#SaladMonth continues with a delicious spring-time salad made with ribbons of shaved asparagus and romaine lettuce tossed with dill shallot vinaigrette. It is topped with hazelnuts and fresh goat cheese
Last week while I was at Camp Gathering VT we got to visit the Ayer’s Brook Goat Dairy in the rolling countryside in idyllic Randolph VT. This has been on my list of places to visit since I first came to know of its existence, so I was really thrilled to get a tour of the farm.
Ayer’s Brook Goat Dairy was established by Vermont Creamery. It is one of the 12 farms that ship goats milk to Vermont Dairy, but this one is different in that it was started by and is run by Vermont Creamery itself.
We were greeted by Miles outside one of the barns, and he immediately started explaining the big picture, how the farm was started and what their business was all about. There are 300 goats currently being milked on the farm and 700 in the total herd. I loved hearing him. He was an explosion of information! He knew so much about all the workings of the farm and was really patient with our basic questions.
And I have to say this, I know I have been in Vermont a while, and I am relatively hardened off to mud and yucky stuff but I don’t think anyone would be able to deny that this farm is really immaculate. Nor would anybody be able to deny the goats were ridiculously cute.
We learned the different breeds, there’s Nubian, Alpine and LaMancha. And I think there was one more that they breed. [Full disclosure, I probably would be able to have remembered the name of it if the fire side gathering at Trapps the night before hadn’t rocked my brain cells a bit.] They all have their various positive attirbutes, and there is someone on the team who is constantly working on managing the genetics of the herd. The goats have their own area of the barn depending on what part of the milking/breeding cycle they were in. We learned about their feed (which they are working toward growing all on the farm.) They are also in the process of making the creamery completely GMO free.
We had a great time visiting! It was pretty cool seeing where all of that lovely goat cheese comes from. Next time I will have to visit the cheese making facilities!
When I got home, I showed the photos of the goats to my girls and they were ohhing and ahhing about the baby goats. I didn’t tell them that two new boy goats had been born that morning, and Miles had joked that we could have one if we wanted it.
I looked at my plans for the month of May, also known around here as Salad Month, and I saw on my list of recipe ideas that I wanted to work on a shaved asparagus salad. And it immediately hit me that this would be a much more delicious recipe if it had goat cheese on it. I mean duh!
I had been wanting to try shaving raw asparagus for some time, but had never done it. It takes a little practice and I found that it was much easier with fatter asparagus. So if you have your choice at the market (or in the garden) choose the fatties. (By the way, asparagus aficionados will tell you the fatter stalks are the best ones anyway.) You just hold the stalks on the cutting board and run a regular old vegetable peeler down the stalk. When I got to the center of the stalk and I could shave it down no further, I set that core aside and continued along with the remaining stalks. Then at the end I took all the cores and finely chopped them on the bias with my chef’s knife.
I also added shredded romaine hearts into the salad for more volume. I cut it up into the finest ribbons I could handle. The idea being the strips would match the strips of the shaved asparagus. Then I made a mustard dill and shallot dressing to go with it. It actually took me a few tries to get the right level of acidity. You all know by know that I have a thing about acidity in recipes right? Well this is a pretty tart salad, I’m not going to lie, but it is important to have a bit of tart to balance the bitter of the asparagus. Then I added in toasted hazelnuts because I wanted toasty flavor and a bit of crunch. And then, (and then!!!!- can you hear me raising my eyebrows and just see me leaning forward as I say this??) the fresh goat cheese on top. Ahhh, it is so perfect. The creamy tart cheese with the asparagus oh and the dill and mustard and shallot. You! Guys! It is magic.
We had these honey mustard chicken thighs with it. And I also just had it for lunch too. My 6 year old ate her entire serving and said she loved it. She also told me that she wants a baby goat. Don’t breathe a word of that to Miles!
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- ½ small shallot, minced (or 3 T chopped chives)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 hearts of romaine, very thinly sliced
- 1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed and spears shaved with vegetable peeler
- 3 ounces fresh chevre
- ¼ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
- Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot or chives, dill, mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add romaine and shaved asparagus to the bowl and toss to combine. Divide among four plates. Crumble goat cheese over the salads. Divide hazelnuts over the salads.