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Cheese-pocalypse Now

"A highway tunnel in Norway will be shut down for several weeks after being damaged by blank."

The only fill-in I could think of was impossible. Whenever I think of Norwegian transport being clogged, I recall an image I saw of an orca squeezing through a municipal fjord (Google can't find the picture in my mind). The answer was flaming goat cheese. Twenty-seven tons of Brunost to be exact. Those poor Norwegians, I thought as I made my way to Sacramento.

It's been awhile since I've had an aboveground commute. But now that I'm back in the Golden State and liberated of maddening MTA service changes, I tuned in to NPR's Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! on the way to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. My head spun at the thought of the cheese-pocalyptic image of flames feeding for five days on fat and sugar. This feeling of doom was heightened when Carl Kassell joked, "Norwegians are making the best of the situation. They're airlifting in emergency supplies of beet salad and walnuts."

Sure, it was funny. But it reminded me of the pervasiveness of said salad, and made me feel sad for the fact that it hasn't released its two-decade-long placement on appetizer menus across America. It's 2013. It's time for a new goat cheese salad!

With that mission in mind, my fiancé and I hopped to Rainbow Grocery in the Mission where we loaded up on goodies for our salad, plus other sundries should a cheese-pocalypse befall our shores. Époisses, Hoch Ybrig and Pleasant Ridge all went into our basket, along with an assortment of goat cheeses: Bocconcino di Langa, Clisson and Naked Goat, a hard cheese from Spain. The recipe we came up with takes a bit of time, but I found that an hour of iPad-app-led yoga is the perfect thing to do as the kabocha squash roasts, and the salad comes together in 10 to 15 minutes.

Goat Cheese Salad with Avocado, Roasted Kabocha Squash and Pepitas

Serves two as a main course

Ingredients:

One 4 oz. wheel of Bocconcino di Langa

Half an avocado, cut into square chunks

8 oz. mixed salad greens

One 1.5 lb. kabocha squash

A handful of roasted, salted pepitas

Salt and pepper to taste

Extra-virgin olive oil

White-wine vinegar

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put your squash in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to one hour.

2) When it's cool enough to handle, peel the squash with a paring knife. Scoop out the seeds and cut the flesh into bite-size chunks. For two people, you'll use maybe one third of a 1.5-lb squash.

3) Toss the salad greens, squash chunks, avocado and pepitas in a bowl, and dress with a generous glug of olive oil and two tablespoons of vinegar. We didn't have wine with dinner, but if you do, feel free to increase or decrease the amount of vinegar to your taste depending on your wine's acidity. While tossing the salad, sprinkle in a teaspoon of sea salt and a few cranks of fresh black pepper.

4) Cut the cheese into eight wedges.

5) Serve your salad by dividing the tossed greens, avocado, pepitas and squash onto two plates, and then putting a wedge of cheese at the plate's cardinal points.

Suggested wine pairing:

Goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc is a natural match, but in this instance, I would have loved to have this dish with a scantly oaked Chardonnay with the barest hints of cream and butterscotch. Try it with the 2009 Monnot Grandes Coutures Burgundy Chardonnay.