A certain pregnant someone may or may not have eaten an entire bag of doritos in two days. A week or so ago, Eric and I watched five episodes of Friday Night Lights in one night in order to finish the series (my dreams that night were punctuated by Crucifictoriuos and Buddy Garrity). And on Saturday: “we should go on a date before this baby comes” turned into an entire day of merriment, complete with a Twins’ game, a matinee (you know…just to kill time to get more hungry before eating out), and pizza at one of our favorite places. Doing things “one last time” before the baby comes has sort of become our justification for all sorts of sloth and revelry.
And around this time of year, we completely binge on this strawberry spinach salad. In August, it’s this bruschetta, and when bell peppers are sold by the bushel, it’s Smitten Kitchen’s Mediterranean pepper salad. But right now, we can’t get our fill of strawberries. And spinach. Combined in perfection in this salad.
The requirements: spinach, strawberries, nuts, cheese, dressing.
The variations: endless.
You can make this salad, put it on a plate with a piece of bread, and call it dinner in less than 10 minutes on those days when you get home from work, and your kitchen table looks like a toddler was given the responsibility of sorting your files for the last 5 years, and you’re starving and have to be at a class in an hour.
Or, you can put just a little more time into it, take this to a party, and impress your friends with a salad that is truly pretty, and not to mention, completely seasonally conscious.
Why do I love this salad? Let me list the ways. It’s completely flexible based on the kind of context you need it for or what you have on hand or just what you like to eat.
For the nuts, go nuts. Try almonds. Try pecans. Try toasting them.
For the cheese, I suggest feta. Don’t like feta? Try goat cheese. Dont’ like either? Seek counseling.
For the dressing, go with your favorite store-bought creamy poppy-seed dressing or raspberry vinaigrette for busy nights, or make the super-simple honey+oil+vinegar dressing listed below.
Feeling fancy? Add red onions. Or leftover grilled chicken (coming to a post near you very soon). Or make the third and more-involved dressing variety below, complete with balsamic vinegar, tarragon, and raisins.
Whatever your preference, I hope you try this salad. I almost hesitated to post it because it felt so simple, but then Eric reminded me that just a mere three years ago, I had never even thought the combination of fruit and greens could be eaten, much less delicious. So for your strawberry spinach salad veterans out there, try a variation, and for those of you who are contemplating never coming back to this blog again because the thought of strawberry and spinach together concerns you, please, for the love of May, give it a shot.
(recipe from me!)
(dressing variation #1 from my friend Rachel)
(dressing variation #2 from my somehow blogless friend Jen)
(yields 6 servings)
This seasonal strawberry spinach salad is the perfect way to use early spring produce. This recipe is completely flexible, as indicated by all the variations listed below) based on your preferences and how fancy you want to make it!
For the salad:
6 c. packed spinach (mixed spring greens are a great addition)
1 pint or 2 1/2 c. strawberries, de-greened and thinly sliced
3/4 c. nuts (pecans or almonds - toasted is even better)
1 1/4 c. cheese (feta, goat cheese, or parmesan - finely chopped or grated)
(Optional Ingredients: )
3/4 c. red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. grilled chicken, chopped into small pieces
For the dressing:
Store-bought: a creamy poppy-seed or raspberry vinaigrette
3 tbsp. olive oil,
1 1/2 tbsp. or more apple cider vinegar
honey to taste
1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
1/2 c. red onion, finely chopped (would not add any additional onion to salad if using this dressing)
2 tbsp. raisins
1 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp. chopped fresh or 1 tsp. dried tarragon
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. black pepper
**This salad will keep well for maybe an hour or two, but it's much better to combine all the ingredients, dressing included, at the last minute to keep the spinach from wilting. We do eat it the next day, but it's never quite as good as at first.
For the salad:
Put the spinach, strawberries, nuts, and cheese in a large bowl, tossing to combine.
For the dressing:
Variation #1: Whisk the oil, cider vinegar, and honey together until thoroughly mixed. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
Mix celery, onions, and raisins in with salad by tossing.
Whisk together the sesame seeds, tarragon, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and paprika until thoroughly mixed. Pour over salad, and toss to combine.