July 05, 2012

Can't Stand the Heat...

Summer time is when I really enjoy salads.  The anemic tomatoes of winter are happily forgotten and replaced with gleaming, juicy, bright red beauties.  The delicious, but boring cucumbers can go on hiatus along with their carrot friends. 

The same ol' stuff that routinely finds its way into your salad can go by the wayside to make room for things like stone fruit! 

Sometimes we are on auto-pilot and occasionally get stuck in a bit of a rut. Considering all of the amazing things available to us in the summer, this is the time to branch out and mix it up.

Making a salad for dinner is a great option. The clean up is pretty minimal and the ingredients are merely a suggestion.  Use it as a jumping off point for an idea;  if you don't like an ingredient, swap it out for something you do like...

Perhaps the most important reason to go with a meal that takes about 10 minutes from start to finish:

Generally speaking, most of us are less inclined to spend hours in front of a stove during a 90+ degree heat wave.  The air is stagnant.  It just hangs there... completely still, while your tolerance for anyone within a 5 foot radius decreases exponentially by the minute.

Spinach Salad with Nectarines & Blue Cheese
serves 1 hungry girl
  • 3 oz fresh baby spinach (a little more than half of a 5oz container)
  • a handful of toasted, sliced almonds
  • 5 -6 dried figs, sliced in half or quarters
  • 1 ripe nectarine, pit removed & thinly sliced
  • 2 oz blue cheese, broken into bite size pieces

There are only 5 ingredients in this salad, so make sure they are of the best quality you can get.  Spring for the good cheese, don't buy the stuff that is already crumbled.  It tastes like Styrofoam.  Make sure the nectarine is ripe & luscious, under ripe fruit doesn't have any flavor.

Normally when I make this salad, I add in crispy prosciutto.  Place a few paper-thin slices of prosciutto on a non-stick (Silpat) silicone baking sheet if you have one or parchment paper if you don't, put this on a rimmed baking (cookie) sheet and bake at 350 degrees until super crispy.

Fresh mozzarella works beautifully in this salad if you don't like blue cheese.  As with the blue cheese, get the good stuff, not the shredded cheese in a bag that you would throw on a pizza.

Fig Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tbsp fig balsamic vinegar (not the sweet, reduced balsamic glaze)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a blender (or with a stick blender) combine all ingredients EXCEPT oil.  Blend on medium speed until thoroughly combined, then lower speed and slowly drizzle in olive oil. 

(If you are fighting the urge to do your worst Bill Cosby impression, then clearly your dressing resembles chocolate pudding and you've taken your vinaigrette too far.  Thin it out with a splash of vinegar or a tbsp of water.)



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