Summer Salads

Photo by Sarah Jacobs

Photo by Sarah Jacobs

Suddenly it’s crazy hot in New York – we seem to have passed over a true spring. On hot summer nights (or after a weekend of eating pizza and fried junk food…) I like to make a big salad with tons of fresh ingredients and drizzle over one of my favorite dressings made with shallots, Dijon mustard, and orange and lemon juice. The spicy tang from the mustard is nicely balanced with the sweet orange juice. I like to make a big batch and use it on the salads that I make for lunch at work all week.

I’m going to share two salad variations that are quick to put together, but of course use anything that you have on hand. I’ll note that I’ve always been a little reluctant to put fruit in my savory salads, but I really like the way it mixes with this dressing. In the first variation, the pears, beets and goat cheese are a fantastic combination. You could also throw some pistachios in there for extra crunch. The second variation came about from me really needing to use up some perishable goods in my refrigerator. Turns out that raw, thinly shaved fennel adds an awesome licorice note to this salad that I really like with the peppery arugula. When preparing the fennel, be sure to cut off the top ferns (the green part) and also the bottom root; peel away the tough outer layers, and then thinly slice into rounds (or use a mandolin if you have one). I used gorgonzola cheese here, but blue cheese, goat cheese, and even brie would work nicely.

I’m also including a recipe for candied walnuts. Disclaimer: I LOVE candied nuts. It’s one of my weaknesses – I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s sesame cashews, which are coated in some delicious sugary substance then rolled in sesame seeds. I always figured it was difficult and/or time consuming to make candied nuts at home, but it took all of five minutes and was practically foolproof. I’m really excited to munch on these this week.

So here we go – the tasty dressing recipe, followed by my two salad suggestions, and the candied walnuts recipe.

Citrus Dressing

  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • few cracks of your pepper grinder
  • 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  1. Combine the chopped shallot, Dijon mustard, orange juice, and lemon juice in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Whisk to combine.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil – the point here is to emulsify the dressing, which means to combine the oil with your base ingredients (in this case, juice and mustard). Whisk vigorously until the dressing is a pale color and the oil is evenly distributed.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.

Salad Variation #1

  • 2 firm ripe Bosc pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 4 baby beets, roasted and sliced (I used the premade kind from the store)
  • 1 bag of mixed mesclun lettuce
  • 3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  1. Lay the mesclun greens in a bowl or serving platter. Distribute the pear and beet slices on top (you don’t have to mix because the beets with turn everything red).
  2. Top with crumbled goat cheese and dressing.

Salad Variation #2

  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 6 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce
  • 2-3 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/3 cup candied walnuts
  1. Carefully slice the fennel, as described above. Remove the tops of the strawberries and thinly slice the long way. Peel and seed half a cucumber, then chop into small bites. Coarsely chop the romaine lettuce.
  2. Put everything into a bowl and mix with arugula. Toss with the dressing, then plate with the crumbled gorgonzola and candied walnuts.

Candied Walnuts

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup walnuts (or any nut)
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Once preheated, spread the walnuts over a baking sheet lined with foil and toast for 5-6 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside.
  2. Pour the measured sugar into a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. Gently stir constantly until all the sugar dissolves (this sounded crazy to me, but it literally turns a corner and becomes liquid, so watch out). This should take about 1-2 minutes. Cook for 1 minute more without stirring until the sugar turns golden brown and starts to bubble.
  3. Quickly add the walnuts and stir to coat evenly. Spray the aluminum foil on your baking sheet with cooking spray, and spread out the coated walnuts. Separate as best you can and let cool for a few minutes. Break into pieces when ready to serve.
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