When luscious local strawberries are in season, I try to use them in all kinds of dishes. While strawberry ice cream is always a hit around here, I do use them in some more nutritious dishes too, like green salads. This Strawberry Basil Salad with Orange Poppyseed Dressing packs both flavour and nutrition, so you can go ahead and have a double scoop of that ice cream for dessert!
Last summer I asked followers of Urban Cottage Life’s Facebook page for suggestions of dishes I could feature here. My friend Tracy suggested a healthier version of a strawberry spinach pasta salad with orange poppyseed vinaigrette and cashews. In particular, she asked for a salad without the pasta.
Well, I mulled over how I would make that salad for weeks. Time went by with a full summer agenda of travel (yay!), work (oh well), and lots of time with my Little Misses (loving fun!), not to mention an unshakable cold that went on for six weeks. By the time I was ready to work on my version of the salad Tracy requested, it was well into fall and I thought I’d missed the opportunity to use fresh local strawberries. I tend to avoid buying imported fresh strawberries and instead rely on frozen berries when the season is done here in my area.
I was about to file the idea away for next year, when I noticed that strawberries from a local farm, Heeman’s, were still available. In fact, I was at the market today and they’re still there. Say what you will about the weather this year, but I’m tickled that fresh local berries are a possibility after Thanksgiving.
Strawberry Basil Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing
So, now to that salad. I’ve certainly changed it up quite a bit from a strawberry spinach pasta salad! There’s no pasta in mine, and there’s no spinach either. I’m not a big fan of spinach salad, but if you are, go ahead and use some — the strawberries would contrast beautifully with the dark green leaves. I used two kinds of lettuce in mine, plus roughly torn basil leaves for their herbaceous flavour. Slivers of red onion add bite, and toasted almonds add nuttiness without the heavy richness of cashews. The vinaigrette is a simple mixture of freshly squeezed orange juice, olive oil and poppyseeds.
It’s a colourful salad, pretty enough for my Mom’s glass serving dish, and full of bright flavour with those luscious strawberries in every bite. Really, it’s all I could ask for from a summer salad, and even more than I could dream of from a fall salad! I hope Tracy is happy with it, too.
Strawberry Basil Salad with Orange Poppyseed Dressing
© Marlene Cornelis, Urban Cottage Life 2017
Generally making a salad is pretty much a “toss it in as I go” type of exercise for me, but sometimes it’s good to have a recipe for guidance. By all means, feel free to switch things up according to your taste and what’s available. You could swap spinach for some of the greens, use walnuts instead of almonds, and use a soft and tangy goat cheese instead of the feta … go with what inspires you! And hey, if you choose to buy bags of greens instead of starting with actual heads of lettuce, I do not judge. In fact, I’ve done that many times myself!
- 1/4 cup (20 g) sliced almonds
- 1/2 head green leaf lettuce, torn
- 1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn
- 6 to 8 large leaves basil, torn
- 8 large strawberries, cut into hearty slices, plus 2 to 4 whole berries with tops and stems for garnish
- 50 g feta cheese, cut into small cubes
- 1/8 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the best you can get)
- 1 tsp poppy seeds
Start by toasting the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Keep a close eye on them, tossing them as they heat up. As soon as they smell toasty and are starting to turn golden, remove them from the heat. Toss a couple more times and slide them onto a plate to cool, or you run the risk of the residual heat in the pan continuing to brown them.
Place the lettuces, basil, strawberry slices, feta cheese and most of the almonds in a large mixing bowl. Add the orange juice, olive oil and poppy seeds to a small bowl and whisk vigorously with a fork until well blended. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Remove the salad to a serving bowl or onto individual plates. Sprinkle the reserved almonds over top and garnish with the whole berries.
Looking for More Savoury Strawberry Ideas?
Here are a few more “off the beaten path” ideas for fresh local strawberries … Pickled Peppered Strawberries, Pickled Strawberry Vinaigrette and PIckled Strawberry, Goat Cheese and Honeyed Walnut Salad.