Thursday, February 23, 2012

This Salad Will Make You Ask . . . Is It Spring Yet?

I must admit that I was fortunate enough to enjoy my salad by the pool today in sunny Dallas!  However, I do know what it feels like to wonder if spring is ever going to arrive . . . so this salad is a reminder that dreary, slushy days turn into beautiful sunny spring days and it's not too far away.

I created this salad while sitting in my beautiful kitchen in Spokane, looking out at my backyard filled with snow and squinting my eyes to try to make believe that it was green and filled with flowering apple and pear trees, tulips and pansies.  I was inspired by some little tangerines I'd just purchased along with some unusually beautiful strawberries that had made their way to Huckleberry's - my favorite natural foods market!  I'd made Roasted Lemon Chicken the day before and so I got creative and before I knew it, I could close my eyes and feel the warm spring sun!

So if you need a little reminder that spring is just around the corner, or if you happen to be celebrating the sunny skies of early spring, here's a great way to use some of that Roasted Lemon Chicken you made from my recipe earlier in the week!

Let's start with a really simple vinaigrette that you can just shake up in a small jar!

Strawberry-Tangerine Balsamic Vinaigrette
I love the versatility of vinaigrettes!  They can be rich and heavy or light and fruity.  This one is the latter, it’s pretty, pink and totally refreshing . . . perfect for a spring or summer salad or as a reminder in February that spring really is around the corner!
Yield – 1/3 cup

2 tablespoons Very Berry White Balsamic Vinegar*
2 tablespoons tangerine juice
1/2 teaspoon tangerine zest
1 sprig thyme, leaves only
4 teaspoons avocado or walnut oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pink peppercorns

Place all ingredients in a small jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake until emulsified. It could not be easier!

*This recipe is in my first cookbook.  I do like it best, but if you need a substitute, blend 4 sweet strawberries with 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar and 1 small pinch stevia powder.  Strain through a fine wire mesh sieve to remove seeds and any remaining pulp.

Now let's put that beautiful salad together!

Baby Greens with Strawberries, Tangerines and Roasted Chicken
I am a sucker for a beautiful salad!  Every time I make this salad I can barely wait to dig in!  It’s a perfect “bridge” salad . . . that time between the hard winter and early spring because it capitalizes on the bright, fresh citrus flavors of winter and the fresh, sweet strawberries of spring.  Tender greens tossed in a sweet and savory vinaigrette and laced with pieces of tender roasted chicken or tempeh, slices of strawberries and tangerine segments, this salad is one I predict will remind you that sunny days are ahead!
Serves 2

2 cups mixed baby greens
2 cups baby spinach
2 tangerines, peeled and separated into segments
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
4 ounces Lemon Chicken shreds (or Lemon Roasted Tempeh)
1 teaspoon coarse tangerine zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pink peppercorns
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds or pecans (optional
1/4 cup Strawberry-Tangerine Balsamic Vinaigrette

I prefer to warm the chicken and have all ingredients at room temperature - especially in the winter.  So if necessary heat the chicken in a very small amount of the cooking liquid or some chicken stock.  

In a large salad bowl toss all greens, tangerine segments, sliced strawberries, chicken and vinaigrette until well combined.  Top with nuts, pepper and zest.  Serve and enjoy!

While this concept is common in most other countries around the world, as Americans we were not really taught the importance of creating a balance of sweet, spicy, salty, sour and bitter flavors in our dishes.  When this is accomplished, each dish feels more satisfying and shuts down hunger faster and longer.  This salad plays off each of those flavors and also provides an interesting mix of textures, which is a technique I learned as a chef.  A variety of textures invites you to chew longer, and that allows your brain to signal that you are full before you've over eaten.

I also know that most Americans grew up in households where the meat was the star of the dinner table, veggies were just side dishes and salads were boring plates of lettuce that had to be endured for the sake of dessert!

However, as I became a trained chef I learned about food from many other cultures where meatless meals were common and where meat (fish, poultry, pork or red meat) were served as an accompaniment to the real stars of the table . . . vegetables!  Now the secret is that these dishes are well balanced in both flavors and textures.

I guess that's a lot of discussion to explain a pretty simple salad!  I hope you enjoy it!

Dr. P

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