Monday, August 3, 2009

Warm Olive Vinaigrette, Skillet-fried Potatoes...oh my!

We eat a variety of salads in our house, chopping just about any fresh veggie, fruit or leafy green available in the fridge and tossing it with a simple vinaigrette. This is especially true during the spring and summer months when outdoor grilling is at its best and a fresh, healthy salad offers the perfect accompaniment.

There are just so many ways you can go with salad...from sweet to savory. And, depending on what is used, many are hearty enough to stand in as a main entree, especially when topped with a little grilled fish or chicken. I also like to use beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, etc.) and nuts, both of which serve as great alternatives for a satisfying no-meat option. We're not talking rocket-science here, salad mixings are a simple effort. However, I do love it when I come across pairings I might not have thought of on my own. 

While many of our salad tossings are improvised, this particular salad is one that I adapted from a 2005 Bon Appetit recipe, changing up the dressing and greens just a bit to meet our own preferences. It is an especially satisfying salad, not only in flavor (the warm kalamata olive vinaigrette is superb!), but also in that it can definitely hold its own as a light main course. Until making this salad, I'd never thought of adding fried potatoes...the mix here works so well that it's become one of our absolute favorites! Though I'll often serve this with a simple grilled chicken, the potatoes add a heartiness that makes this salad able to stand on its own. And the baby spinach provides just the right balance to the peppery arugula and tangy, creamy, crumbled feta. 

Unlike most salads, this one doesn't get a big tossing. You just toss the greens on their own with a bit of the warm vinaigrette to get them just slightly wilted. Then you can divide the dressed greens among your plates and add the toppings to each, with another drizzle of dressing. Keeping the toppings out of the "big toss" preserves their slightly delicate make-up and also allows for a pretty plating.

Arugula-Spinach Salad with Warm Olive Vinaigrette, Fried Potatoes & Feta
adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe
serves 4 (as a light main course) or 6 (as a small starter)

1 5-ounce container fresh baby arugula leaves (8-9 loosely packed cups)
1/4 5-ounce container fresh baby spinach leaves (2-3 loosely packed cups)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped (about 16)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2" cubes
kosher salt and ground black pepper
3/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup small ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1. Mix arugula and spinach greens in a large bowl.

2. In a food processor, pulse balsamic vinaigrette, olives, and mustard. While processing continuously, slowly pour in 1/2 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons water to make a loose dressing. Transfer to a cup.

3. Heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is warm (after about 30 seconds), add diced potatoes, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, until potatoes are just tender. Add red onion and dried thyme to potatoes and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer mixture to bowl and set aside. Return skillet to stovetop for next step.

4. Reduce heat to low and pour olive vinaigrette into warm skillet. Cook, stirring until vinaigrette is warmed through (about 1 minute). Return dressing to cup and whisk to recombine.

5. Toss arugula and spinach mixture with 1/2 of the vinaigrette, just to lightly coat. Portion greens among serving plates (4 to 6). Top with the potato and onion mixture, then crumbled feta, and tomatoes. Drizzle with just a bit more vinaigrette and serve.

note: adding crumbled fried bacon or pancetta might also be a nice addition.