Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Special Summer Salad

As it gets closer to Labor Day, I find myself trying hard to hang onto summer. The salad in this post is a copy of one I had in Michigan on a perfect July day.  Our family cottage is in Northwest Michigan which besides being the "Cherry Capital of the World", happens to be a good climate to grow grapes. We discovered a great place to rent bikes and a wonderful bike trail that had several wineries along it.  Caroline and Adam were visiting for a few days, and our day of biking and viewing wineries was one of the best activities we did during their stay. Before we left the bike shop, the clerk pointed out a few must see wineries on the map and we stopped at one for lunch. We were starved and everything was so delicious - especially the salad. The dressing was made with verjus which is the juice of tart green grapes. I loved it so much, I bought a bottle of it at the winery and it could be bought on line, but champagne vinegar would probably be a good substitute for it. The dressing also included finely diced preserved lemons. I  bought those at a middle eastern grocery but lemon zest could be used instead.  The baked ricotta and hazelnuts really add a lot to the salad and the dressing wraps it all up in a bunch of lemony yumminess - Enjoy!

Ingredients for Four Salads

1 (5 oz. bags of spring mix salad)
1 1/3 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/4 cup plus hazelnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon or 1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup verjus or champagne vinegar
1 small clove garlic, put through a press
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
scant 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper plus a little more for sprinkling

Directions for the Salad

Mix the ricotta cheese with the lemon zest. Brush the inside of a small baking dish with a bit of the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the ricotta mixture in the dish evenly. Drizzle the rest of the 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. If the top isn't browned, place it under the broiler for two minutes, watching carefully so it browns by doesn't burn. 

Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the hazelnuts and stir for a minute or two until they begin to brown.  Watch carefully so they don't burn. When they have browned, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. 

Whisk together the verjus (or vinegar), olive oil, pressed garlic, preserved lemon (or zest), salt, and pepper. Set aside. 

To assemble the salad divide the spring mix between four plates. Put 1/3 cup of the sliced strawberries on each plate.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon dried blueberries and 1 tablespoon hazelnuts on each serving. Cut the baked ricotta cheese into cubes and place 1/4 cup of the cubes on each plate. Give the verjus dressing a good whisk and drizzle 2 tablespoons of it over each salad.

Sprinkle a bit of fresh ground pepper over each plate to finish the salad off.

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