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Homemade tzatziki, a hefty bed of arugula, a quartered tomato, garbanzo beans, sliced mushrooms, a splash of rice wine vinegar, a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and more of those toasted pine nuts. Not bad!

tzatzikiarugula

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Yummy…I started with a bed of arugula, piled it high with cucumber, garbanzo beans, mushrooms, avocado, and grapefruit, then zested a lemon over it all, tossed it with a lemon citronette, and finished it off with a handful of toasted pine nuts leftover from last night’s pasta dinner. Delicious.

grapefruitarugula

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Ah, this was good. My first citronette since starting this challenge. This salad is much lighter than some of my meals–perfect dinner since I had a burger with the kids for lunch…I love mint and lemon. I love grapes and walnuts. Toss some mushrooms in as delightful flavor sponges, and pile the bowl high with mixed baby greens–really perfect.

daytendinner

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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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I perfected this salad over the holidays — the lovely red and green worked well for our family feasts. Since then, I’ve been tinkering with the recipe and enjoying it just because it is so quick and easy, and it tastes so beguilingly delicious. This salad works particularly well with pork roasts and turkey. The last time I made it was to share with fellow unschoolers at a potluck lunch, and it held it’s own alongside tortilla soup, a gorgeous spread of bread and cheese, and piles of fruit.

Ingredients for Recipe for Salad with Romaine, Mint, Dried Cranberries, Candied Walnuts, and Gorgonzola

All the ingredients, ready to assemble.

Ingredients:
(Side salad, serves 4-6.)
2 hearts of romaine, chopped.
1/2 cup candied walnuts.
1/2 cup dried cranberries.
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola.
1 large fistful of fresh mint, chopped.

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

I started by mixing up my vinaigrette in a small jar. Then I built my bed of romaine and chopped my mint. I sprinkled the nuts, cranberries, and gorgonzola over the crispy greens. Finally, I drizzled the light vinaigrette over it all, tossed, and served.

Recipe for Salad with Romaine, Mint, Dried Cranberries, Candied Walnuts, and Gorgonzola

Doesn't that look tasty?


The Verdict:
The rice wine vinaigrette is subtle, and it blends perfectly with the tangy cheese. The cranberries add tart sweetness, and candied walnuts provide a lovely crunch. Mint livens the salad up, and gives it a unique twist. This is a straightforward, easy to make, and very impressive salad. It’s just that good..

Make it a Meal:
I’ve eaten it as a meal, though it’s a tad sweet for me without something more savory beside it.

Pack it to Go:
It packs to go very easily — a great potluck salad. Just keep the vinaigrette separate, in a small jar, and drizzle it over the top when you’re ready to serve..

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My husband loves spicy food. I can handle it, in small doses. He also recently requested “crazier” salads. I aim to please.

I bought opal basil and young ginger at the Berkeley Bowl recently, as well as daikon and mixed asian greens. I wasn’t sure exactly how the salad would come together, but I knew I wanted to play with some slightly more unusual ingredients. We both had busy days planned, so I made two matching lunch salads, packed to go. This was a perfect opportunity to really spice up his salad, and I did. Mine stayed mild enough for me to enjoy, and I made his salad hot hot HOT.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil

Here are the ingredients, ready to face the blade.

Ingredients:
(Lunch salad, serves one.)
4 cups of mixed asian greens, including mizuna, tatsoi, baby mustard greens, and baby romaine.
1 fistful of opal basil, chopped.
4-5 cherry tomatoes, whole.
2 large mushrooms, sliced.
2 scallions, sliced.
1/2 cup candied walnuts.
1 knob of young ginger, peeled, sliced, and cut into small matchsticks.
9 slices of peeled daikon, halved. (Use a mandoline or a good cheese slicer to get thin slices.)
1/4 leftover roast chicken breast, cubed.
1/2 leftover roast chicken drumstick, shredded.

Spicy Sesame Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
2 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 T dark sesame oil.
1 T balsamic vinegar.
1 small shallot, diced.
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1-3 hefty pinches of red chili flakes, to taste.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

Twin Salads with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil

Twin salads ready to go!


I doubled all of the ingredients above and made two matching salads, complete with vinaigrette. I began by mixing up the vinaigrettes in little jars, giving him three big pinches of red chili flakes to my one very small pinch. I tasted my dressing, and just hoped for the best for him. Then I created a lush bed of greens for each of us, and layered all of my other ingredients in two glass bowls. I chopped and sliced and sliced and chopped, putting my knife down only to use a spoon to peel the ginger and to use a fine Norwegian cheese slicer to quickly slice the daikon into perfect, thin circles. Finally, both glass bowls were full of a colorful, hearty salad. I nestled the salad dressing jars in the larger containers, popped the lids on, and we each went off for the day.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil Ready to Eat

Quick snapshot taken with my phone of the glossy beauty before I devoured it.


The Verdict:
This was really amazing. Like nothing I’ve tried before, at home or in a restaurant. Full of strong, punchy flavors that worked very well together. I liked the balsamic vinegar with the sesame oil, and the bits of ginger really sparkled. The walnuts and the daikon added crunchy joy, and the sweetness of the nuts and the tomatoes worked well with the spicy dressing and the peppery greens. It was crazy, in a good way. My husband loved the chili heat, and the explosive flavor. This is one that I’m sure I’ll revisit.

Recipe for Salad with Spicy Sesame Balsamic Vinaigrette, Candied Walnuts, Daikon, Young Ginger, and Opal Basil, To Go!

Notice the dressing jar nestled cozily in with the salad.


Make it a Meal:
Done.

Pack it to Go:
Done.

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