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Tastes Like Spring

Celebrate the greening of the fields with a fresh goat cheese salad.

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Adam Ried
April 6, 2008

In France last year, I heard a pearl of wisdom: You should stop eating fresh goat cheese (also called chevre) at All Souls' Day in early November and resume eating it around Easter. The theory is that winter goat cheese tastes bland because of the goats' diet of hay, versus their spring, summer, and fall diet of wild grasses and greens.

I checked with a few local goat cheese makers, including Tricia Smith from Carlisle Farmstead Cheese in Carlisle, Ann Starbard of Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling, and Bob Stetson of Westfield Farm in Hubbardston. Each had heard this claim, and all three agreed that any truth behind it would depend on a slew of variables, from the breed of goat to the palate of the taster. Strictly true or not, I appreciate the romance of this old-fashioned notion, so these dishes feel like celebrations of spring.

CHEVRE AND FIG TERRINE ON SALAD
SERVES 6

Adapted from In the Hands of a Chef, by Jody Adams and Ken Rivard (William Morrow).

5 ounces dried figs (about 15 figs), stemmed
1/3 cup sherry or Marsala wine
1 1/2 logs (10 to 12 ounces each) firm chevre, divided into 4 equal portions
Pepper
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup walnut or hazelnut oil
12 cups mixed salad greens

Cut the figs in half, and cut each half into thin slices. In a small bowl, toss the figs and sherry or Marsala wine, set aside for 30 minutes, then drain off any liquid that remains.

Line a 6-by-3-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving enough extra wrap to cover the terrine. With clean, wet hands, press 1 portion of the chevre evenly into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the chevre with pepper, then spread half of the figs on top. Add another portion of the chevre, then the hazelnuts, then more chevre, then the rest of the figs, then a bit more pepper, and then finish with the last portion of chevre. Cover tightly with the plastic wrap, press down on the terrine, and refrigerate at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.

Before serving, in a medium bowl, mix the vinegars, mustard, shallot, and salt. Whisk in half of the oil to blend, and then the remaining oil. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt, if desired. In a large bowl, toss the greens with about half of the dressing. Divide the greens among 6 plates. Remove the terrine from the pan, and unwrap it. Carefully cut 6 thin slices (about 1/2 inch each), placing a slice on each salad as you go. Sprinkle with the reserved dressing, and serve at once.

CHEVRE AND ZUCCHINI ROLLS ON SALAD
SERVES 6

4 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds), ends trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
Pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons half-and-half
2 small garlic cloves, minced
6 tablespoons minced mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, dill, mint, or tarragon
4 ounces spreadable chevre
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
12 cups mixed hearty greens

Cut each zucchini lengthwise into 5 1/4-inch-thick slices. In a large nonstick skillet over high heat, heat about 2 teaspoons of oil until wisps of smoke appear. Swirl the skillet to coat the bottom evenly with oil. Lay as many zucchini strips flat in the pan as will fit comfortably without touching (probably 5 or 6), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook without moving until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Gently turn the zucchini strips and cook on the second side, without moving, until strips are soft, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer the zucchini to a paper-towel-lined plate and cook the remaining zucchini in batches, using 2 teaspoons of oil per batch.

In a medium bowl, mix the vinegar, half-and-half, 1 minced garlic clove, 3 tablespoons of herbs, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil to blend. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt, and set aside.

In a small bowl, mash together the chevre, lemon juice, the remaining minced garlic clove, and remaining 3 tablespoons of herbs. Working with 1 strip of zucchini at a time, use a dinner knife to spread about 2 teaspoons of the chevre mixture along the length of the zucchini. Roll the zucchini tightly to make a neat roll. Repeat until all the zucchini has been rolled.

At serving time, whisk the dressing again. In a large bowl, toss the greens with the dressing. Divide the greens among 6 serving plates, place zucchini rolls on each salad, and serve at once.

BEET AND CHEVRE STACKS ON SALAD
SERVES 6

3 large beets (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 medium clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced mint, plus 6 sprigs for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pepper
1/2 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 log (10 to 12 ounces) firm chevre, divided into 18 equal portions
12 cups mixed salad greens

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets tightly in foil and roast until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Unwrap the beets and, when cool enough to handle, peel them.

In a medium bowl, mix the lemon juice and zest, garlic, minced mint, and salt. Whisk in half of the olive oil to blend, and then the remaining oil. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt, if desired. In a small bowl, toss the red onion with 2 tablespoons of the dressing, and set aside.

Cut each peeled beet in half crosswise, then each half into 4 crosswise slices. Working one-half beet at a time, place the widest slice on work surface, top with a portion of chevre and a few onion rings. Repeat two more times, then top with the last beet slice. Assemble 5 more stacks the same way. At serving time, whisk the remaining dressing again. In a large bowl, toss the greens with the dressing. Divide the greens among 6 serving plates, place a beet stack on each salad, top with a mint sprig, and serve at once.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

To cut a crumbly terrine of goat cheese and fig, use a knife with a slender blade. To cut a crumbly terrine of goat cheese and fig, use a knife with a slender blade. (Photo by Jim Scherer, styling by Catrine Kelty)

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