Sweet And Crumby

Baking, a Love Story

Surprises {A Summery Salad with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette}


This peppery and lemon doused spinach and arugula salad was the ultimate pairing to my daughter’s graduation celebration dinner of rich mornay topped seafood crepes. It was filled with sweet English peas and dried blueberries, and was given a nice crunch from the toasted pine nuts and barely blanched green beans.  For a final layer of flavor, I chopped up some fresh tarragon and made a tarragon lemon vinaigrette. It was the perfect refreshing bite to counter the sultry, salty and cheesy bites of crepe.

I was lucky enough to have met Nancy from Adventures with Nancy Rose at the LA Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale and was more than grateful that she wanted to send me some of Melissa’s Certified Organic products to sample and use in some posts. I am a huge proponent of organic for cleaner eating and a healthier planet and practically jumped up and down when I opened my box to find a wide array of organic delights such as sugar cane, blueberries, cranberries and pine nuts. Pine nuts?! My heart practically skipped a beat because most of us foodies are fully aware of their typically high price tag. So when I was throwing together my salad, trying to make the salad an equal show stopper to the crepes, the dried blueberries and pine nuts were absolutely making their way in. Both products were tasty, fresh and best of all ORGANIC!

This bevy of organic goodies was quite a pleasant surprise and lately I find my life is just chock full of them…if you have kids surprises (both good and bad) are around every corner. As parents, we assume that somehow our children are going to be like us. Maybe not little replicas or anything weird like that but we sort of assume of course they will love what we love or have similar strengths and weaknesses and at the very least look a little something like us.  And then life surprises you.

On the day my daughter arrived she threw me a curve ball, and I knew my expectations were going to have to take a backseat. She was born with a full and vibrant head of red hair. I’m glad that long gone are the days of knocking mothers unconscious for the big moment because I would have been sure she was switched at birth.  No one in mine or my husband’s  immediate family has red hair. We have to go way back to find our redheaded relatives.  It was a wonderful surprise.

Her temperament and talents are also a 180 from her mother. I am loud, bordering on obnoxious, and she is quiet and reserved. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body; crafting, sewing, paint and colors are totally foreign to me. She can spend hours at her craft desk making exquisite and intricate origami, handmade cards that belong in expensive boutiques and has lately fallen in love with the art of glass blowing.

And just when I think  I have her all figured out, the girl who thinks first and acts later, touches the smallest part of a toe into unchartered territory before diving in, she goes and surprises me yet again. A couple of weeks ago we were perusing a glass blower’s art studio, picking out a few pieces to take home when she began to watch the artist at work. His studio, behind his house, had several furnaces going, an annealer (the cooling mechanism), hundreds of tools, several blow torches and the hottest volcanic fires imaginable coming from the furnaces. She watched him for about an hour, her patience never dwindling as I shifted my weight back and forth wondering if her interest woud EVER wane.

And then came my biggest surprise yet with my youngest. She was asked if she would like to try it. Without a falter or hesitation, she ventured forward with a big nod yes and before I knew what was happening she was being robed in heavy “armor” shielding her arms, eyes and hands from the scorching heat.  She dipped the long metal rod into the molten glass and he would guide her as she would blow the pipe, shape the glass, cool the rod and repeat…so many times. She was completely engulfed in the moments; serious brows, pursed lips. I believe a famous 5.0 California quake would not have shifted her attention as she crafted  her stunning electric blue piece of blown glass.

I was so grateful for that unexpected gift the artist had given us that day, his time and attention and am still a bit shocked weeks later that not only did she dive right in, but I, card carrying hand sanitizing, overprotective mom that I usually am, let go and enjoyed the moment. I guess we both surprised me that day.

And yes, this is a food blog so I am finally back to the food my friends. If you are in need of a little surprise in your salad, throw some dried fruit in, toast any nuts you have in the pantry and chop in some fresh herbs. Go crazy and make your own dressing, it makes a HUGE difference for a five minute time investment. You will end up with a salad full of eclectic flavors and you may even be surprised that your salad steals the show come dinner time.

A Summery Salad with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette

Salad “Recipe”
Makes one big bowl enough for 6 sides.
3 large handfuls of organic baby arugula and spinach mix
1 large handful of organic mixed spring greens (farmers’ markets are you best place for these lettuces)
15ish English pea pods shelled
one large handful of chopped green beans (barely blanched)
1/4 c. chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 c. dried organic blueberries
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts

To make the salad: Wash and thoroughly dry lettuces. Shell pea pods, rinse, dry and set aside.  Wash and chop green beans in one inch pieces. I steam mine in the microwave. Just throw them in a microwave safe bowl, add 1-2 T. of water, salt just a bit and squeeze some lemon over them. Place a microwave safe plate over the bowl to cover and cook on high for 1 minute. Test the green bean. If cooked but crispy, then throw them immediately in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and help them keep their color. If they are not cooked enough for you, try another 30 seconds in the microwave. Next, throw pine nuts in a small saute pan and toss on medium heat until they begin to toast. Keep moving them around and watch carefully so they don’t burn. Let cool to room temp. Rough chop your tarragon. Toss all of the salad ingredients together and prepare the vinaigrette.

Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette
1/2 c. good olive oil, I used a beautiful organic lime olive oil I had
2 T. wine or champagne vinegar (I used citrus champagne vinegar)
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. freshly chopped tarragon
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 T. Dijon mustard (I used lemon tarragon mustard from Saucy Mama’s thanks to Linda’s giveaway!)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Simply whisk all of the ingredients together. To taste the salad dressing, I usually dip one leave of lettuce in and give it a taste to make sure it is salted and peppered enough. If it’s too sour for you, you can add a teaspoon or two of agave nectar if you have it or a little honey. I like mine tart and peppery though.

