I’m not much of a salad person. There I said it. Probably a strange sentiment uttered from a vegan. While I love fresh veggies and everything from creamy dressings to light vinaigrettes, I usually find salads underwhelming. But with the days warming up, the hint of summer right around the corner, I’m in the mood for lighter fare.
One of the best yet most unusual salads I ever ate was in Walt Disney World (WDW) last year. I had heard of the legendary Chef TJ, a vegan culinary god. Seriously, if you’re a vegan in WDW, you simply must stalk him and eat wherever he works. Having worked at several restaurants at WDW before, he currently works at the foodie mecca for kids, 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Hotel, a character themed eatery replete with Cinderella and her wicked stepsisters. Despite the latest restaurant he cooks at being a buffet, when I asked him if he could possibly make me a vegan entrée, he graciously and joyously whipped up a 5-course vegan extravaganza. The salad came topped with delectable vegan vanilla caramel corn. It seemed so weird at first…until I bit into it. Sweet mixed with savory, it was utterly brilliant.
Using Divvies, the same brand of caramel corn Chef TJ used, this is my attempt to capture that deliciousness. Juicy sweet strawberries, hearty spinach leaves, salty almonds, light cucumbers and a warm sweet confection…each balanced bite will delight your taste buds. The vinaigrette complements the salad’s ingredients, fusing peppery licorice of the basil, tart lemon juice, earthy olive oil and slightly sweet rice vinegar. Indulge your sweet tooth and get your veggies with this balanced summer salad.
Strawberry & Spinach Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
15 strawberries, sliced
5 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 cucumber, sliced
2 cups vegan caramel corn
1 1/2 cups almonds, roasted & salted
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine strawberries, spinach leaves, cucumber, caramel corn and almonds.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Whisk together.
3. Add basil to liquid mixture and whisk again. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Toss salad with vinaigrette, starting with a small amount and adding a little more as you go so as not to overdress.