elevating the status of the salad

Tag Archives: balsamic

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My challenge this morning was to create “salads” that could be eaten on a boat, picnic style. Whether you’re heading to a barbeque, movie night in the park, or any other occasion where utensils are a hassle, here are a few easy ideas:

The first is  caprese salad…on a stick. You need:

  • small mozzarella balls, cut in half
  • a bunch of grape tomatoes
  • basil leaves
  • salt
  • your favorite balsamic vinegar dressing (you can make your own by whisking/shaking equal parts vinegar and olive oil)
  • toothpicks

Assemble toothpicks with the mozzarella on the bottom, flat side down so it can stand. Then, fold one basil leaf in half and put it on the toothpick. The grape tomato tops it off. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Just before serving, drizzle with balsamic dressing.

The other option is chopped up vegetables and some great dressing as dip. I went with Sang Lee’s sweet ginger dressing. The farmer’s market had quite a selection for dippable vegetables today. I went with: wax beans, red and green bell peppers, burpless cucumbers and carrots. I also used some home-grown roma beans.

OK, it may not be rocket science… but it’s August and sometimes we just want to cut vegetables and use them as a vehicle for good dip.

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Here’s another version of the classic Caprese salad. This one takes a little bit more prep work than the original post, and it’s a welcome variation because you can eat this one without a knife. Sometimes, the fewer utensils the better, especially when having to carry everything up and down a spiral staircase. This is a delicious side dish for a summer BBQ. To make it a hearty main dish, you can add couscous or quinoa and some toasted pine nuts.

The cherry tomatoes and basil came from my garden in the sky. I was pretty excited that I grew enough tomatoes to make a salad that fed 5 people!  

Thanks to The Curvy Carrot for this fantastic recipe.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about three tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Toss the tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the sugar in a medium bowl.  Set it aside and let stand on its own for 30 minutes.

2. Transfer the tomatoes to a salad spinner and spin them for a few seconds to remove the seeds and extra juice.  Make sure you conserve the juice.

3. Put the spun tomato juice/seeds through a fine strainer to reserve the juice and discard the seeds.

4.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat on the stove.

5.  Add 1/2 cup of the tomato liquid, the shallot, and vinegar to a simmer.  Let simmer until the mixture is reduced to about 3 tablespoons. (I didn;t have that much tomato liquid so I just let it simmer for a while and then decided it was done when I felt like it)

6. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and cool to room temperature.

7. Whisk in the oil and salt and pepper to taste.

8.  Add the basil and the mozzarella to the tomatoes. Toss gently to combine.


You can lighten this salad by omitting the goat cheese. However, this particular version was made with Bucherondin, a goat cheese log from Stinky Brooklyn. It is also tasty if you substitute sunflower seeds for the almonds. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 6-8 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 4 basil leaves, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. To reduce the vinegar, pour it into a small saucepan along with the brown sugar. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Stir frequently, and be careful not to burn the vinegar. When it reduces by about half, remove from heat. When cooled to room temperature, whisk in olive oil. I added a little bit of salt and pepper, put it in a sealed container and gave it a few shakes.
  2. To assemble the salad, layer spinach, strawberries, goat cheese, almonds, and basil.
  3. Drizzle the salad with dressing just before serving. You will have extra dressing, which you can refrigerate and use at another time.

This recipe separates the dark leaves from the lighter heads of the bok choy. The heads are grilled, but the leaves are sautéed. The result is a great combination of textures and flavors. 

For an Asian-flavored variation, use soy sauce instead of balsamic vinegar, orange juice instead of lemon juice, and sesame seeds instead of pine nuts. 

Thanks to Eat Drink Better for this recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 3 heads of baby bok choy
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (not minced)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • Handful of pine nuts or chopped walnuts
  • Romano cheese, grated

 Directions:

  1. Slice heads of baby bok choy in half length-wise (leaves to stem). Soak in cool water for 10 minutes to perk them up and remove any grit hidden inside. While heads soak, heat olive oil in small frying pan. Add thinly sliced garlic and stir until just golden brown (about 1 minute). With a slotted spoon, remove garlic to a paper towel and take pan off heat.
  2. Take baby bok choy out of water and gently shake/pat dry. Slice off upper dark green parts of the leaves from the lighter heads. Coarsely chop leaves and set to the side. Brush both sides of heads with garlic-infused oil. Place with cut side up and sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Place seasoned heads on grill heated to medium with cut side down. Cover grill for 5 to 8 minutes. Remove cover and turn heads over. There should be a nice golden color starting to appear. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over cut sides of heads. Cover again for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove cover and turn heads one last time back to the cut side. Remove from grill when fork-tender.
  5. After flipping the heads the first time, heat up the remaining oil in the small fry pan. When hot, add pine nuts or walnuts and toast slightly for a minute or two. Add chopped baby bok choy leaves and salt and pepper. Stir constantly until wilted, but still very green (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat.
  6. To assemble the dish, put heads on plate and top with leaves, nuts and a sprinkle of cheese. Add more balsamic vinegar if desired.

This simple salad was inspired by dinners at Frankie’s 457, including two of their salads: One has arugula and pecorino, and the other has a cipollini onion vinaigrette. My version uses balsamic vinegar and vegetables that can be found at the winter farmer’s markets including arugula, shallots, radishes, and carrots. Although I don’t crave fresh, crisp greens quite as much during the chilly winter months, this pretty salad balances out a heavy meal. You can definitely substitute your favorite greens in place of arugula.

Ingredients:

4 cups arugula

1/4 cup thinly sliced Pecorino Romano

2 carrots, shaved (just continue to peel the carrot in long strips)

3 radishes, cut into matchsticks

1 shallot

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

1. To make the dressing, peel and roughly chop the shallot. Pulse the shallot in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and pulse again. Add the olive oil and blend until smooth.

2. Layer the arugula, carrots, radishes, and romano on 4 plates. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.

 


I guess I’m on a pear kick, so here’s another one. This is a variation of this Epicurious recipe. It has great fall flavors and can be made in very little time. It is easy to double the recipe so you can make a lot for a big group.

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Salad

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 8 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed if needed
  • 2 firm but ripe Bosc pears (do not peel), quartered lengthwise, cored, and cut into long, thin slices

Directions:

  1. To make the dressing, in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
  2. Place the onions in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 30 minutes. This crisps the onion and takes away the raw onion taste. Drain well and pat dry on paper towels.
  3. In a small bowl, toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons of the dressing to soften them. Set aside for at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve the salad.
  4. To assemble the salad, place the spinach, onions, and pears in a large bowl. Give the remaining dressing a last-minute shake and pour over the salad. Toss to coat evenly. Arrange the salad in a large serving bowl or divide it evenly among 8 salad plates. Scatter the cranberries over the top(s). Serve immediately.

Corn and tomatoes play the starring roles in this simple salad, as the scallions and balsamic win best supporting ingredients.  They all work together to create an interesting combination of flavors: an end-of-the-summer party in your mouth.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ears of fresh corn, cut off from the cob
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup scallion, coarsely chopped, greens only

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Saute corn and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally for about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  3. Add the vinegar and cook, until mostly evaporated, about 1 minute.
  4. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring gently, 1 minute.
  5. Lower the heat and add the scallions, stirring to combine. Remove skillet from heat and transfer vegetables to a serving plate. Season with salt and pepper to taste.