Monday, May 20, 2013

Strawberry, Goat Cheese & Wild Violet Salad with Violet & Dandelion Vinaigrette

I have become obsessed with foraging for wild edibles in my parent's yard! They live in a very rural area and  are just chock full of everything a forager could want. I take out my little foraging guide book or do a little googling before I start, and then I am off hunting.  Make sure when you are foraging wild plants that you are very, very sure about the plant you are looking for. Look at the leaf structure, the stem and you will want to know if there are any look a likes that are toxic. You will want as much information as possible when foraging for things yourself. This recipe uses wild dandelions and wild violets (not African violets), both of which are very common and easily identifiable. They are in season during the spring months, April to June. You do not want to pick plants in any area that has been sprayed or treated with pesticides or chemicals. You also want to steer clear of plants by the road because they are contaminated with exhaust pollution from passing vehicles.

The dandelion greens you will want to pick early, before the plant blooms. After the plant starts to bloom the greens become extremely bitter and almost inedible, I do not enjoy them at all after the plant goes to flower. The dandelion greens have great health benefits; they clean your blood and liver, cleansing your body of toxins. I love to add them to smoothies, salads or anywhere you would use spinach. The flowers are typically used to make wine or jelly, which is what I wanted to do but ended up having a pectin snafu, which resulted in syrup instead. Still extremely delicious so I didn't mind.

Violets can be harvested or foraged, both flower and greens, whenever you would like during these months. They both contain antioxidants and are mild in flavor. This salad was so beautiful, it would be so perfect as a first course for a special dinner or as a bed for grilled chicken on date night! The vinaigrette is lightly tangy, super floral and incredibly delicious. It was one of my favorite salads to date!

This recipe serves 4 as an entree salad, or 6 if served as a side dish.



4 Cups organic mixed baby lettuces, I used a spring mix because it goes well with the mildness of the violets.
1 Cup wild violets, you can leave the stems on or remove them, they are edible but slightly tough.
1 Cup organic strawberries, hulled and sliced.
4 Ounces of local, pasture raised, soft, herb goat cheese, I used Vermont Creamery


1/3 Cup wild violet infused white balsamic vinegar*
1/2 Cup very good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp vanilla, lavender & wild dandelion syrup, get my recipe here to make this, you can substitute a very good local honey, I recommend wildflower honey.
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste


Layer all salad ingredients, beautifully on serving dishes, I like to do mine separately so each person gets an even amount of toppings.

In a salad shaker or glass jar with a lid, place all dressing ingredients and shake, vigorously till they are emulsified, meaning they are creamy and thick, about 2 to 3 minutes. You can also do this in a blender, adding the olive oil slowly at the end, after you have mixed the other ingredients, I don't bother with this it works just fine without electricity.

Give each person a little ramekin of dressing on the side of the salads and enjoy your taste of spring foraging!

*I made my own wild violet infused white balsamic vinegar and its very simple, place washed violets (stems and all) into a large canning jar, all the way to the top. Pour enough white balsamic or other white vinegar over them till they are all completely submerged. Leave for 3 days or up to a week, tipping the jar upside down each day to mix. The vinegar turns a beautiful fuschia color. This makes a great hostess or holiday gift. It will keep forever, its vinegar, just store in the fridge for use in all your favorite recipes! They make violet vinegar and you can buy it at specialty food stores if you don't want to bother with this, but I think its fabulous to make your own infused vinegar, its so easy and economical!

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