Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad on Parmesan Crackers
This is an elegant looking versatile dish that can be used as an appetizer or as salad course for a formal dinner party or just a healthy hearty lunch by itself. It is also very easy to make. The only thing one has to be careful with is the time the Parmesan cheese crackers need in the oven. The crackers are delicious but if they get even a little overdone, the cracker can start to taste bitter. So keep a close eye on them while they are in the oven. Also, please use good quality Parmesan that you grate at the time that you are going to make into crackers. Already grated Parmesan cheese often tends to be dry and the crackers do not come out right with this kind of grated cheese. The oven temperature also can be a bit tricky. All ovens vary a little bit and their temperature gauges aren’t very precise. If your oven tends to get really hot, then decrease the time you will need to get the crackers baked in it.
1. A bunch of red grapes
2. 6-8 fresh strawberries
3. 3-4 ounces fresh goat cheese
4. A hunk of good quality parmesan cheese
5. A cup of baby arugula
6. 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
7. ½ tablespoon of honey
8. ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
9. A pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
1. Using a handheld grater, grate the Parmesan cheese (the larger kind of grate) into a bowl – about 1/3 cup of grated cheese in all.
2. Lay down a silicon baking sheet (or parchment paper) on a flat cookie sheet.
3. Heat the oven at 350 Fahrenheit.
4. With a spoon heap about a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese in a corner of the silicon sheet. Flatten down the heap with the spoon. Repeat this step to make even sized crackers.
5. Evenly space the heaps of Parmesan cheese on the silicon sheet (about an inch apart).
6. Place the sheet in the oven for 8 minutes (or less if your oven tends to be very hot). The crackers have to be golden yellow – if they get browned, they will taste bitter.
7. When the crackers are done, take the sheet out of the oven and using a plastic spatula, take them off the silicon sheet and place them on a serving dish. Let them cool down.
8. To make the salad dressing – pour the olive oil, honey and balsamic vinegar in a small food processor (or do this by hand using a small whisk) and blend the mixture together. Then add about a tablespoon of goat cheese and whisk again.
9. Add freshly grated black pepper to the dressing and whisk again. No need to add salt because Parmesan cheese is already quite salty.
10. Pour the salad dressing over the baby arugula leaves and toss the salad gently.
11. Since we will be piling the dressed salad leaves over the delicate crackers, assemble this salad just before you are ready to serve.
12. To serve the salad assemble the crackers in the following order – place two crackers (one over the other because they are very delicate and the weight of the salad often tends to break the cracker). Place a few of the dressed arugula leaves on top. Then place a red grape or two and a piece of the strawberry on top of the leaves and at the very end a teaspoon or so of the fresh goat cheese on each cracker pile.
13. Serve immediately so that the crackers do not get soggy from the dressing!