Summer Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette – CYOB

For a fresh, summery side, I prepared a Summer Berry salad, full of blueberries, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, and radish.

For a fresh, summery side, I prepared a Summer Berry salad, full of blueberries, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, and radish.

Create Your Own Bite #23

For Summer Salad (Serves 8)

1 Cup Cherub and Sunburst Cherry Tomatoes, halved

2 Cups Fresh Arugula, Rinsed

6 Cups Spring Mix, Rinsed (Baby Oak, Frisee, Baby Spinach,  Baby Romaine, Baby Kale, Chard, Radicchio, etc).

1/2 English Cucumber, Sliced

5 Baby Radishes, Rinsed and Sliced

1/2 Cup Blueberries, Fresh

Optional Ingredients: Yellow and Red Bell Pepper, Sliced; Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds; Fat Free Crumbled Goat Cheese

Estimated Calories: 35

For Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 Cup Fresh Blueberries

6-8 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar, To Taste

1/2 Tsp Sage

6 Garlic Cloves, Minced

2 Tsp Honey

2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Estimated Calories: 40

It’s been a very busy day in the Little Word Bites kitchen – I’ve been driving back and forth cross town all day to help my family prepare for our Father’s Day celebration. The day started at 6:30 when I got up and drove to the nearest Starbucks to get my Dad a dopio espressio and his favorite baked good, Iced Lemon Loaf, from the Starbucks pantry.

This was a funny Father’s Day – half of my family didn’t join in on the festivities – making it a much smaller, and  much more quiet day than we anticipated. Despite the petite party, we made just as much food as we planned from the beginning. My father made his famous guacamole, my mother pulled together a deliciou three-bean corn and salsa salad, and my aunt provided a platter of whole marinated and grilled vegetables. And of course, to celebrate one of the few summer-like days we’ve had all season, my mother created a Citrus Sangria with whole chunks of naval oranges, nectarines, and strawberries, complemented by a crisp Pinot Grigio and Cointreau. My aunt’s summer salutation came in the way of tart Strawberry Rhubarb Mango Crisp.

The counter was packed with healthy, fresh appetizers - my father's housemade guacamole with handmade salsa, as well as my crudite platter featuring vegetables from my summer salad. Fat free ranch dip, at only 30 calories per tablespoon, is a light alternative to the typical creamy dip.

The counter was packed with healthy, fresh appetizers – my father’s housemade guacamole with handmade salsa, as well as my crudite platter featuring vegetables from my summer salad. Fat free ranch dip, at only 30 calories per tablespoon, is a light alternative to the typical creamy dip.

The men – my uncle, my two grandfathers, and my father – feasted accordingly.

My contribution to the day was a Summer Salad with Housemade Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette. I’m always looking for a way to transform a bed of greens into something more memorable. While I love a plain head of lettuce just as much as I love a fancy restaurant salad, I know most people need a little more convincing to be awed by a bed of leaves.

I complemented the bright, somewhat zesty spring lettuces with a variety of sweet fruits and vegetables. The blueberries were the major flavor component of the dish, as well as the cherry tomatoes. I brightened up the greens by using Sunburst tomatoes – an heirloom variety that is very delicate, sweet, and vibrant yellow – as well as red cherry tomatoes, and red and yellow bell peppers, diced. For another flash of color, and a delicate crunch, I thinly sliced some baby radishes and English cucumber.

Reducing the fresh blueberries with the balsamic vinegar creates a sweet and acidic dressing perfect for any salad - especially one full of fresh blueberries.

Reducing the fresh blueberries with the balsamic vinegar creates a sweet and acidic dressing perfect for any salad – especially one full of fresh blueberries.

To make the dressing, I mixed the blueberries, sage, garlic, balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, for approximately ten minutes. At my parents house, they have an oft-forgotten about jar of Blueberry Honey, which paired perfectly with this rich, tangy-sweet dressing. When the mixture began to simmer, I lowered the heat, and began mashing the blueberries with a wooden spoon.

For a sweeter dressing, add an additional teaspoon of honey, or finish with a splash of fresh lemon juice to brighten the mix. For a smoother version, strain the blueberry skins and any large pieces of garlic out before bottling the dressing, and putting it in the fridge to cool.

This salad is all about contrast - vibrant, complementary colors, and interesting, unexpeted textural pairings.

This salad is all about contrast – vibrant, complementary colors, and interesting, unexpeted textural pairings.

I served this salad with a side of crumbled, creamy goat cheese – although fat free feta or gorgonzola crumbles would be a pleasing contrast to the sweet salad. For more crunch, and a heartier twist on the dish, top your salad with a handful of sunflower or pumpkin seeds. This vegan alternative can be given an extra boost with a serving of avocado for an entree-version of the salad.

I couldn’t have possibly chosen a better way to spend Father’s Day – for the first time in years, we were both together. And despite the weather reports, the rain held off, and my family and I enjoyed each other’s seasonal offerings on the front porch. Cutting into a thick portobello mushroom cap while sipping a glass of housemade sangria, my grandfathers hollering to hear each other while my father and uncle took turns coaxing grill marks onto ever steak-cut onion, or bell pepper, I was reminded of why I love food writing so much. Food – especially whole, healthy, nutritious foods – are the foundation on which center some of the most important moments of our life. And every component of a meal you can prepare yourself is an opportunity to share with a friend or family member, to take control over what you serve yourself, and your loved ones, and remember how satisfying that first bite of a hard-earned meal can be.

Happy Father’s Day. To all the dads who inspire us, motivate us, and love us even when we’re being smart-asses or stealing the bell pepper that was supposed to go in the guacamole for personal projects: Thank you.

Until next time,

Melanie

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