Clinging to Summer – Strawberry Vinaigrette

by | Aug 24, 2016

A common mantra of the parents of school-aged kids around this time of year is “Where did the summer go?” While school starting does signal the end of vacation days for the kids, what is “summertime” really? Is it simply when schools are out between Spring and Fall semesters…end of story? Is it when the weather is consistently above 80 degrees and we find ourselves focusing on activities involving water (think lake, ocean, pool)? Is it the period between the summer solstice (around June 20) to the autumn equinox (about September 22) for those of us who live in the northern hemisphere? While summertime is all these things and so much more, for me personally it is a combination of state of mind mixed with less-scheduled days and warm weather.

Because I do have a school-aged son, my state of mind switches from summer free time and fun to school and sports schedules rapidly around the middle of August. However, because I live in the south where the weather is warm for at least another month, I still try to hold on to what I can of summer. Strawberries are one of the pieces of summer that I cling to. Strawberries are an absolute favorite in our house. We use them for a side dish, snacks, parfaits, smoothies, desserts, toppings, salads and anywhere else that I can include them. The local farmers markets and even grocery stores bring us locally grown strawberries from approximately April to June and we go especially crazy eating those smaller, sweeter and fresher berries. Even though strawberries are no longer at their peak where we live and they start costing a little more, I cannot help but continue buying them until the weather changes and I start thinking about soup.

One way that I use strawberries that makes me super happy (and also incidentally is a great way to use the berries once they are slightly passed their prime) is whizzing up some Strawberry Vinaigrette! It looks so pretty and is delightfully simple. There are many different variations for strawberry-based dressings, including ones that use mustard, honey or even yogurt. I have never been drawn to the creamy versions. Then this summer my family along with my parents visited Mendocino, CA and we had a lovely and delicious lunch at a restaurant called Flow. We sat on their outdoor patio overlooking a jaw-dropping view of the coastline. Mom and I shared a salad served with awesome strawberry salad dressing that definitely had a creamy base. I was sold and asked for the recipe. Unfortunately, no one knew who to ask to secure it for me. This post may have a follow-up in the future if I can get their recipe.

Good news is that I have been making my own Strawberry Vinaigrette that is simple and delicious before I ever tasted Flow’s version. I vary the ingredients slightly depending on what I have on hand and I usually don’t measure my ingredients (unless, of course, I am writing a cookbook). In the case of making salad dressings with fresh ingredients like berries, I choose to just make enough to use for that meal. My Strawberry Vinaigrette is just fresh strawberries, oil, vinegar, fresh garlic, and black pepper. I do not add any sweeteners like sugar or honey. By the time the strawberries might need sweetener added, I have left summer behind and look forward to strawberries again next spring.

Below is the approximate “recipe” to dress a salad for 4-6 people as a side dish (double for a large main course salad for 4-6 people).

Add these ingredients into a blender:

• Fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled, up to the 2 cup mark on your blender (frozen strawberries will also work but then you will want to add a bit more liquid to allow the blender to create the right consistency. Instead of adding more oil or vinegar try some orange juice)

• Oil (about 2 tablespoons), Choose your oil. I use EVOO.

• Vinegar (about 3 tablespoons), Choose your vinegar. I use white balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. I don’t like the color created by using dark balsamic vinegar, but white balsamic is delicious.

• Garlic (to taste-about ½ teaspoon), fresh garlic paste, minced garlic, or garlic cloves

• Black Pepper (to taste-about ¼ teaspoon)

• Salt (to taste-I don’t add salt, but most people would)

• Poppy seeds, you can add these for dimension to the coloring, My son doesn’t like flecks of color in his food that need to be explained, so I don’t add these.

This vinaigrette is delicious on a mixed green or spinach salad with fresh fruit like berries, peaches, and/or mandarin oranges and spiced or candied nuts. I sometimes add Feta, shaved Parmesan or crumbled Gorgonzola. If you are like me and want to cling to the last of our warm weather and enjoy the delusion that summer mode is still here, make some Strawberry Vinaigrette!

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Salad with Jen’s Strawberry Vinaigrette, strawberries, blackberries and spiced pecans.

I am Judy and David’s daughter and Mel and Tillie’s and Fred and Luella’s granddaughter. I am the beaches and coast, lakes and steams and mountains of California. California is in my heart and soul, where I grew up, and it will always feel like home. My family and my oldest, cherished friends are there and dotted around the West. But, I am also downtown Chicago where I walked to work in knee-high snow and the shores of Lake Michigan where my husband and I strolled pulling my son behind us in his red wagon so he could learn to pump a swing and build sandcastles at the playground on our local beach.Read More

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