I resorted to blowing the dust off from one of my old culinary school books the other night while canvassing for confirmation of a culinary fact in dispute. Welcome to my world. As I cracked the spine and thumbed through pages of notes (I'm a big advocate of writing in my books), an unexpected kick of nostalgia provided inspiration for that night's dinner plans. One of my culinary school's go to "beginner" recipes was a super simple but amazingly satisfying beet salad tossed with mustard vinaigrette and topped with a crispy round of goat cheese. It's a salad with a bit of everything going on - roasted vegetables, a basic vinaigrette, a warm and crispy garnish. It was a total benchmark of achievement to go from having it served to you as a freshman to preparing it for others as a sophomore. What I love about it right off the bat is that it's made with beets and goat cheese...do I even need to continue? If you've got the time and can roast your own beets, I heartily invite you to do so; an hour or so at 400 degrees while wrapped in foil with a drizzle of olive oil should do the trick. Those more time-crunched should reach for the packs of already roasted and sealed baby beets that are popping up in the cold case of your local supermarket's produce section. They're a life-saver for the beet obsessed. As my husband and I sat together savoring nerdy culinary school memories (he's a grad, too) I was reminded of how many times he'd asked if I'd ever really use all of the books that stock the shelves of our office. A simple "how's your meal, dear?" was all the answer I needed.
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For the crispy goat cheese: Set up three shallow bowls on a work surface: one with the flour; one with the eggs, beaten lightly with 1 tablespoon of flour added; one with the bread crumbs. Dredge the chilled goat cheese rounds first in the flour, then in the egg paste, and finally in the bread crumbs. Set aside.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat with just enough oil to cover the bottom by about 1/8 inch. Once the oil is hot, fry off the goat cheese rounds until deep golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the crispy rounds to a paper-towel-lined plate, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and allow them to drain briefly.
Serve the beet salad topped with the warm crispy goat cheese rounds.