When the strawberry season is upon us in the summer months, and we crave fresh fruit and light meals to beat that summer heat, nothing quite satisfies like our spinach and strawberry salad drizzled with champagne vinaigrette.
The combination of strawberries and spinach is a perfect pairing. This refreshing summer salad, abundantly consumed in North America, is classically drizzled with a poppy seed dressing introduced by Texas cookbook author Helen Corbitt in the 1950s. However, the addition of mild creamy goat cheese and toasted pine nuts is that much better when tossed with our champagne vinaigrette made with minced shallots, champagne vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, and Herbes de Provence!
Looking for a simple and refreshing side dish, something healthy and light, to pair with your main course? We’ve got you covered.
Let’s toss it up.
Three Parts Olive Oil and One Part Vinegar
The ratio of olive oil to vinegar is of prime importance when mastering a vinaigrette. The classic French-style vinaigrette requires a ratio of three parts extra virgin olive oil to one part vinegar.
For this recipe, we employ one extra tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar to add some extra zippiness. White balsamic vinegar has a natural sweetness rendering the addition of honey or maple syrup unnecessary and ensuring the acid-to-fat balance is maintained.
Mince the Shallots
A salad or dressing composed of large slices of raw onion produces a sharp and bitter flavor. Alternatively, shallots possess a softer, more palatable taste, even when served raw. Hence, shallots are primarily used as a staple in a French-style vinaigrette. Mince the shallots to avoid an unpleasing bite.
The “ciseler technique” is the best method to mince shallots. Watch this video to learn this technique.
Selection of Olive Oil
We recommend using a hand-picked, first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. The International Olive Council states that only the first cold-pressed olive oils are “extra virgin.” However, the law permits a company to label the olive oil as “first pressed” or “cold-pressed,” but this does not mean they are “extra virgin.” I know, it’s a bit confusing. So, let’s break it down:
- First pressed means the olives were crushed and pressed only one time, and generally, the olive oil extracted from the first press is of the highest quality.
- Cold-pressed means that the olives never exceed a temperature of approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the pressing process, ensuring a higher quality product.
So, the term “first cold-pressed” means that both these quality standards are adhered to. With all the articles in the news about faux olive oils, make sure yours is the “real deal.” How may you ask? Read up on your brands or purchase from local farmers. They should be deep amber and are very rich in flavor!
How to Toast the Pine Nuts
Heat a dry sauté pan on the stovetop at medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast them for 2-3 minutes until they develop a brown color and a strong nutty aroma. This step will create a pronounced nutty flavor for your salad, which compliments the goat cheese wonderfully.
We recommend tossing only the amount of salad you plan to eat with the champagne vinaigrette. Store leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator and consume it for up to 2 weeks. Be sure to allow it to warm to room temperature before re-serving as the oil will solidify in the refrigerator.
Visit your local liquor store and request a bottle featuring these characteristics to find the perfect pair.
- Color: white
- Notes: citrus, key lime, brioche, hazelnut, toast, minerality
- Geography: new world
- Structure: medium alcohol, medium acidity, sparkling, fine bubbles
Purge Your Fridge
You just finished devouring our strawberry and spinach salad with champagne vinaigrette, and you are left with the following excess ingredients:
- 1/2 Shallot
- Goat Cheese
Ditch the waste and make these Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts. Swap out the onions and caramelize those leftover shallots instead. Alternatively, whip up another spinach and goat cheese salad, or cook up Goat Cheese, Shallot, Bacon, and Spinach Frittata.
- 1 cup spinach
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 2 cups strawberries sliced
- 1 red pepper sliced
- 1 cup cilantro roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 3 oz. goat cheese
- 1/2 shallot minced
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp champagne vinegar
- 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
- 1/2 tsp salt
- ground pepper
Cut the Vegetables and Fruits
- Clean and remove the hull or calyx (green leafy top) from the strawberries. Slice them into 1/4-inch slices. Set aside.
- Clean, remove seeds, and thinly slice red bell pepper, lengthwise. Then cut each slice in half. Set aside.
- Roughly chop cilantro. Set aside.
- Mince shallots (for the ciseler technique, view the instruction video above in the need-to-know section).
Make the Vinaigrette
- Combine extra-virgin olive oil, champagne vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, minced shallots, Dijon mustard, Herbes de Provence, salt, and ground pepper in a mixing bowl.
- Whisk the ingredients together.
- Allow the vinaigrette to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Toast the Pine Nuts
- Place a dry sauté on the stovetop at medium heat and allow it to heat.
- Add pine nuts.
- Toss the pine nuts in the sauté for 3-4 minutes until most of the nuts are brown.
Toss the Salad
- Combine spinach leaves, baby arugula, strawberries, red bell pepper, cilantro, and toasted pine nuts into a mixing bowl.
- Add the champagne vinaigrette. Toss well.
- Crumble goat cheese in the mixing bowl. Toss well.
- Add more ground pepper and toss again.
- Serve and enjoy.