The other day, we were running all kind of errands, and didn’t start heading home until long after our normal lunch time. Naturally, we were getting hungry. And, as it happened, we had one more stop: the grocery store. It’s always suggested that you should never shop on an empty stomach, or you’re liable to buy some of that junky food. Well, it’s true, at least for us that day.
Before we hit the store, we had planned to have a nice large salad for lunch, but, once we entered the store, our minds wandered a bit, and next thing you know, we’re picking up one of those pizzas from the freezer case. Now, we know it’s not going to be great, but we select one that sounds as though it’ll taste fresh, with spinach and mushroom toppings. It also claims to be a brick-oven style. As soon as we get home, we fire up the oven and slide the pizza onto the center rack. Twenty minutes later, it’s done and we’re ready to eat. Sounds great, right?
Was it worth it? In a word, no. It was terrible. The crust was similar to stale cardboard, the toppings were lifeless, the miniscule amount of cheese on top was pathetic, and they seemed to have picked up a load of garlic on the cheap. We did figure out why they refer to it as a brick-oven pizza, although it didn’t taste like any brick-oven pizza we’d ever had previously. It sat in our stomachs like a brick oven. And, when dinner time rolled around, all we wanted to eat was the salad we’d originally planned for lunch. Which takes less than 20 minutes to put together. We learned a lesson.
So, let’s scratch up a fresh salad in the time it takes to bake a terrible frozen pizza.
Makes 2 large salads.
We happened to have a homemade Cranberry-Champagne-Ginger Jam that we’d made in the past. We don’t like the pieces of ginger in it, so we just pick them out before eating the jam. We guess that you might be able to find a cranberry jam at a store, but it’s has been a while since we perused that section of the grocery store. For olive oil, use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and note that most olive oils in the store are not extra-virgin (and sometimes not even olive oil), regardless of the label. For balsamic vinegar, again, find a high-quality brand you like. It may take a while and some taste tests, but you can do it. We find that Trader Joe’s Gold quality Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has a good quality-to-cost ratio, so we use it often. For the salad greens, use what you like, but we think most salads are best with some variety (and little to no iceberg lettuce).
Procedure in detail:
Toss salad. We just wash, dry, and chop the lettuce and whatever else we’re using. Some purists will claim that you have to tear the lettuce leaves or they turn brown. Since we consume our salads right after making them, we’ve never had that problem; perhaps the purists leave the salad to sit around for a couple of hours. Once the ingredients are well-mixed, place in large bowls.
Whisk dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients. Be vigorous in your whisking to emulsify the oil into the vinegar; it might take a minute. Don’t fret if it doesn’t emulsify, it’ll taste good anyway.
Drizzle and serve. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, and you’re set.
We think we turned lemons into lemonade. We had that terrible pizza and we felt we had to make a salad dressing different from an ordinary vinaigrette to make amends. And this dressing resulted. Sure, it’s a vinaigrette, and it’s really not that much different from a raspberry vinaigrette, but we think the tartness of the cranberries pairs better with the spicy bite of arugula and the sweetness of the pecans and apricots. Between the interesting melding of the flavors and that it’s lighter than a brick oven, we’ll say it’s four-star worthy.