This is my Kathy’s (wife of nearly 40 years) garden. It’s one of those earthly places where heavenly angels hang out after a hard day in the office. Really, I’m not kidding. I’ve seen them. At this time of year, my Kathy is busy planting all of her summer friends, checking in on her permanent residents and making sure the spring, summer and fall around here are full of blooming happiness and green goddesses.
This is my garden. You’ll notice my garden is not located on the main plantation. In the past, I have tried and failed to negotiate terms to rent or own space on the main plantation. But Kathy the Landowner (she wears many hats in our lives together–I, on the otherhand, wear very few hats) has been unable to find sufficient vacant space for my paltry 3 foot by 3 foot garden anywhere on the one full acre of grounds ‘she’ owns. Thus, my garden is located behind the car, in the driveway, perched on a precipitous wall, in darkeness other than 3 hours a day, at best!
If you pay careful attention, you’ll notice that while my garden is small, all of ‘my friends’ are edible. I feed them, water them and mostly neglect them, but they never-the-less grow and grow and grow, and proudly produce beautiful tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and mint. Kathy’s friends located on a full acre of land produce absolutely nothing edible. But I need to admit they produce a special kind of beauty almost equal to that of Kathy the Gardener.
This is also my Kathy’s garden, and my dog Skye is helping me wander around the gardens looking for Kathy the Gardener. We think it’s dinner time for the humans and dogs in the family. Dinner is a problem around this time of year. Kathy is very busy planting, feeding, watering and pruning her garden family. Each April the humans and dogs of the family (I’m not sure which category I fall into, and I’m pretty sure it changes from day-to-day) are informed that our daily nutritional and watering needs will be secondary to those of the outdoor family. When we finally find Kathy in the front garden, the ‘fend for yourself’ phrase is unspoken, but nevertheless clearly visible in her expression.
Accordingly, Skye and I desperately find our way to the refridgerator to see what is available for ‘fending’. We discover that the fullness of the outdoor gardens is offset by the emptiness of the refridgerator. Yeah, shopping is an issue too. When I inquire about that, I’m frequently asked, “do you have a broken leg?” That’s Kathy’s version of sarcasm. Nevertheless, Skye and I discover the vegetable bin has some fresh spring lettuces already washed and bagged, a few cherry tomatoes and some left over sliced peppers from dinner the other night. I look over the counter and see some Rustic Italian Bread from the other night too, a lttle stale, but that’s OK. I’m going to make one of my favorite salads, with a side of toasted italian garlic crostini, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough County, New Zealand. I’ll make enough for Kathy, and invite her to join me for a break from her garden family. I offer Skye the salad option, but he decides he’d rather have his McDonalds style dinner–chicken nuggets and potatoes right out of the can.
This is an amazingly easy salad recipe, and I’m pretty darn sure there isn’t anyone out there that will turn away a cool, fresh-made salad this time of year. AND, if you make a homemade salad dressing, for some reason the salad goes from special to spectacular. I think it has to do with actually having a salad recipe, and then taking the time to make it (albeit very little time), and then gently coating the greens with a well-prepared freshly-made dressing. It’s not complicated, which is probably why it comes out great every time.
Here’s the recipe. It’s a snap, and the picture is one I made just recently for a larger group. I added some blueberries and toasted pecans for color and texture, but you can do whatever you want. Make it yours. You can easily scale this recipe down or up to accomodate as many or as few people as needed. Impress your guests by making one of these for an afternoon lunch on the patio. This is a sure bet winner! Impress your friends when they invite you to dinner by bringing the salad. If you are a guy, offer to bring the salad, because most people think guys are incompetent in the salad department. We typically get to bring the beer and chips. How boring is that? I guarantee that if you prepare this salad just like in this picture, putting it in a pretty bowl, and ‘Dressing it Up’ with your homemade viniagrette just before serving, you will be a Star of the Party.
Simple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 15 min | Servings: 6 to 8 servings | Difficulty: Easy
- 2 Bags Pre-Washed Spring Greens, Mesclun or other Greens
- Pinch salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Balsamic Vinaigrette, recipe follows
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 shallot or small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, chives, or thyme (optional)
- 1 heaping tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Make the viniagrette by adding all of the ingredients into a medium size bowl and vigorously whisking them unti the oil has emulsified (mixed) with the vinegar. Taste it. If it needs more salt-do it. Like it with a bit more of kick? Add a bit more fresh ground pepper. Put aside until ready to dress the salad.
2. Assemble the greens, tomatoes, peppers and any other additions you choose into a nice bowl. Make it pretty but not fussy.
3. When ready to serve, toss the greens mixture together with just enough vinaigrette to coat tem, about 1/2 cup. The salad should not be drenched in the dressing. Put the excess dressing in a nice bowl and pass it around the table for thos that might want a bit more. Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.
4. Serve the salad with a nice crusty French Baguette or Rustic Italian Bread.
This is a basic viniagrette that can be altered in so many ways. You want a Raspberry Viniagrette? Replace the Balsamic with red wine vinegar and add a nice heaping tablespoon of raspberry preserves out of a jar, and you got it! You want a champagne viniagrette (Whoa! Feeling cocky today)? Just replace the vinegar with last nights left over champagne and a little fresh squeezed lemon, and you got it. Just remember to keep the ratio of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to vinegar or citrus the same–4 to 1.
Add: Orange or Grapefruit Sections, Blueberries, Raspberries, Fresh figs or anything you like. But keep it simple. Excellent with some crumbled blue cheese!
Source: Lou’s Recipe Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager