The warm summer rain loosened fragrances from their flowery cages and the musty sweet smell of strawberries filled the air. To pick the sweet berries and taste the smell of summer would require getting wet dirt on my sandal strapped feet. Perhaps they are your neighbors berries and to pick them would require a knock at the door and a friendly gesture or two. Is it worth it?
Strawberries have always been my favorite fruit. Their presence has always held the power of collecting all my attention when they are in the room. I find that I cannot help but eat until my whole stomach hurts from top to bottom. When I think about strawberries I simply have to smile.
Wrapped in a blanket of white and brown chocolate large strawberries danced at my prom. Buried in a snowman of ice cream they fueled my kicking legs on the picnic bench on light summer nights after dinner. Dipped in a pool of powdered sugar they tugged me like a yo yo string to the kitchen counter, my childhood play interrupted by frequent trips to the berry bowl. Nothing gave be greater joy than to introduce one of my childhood friends to her first strawberry. I watched for the golden glow of pure pleasure to set off sparks in her eyes and warmth to her toes as she tasted her first bite, and was horrified when she put the half eaten berry back on the counter shrugged her shoulders and ran off to do something else. To me strawberries are pure, mouth watering magic.
I realize that not everyone shares my love for the berry. So I have added a few other "crowd please-rs" to this salad. Some candied nuts, a balsamic dressing, some sweet peas, fresh basil, red butter lettuce. This salad with it's warm sweet smell and freshly washed greens reminds me of the beautiful gifts brought by the rain.
First make the candied nuts. Heat 2 tsp canola oil in a frying pan and add 1/2 cup local honey (if you want crispy candied nuts, use sugar instead. If you are eating local or have allergies, use the local honey. The honey makes for stickier nuts, but they have a really nice flavor) Toss 1 cup of walnuts in the honey mixture (once it starts to boil). Stir until the honey starts to turn brown. Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon (leaving excess honey drizzle behind) And lay them flat on a cookie tray to cool.
add 2 Tbsp balsamic to the frying pan with the honey mixture
add 4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp more honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 large shallot (or 1/2 medium or 1 small)
transfer dressing to blender or Cuisinart and blend
add 1/4 tsp salt
add 1 tsp rice vinegar
6 leaves fresh basil
Rinse and chop
any leftover spinach you may have from the farmers market last weekend
1 head red butter lettuce
a few handfuls sugar snap peas, diced small
1 small head fennel (if you can find some, if not use extra basil)
a handful of fresh basil leaves
2 cups (or so) sliced strawberries
garnish with candied nuts
Many restaurants serve a variation of this salad with goat cheese. If you have some, go for it!
Christina's vote: "A sweet and hearty salad"