Spring Salad with Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing
Isn’t it funny how the salads you make at home are never as tasty as the ones from your favorite restaurants? You’d think that a mixture of lettuce, fruit, nuts, veggies and dressing would be simple enough to reproduce, but the at-home version is never quite the same. Here are a few tips to get your salad to taste more like it’s made by a chef.
Chefs will tell you that it’s more palate pleasing to choose salad toppings that have contrasting textures, for example crunchy nuts, creamy cheese and soft fruit. And, as in nearly any dish, a salad is best when it features a combination of salty, sweet, acidic and bitter flavors.
All of the above attributes come together in this spring salad. The crunchy croutons and nuts play nicely with the creamy Parmesan and delicate fruit, just as the flavors of bitter (lettuce), sweet (berries), acidic (vinegar) and salty (cheese) come together.
Be sure to get the lettuce extremely clean. Many people merely wet the lettuce under the spigot, but to actually get all the dirt out, submerge the lettuce in a bowl of water and gently rub each leaf. Use a salad spinner to completely dry the leaves or else the dressing won’t stick to them, resulting in a watery, bland salad. If you do not have a salad spinner, lay each leaf flat on paper towels and pat until fully dry.
Be sure to toast the nuts; that way you are boosting their nutty flavor and crunchy texture. It is important to remember to let them cool to room temperature before tossing them in a salad.
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil are salad standards, but step outside the box and try other types of oils. Infused oils and vinegars can be found at specialty shops. Unique types like avocado oil, walnut oil, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or Champagne vinegar are all unique to the traditional salad palette.
Herbs and spices make a salad more flavorful and appealing. This recipe calls for poppy seeds, and you could also add basil, parsley, oregano or even mint for a fresh and palatable approach. And don’t skip the salt in the dressing; whether it’s a simple mix of oil and vinegar or something more elaborate, salt enhances the flavor of dressing.
Try my Spring Salad with Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing in your own home, and I bet your family will question whether you made it or if it is take out. Enjoy!