How to Make an Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese
|By Meg Jones - wife, mother,
We haven’t done much entertaining lately (!) but couldn’t resist a socially distanced dinner with our good friend Jon in celebration of his 75th birthday AND vaccination. Since he was the birthday boy, he got to choose the menu. He said, “fish.” OK. We could make that work.
Since we had a wide berth, we decided to try a new recipe for Slow-Cooked Halibut with Garlic Cream and Fennel. It was over-the-top delicious but wanted a side that was light and colorful. Of course that didn’t occur to me until Jon’s ETA was about 15 minutes, so I had to spring into action and make do with what we had on hand.
Luckily, we had some roasted beets from the evening before, left over from an order of takeout pizza, roasted artichokes, and beets. I remember thinking as we unpacked the bag, “Wow, that’s a lot of beets.” Good thing, because they served as the inspiration for a quick salad of arugula, beets, pistachio nuts, and goat cheese.
We usually have a bag of arugula on hand, as well as a bag of spinach. This started when we were experimenting with the Whole 30 Diet that consists primarily of protein and veggies, and because arugula and/or spinach are a great addition to scrambled eggs or roast veggie bowls or really, just about anything, it was a staple on the shopping list.
So for Jon, we dumped a bag of cleaned arugula into a salad bowl and tossed just the greens with a balsamic vinaigrette, courtesy of Good Seasons. Had we more time, we would have crafted a salad dressing from scratch but I always have a batch of Good Seasons Italian Dressing (mixed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil) on hand.
We arranged the arugula on individual salad plates, divided the roasted beets – both red and gold – among the plates, and sprinkled on each a generous spoonful of roasted pistachio nuts.
We prefer unsalted pistachios but that’s just a matter of taste. The salads were beautiful, but it felt like something was missing. Off to the cheese drawer!
We usually have at least a partial log of goat cheese in the fridge, sometimes coated with cranberries (Costco) or blueberries (Trader Joe’s) and sometimes plain. I would have used a berry-crusted option if that had been available, but at least we had plain.
We sliced the cheese log into rounds about ¼” thick, placed them on a flat cookie tray, and stuck them in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, we heated a pan, sprayed on a bit of olive oil, and set up a bowl with one egg white next to a saucer of breadcrumbs.
As Jon was walking in the door, I was dipping the partially frozen coins in the egg white, coating them in breadcrumbs and gently frying them in the pan. We had just enough cheese coins to place three on top of each salad plate. This was a really easy last step and turned a beautiful-looking salad into something really elegant (she said humbly).
My Formula for Different Salad Combinations
These four ingredients came together easily, and really you could use the formula to make many different combinations: 1 salad green lightly dressed + 1 vegetable roasted or raw + 1 nut + a cheese.
Spinach with avocado, walnuts, and feta, for example. Romaine with tomato, mozzarella, and pine nuts. (I know, I know, tomato’s a fruit.) The list goes on and on. It’s a great way to expand veggie intake without a big fuss.
And, if you wanted to make this the main dish you just have to expand the quantities and maybe add another protein, like chicken, tuna, hard-boiled egg, or shrimp. Play around with the formula and have fun with it.
Arugula Salad with Roasted Beets, Pistachios and Goat Cheese Medallions
- 4 cups arugula washed and dried
- 4 beets red or yellow or both
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- ½ cup roasted pistachio meats
- 8 ounce goat cheese from log, refrigerated until ready to use
- 1 egg separated
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
For the Vinaigrette:
- 2 tablespoons vinegar balsamic
- 1 tablespoon honey room temperature
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or a combination including any of dried basil, sage, oregano, savory, rosemary, thyme and/or marjoram
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- While oven is heating, place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- While beets are roasting, slice goat cheese loginto coins about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Place on flat plate, cutting board or cookie sheet and place in freezer if you have the space, refrigerator if you don’t.
- Assemble the vinaigrette by mixing the honey with the balsamic vinegar until it’s smooth. Stir in the seasoning and then drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. You may need to adjust amount of olive oil amount depending on taste.
- When the beets have cooled, toss the arugula with the vinaigrette. Divide arugula between four salad plates. Top with beets. Sprinkle on the pistachio meats, about 1 tablespoon per plate.
- Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Coat bottom lightly with olive oil to avoid sticking.
- Whisk the egg white into a small bowl or saucer, reserving yolk for another use. Spoon breadcrumbs onto a small plate or saucer.
- Remove the goat cheese medallions from the freezer/refrigerator. Dip each individually first into the egg white and then coat both sides with breadcrumbs. Lightly toast both sides of each medallion in the pan until golden. Be gentle when you turn them over, they’re delicate!
- Divide the toasted goat cheese medallions among the salads, placing them atop the greens and beets. Serve immediately.