salad with herbed baked goat cheese

I’m trying to cut down on the number of Cooks Illustrated recipes that I put in my blog. For one thing, I don’t want Chris Kimball to come over here and kick my ass. Plus, I feel like most Cooks Illustrated recipes are a no-brainer – they’re so dependable that it’s no surprise to hear another recommendation. On the other hand, I cooked almost exclusively from Cooks Illustrated for several years, so there are some recipes that I love so much that I can’t resist sharing.

In fact, I have entire dinner party menus of CI recipes to discuss. I’m going to spend the next few entries putting forth the recipes for one of my favorite meals. I’ve made this for a group of friends and for my parents, and it received great reviews both times. My parents had arrived at my house pretty pissed off after having their car broken into and getting stuck for hours trying to cross into the US from Canada, and after this meal (plus two bottles of wine and some beer), they were in much better spirits.

This salad is a great first course. It’s nice and light, but the goat cheese makes it interesting. The cheese rounds can be prepared up to a week in advance, which is always an advantage when you’re having company. I would also make the vinaigrette early in the day I plan to serve it and keep it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. That way, when it’s time to serve the salad, I can just shake up the dressing and mix it with the greens. I almost always use bagged greens, because I hate to wash lettuce. With pre-cleaned lettuce, cheese rounds that can be formed days before you plan to serve them, and a simple vinaigrette that can be made in advance, this salad makes for the perfect opening course to an elegant dinner.

Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese and Vinaigrette (from Cooks Illustrated)

Bridget note: I’ve used different herbs based on what I had available, and it was fine. I also usually forget to brush the rounds with olive oil before baking them, so if you’re stressed for time (like I always am when I have company), don’t worry too much about that step.

Serves 6

Herbed Baked Goat Cheese
3 ounces Melba toasts, white (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
12 ounces goat cheese, firm
extra-virgin olive oil

Vinaigrette and Salad
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced shallot
¼ teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chives
Ground black pepper
14 cups hearty greens (mixed), washed and dried

1. For Goat Cheese: In food processor, process Melba toasts to fine even crumbs, about 1½ minutes; transfer crumbs to medium bowl and stir in pepper. Whisk eggs and mustard in medium bowl until combined. Combine thyme and chives in small bowl.

2. Using kitchen twine or dental floss, divide cheese into 12 evenly sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball; roll each ball in herbs to coat lightly. Transfer 6 pieces to egg mixture, turn each piece to coat; transfer to Melba crumbs and turn each piece to coat, pressing crumbs into cheese. Flatten each ball into disk about 1½ inches wide and 1 inch thick and set on baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining 6 pieces cheese. Freeze cheese until firm, about 30 minutes. (Cheese may be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen up to 1 week.) Adjust oven rack to uppermost position; heat to 475 degrees.

3. Remove cheese from freezer and brush tops and sides evenly with olive oil. Bake until crumbs are golden brown and cheese is slightly soft, 7 to 9 minutes (or 9 to 12 minutes if cheese is completely frozen). Using thin metal spatula, transfer cheese to paper towel-lined plate and cool 3 minutes.

4. For Salad: While goat cheese is baking, combine vinegar, mustard, shallot, and salt in small bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in olive oil; season to taste with pepper.

5. Place greens in large bowl, drizzle vinaigrette over, and toss to coat. Divide greens among individual plates; place 2 rounds goat cheese on each salad. Serve immediately.

Other recipes part of this recommended dinner party menu:
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Sauteed Shredded Zucchini
Pain a l’Ancienne (baguettes)

Just about any dessert works well with this meal.
Many wines work well with this meal, but I especially like full-flavored whites such as Chardonnay, and medium-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir.


  1. Years (!!) exclusively from Cook’s Illustrated?! C. Kimball should give you an award, lol 🙂 The salad looks delicious– the goat cheese is the delicious heart of it 🙂

  2. This looks fantastic and you’ve captured the great textures of the dish with your amazing pics! I, for one, *LOVE* CI/ATK recipes so please continue to post! Did you watch the recent episode where Chris was reading emails…. and someone mentioned they love CI/ATK so much that they got a tatoo of Chris on them? Yeah, I love it, but not *that* much – lol! I’m looking forward to your menus too!

  3. You could take Kimball! Just kidding of course. Great looking salad.

  4. I don’t always like goat cheese but this salad looks so good! Love your photos – they’re so nice and bright.

  5. Ooooh this is going to push ahead of the Martha recipe I JUST printed, on the “to try” stack of recipes. I love ATK/Cook’s Illustrated. Is the rice recipe you referred to over at Smitten Kitchen in The New Best Recipe or a magazine issue?

    Cook’s Illustrated recipes I love:
    Key Lime Bars
    Pasta Pesto Salad
    Grilled Pork Tenderloin (with the honey mustard wet rub)
    Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Garlic Sauce
    German Chocolate Cake
    Beef Roast
    more that I can’t remember…

    There are SO many I have NOT tried. I stopped subscribing to CI and Cooking Light to slow down the increase of new recipes….I have so many I need to try and a huge book (best recipe) of hundreds of recipes to try as well.

  6. I love salads with herbed goat cheese…so delicious. I will be saving this recipe!

  7. Alicia – The rice recipe is in The New Best Recipe. It was the first time I ever cooked rice correctly; it was such a relief.

    I love those Key Lime Bars too! I haven’t tried any of the others you mention, but I’ve been really curious about the German Chocolate Cake.

  8. I’m totally obsessed with CI. Before I joined TWD, I was afraid of trying any recipe that wasn’t from CI. I usually use their baking recipes so it’s nice to know that their ‘cooking’ recipes are just as great. Your salad looks pretty amazing!

  9. I’m not sure where the German chocolate Cake recipe is, but I got it online when it was free. I also saw an online video. Are you a paid member online? You should be able to find it then. If not, the recipe is at the link below on my blog with my photo of it. I haven’t been a fan of German Chocolate Cake in the past but this one was soo good and my dad loved it when I made it for his birthday (his favorite kind of cake).

  10. Steph – I’ve had some problems with TWD recipes, because I’ve made the CI recipes, and they are, quite frankly, better. On the other hand, there’s a lot more creativity with Dorie’s recipes than CI usually has. You won’t find a Snickery Square recipe from CI, you know?

    Alicia – The German Chocolate Cake recipe is actually in The New Best Recipe. I haven’t been a fan of German Chocolate Cake in the past either, which is why I’m interested in CI’s recipe. Yours looks really great! I think layered cakes with the frosting in between layers but not on the sides look so pretty.

    I am a subscriber to their website. The $15 or whatever per year that it costs is definitely worth it to me.


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