We had our first taste of spring greens from the garden this week. Well, really, most of them were from the greenhouse. I let some spinach and romaine volunteer in there; thus, we have greens ready to pick when the lettuce I planted outside in the garden is still so tiny you can barely see it. I did have some fall spinach overwinter in the garden, but the leaves are tough and small compared to the tender young greens from the greenhouse.
It’s sacrilege to cook these greens, so I prepared a salad with them. But what sort of dressing to use? In my husband’s mind, there is no salad dressing but ranch. However, I knew ranch dressing would smother these delicate greens. I needed something light and spring-like to honor spring greens. And then it came to me. I had raspberry-infused apple-scrap vinegar in the fridge which I had yet to use in anything. How about some version of a raspberry vinaigrette? It was so good, I have to share the combination and the dressing with you.
I used both baby spinach and baby romaine for my greens; you can use any mix you like, but if you’re buying packaged salad greens, I’d go for the spring mix. Toss them with this delicious raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing, and then arrange the greens on salad plates. To the greens, add thinly-sliced red bell peppers and peeled, thinly-sliced cucumbers. Drizzle a bit more dressing over the top, then sprinkle each plate with toasted, sliced almonds and grated cheese. I used a very low-fat Cabot white cheddar, which was delicious. Freshly grated parmesan or Romano, in big shreds, would also be delicious.
I made the salad dressing with some raspberry-infused apple scrap vinegar I made last fall. Follow the link for instructions for making the infused vinegar. (Store-bought apple cider vinegar can be used to make raspberry- or blackberry-infused vinegar.) There are alternative ingredients (aren’t there always?) if you don’t happen to want to take the time or haven’t the ingredients to make an infused vinegar. (I can tell you, I’ll certainly be making more infused vinegar this fall if the robins leave me any raspberries.) The slightly-sweet and acidic raspberry vinaigrette was the perfect dressing to complement those tender, tangy new greens. I used chia seeds instead of the poppy seeds which are traditional in this kind of recipe, and they were wonderful.
Raspberry Vinaigrette with Chia Seeds
(makes about ¾ cup)
2 tablespoons of minced onion
¼ cup raspberry-infused vinegar
2 tablespoons of honey
½ teaspoon dry mustard or prepared Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chia seeds
Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor (if using food processor, you can mince the onions with it) or with a whisk in a bowl. The mustard will help to emulsify the dressing, but it will separate slightly, so it should be shaken well before using. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more honey a teaspoon at a time until the sweetness level is right for your taste buds.
Now, if you don’t have any raspberry-infused vinegar, and don’t want to make it, for whatever reason, you can make this dressing without it. Simply substitute white wine vinegar or even rice vinegar for the raspberry-infused vinegar, and for the honey, substitute raspberry jam or preserves. Again, taste your dressing to see if you’d like it sweeter. My version isn’t very sweet, as I don’t happen to care for sweet salad dressings.
Why chia seeds instead of poppy seeds? Why, for the increased Omega 3 content, of course! They add the same slight crunch, and virtually no flavor, so feel free to leave them out, if you wish.
This antioxidant-rich salad dressing complimented the fresh spring greens beautifully. I can’t wait to pick more so that I can use the rest of the dressing. And then, I’ve got some blackberry-infused vinegar to play with!