|Strawberry Salad Photo: Rebecca Flint Marx|
While their tart sweetness makes them shining stars of the seasonal baked goods line-up, strawberries also make great supporting players in savory dishes. They pair well with cheeses, nuts, salad greens and even some meats, and can be as versatile as they are irresistible.
One way to introduce them before the dessert course is in a salad, not only as whole fruit but also as a tangy vinegar. Though you can buy bottled strawberry vinegar (as well as other fruit vinegars), it's plenty easy to make your own. It adds bright layers to the following recipe for spinach salad with toasted pecans, strawberries and ricotta -- and can be added to as many other salads, entrees and yes, even desserts, throughout the rest of the summer and beyond.
Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette (Adapted from Gourmet, July 2007)
2 1/2 tablespoons strawberry vinegar (recipe follows below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups spinach, washed and drained (about 5 ounces)
generous handful of pecans, toasted and cooled
1/2 pound strawberries, cut lengthwise into thick slices (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cups ricotta cheese
Whisk together vinegar, a pinch of salt and one or two dashes of black pepper in a small bowl. Add oil in a steady stream, whisking well. Put spinach, strawberries and pecans in a large bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Place on individual plates and top with crumbled ricotta.
Makes about 2 cups
1 pound strawberries, hulled (3 cups)
2 tablespoons mild honey if strawberries are not sweet
2 cups tarragon vinegar or sherry vinegar
In a food processor, pulse strawberries with honey (if using) until juicy and chopped very fine. Transfer to a bowl and stir in vinegar. Let stand for one hour. Strain vinegar through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Vinegar will keep, covered and chilled, for one week.