Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese Vinaigrette

28 Jul

The finished product, with marinated grilled tempeh on top. Hint: grilled tempeh might be the bonus recipe.

So my last post most certainly held up the redneck part of the name, but it was severely lacking in the fresh department. I decided I really needed to do something that focused on fresh veggies and big flavors. I have recently rediscovered how good arugula is, and wanted to take on the challenge of making an arugula salad.

Also, I have a brilliant idea here to enhance my readership. If you repost the link to this page, I’ll email you a bonus recipe! Every week, we’ll have the same deal: you repost, I email you a recipe that compliments the week’s blog entry. Just leave your email address as a comment, I’ll leave it pending so that nobody else sees it, and then you’ll get a delicious bonus recipe. Anyways, back to the salad.

While I’ll go into particulars when I get into the breakdown, the key to making a good salad that has a lot of different ingredients is balancing amounts and flavors. Also, don’t feel compelled to scour the earth for every single thing in this salad, it’s a salad: the point is to use the stuff that looks fresh and delicious when you go buy groceries. Let’s get on with it.

Stuff

This salad served three hungry adults 

Salad

Someday, I'll take a good ingredient picture. Today is not that day.

1 tub of baby arugula

2 carrots

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/2 red onion

1 ripe tomato (I used the on-the-vine kind)

6-8 fresh strawberries, sliced

1/2 c. chopped walnuts

1/4 c. (more or less, I kept adding more) grated parmesan

1 T. olive oil

1 t. balsamic vinegar

Vinaigrette

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

4 T. goat cheese

1 lemon

1/4 c. white wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic

1/3 serrano pepper

1 t. fresh rosemary

1 t. fresh oregano

1/2 t. cumin seeds

1/2 t. black pepper

1/2 t. white pepper

1 t. salt

Steps

For steps, I’m going to break this down into 3 parts: roasting the peppers, making the vinaigrette and assembling the salad. I also used roasted red peppers in the  grilled pizza entry, so if you haven’t made that yet, you can use this there, too.

Roasted Peppers

I used one red and one yellow pepper to make the salad more colorful.

Aside from the peppers themselves, y0u will need a plastic sack for this. If you like wasting money, you can use a ziplock bag; if you don’t like wasting money, a normal produce sack from the grocery store will do just as well. Roasting peppers intimidates people for some reason, but it’s actually crazy easy, and makes peppers sweet and delicious.

If you’re using a grill to roast peppers, kick it up to high heat. If you don’t have a grill or don’t want to waste a bunch of charcoal, you can use your gas cooktop (on high). If you don’t have a gas cooktop, you can use the broiler function (on high) in the oven. If you don’t have an oven, you can buy roasted red peppers at the store.

Seriously, burn the crap out of them. These aren't quite done yet. The grill wasn't super hot, so it took me like 20 minutes.

Anyways, roasting peppers: put pepper over heat and burn the crap out of it. Really, that’s what you do. If it’s on a grill, keep turning the pepper until all of the outer skin is blistered and black; if it’s on a gas stove, set the pepper directly on the pot guard on your stove and turn (with tongs) often until all of the skin is blistered and black; if it’s in the oven, put the pepper directly under the broiler, close to the heating element (with something underneath it to catch any runaway pepper juice) turning ever 3-4 minutes until it’s blistered and black.

You can almost see that steam doing work on those peppers.

Once you have blistered all of the skin on the bell peppers, pull them from the heat into a plastic sack and tie it closed for 10-15 minutes. Try to get most of the extra air out of the bag before you seal it. The heat in the peppers will continue to steam the insides, and the steam will also cause the blistered and blackened outer skin to peel off of the delicious roasted inside of the pepper way more easily. While my peppers were steaming, I went inside and grated carrots and made the salad dressing, but you can do whatever you’d like, I suppose.

Step 1: peel.

Once your peppers have been sitting for awhile, open up the bag and pull one out and set it on your board. Starting from the bottom of the pepper, peel off the blistered and nasty external skin to reveal the sweet and well cooked peppery goodness on the inside. when you get up close to the stem, don’t worry too much about

Step 2: clean.

getting every bit of skin off; you’re going to cut or pull out the stem and seeds anyway. once peeled, run either a knife or your finger up the side of the pepper to open it up, and then tear out the stem and wipe out any seeds you can. Then lay the pepper flat on  your board and cut it into little delicious strips. Also, the pictures to the right are

Step 3: cut.

better at illustrating this than my verbose ramblings. I left my peppers in pretty big pieces, I think I probably should have made the strips about half the thickness and length that they ended up. So do that instead. Alright, now, let’s learn how to make goat cheese vinaigrette.

Goat Cheese Vinaigrette

This is the kind of goat cheese I used. Please don't sue me, goat cheese manufacturer.

This is a relatively easy and super delicious salad dressing with a little bit of sneaky heat to it. Because it’s goat cheese instead of mayonnaise that makes it creamy, it’s also not particularly bad for you. You’ll need a blender to make it, though; if you can figure out a way to do this without a blender, you are way more dedicated than I am.

