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Archive for the ‘Balsamic Vinaigrette’ Category

dayfourteensteak

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Mixed greens, tomatoes, avocado, green beans, mushrooms, and scallions. Balsamic vinaigrette.

dayeightquickdinner

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dayfivelunchsalad

Yummy. Arugula, tomato, mozzarella, basil, shallots, avocado, balsamic vinaigrette.

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Still using up the arugula, cherry tomatoes, shallots, and mushrooms. Today’s variation includes kidney beans, basil, dried cranberries and a pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette.
Kidneybeancranberrybalsamic

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Cheap strawberries. It must be spring.

What more can I say? I bought a lot, with this vague strawberry balsamic vinaigrette salad idea. The kids were devouring the strawberries, and fast, so I knew I needed to try my experiment or I’d miss my chance. Dinner was going to be corn chicken chowder with bacon and chives, and I thought the sweet strawberry salad would be refreshing with the thick, savory chowder.

I’d never made the chowder before — it was a dish one of the kids requested when we were sorting through cooking magazines and looking for ideas. Remember that. Never made the soup before. Inventing the salad on the fly. Improv dinner — my favorite way to cook. When it works, it’s a magical victory. When it works…

I grabbed the ingredients that appealed to me — lots of crunchy jicama and radish, fresh herbs — and started playing.

Ingredients for Recipe for Spring Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, Avocado, Jicama, and Radishes

Ingredients, ready to go!

Ingredients:
(Side salad, serves six.)
6 cups of mixed baby greens.
1 large avocado, quartered lengthwise and sliced.
6 radishes, sliced.
1 cup diced jicama.
1 fistful of fresh mint, chopped.
1 fistful of fresh basil, chopped.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
6 large strawberries, sliced.
1 T sugar.
1 T balsamic vinegar.
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

Recipe for Spring Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, Avocado, Jicama, and Radishes

Pretty colors.


I decided to macerate the strawberries in sugar and vinegar — my goal was a heavily infused salad dressing, so that the strawberry flavor would really permeate the salad. I started by slicing the strawberries and putting them in a large jar. I added the sugar, closed the lid and tossed the strawberries to really coat them with the sugar. I let that sit for a moment, then added the balsamic vinegar and tossed them again. While the strawberries released their juices, I began to work. I created a bed of baby greens, and chopped the jicama and the radishes. Then I added the herbs. I paused here to tend to the soup. You’ll want to let the strawberries macerate for at least twenty minutes, so plan your cooking accordingly. When the chowder was ready to dish up, I sliced open the avocado, added the oil and salt to the salad dressing, and combined it all.

Recipe for Spring Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, Avocado, Jicama, and Radishes

It looks so good...

The Verdict:
My core idea was solid. The macerated strawberries made a truly amazing salad dressing. Basil and mint were perfect herbs to pair with the vinaigrette, and the jicama and radish worked really well.

But… It was too mushy! The combination of the tender baby greens, macerated strawberries, and that enormous avocado was just not right. Even with the jicama and radish, it was too soft and squishy. I think I should have left the avocado out. Or started with a crunchier green — romaine, or endive — and used less of the avocado. I think really good endives and just a little avocado would make this a classy, well balanced salad.

But my real error was my meal planning, or lack thereof. Corn chowder. Remember that? I honed in on the salty bacon, and thought my sweet strawberry salad would be perfect with the savory soup. But the salty bacon? It was balancing all that sweet corn! This soup and salad combination was essentially dessert for dinner.

The strawberry salad really needs to be eaten alongside something strong and savory. Smoky dry rub barbecue, or a really good pork roast, or a hefty veggie burger. Not sweet corn soup.

So, play with the vinaigrette. It really is good. But keep your crunch ratio strong, and choose your main course wisely.

Make it a Meal:
Don’t bother — too much to fix. But if you’re doing the fixing (hearty romaine or endives, skip the avocado) I’d add some crispy crunchy protein — salty nuts, or sliced up fried chicken, or leftover pork chop.

Pack it to Go:
Again, don’t bother. Of course, if you’ve fixed the flaws, then pack your salad in a large glass or stainless steel container with a well fitting lid, and your dressing (including the strawberries, of course) in a large jar. If you dare to include avocado, put it in with the dressing to prevent browning. When you’re ready to eat, shake your dressing well, and drizzle it over the salad. Use a fork to fish out all of the strawberries. Use only as much dressing as you want. Fork toss, and enjoy.

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When I was little, and we had a big enough group of people gathered together, sometimes we went to a local ice cream parlor that had an enormous, crazy sundae called “The Kitchen Sink.” It had everything. It was the size of an actual kitchen sink, with an obscenely large number of different flavors of ice cream, covered in all the toppings they had. Every bite was different, and fun, and I ate it with a gaggle of happy friends at birthday parties, after soccer games, or after drama and dance performances.

