It seems funny to think of now, as the weather finally warms into summer, but salad saved me all winter. In January, I was testing and retesting recipes for A Baker’s Dairy-Free Dozen, and scrambling to find some savories to subsist on amidst all the sweets. I’d grab some greens, then top them with everything in the fridge. Dressed in a vinaigrette (more often a citronette) of proper French proportions (one part vinegar to three parts of luscious, delicious olive oil), my hodgepodge salads satisfied me no matter how many sweets I’d just baked, no matter how many weird extras I’d found in the fridge.
Of course, in retrospect, this desperation counted as recipe testing, because I tried a whole lot of combinations. In the process, I made a couple discoveries and rediscoveries.That crispy bacon or toasted almonds make a salad great; and that together, they beat out croutons 96 percent of the time. That a half cup of quinoa adds phenomenal texture and a wallop of protein without turning your green salad into a quinoa salad. That avocado disappears into creamy oblivion, enriching every bite. And that if you use the proper amount of olive oil in a vinaigrette, you don’t need any sugar (though it’s still tasty to add a drizzle of good honey), because the good-for-you fat takes care of the puckery tang. That’s especially true when you have an olive oil as well-matched to its salad as California Olive Ranch Arbequina Olive Oil, which I used in this recipe. The oil is fruity (rather than grassy or spicy or another profile commonly found in oil), which picks up the sweetness of the apples and fennel.
If you, like me, love the following: greens, avocados, almonds, olive oil, and the thing that brings them all together–salad–then head over to enter the Salad Bowl Recipe Contest that California Olive Ranch is running in partnership with OXO, the California Avocado Commission, and California Almonds. You submit your best salad recipe, in the process qualifying to win great prizes. Enter ASAP, as the Salad Bowl Recipe Contest ends tomorrow night (May 20).
This post is sponsored by California Olive Ranch. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!
Quinoa, Avocado & Apple Salad with Crispy Bacon & Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette
Serves 2 to 4
Cutting the veggies on a mandoline allows them to mingle perfectly with the lettuce leaves. Avocado adds creaminess, while almonds and bacon contribute wonderful crunch.
For the salad:
1 head green leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
½ cup cooked quinoa
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped (I bake my bacon on a foil-lined baking sheet for 12-15 minutes in a 400°F oven)
1 small head fennel, trimmed and cored, then cut paper thin on a mandoline
1 Fuji apple, peeled and cored, then cut paper thin on a mandoline
1 large carrot, peeled and cut paper thin on a mandoline
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Half an avocado, pit removed, cut into cubes
For the dressing:
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup California Olive Ranch Arbequina Olive Oil
1 small clove garlic, grated on a Microplane
1/2 teaspoon honey
Have all the salad ingredients ready to go and set aside on cutting boards or in prep bowls. Then, in the salad bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and mustard. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking as you go, so that the dressing emulsifies. When all the oil is in, add the grated garlic, honey, and a good pinch of salt. Whisk again, then try the dressing on a lettuce leaf, tasting for balance of flavors and salt. Add more salt, honey, or lemon juice to your taste. Pour about half of the dressing into a jar and set aside.
Now add the lettuce, quinoa, bacon, fennel, apple, carrot, almonds, and avocado. Gently toss with the dressing in the bowl. Taste, again adding more salt if you’d like, and drizzling on any of the reserved dressing. (If you don’t need any more dressing, save it for tomorrow’s salad!) Eat immediately.
If you’d like to pack this for lunch, toss all the salad ingredients together without the dressing. Place a generous layer of dressing in the bottom of a portable container, then pack in the salad. Toss just before eating.