Rocket (arugula), cucumber and strawberry salad with a luscious balsamic strawberry vinaigrette is fresh, light and a celebration of great produce.
Strawberry season is HERE, and boy they're good.
I'm lucky to live on the edge of town, so a five minute drive in one direction gets me to a supermarket, and five the other gets me straight into the countryside with easy access to multiple berry farms in the area. They all sell spectacular, fresh berries and I simply can't get enough. Right now, the strawberries are so at their prime that just uncovering a punnet of them releases a cloud of intense, sweet strawberry perfume.
I'm not the only one onto a good thing. In the lead up to Christmas, in particular, the berry farms go nuts - hiring in extra staff just to direct traffic in and out of their carparks. It's not unknown for them to sell out of berries on Christmas Eve day, so I make sure I'm there early to buy the berries that are always a significant part of our Christmas day menu. Yes, Christmas in New Zealand is unique.
This weekend I bought a few kilos of these beautiful fresh strawberries. It did seem like a lot, but after taking some to lunch with a friend, eating plenty at home, and making this strawberry salad for a bbq, not even 48 hours later there aren't many left.
Let me tell you about this strawberry salad
For as long as strawberry season runs, I'll be eating them for breakfast (my favourite on top of muesli) and for dessert. But I also love strawberries in salad.
This simple salad of rocket (arugula), cucumber and strawberries is fresh, light and an absolute celebration of top notch produce. I added some finely sliced shallot (you could also use a little red onion), and a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds and sunflower seeds for crunch and a bit of extra nutrition.
Balsamic strawberry vinaigrette
Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are a well established winning combination, with the sharpness of the balsamic heightening the sweetness of the berries, so a balsamic dressing for this salad was always on the cards. But I figured when the berries are this good, why not go for gold and use them IN the dressing as well as the salad?
What a good idea. The ingredients emulsify beautifully into a luscious, sweet, sharp and tangy pink dressing that elevates and complements everything in the salad bowl.
The quantity of strawberries you use in the salad is pretty flexible, but you should easily be able to make this whole recipe (salad plus dressing) with one standard punnet of strawberries (250g / roughly 0.5lb).
For the vinaigrette:
- ½ cup fresh strawberries chopped (about 4)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
For the salad:
- 4 cups rocket (arugula) approximately
- 8 strawberries
- ½ telegraph cucumber
- 1 shallot finely sliced (or substitute red onion)
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoon sunflower seeds
For the vinaigrette:
- Using a stick blender (immersion blender), blend the strawberries, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup until smooth.
- Keeping the blender running, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
For the salad:
- Toast the sliced almonds and sunflower seeds in a dry frypan (skillet) until golden brown. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
- Remove the green parts and slice strawberries into quarters vertically (or as you like). Slice the cucumber in half lengthways, then on the diagonal (or as you like).
- Assemble cucumber and strawberries on top of a bed of rocket in a large salad bowl.
- Sprinkle over finely sliced shallot, almonds and sunflower seeds.
- Drizzle over dressing immediately before serving.