Recipe Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma. Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food of the World Series, “San Francisco”, by Janet Fletcher (Oxmoor House, 2004).
Warm baked goat cheese on a bed of baby lettuces is one dish that never leaves the Chez Panisse Cafe menu. Although goat cheese is commonplace now, it was a novelty in the early 1980’s when Laura Chenel, a novice Sonoma County cheese maker, approached Chez Panisse proprietor Alice Waters with samples of her fresh goat cheese. Waters immediately placed a standing order, and Chenel has since become one of America’s leading goat cheese producers. The relationship exemplifies Chez Panisse’s longstanding support for local farmers and food producers.
Serve with a light, chilled white wine, such as Chenin Blanc or Fume Blanc.
- FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:
- 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
- 1 shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 thin, diagonally cut slices baguette
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 pound fresh goat cheese without a rind, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme
- 6 ounces mixed baby salad greens
- About 1/2 cup loosely packed unsprayed edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, marigolds or chive blossoms (optional)
- 1 TO MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE, in a small bowl, combine the vinegar, shallot and a generous pinch of salt and let stand for 30 minutes to allow the shallot flavor to mellow. Whisk in the olive oil. Season with pepper and with more salt if needed.
- 2 Preheat an oven to 425°F.
- 3 Brush the baguette slices on both sides with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until they are nicely browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. They will crisp as they cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
- 4 Lightly oil a small baking dish and put the goat cheese in it. Sprinkle with thyme and drizzle with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Bake until the goat cheese is soft and quivery to the touch, about 10 minutes.
- 5 Meanwhile, in a bowl, toss the salad greens with the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Divide the greens among individual salad plates. Divide and scatter the edible flowers evenly over the greens.
- 6 Spread the warm cheese on the toasts, dividing it evenly. Arrange 3 toasts on each plate and serve the salads immediately.
- 7 Serves 4.