Take the goat cheese, olive oil, vinegar and the juice from the lemon and put them in the blender. Add all of your dry ingredients (salt,  black and white pepper, cumin seeds), and then add the herbs.

If you also have an herb garden, make sure to wash the herbs and squeeze the water out of them before they go into the blender.

I used oregano and rosemary because that’s what we had in the garden; I pulled the rosemary leaves off of the stem, same with the oregano, and then put the little leaves into the blender whole. Rough chop your serrano pepper (don’t add any seeds, it’s plenty hot as is) and smash your garlic cloves with your knife before you throw them into the blender. Now, blend on liquify (or whatever your high setting is) until the entire combination is, well, liquified and all the chunks of things are completely gone. This recipe actually makes enough dressing for two salads this size, but making any less would be difficult in a normal-sized blender. My dressing ended up sitting out for about 45 minutes, and I think that helped it to develop a more consistent flavor. Also, if your dressing starts to separate back into oil and not-oil while it’s sitting out, that means you didn’t blend enough. Scrape the sides of the blender down and whir that puppy again.

Salad

Baby arugula is a little bit milder than mamma arugula or daddy arugula. If you used regular arugula, you'd probably want to add another carrot.

One thing anybody that cooks for more people than themselves on a somewhat regular basis should own is a decent looking, pretty big salad bowl. Tossing a salad in a bowl that is small is usually messy. I was pushing the limit with this bowl, and narrowly avoided a couple of blowouts.

Throw all the arugula into your salad bowl. Wash, peel, and grate (on the larger-gauge grater holes) your carrot into the bowl too. I know a fair number of people who don’t love carrots and would probably skip them if they made this salad. This is a cry not to, and here is why: Arugula being the only leafy thing in a salad is overpowering. Arugula has a delicious, peppery spicy taste as far as greens go, and that’s great, but it’s too much on its own. Carrots are a low-volume way to temper that arugula flavor with some sweetness. Since carrots are sweeter than actual greens, you can use less carrot for the same effect on flavor as cutting arugula with romaine or some other boring kind of lettuce. Because of this, I say to you spare the carrot, spoil the salad.

Confession: Right after I snapped this picture, pieces of onion shot out from under the knife and all over the floor. Cut onions with both hands.

After your carrot and arugula are in the bowl, add your onion slices. I cut my onion the way this picture shows me cutting my onion because short slices of onion are my favorite fork-sized morsels. If you’re partial to thinner slices or chopped onion, by all means, go to town. After I cut onions into 1/4 moon slices, I broke the layers up with my hands as I put them into the bowl.

This is a good picture of how I cut up the strawberries.

Throw the peppers you roasted into the bowl, and then slice your strawberries. Don’t get so obsessed with using all of the strawberry that you end up putting some of the white stuff from up near the top of the berry into the salad, nobody likes that stuff.

I cut the medium-size vine-ripe tomato I put into my salad into twelfths, I think. It worked out well. Add your nuts and parmesan, and now it’s time to dress and toss. If I had been in Texas, I would have used pecans instead of walnuts, because pecans are cheap in Texas and delicious everywhere, but walnuts are cheaper most places, so I used them instead.

Before I put my mushrooms in the salad (I used sliced baby portabellas), I sautéed them for 5 minutes over medium-high heat in a tablespoon of olive oil. Right as they finished, I splashed a little bit of balsamic vinegar on them to get them to caramelize a little bit, and then I let them sit and cool for five minutes so that they didn’t wilt any lettuce.

I put about 1/3 of my dressing in to start, then after the first toss I added a little bit more.

When you’re dressing and tossing a salad, you have to pay attention to what you’re doing and how everything looks. Also, I have a friend that claims that you should never dress salad and always serve dressing on the side: He is wrong. If you toss a salad with salad dressing, you get a nice even coating on everything, and you can pair your dressing with your salad properly for it to be really delicious. Also, while you’re tossing your salad, pay attention to how it looks and what it might be missing. I had to add more walnuts and parmesan than I originally had in there

This is a pretty good shot of the sweet salad tongs.

because they all disappeared comparative to the volume of everything else. Start with between 1/4 and 1/3 of the dressing you have, then toss thoroughly, taste a piece of lettuce, and decide if you need to add more dressing. It is much easier to add more salad dressing than to take some away. I used these sweet, bear-paw style salad tongs to toss and serve — make sure to get way down to the bottom of the bowl and mix everything up throughly. Like I said at the beginning of the post, I served this salad with grilled tempeh on top, and it paired great. If you’re feeling more carnivorous, this would go great with a sliced grilled steak served on top, or maybe some grilled pork tenderloin. I don’t think I would pair this salad with chicken, though: the chicken doesn’t have a strong enough flavor profile to add anything to a meal with a salad like this one.

Some salads are weak meal replacements. This is not one of those salads.

Let’s Eat!

–N

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4 Responses to “Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese Vinaigrette”

  1. Anonymous 29 July 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Yummmm! I can’t wait to make this! I’ll let you know how it turns out! Keep the posts coming!

  2. hermes outlet birkin 4 May 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Hello, your articles here Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese Vinaigrette | Redneck Fresh: A food blog to write well, thanks for sharing

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