28 thoughts on “Surprises {A Summery Salad with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette}

  1. What a lovely story Geni. My daughter surprised us being born with the blondest of hair (luckily I too was awake and my mother is a blonde). But, when the doctor said “We have a blondie” I literally stopped what I was doing. At 2, she is still a mini-me. We will see what the future has in store.

    This is a lovely salad. I love fruit and nuts in a salad. Great balance.

  2. When I read your title in my email box, I said to myself, what is this arugula salad… And then I saw that it was one of my favorite… I love this arugula… and your recipe is amazing, I haven’t done like that before… I will make soon. Thank you dear Geni, this glass studio is amazing too, how nice the photograph, she will never forget this expeerience. Love, nia

  3. Love the salad, arugula is my favorite. It pairs so nicely with the sweetness of fruit and nuts. Congrats to your daughter, very adventurous! Lovely post!

  4. This is such a sophisticated salad, and I love Melissa’s produce, I enjoy checking out all the new varieties she sells.
    Aren’t daughters wonderful? I have two of my own and they are as different from each other as night and day. I would like to try my hand at glass blowing some day, sounds fun!

  5. Surprises are what make family life more interesting. As the mother of 4 daughters, I can attest to that.

    The salad looks great. I didn’t used to like fruit with lettuce until I tried a pear/cherry salad. I finally got it.

  6. Sounds like a perfect salad for the summer months Geni. Delish!

  7. I love how this salad has such a sophisticated mix of ingredients – it looks quite stunning put together 😀
    And good on your daughter, you must have been thrilled 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. Oh man I seriously love everything about this! And man, that vinaigrette would go well on anything!

  9. Nice salad Geni, like your dressing, lemony with tarragon…and the blueberries and pine sure add sweetness and texture to the salad.
    Hope you are enjoying the Summer my dear 🙂

  10. I love dried fruits and nuts in my salads. This is an awesome combination with that dressing. Have a GREAT day, Geni!

  11. That is SO cool – how awesome is it that your daughter was brave enough to try something like that? I’m sure I would have been petrified.
    I also think its funny that you talk about how different she is than you, because every day I find myself becoming more and more like my parents. I swear, I am exactly half of my mother and half of my father. It freaks me out all the time.

  12. I’ve a friend who works with glass and some of her pieces are just incredible! We live far apart now but I really enjoy those rare days when I’m passing through her neck of the woods and can see her latest works. If you’re daughter is artistic, it is easy to see why she would be so enthralled. Such a nice thing that artist did, letting her blow some glass. She’ll never forget it.
    This salad is just perfect for this time of year and I know that I’ll be coming back to this dressing recipe again and again. It sounds delicious, Geni.

  13. I’ve done stories on glass artists before. I took my in-laws to see them and my MIL jumped in–shocked me! Kudos to your daughter!

  14. This sounds so refreshing, Geni – kind of like your mother-daughter moment. I am obsessed with glass blowing, too (hard not to be with Dale Chihuly spotted around here all the time) and I got to do it once, too – and loved it! I love that your daughter went right for it (and you let her – it is hot and scary in those places.)

  15. My daughter took a glass-blowing class one summer.. I think I was more excited than she was, lol. I still have her little glass bits and tiny bowls around the house on display. I’m glad she gave it a go.. that’s how your little one will know what she will be passionate about in her life. This salad.. I’m thinking it’s going to be the one I serve my friends for our birthday luncheon.. it’s so pretty!! xo Smidge

  16. It is amazing that you were supportive and let her venture through it Geni. I think I would have been thinking of all the horrible things that could go wrong and wouldn’t have let my daughter near it and she would have missed out on a great experience.
    I think I need to ease up
    I love the blueberries and nuts in your salad. I think it makes this salad extra special

  17. Geni, great salad. I love aurgula and usually add dried fruit and nuts too to give it some crunch and texture. Like how you added more greens, pea pods and green beans….yum!
    My oldest son is the artistic one in the family, he can draw for hours. I’m sure he’d love to learn about glass blowing. I’m sure your daughter will never forget that moment. What an awesome experience. You should share some of your daughters art work.

  18. Rocker (arugula) is so peppery and flavorful in a salad. Wow glass blowing! I have always wanted to learn how to do that. What a creative kid you have there.

  19. What a fun surprise moment for your daughter! And of course, this salad looks super tasty. It’s definitely salad season – we’ve had some hot days this week!

  20. I had a arugula salad for lunch yesterday too. Love its pleasant bitterness and peppery taste. Your salad looks divine!

  21. Have a great Friday!

  22. What a fun day and too cool that she got to do some of the glass blowing. I’m sure she was in heaven! And this salad sounds delicious, oooo and that vinaigrette! Yum.

  23. This salad sounds delicious! And I’m still thinking about those crepes. And Geni your daughter just sounds amazing! Way to go mom (and dad of course)! It’s always so surprising and rewarding when we just step back. And thank you so much for your comment last night. Been trying around here lately with some things and your comment truly touched me and couldn’t have been more on the nose for what I needed to hear! Thank you. 🙂

  24. Your daughter sounds like an amazing young woman! You’ve done a fabulous job with her. ANd this salad…LOVE. Just what I’ve been craving. how did you know?

  25. Oh I wish I still had some in the ground. This looks amazing.

  26. What a perfect summer salad! Love the flavor combo!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s