Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Best. Salad. Ever.

This salad is inspired from my favorite little romantic, yet humbled, Northern Italian restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. My husband and I love to eat here when we're on vacation. We love to drink Prosecco and eat freshly baked foccacia at Al Di La. It's off the beaten path, away from the tourists, and packed night after night. Sometimes you have to sit at the bar or on oak barrels in the bar area and wave like a madman to get served.

There are SO MANY things I love to eat at this restaurant--the gnocchi, the tiramisu, the halibut with lentils....one day I got a wild hair to go talk to the chef and he was kind enough to tell me how my favorite salad is made. Unforunately, he could not give me exact measurements--but the rough proportions still allowed me to work it all out successfully. Luckily, it's not an exact science and you can make this salad at home just as good as it tastes in the restaurant. I LOOOOVE this salad and think you will too--it's one of my few deviations into 'sweet+savory=pretty good' as far as non-dessert items go. I'm just not a fan of all the fruit thrown into salads...there's a time and a place for it in my not-very-humble opinion (sorry). And most often, in my twisted world, fruit belongs in desserts...except here :)

There are a million versions online for this salad with some of these ingredients (so obviously it's a hit), but the mix of ingredients below are my favorite: simple, elegant, fresh, and SPECTACULAR. The crunch of the nuts, the peppery aspect of the arugula, the tartness of the orange, and the creaminess of the cheese...I don't like to sing...but I just might, if you served this to me. It may just be one of the things I ask for if permitted a 'last meal'....try it.


Fresh arugula, rinsed, patted dry with a paper towel--baby arugula is great
Goat cheese (chevre), crumbled
Walnuts or pecans, chopped or left whole
Navel oranges, in segments (peeled and pared-without membranes)
Beets (boiled until a fork easily goes in it, about an hour), peeled, sliced into strips OR canned beets, drained)

Dressing--Mix together equal parts of:
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh orange juice
Balsamic vinegar
Salt & cracked pepper, to taste

Toss together the arugula, orange segments, nuts, and crumbled goat cheese with dressing (LEAVE OUT the beets unless you want your whole salad to be entirely pink). Assemble the salads by plating the dressed arugula salad on each plate and add beets on top of your salad.

Serve this salad COLD (sometimes when I get really crazy, I chill the salad plates in advance before plating this salad--I swear it makes a difference!).

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