Strawberry season may be my favorite two weeks of summer. To me, it's the true sign that summer is finally here. In Michigan, we're lucky to have U-pick farms and farmers markets in abundance, so it's easy to get your hands on the berries at their peak. I make jam and freeze berries, but it's impossible to resist snacking on the little beauties as well.
This year, I happened to be going to a birthday party on the same day that I picked up a flat of perfectly ripe, locally grown strawberries. A Riviera salad was a natural next step. The salad went over very well at the party. Who can resist fresh fruit and a creamy dressing?
- Flavor/Texture: I love this salad because it's a mix of textures and complimentary fresh and bright flavors. You get a great crunch from the Romaine and walnuts, while the berries and oranges give it a sweet twist. The dressing has some savory notes, which is a nice balance.
- Difficulty: It's a salad, so it's bound to be pretty easy. There aren't many ingredients, so quality really matters. Make sure your fruit is perfectly ripe, the lettuce is fully rinsed and dried, and that you choose a good quality cheese.
- Pros: Quick and easy to put together. The ingredients are things pretty much everyone likes. The colors in this dish are also amazing. It's much more fun to eat food that's visually appealing.
- Cons: The dressing will wilt the Romaine fairly quickly in the summer heat, so dress it just before serving so you don't end up with a soggy salad.
- Misc.: The dressing is quick and easy, but if you must, you can use a store-bought version. Locally, you can get Arnie's, which is the best. Marie Callender's is good as well.
- Repeat Performance: I have made this salad many times in the past and it will continue to be a summer favorite.
2 Romaine hearts, torn or sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 lb Swiss cheese, finely shredded
1 small can of mandarin oranges, rinsed and drained
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/3 cup mayo (don't use Miracle Whip, it will NOT taste good)
2 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vinegar (you can use any kind, but I prefer something milder, like champagne or sherry vinegar)
1 Tbsp of poppy seeds
1/4 of a small sweet onion
salt to taste
Whisk the mayo, milk, sugar, vinegar and a dash of salt together in a small bowl. Using the finest side of a box grater (or a microplane, if you have one), grate a tiny bit of the onion into the dressing. Mix well and then taste. Add more onion if necessary. When you're satisfied with the dressing taste, mix in the poppy seeds and stir well.
Put half of the Romaine into a large bowl. Layer half of the berries, oranges, walnuts and cheese. If serving immediately, add dressing the the layers and toss. If not, store the dressing in a separate container. Repeat the layers with the rest of the ingredients and toss.
Chill until ready to serve.