Spinach Strawberry Salad With Fried Chevre

After a sail across the lake from New Orleans this morning we tied up at the local bulkhead by the yacht club for lunch.  But why go to the yacht club FOR lunch when you can have this exquisite bistro lunch aboard within minutes?  So, while my skipper did an oil change on the diesel, I fried cheese.  Sometimes it’s good to be the galley wench.  Arrrrrr.

Spinach Strawberry Salad With Fried Goat Cheese

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12 strawberries
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and Pepper
1 bunch fresh spinach
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounce log fresh goat cheese
1 egg
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

So I’m not going to lie … half the joy of this salad was having the unique butterly spinach head, which I cut off at the root from my garden before a weekend out on the water, as an adornment in the salon, along with some cilantro.  But the other half was fried cheese.  Again, no lying here, sailors.

To make the vinaigrette, combine four of the strawberries, the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in your hand-cranked food processor and whirl until fairly smooth and combined.  Feel free to do this early in the day and let it sit … it only gets better.In a clean, dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts until they start to brown and smell irresistible, shaking the pan periodically to keep them from burning.

Toss the spinach with the pine nuts, remaining sliced strawberries, and the vinaigrette.

Set up your breading station; it always cracks me up when Pirate Caroline says that … it’s like we’re on a submarine.  BREADING STATIONS PEOPLE!  Whether the siren is sounding or not, beat the egg in a small dish, and put the bread crumbs in another.  Put the vegetable oil in the frying pan and heat slowly over medium heat; and ONLY now at the very last minute, remove your goat cheese from the icebox.  You want it as cold as possible so that it holds its form through the frying.  Cut into 1″ rounds — this is best accomplished with a piece of dental floss, believe it or not.

Working quickly to minimize the handling and warming of the cheese, dip each round in egg and then bread crumbs, turning and pressing to cover all edges and sides as thoroughly as possible.

When all are breaded and the oil is sizzling, gently place the rounds into the hot oil and cook about 2 minutes per side until the bottom is beautifully crisp and golden.  Flip carefully with a wide spatula or with a fork and brave/well calloused fingers.  If you have enough oil in the pan it will fry the edges at the same time, so that you only turn once.  Remove to parchment paper or a paper towel to drain.

While still warm, top each salad with two or three rounds of melty, tangy, rich crispy cheese and bon apetit!

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