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.