Fruity Green Salad

I think it was my sister-in-law who turned me on to green salads with fruit in them.  Until I'd had her spinach salad with strawberries, I'd always been a salad-traditionalist of sorts - salads were savory, and for me, eaten after my main course (unless, of course, a salad was my main course, which it often is).

But there is something interesting and tempting about a salad loaded with both greens and fruit, and maybe some nuts and dried fruits too, with a slightly sweet dressing.  For me, they're always slightly unexpected, but enjoyable.

I tried this on Saturday night, and we liked it.  It incorporates fresh figs, which we "discovered" last summer.  I ate dried figs as a kid, but as a grownup I hadn't regularly eaten fresh figs, and certainly never cooked with them.  If they are ripe, they can be very tasty.  If they aren't (they'll be very firm), they won't be.  And sometimes they're really mushy and over-ripe, in which case they're awful.  So see if you can man-handle your figs a bit before you commit to a basket.  I also try to find organic ones, and then I just wash them and slice them with the peel intact.

Green Salad With Figs, Grapes & Pine Nuts

One package mixed greens (approximately 5-6 ounces)
2/3 c. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
8 fresh figs, cut into rounds, and then quartered
1 c. red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 c. dried sweetened cranberries (dried cherries would be great, too)
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted*



1/4 c. orange muscat champagne vinegar (mine is from Trader Joe's, you could use regular champagne vinegar)
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c. good extra-virgin olive oil
2 t. white sugar
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. water
1 shallot, minced

*To toast your pine nuts, put them into a small, dry skillet and stir them constantly over low heat - they'll toast quickly, so watch them!  Let them cool before you add them to your salad.

For dressing:  combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine (or use an old spaghetti sauce jar - add all ingredients and shake vigorously - this is my fool-proof method).  This makes about twice as much dressing as you will need for the salad - so you can either halve the recipe, or keep the leftovers in the fridge for about a week).

For salad:  toss all ingredients in a large bowl, dress with prepared dressing to taste.

Serves 4 as a side-salad.

Some tips:  Pine nuts are expensive, and because of their high oil content, they spoil more quickly than your other nuts.  Trader Joe's has great prices on nuts generally, and also on dried fruits.  Buy a large bag of nuts and use what you need - keep the rest in the refrigerator and they won't go rancid as quickly.

Turned on by sweet dressings?  Newman's Own makes a good light raspberry walnut vinaigrette that is a staple at our house - try tossing it with mixed greens, crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries and then topping it with a sliced grilled chicken breast (here again, TJ's can be a time-saver - their already-grilled chicken breasts are pretty darn good (no weird texture) and don't have any crazy sauces on them.  The balsamic ones are my favorite, but lemon-pepper and plain grilled are great, too.  Voila!  If you used bagged salad greens and the pre-cooked chicken, you now have a healthy and summery main-course in less time than it takes to order take-out!