Few things are as rich, satisfying, simple as warm goat cheese salad

Entertaining

Sunday Gourmet

September 19, 2004|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

For a long time, I assumed that warm goat cheese salads were difficult to make and never attempted one at home. I was afraid I would overcook the cheese and that it would turn into a puddle in the oven, but my fears proved false. When I dredged the cheese rounds in flour, then dipped them in beaten egg and coated them, they held their shape beautifully until cut into.

I also discovered that warm goat cheese salads make an ideal first course for entertaining, because most of the preparation can be done in advance. A log of chevre can be sliced into rounds and coated, arranged on a baking sheet and refrigerated until needed. And the lettuce can be cleaned and the dressing mixed several hours ahead. At serving time the cheese requires only a few minutes in the oven and the greens a quick toss with the dressing.

Recently IM-Fve been baking sesame-coated goat cheese rounds to serve with a salad of watercress, yellow bell peppers and scallions, dressed in a sherry vinaigrette.

Warm Sesame Goat Cheese and Watercress Salad

Makes 4 servings

1 (4-ounce) log of goat cheese such as Montrachet

1/4 cup flour

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (see Note)

2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard with seeds

1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more if needed

6 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (donM-Ft use olive oil)

1 large yellow bell pepper

1 bunch scallions

1 large (6-ounce) bunch watercress, cleaned with tough stems removed and discarded

To prepare the goat cheese: Slice the log into 4 equal rounds. Spread flour on one dinner plate and sesame seeds on another. Beat egg until blended in a medium shallow bowl. Coat cheese rounds with flour, then dip into egg, then into sesame seeds, coating completely. Place rounds on a foil-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

For dressing, whisk vinegar, mustard and salt together in a medium, non-reactive bowl. Whisk in oil. (Salad dressing can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Whisk again before using.)

About 30 minutes before serving, arrange a rack in center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove stem from bell pepper, then halve lengthwise and remove membranes. Slice bell pepper into 1/4-inch thick julienne strips and place in a large bowl.

Remove roots and all but 2 inches of green stems from scallion and discard. Slice scallion on a sharp diagonal into 1/4 -inch pieces and add to bowl with the peppers. Add half of the dressing and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate 15 to 30 minutes.

Bake cheese rounds until heated through, about 6 minutes. While cheese is in the oven, toss watercress with pepper and scallion and enough of the remaining dressing to coat well. (You may not need to add all the dressing.) Taste and season salad with more salt if desired.

Divide salad evenly and arrange on four salad plates. Top each portion with a warm cheese round. Serve immediately.

Note: To toast sesame seeds, place in a medium to large skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until seeds are light golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature before using.

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