Strawberry, pine nut, feta salad with balsamic dressing is quite a mouthful, isn’t it? But I wanted people to know what all is in it, so it made sense for a post title.
The salad this recipe is based on had a much shorter name. A salad Steve and I first had about 16 to 18 years ago in a now closed restaurant in Round Rock, TX. The restaurant was the Main Street Grill, and the salad was called Monica’s Salad.
We loved Monica’s Salad so much that after only the first time we ate it, I went home to try and recreate it. It is such a beautiful summer salad! And Strawberries are at their prime right now.
Over the years, I have made many variations of it with different fruits. It is equally delicious with chopped mango, chopped plum, and even peach. But the original salad used strawberries, so that’s what I chose for today’s post.
Our daughter-in-law, Shania, is a bit of a picky eater. She’ll be the first to admit it. But so far, she has been a huge fan of my salads, and this one ranked right up there. I made it for our lunch with her last week, only I did not add the feta since she does not eat cheese. I added the feta to Steve’s salad and mine after serving it to our plates.
Anyway, I could tell Shania liked it after she said, “this salad is delicious, mom”. Then I could tell that she REALLY liked it when she had seconds. And again, when she politely asked if anyone was having anymore and when we declined, she proceeded to eat every bit that was left in the bowl.
Shania’s right. This salad is delicious.
let’s make the strawberry, pine nut, feta salad with balsamic dressing
This looks like a lot of ingredients for a salad, but it comes together in no time at all.
Start by candying the pine nuts in the butter and some of the agave nectar. You want them caramelized to a beautiful golden brown, but they need to be cooled before adding them to the salad.
All nuts can be a little pricey. And, because they don’t get used in cooking very often, is is common for them to go bad when the nut oils turn rancid after sitting on a shelf too long. To manage the cost, I buy them in large quantities at Costco. It is SO much cheaper. Then, I store them according to the instructions in this post about kitchen tips and tricks. They seem to keep forever that way.
When the pine nuts are a nice toasted brown, transfer them out of the pan into a dish to cool and set aside.
Next, mix the dressing ingredients. The rest of the agave nectar gets used here.
This is the same dressing I use for my pecan feta salad. There is just something very Mediterranean about balsamic vinegar and feta. It’s like they were made for each other.
You want to mix the dressing first, so the flavors get to seep for a bit. The Dijon mustard not only adds a little tang to the dressing, it also acts as a natural emulsifier, giving the vinaigrette a creamy look and feel that coats the salad components beautifully.
Slice the onions thinly. I only buy sweet onions anymore, such as Vidalia onions, or Texas sweet onions. I find they are much milder in flavor and bite, so they don’t completely dominate a dish.
For salads, I like to cut a chunk out of the side of the onion, lay the cut side down on the board, and then begin slicing. You get much prettier half-moon slivers that tend to blend well in terms of size with salad ingredients.
There are many delicious salads out there that call for strawberries. I’ve seen many recipes calling for them to be quartered. I prefer to cut each strawberry in half from top to bottom, then cut each half into long wedges. Again, when eating a salad, it is easier to get all the tastes in one bite if the ingredients are relatively the same size and shape.
You are now ready to assemble. I like to spread the thinly sliced onion and strawberry wedges first so that I can get them evenly spaced.
Then I layer the feta crumbles and candied pine nuts until they are all used up.
Isn’t that a beautiful and colorful salad? All that’s left to do is to dress it!
I suggest you use a container with a spout to pour the dressing in crisscross streams without dumping big amounts in concentrated sections. I don’t usually toss this salad because that would send all of the goodies to the bottom. Then it would not be nearly as beautiful. And like they say, you eat with your eyes first.
If you do a good job crisscrossing the dressing all over the top, the dressing will settle into the different layers, especially after you serve it onto plates.
Look at those colors! And then that first bite? Oh my!
The delicate herbiness of the spring mix, with the salty crumbs of feta, the sweet crunch of the candied pine nuts, and fresh tender strawberries, all wrapped in a coat of velvety balsamic.
So, so yummy! Give this salad with a big name but even bigger taste a try. I bet you’ll love it too!
- FOR THE SALAD
- 6 cups Spring Mix salad
- 1 cup strawberries, cut into long wedges
- 3 tablespoons crumbled feta
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ½ teaspoon butter
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar
- ¼ cup sweet onions, thinly sliced
- FOR THE DRESSING
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small to medium clove garlic, diced
- Heat a small, non-stick skillet to medium heat, add the butter, the pine nuts, and drizzle in 1 teaspoon of the agave nectar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pine nuts are a medium to dark golden brown. Transfer from the pan to a plate to cool.
- Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients in a measuring cup. Set the dressing aside.
- In a large bowl with a wide base (12-13 inches), spread the spring mix.
- Next add the strawberries and onion slices, breaking them all apart and spacing them evenly.
- Top with the cooled pine nuts and the feta crumbles, layering them in until they have all been used.
- Whisk the dressing one more time. Using the spout in the measuring cup, drizzle long streams of the balsamic dressing in crisscross patterns across the top of the salad.