Here's the salad you serve at a sit-down dinner. And when your guests inquire what it took to put together something so elegant and pleasing, you can simply bat your lashes and say, "Hardly had to lift a finger!"
And you know what? You'd be telling the whole truth because even the baked and breaded goat cheese patties that grace this fennel-based salad are easier than they appear.
The Sunday Night Salad
This is the salad you put together when you're meal prepping for the week. Each recipe in this series makes four entree-sized portions, which you can pack up for a week's worth of work salads or just dinner throughout the week.
Because we wanted these salads to last, all the major elements — the salad base, the topper, and the mix-ins — can be stored in the fridge anywhere from three to five days or longer without showing signs of fatigue. This is how you do Sunday salad prep right!
The Base: Lemony Shaved Fennel
This base is as simple and refreshing as it sounds. Thinly shaved fennel is tossed with lemon juice to keep it pristine for storing in the fridge for a few days. This understated base works as somewhat of a foil for the creamy breaded goat cheese and ensures this salad has some volume.
The Topping: Crispy Chickpeas & Baked Goat Cheese
Which is more of scene-stealer? Crispy chickpeas or breaded and baked goat cheese rounds? I'm actually going to have to give it to the goat cheese on this one, because despite every single delicious element in this salad, it's what makes me so happy to be eating it. The chickpeas are done in the skillet and can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, and the goat cheese rounds, while best hot out of the oven, maintain their allure up to three days past their initial sizzle.
This salad makes use of the whole fennel and adds a generous quarter-cup of fronds to the mix, along with an equal amount of parsley leaves. A tahini roasted garlic dressing is where the garlic flavor in this recipe is coming from, but if you were to dress this with lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt, you'd be just fine.
Pro tip: To pack this salad, simply ensure each component gets its own compartment in a travel container. Keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
Garlicky Chickpea and Fennel Salad with Baked Goat Cheese
12 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry with a paper towel
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 large egg whites
4 medium fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/4 cup fennel fronds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup tahini roasted garlic dressing
Use your hands to shape the goat cheese into 20 (1-inch) balls and place on a plate. Refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes to firm up. Meanwhile, heat the oven and cook the chickpeas.
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beans to the pan in a single layer. Cook undisturbed until the beans are lightly browned on the bottom, 2 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Spread out again and cook, stirring as needed, until golden-brown and blistered on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove the chickpeas from the heat and cool slightly before serving or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Whisk the egg whites in a small bowl. Combine the breadcrumbs, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in another small bowl.
Remove the cheese balls from the refrigerator. Gently but firmly press each ball into a thick disk, smoothing the sides with your finger. Dip a disk into the egg whites, turning it to coat and then allowing any excess to drip off, and then completely coat in the breadcrumb mixture. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining discs.
Bake until golden-brown and the cheese is warmed through, 13 to 15 minutes. (A minute or two under the broiler will brown them more if needed.) Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Use a small spatula to gently reshape the disks if needed.
Toss the fennel with the lemon juice in a large bowl. Use immediately or cover and store in the refrigerator (for up to 5 days) until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, stir the chickpeas, fennel fronds, and parsley into the fennel, then divide the mixture between 4 plates. Top with the baked goat cheese rounds and drizzle with the dressing.
- Accompanying recipes: We used tahini roasted garlic dressing.
- Make ahead: The cheese balls can be formed and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days ahead.