Monday, March 12, 2012

A Weekend Salad

We had a busy weekend around here.  My daughter had the audacity to turn 10, and with that came a party to match.  Before the party on Sunday we had a great family Saturday, and I took the kids walking in our amazing weather.  What I mean is, I took the kids to my favorite cheese store, under the pretense of letting them go on a walk.  The facts can be so misleading.  While there, my eldest and most budding mini foodie, chose a couple of cheeses to taste that struck her fancy.  One was a stronger cheese made with layers of soft cheddar and Stilton.  I thought for sure that she would wrinkle her nose at the big flavors, but she dubbed the stinky layered cheese, "cheese cake."  Yet the cheese she chose to bring home was a softer goat cheese, rolled into mini stoagies, that our cheese monger recommended we slice and put on a salad.  It was then that my daughter's face fell.  "I don't like salad," she stated.  "You'll eat the stinky Huntsman cheese, but not a salad?!"  "I'm not fond of lettuce."  I sighed, determined to find a salad she would eat, I suggested cranberries, what about bacon, crispy pancetta?  There had to be one salad in existence that she would enjoy this cheese with.  Finally I realized that if lettuce is what she disliked, lettuce is what we had to eliminate.  

The Celery, Roasted Grape, Bacon & Fried Goat Cheese salad was born.

Roasted grapes are amazing.  10 minutes and you have a handful of grapes that taste like little glasses of aged port.  Once you wash and dry your grapes, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh thyme.  Do NOT be tempted to substitute dried thyme in this recipe.  If you don't have fresh, just leave it out.  Should you ignore this bit of advice, I cannot be responsible for the burnt pine needles that will jab you in the cheek.  Bake the grapes in a 450 oven for 10-12 minutes, until they begin to let off some juice and wrinkle slightly.  You are not making raisins here, so don't overdo it.  

As for the celery, I tossed it with whole grain mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and salt & pepper while I cooked the grapes and bacon.  It'll soak up the goodness while everything else cooks.    You could also use lemon juice here with great results.

The goat cheese was cut crosswise into mini rounds, panko pressed in, then pan fried in olive oil for seconds. What came out were mini goat cheese croutons.  It was very fun!  And it was a lettuce-less salad.

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