As you may have noticed, I've been having some fun in the kitchen lately. These last two weeks, I've been trying some things that I wouldn't normally try. Our newest yummy that we tried last night was:
Strawberry-Tarragon Salad with Aged Balsamic Vinegar
(from Food to Live By by Myra Goodman (The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook)
2 pints small ripe strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/4 c good-quality balsamic vinegar*
2 T aged balsamic vinegar (optional), preferably at least 6 years old
3/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
4 oz (5 to 6 c) mixed baby greens, carefully rinsed and dried, if needed
1/2 c fresh whole tarragon leaves
1/4 c toasted pecans (To toast, simply warm in skillet over medium heat until warm, lightly colored, and fragrant, about 5-10 min.) - I think toasting really adds to the taste.
1/2 c (2 oz) crumbled blue cheese
1. Prepare flavored vinegar by mashing three strawberries against the side of a small bowl with a fork. Add the 1/4 c of good-quality balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Let the vinegar stand at room temp to absorb strawberry flavor for 1 - 2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, cut the remaining strawberries in half lengthwise so they are bite size (or quarter if larger). If using aged balsamic vinegar, place the cut berries in a small, shallow bowl, add the aged vinegar, and stir to coat. Let the berries marinate at room temp for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. If not using aged balsamic vinegar, no need to marinate the berries.
3. Strain the strawberry-flavored vinegar through a sieve, pressing down on the berries to extract all of the liquid from the fruit. Discard the solids. Place the flavored vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, mustard, and salt in a glass jar and seal the lid tightly. Shake the jar vigorously to combine. (I put everything in my food processor and mixed it. It worked perfectly.)
4. Just before serving, place the mixed greens and tarragon in a large bowl and toss. Add 3 T of the vinaigrette. Toss to lightly coat the leaves. (I plated the salads before drizzling it over individual plates.) Leftover vinegar can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.
5. Divide greens evenly among salad plates, arrange strawberries on top, and sprinkle with pecans and blue cheese.
*She says authentic balsamic vinegar comes from Emilia-Romagna in Italy and is aged in wooden barrels, so the older it becomes, the more smooth and syrupy, and the better and pricier it is. The highest quality ones will list only grape must, which is unfermented juice from wine grapes, in the ingredient list. (Note: I used plain old, cheap balsamic vinegar and it was great.)
This may sound a little difficult, but it's actually quite easy and quick. The dressing was very easy and came out very tasty! We had friends over and I served this with Portuguese soup, and a main course of pecan-crusted salmon and blue cheese mashed potatoes. No recipe for the taters...just threw in some blue cheese crumbles, about 2 T butter, a sprinkle of garlic salt, and a little milk. Then, topped with real bacon bits, made fresh that night. Yummmo. Ma would be proud of me for just throwing stuff together without a recipe! :)