Playing on the classic Italian combination of strawberries, basil, and balsamic vinegar, this salad is refreshing and tangy-sweet. With the addition of two kinds of nuts, it’s also hearty—especially for vegetarians. It also pairs well with grilled chicken, white fish, polenta, and both caramelized onions and sweet peppers.
Recipes for vinaigrettes usually call for much more oil than vinegar. I find that ratio to be too greasy and heavy; because I like the acidic zip of vinegar, I put in equal amounts of vinegar and olive oil. Also, you may notice that there’s not a lot of dressing for this salad. I lightly coat the salad with dressing because I really like all of the ingredients to shine. If you like more dressing or more oil in your vinaigrettes, play around and make adjustments according to your tastes.
½ tsp dried basil or 2 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt & pepper
¼ of a small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups mixed greens, chopped or torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup sliced strawberries
¼ cup toasted, chopped walnuts
1 TBS toasted pine nuts
1 oz Parmigiano reggiano or other parmesan cheese, shaved
In a small bowl, add the basil, honey, mustard, a pinch of salt and pepper, and vinegar. Whisk well. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the vinaigrette is well blended (emulsified).
Add the sliced onions to the dressing and stir to coat. Marinate for 5 minutes.
In a mixing or salad bowl, add the mixed greens, strawberries, walnuts, and pine nuts. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and gently toss until well-coated. Top with shaved parmesan and serve immediately.
Don’t Freak Out!
1) Make it nut-free. Omit the nuts and substitute ¼ cup toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead. Or for crunch without nuts or seeds, you can substitute store-bought croutons, chow mein noodles, or canned fried onions.
2) Make it vegan. Omit the cheese entirely or substitute vegan parmesan or feta cheese.
3) Balsamic vinegar often contains caramel color. Unless the label states that the caramel color is from wheat, barley, or malt, it is generally considered to be gluten-free. But use your own discretion.
4) Besides parmesan, other good cheeses to use are feta, pecorino romano, grana padano, goat’s cheese, or blue cheese.
5) Candied walnuts or almonds would also be good in this.
6) Omit the basil and stir a teaspoon of prepared basil pesto into the vinaigrette instead.