No this isn't another baked macaroni dish, or a grilled cheese sandwich, rather actual baked cheese. 2 ways:
1) Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Roasted Beets & Grilled Peaches and Apricot Vinaigrette
2) Mozzarella Sticks with Kale and Sun-Dried Tomato sauce (I'll get to that later)
The goat cheese salad is something I made for the first time about a year and a half ago after we got back from Vegas last January. We went to Panini Cafe, one of the few Kosher restaurants there, and I ordered their goat cheese salad. It had mango, jicama, and 2 little breaded goat cheese rounds- measly, but good enough. Anyways, I vied to recreate a better version and I did.
Having the goat cheese from N&K, I thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase it in a fantastic, different, way that will likely make you a goat cheese fan asap. The whole salad itself takes some patience and time but the result is well worth the wait. I was making roasted beets anyways for one of my Shavuos meals, which are so delicious, though I'm sure there are those of you out there who are cringing at the thought. Don't think of purple horseradish when I say beets. They are sweet, and so flavorful once roasted. The grilled peaches came out of having almost too-ripe peaches in my fruit drawer. I used my Calphalon grill pan for that. Look out for "my" secret tip for slicing goat cheese, ala Ina herself (Garten, that is).
Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Roasted Beets and Grilled Peaches & Apricot Vinaigrette
-Goat cheese. To prepare it, make 1/2 inch rounds using a string of dental floss. Yessssss, dental floss! It's the best way to come out with perfect rounds without completely butchering the round with a knife. After you have the rounds cut, you can mold them a little since it is soft cheese
-Dredge the rounds in one beaten egg, and then in a mixture of panko crumbs, finely chopped fresh basil & parsley, and a sprinkle of salt.
-Lay the rounds out on a cutting board or plate & place in the fridge for a half hour to an hour (the firmer and colder they are, the better they will hold up to the cooking process)
-In the meantime, roast the beets (preheat oven to 400. Peel beets, and cube [I suggest wearing disposable kitchen prep gloves]. Lay on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, & spray with cooking spray [the beets can dry out easily], sprinkle with salt and a little bit of sugar. Let roast for 45 minutes until you can easily pierce with a fork. I like them underdone, still a little crunchy, but nicely sweet from the roast)
-1 peach, halved, then cut to size (to grill, heat a grill pan over medium high. Drizzle the peach pieces with canola oil, and grill a few minutes per side until you have grill marks).
-Fresh baby spinach (this spinach was delicious, I bought it on Friday, a huge bag for $3 at the Farmer's Market in Grant Park)
-Make the Apricot Vinaigrette: (sometimes I substitute for strawberry preserves, as in mango strawberry spinach salad)
-1 tbsp. apricot preserves
-1.5 tbsp. red wine vinegar
-4 tbsp. (or 1/4 cup) olive oil
-1 tsp. dijon mustard
-1/4 tsp. salt
*I don't even know where I got this recipe from, but I make it in 2 seconds in my Cuisinart mini prep processor and it's my favorite dressing ever*
-Once the goat cheese is cool and firm, use the same grill pan as you used to grill the peaches (one less thing to clean), pour in a small amount of canola oil, and brush it so it evenly distributes in one thin layer
-When the pan is hot (not burning hot), add the goat cheese, and grill 2 minutes per side or until browned on the outside but not too soft on the inside.
-Assemble the salad: baby spinach, avocado, beets, and the peaches. Sprinkle with the candied almonds (so easy to make- in a pan over medium heat, add brown sugar, stir with a spoon, when it starts to melt, add any nut you want, & stir until coated and the sugar is all melted). Dress the salad before topping with the goat cheese.
*For my one salad, I used 3 goat cheese rounds, 1/4 of an avocado, the equivalent of one small-medium beet, and one peach*
2) Baked Mozzarella Sticks
The Mozzarella sticks were totally on a whim- the N&K Mozzarella cheese sticks were staring me in the face, they are great for a snack, but how do I make a recipe out of them?? So I decided to make these. They are technically simple, but they do take a few steps (though less than the goat cheese). You can totally use these on top of a salad instead of the goat cheese.
-4 Mozzarella sticks (or string cheese), cut in half
-3 tbsp. flour
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 cup panko crumb + cornflake crumb mixture, seasoned with Italian Seasoning, salt & pepper
-Dredge the mozzarella sticks in the flour, egg, then crumb mixture
-Lay out on a cutting board or plate and freeze for 20 minutes, or refrigerate for 30
-Preheat the oven (I used my toaster) to 400 degrees, and spray the tray (lined with foil). Place the mozzarella sticks on the tray and bake for 7 minutes. YOU MUST WATCH THEM! If your oven is hotter/cooler- adjust the temperature, and don't take your eyes off them or they will MELT!
My mom made this sauce, which I used to dip the mozzarella sticks in- way better than ordinary tomato sauce. I don't know of the exact proportions (neither does she), but it was delicious and needed to be shared. So I will tell you the ingredients that went in, and maybe it will just paint a picture for you! The combination of ingredients into a sauce was so great and would be delicious over pasta. All you need is your food processor/blender.
Kale & Sundried Tomato Sauce
-Lightly sauteed kale
-Sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
-Bunch of fresh arugula
-Freshly chopped basil
-Frozen garlic cubes (less potent than fresh garlic, so for a sauce that will be used raw, this is a better option)
-Cannellini beans (otherwise known as "white beans")- which is my favorite "thickening agent" for soups and stuff.
-salt & pepper
You can bread your cheese, and eat it too!! I can be cheesy once in a while ;-)