Crispy Goat Cheese Salad with Strawberries and Avocados
When I was a teenager, food really wasn’t my thing. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I loved Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken. I loved Cool Ranch Doritos (still do). What I really didn’t love was fresh, real food. Fruits, vegetables, nuts and good quality cheese were not a big part of my teenage diet. One evening my parents took me out to a local Italian restaurant called Piccolo’s and that all changed.
I don’t remember what I ordered for my main course that night. But my appetizer was a crispy goat cheese salad with fresh berries and nuts. This is one of the first moments where I remember feeling really excited about food. The goat cheese was warm and soft with a crunchy exterior. Fresh berries were a perfect, sweet compliment to the tangy cheese and a light citrus vinaigrette brought the whole thing together beautifully. From that point on, instead of always eating fast food I would often order two of these salads as carryout for dinner. I’m sure they thought I was nuts; some teenage girl regularly stopping by the restaurant to pick up two fried goat cheese salads. But what did I care? No one was keeping me away from my salad.
This crispy goat cheese salad with strawberries and avocados is a tribute to that salad and also a celebration of Spring’s return. The original version had no avocados but I added them anyway because they’re awesome.
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice, strained (approximately 1 orange)
- ¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon shallots, minced
- pinch salt & pepper
- 4-6 ounces chilled goat cheese, sliced into 1 ounce medallions
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- neutral high heat oil for frying, such as vegetable or safflower
- 3 cups arugula (or salad greens of your choice)
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced thin
- 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
- ⅓ cup toasted slivered almonds
- Blend orange juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper in a blender. Set aside.
- Prepare a breading station with 3 small bowls- one with flour and a pinch of salt and pepper, one with the beaten egg and one with the panko bread crumbs. (Tip: breading is easiest when one hand deals with the flour and panko while the other hand deals with the egg.) Dredge a medallion of goat cheese in the flour, then the egg, then finally the panko. Make sure there is a generous coating of panko and then set aside on a plate. Repeat this process with the remaining medallions and then chill the cheese until it's ready to be fried.
- Place a meat or candy thermometer in a medium saucepan or dutch oven and add about 3 inches of oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F.
- While the oil is heating, arrange salad plates with arugula, avocado, strawberries and almonds.
- When the oil reaches 350 degrees, carefully add the chilled breaded goat cheese and fry until golden brown. Keep an eye on the temperature and try to keep it as close to 350 as possible (the temperature will drop when the goat cheese is added). After removing the fried goat cheese, allow it to drain on a paper towel for a moment before adding it to the salad.
- Pulse the salad dressing briefly in the blender and then drizzle over the salad. Serve immediately.