Strawberries are a first sign of summer here in Western Washington. Not spring. It just does not get hot enough for berries in the spring. But right around the solstice in June, if we are lucky, we see their lovely little red faces poking up in the fields. It is a sure sign of more great food to come. Strawberries grown locally and sold in the markets and roadside stands are smaller than those you might see in the grocers. But bigger is not always better. The giant strawberries you see from the south are often a specific variety grown for the size and their endurance on long travels to distant cities. They often lack the flavor and texture that you can find by waiting until they are ripe and ready here. And believe me they are worth the wait! The flavor is unmatched! Don’t believe me? Then head down to the market and try for yourself.
My creation today is a celebration of not only the strawberry but of several other local and in season items as well. It is Strawberry Spinach Salad and it has turned out beautifully! This is a simple salad, calling for only a few ingredients, which makes it easy to make. With the bright colors and striking red and green contrast it makes a great presentation, and it is a wonderful compliment to many a meat entree or even pasta dishes. (can you say early summer BBQ party?!)
What I have done here is combine spinach leaves, and strawberries washed trimmed and cut into pieces. Spinach can be bought in bags at the store, but market fresh is the best. (really color and taste are better and the nutritional quality is higher) And finally the recipe calls for scallions. This means green onions. But today I have substituted shallot scapes. A shallot scape is thicker, crunchier, and sharper in taste than its green onion cousin. They are the part of shallots that grow up out of the ground and are basically the first part of a shallot before it forms a bulb underneath the earth later on in the season. You will not likely find these anywhere but at farms and markets. The grocers do not usually sell them. And they are very seasonal, try them while you can. The farm that I am working for does not have green onions yet for reasons unknown, but this is better. Not only does it make for a better salad with greater flavors, but it allows me to take advantage of the local produce utilizing what is in season right now, a concept that is good for the economy the environment and the bodies that eat the food!
1 container strawberries (washed trimmed and cut as mentioned above)
¼ lb of spinach (this is a substantial amount of spinach)
2-4 long shallot scapes cut into pieces
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/8 cup oil (I used grape-seed; it is very light and clean tasting)
1/8 cup vinegar (white or red wine vinegar works well)
1 tbsp of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
A note here about my quantities and ideas. I don’t measure for things like this. I eyeball and go by taste. For more people add more food accordingly. And for the dressing you don’t need a lot here and you don’t want to cover the taste of the food, just enhance. A light coat is all that is needed. So make the dressing in small quantities and increase if it is not enough. For thicker dressing use less vinegar, for thinner use less oil. Also combine the ingredients close to the time of serving. Enjoy!
(a note to the reader: This post may seem out of place and season and it is. This was originally posted to another blog in June of 2009 when I was working for an organic farm to learn all about being a locavore. I am re posting them because they were fun posts and they showcase the concept of local food culture something I am very much still a part of. Thank you for reading this!)