Thursday, May 27, 2010

Celebrating the Arrival of Summer: Spinach Salad & Cornbread

Summer has arrived with a vengeance. Technically, it doesn’t officially begin until the middle of June, but the record-setting high temperatures we had in Minneapolis this week have left everyone agreeing that summer has settled in for the season.

It was too hot to tackle the weeds in the garden so I decided to cook instead. Murphy hates the heat so he stayed curled up on the cool kitchen floor, right in the middle of all the activity. He thought about cooling off in the pool a few times, but as soon as I opened the door and the heat hit him in the face, he turned around and returned to his spot at my feet.

To celebrate summer, I wanted to make a meal complete with all the wonderful treats we get to enjoy this time of year. My goal was to make dishes that didn’t require turning on the oven, but that didn’t happen.

I started with a spinach salad. When I began reading the ingredients on the card, I was intrigued by the combination of flavors in this salad. I never would have thought to combine bacon, oranges and avocado, but I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised. This is a refreshing and very tasty mix of flavors and textures. And the dressing is the perfect way to top it all off. I usually make salads with green leaf or romaine lettuce and just add some spinach leaves in, but I loved that this salad was entirely made of spinach. The leaves seem to have more density to them; they feel thicker and more robust than regular lettuce. It reminds me of eating whole wheat bread or whole wheat crackers. There’s just more substance to the bite. 

Dressing for the Spinach Salad

To accompany the salad, I chose to make cornbread. I’m so used to getting the little blue box of Jiffy mix from the store that I feel embarrassed to admit I wasn’t even sure of what goes into making real cornbread. But, as I’ve learned from so many other recipes in this box, it’s really not very complicated at all. And the other benefit of making it from scratch is it tastes SO much better. This cornbread has a full flavor that isn’t overly sweet and makes you mumble “mmmmmm” as you take your first bite. It was a great side dish to serve with the spinach salad.

For dessert, I chose to make a variation of the Tiny Shortbread Tarts. As I mentioned in the original post for these little cookies, I thought fresh raspberries would be a great way to top them off as opposed to the can of pie filling. Now that summer is unofficially here, the price of raspberries is starting to come down so I bought a carton and decided to test my theory. Instead of making the tarts, I patted the dough down into an 8” x 8” pan (which caused the baking time of the original recipe to increase by almost 10 minutes). While that was cooling, I made a cream cheese mixture to spread across the top which consisted of 1 package of cream cheese, ¼ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Once the cookies were cool, I frosted them with the cream cheese mixture and topped it all off with raspberries. And I was right, it was divine. This variation would work for the tiny tarts as well. 

As I took the last bite of dessert and savored the explosion of fresh raspberry in my mouth, I thought of how much this project has expanded my taste buds and forced me to break out of my comfort zone. As I’ve said before, I’m a picky eater and although I enjoy oranges, bacon and avocado on their own, I never thought I’d be as bold as to throw that odd mixture of flavors into one dish and eat them all together. But, as I learned from my adventure to Canada, it’s good to break our boundaries, to push ourselves a little farther every now and then. Who knows, we may just discover something about ourselves we never would have known had we not taken that leap of faith. Each discovery makes us just a little wiser and just a little stronger. And in addition to broadening our minds, sometimes our discoveries will leave our bellies full of wonderful summer treats as well.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite composed salads combines oranges, avocadoes, and jicama. Try this one when you want something juicy and satisfying: