Big-Bowl Spinach and Snow Pea Salad with Cashews




We've been on vacation with family at Lake Tippecanoe.  Almost every day last week I was riding in a pontoon, reading, window-shopping for dream vacation homes, or watching my dad and brother catch, fillet and cook lake bass.

But there was also a quick trip up to South Haven, Michigan, where you can see the vacation side of Lake Michigan and pick your own fruit from trees absolutely covered in ripe cherries.  The several pounds of sour cherries Susie and I picked are destined for greatness of some sort, but after hours of work all I've managed to do so far is pit them.  My mom showed me how to use a bobby pin to fish out the pit while we sat down by the water.  It's a miracle I didn't stain all my clothes red.


Big-bowl food prop credits to Cindy!
And all week long, there was a lot of simple summer cooking - grilled meat, fresh veggies, fresh fruit.  This salad that we tried from Middleton's book was a step towards our perfect summer salad.  Have you noticed how baby spinach leaves always seem to glom together into a mess once dressing shows up?  Her genius move here is combining delicate, and baby spinach leaves with crunchy cabbage, which steps in to provide a much needed contrasting texture and prevent the salad from compacting.  I will be using this brilliant combination again for summer meals, definitely, and I also liked the apples, snow peas and cashews in the salad.

However... the dressing for this salad was not this book's greatest success.  It wasn't bad, but it requires small amounts of a relatively long list of ingredients that not everyone keeps around (do you have a jar of hoisin sauce in your fridge right now?), and combines several strongly flavored ingredients that compete with the flavor of apples and snow peas.  My test tasters were adventurous and polite, but they found the dressing surprising and I probably won't make it again.

Napa Cabbage 
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/leeksandbounds/

So I have a variation to suggest, a mash-up in more ways than one.  It's inspired by both this recipe from Fresh, Fast & Green, and another salad I've been riffing on recently, which was featured in Philip and Leona's paleo dinner party.  Use a fork to smash up a ripe avocado or two in the big empty salad bowl, and stir in napa cabbage, sliced thinly, and baby spinach leaves, "massaging" the greens into the avocado until they are coated with it like a dressing.  A sprinkle of salt might be welcome at this point.  Then toss in some blueberries, snow peas, and cashews.  We've been using this avocado "dressing" often with all sorts of toppings.  Life should be easier and  tastier in the summer.

Special Diets:  Paleo friendly, sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian & vegan.

This is the eleventh recipe I've made from Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton, a cookbook so awesome that I am cooking my way through all the recipes.  Sue's online home is Six Burner Sue, where you can find her hard at work running a vegetable farm on Martha's Vineyard and developing recipes for a second cookbook that will be called Fresh & Green for Dinner

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