For Mother’s Day dinner, Jules requested “a good salad in a big bowl.” I like salad as much as the next guy (as long as that next guy doesn’t really like salad), but salad just sounds so boring. So I walked up and down the produce section of our local grocery store and found a few ingredients I thought might make a more exciting salad. Turns out, I was totally RIGHT!!! Lots to go over, so enough prose. Let’s do this.
If you’ve never eaten kumquats, they’re basically tiny oranges with a bit more tartness. The peels are super thin and quite sweet, so there’s no need to peel them. Candying the kumquats balances out some of that tartness. Here’s what you do:
2/3 cup water
2/3 loosely packed cup brown sugar
4 oz kumquats, sliced, seeds removed (kumquats are notorious for having large seeds)
|mix sugar and water in a pan, bring to boil, add the kumquats, cook until fruit turns translucent|
|remove kumquats from liquid (leave liquid in pan), place on wax paper to cool. they won’t get crunchy. that’s ok|
Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing
Next up? Raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Don’t let it intimidate you – it’s really easy. Here’s what you need:
Liquid from cooking the kumquats + 1/2 cup water
4 oz fresh raspberries (can use frozen, but won’t be as good)
|after you’ve removed the kumquats from the pan, add water and raspberries and simmer until raspberries fall apart|
|pour raspberries into a fine mesh sieve, force it through sieve with back of spoon. be sure to scrape off the underside of the strainer – that’s where the good stuff is|
|this is all you get out of it. not very much, but totally worth the effort|
|add 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. whisk until it’s all combined|
Crunchy Granola Topping
I’m a crouton man. I love croutons on my salad. Of course, we’re eating gluten free and I’ve never seen a satisfactory gluten-free crouton, so I was looking for something else to add some crunch. I love eating granola with fruit, and since I was adding some fruity elements to the salad, I thought I’d roll with it. I used gluten-free rolled oats, but you can use whatever kind you have (most rolled oats are not gluten-free, so be sure to double check). Here’s what you need:
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup honey (I used orange blossom honey that my lovely sister gave me as a gift – it was perfect for this, but you can use any honey you want)
I’m pretty hands on with my granola. I like to toast it in a non-stick pan, on the stove top. Doing it this way takes a bit of attention, though, because it needs to be tossed every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn and it all toasts evenly. You can also make this granola in the oven by mixing the ingredients and baking for 30 minutes or so at 300 degrees. Please note, this granola was made specifically for this salad. It’s not meant to be the ultimate, all-purpose granola for whatever. But I will say, it’s quite tasty to just snack on, and super simple to make. Check it.
|put your oats and almonds in a non-stick pan on medium-low heat and toast for 20-ish minutes, tossing every couple of minutes to keep it from burning|
|add honey and toss it around until all the granola is coated evenly. cook for 3-4 minutes|
|pour it on some wax paper and let it cool. it will get crunchy, worry not|
That’s the 3rd part of the prep. The 4th is chicken. Quick version: 2 chicken breasts (1 for each person), rinsed, dried, coated with light olive oil (not extra virgin), sprinkled with salt, pepper, ancho chili powder, and dried basil. Cooked on the grill or in a grill pan. If you can’t find ancho, then just skip the chili powder.
Whew. Ok, so we just went over how to make 3 different things (4 if you count the chicken, which I don’t since it’s not anything special). That was a bit like drinking from a firehose, which I apologize for. But here’s what you end up with:
1/3 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
7 leaves red leaf lettuce, chopped
1 cup savoy cabbage, chopped
7-8 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
1 heirloom tomato, small dice
1/3 red bell pepper, really small dice
good-quality feta cheese, cubed
I learned from California Pizza Kitchen that the trick to a salad that is enjoyable to eat (not just tasty) is to chop the lettuce up really good. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon. Seriously, this is an important step. Otherwise you end up with one of those salads that’s perpetually leaving traces of dressing in the corners of peoples’ mouths because the leaves are too big. So… chop it up. You’ll love it, I promise.
Assemble like so – mix the lettuces, cabbage, basil, tomato, and bell pepper in a large bowl. Transfer to your serving bowls. Top with dressing, then chicken, then granola, then kumquats, then a little more dressing, and finish it with the feta. Bang, awesome salad.
I have to say, I really hope that you try this salad. Granted, there are a lot of steps. But it’s seriously not difficult, and ends with possibly the best salad I’ve ever had. It’s totally summer appropriate and you won’t regret taking the time. One last pic.
PS – Feel free to make it your own, too. If you try something different and it turns out great, let me know! I’m always looking for more ideas. :)
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