Monday, July 9, 2012

Strawberry Blue Cheese Salad with Balsamic Glaze

To celebrate their summer salads, Noodles & Company shared with me a couple recipes for main dish salads. Since the temperature kept skyrocketing last week, it was the perfect opportunity to test one out.

A few notes about this salad:

The Glaze: Part of me (the lazy part) wanted to skip the balsamic glaze, but I dragged by sorry rear end to the stove and whipped it up. The glaze did require a little bit of baby sitting because you need to whisk it regularly, but it was absolutely worth it. It added a flavorful, sweet component to the salad and was the perfect finishing touch.

The Chicken: This salad doesn't need chicken, but it added a bit more substance. And I'm really hankering after chicken these days. Feel free to leave it out if you so desire.

The Blue Cheese: I like blue cheese, so I was pumped to see it in the ingredient list. The husband, on the other hand, does not like blue cheese. At all. So I put blue cheese on my salad and goat cheese on his. Everyone was happy. Another marital dilemma solved by goat cheese.

Strawberry Blue Cheese Salad with Balsamic Glaze
Serves: 4 as a main dish
Adapted from Noodles & Company

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar*
3 tablespoons honey
12 ounces baby spinach or mixed salad greens
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (optional)
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup blue cheese (Substitute goat cheese if you're not a fan of blue cheese.)
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cups strawberries, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinaigrette, to taste (or your best balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil)

First, prepare the balsamic glaze. In a small saucepan, combine balsamic vinegar and honey. Bring the glaze to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking regularly, until glaze thickens and becomes syrupy, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let glaze cool completely before using it to top the salad.

In a large bowl, layer spinach, onion (if using), chicken, bacon, blue cheese, pecans, and strawberries. Drizzle with cooled balsamic glaze to taste (you may have a bit leftover) and sprinkle with pepper. Just the glaze was enough dressing for me, but feel free to serve the salad with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

*Since you're going to reduce the balsamic vinegar and add honey to it, you don't need to use the good stuff to make the glaze. Save the pricier balsamic vinegar for topping salads and dipping bread. 

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