HOMEMADE HERBED CHEESE:
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped sage, or other soft winter herbs of choice
- Salt and white pepper
- 2 medium beets, scrubbed and trimmed
- 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups julienned Belgian endive
- 1 cup julienned fennel
- 1 pear, cored and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped, lightly toasted walnuts
For the cheese: In a medium pot, combine the milk, buttermilk and lemon juice in a medium pot and bring to 112 degrees F over low heat. Continue to cook at a low temperature until the liquid separates into solid curds and whey and reaches about 185 to 190 degrees F, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a fine-mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth. Bring up the 4 corners of the cheesecloth and tie them together. Gently twist to extract as much liquid as possible. Place over a bowl and let drain in the refrigerator until thick and the liquid has drained away, about 30 minutes. Twist again to extract as much water as possible. Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth, wrap, and place in a bowl. Add the sage and season with salt and white pepper, mixing to combine.
For the salad: Place the beets in a saucepan and cover with water by 1-inch. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and shock the beets in ice water. Remove the skins and stem ends. Julienne or thinly slice and reserve for the salad.
For the vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk together the mustard and lemon juice. Slowly add the oil, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in the shallots, rosemary, and sage, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
In a large bowl, toss the beets, endive, fennel, pear and walnuts with the vinaigrette to lightly coat. Adjust the seasoning, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Divide the salads among 4 plates and top each serving with 1/4 cup of the cheese, sprinkling it on and around the salad.