Some days, there seems to be a karmic force just pushing you towards one particular dish. On one particularly gorgeous Saturday morning in May, I returned from the farmers’ market with bags upon bags of produce and yet still had a distinct case of that “there’s nothing to eat in this house” blues. After going several rounds with Dylan on the topic of what to do for lunch, each one growing increasingly snippy with incipient hunger (“What do you want to eat for lunch?”, “I don’t know, whatever you want”, “I really don’t care, just pick something”, “It doesn’t matter, you decide”, “JUST PICK SOMETHING!”) , Alanna from A Veggie Venture saved the day.
As I went to my computer with a hungry snarl, with plans to stew over e-mail and the latest blog postings until Dylan broke down and whipped up some lunch for us, I came across a reference to a recipe for strawberry pepper salad deep in the A Veggie Venture archives. A few determined clicks of the mouse and I was off to the kitchen to dig into the baskets of fresh-picked local strawberries I’d procured that morning. We are very lucky, in Southern California, to have months and months of deliciously sweet strawberries each year and their wide availability keeps the prices much lower than those of most other berries.
I’ve been a huge strawberry fan ever since childhood, when strawberry ice cream quickly became my favorite, but I had never thought to use them as the basis for a salad. One look at Alanna’s photo and a whiff of the strawberries’ perfume as I began to slice them and I was already sold on this salad. Combining luscious strawberries, toasted almonds, and curls of salty parmesan, this salad was a great new way to use strawberries and because the dressing is essentially based on the juice that is extruded when you sugar the strawberries, you get a double dose of that enticing strawberry flavor.
To say that this salad is light is, perhaps, an understatement…when we had it for lunch alongside a couple pieces of brie and crackers, Dylan found himself hungry again within an hour or two and my appetite followed shortly behind. So unless you prefer very light meals, I suggest you use this as a refreshing, cool first course for a light summer meal. Enjoy!
Strawberry pepper salad (serves 4)
1 pint ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 – 3 three grinds of black pepper
for the candied almonds:
½ tablespoon butter
1 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup whole or slivered almonds
Salad greens (I used mixed baby greens)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh Parmesan cheese
1. Combine berries, vinegar, sugar and pepper in a small bowl. Let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes for flavors to meld.
2. Melt butter and brown sugar in a small skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and cook for about 2-3 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning. WATCH THEM CLOSELY!! (Ours got charred when I took my eyes off of them for a moment.) Transfer to a plate in a single layer to cool.
3. Arrange fresh salad greens on plates. Drizzle the greens with the berry-vinegar juice, then arrange strawberry slices and candied nuts on top. Top with freshly ground pepper and strips of fresh Parmesan.