Monday, June 4, 2012

Roast Strawberry Salad

Roast Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, Overhead View with Fork and Yellow Napkin

Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar Add Ping

Ever tried roasting strawberries?  Or serving them as a savory dish rather than a sweet?  Restaurants have been using strawberries this way for years.  Home cooks?  Not so much.

Roasting concentrates strawberries’ already intense flavor.  Toss them in olive oil and seasoning, and their sweetness turns deliciously savory.  Mate with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, and you have the makings of a memorable salad.

We’re talking big flavor — with little effort!  Well worth it for the standing ovation your guests will give you.


Roast Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, with Fork and Napkin

Recipe:  Roast Strawberry Salad

This salad is composed (in French, it’s a salade composée) rather than tossed.  That just means you arrange the ingredients in a pattern on the plate. A famous example of this genre is Salade Niçoise. Here, you just need to arrange the roast strawberries and goat cheese on a bed of lettuce in an eye-pleasing way.

For this dish, strawberries are the most important ingredient, so you want to buy fresh, juicy, in-season berries.  The kind that are in stores now.  Balsamic vinegar is another key ingredient; see Notes for more information about this.

This is a two-part recipe:  One part for roasting strawberries.  Then a second for assembling the salad.  Roasting the berries takes 20 minutes, with 5 minutes prep time (25 minutes total).  Assembling the salad takes about 5 minutes.  This recipe serves 4.  As with most salads, leftovers, don’t keep well.

Ingredients

For the Roast Strawberries:
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • Extra virgin olive oil (just enough to coat the berries — about a tablespoon)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper (optional)
For the Salad:
  • 1 head lettuce (green or red leaf lettuce is ideal)
  • extra virgin olive oil (just enough to coat the lettuce when tossing — 1 or 2 tablespoons)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • good quality balsamic vinegar to taste (about a teaspoon; see Notes)
  • 4 - 6 ounces goat cheese (I prefer the little “logs” of cheese for this dish)
  • roasted strawberries
  • additional balsamic vinegar as garnish (optional; see Step 7 of the Salad Procedure)
Procedure

