Watercress with Smoked Almond Goat Cheese Scoops and Grapes in Red Wine Syrup

December 4, 2012

Have you ever found a recipe that makes you want to have a party? You know, just so you can show it off to your guests? Not because it was a brilliant feat on your part, but because it was just that good.

I hadn’t. Until I found this.

This is Watercress with Smoked Almond Goat Cheese Scoops and Grapes in Red Wine Syrup.

This little salad-slash-starter is party worthy. It even felt like a party when I ate it alone for lunch yesterday. As mentioned above, it is just that good.

It came from what I now consider my absolute favorite cookbook of 2012 – Home Made Winter by Yvette van Boven. You might remember my review of Home Made last year. I assure you, things only got better.

And by things I mean recipes I want to make, pictures I want to look at and tips I want to incorporate. Home Made Winter is all the warm, fuzzy, comforting feelings you look for in winter and the holiday season in cookbook form.

I am so inspired by Yvette’s style. It makes me want to take myself to the kitchen on a cold night and cook, bake and create for hours. There are wonderful do-it-yourself standards such as homemade cured beef sausage, butter, yogurt, apple cider and Irish cream liqueur. (What? Irish cream isn’t a standard necessity? I’m ready to make it one.)

Then things get fancy – fancy and completely do-able and tasty. Butternut Crème with Goat Cheese Cream and Sage, Whole Organic Chicken Stuffed with Pork, Veal and Sage Sausage and Guinness Fruitcake only scratch the surface.

The best part of the book is the introduction where Yvette announces that she’s already started working on a second volume – Home Made Summer! This winter edition proudly displays Irish influence, while Home Made Summer will show its French roots.  I can’t wait!

This book is full of holiday-inspired baked goods, and hearty meat and vegetable dishes, but I decided to pick something on the lighter side – a nice salad full of seasonal flavors.

The intro to the recipe suggests using fresh cranberries instead of grapes, and that is what I did, with amazing results! After stopping at two stores to find watercress, I finally settled on arugula. It tastes wonderful with the other flavors of the salad, but I’ll be trying it again with watercress as soon as I can get my hands on some.

I encourage you to give the recipe a try, but I offer fair warning.

You are going to want to have a party!

Watercress with Smoked Almond Goat Cheese Scoops and Grapes in Red Wine Syrup Recipe

Reprinted with permission from Abrams Books

An awfully simple recipe that looks very flashy. Instead of the grapes you could use fresh cranberries or quartered fresh figs. If you can’t find smoked almonds, you can use regular almonds.

½ of a 750-ml bottle red wine
½ cup plus 2 tbsp (125 g) turbinado or Demerara sugar
3 star anise
8 cardamom pods
5 oz (150 g) seedless red grapes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 oz (200 g) soft goat cheese
⅓ cup (50 g) smoked almonds
1 bunch fresh watercress, stems removed
Heat the wine in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve, then add the anise and cardamom and bring to a boil. Boil the syrup for about 25 minutes, until it’s slightly thicker. Reduce the heat to low and add the grapes. Warm the grapes in the syrup for about 7 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Divide the goat cheese into 12 equal portions. With clean hands, roll the portions into small balls.

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until coarsely ground. Roll the goat cheese balls in the almonds to coat them. Place the cheese balls on a tray or baking sheet, cover them, and place them in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.

To serve, wash and dry the watercress. Arrange some nice leaves over 4 plates. Arrange the goat cheese balls on top and spoon grapes in syrup around the cheese.

Disclosure: This book was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to write about it and received no compensation for doing so. It goes without saying, thoughts and opinions here are my own.

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  • Katie (The Muffin Myth) December 5, 2012 at 5:50 am

    Wow, that salad looks amazing! Smoked almonds are one of my favourite things (my travel bag always has smoked almonds, prunes, and dark chocolate in it), and paired with goats cheese? I can’t wait to try this! I love arugula so would probably just go for that rather than seeking out watercress (also, I know the Swedish word for arugula but not watercress) and may go the cranberry route as you suggested. Thanks for sharing this gorgeous recipe!

  • Michelle @ Find Your Balance December 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Whoa. Love the photo on that book cover! Also I have no idea why I”m looking at food blogs right now when I haven’t eaten lunch yet…