What could possibly be so great about a salad? That’s what you’re thinking, right? Well, let me explain.
My friend Lauren had a dinner party several years ago while we were still in college. She invited friends, old and new, and we all brought something yummy to eat. I brought a version of a spinach salad I had tasted once at a cousin’s party. Although the ingredients are simple, the salad was a hit and one of her friends raved so much about it that I passed along the recipe for the dressing.
A few years after the dinner party, I met that friend again when I attended her wedding reception as Lauren’s date. It was a great time and we all ended up at a bar afterward, where we danced the night away. This past year, I saw her yet again at Lauren’s birthday bash at Alma de Cuba. I immediately recognized her and gave a wave as we all huddled in the lounge sipping our cocktails. After a few seconds, she smiled in recognition and yelled over the blaring Latin music “I remember you; you’re the one who made that amazing strawberry salad!” Case closed. Chances are, I will never be famous. If this salad is my one shot at immortality, or something like it, I’ll take it!
The salad itself is quite simple. It’s one of those delicious fruit/cheese/nut combinations that pair so well together. The balsamic syrup is the real star of the show, here. For the salad, I whisk in a stream of good, fruity olive oil to produce velvety smooth vinaigrette. The resulting concoction resembles rich chocolate ganache more closely than mere salad dressing. Tossed with the salty, sweet and creamy tang of the other ingredients, it is superb. But I’ll tell you a little secret. I make a large batch of the reduction and keep it at the ready on my kitchen counter, in the same illustrious spot where my olive oil sits. It is that perfect extra something to have on hand. I drizzle it over grilled vegetables, caprese salad, bruschetta, seared sea scallops, you name it. Try it with strawberries alone and tell me it doesn’t rival strawberries in chocolate.
When you make this for your next dinner party, I hope it brings you a bit of celebrity, too.
Strawberry Spinach Salad
8 oz baby spinach, washed and dried
4 cups (1 pint) strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted*
4 oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Balsamic Honey Reduction
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup honey
Combine ingredients and bring to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat, and allow it to simmer until it reduces by about half. This takes some time (more reason to make it ahead and keep on hand!), but the results are worth it. Allow to cool completely before using in dressing.
To dress the salad, measure one tbsp of the reduction into a bowl. Stream in about 2 tbsp olive oil, whisking well until completely incorporated. Toss all ingredients with dressing, making sure the entire salad is coated.
*For toasted almonds, spread sliced almonds in a single layer on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Bake at 350 until browned and fragrant, stirring once. Keep a close eye on these; they burn easily. It should take about 8 minutes, give or take, depending on your oven.