by Ava Morlier, Culinary Arts Program at CTC

Happy July! Hopefully, your summer is going well. It’s nice to have time to celebrate with friends, to kick back, to relax, and to enjoy new cuisines. Summer offers the perfect time to taste all of what the food world has to offer.

In regards to experimenting with garden crops, this recipe integrates seasonal crops with the flavors and desired temperatures of summer: Salads! Easy to make, cold (good for resisting July temperatures), and good for a crowd (giving you more time to go on summer adventures), salads are the ultimate summer dish. However, it can seem salads only appear as uncreative sides, made up of a few shreds of carrot, some pale iceberg leaves, and a sad tomato. How can a salad be creative and filling? What does a salad consist of when made as the main dish?

A salad consists of two parts: a base and the toppings. The base can include greens and other ingredients. The greens used in a salad should be appropriate for the dressing. For example, using salad greens in this salad is a great way to incorporate color and can hold the thin dressing. Whereas, a salad with a heavier dressing (like a creamy ranch) uses thicker and stronger greens, such as romaine or iceberg lettuce.

The ingredients in the base (the extras added to the greens of the salad) should incorporate color and texture. For example, candied pecans add a sweet crunch to this salad, while the shredded carrot and strawberries add natural sweetness and color. The ingredients of the base should also either mirror the flavors of the dressing or contrast well with the dressing (i.e. Contrasting salty onion rings with a creamy and slightly sweet creamy parmesan dressing). The ingredients also do most of the nutritive heavy-lifting: they can provide protein (think chicken breast, salmon, or edamame), fats (nuts and cheeses), and carbohydrates (croutons or crouton variants, such as wonton strips).

The other part, the toppings, is where a chef can get creative. Deliberate placing of ingredients on a salad adds a layer of elegance that messy placement cannot provide. In other words: Have fun with creating the image of the top of the salad: it is your canvas.

Hopefully, this salad will help you cool down and enjoy summer, tastefully!

Balsamic Vinagrette Salad

For the Base
  • 1 bag spring lettuce mix
  • ¼ head of iceberg lettuce
  • ½ carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 6 strawberries
For the Candied Pecans
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
For the Croutons
  • ¼ loaf bread (can be any kind; crusty French bread works best)
  • olive oil and Italian seasoning mix (2 tbsp. oil to 1 tsp. Italian seasoning; you can use more seasoning if desired)
For the Dressing
  • ½ cup oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. raspberry sauce
  • ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 pinch each: crushed fennel, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, salt, pepper

Tools Needed

Medium pan, spatula, medium baking sheet w/ edges, small bowl, tongs, serrated knife, cutting board, parchment paper, measuring utensils (dry and liquid), several cutting boards, grater, chef’s knife, paring knife, large bowl (for mixing greens with other ingredients and dressing), tongs, large plate.

  1. Preheat oven 3500. Line a medium sheet pan with parchment paper. On a cutting board, cut the stale bread in half with a serrated knife. Cut halves into thin strips. Stack thin strips and cut horizontally to make the bread into thin cubes.
  2. Put cut bread into the small bowl. In a separate bowl, make oil and seasoning mix. Pour into bowl containing cut bread; toss with tongs to evenly distribute oil. Once evenly tossed, put on a baking sheet and evenly distribute uncooked croutons. Make sure not to crowd the pan, as that will lead to undercooked croutons.
  3. Place in oven; cook for 10 minutes (or until golden brown and crispy). Once done, take out and let cool.
  4. Make the candied pecans: Place pan on medium heat. Once hot, add ½ of the sugar.
  5. Cook 3-4 min (or until melted), add pecans. Take the pan off the heat.
  6. Stir the pecans, making sure to evenly coat all the pecans. Once coated, remove from the pan and onto parchment paper or a ceramic plate. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and let cool. Once cooled, break up candied pecans
  7. Make the dressing: Combine oil, vinegar, raspberry sauce, and seasonings and whisk together. (This will temporarily combine them. Due to the heavy oil concentration, it may not mix very quickly. Putting the mixture in a leak-proof container and shaking well ensures the mixture will be evenly mixed.)
  8. Prep the fruits and vegetables: Wash the lettuce. Remove outer leaves. On a new cutting board, cut lettuce with a chef’s knife into long strips. Put in a large bowl.
  9. Add spring greens to the large bowl; shred by hand.
  10. Wash carrot and peel exterior. Grate into a small bowl.
  11. On a clean cutting board, hull and slice strawberries into fourths. Set aside.
  12. Assemble the salad: Add half of the sliced strawberries, croutons (only if the salad will immediately be consumed after creation; otherwise, the croutons will get soggy), and candied pecans, respectively.
  13. Add enough dressing to coat. Toss salad base with tongs until dressing evenly coats all ingredients.
  14. Pour onto a large plate. Top with the other half of the ingredients creatively. Serve.

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