It's salad time again! Today I want to share my second recipe in this series as Artisan Ambassador for the new Fresh Express artisan salad blends, and to start telling you a few things that I have really enjoyed about these lettuces. (And to hint at a recipe contest with a prize! See below!)
For this salad, I used the Wild Rocket Zest artisanal blend, which includes arugula, spinach, and tatsoi. Never heard of tatsoi? Neither had I. (Turns out my 'greens IQ' was not as high as I thought!) Tatsoi is an Asian green varietal also known as spoon mustard or spinach mustard. It has beautiful dark green spoon-shaped leaves that you can see in the photo above. Because of its lovely aesthetic, this green is commonly grown as edible landscaping, otherwise known as ornamental lettuce.
I wanted to mix this peppery blend with something a little sweet and a little savory, so I used some beautiful California Black Mission figs and paired them with shaved parmesan and pine nuts. In the fall, I just adore figs, and I try my best not to become obsessed with them (like I did with peaches this summer), although I make no promises. Because what's not to love? Mission figs have a plump, and almost voluptuous shape, and a deep purple color that adds great color to salads and other dishes. I also love them for their soft and grainy texture and subtle sweetness.
For the dressing, I went with a simple Sherry vinaigrette with a little garlic for some extra flavor. The sweeter sherry vinegar balanced really well with the arugula and the italian flavors of the pine nuts and parmesan. Since there aren't a lot of dominant flavors in this salad, the thing that really took it over the top was this lettuce blend; the flavor kicks up a party in your mouth and has just the right amount of spicy arugula mixed with other greens to be interesting.
I think what I liked most about this salad is that it made a weekday evening feel just a little bit more special and elegant with not a whole lot of extra effort. In fact, if you want to make this salad but don't have time to pick up figs from your farmers market over the weekend, you can actually get all the ingredients for this salad from your local Trader Joes. (They actually have really great prices on pine nuts too.)
In addition to the fantastic flavor that I have already mentioned, one other thing that has impressed me about these lettuce blends is their freshness and long-lasting crisp. Fresh Express first sent me a package with several bags of lettuces about 3 weeks ago and I started making salads right away; I also gave some bags to friends, but I wanted to make sure to save at least one bag until the expiration to test the shelf life. Well, the expiration date for these lettuce bags has come and gone (September 20th to be exact) and the lettuce is still in almost perfect condition today. One of my friends, Steve, also tried some of these lettuce blends for me; he ate the last of it for his lunch yesterday and specifically commented to me that he was really surprised that none of the lettuce was rotten or even slightly wilted. I am convinced this freshness is due to their new bag design which has 50% less plastic.
What does this mean for you? Well, unless you are a voracious salad eater, you have probably experienced the typical bag of salad mix that ends up going bad in your vegetable drawer because you don't eat it all before it expires. Utter sadness. In fact, often the lettuce starts to go bad even before the expiration date. This is disappointing and a waste of money. Instead, I would recommend sparing yourself the heartbreak and trying out these lettuce blends because they seem to last quite a bit longer than the average bagged greens. If you grab a coupon, you will even get a better product for less money which is a win-win in my book!
Before I finish up this post I just want to quickly mention that I will be hosting a recipe contest here on my site, sponsored by Fresh Express! They will be donating a prize, and I will be adding to that with an extra gift of my own. Stay tuned for more details, but for now I can tell you that the contest will take place at the beginning of October, and will focus on creating an amazing salad using the Fresh Express artisanal lettuce blends. So if you want to plan ahead, grab a coupon from their site and make your salad now!
Zesty Greens with Black Mission Figs, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts
1 bag of Fresh Express Wild Rocket Zest
About 8-10 Black Mission Figs, quartered
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted if desired
2-3 ounces shaved parmesan
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
In a large, wide bowl, mix together the salad greens, pine nuts, parmesan, and figs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and minced garlic. Sprinkle generously with fresh ground black pepper and whisk again. Taste the vinaigrette and add salt if you like, then pour the it over the salad, toss well to combine, and serve immediately.