This salad reminded me of that sundae.

I had plans for pork tonkatsu (or at least my made-up bastardized version of it) for dinner. I also had nice little brown and serve sourdough rolls from a local bakery. I wanted a big, crazy salad to complete the meal. I like sweet with pork, so I knew I’d be including some candied pecans. I was in the mood for blue cheese, so I added that to the mix. I had gorgeous baby greens, so the bed was determined. I needed some crunch, so I grabbed half a cucumber and what was left of a red bell pepper. A balsamic vinaigrette would tie it all together, and I tossed in some mushrooms to soak up the tasty salad dressing like little sponges. Mushrooms, as you know, are made to be coated in balsamic vinaigrette. It was a wild, vibrant combination. My own little kitchen sink of a salad.

Ingredients for Recipe for Salad with Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans, and the Kitchen Sink

Ingredients, ready for their transformation!

Ingredients:
(Side salad, serves 3-4.)
6 cups of mixed baby greens.
5 scallions, sliced.
1/2 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced.
1/2 english cucumber, quartered vertically and sliced.
5 medium mushrooms, sliced.
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese.
1/2 cup candied pecans.

Greens for Salad with Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans, and the Kitchen Sink

A colorful bed of baby greens, ready for the party.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

I created a lush bed of baby greens, and quickly mixed up my balsamic vinaigrette in a small jar. I quickly chopped my vegetables and gently laid them in the salad bowl. I added the nuts and cheese, and let it all sit for a moment while I dealt with the tonkatsu. Once the rolls were out of the oven and the pork was ready to eat, I drizzled my balsamic vinaigrette over the salad, tossed it, and served it up.

Salad with Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans, and the Kitchen Sink

Ready for that yummy balsamic vinaigrette!


The Verdict:
I got exactly what I wanted — crazy, strong, fun flavors. The sweet nuts worked well with the pork, the mushrooms were delicious, and the blue cheese gave it all an extra creamy flavor kick. I loved it. The kids were not impressed, but my husband gobbled it up right alongside me.
Plated Salad with Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans, and the Kitchen Sink

On the plate, ready to be devoured!


Make it a Meal:
With the nuts and the cheese, I think it would already work as an amazing meal.

Pack it to Go:
Easy. Put your salad in a glass or stainless steel container with a tight fitting lid, and your vinaigrette in a small jar, nestled in the greens. Drizzle the dressing (just as much as you want, to taste) over the salad, fork toss or put the lid back on and give it a few quick shakes to combine. Enjoy!

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Soup and salad. One of my favorite meals. I had the lentil soup bubbling on the stove, I just needed a salad to go along with it. I opted for a straightforward, assertive balsamic vinaigrette. I like extra crunchy salads to go with soup, so I grabbed the romaine lettuce and a really crisp bell pepper. I added lots of mushrooms to soak up the vinaigrette and help deepen the flavors of the salad. Parsley for fun, and I was ready to chop.

Ingredients for Recipe for Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Orange Bell Pepper, Mushrooms, and Parsley

Simple ingredients, ready to be transformed into a delicious salad.

Ingredients:
(Side salad, serves 4-6.)
2 heart of romaine.
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced.
5 medium mushrooms, sliced.
1 fistful of fresh parsley, chopped.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 T balsamic vinegar.
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1/4 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

As usual, I started with the balsamic vinaigrette. I like making that first so that the garlic has time to mellow and infuse the salad dressing with yumminess. Once my vinaigrette ingredients were in the small jar I had on hand, I built my bed of romaine lettuce. I sliced up my bell pepper and mushrooms, and tossed them over the greens, and then I chopped the parsley and sprinkled it on top.

Once the soup was dished up and ready to eat, I drizzled my vinaigrette over my salad, tossed it, and served it up.

Recipe for Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Orange Bell Pepper, Mushrooms, and Parsley

Dive in!

The Verdict:
Delicious, straightforward, hearty salad. It was perfect with the lentil soup. The flavors complemented each other, and we devoured it all. I really like parsley with a good balsamic vinaigrette — it’s a remarkably simple herb with a flavor that blends well.

Make it a Meal:
Kidney beans work particularly well with balsamic vinaigrette, bell pepper, and mushrooms, so that’s my first choice. Leftover dinner meat, like roast chicken or sliced steak, would also work well.

Pack it to Go:
This one is easy to pack — put all of the salad ingredients into a nice large glass or stainless steel container with a good sealing rubber lid. The Ssalad dressing remains in it’s jar until you’re ready to eat. If you have a small jar for the dressing, just nestle it in with the salad ingredients. When lunchtime hits, simply drizzle as much dressing as you want over your salad, fork toss, and enjoy.

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