This has been a hectic week so today’s post is not elaborate. But I will tell you that the Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette I am sharing in honor of the end of maple syrup season here in New England, may become a favorite dressing for your future salads, grilled chicken or pork.
The recipe first appeared in The Gaining Ground Cookbook, submitted by my friend, Heidi who paired it with a Spring salad consisting of greens, fresh strawberries and goat cheese. Sweeter vinaigrettes tend not to be my go-to, so it was only after another friend dressed her salad with it at a dinner party that it became a favorite of mine. It’s tangy from the balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard and slightly sweet from the maple syrup. A hit of garlic, salt and pepper finish it off. The original recipe, which I think Heidi may have found here, suggests using extra virgin olive oil but I think you could use avocado oil if you prefer (one of my new favorites for cooking).
Let’s talk a bit about salads.
My good friend, Bredt has a guideline that she likes to follow when preparing her salads. Her streamlined approach to salad prep makes particular sense when the salad is a component of a larger meal with a lot else happening on the plate, especially if a salad plate is not being used.
Bredt’s formula is to construct a salad is as follows:
- Choose your greens. Mesclun seems so yesterday! I have been using a lot of baby kale of late. Arugula, Romaine, Lacinato Kale or Baby Spinach are also in my rotation. Or a mix of your favorites. I like radicchio and endive too.
- Choose one fruit or one vegetable, fresh or dried. Favorites include organic apples or pears, fresh stone fruits (apricots, peaches), citrus fruits, dried apricots, cherries or cranberries. Roasted or fresh slices of fennel, rainbow carrots or beets provide interest on the veggie side.
- Choose one cheese to complement the fruit or vegetable. Blue cheese pairs especially well with fruit or beets, while shavings of parmesan complement fresh fennel. Goat cheese, feta, ricotta salata or a hard cheddar go with almost anything.
- Lastly, choose one nut or seed, preferably toasted to bring out their flavor or even candied. I particularly love pumpkin seeds, but anything goes depending on your preferences. Traditional choices are walnuts, pecans, almonds, macadamia or pine nuts. Sunflower seeds are great too. I would throw pomegranate arls into this category as they have the right size and crunch factor.
This is a great formula for creating a salad that doesn’t overwhelm and has just enough elements to make it interesting, but not compete with the rest of your meal.
There are times when salads call for more ingredients however. If you are serving salad as a main course or perhaps just paired with some simple grilled meat or fish, it’s an easy way to create lots of color and texture on the plate without having to create multiple dishes. I love a great Panzanella Salad or my Farro, Citrus and Arugula Salad or Grilled Asparagus & Beet Salad, all of which have multiple components.
One combination that goes particularly well with the Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette is represented by the plate I have shown in the pictures below. The ingredients are based on a salad I have had on multiple occasions at a restaurant here in my town that is SO good.
The salad starts with baby kale that I am now finding at Whole Foods (yay). Added to that is thinly rainbow carrots, slices of an organic honey crisp apple, edamame, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese (I used feta) and quinoa (which I omitted for the picture). The salad is tossed with a maple vinaigrette that tastes very similar to today’s recipe. The salad is appealing visually, is filling thanks to the addition of the quinoa and has lots of texture and crunch! I have included a list of the ingredients in the recipe and a few other combinations for you to consider.
Today’s Balsamic-Maple Vinaigrette works really nicely with whatever salads you may be cooking up this spring however. I especially like Heidi’s original salad of Spinach, Strawberries and Goat Cheese (add some toasted pecans) and think that it would look lovely as part of an Easter feast. It may just be on my holiday table…
See you next week!