Remember this strawberry spinach salad for Memorial Day Weekend, a graduation party, July 4th or any summer gathering. The fresh strawberries serve two roles – an element in the salad and a surprise guest in the dressing too. First published in 2011, this salad never gets old!
This post is part of a group called Progressive Eats, a virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month is hosted by Laura Kumin, the founder of the blog Mother Would Know. We’re featuring dishes that remind us of spring. Be sure to check out all the delicious recipes at the end of this post!
Ring in the Berry Season with a Sweet and Savory Salad!
You’ve just bought the six-pack of strawberries at the farmers’ market and you only have two or three days to polish them off before they are past their prime. What is a berry lover to do?
Aside from the obvious — snacking on them whole or sliced — there are oh so many ways to use them up. Desserts are the obvious direction but how about adding them to a salad? If you think you don’t like sweet with your savory, this strawberry spinach salad with goat cheese and toasted pecans will change your mind.
What Dressing Should I use for a Strawberry Spinach Salad?
When I first made this salad for a Teacher Appreciation Luncheon, I considered taking a shortcut and buying a bottle of salad dressing. When I studied the ingredients in the “healthy” salad dressings at the grocery store, I decided to make my own since they all started with sugar or water as a first ingredient. And you’ll be amazed how easy it is to make this dressing.
Is this Salad Good for You?
Aside from how much we all love the sweet, squishy goodness of a fresh strawberry, don’t forget it’s also packed with nutrients. For more details about its nutritional qualities, head over to this post about my farm tour in Watsonville and read the section called #8aday. Suffice it to say, the American Diabetes Association considers strawberries to be one of their ten superfoods.
How to Prepare a Strawberry Spinach Salad
This salad can be prepared ahead to take to a gathering or just whipped up for a quick weeknight meal. Here’s how I would put it together to take to a picnic, party, or weekend dinner party:
- Use pre-washed spinach – it’s a great shortcut. But if you are washing your own, spin and dry and place it in the bowl or a to-go container or bag for transport.
- Wash and dry the strawberries. If you are serving the salad fairly quickly, go ahead and slice them up. If it will be a few hours, I would bring a small paring knife and slice them when you put the salad together
- Toast and chop the pecans – this can be done hours ahead or even the day before.
- If you buy a log of goat cheese, and not the pre-crumbled container, you could crumble it ahead and pack it to go in a container so you can just toss it on the salad.
- Prepare the dressing as early as a few days ahead if you’d like – it will be fine stored in the fridge.
- Pack it all in a cooler. Assemble it right before dinner is served. Remember to bring your serving utensils. The host or hostess will thank you!
Can I Make Substitutions in this Salad?
There are many ways to change up this salad to your own tastes or based on what ingredients you have in the house.
- Try other berries or even stone fruit such as peaches.
- Switch up the cheese or if serving a vegan, leave it out all-together. Feta would be a wonderful substitution for the goat cheese.
- Change the nut choice – try almonds or pine nuts or walnuts or even macadamias.
- The greens – arugula is a great alternative to the spinach or even mix the two.
Can I Serve this Salad as a Main Course?
I have added chicken to this salad and turned it into a main course for lunch or dinner. I think pork tenderloin would also be an excellent choice. But even without the meat, the cheese and nuts make it a hearty salad. Or consider adding some lentils or quinoa.
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Pecans and Strawberry Balsamic Dressing
You'll love this colorful sweet and savory salad all berry season long. There's lots of protein and texture with the added cheese and nuts or add chicken, pork, or grains for an even heartier version
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Fresh thyme or basil - to taste
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 10 oz Pre-washed spinach or wash your own
- 1/2 cup Raw pecans toasted * and rough chopped
- 1/2 cup plain goat cheese crumbled
- Strawberries about 10 or 15 sliced
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the dressing:
Put sliced strawberries and balsamic vinegar into a blender; liquefy briefly.
Add in fresh herbs (thyme or basil) and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Then add the olive oil. Blend until the oil combines well with the other ingredients - it will change color and texture as it does.
Take cover off and taste - add more salt, pepper, or fresh herbs if needed. This recipe makes enough dressing (about 1 3/4 cup) for at least 2 or 3 salads.
To prepare the salad:
- Place spinach in a bowl or on a large platter. In any order that you like, place toasted pecans, sliced strawberries, and crumbled goat cheese on top. Salt and pepper to taste then serve with the strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. If you are serving this as a main course, add chicken (store-bought rotisserie chicken on a busy weeknight will do just fine)
*You can toast nuts by placing on a baking sheet in a toaster oven or in a regular oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them – they go from deliciously toasty to burnt rather quickly.
Spring has Sprung Dishes that highlight ingredients and flavors associated with spring
- Fresh Strawberry Thyme Bellini – Mother Would Know
- Vegetable Tray with Herby Yogurt Dip – Healthy Delicious
- Baked Brie with Fresh Berries and Toasted Walnuts – Creative Culinary
- Creamy Asparagus Soup (Gluten Free & Dairy Free) – The Heritage Cook
- Artichoke Foccacia – From a Chef’s Kitchen
- Spring Onion Fiddlehead Risotto – Sarah’s Cucina Bella
- Grilled Mexican Steak and Arugula Salad – Beyond Mere Sustenance
- Strawberry Spinach Salad – OMG Yummy
- Shrimp and Pork Belly Fried Rice with Peas – Karen’s Kitchen Stories