A Romantic Valentine’s Day Salad
I am convinced that making a great salad is within everyone’s grasp. The secret is in knowing how to make a great, basic vinaigrette and then in dressing it up in any number of ways so it complements your salad ingredients. A salad should be a refreshing and healthful combination of flavors and textures: a mixture of tender and crisp greens, the interplay of sweet against salty against bitter. Start thinking of salad composition in terms of these contrasts, and you will be able to put together a great version for your Valentine.
A Romantic Valentine’s Day Meal For Her
Be sure to check out my previous post on putting together a romantic home cooked meal for your sweetheart and look for upcoming blog posts for more ideas and recipes. So far I have talked about:
and I put it all together with music and flower suggestions, along with cooking videos and polls on my new Squidoo Lens, A Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner. Please check it out, give it a rating and send me your comments at the end.
Some Other Salad Options
One of the simplest and most classic salads is the Caesar Salad, a combination of crisp lettuce, crunchy croutons and buttery-sharp parmesan cheese dressed with a rich, creamy dressing. I have a great recipe for Caesar Salad on my web site but if you are in a hurry and you want to take a shortcut, there are some good Caesar Salad kits that you can purchase at the grocery store. Look for the Dole, Fresh Express, or Cardini brands.
Although making a basic vinaigrette is easy, there is another shortcut I have been know to make and my dinner guests are amazed when I tell them how I made the salad dressing. I’m sure you have all seen the Good Seasons Italian dressing that comes with the glass cruet. If you use a combination of virgin olive oil and canola oil (I call it a chef’s blend) and use it with balsamic vinegar, you end up with a very tasty quick and easy, down and dirty salad dressing. You can even add a little Dijon mustard to give it a little more flavor.
I know it doesn’t sound gourmet, but give it a try and let me know.
Roasted Pear Walnut Goat Cheese Salad Recipe
For the Vinaigrette (Optional ingredients are in Italics)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (you may use ¼ cup of either, or a mixture of both vinegars, depending on what you have in your pantry)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (smooth or whole grain"”the texture is up to you)
2 teaspoons of honey
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallot
¼ teaspoon Herbs de Provence
½ roasted pear, pureed in a food processor or just mashed very well with a fork
3/4 - 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (if you do not like the flavor of olive oil, you can use a more neutral vegetable oil, such as canola)
Pear, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad
Mixed baby greens, such as a mesclun mix (amount will vary depending on how much salad you want to make)
Romaine lettuce or hearts of Romaine (amount will vary)
1 - 1½ Bosc pears (depending on if you are going to use roasted pear in your vinaigrette)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 teaspoons honey
2 oz. walnut pieces
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper
How To Prepare At Home
For the Vinaigrette
In a large bowl, combine the vinegar(s) mustard, honey, salt, pepper, shallot, herbs and pear puree. Whisk well to combine.
While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in ¾ cups of oil. Adding the oil slowly while whisking will help to ensure that you get a nice emulsion and don't end up with oil floating sadly on top of the rest of your dressing ingredients.
Taste, and correct seasonings. You may need to add a little more salt, pepper, herbs or even honey. If you find the vinaigrette a little sharp, whisk in the last ¼ cup of oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you like the balance.
You will have more dressing than you need for two salads. You can either make a half-recipe or save the excess to use during the next week or so.
For the Salad
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F.
Wash and dry the lettuces. Set aside in a large bowl in the refrigerator.
Wash, halve and core the pear(s).
Melt the butter.
Toss walnut pieces with half the melted butter and a pinch of salt. Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, just until they begin to turn golden, about 5-7 minutes. Watch them carefully, you don't want to burn them.
Stir the honey into the other half of the melted butter. Brush onto the cut side of the pears. Place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and roast until pears start to take on some color, about 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven.
Let the nuts and the pears cool. Slice or cube the roasted pear.
Put the pears, goat cheese and walnuts in the bowl with the lettuce. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle on ¼ - 1/3 cup of dressing and toss gently but thoroughly. Serve.
For less work, you do not have to roast the pears, especially if they are nice and juicy. As well, you may toast the nuts without the butter, but do toast them"”their flavor will be much more pronounced.
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