SPRING MIX WITH STRAWBERRIES AND COCOA BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

I had lunch today at Barnaby’s Café in the Heights, located at 2802 White Oak Dr.  One of my friends ordered the chicken burrito, and when the monster creation arrived at the table, we all just kind of stared at it and its bizarre garnish:

barnabys

Talk about food porn

Hello?  In the words of my friend Jannine, is that a burrito, or are you just happy to see me?  I’m just going to go ahead and say what I know you must be thinking and get it over with — it’s a jalapeñis.  It brought to mind the infamous banana candle, which I still can’t believe anyone would ever suggest as a healthy meal for children:

381767_1901344912375_918567386_n[1] Not gonna go there

While the burrito might suggest that sex is in the air, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I think more people are inclined to think that love is in the air.  One of the things that will definitely be on our Valentine’s Day dinner menu is Spring Mix with Strawberries and Cocoa Balsamic Vinaigrette. Chocolate and strawberries — it’s a no-brainer.  I’m way beyond cutting heart shapes out of beets and red peppers, and other such cutesy stuff.  This, on the other hand, is the salad that when you make it, your family will ask, “Are we having company?”  I admit that blue cheese, fruit, and nuts are nothing new when it comes to salad, but the vinaigrette–nutty from hazelnut oil, with rich cocoa notes and subtle sweetness from balsamic vinegar and golden syrup–makes this salad unique and memorable.  It’s a great way to say “I love you” this Valentine’s Day.  Definitely better than a burrito with a jalapeñis.

SPRING MIX WITH STRAWBERRIES AND COCOA BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
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Recipe type: Salad
Author:
Ingredients
  • ◾For the Cocoa Balsamic Vinaigrette:
  • ◾¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ◾¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ◾1-1/2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup (can substitute honey)
  • ◾2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ◾½ teaspoon salt
  • ◾¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ◾Pinch of ground cayenne
  • ◾½ cup vegetable oil
  • ◾½ cup hazelnut oil
  • For the salad:
  • ◾8 to 10 cups spring mix
  • ◾1 cup sliced strawberries
  • ◾½ cup glazed pecans*
  • ◾4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • *I like to use Fisher Glazed Pecans, but you can use any glazed nut you'd like. Toasted pecans are nice too.
Instructions
  1. For the cocoa balsamic vinaigrette, in a medium bowl, whisk together vinegars, syrup, cocoa, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Slowly whisk in oils until smooth and emulsified. Transfer dressing to a serving container.
  2. Divide spring mix among 6 individual salad plates, chilled if possible, and drizzle with dressing, reserving any unused dressing for use at another time. Arrange strawberries, blue cheese, and pecans decoratively on top, and serve.

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These are really, really good.  Really.

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<3 <3 <3 <3

Roses are red

Violets are blue

If you don’t like my salad

I’ve got a burrito for you

ARUGULA AND FRESH CHICKPEA SALAD

Recently I ran across fresh chickpeas at Central Market and the farmers market.  If you’ve never had them before, I encourage you to give them a try.

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Each cute little pod holds one or two chickpeas.

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Don’t let those fuzzy little pods fool you, though — these things are a pain in the neck to shell, although they’re worth the effort.  The pods don’t pop open very easily, and they’re surprisingly tough.  I suggest starting with a small quantity, perhaps 1/3 pound, which should yield enough for this salad (plus, they tend to be kinda pricey).

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzos in Spain and Latin American countries, are a member of the pea family.  I was disappointed to learn that they are not called chickpeas because they look like fat little chicks.  I can’t be the only one that thought this, can I?  I mean, it’s not that big a stretch, is it?

 

In fact, the name chickpea comes from the French chiche, which comes from the Latin cicer arietinum, meaning “small ram,” which, according to one source reflects “the unique shape of this legume that somewhat resembles a ram’s head.”  If you say so.  Oh well, yet another step closer to being Cliff Clavin.

I tried roasting fresh chickpeas a few years ago when they first started appearing in stores, based on raves in the blogosphere.  I didn’t think the final product was significantly better than if I had used canned chickpeas, and it was definitely not worth the extra time involved, in my opinion.  But blanching them until they are tender is a different story.  The chickpeas turn a bright green, and they taste very much like fava beans with a firmer texture.  Plus, they’re so chirpin’ cute.

So after shelling my pound of fresh chick peas for what seemed like a very long time, I blanched them and used them in this pleasing salad.  The combination of arugula, pea shoots, chickpeas, and parmesan is just different enough to be interesting.  I used a slightly sweet vinaigrette, but I think it would also be nice with a creamy herbed dressing or even ranch dressing.  All amounts given are approximate.

ARUGULA AND FRESH CHICKPEA SALAD
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Recipe type: Salad, Vegetarian
Author:
Ingredients
  • For the salad:
  • 6-8 cups baby arugula
  • ⅓ pound fresh chickpeas
  • 1 cup fresh pea shoots
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese
  • For the dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil, and add chickpeas. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop cooking. When cool enough to handle, shell chickpeas.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare vinaigrette by whisking together oil, vinegars, and honey in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Place arugula, pea shoots, and chickpeas in a large salad bowl. Just before serving, drizzle with vinaigrette, reserving any extra for another use. Using a vegetable peeler, shave long strips of Parmesan cheese on top of salad, and serve.

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Blanched fresh chickpeas

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Waiting to get dressed