Baked Walnut-Coated Herb Cheese on Bitter Greens with Pears and Mustard Vinaigrette
Recipe By Chef, Educator and Foodwriter Priscilla Martel and Charlie van Over
This recipe puts a healthy spin on a bistro classic, baked goat cheese. Tangy yogurt-cheese, made by draining some of the liquid from yogurt, is flavored with fresh herbs then baked. The warm cheese is served with bitter greens and sweet ripe pears. Not only does this salad compliment a rich meal, there is something festive about the combination of hot and cold on one plate.
Yogurt cheese has been a staple in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. If you have not made it you are in for a treat. All it takes is some cheesecloth, a colander and a little patience. After 18 to 24 hours, much of the liquid will drain out of the yogurt. What remains will have the consistency of soft cream cheese. Greek yogurt is ideal but I also enjoy using a locally-made one. Once drained, the yogurt cheese will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
For the Yogurt Cheese:
- 2 pounds low-fat yogurt or 2 pounds low-fat farmer’s cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon fresh minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon finely minced chives
- ½ teaspoon finely minced fresh tarragon
- Fresh black pepper to taste
- Vegetable seasoning or sea salt to taste
For the Salad:
- ½ cup walnut pieces, finely chopped
- 2 heads of Belgian endive
- 2 Seckel, Bosc or Comice pears
- 1 small bulb of fresh fennel
- 1 small head of chicory, washed and shredded
- Mustard Vinaigrette
- 1. Prepare the yogurt cheese. Place the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a bowl. Cover the cheese with a clean towel and let it sit at least 18 hours in the refrigerator to drain. (Discard any liquid that collects in the bowl or use it in place of buttermilk in pancake or muffin batter.) Or, begin the recipe from here using low-fat farmer’s cheese.
- 2. Combine the cheese, parsley, shallots, chives and tarragon. Season to taste. Blend well. Form the cheese into 8 individual balls.
- 3. Roll each cheese ball in the chopped walnuts. Set them aside in refrigerator until ready to serve.
- 4. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
- 5. Cut the endive in half and separate the leaves. Cut the pears into eighths and core, but do not peel. Finely slice the fennel bulb.
- 6. For each salad, arrange the torn chicory leaves on the plate. Position the endive leaves, pear slices and fennel around the plate in a spiral pattern.
- 7. Place the herb cheese balls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the cheese until it warms through and the walnuts brown, about 10 minutes.
- 8. Place one cheese ball on center of prepared salad. Drizzle each serving with a few tablespoons of Mustard Vinaigrette.