It’s no secret. I love goat cheese. At the tender age of 20, I went to France for the first time. I’d never tasted the snow-white cheese before and quickly became an enthusiastic chevre fan. Tangy and soft, sometimes with a pleasant hint of chalkiness, it tempted me to smuggle some home. It would be years before those tasty logs of cheese appeared in the American marketplace.
It is delicious crumbled atop green salads, especially when warm bacon dressing and Port-soaked dried cherries (or dried cranberries) are included in the mix. For years, warm 1/2-inch goat cheese slices were my garnish of choice; they were dipped in dried breadcrumbs, and then baked in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes (or until nicely heated through). These days I often take a quicker route, finishing the salads with cold crumbles.
Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing and Port-Soaked Dried Cherries
Yield: 4 servings
3/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/3 cup Tawny Port
6 ounces sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1 large shallot or 2 small shallots, finely diced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 ounces fresh baby spinach (or mixed baby greens)
1/3 cup shelled, roasted pistachios (it is OK if they are salted)
5 ounces chilled log of goat cheese
1. Combine cherries and Tawny Port in small saucepan and place on medium-high heat. Bring to simmer and remove from heat; let stand until cherries swell, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and add shallot and garlic to pan; cook in bacon grease stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes. Add oil, vinegar and sugar; stir until heated and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in cherry mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Place baby spinach and pistachios in large bowl. Pour on dressing and toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Place salad on 4 plates and top with crumbled goat cheese.