May 23, 2009

Strawberry-Asparagus Salad with Strawberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 bunch spring lettuce
1 bunch baby spinach
2 strips crisp bacon
3/4 lb fresh asparagus
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/3 cup bee pollen dusted hazelnuts
2 oz chèvre

for the vinaigrette
2 oz avocado oil
2 oz pomegranate infused balsamic vinegar*
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 strawberry, mashed**

Place the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar or salad dressing mixer. Shake until a smooth, emulsified dressing forms.

Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Top with the spinach. Cut the bacon into bite sized pieces. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for about 2 minutes. Drain and cut into manageable sized pieces. Arrange on the salad. Add the sliced strawberries. Dot with goat cheese. Toss in the hazelnuts and bacon. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

*I used locally bottled Pompeian vinegar.
**I just put it on a cutting board and mashed with with a potato masher until pretty smooth.

My thoughts:
A while back I was invited to do a cooking demonstration at the Maryland Heartland Sustainable Living Fair which is going on today. Of course I agreed to do it. The major challenge was designing a recipe that made the most of what is in season in the end of May in Maryland. Which, unfortunately, isn't terribly much as May is pretty much the beginning of the growing season here. I had thought of doing some sort of stir fry but when I looked at the list of what was in season I realized that a big salad might be a better choice. I used locally grown strawberries, lettuce, spinach and asparagus along with some local fresh goat cheese. I tossed in some bacon because it just smells so good and thought it might draw some people in to watch the demo. It also adds a smoky note to the salad. I used some hazelnuts from a family owned farm (in Oregon) that were dusted in local bee pollen for some crunch. The dressing was simple but extremely tasty and added an additional fruity note to the salad. Unfortunately some of the dressing ingredients were not quite local but there is a drawback to living in the mid-Atlantic; no avocado or olive trees for oil.

All of these seemingly disconnected ingredients came together to from a very satisfying salad that felt light and fresh. I loved the asparagus and the strawberries, they made the salad feel hearty despite the near absence of meat. The perfect springtime meal salad.