Baby Arugula Salad with Avocados, Pecan and Goat Cheese
Try this creative, healthy salad and orange fennel vinaigrette with your next meal.
THE SALAD POSSIBILITIES
Imagining new salads is a great way to start any day. A lot of us grew up in a generation where we were always told to eat greens because they are healthy. But, not all greens are equal. It’s fair to say that I hated salads growing up mostly because they were boring and one dimensional. Arugula salad is a game changer with its’ peppery tasting slightly bitter but immensely healthy leaves that compliment the sweetness and acidity in dressings.
Years later as I migrated into my professional career I became more adept with salads, dressings and vinaigrettes. I was fortunate to work in cities that had access and support for local farms. I spent my nights researching different types of produce. One of the most amazing things I have ever eaten was a strawberry fig. To this day, I have a deep appreciation for the farmers that take care in what they do and produce specialty items that we don’t see everyday.
Over the last few years it has been frustrating at times because fresh produce at the grocery stores is hit or miss. Even restaurants that can turn over a lot of volume have problems from time to time with fresh greens. It’s just an opinion, but if more of us eat salads on a regular basis, the quality might improve because the suppliers will be able to move product faster. The farm to table movement is still an important cultural mainstay because highly perishable items should not be passed through multiple hands or travel long distances.
CREATING A SALAD
When I compose salads, I think of texture, color, acid and fat. Examples of this would be nuts and certain types of vegetables like cucumbers and radishes provide a textural contrast to leafy vegetables. Green is the fairly dominant color in salads, but not all salads have to be green vegetables. Fruits and vegetables supply the largest palate of colors to work with. Acid comes from vinegar or citrus which brightens up food and gives it a tang. Fat can come from an array of ingredients that help to balance everything out and it many cases provide nutritional value. I like to use extra virgin olive oil, cheeses, avocado and even proteins like duck in certain salads. These main components are good starting point for creating new salads or livening up old favorites.
This Arugula Salad is comprised of baby arugula, frisée lettuce, avocado, radish, toasted pecans, and organic goat cheese with an orange fennel vinaigrette. I’m not an expert at nutrition, but this salad should work for keto and gluten free diets. If you remove the goat cheese it could work for paleo diets as well.
WHAT IS FRISEE LETTUCE?
In this particular salad, let’s talk about the frisée lettuce first. Frisée is closely related to both chicory (dandelion) and endive. It is similar in color to Belgian endive with green at the top then a transition to yellow to white at the bottom. This is a result of the growing process where portions of the plant are shaded from sunlight, hence the color variations. It has a very slight bitterness and a nice crunch. I like using it because of the textural contrast with leafy greens in salad mixtures. It is common in restaurants and some pre-mixed mesclun lettuce varieties. However, sometimes it can be a pain to find it at local markets. But, someone usually has it depending on availability and the time of week.
*CrossEat Tip: There are a lot of scraps from frisée stems, radish stems, avocado shell, etc. Try composting or dispose in yard waste/compost bin.
Toss the arugula, frisée lettuce, radishes and avocado together. Place equal portions on plates or in bowls. Top with goat cheese crumbles and toasted chopped pecans. Remember to stir the vinaigrette first then spoon over each arugula salad. Enjoy and thank you for reading!
*Tasting Notes: To prep frisée lettuce, cut off the bottom stem and discard. If the upper leaves are a dark green, I usually trim some of this because they start to get tough. The lighter green and yellow portions are the most tender part. Hand pick (tear) the lettuce by hand or with a knife fabricate into smaller pieces. Even though these are washed, I still ice bath then drain well to keep them nice and crisp.
*Tip: Slice the radishes thin with a sharp knife or mandolin. Wash the slices then soak in ice water for 15 minutes. Drain water, cover and keep chilled. This will keep the radishes nice and crisp.
Radishes are high in vitamin C, plus they contain potassium, folate and fiber. They may also aide in digestion.
Pecans like most nuts are a healthy contribution to a balanced diet. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals that can reduce high blood pressure and the risks of heart disease.
Goat Cheese made from goat milk is great for individuals as a dairy alternative to cow’s milk especially if you are lactose intolerant. Compared to cow’s milk it is also higher in what are called medium chain fatty acids. Studies have shown that these fatty acids are easier for the body to absorb, provide energy and can aide in weight loss. Goat cheese is naturally homogenized and contains the A2 beta-casein protein which is very close to human milk as opposed to A1 beta-casein (attributed to a number of health issues) found in most cow’s milk.