Laura Chenel's Goat Cheese Tops One Terrific Watermelon Salad
Salad lovers are in sheer heaven now and will be through the rest of the summer. The ingredients for perfect salads are everywhere. And the earliest part of the season yields the tenderest of greens. Arugula has its bite but it’s far from bitter which it tends to get as the season progresses. I try my best to always shop our farm stands first. Supporting local agriculture is essential if we want our farms to thrive, never mind survive. Today’s recipe features local greens—basil, arugula, parsley. The radishes are local too. But let’s be honest. If you live in the north it will be a while before we see Seedless Watermelon and great big blueberries like what we used here. They were both on sale at our supermarket.
It was also at the supermarket cheese display that we found our salad topper: Laura Chenel’s inimitable goat cheese. Crumbled atop the main ingredients, it adds a creamy-rich element. And the slight tang is a perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of the melon, the berries and orange-inflected salad dressing.
We’ve shared our fondness for Laura Chenel’s before. And yes, there really is a Laura Chenel. The cheesemaker was the first commercial producer of goat cheese in the country. She’s often given credit for having popularized the cheese which was quite foreign to American palates. Ms. Chenel went to France and immersed herself in the making of Chèvre, as goat cheese is known there. Returning to her native California in 1979, she began producing her first cheeses in the Sonoma County town of Sebastapol. It was a tough sell at first at the local markets where Ms. Chenel tried to make inroads with her unfamiliar cheese. None other than Alice Waters herself can be credited with introducing Laura Chenel’s goat cheese to California’s foodies at her Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. Ms. Waters not only placed a standing order for what she listed on her menu as “Laura Chenel’s Chèvre”, she also may have invented the first American recipe for Goat Cheese Salad. Eventually, Laura Chenel’s Goat Cheese grew to sell over two million pounds of cheese a year! After over 25 years in business, in 2006, Laura Chenel’s was sold to the French company, the Rians Group, which has expanded her menu of cheeses. This summer, you can top your salads with any one of flavors of the Medallion Collection.
These three and half ounce disk shaped cheeses come in five distinct flavors. Poppy Seed & Peppercorn give Laura Chenel’s Chèvre a slightly hot flavor while the poppy seeds add a nuttiness. Fig & Grapefruit pair the sweetness of figs and the tang of grapefruit. Sun-dried Tomato & Basil combines savory and subtle notes. Chives & Shallots add a hint of sweetness while the chives dial up the herb notes. Finally, of course, there’s Laura Chenel’s Original, the Medallion we used here…for a rich, bright, citrus-y tang. And here’s the recipe for this glorious salad.
For the Vinaigrette
- 1/2 Cup Coarsely chopped Baby Basil Leaves
- 3 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Finely grated Orange Zest
- 3 Tablespoons Fresh Orange juice
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
For the Salad
- 3 Pounds Seedless Watermelon, rind removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 Cup Thinly Slice Radishes
- 4 Cups Baby Arugula
- 4 Cups Mixed Baby Greens--Basil, Parsley, Spinach and/or Kale
- 1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
- 1- 3 1/2 Ounce Medallion of Laura Chenel's Goat Cheese, crumbled
For the Vinaigrette
Make the Vinaigrette. Mix basil, white wine vinegar, orange zest, orange juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with Salt.
For the Salad
In a large bowl, combine watermelon, radishes, and mixed baby greens. Set aside the Arugula.
When ready to serve, add vinaigrette and toss to gently combine. Season generously with salt.
Plate the salad individually. First, plate the arugula and then put the dressed salad atop the arugula. Crumble Laura Chenel’s Goat Cheese atop each salad. Serve.