i have a thing for chevre. a love. a passion. a zest. i remember when my mom came back from a trip to san francisco– a mom and dad and no kids trip– enlightened with the discovery of this soft, creamy cheese.  she would make us omelets and the eggs would wrap their arms warmly around that cheese, squeezing it ever so slightly, creating a lovely goopy mess. it did not take long for chevre to win my undying devotion.

well i also have a thing for french salads with that tangy red-wine vinegar dressing and crusty bread smeared with the goat cheese. HEAVEN, i tell you. the smooth, low flavor of that cheese cuts the tang of the vinegar while the crusty bread crunches and crisps crumbs all over the plate (the table, my shirt, but it doesn’t even matter). 

i don’t even know definitively if my romantic vision of a french lunch salad is accurate at all. it stems from a restaurant in des moines called la mie. in the roosevelt district, i remember exploring this place with my mom, too. i remember tasting my first pureed carrot soup and being floored that carrot soup could be so orange, so sweet, so independent. it was life changing. here is where i remember so fondly my little french salad with the crusty bread and massive smear of goat cheese. i haven’t been there in a long time, and it looks like it’s changed since i’ve last ate here, so it’s hard to say if they are still doing this (and i do hope they are!).

i had it again, where my mouth excitedly savored each bite, at a french cafe in chicago, near the university of chicago. i have no idea what it was called. the rest of the food we ate was mediocre (the soup was super salty) but that salad stirred within me joyous recollections of la mie. my mouth, so very happy.

well, this past weekend i attempted my own. and, just as i am not fully sure it’s french, i have to admit i had to look up how to say “in the cafe of la grande” on freetranslation.com. i mean, i did create this meal in my house kitchen, the house my roommates and i donned la grande. and how could i give my beloved perception of french salad more validity than naming the post in french? ha! so, i am exposed: my knowledge of all things french is below par to be sure. 

but oh, oh how i love this salad. i made it with fresh spinach and chunks of the fresh goat cheese and cow’s cheese from zingerman’s creamery. (i’ve mentioned them before.) and, because of financial limits, i cannot smear my bread as full or lovely as la mie once did. but my mouth smiles and my stomach softly rumbles as i imagine my saturday lunch dans le cafe de la grande. served with a grinning side of leftover tomato soup.

i didn’t write down how i made it, but i’ll explain it like this:

red wine vinaigrette for a french salad 
(serve with crispy bread smeared with soft, fresh cheese, goat or cow)

red wine vinegar
a wedge of lemon
a squirt of dijon mustard
olive oil

put all of these ingredients in a bowl and whisk together with a fork. i use a ratio of probably 2:1 vinegar to oil (i really like the tang, it needs the tang for the cheese to cut). 

serve on fresh greens.