Spinach Strawberry Salad

This is as close as Andrew’s Aunt Linda and I can get to Cafe Patachou’s (a Carmel, IN French bistro) salad by the same name.  Aunt Linda even begged the chef personally for the vinaigrette recipe, and was rewarded with at least the ingredients, if not in exact measurements.  We make it constantly in the summer.

For 4-5 servings:

1 package baby spinach leaves

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered

1/2 (or less) red onion, sliced

1/2 C candied walnuts or pecans

1/4 C gorgonzola or feta cheese crumbles

1/2 C croutons


1/3 C olive oil

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

salt and pepper


-Slice onions to your preference: thin for less strong, thick for a stronger onion taste

-You can use feta, goat, gorgonzola or blue cheese here based on your affinity for blue cheese

-Definitely use (or make your own) candied nuts–it’s crucial!

-The dressing makes about a half-cup, which is more than you’ll need for this salad.  Refrigerate the rest and use again on your next salad!

Fig, Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad

You can’t go wrong with figs and blue cheese!  For the longest time I stayed as far away as I could from blue cheese, because I didn’t like the smell.  I’m not even sure how I came around to it, but I’ve come to like it in small quantities and with the right flavor pairings.  Things like honey, balsamic reductions and other sweet things complement blue cheese or gorgonzola quite nicely.

Fig, Pecan & Blue Cheese Salad

Serves 2

4 figs, quartered

1 oz. pecans, toasted

2 oz. blue cheese

4 cups arugula and spinach mix


2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp best-quality balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tbsp honey

salt & pepper

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and honey until emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle dressing over bowls filled with salad ingredients.

*Variation: Candy or spice the toasted pecans:  While warming on the stovetop in a skillet, add either sugar or chili powder to season.

a balsamic kind of night

I may have outdone myself tonight.  At least with what little resources I have available here in the hotel.

(Photos courtesy of Andrew)

I made Ina’s herb-roasted salmon from her How Easy is That? cookbook.  It’s basically salmon coated in chopped scallions, parsley and dill.  YUM.  It was incredibly fresh and light.  A very thin drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice allowed the herbs to stick, and it was roasted with a little white wine.  I LOVE things cooked with wine.  I love being able to smell and taste just a hint of it.

For once, I didn’t overcook the salmon.  I’ll be honest; I like my salmon on the ‘done’ side.  So does Andrew.  I probably could have cooked it longer, but I didn’t want to turn it into rubber.  There is a fine line between slightly done and WAY overdone.

I threw together some balsamic vinegar and olive oil-marinated tomatoes and onions.  Growing up, my mom would thickly slice tomatoes and Vidalia onions and bathe them in a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Ah, the memories.  I don’t have any shallow dishes here, and all I had were red onions, so I went with what I had.

Until this afternoon, I’d been using the balsamic drizzling syrup my mom got me in Italy for all my balsamic needs.  While running errands on Main Street today, I popped into Tuscany On Main for a bottle of the good stuff.  It was so neat to be able to actually sample the different vinegars–you can definitely tell a difference between the various kinds.  Of the three regular balsamic vinegars (among COUNTLESS herb and fruit-infused vinegars and oils), I sprang for the ultra-premium “Cask 25” variety.  (At only $12.99 I would hardly consider it that much of a splurge, but I felt fancy getting the top-of-the-line!)  It’s been aged for 25 years in the barrel (obviously) and has distinct notes of wine, like port and madiera.  The Cask 10 was lighter and fruiter and I didn’t prefer it.  The Premium was more like what you’d find in the grocery store.  Both the Cask 10 and 25’s were visibly thicker and syrupy.  Needless to say, I had fun using it for dinner tonight!

I had about 5 ounces of orzo hanging around, so I found a recipe in my Foster’s Market cookbook for a dish with grilled veggies, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and greens.  It was lightly dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.  Because I love my husband, I kept the grilled portobello mushrooms and mozzarella on the side and only added them to my half.

Andrew really liked it!  I served it all with a glass of Leonard Oakes’ Blanc d’Orleans wine, which I found in Reed’s Liquors this afternoon.  I walked in and asked for a recommendation of a New York wine.  It’s a little drier than Andrew and I are used to, but I liked it very much.  The bottle says it’s “gooseberry, honeysuckle, grapefruit and melon. Slate and straw and subtle spice.  Crisp, complex and completely refreshing.”  I wanted something that would go with our salmon tonight, our chicken tomorrow and our quinoa Thursday, and I think I chose well.  I also got a glowing recommendation for a local Riesling that I’ll be picking up next time we need one.

We had just enough leftover (dinner, not the wine) for me to have lunch tomorrow–yay!

Tomorrow morning I’m blending a banana into my beet smoothie to sweeten it up and make it more “breakfast-y.”  It’s my pilates/yoga and kickboxing day, which means a big breakfast!