I first visited Chez Panisse about ten years ago, a new cook stepping with some awe into what felt like a founding palace of American cuisine. But part of the beauty of Alice Waters' Chez Panisse is that for all its history and accolades it has remained what it was created to be: a bustling, cozy, unpretentious neighborhood bistro. And every time I've gone back, I've left inspired to cook more, and to cook better — and what's a better sign of a good restaurant than that?
And it's funny: I have a vague memory of ordering this salad that first time at the upstairs cafe — but I don't actually know for sure if I did. It's just that it feels so quintessentially California and Chez Panisse — perfect greens, with a perfect little pat of French-style goat cheese, warm from the wood oven. It's not surprising my brain inserts it into the scene, right next to the grilled squid and flawless dish of fruit.
We've been bringing you fresh recipes for often-overshadowed lettuce all week long, but we also wanted to throw in this classic salad, as I think it's one of the most delicious, enjoyable ways to eat a pile of greens — France meets California, cozy and fresh at the same time.
This iconic salad from Chez Panisse restaurant is famous, and justifiably so. Covering tart, creamy goat cheese with panko, baking it until nice and crispy, and then serving it with perfectly dressed lettuce and crunchy toast points is such a California combination.
Don't forget to freeze the goat cheeses slightly to firm them up before baking, and save that leftover oil from marinating them to drizzle over grilled or roasted vegetables.
- Christine, June 2015
Alice Water's Baked Goat Cheese with Spring Lettuce Salad
12 ounces fresh, mild goat cheese (such as Haystack's Boulder Chèvre)
Leaves from 4 sprigs thyme, chopped
Leaves from 1 small sprig rosemary, chopped
1 cup panko
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons walnut or extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound baby lettuces or salad mix, washed and dried
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Shape the goat cheese into eight 1-inch-thick disks and put in a container just big enough to hold them in one layer. Sprinkle cheese with herbs and pour on olive oil. Cover and chill at least 12 hours and up to a week. One hour before baking, pop them in the freezer to firm up.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove cheese from marinade and roll all sides in panko, pressing gently so the crumbs adhere. Arrange on a large baking sheet and bake until golden, about 15 minutes, turning over halfway through. Add baguette slices for last 5 minutes of baking.
Whisk together vinegar, salt, pepper, and walnut oil. Put lettuces in a large bowl, drizzle with just enough dressing to coat, and toss gently and thoroughly.
Divide lettuces among 4 plates, sprinkle with walnuts, and to each plate add 2 goat-cheese disks and a baguette slice. Serve immediately.
→ Check out the book! Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook by Alice Waters, David Tanis, and Fritz Streiff
Reprinted with permission from Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook by Alice Waters, David Tanis, and Fritz Streiff, copyright © 1999. Published by Harpercollins.