Thursday, March 31, 2011

my go-to: strawberry salad

Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Almonds, Craisins, and Goat Cheese

Last night I had dinner at Hook, a seafood restaurant in Georgetown.  I was planning on taking pictures and writing a review for today's post, but I had a really long day yesterday and completely flaked as soon as my dinner was set before me.  Here's a back-up post instead.  Sorry to drop the ball...

Florida strawberry season is in full swing right now, which means that berries are inexpensive, flavorful, and plentiful.  A few weeks ago I bought a four pound box of delicious strawberries at Costco for $5.99 - which lasted six days in our fridge.  What I mean to say is not that they spoiled in that period of time, but rather, they were so good that two little girls  young women demolished them in less than a week. 

That very night, I sliced some up and topped them with a bit of whipped cream for a post-dinner sweet treat.  After I took the first bite, I almost fell out of my chair.  Y'all, as much as I dislike hyperbole, I do believe that they were the best strawberries I have ever bought from the grocery store, bar none.  They were huge, bright red strawberries bursting with sweet flavor.  The kind in which the juices dribble down your chin and you scramble to catch the runoff before it drips onto your white pants.  They tasted fresh-picked from the farm - just like the ones my mom picks in Pungo each summer.

The thing with these fresh strawberries, especially the first ones of the season, is that you want to showcase them.  It's sacreligious to mix them with sugar and bake them into some sort of pie, shortcake, pudding or compote.  That's a practice reserved for the dog days of August when you think you might turn into Violet Beauregarde if you eat another berry, but you need some sort of fruit in your rotation before good local apples are available again.  Heck, for the season's very first berries, it even seems backwards to mask the flavor in a bowl of oatmeal, yogurt, or a smoothie.  So, besides berries-n-cream dessert, how else does one go through four pounds of berries in a less than a week?

If you say chocolate-covered strawberries, you're wrong.  I'm not doing that sort of romancin' over here in Kitchen 203.

So you make a lot of salads.  

Strawberries in a salad may sound strange, but this is my favorite salad.  And by favorite, I mean, I’ve been known to eat it, or some variation of it, four times a week when it's berry season.  Some things just don’t get old to me.  It's perfect for when I am pressed for time, not too hungry, or craving something sweet (I've been told it's not okay to eat a box of caramels for dinner.)  This salad is light, crisp, refreshing, and incredibly easy, and can also be varied depending on what you have in your own kitchen.

How to build your own go-to strawberry salad:

Base:  Generally spinach, but sometimes mixed greens, if that's what I have
Main component:  Sliced strawberries (can also use raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, or some combination if you prefer)
Protein:  Almonds or walnuts, though I sometimes use chicken breast when I'm not a temporary veg, and scale back or eliminate the nuts
Creamy goodness:  Optional, but I like to use about 3/4 ounce - 1 ounce of crumbled goat cheese 
Extras:  dried cranberries
Crunch components:  diced celery, cucumber, or green onions (optional, and don't go overboard, just chop enough to get a nice texture)
Dressing:  Brianna's blushwine viniagrette, Annie's raspberry viniagrette, or just some balsamic vinegar and olive oil


Everyone have a great Thursday and look out for tomorrow's Friday Breakfast.  It's gonna be a good one!

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