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Posts Tagged ‘green’

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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Dinner needed to be quick and simple. I was roasting some baby potatoes in the oven with extra virgin olive oil and salt, and I had chicken tenderloins ready to saute. I wanted a straightforward, kid-friendly salad to complete the meal. You know me and my kids — if I combine a light salad dressing with lots of fruit and mild, crunchy romaine, I’m almost guaranteed success.

So I gathered a hefty pile of citrus, including the last of the mandarins from my mother-in-law’s tree, and I kept the salad fresh and fruity.

Ingredients for Recipe for Lemon Citronette with Mandarin, Mint, and Avocado

Delicious raw materials for a tasty salad.

Ingredients:
(Side or lunch salad, serves however many.)
1 heart of romaine, chopped.
4 mandarins, peeled, halved, and then quartered.
2 scallions, sliced.
1 avocado, quartered and sliced.
1 fistful of mint.
Zest of one lemon

Lemon Citronette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 T fresh lemon juice.
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1/4 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

Recipe for Lemon Citronette with Mandarin, Mint, and Avocado

Ready to serve!


I created a nice bed of chopped romaine, and zested the lemon over the greens. I juiced the lemon, and made my citronette in a small jar. I chopped the mint and sprinkled it liberally over the greens. I peeled the mandarins, sliced them in half, then quartered them to expose the jeweled fruit, and I tossed them into the salad. I added the avocado, and when the rest of the dinner was ready, I drizzled my citronette over the salad, tossed, and served.

Plated Recipe for Lemon Citronette with Mandarin, Mint, and Avocado:

On the plate, and ready to be devoured.

The Verdict:
What could go wrong? Fresh, tree ripened, perfect mandarins. Creamy avocado. A bed of lush, crisp romaine. Zesty lemon and mint. It was just as perfect as it sounds. We ate it all.

Make it a Meal:
Pick your protein! Leftover chicken and steak both work well with this flavor palette, as do garbanzo beans.

Pack it to Go:
Pack the greens, mint, and lemon zest in a large glass or stainless steel. Make your dressing in a jar. Remember to put your avocado in your dressing jar so it doesn’t brown, or to leave it whole and slice it into your salad when you’re ready to eat. The mandarins can be peeled and sectioned by hand, so that the membranes keep the juices in the fruit segments instead of leaking onto the lettuce and wilting it. Alternatively, you can slice the mandarins as I did, and put them with the avocado in the jar of citronette, to prevent wilted lettuce. If the jar of dressing is small enough, simply tuck it into the larger salad container. Combine your dressing with your salad when you’re ready to eat it, fork toss (or pop the lid back on and give the large container a few quick shakes to combine), and enjoy.

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I was making lunches early in the morning, and I knew I wanted a straightforward, no frills, very basic blue cheese dressing over a super crunchy salad. Something my grandmother would have enjoyed — familiar, simple, and tasty.

I grabbed romaine lettuce, carrots, celery for crunch, as well as italian flat leaf parsley and red onion for flavor, and I got to work.

Ingredients for Recipe for Creamy Blue Cheese Salad with Crunchy Vegetables

Ingredients, ready for action.

Ingredients:
(Serves one as a meal.)
1 heart of romaine, chopped.
4 baby carrots, cut into wheels.
1 rib of celery, coarsely chopped.
2 slices of red onion, quartered.
1/2 english cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced.
1 fistful of fresh italian parsley.
2 T blue cheese, crumbled.
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste.

Blue Cheese Red Wine Vinaigrette:
(Use only what you need. Refrigerate extra for a couple of days.)
3 T extra virgin olive oil.
1 T red wine vinegar.
1 T sour cream.
1 T blue cheese.
1/2 clove garlic, smashed and minced.
1/2 tsp maple syrup.
Pinch of salt, to taste.

Since I was making two salads, I doubled all of the ingredients listed above. I mixed up two jars of blue cheese red wine vinaigrette, and then I started chopping. I began by creating my beds of chopped romaine hearts, and then I added the carrots, celery, onion, and parsley. I crumbled the blue cheese and sprinkled it on top of the salad, before cracking black pepper over it all.

I nestled my husband’s salad dressing jar in the larger glass container with the salad and popped the lid on top to keep everything fresh for lunchtime. I tucked mine in the fridge for later.

Recipe for Creamy Blue Cheese Salad with Crunchy Vegetables

Packed to go!


The Verdict:
This turned out exactly as I intended. Very creamy, savory salad dressing and powerfully crunchy veggies. Celery is highly underrated — I really appreciated it’s crisp flavor with the blue cheese. I think this salad was a bit boring for my husband, but as he always says, my worst homemade salad is always far tastier than anything he can get from a quick lunch restaurant near his work.

Make it a Meal:
Done. If you want to amp up the protein, add some chicken breast, or deli meat, or kidney beans.

Pack it to Go:
Done.

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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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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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