For Roasting the Strawberries:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash, dry, and hull the strawberries.  Cut in half (lengthwise).  If really large, consider cutting into fourths — you want all the strawberry pieces to be about the same size so they take the same amount of time to roast.
  3. In a bowl, toss strawberries with just enough olive oil to coat.  Salt and pepper to taste.  (You want a fairly light seasoning — maybe ½ teaspoon of salt or a little less, and a dozen grinds of pepper from your grinder.)  If using cayenne pepper, add just a touch (¼ teaspoon at most; you don’t want to make the berries spicy hot — you just want to know there’s some heat in the background flavoring).  Toss again to thoroughly mix all seasonings.
  4. Place strawberries in a single layer on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet (as they roast, the strawberries exude some liquid; the foil helps with cleanup) or in a pie plate (preferably Pyrex).  Place in oven, and set timer for 10 minutes.
  5. At the 10-minute mark, flip strawberries over.  Taste one to see how the texture is coming along.  It’s probably totally soft and technically “done.”  But I think strawberries have better flavor if roasted for about 20 minutes.  Put the berries back in the oven and set timer for 5 minutes.
  6. When the timer goes off, taste strawberries again.  Mentally note the flavor.  Put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes, and repeat your tasting.  If you prefer the flavor of the strawberries after they’ve cooked for 15 minutes total, then roast them just that long next time.  If you prefer the 20-minute flavor, that’s your cooking time.  (You can also cook them a few minutes longer if you wish.)
  7. Let strawberries cool briefly (5 minutes) before using them.  Roasted strawberries often produce some juice; you can drizzle this over the berries after you put them in the salad, if you choose.
For Preparing the Salad:
  1. Wash and dry the lettuce.  Wrap in a dish towel (to absorb any excess moisture) and allow to crisp in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  2. When ready to make the salad, remove lettuce from refrigerator and tear into bite-sized pieces.  Add to large mixing bowl.
  3. Add oil (a bit less than you think you’ll need) to the lettuce leaves.  Using tongs or a large fork and spoon, toss the salad (it’s easiest if you use a long-handled fork and spoon or tongs made specifically for mixing salad).  Toss until oil totally covers each leaf; you may need (or want) to add some additional oil.
  4. Add a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and toss to incorporate.  I always sample a leaf at this point to make sure the amount of oil is right, and the salt and pepper are to my taste.  If not, I make adjustments.
  5. Add balsamic vinegar (less than you think you’ll need) and toss.  Taste, and add more balsamic vinegar if necessary (you can also add a bit more balsamic vinegar as a garnish on top of the strawberries in Step 7 below).
  6. Distribute the dressed lettuce on 4 plates.  Cut the goat cheese into rounds or cubes, and arrange on the plates.  Add strawberries to the plates in an attractive pattern.
  7. Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar on the strawberries as a garnish if you wish (I suggest this – it adds more flavor, but see Notes), and serve.
Roast Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, with Fork and Napkin
Notes
  • It’s impossible to specify exactly how much olive oil or balsamic vinegar you’ll need when making this salad.  Every head of lettuce has a different volume, and everyone likes different oil-to-vinegar ratios in salad dressings.  So it’s important to taste as you make — which is why I suggest starting with less oil and vinegar than you think you’ll need.  It’s easier to add more than to subtract too much.
  • You want to use a good-tasting extra virgin olive oil when you make this salad.  You’ll definitely be tasting the oil, so use a flavor that pleases you.
  • A key ingredient in this recipe is balsamic vinegar, which has a rich, somewhat sweet flavor. Traditional balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale) comes from Italy — Modena or Reggio Emilia, to be specific. These vinegars are artisan-made, and aged for at least 12 years. And they’re expensive. Most of us can’t (or won’t) afford them — a small bottle can cost $200. 
  • There’s a less expensive version of balsamic vinegar from Italy that takes much less time to make — and doesn’t have quite the same flavor:  Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena). 
  • There’s also commercial balsamic — stuff that is made in just a few hours.  A lot of it is dreadful, but some is quite acceptable.  
  • Finally, you can buy flavored balsamic vinegars, which blend in other natural ingredients.  These are often of quite high quality.
  • You generally can find acceotable balsamic vinegar in the supermarket.  For this dish, you want one that’s on the sweeter side (though you still want good vinegar tang) and preferably somewhat thick.  One brand I use and like is Alessi Balsamic Vinegar.  Another widely distributed brand is Colavita Balsamic Vinegar of Modena; it’s fairly good for (relatively) inexpensive supermarket fare.
  • You can also buy balsamic vinegar from several internet sources.  For this salad, I used some that my sister purchased online as a gift (thanks, sis!) from Leonardo e Roberto’s Gourmet Blends. (Note: This is dot-US, not dot-Com.) Specifically, I used their Black Currant Balsamic Vinegar. It’s rich, syrupy (not too tart), and simply marvelous. 
  •  Don’t get hung up on trying to find a specific brand.  What you’re looking for is something with decent tartness (to serve as an acid ingredient in the salad dressing), but with a sweet tang to it.  
  • I suggest drizzling extra balsamic vinegar on the strawberries in Step 7 of the Salad Procedure.  You want to add just a bit (1/4 to ½ a teaspoon) as a garnish.  After your guests taste the salad, they can add more at table if they wish.
  • I often drizzle of bit of balsamic vinegar on the goat cheese, too.  The combination of flavors is delightful.
  •  As noted in the Procedure, you need to establish your own time for how long to roast strawberries.  For me, 20 minutes is ideal; but I can see how someone could prefer roasting them from anywhere between 15 to 25 minutes.
  • You can roast strawberries without olive oil or seasonings — just skip the seasoning step, and roast them in a 400-degree oven as directed.  Their flavor won’t be savory (just sweet) and will be less complex.  But they might make an interesting garnish for a dessert dish (ice cream, pie, or pudding, for example).
Roast Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, Overhead View with Fork and Napkin

Not Your Average Strawberry

Roast Strawberries can take salads to a new dimension.  Pairing their sweetness with savory olive oil and seasoning delivers flavor intrigue, and they combine well with other high-interest ingredients (here, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar).

