Wednesday, June 27, 2012

G is for Goat Cheese: The Picnic Game

I'm going on a Picnic, and G is for Goat Cheese. I'm putting Goat Cheese in my salad and and making a Goat Cheese Chocolate Hazelnut Spread to go on a crunchy baguette to accompany my salad. And, yes, there will be Chocolate--in all three components of these picnic foods.

Today I'm participating in Months of Edible Celebrations Picnic Game. This is my third year, and the food choices get better and better every year. Multiple food bloggers choose a letter and write a post using that Letter -- bringing a fabulous dish to this International Virtual Picnic. Since I'm G, I'm linking to the Letters A-F at the end of this post. On July 1, I hope to link to them all! Thanks, Louise, for setting up the Picnic Game again this year. I know it's a lot of work.

So G is for Goat Cheese, and I'm making a Mixed Green Salad with Goat Cheese and Cocoa Nibs drizzled with a Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette! But because we're going to a picnic, you won't want to dress your salad until you get there. But you can make it and take it in a clean container.

Now what's a good salad without a crunchy baguette and cheese? I'm partial to Acme Bakery's baguettes, but whatever you can find. Just make sure your baguette is fresh. Below you'll find a great recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Goat Cheese Spread that I adapted from the Raley's  (supermarket) website. As I've said many times, you can find great and easy recipes in all kinds of places. Remember to always use the very best ingredients, and adapt to your personal taste. I love this spread because it has the tanginess of the Goat Cheese, the sweetness of the chocolate, and the crunchiness of the hazelnuts. The textures, too, can't be beat!

Mixed Green Salad with Goat Cheese and Cocoa Nibs

I love salads, and I usually make them up as I go along, so there are no precise measures here.  Let's make this easy, since this is a spontaneous picnic dish...

Greens: I use either Spring Mix or Spinach in this salad. I love how easy it is to grab a bag of prepared organic greens, already rinsed and ready to serve.
Goat Cheese: One of my favorite companies that produce goat cheese (and other great goat products) is Redwood Hills Farm. So fresh, so fab! I get fresh goat cheese at my cheese market and crumble it for this salad. Check out your farmer's market or local shop for goat cheese, a heart healthy food!

Walnuts: I like Trader Joe's Candied Walnuts, and I chop them into smaller pieces, so they're the size of the cocoa nibs. Almost any chopped nuts will work. They don't need to be candied--toasted pecans are great in this salad, too.

Cocoa Nibs: Because I am always Dying for Chocolate, I usually throw in a handful of Cocoa nibs (not the chocolate covered kind, but the plain). Gives some added crunch to this salad.

Blueberries (optional): It's summer, so I might add a handful of blueberries, but raspberries or blackberries would be great, too. Not necessary to add berries, but they will add a hint of sweetness to this salad.

Now if I were serving this salad at home, I'd mix everything together and toss with the Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette, but you might want to plate up individual portions.. greens, nuts, cocoa nibs, blueberries and goat cheese ... and drizzle the Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette over each plate.

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

Tip: Use the very best balsamic vinegar you have. If you don't you'll need to reduce 'cheap' balsamic vinegar and mix it with sugar. Skip that step and use the best! As I always say, if you use quality ingredients, you'll have a better finished product. That goes for the chocolate, too.

Even though I posted a Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar recipe earlier this month, this recipe is even easier! I've include olive oil for the perfect vinaigrette.

1/2 cup very best quality balsamic vinegar
2 ounces dark Chocolate (75%-85% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Dash of salt
Ground pepper to taste

Combine chocolate and balsamic vinegar in small saucepan.
Cook over low heat for about 2 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted and vinegar is  reduced (so you have a syrup).
Remove from heat and put in medium sized bowl and let cool for a few minutes.
Add oil and whisk until completely combined.
Add salt & pepper & whisk again.
Put in a clean container to take to the 'picnic' or drizzle over your salad (or individual salads) directly.

Chocolate Hazelnut Goat Cheese Spread
Grab a baguette and mix up this spread. Perfect with the salad.

2.5  ounce dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
4  Tbsp chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1- 8 ounce goat cheese log

Combine chocolate and hazelnuts in food processor and pulse until chocolate and nuts are finely ground. Don't over process.
Roll goat cheese log in mixture, pressing to coat all sides. 
(Lightly moisten cheese with damp hands if mixture doesn't stick)

Have a fun time at the virtual picnic! Check out letters A-F! What a fabulous Feast!
A is for Artichokes Steamed and Dressed with Mayonnaise

B is for Baked Beans

C is for Cauliflower Tabbouleh

D is for Dunkin' Donuts - with Maple Syrup & Honey Frosting

E is for Eggplant Casserole

F is for Frosty Summer Salad with Cranberry, Pineapple & Beets


Kathy said...

Your salad sounds lovely…I will definitely be making your Balsamic Chocolate dressing! Sounds delicious! Perfect for a picnic!!

I Wilkerson said...

Just when I offered to do a guest post (later in the year) about non-dessert chocolate I see this at Louise's picnic! How lucky--I look forward to testing!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I never really thought of adding cocoa nibs to a salad-great idea! :)

kitchen flavours said...

Hi, I'm stopping by from The Picnic Game. Your Goat Cheese Salad sounds good, I have never tried salad mixed with cocoa nibs, would really love to try it! A wonderful salad for a picnic! Have a nice day!

Janet Rudolph said...

Thanks for stopping by..

Anonymous said...

Goat cheese and cocoa nibs? What an interesting and tasty sounding combo!

Erica Retrochef said...

What a great salad -- I never thought of including cocoa nibs. Thank you so much for bringing these to the picnic!

Gloria Baker said...

Absolutely delicious recipe dear!

Mich @ Piece of Cake said...

Hi I am stopping by from The picnic game. I have never tried Goat Cheese and can imagine how delicious it is. This is a lovely salad!

Quay Po Cooks said...

Both the goat cheese spread and he chocolate balsamic is a good to have around the house. Thanks for bringing this to the picnic so now that I know how to make some.