The spinach was tender and darkly green, the strawberries were soft and sweet and perfectly ripe, the goat cheese was super-creamy, the almonds were nutty and crunchy, the balsamic vinaigrette was fragrant and delicious – and the combination of all these ingredients was more than the sum of its parts.
March 15: Baby spinach with strawberries, goat cheese, almonds and balsamic vinaigrette
It was the Ides of Salad Month and I was feeling lazy and lacking in creativity. Plus we spent the afternoon working on the taxes, which is never going to put anybody in a good mood. When I totalled how much (little) money I earned last year from freelance writing, I wanted to knock my head gently yet repeatedly on the desk (covered in receipts).
I thought about just eating leftovers and blogging about my dispiritedness. (Because that always makes for such great reading.)
But then I started to think about balsamic vinegar.
I opened this bottle and sniffed. Aromatherapy! Instantly I felt like cooking and eating. I tied on an apron and stepped up to the plate.
What is it about balsamic vinegar? According to Cook’s Illustrated…
Thirty years ago, almost no one in America had ever heard of (never mind tasted) balsamic vinegar. It was an obscure product made in northern Italy and so highly valued that many families passed along barrels of aged vinegar as part of a wedding dowry. Fast-forward a generation, and balsamic is now the best-selling vinegar in America, accounting for 45 percent of all supermarket vinegar sales. Intoxicated by its big, sweet, caramel flavor, Americans mix it in salad dressing; drizzle it on meat, fish, and vegetables; and add it to sauces, soups, and desserts.
I am intoxicated by its flavor. But not all balsamic vinegar is equal. Read on…
It turns out there are two kinds of balsamic vinegar, and they’re made by entirely different processes. The traditional technique takes a minimum of 12 years; the modern industrial method as little as a few hours. (Read the rest.)
But good news from America’s test kitchen:
Don’t waste your money on pricey traditional balsamic vinegar if you’re going to toss it on salad or cook with it. The good stuff works best uncooked, as a drizzle to finish a dish. In vinaigrette or cooked sauce, the sharpness of a supermarket balsamic adds a pleasingly bright contrast to the vinegar’s natural sweetness.
For the vinaigrette, I used this recipe: The BEST Balsamic Vinaigrette, from Barefeet in the Kitchen.
This dressing is so versatile, I’ve used it on salads, roasted vegetables, and drizzled it over chicken in a wrap. Just a touch of sweetness with the tang of the balsamic, I imagine this is going to be a staple in my home for years to come.
Eat your different colors every day.
I bought these (organic) strawberries at Philbrick’s. They did not disappoint, as so many supermarket strawberries do. Most supermarket strawberries are not worth the price or effort to eat out of season. But these were sweet and perfect, except for a few just starting to rot, oh well.
There are always a few rotty ones hiding in there with the good ones.
I liked all of the individual foods that went into this salad but, as I said, they were even better together. And even even better when served with lemon pepper chicken cutlets and this pasta recipe prepared by John: Cacio e Pape, Cheese and Pepper Pasta.
It was a fine meal that saved the day.
All sorrows are less with bread. – Miguel de Cervantes