“Boy, this is great,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she tasted this salad for the first time.  “I thought the idea of roasting strawberries sounded weird, but what terrific flavor!”

“Turned out better than expected,” I agreed. 

Did they ever.

Once you taste Roast Strawberries, you’ll never forget them.  They’re that good.  Which is why you need to make this dish – really! – and soon.  Like, this weekend.

You’ll thank me (between happy mouthfuls).

You may also enjoy reading about:
Salade Niçoise
Spinach Salad with Parmesan
Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
Chef's Salad
Creamy Cole Slaw
Potato Salad Basics
Pineapple, Coconut, and Carrot Salad









48 comments:

  1. In all my personal cheffing I don't believe I've ever roasted strawberries! I use them often in savory dishes - especially with balsamic and goat cheese, it's outstanding! - but it's simply never occurred to me to roast them. This is why I love great food blogs - it's a never ending supply of inspiration!

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    1. Hi wicked noodle, they're totally great. I forget where I first saw them — some restaurant somewhere — but at first the thought blew my mind. Try them — I think you'll like them. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. I'm with wicked noodle, I've also never roasted strawberries. I roasted other fruits and do that often but not with strawberries. I'll have to try it. I'm sure it brings out an even sweeter caramelized flavor.

    Lovely salad and great tips as always.

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    1. Hi Vicki, it's so easy to roast strawberries! I don't know why it took me so long to do it, either. But I'll be doing it often in the future - they're great! Thanks for your comment.

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  3. I do roast strawberries - but have never done so for a salad. That will change. I will be doing this - utterly delicious with the goat cheese. And going to share on Facebook. Love it.

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    1. Hi Claudia, Roast Strawberries have a savory side I never expected. They're still pretty sweet, of course, but they combine extremely well with olive oil and cayenne pepper. Thanks for sharing on Facebook! And thanks for your comment.

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  4. Roasted strawberries? I'm intrigued! I will definitely try this with our summer strawberries!

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    1. Hi Laura, you'll enjoy them! Great flavor, and fun in a salad. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. I use roasted strawberries & balsamic in tarts - never thought of a salad! This sounds great.

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    1. Hi Maureen, using the roast strawberries in tarts would be terrific. Nice, deep flavor! Thanks for your comment.

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  6. This looks so wicked good. I bet the flavour just pops when you roast the strawberries. Digging this salad.

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    1. Hi Kim Bee, flavor popping is exactly what happens! And it's absolutely wickedly good! Nice description! Thanks for your comment.

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  7. i love the vibrant colors and the flavors fused together. it's a perfect harmony... like a summer song.

    Malou

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    1. Hi Skip to Malou, yeah, I'm a little kid when it comes to color - I like it bring and abundant. ;-) Thanks for commenting.

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  8. What a fantastic salad! Simply brilliant!

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    1. Hi Asmita, thanks for your kind words, and your comment!

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  9. Your salad sounds terrific. I use strawberries in salads but I love the savory aspect of your recipe. Very interesting idea. Thank you for stopping by my blog so that I could discover yours and this delicious sounding recipe.

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    1. Hi Karen, it's so much fun to use fruit in savory recipes. Strawberries seem to work particularly well. Thanks for stopping by.

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  10. This looks fabulous! I've been seeing roasted strawberries everywhere lately. By the time I get around to trying them they will probably be old news.

