October 05, 2006

Simple Tomato and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese

Yesterday I entered my fourth decade in life. To appropriately honor this 30th birthday, I took the day off work (as well as the remainder of this week!) to truly treat myself. Like a true New Yorker, I began my day with a bagel and cream cheese accompanied by a frothy latte. Then I was off to the Oasis Day Spa for a Swedish massage, courtesy of my dear friend Laura. Oh the luxury!

Since it was Wednesday, the farmers market was going on in Union Square. So after my spa treatment I meandered down there and roamed the market—one of my favorite things to do in New York. Many of New York’s local farmers set-up their stands here and offer an abundance of seasonal fresh produce.

Since my best friends are taking me out to celebrate my birthday this weekend, I opted to have a couple of them over for a simple dinner last night. I already knew what I wanted to serve for the main dish but was undecided about the starter. So I leisurely roamed the market scouting out the options. I wanted to serve something simple to make so that I wouldn’t have to spend too much time in the “kitchen” (I put “kitchen” in quotes because I more so have a kitchen nook), but at the same time elegant and special.

I have lately been really into tomatoes—so sweet, refreshing, and healthy. So I opted for a salad that would focus on these veggies. I chose heirloom tomatoes, which I believe are the tastiest of the tomato varieties. These awkward looking tomatoes are certainly tastier than the ordinary beef steak ones! I also opted for a variety of colors and sizes to make the salad especially pretty.

I wanted to pair the tomatoes with a leafy green so I chose arugula. This peppery leaf was the perfect contrast to the sweet taste of the tomatoes. I also wanted to add a third texture and flavor to the salad so after visiting the leaf guy, I walked over to the goat cheese lady. Here I bought a garlic and herb goat cheese log to top the salad and to also serve with crackers prior to the meal. Yum! The nice goat cheese lady also introduced me to a goat’s milk brie, which I also had to get. It was just too yummy looking to pass up, and I am a cheese slut afterall.

I was still yearning for something extra, so I continued to meander and found a farmer selling a wide variety of fresh herbs. Amongst his selection was an assortment of basil. In one of my food magazines I remember them explaining all the types of basil. I was particularly intrigued by purple basil, which I had never even heard of. This farmer had it so I was sold and chose this as my final ingredient to my salad. This variety of basil is a bit stronger in taste than the regular sweet basil, and the rich color was the perfect contrast to my salad.

After stopping by a lovely sidewalk cafe for some white wine and oysters, I finally made it home and prepared my special salad. The final product was simply perfect—easy to put together, aesthetically pleasing, and extremely flavorful. Here is the gist of the “recipe” (per serving):
  • Handful of arugula leaves
  • Variety of tomato slices—large/small, red/yellow
  • Dash of diced shallot
  • 5 dabs of goat cheese
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sliced basil (purple if you can find it)
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  1. Lay a bed of arugula leaves on a small plate.
  2. Spread a layer of the tomato slices on top of the arugula.
  3. Sprinkle shallot pieces over the tomatoes, followed by the goat cheese dabs.
  4. Pour the balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil over the salad.
  5. Garnish with sliced basil
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Check-in later for my post about my entree dish (creamy polenta served with sautéed mushrooms, pancetta, and thyme topped off with a white wine reduction cream sauce)…

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Anonymous Alison said...

I was one of the lucky friends who Kristin made this meal for. This was one of the best salads I've had in ages. I must say, the tomatoes make a huge difference! They are so much better than your average tomatoes.
Happy Birthday Kristin!!

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Carrie said...

And I was another lucky friend who got to enjoy this delicious meal! As Kristin said, the salad was so simple, yet one of the most delicious and flavorful salads I've had. This would be a great salad for any dinner party - so simple, so colorful, and sooo tasty!!

10:27 AM  

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