What you who are not from the Midwest might not know is that Chicago gives us many seasons, in the same week—in the same day—anytime it wants to. Saturday, for example, I spent the gloomy morning at the library, watching dark skies send rain onto waving maple trees and brick houses, but by early evening, the sun was bright and high, the air warm, charcoal breezes around us while we walked to dinner. Later still, the breezes turned cold again, when I pulled on my thickest coat to step onto the street and get in my car.
So when you visit, please bring a coat and t-shirts, sunscreen and an umbrella. We make no guarantees. All you can really be sure of is that we’ll be here, smiling, ready for whatever comes next, with bare trees turned to thick green clusters along the highway, spindly bushes turned to pink and red blossoms in yards, the threat of rain in the eastern horizon.
When you come in June, we will have salad—light and refreshing, cool and crunchy. Where winter (or early June sometimes, ahem) is hearty beef stew, summer is salad, even if it’s raining or the air turns cold and there are puddles to our doorway. This isn’t California—you can’t eat our produce year-round—but this is summer after all, and, some say, it’s smarter to eat for the weather you want than the weather you have.
Sometimes, in fact, when you eat like summer, summer comes. After I made this salad, a combination of greens and fruit and a homemade vinaigrette, we flipped and flopped from hot to cool, but by Sunday afternoon, when I met Jacqui for lunch at one my favorite places, it just so happened that the weather was absolutely perfect, and, even with temps predicted to drop below 50 in the evenings, I’ve heard most of this week will be hot and dry, sunshine everywhere. It’s summer, people. This is salad weather.
This recipe originates from Angela of Spinach Tiger, who made it for the Inauguration (with strawberries, it is red, white and blue). We’ll have it sans strawberries but with loads of everything else: fresh greens, chopped toasted walnuts, apples, blueberries, shaved white chocolate. We’ll have it at the kitchen table, with ice water and a fresh loaf of bread, sitting next to the windows.
Afterwards, I can’t say if we’ll go for a walk or watch a movie, sit beneath the stars or stay indoors; but, with good company and a salad like this to eat, does it matter?
Adapted from Spinach Tiger
What I love about this salad is what I love about Angela’s recipes in general: it’s the kind of thing your friend, the one who’s a great cook, would make for you—simple, tested, full of flavor. By all means, feel free to improvise, but do follow her advice to freeze the blueberries and shave the white chocolate (don’t use chips), as both of those touches are important.
4 cups salad greens (your choice, suggested: arugula* or mixed 50/50 with various salad greens)
1/2 thinly sliced gala apple
1/2 cup blueberries (freeze for at least 20 minutes)
(optional: 1/2 cup strawberries, washed peeled, cut in large slices)
2 Tablespoons toasted finely chopped walnuts for topping
Shaved premium white chocolate (NOT chips) enough to shave over entire salad
vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic dressing
For the dressing, mix 1 to 3 parts vinegar to oil, whisk together and then very gently toss into greens with your hands. If you’re using arugula, use the dressing sparingly, as this type of green does not need a lot of dressing. (You can always drizzle more vinegar over salad once it is assembled if you desire.)
Toss the greens before adding fruit or fruit will get mushy.
Add fruit on top of greens, placing apples in center and surrounding with blueberries and strawberries. Sprinkle toasted walnuts on top of apples. Shave good white chocolate all over the top, and then sprinkle a little sea salt and pepper. Drizzle a few drops of balsamic vinegar over the fruit.
*Arugula wilts faster than any green, so you’ll want to wait to add dressing until just before serving. For this reason, it might be better to mix it with some other greens to have a salad with a bit more body.