08 June 2013

Guess what? I've joined another monthly blog challenge.  I just love monthly challenges.  Probably the first time ever that I have enjoyed homework!  It is really fun finding and creating recipes to fit certain challenge criteria.  That's when I jumped at the chance when Wendy from The Weekend Gourmet invited food bloggers to join in her new monthly challenge: The Salad Bar.

I was excited to join this challenge because salads are not something I make very often, and when I do, they are pretty much the most boring salads ever.  I really needed something to nudge me to make more salads and to be more creative with them.  So this monthly challenge is just perfect.  Every month Wendy will give us an ingredient or theme and we have to make a salad that fits and post the recipe on the second Saturday of the month.

Wendy kicked things off by announcing that this month's theme would be berries.  Great timing, as berries are coming into season and they are perfect in summertime salads.  The only salad I had ever had that contained berries was a spinach salad with strawberries.  It's a classic, and for good reason.  Really yummy. But I wanted to make a salad that I had never tried before.  I did lots and lots (and lots!) of looking around online to find a unique salad recipe containing berries.  Finally, I found what I was looking for.  The Curvy Carrot posted a Berry Caprese Salad that I just had to try myself.  If you aren't familiar with traditional caprese salad, it has three components: basil, tomato, and mozzarella.  One of the great things about caprese salad is how beautiful it is with those three colors.  Shanon at The Curvy Carrot had the genius idea to swap out the tomato with berries.  She used both strawberries and blueberries, but I kept mine simple with just strawberries.  She used slivered almonds for crunch, but I decided to go with pine nuts, which fit with the Italian theme of caprese salad.  I don't have exact measurements, and probably won't for most of the salads that I post, because I think it's best with salads to just put in however much you like.  Eyeball it.

Strawberry Caprese Salad

Baby spinach
Chiffonade of fresh basil
Fresh strawberries, sliced
Mozzarella pearls
Toasted pine nuts
Balsamic vinaigrette (three parts olive oil to one part balsamic vinegar)

Layer each individual salad plate or bowl with the spinach, basil, strawberries, mozzarella, and pine nuts.  Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.

These are the "mozzarella pearls" that I used.  They are perfect because they are bite-sized, no cutting into pieces required.  If you can't find these, just get some fresh mozzarella and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

If you are not familiar, "chiffonade of basil" means little ribbons of basil.  Here's how you make them: take one fresh basil leaf and roll it up the long way.  Take your knife and cut it into thin little rolls.  When you unroll them, they look like crinkly ribbons.

This salad is so good!  I wasn't sure how much I would like it, but I loved it.  The mozzarella really helps cut the acidity of the dressing and the strawberries.  And basil and strawberry go so well together.  It really is a super combination of flavors.

I don't recommend making this like a tossed salad.  I tried that, but the balsamic vinaigrette is so dark that it soaks into the mozzarella and makes it quite unappetizing.  It's best served individually.

Thanks so much for starting this new challenge, Wendy!  I can't wait to see what everybody else made.

Come back next month when the theme will be picnic or potluck salads.  Think potato salad, slaws, etc.  There's lots to work with there!

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  1. Gorgeous salad...I love the idea of subbing strawberries for tomatoes! My hubby doesn't really care for raw tomato unless it's on a burger...so he would LOVE this version of caprese!

  2. I just love those little mozzarella pearls - they're a great addition to all sorts of salads! This sounds fantastic, what a delicious combination of ingredients.

  3. Lesa, I've made a similar salad it it is amazing! Your post has got me craving it again...beautifully done!

  4. Simple and gorgeous, my kind of salad!!

  5. I love everything about this salad!! Caprese is high on my list of "must have" and combining it with strawberry only makes it that much more appealing. Well done!

  6. Great salad idea and I am loving the pearls.

  7. Michelle Rushing HiltonJune 8, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    Beautiful salad! I love Caprese salad, so this sounds delicious!

  8. Looks delicious, Lesa!

  9. I think this is such a clever idea, as tomatoes aren't ready yet. Would be a great crostini too.