I am really not a salad person. I can tolerate it as a side but it’s pretty rare I can eat a salad as a main meal. But sometimes I feel the need to eat more vegetables and a salad is one of the easiest ways to do that. I’ve found it much easier to eat a bunch of greens when they’re combined with something sweet or salty or crunchy, or all three. And that’s what I’ve done with this spring strawberry salad. Strawberries are often used in salads with baby spring greens and spinach, and while some people may be skeptical about eating fruit in a salad, I’ve found it to be an amazingly delicious combination.
I prefer to use a higher ratio of other ingredients to greens, but you can of course add more if you like. That’s the great thing about salads like this; they are very easy to customize to your tastes.
How to Serve Spring Strawberry Salad
This salad can be eaten on its own as a light lunch or dinner, and will serve about four. You could also enjoy it as a side dish, perhaps with some grilled chicken and crusty bread, in which case you’ll get about six servings.
Substitutions and Additions
This salad is very flexible. You can play with the amount of each ingredient or add new ones as you see fit. Fresh pomegranate would be lovely, if you can find it.
You can substitute walnuts for the pecans, and if you prefer a less sweet salad, you don’t have to candy the nuts at all. Do make sure you lightly toast them though so as to bring out their flavor.
You can use any kind of green you like for this salad. I prefer a mix of baby greens which is usually sold in bags labelled ‘spring mix’ or similar at the grocery store.
I know that pomegranate molasses may not be easy to find for some people, but I don’t think there’s really an adequate replacement. It’s sweet, but also kind of tart. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find it in your supermarket, or maybe you have a middle eastern grocery store nearby. I order it from Amazon, but you can also try making pomegranate molasses yourself out of pomegranate juice. If you really can’t find it, you could try replacing the pomegranate molasses with honey, but I would start with just one tablespoon and taste first or you may find it too sweet. It won’t be the same, but it will still complement the other flavors in this salad.
Making Ahead and Leftovers
This salad is really best eaten soon after being dressed. If you are planning to make it in advance, or if you are anticipating leftovers, I recommend you only dress what you’ll eat. Prepare all the ingredients but store them separately. That way, you just have to toss everything together when you are ready to eat. The candied pecans can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature; store everything else in the fridge.
How to Make Spring Strawberry Salad
Make the Candied Pecans
I prefer to use a light colored skillet for this, so I can see if the sugar is burning (though we aren’t cooking the nuts long enough that it’s likely to be an issue). Add the sugar, water and a dash of salt to the skillet, stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the sugar has liquified, add the nuts and stir to coat. Keep stirring slowly for another minute or so, until the nuts are super sticky and the syrup is starting to dry up (but isn’t dark). This may take a few attempts to get right if you’re not used to it, but as long as you don’t burn the nuts they’ll still taste good. Once the nuts are done, lay them out on a baking sheet to cool down. Some may stick together; you can break up these clusters easily once they’re cool.
Make the Dressing
Add the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and olive oil to a small container and shake to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Any unused dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. It make thicken or separate once cold. If so, leave it out for about 10 minutes and give a good shake before using.
Make the Salad
Now just dump all the ingredients (except the dressing) in a large bowl. Add some of the dressing, starting with about 3 tablespoons, and toss to combine. Add more dressing if desired.
Spring Strawberry Salad with Pomegranate Dressing
For the Candied Pecans
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- dash salt
- 1/2 cup pecans whole or halves
For the Pomegranate Dressing
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed if possible
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the Salad
- 5.25 oz spring mix or baby spinach or arugula
- 1/2 small red onion cut into thin slivers
- 1 lb strawberries halved or quartered depending on size
- 2 oz feta cheese crumbled
- First, make the candied pecans. Add the sugar, water and salt to a skillet set over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for about a minute until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Add the pecans and stir to coat with the sugar mixture. Cook for another minute or so, stirring. Remove pan from heat and tip the pecans out onto a baking sheet to cool. Once cool, break up any clusters that may have formed.
- For the dressing, add the lemon juice, olive oil and pomegranate molasses to a small jar and shake vigorously to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Put the baby spring mix, red onion, strawberries, feta, and cooled pecans in a large bowl. Add some of the dressing–about 3 tablespoons to start–and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing if desired.
- If you find the pecans are still super sticky after cooling, it means you needed to cook them a little longer. You can still eat them as is, or you can try cooking them again for another minute or so, being careful not to burn them.
- The dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days. It may get a bit thicker or separate in the fridge. Just leave it out for about 10 minutes and give it a shake before using.
Did you make this recipe? If so, follow @theflavorvortex on Instagram and post a picture using #theflavorvortex as I would love to see it!