Sometimes, recipes aren’t about using specific ingredients in a specific way to create something new entirely – sometimes they’re all about highlighting that one spectacular item you brought home, make that one thing, possibly a rather humble one, the shining star of your dinner table. One of the things I absolutely love building a dish around is, as you may have noticed already, cheese in all shapes and sizes.
Whether it’s finding the perfect wine- or fruit-related companion, the matching kind of bread or composing a salady setup like todays dish – playing around with a newly aquired slice of cheese is just as much fun to me as it is to sample my way through a bunch of different cheeses to find the pick of the day~ Putting cheese to use in a salad can be a bit iffy as proven by many squeaky bits of undefinable yellow stuff sitting, abandoned in a puddle of vinegar, on restaurant plates all around the world every day. Making that combo actually work doesn’t take much, though! Simply avoid cheap mystery cheese of unknown kind and origin and keep it away from vinegar-heavy dressings. Cheesy tragedy avoided~! All that’s left to do is create a comfy and fitting environment for the cheese sitting in front of you. Right about now, the visits to the market are like taking a dip in a sea of herbs, leaves and flowers, and, thank the heavens for our artisan cheese makers also dancing to the seasonal theme song, the cheese displays reflect that Spring breeze. Herb infused, rubbed, crusted, marinated or filled cheeses of all makes and models are widely available these days, just asking to be put into some sort of context to take them that extra step from simply delicious to divine. Of course, a quick 360° glance across the market displays and a deep breath answered the “How to..?” on our weekly market-trip last Saturday, just after our bags had been filled with a weeks supply of yumtastic cheese choices within less than a shake of lamb’s tail. The first berries… the herbs… and an “exotic” addition on the table of our local beekeepers association, “home-brewed” maple syrup! Believe me, running home, fixing the salad and actually taking the time to take some pictures before diving in has been close to torture – but SO worth it!
Now, of course I’m aware that you guys may not be able to get the exact same types of cheese I used, but if you stick to the general type of cheese and take some time to snoop around your local market or cheese store you’ll most certainly find something just as herbylicious – or even better~! Oh and while you’re on the hunt, you might also have an eye and a tastebud or two on the lookout for a juicy, grainy and fantastic-smelling bread to go along with the salad! …and a nice, fruity white or rosé while you’re at it… ok enough! Here’s the recipe, enough to make 4 people happy with starter-sized portions or send 2 people into cheese-heaven with main-dish appropriate portions~!
The Wild Herb & Very Berry Cheese Salad
100g Wild Garlic/Ramsons, finely sliced
100-125g Mixed Wild Herb Leaves – make sure there’s some cress or something else in the peppery department in there, otherwise you might want to add a finely diced shallot to zing things up
125g Seedless Grapes, halved
120g Firm Mountain or even Cave-ripened Cheese of the more intense variety – I used a well balanced swiss melt-in-your-mouth Gruyère-like number, rubbed and aged with a coat of dried grass/hay flowers
120g Soft Yoghurt Camembert – My pick for the soft cheese in this one was a very smooth camembert filled with a layer of a wild herb blend heavy on the ramson side of things
6 Sprigs of Lemon Balm, very finely ribboned
Fleur de Sel
1) Lightly toss the herbs, balm and ramson ribbons to combine them before heaping them up on your serving plates.
2) Evenly distribute the grapes and blueberries on top.
3) Carefully cut both cheeses into ~1cm dice – the softer cheese will help you determinate the smallest dice-size possible.
4) Dot the piles with equal amounts of soft and firm cheese and sprinkle each serving with a pinch of fleur de sel flakes.
The Maple Syrup Dressing
As you’ll be able to guess once you have a look at the ingredients for the dressing, the herbs and cheeses above are the key players in the aroma game, so make sure to get the good stuff – that goes for the maple syrup as well~
1 Lemon, Zest and Juice – You’ll need about 80ml, so keep a second lemon close by, just in case
100ml Maple Syrup
Salt and Pepper to taste
Opt: Goji Berries – these were an “accidental” addition to the mix, the silly package kept falling off the shelf everytime I wriggled out the syrup bottle, so at some point I simply dumped them on the salad. They add another delicious layer to the deal but they’re not essential to the dish. Give them a try on a second round~
Opt: A careful drizzle of Walnut or Grapeseed Oil if your choice of cheese calls for a nutty plus-one – for once I’d advise against adding walnuts, raw or toasted, since they are perfectly capable of overpowering blueberries if they’re not perfectly ripe
Just on a side-note, in case you’re going with the Gojis, fix the dressing first and pop in the berries to soak for about 1 hour prior to getting your hands on the salad ingredients. Otherwise, just fly through the dressing-prep and you’ll catch the cheese and herbs at the perfect time and temperature to be devoured~
1) Add both the juice and the syrup to a mixing bowl and give them a thorough whisk until they’re perfectly combined.
2) Whisk in a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, then, with the assistance of a cheese-cube, go through the usual taste-adjust routine.
3) Drizzle the salad piles, perferably around instead of on top of the cheese cubes, with the dressing just before serving and…