Spring is here
The grass is GREEN; the sun is shining; the birds are chirping. It is FINALLY spring! And my taste buds are craving spring flavors! As a result, one of my all-time favorite warm-weather salads appeared on my private chef table this week. This salad bursts with the delicious, juicy goodness of blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Topped with some feta cheese and sweetened almonds and then drizzled with a homemade strawberry vinaigrette, it is truly divine.
This salad is super easy to put together. Besides slicing and dicing, there are really only two steps. First, which is optional, is to sweeten the almonds. If you don’t want the added sugar, just toast them.
Speaking of sugar, while doing a cooking demonstration for a wellness program sponsored by a local yoga studio, I learned a new word: ahimsa. It means no harm done. The dynamic speaker was discussing health and diet or, more specifically, making healthy choices but allowing oneself the occasional treat as well. Ahimsa. No harm done if one indulges in the occasional treat; harm is done if one feels deprived. I like the sound of this and need to ponder it more.
What does this have to do with my sweetened almonds? Well, I pulled out this oldie but goodie recipe and was reminded that the recipe contains sugar. I have been very good this year as far as making sure I’m not adding any refined sugar to my diet (it’s good for the taste buds — more on this in next week’s post). And, I admit, I was a little sad at the thought of not sweetening my almonds. I LOVE this salad with the sweetened almonds. And then I thought, “Ahimsa!” I feel deprived at the thought of not having these almonds; so I WILL sweetened them.
Actually, by sweetening them myself, I’m pretty sure I’m ingesting far less sugar than if I purchased a bag of sugared almonds. So it’s still good.
But if you don’t want to sweeten your almonds, you don’t have to. Maybe I won’t next time either. I had my fix. Next time, I’ll prepare them by simply toasting the almonds, and save the sweetened ones for dinner parties.
Almonds & Strawberries
So it’s pretty easy to sweeten the almonds, and by doing it yourself (as opposed to buying a bag) you control the amount of sugar in the dish. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar in a small skillet over medium heat. Watch it carefully and stir almost constantly. Once the sugar begins to melt, stir constantly and lower the heat slightly. As soon as the sugar is melted, quickly add the almonds and toss to coat them as much as possible. They’ll stick together. That’s OK. Remove them from the pan onto a cutting board or plate to cool. Once cool, break them apart.
The second step is to make the homemade strawberry vinaigrette like a private chef does. Just put all of the vinaigrette ingredients into a blender and give it a buzz. Done.
Now assemble your beautiful, colorful, juicy, wholesome, oh-so-good salad by piling the greens on individual plates or bowls or on a serving platter. Top with mixed berries prepared by a private chef in NYC, crumbled feta cheese, almonds and chiffonaded basil (rolled and sliced into thin threads). Serve the dressing on the side. Most importantly, relax and enjoy!