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a super simple strawberry vinaigrette

June 4th, 2012 | 7 Comments »

It’s almost ridiculous how simple and delicious this vinaigrette is, how a few smashed berries and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar can transform into a delightful, light and spring-like marinade for the freshest of fresh greens, but this is the very reason why we blog, share and shout our discoveries. These delicious surprises need to be more widely known.

Do you ever feel like the very fiber of your body fills up sometimes with the grimy bits of your life? Sucking you down and drawing all the energy out of you? I’m very blessed with an easy job that’s only {barely} part-time, but it’s a whacky schedule that leaves only a few days a week completely free and I often cram them with activity with friends, or cooking, household needs, market trips, etc… so much that there comes a time when my body just wants to scream “WAIT! Will you SLOW down a minute???” My sweet husband sees this on my face much clearer than I ever feel it in my bones, and gently urges me to listen. I love that man. So Memorial Weekend came, I had a whopping FIVE DAYS OFF and our lake home called, and finally, I listened. Complete with said husband’s urging me to “Just go.” And within the walls of a beloved summer home, rich with memory and the ability to lull me to a state of relaxation that releases all those icky, grimy bits, the creative mind floods with possibility.

Prior to my escape, and ahead of a pending thunderstorm, I browsed the insanely crowded St. Paul Farmers Market and packed a large sack of fresh greens to take along with me. Thunderous clouds chased me home, and by the time I pulled the greens out to clean them, the sky had opened, lightning flashed and thunder rolled and the cat climbed in a cupboard to hide, poor thing.

{{mr. big eyes}}

I certainly don’t blame him. Thunder does that to a soul, sometimes.

And away from the city, with the sparkling lake outside and lush humid air circulating, I opened the bag of freshly washed pea shoots I’d purchased, a bunch so enormously large that my two hands could not span the circumference and they thoughtfully conveyed “We need something more than what comes in a bottle.” and with the pack of strawberries saying ‘Hey! What about me?’ I spurred a breakthrough. What? Your food doesn’t speak to you? Shame. There’s is a lot to hear from our food these days.

And if pea shoots haven’t yet been discovered in your eating repertoire – and mercy, do you like peas? try the pea shoots, you will not regret it!-  microgreens of any kind are a perfect option, as well as the freshest of spring lettuces, spinach, chard, kale….. the possibilities choke with potential, all dancing about, trying to show us the best they can offer. And if you’re privy to a garden with teeny root vegetable greens that require thinning, like radish or beets, those little shoots that you pull from the ground are delicious too. We thinned baby lettuce and radish from the lake garden, then the beets at home were thinned and the bag of greens that resulted nearly made me weep with joy. Silly, I know. But that abundance is sweet manna, no greater thing to a hungry soul drawn tight from the grimy bits of life.

This kind of salad, where freshness is bursting from every corner of the plate is where you would happily pull out your very best bottle of olive oil to use in this vinaigrette. You can’t imagine the taste of that plate up there; I was so enamored of it myself and I’m the impetus behind it, but when the first bite slipped between my lips, coating them with sweet-tart strawberry, dressed in perfect olive oil, I wondered if this truly was heaven on earth, bound in a plate of über-local garden greens and a super simple vinaigrette. I ate it for breakfast, it was that good.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

This “recipe”, so to speak, isn’t precise with measurements. And I apologize to those who require those parameters. Do your best with these suggestions.

1 pint of strawberries, washed and hulled
Balsamic vinegar
Good quality olive oil
Brown sugar
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Salad greens of the proper quantity for the number of people you’re serving.

As you wash your berries, keep an eye out for the inevitably softer, slightly mushy berries. Set these aside, as their sharper, wine-y taste make them perfect for your vinaigrette.

Wash and spin dry your greens.

In a small measuring cup, place 3-6 chopped berries (dependent on how much vinaigrette you wish to make)  and mash them with a fork to release their juice. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a generous pinch of brown sugar. Stir it together and leave it on the counter. How long? My first batch sat for nearly three hours. The second, only about 15 minutes. Mash the berries on occasion, and stir to keep it emulsified.

Just before serving your salad, add the olive oil. How much you add depends on how many berries make up the base. More berries? More oil. Add less than you think at first, as you can always pour in a bit more. You want a nice balance of sweet berry, tart balsamic and smooth oil. Shake a few more drops of balsamic as needed, add a dash of salt and pepper and taste everything along the way. You’ll know when it’s perfect.

Plate the greens, add a few sliced berries and drizzle the vinaigrette over the top. I like to keep the chunks of mashed fruit in there, but if you’re a purist, strain it before using. But those chunks are delicious.

a new twist

June 7th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

There’s nothing new about fresh strawberries and good shortcake. It’s a requisite of late Spring, when the red plump berries hit their stride and beckon from tables at the market, or on the grocer’s shelves. I can’t think of anything more perfect than a ripe strawberry.

Wait. Scratch that. I can think of something better. This shortcake, spread with honey-sweetened mascarpone cheese and topped with balsamic laced berries that hint slightly of brown sugar. I’m really somewhat of a purist at heart; I like simple preparations and fully believe that the food itself should shine from your dishes. That being said, even the simple and stupendous strawberry can be made so much more amazing if given a short amount of time in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.

Just a splash of the vinegar is all you need. And really, only a small amount of sugar is necessary too. I like to let the berries tell me when enough is enough. Prepare them by removing the core, then place them in a bowl and sprinkle in about 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar per pint of fruit. Add 1-2 teaspoons of good balsamic vinegar to the bowl. Stir to combine and allow it to sit at room temperature for an hour or so, stirring occasionally. See how much juice begins to form. If you like them a bit juicier, add a little more sugar. What you want as an end result is a berry that hints of both sweet and tart but doesn’t overpower your tastebuds with either. Make it slightly more interesting by adding just a touch of good sea salt. It’ll be a riot of flavor and turn your simple shortcake into a real treat.

Simple is good. Different is good. Try a batch for yourself and see what you think.

Wordless Wednesday

May 6th, 2009 | 6 Comments »


Come in to my kitchen…