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    1. Hi Julie, I started seeing roast strawberries on restaurant menus a few years ago, then not so much. But this year I've seen several (and on at least a couple of blogs). Roasting is a great way to serve strawberries, so it deserves to be popular. Thanks for your comment.

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  11. I never thought to roast strawberries... this salad looks so delicious.

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    1. Hi Tania, really a yummy salad! I loved making it, but the eating was better! Thanks for your comment.

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  12. You are absolutely right, right before reading the post, I realize I have always equated strawberries with sweet treats. It is only now that I have opened my eyes to the versatility of strawberries...Excited to try this out!

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    1. Hi MyFudo, they're great roasted! Still a bit sweet, of course, but so different. Really a great flavor. Thanks for your comment.

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  13. I love the taste of roasted and grilled strawberries. This salad is beautiful and very delicious!

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    1. Hi Marina, wonderful, aren't they? Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  14. I really have to try this! Strawberries are my favorite summer fruit but I've never roasted them. This sounds like a unique and delicious way to enjoy them!

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    1. Hi Jeanne, you really should try it - it takes only a few minutes, and then you'll get to enjoy a really nice flavor sensation. Thanks for your comment.

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  15. Oooh, I have wanted to try strawberries with balsamic for a while. They look wonderful roasted.

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    1. Hi Courtney, strawberries + balsamic is a classic. Roasting the strawberries takes it to a different level - the strawberries taste essentially the same, but different in a nice way. Thanks for your comment.

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  16. A delightful salad and interesting recipe! I love the idea.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, thanks for the kind words and the comment.

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  17. No, I haven't thought of roasting strawberries so thanks for the idea! They look delicious and the salad looks divine! Love the combination of strawberries and goat cheese and the simplicity of the other ingredients. Great salad!!!

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    1. Hi MJ, roasted strawberries have lots of flavor - I think you'll enjoy them. Thanks for the nice things you said, and the comment.

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  18. I'm seeing a lot of strawberries in salads at restaurants these days. Love your combo with the balsamic and the creamy cheese. A perfect trio of goodness.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, strawberries do seem popular in restaurant salads (it's where I learned about roast strawberries). "A perfect trio of goodness" - ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  19. I would never have thought to roast strawberries, but why not? We roast almost any other veggie and fruit!

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    1. Hi Mother Rimmy, yeah, I'm going to have to roast everything now in order to find some more winners! Thanks for commenting.

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  20. This salad looks really terrific. I've read about how well strawberries go with balsamic vinegar, but I've never tried it. I do use balsamic vinegar quite a lot, though, and you've inspired me to try a different brand.

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    1. Hi Beth, it's a super salad. My opinion, of course, but I think if you try it you'll agree. It's fun shopping for balsamic vinegar- there are so many choices! Thanks for your comment.

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  21. Sweet and salty flavours in a salad - lovely. Roasting strawberries sounds like a really good idea.

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    1. Hi WokandSpoon, Roast Strawberries really have an interesting flavor. Well worth trying, IMO. Thanks for your comment.

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  22. i am very interested in this roasted strawberry salad recipe. It's definitely something new to me. I look forward to trying this soon. Thanks for the recipe!

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    1. Hi Yi, oh, you have to give this a try. Really different and really good. One of my new favorites. Thanks for your comment.

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  23. John, lovelovelove roasting fruits and lovelovelove berries with balsamic and black pepper, either over vanilla ice cream or as a salsa with green onions over fish, but never thought of the this combo. Thanks for posting.

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    1. Hi Denise, you'll like this - trust me. In fact I'll bet you love it! Thanks for your comment.

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  24. I've been seeing roast strawberries popping up all over the place and it sounds just divine. Combined with goat cheese and balsamic in this salad it sounds transcendent! Awesome, summery recipe.

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    1. Hi Katherine, yeah, right when I posted mine I saw a whole bunch too! Funny how these things trend. Anyway, it's a great recipe. Thanks for commenting.

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