Hello 2015. And when the universe tells you stuff about strawberries

So the new year is upon us and I’m sure most of us have resolved to eat healthy, if not diet or shed those stubborn kilos, this year. I’m one of them. Yes, I am. One of the things that I aim to do this year is include more fresh, seasonal produce, explore and experiment with ingredients and combos I wouldn’t otherwise touch and get as preservative-free and chemical-free as I can in my cooking. That means you will see a lot of different stuff happening here.

To begin with, I’m introducing you to a very simple salad. But what makes this different is that it’s got an unusual combination of ingredients. What’s common with them is that they’re all fresh and easily available this time of the year!

The other day, when we were in Bandra I saw this fruit vendor who had the most gorgeous, plump strawberries and I just couldn’t resist. When I learnt that he was selling them by the kilo, I knew I had to buy them. It was like the universe was telling me something. And this was my first purchase of the year. How much more better can it get? After I bought these beauties, my mind went into an overdrive. There were so many things I wanted to make – cheesecake, smoothie, serve them with thick yogurt, a sorbet, perhaps? At the same time I also wanted to make something different. Should I flambe them? Or make a strawberry and mint preserve? The mind boggled. Suddenly I remembered this salad. I knew I had all the ingredients at home. The universe was telling me something, yet again. And I listened!

So difficult to resist these!

This salad is inspired by what I once ate at a brunch in a star hotel. That recipe was simple, with just the spinach, strawberries and a balsamic dressing. I recently discovered water chestnuts, after seeing them for so long and wondering what they really taste like, and I fell in love with them. The husband seems to have taken to them too, so that was reason enough to add them to this salad. But I felt that the salad needed something more in terms of texture. Something that would give it some crunch. The answer was staring right back at me when I was rummaging through the fridge – walnuts! This salad is also super-healthy and it has enough colour and goodness to make it high on all the anti-oxidants and good things.

We polished off the entire bowl of this in one sitting. I know I’m going to make this often during the strawberry season, and you should too.

Strawberry & Spinach salad with water chestnuts

2 cups of spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped
100 gms of strawberries, cleaned, hulled and chopped
1/2 cup of water chestnuts, peeled and chopped (they’re available slightly roasted in the markets)
A handful of walnuts

For the dressing
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp of balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing and keep it aside.

In a mixing/salad bowl, place the spinach, strawberries and half of the water chestnuts and walnuts. Pour the dressing over this and toss well. Now sprinkle the rest of the nuts over this. Serve immediately.

I served this with a hearty soup and croutons to make a meal. You can serve this salad as an appetiser or even as a meal by itself. If you choose to do the former, then a good idea for a main would be some grilled chicken or steamed fish or even some pita-falafel pockets.

*If you don’t have water chestnuts, skip them. I can’t offer  a substitute

*In case you don’t have fresh basil leaves for the dressing, then use the dried variety but, limit it to 1/2 or 3/4 tsp

*Nut allergies? Then simply substitute with some sunflower or pumpkin seeds for that crunch


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