The Crisper Whisperer: Winter Greens with Olive Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese Croutons

You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas on preparing fruits and vegetables. —The Mgmt.

[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

In bleak midwinter, salads don't always spring to mind as readily as gratins, soups, and roasted roots when we're thinking about how to prepare vegetables. But sometimes a salad is exactly what you need. Bitter winter greens such as escarole, chicory, and endive have a lot of personality and a great crunch when served raw, so they can stand up to bold flavors that might overwhelm tender baby greens. Being an umami fiend, I find this characteristic particularly endearing.

Escarole, chicory, and Belgian endive all derive from the same plant. Escarole has a flatter, broader leaf and generally a bit of a milder taste than chicory. Chicory has thinner, curlier leaves and often has a slightly more pungent bitter taste. Belgian endive, which has pale, oblong leaves, is the result of a true labor of love. Farmers harvest very young chicory plants and then re-plant the roots, growing them in total darkness to produce the almost pure-white endive.

Winter Greens with Olive Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese Croutons combines all three of these varieties, each of which brings a different taste and texture (although feel free to substitute one for the other if necessary). The strong flavors of olive, garlic, and goat cheese play beautifully with the bitter greens, making this a satisfying dish. This is a bit of a fancy-pants salad, great as a first course for a dinner party but equally good as a light lunch. You can marinate the goat cheese, toast the croutons, and make the dressing up to a couple of days in advance.

Winter Greens with Olive Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese Croutons

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The Crisper Whisperer: Winter Greens with Olive Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese Croutons

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About This Recipe

Yield:4

Ingredients

  • Winter Greens with Olive Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese Croutons
  • 1 four-ounce log fresh goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 half-inch-thick slices baguette, cut on the diagonal so they're very long
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 small head escarole
  • 1/2 small head chicory
  • 1 small Belgian endive
  • 1 recipe Olive Vinaigrette, below
  • Olive Vinaigrette
  • 3 anchovy fillets, patted dry
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 small shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata or Niçoise olives, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Procedures

  1. 1

    Winter Greens with Olive Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese Croutons

  2. 2

    Slice the goat cheese into four rounds and place them in a small, shallow bowl in a single layer. Don't worry if they're not gorgeous, since you'll be spreading them on the croutons later anyway. Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over top and sprinkle evenly with the thyme and pepper. Ideally, you should marinate these in the fridge for a few hours, but if you don't have the time, just set it aside at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the salad.

  3. 3

    Preheat the oven or a toaster oven to 400°F. Rub the baguette slices with the cut sides of the garlic clove, and brush them with the remaining teaspoon olive oil. Bake in a small, shallow baking pan until lightly browned around the edges, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Then spread each crouton with one round of goat cheese; drizzle a bit of the marinade on top. Return to oven for about 5 minutes, until goat cheese is warm.

  4. 4

    Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the escarole, ,chicory and endive. Tear the escarole and chicory into bite-size pieces; slice the endive crosswise, discarding the root end. Toss together to distribute. When you return the croutons to oven with goat cheese on them, pour some Olive Vinaigrette onto the salad a little at a time and toss, reserving a little dressing to drizzle over the croutons. Divide the salad among four plates, garnish each with a crouton, and drizzle a little dressing over each crouton.

  5. 5

    Olive Vinaigrette

  6. 6

    Note: This vinaigrette only gets better as it sits in the fridge for a few days, so you can make it in advance or make extra if you like.

  7. 7

    Combine the anchovy and garlic on a cutting board. Finely chop them together and then mash to a paste with the side of a chef's knife. Transfer the paste to a bowl or a small glass jar with a lid.

  8. 8

    Add the minced shallot, lemon juice and vinegar to the anchovy paste, season with pepper, and let sit for ten minutes.

  9. 9

    Add the chopped olives, parsley and olive oil. Close the jar and shake to combine, or whisk together thoroughly.

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