The boxes have been put away. The vacuum has been run. The cheery red of the holidays has been replaced with winter whites. Linen. The poinsettias with bare branches. (Well, actually I didn’t have any poinsettias but I like the way that sounds. Don’t you?) The children are back at school and the only sounds I hear are those of my own footsteps and the soft, furry ones padding quietly behind me.
After the richness of the holidays, I want anything but…..so, here I sit with a simple salad laid out before me. A salad of spinach leaves, chevre sec (a dry goat cheese…you simply must), toasted walnuts and a homemade vinaigrette. Now don’t be fooled by this salad’s unassuming presence. One bite and you’ll see that together the flavors are a carnival for your tongue. My fork hits the plate with a clank as I leave it to pick-up a piece of bread. A sip of water. And here I sit. Just me….and the cat. And listen. To the sound of silence.
Now, nevermind about the fact that my home happens to be located under the landing pattern for our local airport or the fact that a fleet of leaf blowers shows up every afternoon without fail (or so it seems) and fires up those dastardly things for what seems like hours when clearly the leaves are long since gone. What exactly are they “blowing around” out there? And is someone paying them to do this? And, yes, there’s the train that seems to rumble right past my house blowing his horn even though in reality he’s at least 5 miles away and we can’t forget the most recent development….that of the apparent, afternoon, chainsaw session that takes place in the woods behind my house. Although, I have yet to see a felled tree or the chainsaw operator. What are they doing back there?
So, really…nevermind about all that. Silence is relative. I’m alone in my house. Just me…and the cat. Eating my salad. And it’s silent.
A Simple Salad with Homemade Vinaigrette
I absolutely LOVE this salad. I cannot stop eating it. So simple to make. In the winter, I make it with baby spinach leaves but once arugula season hits, I switch the spinach out for that. No matter which “leaves” you use, it’s the homemade vinaigrette that ties together all of the flavors. And, if you have a daughter like mine who wanders into the kitchen, asking, “Watcha makin’ Mom?” and then wanders out after having polished off the last bit of the vinaigrette on her own salad, you may want to make a double batch. As for the cheese, I was turned on to “chevre sec” (literally – dry goat cheese) a few years ago. It has a creamy texture with a consistency more like feta as opposed to the regular soft goat cheese. There is a fromagerie right here in Mollala, Oregon making this type of artisan cheese – Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese. I happened to find a tiny, little wedge of her Tomme Cuivree at New Seasons the other day. Needless to say, it is now gone.
|A Simple Spinach Salad with Homemade Vinaigrette||
Course: salad, dinner, lunch, vegetables
Author: Carrie Minns
Serves: ¼ c of vinaigrette
I come back to this vinaigrette recipe over and over. It’s not so much a recipe as it is a suggestion of ratios with each person changing the ingredients to his or her liking. Hope it will be a nice starting place for you to create your own vinaigrettes.
- a handful of greens – spinach, arugula or baby
- crumbled goat cheese – “Chevre Sec” or regular
- toasted walnuts – 350 degrees for 10 minutes or in a pinch, 1 min in the microwave
- freshly ground pepper
- ⅛ tsp sea salt, kosher salt or whatever salt you use
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 tbsp shallot, peeled, minced (you could substitute this for a clove of garlic)
- ½ tsp Dijon or whole-grain mustard (I tend to use Maille, Edmond Fallot, Beaufor or Dulcet mustards)
- 3-4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (I usually use 4.)
- For the salad, put your greens on a plate.
- Top with walnuts and goat cheese. I sometimes add a few sliced mushrooms or cucumber slices but not much else. I try to keep it simple.
- For the vinaigrette, mix together the salt, vinegar and shallot in a small bowl. Let stand for about ten minutes while you prepare your salad and/or roast your walnuts.
- Mix in the mustard, then whisk in 3 tbsp of olive oil. Slowly drizzling it in as you whisk.
- Taste. If it’s too strong add the final tablespoon of oil and a bit more salt, if necessary.
- Drizzle on your salad. Toss to lightly coat every little bit of salad on your plate with the golden vinaigrette.
- Eat. Sigh. Enjoy.