There is something so perfect about a salad using summer’s best fruit and a simple vinaigrette! Kale, cherries, and creamy goat cheese combine for a perfect trio of colors and flavor that is complete with a quick and easy balsamic vinaigrette. Fresh ingredients at their best – yum!
Everyone keeps asking me what I want to do for my birthday and it keeps confusing me. My birthday? Already? July is here? It’s crazy to think that’s the case! The hockey locker room chatter on Sunday was all about the best month/day to have a birthday – I voted for “not around the 4th of July”, but teammates had me easily convinced that there are less desirable days and times of the year. So while people are often tied up with travel and family stuff on my birthday, I am thankful for the time off to do the same. I gifted myself Monday off, so the weekend coming up will be 4 full days PLUS a birthday lunch on Friday with my gal pals. They sure know how to make a girl feel loved! My bestie from back home may be swinging through on my actual birthday (Sunday), too.
For sure there will be boating, beach, pool, and good food. What more could a girl need any day of the year?! This week has been back to usual in the kitchen and I mean that in the best way possible. I’ve kept things a bit more simple at times and thankfully, we’re always up for a good’ol salad. Fresh cherries are ripe for picking here in southwest Michigan and we’ve been enjoying to the MAX and in our salads is only one of the many ways.
ROLL CALL FOR THIS RECIPE
- No-Cook Meal: While this meal is super light, it can be accompanied with a side or protein of your liking. We love a nice light meal in the summertime and better yet, a NO COOK MEAL! Healthy eating and getting dinner on the table doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated, nor does it need to heat up the house or require any cooking whatsoever. Ta-da!
- Cherry Lovers: I grew up eating fresh cherries. We pick cherries every year. Cherries are available and GOOD for such a short period of the year throughout much of the US and certainly the Midwest, it’s a must to take advantage. Cherries are perhaps one of the most under-used salad ingredients and I’m here to share that if you’re making a summer salad…you should add them for their beautiful color, juicy sweetness, and offering of so much flavor!
- Salad Fanatics: A homemade balsamic vinaigrette is the BEST! This gorgeous salad can double as dinner salads or side salads for a weeknight side dish. With a touch of sweetness this super-easy recipe makes one delicious salad that any salad fanatic would love.
KEY INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Kale: There’s no right or wrong with your greens, choose what you love. Baby kale offers a hearty leaf that is tenderized a bit by the acid of the dressing, however mixed greens, spring mix, arugula, baby arugula, or any variety of fresh greens, salad greens, or spring greens would be a great option. I love buying the pre-washed varieties that are ready to serve – a salad spinner is such a pain!
- Cherries: Sweet cherries were used in this recipe and are often referred to as “bing” cherries. Rainer cherries would be a great substitution, however tart cherries would not work best. If fresh cherries are not available, half the amount of dried cherries would swap in well. Alternatively, any fresh fruit would work great: pear, apple, strawberries, etc.
- Goat Cheese: I LOVE buying already-crumbled goat cheese because #lazy and #messy, but any goat cheese here will do! If you prefer to use another cheese in its place, crumbled feta cheese or crumbled blue cheese would both be good options.
- Pecans: Admittedly, toasting the pecans (directions below) is a nice touch, but that requires a bit of extra effort, time, and the use of the oven. If you don’t have or don’t love pecans, walnuts, cashews, or pistachios would work beautifully!
- Balsamic Vinegar: Vinegar quality matters, people! I don’t feel this way about all ingredients, but balsamic vinegar is in the top 3. Buy something thick and syrupy or consider simmering a lower quality vinegar for a few minutes to reduce and bring to room temperature before using in the vinaigrette. If you prefer to use apple cider vinegar or a white balsamic vinegar, that works well, too. You may want to increase the syrup by 1 tablespoon if making this substitution as these vinegars are less sweet than balsamic. Taste as you go; you want to achieve the right amount of sweetness.
- Olive Oil: You can absolutely substitute in another mild-flavored oil of choice, such as sunflower, safflower, or avocado oil. All are high in unsaturated fats and offer a neutral-ish flavor.
- Maple Syrup: I tend to buy pure maple syrup that is local and organic because I am obsessed with the taste, but if you prefer honey, agave, or even brown sugar, those will work just fine.
- Salt: This little bit of salt helps cut the acid and brings out the sweetness of the vinegar – a little bit goes a long way to enhance the flavor of the vinaigrette.
- Cherries are so good for you! They offer 3 grams of fiber per cup along with antioxidants like ellagic acid and anthocyanins. Interestingly, for those suffering from gout, consuming sweet cherries was associated with lower uric acid levels in the blood.
- Gluten-free: This recipe is naturally gluten-free.
- Low Carb: With under 20 grams of carbohydrate per serving, this meal is low in carbohydrate.
- Vegetarian: Great as is for our vegetarian friends or those looking to eat more plants.
- Vegan Option: Omit the goat cheese to make this salad vegan.
VARIATIONS, STORAGE, and TIPS
- To toast the pecans, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay the pecans in an even layer in a baking sheet and toast for 5-6 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Bring to room temperature before adding to the salad.
- Other salad additions: red onion, wild rice, quinoa, avocado, green onions.
- If you wish to add a protein to this salad recipe, there’s love of options that would be delicious: grilled shrimp, thinly sliced grilled chicken or sliced strip steaks, salmon.
- One of my favorite make-ahead tips is to shake up a dressing (double or triple it!) in a mason jar for easy storage and future use.
- A cherry pitter is a MUST! If you enjoy cooking or baking with cherries, pick one of those babies up for sure. They’re very easy to use and work QUITE well, I must admit!
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 5 oz fresh baby kale and mixed greens
- 1 ½ cups cherries, pitted and halved
- 2 oz (½ cup) goat cheese, crumbled
- 2 oz (1/2 cup) pecans, toasted (if desired)
- Combine vinaigrette ingredients in a small mason jar and secure with a lid; shake vigorously for 10 seconds to combine. Alternatively, whisk together the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Place greens into a large bowl and drizzle with the vinaigrette; toss to coat.
- Serve salad topped with cherries, crumbled goat cheese, and pecans.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 296Total Fat: 23.3gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 238mgCarbohydrates: 18.3gFiber: 2.8gSugar: 12.8gProtein: 5.5g
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