Getting a golden tan and playing golf is many peoples goal for a vacation on the big island of Hawaii, but not for me. I wanted to go to a goat dairy. Yup. A goat dairy. Traveling with us is always about food.
Merriman’s Restaurant, The Big Island
One evening we had a great dinner at Merriman’s Restaurant in Waimea. Known for their regional Hawaiian cuisine, the restaurant showcases fresh, local ingredients from the island’s agricultural treasure trove. That’s where I experienced my goat cheese salad, Hawaiian style.
Rainbow of Colors
Crisp salad greens, sweet red tomatoes, deep purple roast beets, golden yellow pineapple, cool cucumber cubes and a creamy avocado dressing made for one fantastic salad. What really made me order it was the addition of fresh goat cheese. I love goat cheese and could not resist. One bite, and I knew I’d want to recreate this salad home.
Hawaii Island Goat Dairy
As often happens, I ended up back in the kitchen talking with the chef. He showed me twenty pounds of beautiful, fresh goat cheese from a local farmstead operation, Hawaii Island Goat Dairy. I wanted to go meet the goats and see where this marvelous cheese came from.
Baby Goats and Hobby Turned Business
The soft bleating of baby goats guided me into the barn. I was immediately handed a baby bottle and quickly found myself feeding a hungry one-week-old baby goat. I could have sat there and happily fed these sweet babies all day. Forever.
What started as a hobby turned into a passion, a business, and a labor of love for Dick and Heather Threlfall who own and operate Hawaii Island Goat Dairy.
As island restaurants consume all that’s produced, they unfortunately don’t export to the mainland. You can still create this colorful and healthy salad at home by seeking out good quality goat cheese at your favorite market or cheese store.
How to Make This Salad
Choose your favorite dark salad greens such as red lettuce or mixed baby greens. Roast baby beets (click link for how to) in the oven until tender, halve sweet grape tomatoes, dice fresh pineapple, and chop up some fresh, seedless cucumber. I like to use the tiny, crisp Persian cucumbers.
As a note, I grilled my pineapple before dicing it (as the restaurant did), but it’s optional. And instead of making a creamy avocado dressing, dice some avocado and add the avocado directly to the salad. Add goat cheese crumbles and toss with a light vinaigrette. You’ll have a beautiful, colorful and healthy salad inspired by our dinner at Merriman’s.
Thanks to Dick’s kindness, we left with generous samples. We had a picnic dinner that evening – baguette spread with fresh goat cheese, a bottle of wine, some fresh fruit and salad greens overlooking the beach, watching to the waves rolling ashore.
Hawaiian Goat Cheese and Vegetable Salad
- 4-6 baby purple beets
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 head crisp or about 5 ounces of ready to use salad mix, red lettuce
- 12-16 sweet grape tomatoes halved lengthwise
- 4 small spears fresh pineapple diced
- small 1-2 Persian cucumbers or other seedless cucumber, diced small
- 1 ripe avocado split, seeded, quartered then diced
- 4-8 ounces of good goat cheese crumbled
- 3-4 tablespoons light tasting vinaigrette dressing recipe below
- With a rack placed at the center level, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Trim the tops off the beets to about 1 inch. Wash and dry the beets and place on a double piece of heavy foil. Toss the beets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the beets up in the foil and place the packet on the center rack in the oven. Roast until beets are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 40 minutes depending on the size.
- Remove beet packet from the oven and cool until you can handle them. With paper towels, rub the skins off of the beets; quarter them and set aside. If you are concerned with your hands turning purple, wear disposable food handler gloves while working with the beets.
- To assemble your salad, divide the greens between plates, add your fruit and vegetable bits, and add the goat cheese. Drizzle sparingly with your vinaigrette dressing. Alternatively you can toss the salad greens with a little dressing, then add all of the goodies.
- Basic Vinaigrette
- This is a basic, light tasting vinaigrette recipe that you should memorize. If you’d like a creamy style, whisk in an egg yolk – a trick I learned from Ina Garten in her book Barefoot Contessa Family Style. If you make it with the egg yolk, chill dressing until serving. If not, the vinaigrette can be held at room temperature. Re-whisk before serving.
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Champagne or good quality white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon finely diced shallot (optional, but adds nice flavor)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic (optional, but adds nice flavor)
- 1 large egg yolk (optional, but adds creamy texture)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot and garlic together in a small bowl to being it together. Whisk in the yolk if using, then season.
- If using yolk, refrigerate until serving. If not, set aside at room temperature until ready to serve. You may need to re-whisk before serving.