Saturday, 2 June 2018

Balsamic Strawberry, Fennel, Hazelnut and Goat Cheese Salad

For me, one of the best parts of summer is that when you make a salad, you can add whatever you want to it, which leaves no excuse for ignoring things that are waiting to be used up!

For this salad I combined the handful of strawberries that were not as flavourful as they could have been (marinating them in black pepper and Balsamic vinegar), a handful of hazelnuts, half a bulb of fennel  and a small piece of soft goats cheese.

I rounded out the meal with grilled pork tenderloin. This salad was refreshing, tangy, crunchy and creamy...a flavour surprise in every bite!

Combine and marinate for at least 30 minutes:

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Drain the vinegar from the strawberries and add olive oil to make a vinaigrette. I added 2 tablespoons of oil; taste and season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine:

4 handfuls of mixed baby greens
the drained and marinated strawberries
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

Add the vinaigrette and toss gently to coat all the ingredients.

To plate, mound the greens, fennel and strawberries onto the plates.

Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and crumbled soft goat cheese.

I served the salad with grilled pork tenderloin that I sliced and marinated in minced garlic, finely chopped fennel greens, olive oil and lemon juice. This made use of the fennel tops, which are full of flavour and need not be wasted.

  • The strawberries I had were not as sweet and juicy as they can be...but by marinating them in the vinegar and black pepper, they absorbed the flavours and imparted some of their flavour to the vinaigrette. 
  • Marinating disappointing berries in Balsamic vinegar, wine, liqueur or fruit juice will bring them to life. The strawberries can also be served over ice cream.
  • Sweet, perfectly ripe, juicy berries will add tons of flavour to the salad, and the sweetness is also a nice contrast to the tartness of the goat cheese and the acidity of the Balsamic vinegar.
  • If you choose to use soft berries such as raspberries, do not marinate them or they will turn mushy. Blackberries and blueberries can be marinated.
  • Try other fruits such as figs, peaches, plums or apricots.
  • The cheese was a choice between two small or goat, and my husband chose goat cheese. Either would have been a good choice for the salad.
  • Strawberries or watermelon tossed with Balsamic vinegar, black pepper and feta or goat cheese are both refreshing, tasty summer salads. Add some chopped fresh basil just before serving.
  • I shaved the fennel bulb on a mandoline. You can also use the blade on a food processor, or a grater. If using a knife to cut the fennel, cut as thin as you safely can.

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