“Last call for strawberries!” Hand painted, pick-your-own signs flood the winding country roads I drive to work every day, as the local farmer makes a last ditch effort to promote his latest bounty before the strawberry season winds down and makes way for blueberries to take center stage. In my recent Strawberry Crumbles post, I highlighted the sweet seductiveness a few simple ingredients and an oven can derive from this wondrous fruit. Yet, true to form, one bout with these berries just wasn’t enough. Spellbound by their deep ruby hue, I could not walk away from the berry patch without one more loving nod while they are flush with color and at the pinnacle of their seasonal glory.
Today’s feature took a while to come together in my mind and was actually the result of an initial poor choice. I brought home some artisanal gorgonzola to crumble into my simple spinach-berry salad, but was less than pleased when I did my first taste test. Delicious as the two are on their own, the bold flavors of the gorgonzola completely overwhelmed the delicate sweetness of the strawberries. So off to the grocery store I went in search of a band-aid for my botched salad. As I walked past the gently humming cheese case, a log of goat cheese caught my eye and my problem was instantly solved (if only life was always this easy). A few years back, my friend, Liz, brought these fantastic herb coated goat cheese balls (a la Giada de Laurentis) to one of our girls nights in. Cheese of any kind is usually an instant hit with me, but these really stole my heart. In my moment of flavor flashback, I knew the velvety texture and tangy undertones of the goat cheese rolled in earthy chopped herbs and lemon zest would be the perfect companion to the strawberries, without overwhelming them. With that, I excitedly hurled the log into my basket and hurried home.
After a little trial and error, I bring you today’s feature: a sweet and savory summer salad trimmed with fresh strawberries, chopped walnuts, and gobs of creamy goat cheese rolled in lemon-scented fresh herbs. For something that took a while to come to me, I couldn’t have possibly been any more pleased with the outcome. The goat cheese balls are slightly adapted from the Giada di Laurentis recipe and can be reworked with whatever fresh herbs you have on hand; I just happen to be growing basil and parsley this season, so this combination was a no-brainer. Whichever herbs you choose for your cheese, you’ll undoubtedly take pleasure in enjoying this nice, refreshing, simple salad.
Strawberry Salad With Herbed Goat Cheese
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
4 ounces goat cheese
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
6 cups baby spinach
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
4- 1/4-inch slices red onion
Balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
Combine lemon zest, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Use the palms of your hands to gently roll the goat cheese into 1-inch balls. Place each ball in the bowl of herbs and roll around until coated evenly. Set aside on a plate and refrigerate. You should end up with approximately 12 – 15 balls.
Combine spinach, strawberries, walnuts and red onion slices in a small bowl. Add desired amount of vinaigrette and toss gently. Transfer to a platter and arrange goat cheese balls on top. Serve immediately.
Simple Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. dried herbs (optional) – basil and oregano work well
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until emulsified. Store in refrigerator up to one week.