By tinkering with different taste sensations, Blake Shepler of Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., came up with this spring salad. “The idea of mixing goat cheese, strawberries, and balsamic vinegar—I absolutely love balsamic vinegar—came to mind and I threw in the crostini to add some texture,” he explains. “The basil goes especially well with the strawberries.”
Preheat oven to 350°F. To make Strawberry Dressing: Place strawberries, vinegar, sugar, shallot, and garlic in blender, and purée until smooth. Slowly pour in oil, and blend until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
To make Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini: Rub baguette slices with oil, and place on baking sheet. Toast in oven 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden. Cool.
Mash goat cheese, parsley, thyme, and basil in bowl with fork. Season with salt and pepper, then spread on toasted baguette slices.
To assemble Salad: Toss mixed greens with 3 Tbs. Strawberry Dressing, and divide among 6 plates. Add Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini and 4 strawberry halves to each plate. Drizzle crostini with 1 Tbs. dressing.