The perfect combination of lettuce, tomatoes, walnuts and parmesan cheese tossed with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette
If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that for us food is intimately and intricately connected to family. We love to share our family stories and memories related to the recipes we post. And, we are so appreciative and humbled when others invite us into their worlds so that we may share their special recipes as well.
We can’t help but be reminded of specific moments or periods in our lives when we cook and eat certain foods. Whether it is the vivid childhood memory of hiding spanakorizo in wadded up paper towels when our parents weren’t looking, or the smell of tsourekia baking on the Saturday morning before Pascha, certain foods automatically trigger connections and reflections. This salad is no different. Every time we make it, or some variation of it, we think of Zoï.
Zoï is our sister-in-law, our brother’s dear wife. She came into our family only a few years ago, and we couldn’t be happier. She brought with her light, and goodness and the ability to put a love-struck smile on our big brother’s face. Our children fell in love with her immediately, as we all did. It is hard not to be taken by her kind and gentle manner, her devotion and care for animals and her strong will.
Although they only married 6 years ago, Zoï and Nick actually went to high school together. Our brother says that at that time he liked her from afar, never working up the nerve to speak to her. Then, many years later, they connected. We all believe that this was more than a happy coincidence, it was unavoidable; these two were made for one another.
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Several months ago one of our families was invited to Nick and Zoï’s home for supper. (We may have actually invited ourselves, but those are unimportant details.) Zoï had prepared a lovely vegetarian lasagna which was in the oven when we arrived, and as we were sitting in the kitchen talking, she mentioned that she should probably make a salad as well. We told her not to bother, that there were surely enough vegetables in her lasagna, but she was not convinced. So, as the rest of us sat around the table catching up on who was watching what on television, on what was new in the girls’ lives, Zoï began to prepare this lovely salad.
It started off kind of basic; salad greens, tomatoes, green onions. Then she added chopped walnuts, which is always nice. And then, she pulled the parmesan out of the fridge and interests peaked. Cheese just makes everything better.
Before dealing with the cheese, Zoï started to prepare the salad dressing. Simple ingredients in a glass bowl, mixed together with a fork. She asked the youngest to help with the mixing, while she grated the parmesan. A suggestion to use a jar with a lid to shake the dressing ingredients together stayed a silent thought; watching Zoï and her adoring niece working closely side by side, each one evaluating the others progress, was too sweet to interrupt.
Several moments later, the salad was tossed with the dressing and the cheese was mixed in. The idea of using a jar for the dressing was then offered, and Zoï laughed. We all did. It wasn’t necessarily very funny (actually, it wasn’t funny at all) but we were in such a silly, happy mood that most everything gave way to laughter.
Finally, we settled to eat. The table was set as it usually was at their home, with vintage linens and tableware, and bread fresh from the local bakery. The kitchen lights were dimmed and there were fairy lights strung along the periphery of the eating area, creating a soft and soothing ambiance. Occasionally one of their beloved cats would curiously saunter into the room. Everything was quite perfect. And although Zoï’s veggie lasagna was delicious, the salad was the star of the meal. Well actually, Zoï was the star, but the salad was a very close second.
The recipe will serve 2 people if the salad is to be a light meal, and 4 if it is served as a side. The recipe can easily be doubled, tripled and even quadrupled.
We tend to use all of the dressing that is made with this recipe for the salad. If you prefer less dressing, simply keep the excess in the refrigerator.
Few ingredients mean that only the best ingredients should be used. When Zoï served us this salad she used a fine gourmet Dijon mustard made specifically for salads and a quality parmesan. As always, use the best quality ingredients you can find and afford.
If you don’t have parmesan cheese you can always use grated romano cheese or grated Greek mizithra. Whatever you do, don’t skip the cheese! This is part of what makes this salad incredible.
Looking for more great salad recipes? We’ve got these for you:
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- 3 - 4 cups mixed greens washed and dried
- 2 chopped green onions (white and green part)
- 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese plus 1 tsp for sprinkling on top
For the dressing
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a mason jar or other container with a lid combine all the ingredients for the dressing and shake until well combined. Set aside.
- In a large bowl combine all of the salad ingredients except for the parmesan cheese.
- Pour in the dressing and using your clean hands or utensils mix your salad, ensuring that the dressing is evenly distributed. Add the 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese and toss again.
- Sprinkle the additional teaspoon of parmesan over the top of the salad right before serving.