Strawberry, Asparagus and Pine Nut Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

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Mike and I were snuggled up on the couch watching an illegal copy of I Love You, Man, when Paul Rudd confided to Jason Segel that one of his best nights was drinking a bottle of white wine and eating Summer Salad with his girlfriend. As a chick, I understand that I was supposed to go, “awwwww……” but all I could think was what a pansy-arsed Sally he was, and how I was SO GLAD not to be dating him (abominably cute smile excluded). And then I thought, “Huh….what’s a summer salad?”

Mike: “You’ve got to be kidding me, right? You don’t know what a SUMMER SALAD is?”

Tina: “SIGH. No, I don’t. Do you?”

Mike, practically crowing with delight: “You know, it’s a…..IT’S A SUMMER SALAD.”
Clearly he was still harboring a grudge about my “You know, ceviche is….CEVICHE”, or, “Piri Piri. It’s that PIRI PIRI sauce. It tastes like…Piri Piri.”

I was NOT impressed.

Mike: “Alright. *YAWN* A ‘Summer Salad’ is a salad with some berries and nuts and stuff. And dressing. There’s dressing, too.”
Are you kidding me? I allowed myself to be mocked in my ignorance about ‘a salad with some berries and nuts and stuff’. SERIOUSLY?!

I decided from that point forward that I was going to loathe and despise Summer Salads on the following principles:
1. They have a stupid name.
2. I’m still rankled about now knowing what they were in the first place, and more so that Mike DID.
3. The fact that obviously there are people in the world who consider this to be dinner, and who are wholly incorrect. A salad with berries does not count as dinner. The bottle of Pinot Grigio, well, maybe…..

The problem, as I see it, is that…well, I actually really LIKE salads with fruit and nuts and stuff. I mean, I like them a lot. Almost as much as I like Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, or the thought of a Paul-Jason hybrid that I could clone and take to work for a bit of cubicle companionship….in the way that isn’t at all how it sounded. Okay, well, maybe it’s a LITTLE bit like it sounded. Well, whew, shaking off that delightful vision, and back to summer salads. It’s salad. There’s fruit. Sometimes, there’s nuts. Simpering name, true, but full of goodness all the same.

Strawberry, Asparagus and Pine Nut Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

Tarragon Vinaigrette
Makes about 1.25 cups

  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon *
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

* If you had fresh tarragon, feel free to add 1.5 tbsp but be sure to mince it as finely as possible or your dressing won’t keep as long in the fridge.

Strawberry, Asparagus and Pine Nut Salad
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer or side salad. NOT a dinner. Just sayin’.

  • 1 bunch fresh, firm asparagus
  • 4-5 field cucumbers, or 1/2 English cucumber
  • 1 lb strawberries
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (~100 g)
  • 8-10 cups assorted mixed greens

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Press or rasp the garlic clove into a medium sized bowl, and scrape in the lemon zest as well. If you have a good rasp, that will make short work of both tasks. Add the honey, Dijon, and pour in the white wine vinegar.

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Whisk the dressing base together until it has combined, and then ohhh sooooo slooooowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking continuously as you do so.

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Continue whisking for another minute after the olive oil has been incorporated to make sure that you have a homogenous dressing.

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The dressing will keep in the fridge for several weeks, so there’s no pressing need to finish it all off on this salad. In fact, to be honest, I’d rather prefer that you don’t…..

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Now then, onto the salad. I can’t believe that I’m about to actually write instructions on how to make a salad, and please forgive me for doing so, but sometimes I’m just compelled. Screw the devil, I think the asparagus made me do it. Look at them with their curving tops – they’re clearly taunting us, but that’s okay. We’ll still be the winners in the end.

Twist the tough and woody ends off from your asparagus.

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Gather the tender green stalks together in a bunch, and slice them very thinly across on a diagonal. Really try to slice as thinly as you possibly can, but about 1/16″ is just fine.

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Don’t peel the cucumber and slice them into thin discs about 1/8″ thick. I just adore field cucumbers. They have such a lovely watery crunch, buttery and slightly sweet flavor, with just a hint of bitter aftertaste. They always remind me of picking fresh young cucumbers off the vine in my parent’s garden….and then being really upset because without fail I would forget how spiky they were, and either infest my hand with 1,000 itchy cucumber slivers or possibly cut my tongue. Every time. I really wasn’t a very bright kid.

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Slice the tops off the strawberries and cut them vertically into 1/4″ slices.

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Add the asparagus, cucumber and strawberries to a big bowl full of lettuce leaves, and toss them gently in the dressing. Sprinkle the pine nuts over top and serve the salad immediately.

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Tarragon, as a herb, is slightly haughty but at least he swings both ways. He’s quite happy to be the consummate romantic, whispering sweet nothings into the ear of Madam Strawberry, but he’s just as pleased to rub his savory bits all over Mr. Asparagus, who honestly thought he was just coming over to watch a movie. Silly asparagus. It’s never just a movie.

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I still wouldn’t go as far as to call Summer Salads a meal, per se. Throw a pork chop on top and then MAYBE…..but regardless of whether they qualifiy as dinner or side dish, I suppose that Summer Salads (*scoff!*) still have a place of honor on our table between June and September.

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After that, we still eat them but I think I’ll rename them ‘Autumn Salads’ from that point forward. You heard me, Paul Rudd. But you’re still welcome to stop by with the bottle of wine…..

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com [eatingclub] vancouver || js

    I’m still figuring out this summer- vs winter- thing myself. I didn’t know a summer salad was that, a salad with berries, fruits, and nuts. LOL

  • http://ordinarygoddess.net Carol Elaine

    The crack about tarragon may be my favorite food quote ever.

    Silly asparagus…

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo

    OK, the concept of a summer salad totally flummoxes me. And I don’t even know if I spelled flummox correctly or not.

    I guess a summer salad would be one made with seasonal summer ingredients?… which then invites the notion of autumn, winter, and spring salads… This is gonna drive me nuts.

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