Pine Nut Crusted Goat Cheese Salad with Cara Cara Orange Vinaigrette
Pine nut crusted goat cheese? “I don’t know….” Is that what you are thinking? Admit it. Well I had my doubts too when I came up with the idea but trust me it just works. The breadcrumb and toasted pine nut mixture is crunchy and has that distinct pine nut flavor to it that we all love in pesto. It’s just like sprinkling pine nuts on your salad only this time it’s right on your cheese. Paired with a bright, citrus vinaigrette this goat cheese salad makes a terrific starter, side or light meal. Simple and elegant. Ready for any occasion from brunch with the girls to a working lunch or to kick of a romantic dinner for two…
With citrus season coming to a close I started to see lots of Cara Cara oranges on sale in every grocery store in our neck of the woods (Northern Cali) so I was inspired to use them somehow in this dish. I did a little digging and found out they are in the navel orange family and are thought to be a cross between two different oranges. What I like most about this particular variety of orange, Cara Cara, is their color (pretty pinkish flesh) and flavor (more sweet than typical orange). But by all means, if you can’t find them or they are out of season and you really want to make this salad, you can replace the Cara Cara orange with a regular navel or other favorite type.
Now let’s talk warm, crusted goat cheese. Because that’s really all there is to this salad – citrus dressing and goat cheese medallions. Those are the star ingredients. Crusting a slice of goat cheese and browning it can be a little intimidating the first time out of the gate so here’s a few tips.
- Make sure the goat cheese is nice and cold when you slice it into medallions and use a sharp paring knife
- Let the goat cheese sit at room temperature for a few minutes before pressing into the coating. If it’s a little soft it will make it easier for the coating to stick to the cheese
- Put them back in the fridge before browning them on the stove to get them to hold their shape.
- Above all…don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. These little guys are delicate. You can smush them back into medallion shape if they start to break apart when coating. Just let them chill after you reshape them.
- Use a light touch in the pan. I like an offset spatula and I only flip once. Don’t overcook in the pan
- You can brown the goat cheese and keep in warm in a warming oven on a plate or in a 200 degree oven to make sure the center is warm
That it’s for the goat cheese medallions. Once you do them once you’ll be a pro. The dressing is a great do-ahead step. Just be sure to whisk to emulsify before serving. And that’s it. Super simple, right? Now on to the step-by-step…
1. Ingredients for the dressing (minus the honey) I added that in later.
2. Start by zesting the Cara Cara (or Navel) orange right into the bowl.
3. Next juice the orange. You may not need all the juice you get out of it for the dressing but juice it all and enjoy a little fresh juice shot.
4. Peel and dice about 1/2 a large shallot bulb or all of a small one (about 2 Tablespoons)
4. Add the 3 Tablespoons of juice, shallot, Dijon, honey, salt and pepper to the bowl.
5. Stream in the olive oil
6. And whisk to emulsify. Then cover and refrigerate if making ahead.
7. On to the goat cheese medallions. Slice your goat cheese into 8 equal pieces. You can see here mine wanted to start coming apart in the middle so I used that smush technique to put them back in place and let them hang out while I made the breadcrumb mixture.
8. Got out my food processor and added the toasted pine nuts and breadcrumbs then pulsed it several times until combined.
9. Here’s what it looked like when it was done. Lay the mixture in a shallow bowl.
10. Then add the goat cheese to the mixture (in batches)and press firmly then flip and do the other side.
11. Heat a pan over medium heat and add about a Tablespoon of canola oil or olive oil. I actually prefer canola for browning because it has a higher smoking point. Make sure the pan is hot (but not screaming hot or you’ll burn the crust) and then add in your pine nut crusted goat cheese medallions – again working in batches. Cook for about 1 minute to a minute and a half on the first side and then flip and cook until light brown and just warm in the middle. You can always get them just brown and remove them to an oven proof tray and keep them warm.
12. All done and nice and crusty…mmmmmmm
- 2 teaspoons zest plus 3 Tablespoons juice of Cara Cara or navel orange
- 1 Tablespoon Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons shallot, diced (1/2 a large bulb or 1 small bulb)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, depending on taste*
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- *start with the ¼ teaspoon of salt and add more if it needs it. I thought ½ teaspoon was too salty but somewhere between ¼ and ½ was perfect
- ½ cups toasted pine nuts
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 6 oz goat cheese
- 3 cups mixed green lettuce
- 1 Tablespoon Canola Oil or Olive Oil
- Combine the ingredients and whisk well to emulsify. Refrigerate if making ahead of time. Will save for several days. Whisk again before serving.
- Cut the chilled goat cheese into roughly 8 equal pieces.
- In the bowl of a food processor combine the pine nuts and the breadcrumbs and pulse until still course by combined. About 10-12 times. Place in a shallow bowl.
- Press each slice into the pine nut and breadcrumb mixture on both sides; pressing firmly to make sure the mixture sticks. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
- Plate the lettuce on each plate or a platter and then add the warm goat cheese and drizzle some of the vinaigrette over the top and serve the rest of the dressing on the side.