One of the silver linings of covid and a move from Brooklyn to the country is that for the first time I experienced the joy of planting a vegetable garden from seed to harvest in my own backyard. Watching pea pods grow taller than my three children, seeing them gather fresh strawberries and bowls full of lettuce brings endless pleasure and an enormous sense of pride.
My favorite meal to create at home is a big hearty salad combining unexpected textures and flavors. Our garden now provides a new source of inspiration for fresh salads with vegetables foraged straight from the ground instead of a refrigerator drawer.
This recipe features our first summer strawberries and bibb lettuce. I love the texture of kamut, a nutty ancient grain which I recently discovered at our local bakery that mills their own bread flour from it. I paired the strawberries with a salty but firm cheese and finished it off with pickled onions, sliced almonds and fresh herbs. What I love most about this recipe is its flexibility and adaptability to whatever you happen to have on hand – feel free to swap out lettuces, grains, cheeses or nuts to your taste. Several components of the salad can be prepped ahead, making this a perfect dish for summer entertaining.
Summer Strawberry Salad
This is a recipe I created from scratch for a course I recently took with Susan Spungen, master food stylist and cookbook author
- 1 cup cooked Kamut (wheat berries or farro would also be great)
- 2 bunches of lettuce (bibb, red lettuce, spinach or a combination work well), rinsed and dried
- 1 8 ounce package of strawberries, hulled and sliced (reserve 4-5 for dressing)
- 4 ounces of ricotta salata
- 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced and pickled (see note below)
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted (substitute with toasted pistachios or walnuts)
- 1 handful (approximately ½ cup) fresh herbs such as basil, mint or a combination of both, chopped
- 4-5 strawberries, hulled and mashed
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbs granulated sugar
- 1 tbs dijon mustard
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 ½ ts kosher salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 red onion thinly sliced
For Quick Pickled Onions:
For Dressing: In the bottom of a jar or bowl, mash 4-5 hulled strawberries, add balsamic vinegar, sugar, and mustard. Slowly whisk in olive oil or shake in a mason jar to combine, add salt and pepper to taste. Dressing can be made at least a day in advance.
Try washing and prepping greens (lettuce and herbs) ahead of time. I gather fresh lettuce in the morning, soak, in water and then store in a salad spinner until just before I’m ready to prep the salad.
Just before you’re ready to serve salad, gather your components on the counter. Start by layering greens on a large platter or bowl, add grains and sliced strawberries. Sprinkle with sliced or crumbled ricotta salata, pickled onions, nuts and fresh herbs. Drizzle with a generous amount of dressing and toss salad well to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a crisp glass of chilled rose and crunchy bread.
Do Ahead: Grains can be prepared up to a day or two in advance. If using kamut, make sure to soak grains in water overnight before cooking. Place drained grains in a pot adding 3 cups of water with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer, partially cover and cook until grains are tender, approximately 40 mins. Cooking time may take longer if grains have not been soaked. Let cool and set aside, if using the next day, store in an airtight container in the fridge.
For Quick Pickled Onions:
Combine apple cider vinegar, sugar, kosher salt and water in a container with a lid or large mason jar, mix until sugar is dissolved. Add onions, mixing until well coated, let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before prepping the salad. Onions can be prepared a week in advance.