Written By Rochelle Eisenberg
As the days get warmer, and produce becomes local, salads begin to take center stage as either entrees or sides. And, one of the key elements of the perfect salad is the addition of great cheese.
Not your standard packaged shredded cheese, although that can work in a pinch. But, a good goat cheese or blue cheese, when paired with the right ingredients, can accent the flavors.
Pikesville resident Scott Cohen is a passionate home cook and a lover of good cheese. He’s also a big believer is using the right cheese in simple dishes.
A favorite salad is a blue cheese with beets and walnuts in a red wine vinaigrette. “The beets bring a sweetness to the salad to balance out the tartness of the cheese, while having an earthy background crunch of walnuts. In both of these recipes, there is a simplicity of the ingredient that playing off one another flavors,” he says.
He also will pair a summer garden salad with fresh greens – “I personally like spring mixes” – with tangerines, dried cranberries, walnuts or almonds and goat cheese.
“The creaminess of the cheese plays really nicely with the citrus from the tangerines and surprise of the cranberries,” he explains.
Michael Schaeffer, vice president of Eddie’s of Roland Park, recommends certain cheeses in salads. Blue cheese is a good bet, but because of its strong flavor, he suggests making sure it crumbles and is scattered throughout a salad, so that it doesn’t overpower the other flavors.
“When looking for a blue cheese in a salad, you don’t need to go expensive,” he says.
One of his favorites is a Danish blue cheese, because it is more reasonable and crumbles well.
As for goat cheese, a softer milder one works well on top of a salad, and one can opt for a hard goat cheese shaved over the greens. He likes a goat stilton from England that crumbles well.
Cohen, meanwhile, even went so far as to actually make cheese. He was watching the Food Network one day when they shared a recipe for cottage cheese. “It was like a science experiment,” he recalls.
The recipe called for one gallon of skim milk added to vinegar. Then you had to separate the curds and the whey, heat and stir. Five to ten minutes later it would separate into curds and whey.
This summer, Cohen, who admits he has such a passion for cooking that for his college graduation he received a set of chef’s knives, plans on trying to make fresh mozzarrella from scratch. It would be the perfect complement to one of his favorite summertime treats – garden fresh tomato slices, layered with mozzarella and topped with basil, salt, pepper and a good olive oil.
Baby Beet Salad
Courtesy of Eddie’s of Roland Park (Serves 2)
2 baby yellow beets, scrubbed well
2 baby red beets, scrubbed well
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ head baby curly endive or frissee
¼ tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 tsp raw honey
1 Tbsp watercress leaves
1oz goat cheese, preferably local
1. Roast beets in 375 degree oven until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
2. Remove skin from beets. Transfer beets to a mixing bowl and toss with mirin and rice wine vinegar. Marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days, covered in refrigerator, depending on flavor desired.
3. Discard the marinade, cut beets in half and toss with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add endive or frissee at the last minute. Divide the mixture evenly on two salad plates and top with salt, coriander, honey, watercress leaves and goat cheese.