Spinach salad with roasted strawberries and toasted almonds (2 BIG servings)

spinstrawb.jpg

Strawberry season arrives much earlier in North Carolina than it does in Pennsylvania. In fact, I think the NC season will be wrapping upjust as I get ready for a week-long visit to PA next week. Salad is a great option for taking advantage of juicy strawberries while they're still available. My family ate a lot of spinach/strawberry salads when I was growing up, and this Williams-Sonoma recipe is an interesting spin-off of an old favorite.

I discovered last year that roasting strawberries makes them sweet(er) and syrupy after testing out a roasted strawberry bruschetta recipe for a dinner party. The Williams-Sonoma recipe uses the same technique, although the strawberries aren't roasted so long that they break down and lose their shape. The recipe is a bit time-consuming to put together, but it isn't difficult, and I think it's flexible enough that you could use a different type of lettuce or cheese if you wanted. It's hard to ruin a salad as pretty and delicious as this!

You will need:

For the berries

  • 1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut in half lengthwise (or quartered if they're huge)
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • black pepper

For the dressing

  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • black pepper

For the salad

  • 4-5 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted almond slivers
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese (the recipe suggests Romano but I used paper-thin shreds of Robusto)

Steps:

  1. Toss the berries and accompanying ingredients together in a small bowl. Transfer the berries to a roasting pan or sheet. Roast at 400 F for about ten minutes, or until the berries are soft. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat with a pinch of salt. Shake the pan occasionally, making sure the almonds do not burn. Allow them to cool too.
  3. To make the dressing, pour ingredients into a jar with a screw-top lid and shake the heck out of it. (Or, if you eat a lot of salads, get yourself one of these ingenious devices.)
  4. Once the berries and almonds have cooled, divide the spinach evenly between two plates. Top each plate with strawberries, almonds, cheese and dressing. (You could also toss the spinach with the dressing before plating it, if you wish.) Serve immediately.

The Williams-Sonoma site sums up this salad better than I could:

"The flavor of this salad sparkles with the bright acidity of red wine vinegar, its tartness temperated by the sweetness of fresh orange juice. Roasting strawberries with a bit of sugar intensifies their fruitiness and softens their texture, creating a nice counterpoint to the salty cheese and crunchy toasted almonds."

...So why aren't you eating this already?