A light drizzle of this sweet and tangy vinaigrette makes a classic strawberry salad shine. Eating your greens never tasted so good!
When local strawberries are at their peak, I make salads with them almost every night.
Once a simple dressing has been prepared and left to wait in the fridge, salads in general can be prepped in minutes and paired with a protein of choice for an easy yet delicious meal.
Years ago, I always used the simple poppy seed dressing with a simple combination of spinach, strawberries, almonds, red onion, and feta cheese. The salad hit all the flavor and texture notes, from sweet to tangy, creamy and crunchy.
Though I return to the classic combination most frequently, I’ve also realized that a variety of ingredients will add a little something extra.
So, if you’re feeling the need to bolster or tweak, following are some of the ingredients I’ve added over the years:
- cooked asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
- raw snow or snap peas (if they aren’t fresh and tender, a quick blanch may be welcome)
- a variety of nuts and seeds, from Smokehouse almonds and pistachios to pepitas and sunflower seeds. Spiced Pecans might just be my favorite!
- chopped avocado
- slivered kumquats
- mandarin orange segments
- small dollops of fresh ricotta instead of goat cheese or feta
- grated lime zest
- cooked, shelled edamame
- fresh peaches instead of strawberries when in season
- a cooked grain like quinoa, wheat berries, or farro. Recently, I prepared sorghum for a food styling job I was helping with and served some of the plain leftovers alongside this salad for dinner that night. I ended up mixing it in with the salad and it was quite good!
But at the end of the day, this salad should and will be delicious without a whole lot of fuss.
A flavorful dressing, fresh greens, and vine-ripened strawberries are the only true necessities. Beyond that, be guided by your taste buds and what you have on hand.
A helpful hint when dressing this or any salad is to start with less vinaigrette than you think you’ll need. After drizzling in a small amount, toss well. A sufficiently big bowl helps.
Make sure you get to the bottom of the bowl when tossing, as the dressing seeps down. If after a thorough toss, the leaves are not all coated, add a touch more and toss again.
The aim is to begin with a very flavorful dressing and then use just enough to coat the leaves without weighing them down. That way, the greens stay crisper and the salad doesn’t take on an oily, wet feel.
What’s more, fat and calories will be reduced in a way that might even taste better to you.
I get several salads out of one batch of dressing. Sometimes I double the recipe, as it keeps in the fridge for several weeks and is convenient to have on hand.
I have included ingredient amounts as a basic guide, but I don’t bother to measure anymore. Whether cooking for one, two, four, or eight, you can “wing it” by starting with the amount of lettuce you want and adding the toppings to your liking.
How much lettuce to use?
For a side salad, I figure on one lightly packed cup (or 1 ounce or 1 generous handful) per person. When making an entree salad, I double or triple that depending on the amount of add-ins and how filling they are.
More strawberry salad options:
- For a creamy dressing option for your favorite strawberry salad, you may enjoy Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing with Greek Yogurt.
- Strawberry Balsamic Dressing is another standout, and the white balsamic option creates the beautiful light pink color seen in the recipe photos.
- ¼ cup (56ml) mild tasting olive oil or vegetable oil of choice
- ¼ cup (48g) granulated sugar*
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) white vinegar (white wine or white balsamic－and basic old distilled works, too)
- ½ tablespoon poppy seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tablespoon minced onion (I use red onion; a nice addition but may be omitted
- 4-5 ounces (four generous handfuls or lightly packed cups) baby spinach or a mix of leaf, butter, romaine, or other greens of choice
- 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced*
- 1 small or ½ a large ripe avocado, chopped
- ¼ cup slivered almonds, shelled pistachios, chopped pecans, or walnuts (I also like chopped Smokehouse almond and Spiced Pecans)
- ¼ cup crumbled feta (could substitute goat cheese or gorgonzola if preferred)
- ¼ cup slivered red onion, optional
For the vinaigrette: Add all of the ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well to blend. Alternatively, you may whisk together in a small bowl. Store in the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature for a few minutes before using. (The oil tends to separate and firm up when refrigerated.) Shake or stir well before using.
For the salad: Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with several tablespoons of the dressing－just enough to coat lightly－before serving.
*When peaches are in season, they offer a delicious alternative to strawberries in this salad.
Recipe first published June 7, 2013