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Spring Start Salad ~ with Caramelized Balsamic Dressing, Roasted Nuts, Berries & Goat Cheese

2012 garden spinach

Tough Greens Sweeten Up

Well, not exactly tough ~ but more hearty than the sweet lettuces of later spring.  The kale, beet greens and spinach called for in this recipe can be rather fibrous as adults, but more tender as babies.  So springs the recipe!

The spinach is currently exploding, so I’m using it in every meal.  This recipe is a favorite, loaded with the flavors of its dynamic, crowd pleasing, caramelized dressing.

Spinach, kale and beet greens, picked small as soon as you’re ready to thin, are a delectable treat. But they also hold their shape under a warm dressing very well. The slightly bitter taste of each adds to the complexity of flavors, which are plenty with the garlic, berry and honey content in the dressing.

Salt and a slight tang in the goat cheese tops the flavor combo…to the point that I’d love to have this salad as a main course regularly ~ if my family would agree.

The balsamic vinaigrette tends to wow guests. Sautéed garlic combines with honey, balsamic and dried fruit to caramelize into a thick, warm syrup.

Caramelizing honey, balsamic and olive oil requires a full boil.

I first tasted a version made by Julie Libby, former chef and now owner of our local book haven, Trail’s End Bookstore.  (Some of our favorite cookbooks from Trail’s End are featured on the righthand sidebar.)  I’ve modified the recipe with honey rather than sugar, added some dried berry options and expanded from spinach to a variety of tougher greens.

Healthy spring garlic ~ carefully roasted, the garlic in this recipe’s caramelized dressing works to enhance all other flavors.

~Caramelized Balsamic Dressing~

½ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup dried cranberries, huckleberries or blueberries

1/2 cup honey

Salt and pepper to taste

1~ Sauté garlic in a small saucepan in 1 T olive oil until slightly browned and fragrant.

2~ Mix all other ingredients well and add to garlic on medium-high, stirring frequently.

3~Bring to a rolling boil and reduce heat to a lively simmer, stirring constantly. Do not let boiling or stirring cease.  Allow to thicken until caramelized, about 5-7 minutes.

4~ Let cool for 10 minutes or until just warm and serve. Top each salad with prudent spoons of dressing, tossing lightly with each spoonful (it is very flavorful, so be careful:)

~ Use this dressing as soon as it is cool enough to pour and save the rest to reheat later.  It can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks and reheated for additional meals.

~Spring Start Salad~

Spinach, Kale, Beet Greens  (full sized salad bowl, filled)

½+ cup roasted almonds (or substitute walnuts or peacans)

½+ cup crumbled goat cheese

1~ Roast slivered or chopped nuts for 5 minutes or until just brown. Set aside to cool.

2~ Tear greens in ratio to your liking.  This recipe can be made in one bowl, but we recommend plating individually because of the warm dressing ~ the presentation is better and it holds shape in smaller portions. To prepare individual salads: make a bed of 1 ½ cups mixed greens on each plate.

3~ Drizzle ¼ cup warm dressing over top and toss~barely; top with 2 Tablespoons each, cheese and roasted nuts and serve.

A little sprinkling of each topping is all that’s needed for this salad of full bodied flavor.

NOTE:  This salad can be made all year long with standard spinach and kale as well. Try experimenting by substituting different roasted nuts or other tough greens to fit your family’s fancy.

Love from our Kitchen to Yours ~ Georgina @ Caramelize Life

If it’s not time to grow your own greens, local producer’s in our Methow Valley are easy to find at METHOW NET’S DIRECTORY, or look for organic goodness at your local farmer’s market.

Kale, like spinach, grows  quickly in cool spring weather.  If your garden is populated with kale, it can be used solely for this salad, or check out a different take on tough spring greens on Sassy Radish.  The Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino looks divine.

We love to use SUNNY PINE FARM’S Chèvre.  Not only do we love the families who tend and milk the goats, but the product is out of this world! Thank you Vicki and Ed Welch for your amazing farm!


Sunny Pine Farm serves the local community with high quality, healthy, organic products.  Ph:(509) 997-4812

Up north, the Larkhaven Cheese Farm is superb as well.  Their goat and sheep combo feta is mouth watering and would go very well with this recipe.

Larkhaven Farm  (509) 486-1199.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lindsay E. #

    This dressing is to die for! Love it!

    May 25, 2012
    • Thanks for reading Lindsay! We’ve certainly had some delish pot luck salads with this recipe. I believe it’s become a signature G-Linds birthday dinner dish:)

      May 25, 2012
  2. Your blog is lovely and I love it. Hence, you are nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award.

    May 25, 2012
  3. Your blog is lovely; therefore, I nominated you for a One Lovely Blog Award.

    May 25, 2012
    • Rachel ~ thank you so much! I think your writing and blog are wonderful as well. I will be back online after a “salmon life cycle tour” at the ponds and river with the first graders and look forward to communicating more afterward. Again, thanks so much for your affirmation and support! Georgina @ Caramelize Life

      May 25, 2012
      • You’re welcome! Have fun with the first graders; what a fun age!

        May 26, 2012
  4. Silverbeet (not sure if it’s called the same thing in the US, chard or Swiss chard maybe) is about the only thing ready to pick in my garden at the moment…. and lots of it, so I’m constantly looking for new ways to serve it. I’m going to give this one a go during the week – I’ll probably blog about it, I’ll be sure to link back to this post – it looks like a great winter salad option too, especially given the warm dressing. Perhaps serves with some boiled and buttered chat potatoes and some sort of protein, pork maybe, could suit the cranberries. Anyway, I’ll very much enjoying your blog, well done.

    May 25, 2012
    • Thanks so much for sharing Barbara. I think a pork loin would be excellent paired with this salad. It would also work great with your silverbeet (love the different names of foods!) I’ve made it with kale alone and it was splendid. Rather than potatoes, I might try a grain or rice pilaf. Although I could be wrong! Please let me know how your combos work out, I’d love to hear. Thanks again, Georgina @ Caramelize Life

      May 25, 2012
  5. This salad looks incredibly delicious, and I think it’d be a perfect pairing with salmon, and maybe some wild rice on the side. When I make it, I’ll let you know how it goes.

    May 25, 2012
    • Thanks so much. I think your pairings look great ~ please do let us know how it turns out:) Cheers! Georgina @ Caramelize Life

      May 26, 2012
  6. Thanks for linking your latest silverbeet recipe to this dressing. I’m glad it worked out:) Horray for spring greens!

    June 4, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Balsamic And Roasted Garlic Dressing
  2. Monday Harvest – June 4, 2012 | The New Good Life

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