheese is coated with the crumbs on all sides.  Transfer the coated cheese to a plate and allow to chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to brown it.

To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients (except the oil) together.  Then, slowly stream in the olive oil, while briskly whisking it into the other ingredients.  This will help emulsify the dressing, so it doesn't separate.  Set the dressing aside.

Toss the spinach in the dressing.  I like to use my fingers to coat the spinach -- this helps to ensure an even coating.  It also helps you to not "over dress" the spinach.

In a pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter/oil.  When the butter is hot, add the goat cheese medallions and brown on both sides.  Top the spinach with the warmed goat cheese and sprinkle the cherries and pecans* on top.

*If you want to candy the pecans, throw the pecans in a small fry pan over medium high heat.  Drizzle enough maple syrup over the pecans to coat.  Toss the pecans and allow the syrup to get bubbly. Continue to heat the pecans for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times with a wooden spoon.  Transfer the pecans to a sheet of waxed paper to cool.

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