The first course of our Valentine’s Day feast — BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD with Spiced Almonds & Crispy Goat Cheese Hearts! Flaked almonds tossed with cumin and nigella seeds, a little olive oil, and a splash of maple syrup, then toasted until crisp and golden brown make the perfect sweet and savory addition to salads and soups, topper for cottage cheese, or a crunchy snack all on its own. Scatter them over the butter lettuce and radishes before nestling one or two Crispy Goat Cheese Medallions (in the shape of a heart of course, very 80s luxe of us!) on top, then drizzling the whole thing with a Red Wine Vinaigrette with Shallots & Tarragon — the perfect dressing to keep on hand in your fridge for fast, flavorful salads all week! Happy days!!
4 cups butter lettuce leaves
1 cup Toasted Spiced Almonds
1 cup Red Wine Vinaigrette
8 Crispy Goat Cheese Medallions
8 radishes, thinly sliced
Spiced Almonds with Cumin and Nigella Seeds
Makes: 2 cups
2 cups flaked or sliced almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoons cumin seed
2 tablespoons nigella seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of chile flakes, optional
•Preheat oven to 350F.
•Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and stir to coat almonds evenly. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet (option to line with parchment paper for easier clean up), and use a spoon or spatula to spread almonds into a thin, even layer.
•Roast until golden brown, about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to ensure even toasting. Once they smell warm and toasty, and all sides are richly golden brown, allow to cool until crisp. Use to top salads, soups, cottage cheese, or scoop up little handfuls for a deliciously sweet and savory snack all on their own! Store in an airtight container or ziptop bag up to 1 week.
Red Wine Vinaigrette
Makes: 1 cup
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, gently crushed (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly minced tarragon, chives, parsley, mint (any or all, or other herbs of your choosing)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
•Add red wine vinegar, shallot and garlic to a bowl with a pinch of salt and allow to sit 10 minutes. Add sugar and dijon and whisk to combine, then slowly whisk in oil to emulsify to desired consistency and flavor. Stir in fresh herbs just before serving for maximum flavor and freshness, though this vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Goat Cheese Heart Medallions
Makes: 8-10 Medallions
10 oz unflavored goat cheese, rolled into a log
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Olive oil or other oil for frying
•Place goat cheese in the freezer 10 minutes to ensure it is cold and set before slicing into 1/2” rings. Use a small heart shaped cookie cutter to press out heart medallions, reforming any scraps into new discs and punching out additional hearts. Return heart shaped goat cheese medallions to the freezer 10 minutes while you assemble the rest of your ingredients.
•Assemble your breading station with one bowl each for flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Season all with a pinch of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Whisk eggs well with a teaspoon or two of water to loosen. Then drop each heart of goat cheese first into flour, tossing it gently between your hands to remove any additional flour before dropping into the egg wash. Keep one hand reserved for dry ingredients only and use the other to gently remove the goat cheese from the egg and into the breadcrumbs, tossing and pressing on all sides to coat well. Set aside on a plate and complete the same process with remaining medallions.
•When ready to fry, add oil to a shallow frying pan so that there is a shallow coating. Additional oil will create more of a deep frying effect. Heat over medium high heat until water sprinkled into the pan sizzles and evaporates immediately. If deep frying, oil should be roughly 350F.
•Add a few medallions at a time to the pan and allow to fry until deeply golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip and repeat until both sides are richly golden brown and interior goat cheese is soft and melting. Remove finished medallions to a paper towel lined plate and season well with flaky salt. Repeat in batches until all medallions are cooked, ensuring you do not overcrowd the pan which risks dropping the oil temperature and/or steaming to create less crispy results.
•Arrange a neat nest of butter lettuce on each plate. Scatter with 2-4 tablespoons of flaked almonds and arrange a few radish slices all around before positioning 2 goat cheese hearts at the center. Drizzle with salad dressing to your desired taste and enjoy!