Very Berry Salad

We’re lucky enough to be enjoying lovely fresh baby spinach right now in my corner of Massachusetts.
My mother and I have been wallowing in it! First, we purchased a bag at the new Charlemont Farmers Market from Sheila Velazquez of Pen and Plow Farm in Hawley.
A couple of days later we went to pick up a share at our CSA, Wilder Brook Farm in Charlemont, and we were treated to more spinach!
Kate and John at Wilder Brook also gave us some lovely strawberries—tiny, almost wild ones. In addition, among other veggies they handed out a root called hakurai. Hakurai is white and resembles a radish although it may be a little sweeter.
I decided to put together a salad featuring the spinach and some of our other goodies. I don’t believe one can ever have too many strawberries when they are in season so I used them in the vinaigrette as well as the salad.
The strawberry vinegar recipe I employed is from my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. Of course, I assume that everyone reading this blog either owns this lovely tome or is about to buy it! Just in case you’re waiting for a special occasion to add it to your cookbook library, I’m giving you the vinegar recipe here.
I haven’t specified exact measurements for the vinegar or a yield because the proportion of liquid you get from this recipe depends upon the juiciness of the berries you use—and how many you choose to use! 

Do try this salad. It’s sweet with a touch of savory. The contrasting textures of the spinach, berries, hakurai, and cheese really work together. My mother looked doubtful when I put it in front of her, then promptly ate every bite and asked for more…….

for the strawberry vinegar:
strawberries (don’t use too many at a time or this will take forever)
enough distilled white vinegar to cover them
equal amounts of sugar and water
for the salad:
1/2 pound fresh spinach
4 small or 2 larger (more or less to taste) hakurai bulbs (use radishes if you don’t have hakurai), thinly sliced and cut in half if they seem a little big
15 to 20 tiny strawberries
crumbled feta cheese to taste
for the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon strawberry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
The day before you want to eat your salad (or any time up to a year before!) start the vinegar.
Place the berries in a non-aluminum pan (I use a porcelain dish). Cover them with the vinegar, and leave them to soak, covered, overnight. If you forget them for a day and wait 2 nights, they will still be fine.
The next day (or the day after that), gently strain the juice through cheesecloth. You may squeeze the berries a little, but don’t overdo; letting the juice drip out on its own is best.
Measure the juice. Then measure a little under 1-1/2 times as much sugar and water as juice (i.e., if you have a cup of juice, use just under 1-1/2 cups of sugar and 1-1/2 cups of water) into a saucepan.
Cook the sugar/water mixture until it threads. Measure the resultant sugar syrup. Add an equal quantity of berry juice to it, and boil the mixture for 10 minutes. Strain this boiled vinegar through cheesecloth, and decant it into sterlized bottles. Cork or cover. Stored in the dark, strawberry vinegar should keep its color and flavor for up to a year.
When you’re ready to make the salad, combine its ingredients in a pretty bowl.
Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar with a tight lid. (Depending on your taste, you may want a little more or a little less dressing than I specify here, but the oil/vinegar proportion of 2 to 1 should hold.) 

Shake to combine, and toss the vinaigrette onto the salad. Serves 4 generously.

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4 Responses to “Very Berry Salad”

  1. Cara Hochhalter says:

    Hmmm, that sounds great! Having also gotten some Hakurai at the same Wilder Brook Farm, I was delighted to see how delicious these little white slivers are in a stir fry…wonderful flavor!

  2. You had me at strawberries and feta-one of my favorite flavor combos!!

  3. Have you tried strawberries sprinkled with balsamic vinegar? My Aunt Mary Lawson ate her strawberries sprinkled with pepper …..

  4. tinkyweisblat says:

    Frayed, I think balsamic and the pepper both sound intriguing, although for the former I’d like to wait until I have some really high-quality balsamic vinegar in the house. EveryDay, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I could eat feta with just about anything. (Maybe not peppermint?) Cara, the stir fry is coming!

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