Simply Salad: Mixed Greens with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

by feastonthecheap on March 31, 2011

Mary Anne here. Salad is the simplest of all preparations, and as far as I’m concerned, no dinner is complete without one. I love most things green, but nothing more so than the crisp snap of spinach or arugula tossed with dried fruits, cheese, and crunchy nuts. Often, when I’m just too tired to even contemplate preparing a “real” dinner, I throw together a salad loaded with my favorite veggies, then top it off with sauteed shrimp, leftover chicken, lamb, or whatever else is mooing in my fridge. A lovely slice of warm bread and a glass of wine and it’s a feast not only on the cheap, but it’s also fast and stress-free. That’s a dinner-winner in my humble opinion!

Play with the ingredients, but use the freshest greens as your base. As for vinaigrettes – I have a problem with the vinegar portion of salad dressing. For some reason (and I have a son with the same affliction!), if there is too much vinegar I literally get blisters on the roof of my mouth. While most chefs adhere to the proportion ratio of 1 part vinegar to 2-3 parts oil, that’s just not for me. I use at least 4-5 parts of oil to 1 part vinegar or fresh lemon juice, but as I said, I have a sensitive palate. To avoid any hint of a vinegar burn, I drizzle my greens with a bit of honey. Not only does it add a sweet touch to my peppery repast, but it also seems to stave off the torched-palate-pain. For the purpose of this post, I adjusted the proportions for the less sensitive group of taste buds.

We’d love to hear what you like to toss in with your greens. I’m always looking for new ways to add sass and spice to my salad bowl!

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Mixed Greens with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries
Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the salad:
12 cups fresh salad greens – $3.99
½ cup toasted walnuts (or whatever is in the larder) – stock
½ cup shredded or cubed cheese (I use smoked Gouda or Asiago) – $2.29
¼ to ½ cup dried currants or cranberries – $1.49
optional additions: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, leftover pasta (it’s great in salad!), cooked corn or beans, hard-boiled eggs, leftover veggies…

For the dressing:
¼ cup good-quality Balsamic vinegar – stock
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil – stock
½ Tablespoon Dijon-style mustard, or to taste – stock
¼ Teaspoon salt – stock
freshly ground black pepper – stock
1 clove of garlic, mashed – stock
honey (optional) – stock
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $7.77
Total Per Serving: $0.97

Directions:
1. Combine the salad in ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle lightly with the honey, if desired.

2. Prepare the vinaigrette. Pour the vinegar into a small bowl. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, and garlic. Combine well, using a wire whisk or fork. Very slowly, whisk in the oil, drop by drop. The vinaigrette will emulsify, creating a creamy product. If you’re really in a hurry and starving, simply combine all of the ingredients together in a sealed container i.e. a Chinese take-out container or a glass jar. Shake it all together until well blended. Toss into the salad, just enough to coat the greens evenly.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Sommer@ASpicyPerspective March 31, 2011 at 11:28 am

That is a lovely salad! I’d go with asiago. :)

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La Phemme Phoodie March 31, 2011 at 11:33 am

Gorgeous salad. Blue cheese is my fav in this type of salad. Definitely can turn this into a meal with some chicken or salmon.

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Elle March 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Sorry that vinegar bothers you and your son so much! It must be aggravating trying to get salad while eating out. This is a wonderful combo! We love dried fruit and nuts in our salads.

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feastonthecheap March 31, 2011 at 2:55 pm

I always order the dressing on the side along with a cruet of oil so I can dilute it. I’d been burned so many times and yet the solution was so simple!

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Squash Blossom Babies March 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm

This is my favorite kind of salad!!! So simple!

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Shaina March 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Lovely salad! Sometimes the meal for me is more about the salad than the main course.

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Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. March 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Oh yum! My kind of salad!!

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Steve @ HPD March 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Funny … my wife has been picking walnuts out of any dish for as long as i can remember. But the other day we had a salad sort of like this, and the accidentally ate a walnut, and she was amazed that they’re not as bitter as for whatever reason she remembers them being. Now she’s dumping them on everything! Cheers!

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feastonthecheap March 31, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Ha! That’s so funny! Tell her to try sauteeing them in some butter, brown sugar and a bit of water. It creates an incredible glaze on the nuts. Mariel uses something like that in her Vanilla Cupcakes with Honey Ricotta Icing and Toasted Walnuts and I have a recipe for it in my Corn Bread with Glazed Pecans. Your wife will be totally converted in no time!! Cheers to you and yours!

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kelly March 31, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Delicious! One of my favorite salad combos. We never tire of it including green apples and or dried apricots depending on the season. Although I do enjoy many types of vinegar, a citrus based vinaigrette is our usual, and with this combo, orange is wonderful. A bit of excellent sherry or champagne vinegar added to the citrus is wonderful.

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Rhonda March 31, 2011 at 9:23 pm

This salad has all the best elements. Freshness, crunchiness, sweetness, a little tartness and dare I say cheesy-ness. Too bad about the vinegar sensitivity.

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Nutmeg Nanny April 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Simple and delicious! I love the addition of tart dried cranberries…yum!

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Julie M April 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I love a good weeknight salad as well. Our go to is dried cranberries, goat cheese, pistachios and balsamic vinaigrette on a bed of spinach. I can’t get enough of it! Your salad is right up my alley. Just beautiful!

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feastonthecheap April 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm

YUM! Love pistachios, and often use Montrachet cheese, too. As another reader pointed out, apples are a great addition and I need to remember that when I’m out of cranberries or currants. Have a great weekend! M & M

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Natalie April 2, 2011 at 11:00 am

Thanks for dropping by my blog and for your comment. Your blog (and this recipe!) is wonderful! Congrats on everything you two have accomplished — you’re quite the talented pair. I’m definitely adding your blog to my reading list!

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Megan April 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm

I like my salads best with some fruit and nuts. This looks like a perfect one!

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Nancy Baggett April 3, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Love the fresh, bright look of your pic–natural and appetizing looking. Wonder if you’ve got food styling/photo experience? I can do my recipes very well as I’m a pro at that, but struggle to do notable pics. Maybe you could post some tips sometime.

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feastonthecheap April 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm

You just made our day! No professional food styling experience, just LOTS of trial and error. We’ve also taken a photography course to help better understand the manual functions on the camera (we both shoot with Canon Eos Rebel DSLRs, which really do a wonderful job of bringing food to life). Always happy to answer specific questions though, so don’t hesitate to email us!

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Lindsey April 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I adore effortless, elegant salads!! One of my favorite combos, too.

Please oh pretty please, how do you incorporate a Print Recipe option on your blog?

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feastonthecheap April 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I know, for the longest time we didn’t have a print function and it was so frustrating. This was built for us by our web designer, but you can also add a makeshift print function by copying and pasting your recipe into google docs, then providing readers with the link to the google docs recipe. We did that for a long time and it worked like a charm. if you need more info, feel free to shoot us an email and we’ll walk you through it!

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Marly April 5, 2011 at 7:33 am

I love spinach with just about anything. I was at a restaurant lately where they served blueberries with a spinach salad. Yumm! But the cranberries and walnuts you’ve provided in this recipe.

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Marly April 5, 2011 at 7:33 am

I meant to say that the cranberries and walnuts in this recipe look great!

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Barbara @ Modern Comfort Food April 12, 2011 at 6:28 am

Your first paragraph sums up my own view of salads so well and in every detail that I might have written it myself. And I’d LOVE to sit down to a big bowl of this delicious one!

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