Packed with flavor and crunch, and a vinaigrette dressing that whips up in one minute flat! It's quick and easy to toss up, and can be served with almost any dinner, or as a light flavor-packed lunch on it's own.
Why it works
- The dressing can be whisked up in a matter of seconds, and the four salad ingredients can be purchased already prepped, therefore literally just tossed together.
- It's a great accompaniment to holiday meals, as a side dish for virtually any family dinner night meal, and it makes a great mid day lunch or light dinner.
- The dressing can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.
Let's talk about the goat cheese. A more aged goat cheese, will be easier to crumble but has a much more pungent flavor. Chèvre, as pictured above is a young, fresh goat cheese that is creamy, but it can still be crumbled. Keep it refrigerated up until the very point that you're ready to crumble it.
Some are more creamy than others, so if you find it's too soft to crumble, let it firm up a bit more in the freezer for about 10 minutes and then crumble directly into the salad.
Choose a neutral flavored oil like vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, or canola oil. Less neutral oils like olive oil overpower the other flavors.
Choose raw walnuts that have not been roasted or salted; whole walnuts will need to be given a rough chop, unless you purchase them already chopped. Avoid tiny walnut pieces.
Use fresh, baby spinach leaves for this salad.
Dried sweetened cranberries are preferred over unsweetened, which may be too bitter.
Preparing the salad
Start by making the dressing. You can either do this a day in advance, or right before making the salad.
Mince the shallot finely. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, shallot, and a pinch of salt and pepper if desired (optional).
The vinaigrette ratio
The standard vinaigrette oil to vinegar ratio is about 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, for example 3 tablespoons of oil for every 1 tablespoon of vinegar. This is not a hard and fast rule, and most recipes deviate somewhat, as taste preferences also do. This recipe calls for a slightly more acidic vinaigrette, with 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. The addition of honey helps to balance out that extra acidity nicely, but you can always add more oil for a less acidic dressing if you like, and vice versa.
If you're making the dressing in advance, store it in the refrigerator in a closed container.
Tossing the greens
In a large salad bowl, add the spinach leaves (washed if not already), dried cranberries and roughly chopped walnuts. Hold off on the goat cheese for now, that will be added at the very end. Give the greens a nice gentle toss to distribute the cranberries and walnuts as shown below.
Dressing the greens
It's important to not just dump the salad dressing all over the salad greens. Also, be sure to shake the dressing right before pouring, because the oil and vinegar separate quickly.
Pour a portion of the dressing lightly around the inside of the bowl above where the top of the salad reaches, allowing it to run down and coat the inside of the bowl (photo . That way, when you toss it, you lightly and evenly coat the leaves with what is on the inside of the bowl and you don't drown the salad ingredients.
Repeat this process until the salad is sufficiently dressed to your liking. It's likely that you'll have dressing leftover, so go easy on how much you pour into the bowl. You can always add more-but you can't take it back out.
Crumbling the goat cheese
Young, fresh goat cheese, also known as chèvre is typically on the softer side. For this reason, keep it chilled right up to the point that you are going to crumble it so that it breaks apart.
If you still find that it's just to creamy (some are more than others) pop it in the freezer for up to 10 minutes to make it more firm, and use a fork to scrape crumbles directly over the salad.
Toss these crumbles with the salad, gently.
Save any unused vinaigrette dressing in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Tips and Tricks
- Keep the goat cheese chilled until right before ready to use; if too soft to crumble place in the freezer for 10 minutes and use a fork to crumble directly over salad greens.
- Pour dressing (shake/whisk first!) around the inside of the bowl and let it coat the bowl, tossing the greens to become coated; repeat with more dressing until fully dressed to your taste.
Other salads that might interest you:
Homemade Caesar Dressing (makes the best Caesar salads ever!)
Also, don't miss this post on How to Dry Cranberries, so that you can use up all those cranberries for salads, healthy snacking and baking!
Did you make this salad? Let me know what you think in the comments below, or leave a quick and easy 1-5 star rating for others to view!
Cranberry Goat Cheese Salad with Walnuts
- 6 cups baby spinach roughly an 8 ounce bag of store bought
- ¼ cup goat cheese crumbled (like chevre)
- ½ cup dried cranberries sweetened
- ½ cup walnuts raw, roughly chopped
- ½ shallot finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- ½ cup vegetable oil can use grapeseed or other neutral oil
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- pinch salt and pepper optional
- Whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, minced shallot, and salt and pepper (optional).
- Wash and dry or spin lettuces. Add to salad bowl.
- Toss gently with cranberries and walnuts.
- Pour enough dressing around the outside of the bowl (not on the salad) enough to coat the outside of the bowl. Toss salad and taste to see if you need to add more. Repeat until salad is dressed enough. Save excess salad dressing for up to two weeks.
- Crumble cheese over salad, toss gently to combine.
- Keep goat cheese chilled until just ready to use. If it's too soft, place in freezer to firm up a bit more, and use a fork to scrap crumbles directly over salad.
- Shake/whisk dressing before pouring as oil and vinegar separate-keep in mind you likely won't use it all, so don't pour it all.
- Store excess dressing in the fridge in a tightly closed container for up to one week.