Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Leafy Balsamic Salad

I enjoyed eating my Tours Salad through the cold months, but now that it's summer, I've switched to a new one that I will call Leafy Balsamic Salad.  I was inspired to make this salad by a recipe in Prevention magazine for marinated chicken and salad.  I didn't care for the marinated chicken at all, but I liked the basic concept of the salad.  Here are the components.

Leafy Balsamic Salad

Spinach, mixed greens, and/or lettuce
Diced red onion
Grape tomatoes, halved OR a bell pepper, cut into 1" square pieces and roasted
1 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar (or less -- I like a lot of bite)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 t. (or so) Dijon mustard mixed with the oil & vinegar (optional)
Crushed garlic and/or garlic juice mixed with the oil & vinegar (optional)

Here is a very simple version I made from ingredients Robert picked up at the farmer's market this weekend.  The onions were like "green onions" only red and bigger.  The grape tomatoes are gorgeous (and yes, the different colors do taste slightly different).  I went super simple -- only using the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper on it.  It felt extravagant and tasted delicious.

Notice that I tend to make rather big salads -- go big or go home, I say.  If you are not eating a starch (and I never do), it makes sense to have a nice big-ass salad with your meat.  (Or in my case, usually following my meat.  I tend to eat in courses, even if there are only two of them.)  A salad is my favorite veg to eat with/after Wolf Salmon, but I've found this salad also goes nicely with pork chops and chicken, too.  (For some reason, I tend to eat different veg with red meat, though there is no reason the salad wouldn't be scrumptious.)

I make the salad with grape tomatoes by preference -- because the window of opportunity for nice fresh tomatoes is so short -- but I often run out of them before it's grocery shopping time again, and I was really pleased by how well a roasted (yellow) bell pepper worked in a pinch.  I would not hesitate to try other veg in place of or in addition to the tomatoes/bell peppers.  Anything that seems like it would be good with vinegar on it would probably be just great.

I've always been a bit hesitant about homemade salad dressings because they seem so complicated -- the recipes online seem to have a lot of ingredients.  But I've been astonished by how delicious this simple balsamic vinegar & olive oil is when I sprinkle a bit of sea salt and a good dose of pepper on it.  And it's not just good when using homegrown veg from the farmer's market; it tastes great made from bagged mixed greens and industrial grape tomatoes from Wal-Mart, too.

Right now I have only some very ordinary balsamic vinegar (what any foodie would mock as, well, mock balsamic vinegar), but this is a great time to pull out any nice vinegar you have.  (Though I think with other vinegars, you may want to stick more to the traditional 1:3 vinegar to oil ratio.)

Some recommendations I've seen for delicious salad vinegars:
La Cosecha Sherry Vinegar ($15/750 ml.)
Banyuls Wine Vinegar ($22/750 ml.)
Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar ($31/750 ml.)

One of the nice side effects of stopping eating seed oils is that I have stopped eating my standard ranch dressing on salads.  I prefer some variant of oil & vinegar so much more, and it's astonishing how much difference it makes to the finished product -- like, you can actually taste the greens when it's not soggy with that stuff.  I just never liked the bottled vinaigrettes I tried much, which makes sense given that most of them use inferior oils (boo! soybean, boo! canola) and are way, way too sweet.  (As you can see, I prefer not to use any kind of sweetener in my salad dressing at all, but even a pinch of sugar for those who like a bit of sweet is probably plenty.  And don't get me started on the horrid "lite" dressings that substitute even more high fructose corn syrup for the fat.)  Fortunately, I am easy to please with straight up and oil & vinegar with salt & pepper, which takes almost no time to put on the salad and doesn't make me feel like, Great, now I have to put these 16 ingredients together to make the dressing for my salad, fuck that, I'll just eat some chocolate instead.

I'm looking forward to enjoying the (short!) salad season here in the not-quite-so-frozen-right-now north.

How do you like your green salad?

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