You know how many people feel an inexplicable attraction towards a certain country and its language? I know someone who spends every vacation in Ireland, a woman who learns Spanish for no particular reason and I even heard of a guy learning Vietnamese for fun. Even though I ended up studying Norwegian myself, my first love was Italian and my fascination with the language continues to this day. Possibly this started when I was about nine and the half-Czech, half-Italian son of my parents’ friends taught me and my sister to curse in Italian (even Italian curses have a certain poetic quality). Over the years I have started learning Italian no less than three times, beginning with an evening course when I was sixteen, then persuading an Italian speaking mother of Sebastiaan’s kindergarten friend to give me lessons, and then (after she moved away) through this helpful website.
Somewhat ironically, I am now fluent in Dutch, a language that I never felt any particular interest in prior to meeting my Dutch husband, but I am still nowhere near being able to speak Italian well.
I am still a fan of the country though and recently I made a salad in “il tricolore” Italian national colors: green, white and red.
The inspiration came from a salad we had about 16 years ago at our friend Monique’s place that has been at the back of my mind for all those years. I did not ask for the recipe and my salad is possibly very different from hers, nevertheless I am grateful for the idea. Monique’s salad combined the strawberries with corn salad (also called lamb’s lettuce or mâche), but the reality of our garden is such that the strawberry season starts at a time when all corn salad (which is one of our favorite winter salad greens) has run to seed. However, young spinach is plentiful at the moment and I think its irony taste combines even better with the strawberries marinated in balsamico. Balsamic vinegar accentuates the taste of strawberries that is offset by the sharpness of the goat cheese.
I often add seeds or nuts to salads both for their nutritional value and the crunch, and the pumpkin seeds are good here in terms of flavor and in keep with the color scheme.
The salad was a favorite with the whole family and I will certainly not wait for 16 years to make it again.
p.s. If you’re wondering what the rose has to do with spinach salad, it’s this: When I was finishing the salad, I asked my husband to hold the camera for me. Because he cannot just hold a camera, when I looked at the pictures later, the pictures of spinach salad were interspersed with pictures of the roses flowering in the backyard right now.
Spinach salads previously: Baby spinach salad with pita croutons, dates and almonds, Spinach, citrus and feta salad
Spinach, strawberry and goat cheese
Note on balsamic vinegar: the quality varies, the cheaper brands are rather sharp and acidic, while really good aged balsamic is syrupy and sweet-sour. The amount you’ll want to use depends on the quality, the sweetness of the balsamico.
200 g (7 ounces) young spinach leaves
250 g (9 ounces) strawberries
1- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
40 g (½ cup) pumpkin seeds
120 g (4 ounces) soft goat cheese
Wash the spinach well and dry the leaves in a salad spinner. Wash and hull the strawberries and half or quarter them, depending on size. In a medium bowl, mix the strawberries with ½ – 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and let marinate for at least 15 minutes. Roast the pumpkin seeds in a pan over medium heat until they start “popping”.
Whisk the remaining balsamic vinegar with the olive oil to make the dressing. Season with salt and pepper
In a large bowl, toss the spinach leaves with the dressing, add the strawberries and crumble the cheese over the salad. Just before serving, scatter the pumpkin seeds on top.