Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Salad with Homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette

Yesterday we helped Lindsay and Ryan christen their new home with a big backyard housewarming party. The last time I was at their house they were just moving in, so it was nice to see it all set up and decorated. Lindsay had a bunch of appetizers and a huge spread set up for dinner, but I had offered to bring a salad to share. I went with a classic - one that I've been making since I was in high school and worked for a catering company that used to serve it at weddings. It's a mesclun greens salad with various fruits, goat cheese, nuts and raspberry vinaigrette, and it's always a hit when I make it.

Isn't it so pretty? Love those colors! I usually dress it with a bottle of store bought raspberry vinaigrette, but yesterday I suddenly got the urge to try making my own dressing. The store bought stuff usually has corn syrup and is loaded with sugar and other not-so-great ingredients, and I figured, I make vinaigrettes all the time anyway, so how hard could it be to make my own? Turns out, not so hard!

I didn't have a recipe so just went with my tastebuds and adjusted things as I went along. I had some gorgeous, sweet fresh raspberries that I pureed in my Magic Bullet with a little water. Then I strained the puree in a small strainer to get out all the seeds.

I used a spoon to smush the puree through the colander.

Once I had a half cup of smooth puree, I added oil, vinegar and a few other things, dumped everything in a Mason jar and took it with me to the party to shake up and pour over the salad at dinnertime.

All dressed up...

Check out the full recipe below! But back to the party. When we first arrived I nibbled on some veggies and dip, chatted with the girls for a while and sipped on a Heady Topper that Ryan's dad brought down from Vermont. I was so excited to see these at the party, I savored every last sip!

Matt and I took turns running after Riker, who was feeling much better after his visit to the doc this morning (he has pretty bad allergies, the poor kid) and was finding all kinds of new things to get into.

Oh my god, a hose!

He's learning to share now, and watching him and his friend Delia (Heather and Kevin's little girl) share bubbles back and forth was the most adorable thing ever.

Then we ate, we hung out, we sang songs to Ryan playing the guitar. It was a pretty fantastic afternoon.

I have to say, though, one of my favorite parts of the evening was smashing Kevin's face into a cake. Kevin's birthday is in a few days, so Lindsay picked up a birthday cake to surprise him with at the party. Lindsay's aunt taught me a little trick just before the cake was cut...get Kevin to smell the cake, and then when he leans over shove his face into it. How have I never heard of this before?

I told him the colored balloons all smelled like different flavors and he just had to smell them. He fell for it, poor guy. I even surprised myself on this one - I'm not usually the one to throw anyone in a pool, play a prank or shove someone's face in cake. Good thing Kevin is a good sport. ;)

Speaking of birthdays, Matt's dad's birthday is this afternoon so we have a nice little family day planned. Off to enjoy this beautiful day!

Summer Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Serves a party

Ingredients - Salad
1 8-oz. package organic mesclun greens
1 can sliced pears (in pear juice, not syrup)
1 fresh pear, sliced (if in season)
1 large can mandarin oranges (in juice, not syrup)
1 small package raspberries
1 8 oz. package goat cheese, crumbled (I used cranberry goat cheese)
1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped
Raspberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients - Raspberry Vinaigrette
1 cup raspberries
3 tsp. water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Pinch sugar (optional - not needed if the berries are really sweet)
1/3 cup flavorless oil (walnut, grapeseed, or canola)

In a large bowl, layer half the greens, pears (these should be sliced fairly thin), oranges, raspberries and goat cheese. Repeat layers once more, then top with pecans or walnuts. Dress with raspberry vinaigrette just before serving.

To make the vinaigrette, add raspberries and water to a small blender and blend until smooth. Pass the puree through a small strainer to strain out all the seeds. Transfer the puree to a mason jar or bowl, and add all remaining ingredients. Whisk or shake well to combine.

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