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
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.