By Stacy Harris
Just about the only vegetable left in my winter garden is spinach — and I intend to use this deep green beauty to the fullest before I begin planting my summer garden. One of my very favorite ways to use spinach is as a base for awesome salads like my Spinach Salad with Crispy Goat Cheese.
I truly wish you could have a bird’s-eye view of the scurrying in my kitchen when I announce that we are having this spinach salad for lunch. All seven of my kids fight to have the first of the fried goat cheese. They like to take it straight from the pan, wrap it in a few spinach leaves, dip it in vinaigrette and have it as an appetizer! I beg them to wait for the final salad feast, but the combination of spinach, goat cheese, and vinaigrette is just too tempting. And okay, I’ll admit it: As much as I would like to say that I wait for the “final feast,” I am right with them.
I like to serve this spinach salad with a basic vinaigrette. To make it, combine ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Slowly add 1½ cups of really good olive or walnut oil, whisking continually to blend it all together. Or, you can place all of the ingredients in a mason jar, then cover and shake it until the mixture is completely emulsified. This is such a tasty, versatile vinaigrette that I keep a jar of it in my refrigerator at all times to drizzle over salads, fish, or mixed vegetables, or use as a marinade.
Keep in mind when choosing spinach that the smaller the leaves, the milder the flavor. But I don’t really mind the slight bitterness of the larger leaves in this recipe, as it seems to balance the tanginess of the goat cheese and vinaigrette quite nicely.
Serve this spinach salad to your family for lunch, as an appetizer, or as a side dish and watch what happens. I’ll bet that the next time you announce that you are preparing it, you will get all the help you need and deserve!
Spinach Salad with Crispy Goat Cheese
2 8-ounce goat cheese logs
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon water
1 cup panko bread crumbs*
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 pinch salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for pan-frying
4 cups spinach leaves
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
* Panko, which can be found in most grocery stores, is a Japanese style of bread crumbs made from crust-less bread. It adds extra crunch, but it’s fine to use regular bread crumbs instead.
1. Put goat cheese logs in freezer for 15 minutes to make them easier to slice.
2. Place flour in a shallow dish. In a second shallow dish, beat eggs with the teaspoon of water. In a third dish, combine panko, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper.
3. Remove cheese from freezer and slice into ½-inch rounds. (Hint: Wipe your knife with a warm, wet towel between slices.) If your slices crumble, just use your finger to mold them back together.
4. Coat each slice in flour, then egg mixture, then panko mixture.
5. In a sauté pan, place just enough oil to cover the bottom. Heat oil on high heat. Once oil is simmering, place coated cheese in pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. (Don’t crowd the pan or the cheese will steam instead of fry.) Turn cheese over and cook for another minute or until it is crisp and golden. Remove and transfer to a paper towel. Repeat with remaining cheese.
6. In a large bowl, mix spinach, tomatoes, and 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette of your choice.
7. Divide salad onto four plates, top with cheese, then drizzle extra vinaigrette as desired. Serve immediately.
Stacy Harris is pioneering the farm-to-fork eating movement that includes harvesting wild animals in addition to domesticated animals and homegrown fruits and vegetables. She’s the author of several books about sustainable living for healthy families, including her most recent release, Recipes and Tips for Sustainable Living. For more recipes like this check out her website at GameandGarden.com and her Facebook page.