Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto

This is a recipe for the 5th, 6th or 9th of July, but not the 4th, when the grilling train pulls into town with its freight cars of steaks, lobsters, salmon filets, pork shoulders, eggplant, roasted peppers, whatever.  Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto is easy–you could do it–but it will get lost amid the fanfare over Aunt Sophie’s famous deviled eggs, and the potato salad made with diced fermented sour pickles from Brooklyn, and the story about your brother Bob who almost blew his thumb off with an m-80 when he was a kid.

Save it for a quiet day this weekend, when a meal with just one main course and only one or two sides or a salad sounds great, when there’s a bit of culinary light left to shine on a rare seasonal treat.

Ordinarily spring onions and strawberries are ships passing in the night of the farmers market. They occupy similar waters for about ten seconds–onions on the way out, strawberries on the way in.  But this year, for reasons we don’t understand (NSA surveillance? glacial melting? 17-year cicadas?) spring onions have been hanging around.  You seen them in farmers’ bins, gleaming white tops, long tails, bundled like green Roman candles.  It’s usually the cherry-bomb strawberries in their quart boxes that earn the fireworks metaphor.

I know, I know, we’ve blogged about spring onions recently.  But spring onions and local strawberries in the same farmers market are rare as hens teeth, at least in New England.  As it happens they share an affinity for spicy salad greens like watercress,  syrupy sweet-tart flavors of aged balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses, and pesto. The salad is just pointed and complex enough to accompany simple, rich dishes like grilled wild salmon or swordfish.  If you light the coals and start the pesto at the same time the pesto will be ready before the coals.  We also discovered that if you want to keep thing light, or really really easy, you can skip the seafood altogether and just add a bit of crumbled goat cheese or feta to the salad for a very satisfying lunch.  Man does not live on shortcake alone, even in strawberry season.  Sometimes he’s got to have a salad to go with it. Enjoy. Ken

P.S. Our next post will be on Friday, the 12th. Have a great holiday!

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-3

Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto

Makes 4 servings

Salad and Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ pound spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ½ recipe pistachio pesto (below)
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut in half
  • 2 cups watercress, washed, dried and trimmed of heavy stems, or other spicy greens
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pistachio nuts
  • 2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk the shallot, grated ginger, cracked black pepper, balsamic vinegar and ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil together in a small bowl. Season with salt.
  2. Prepare a medium-hot grill. You should be able to hold your hand near the grilling surface for a count of 4 before having to pull it away.
  3. Trim and discard the fibrous roots of the onions, but do not cut off the root end. Cut off most the green tops and save for another use. Cut the remaining onions in half lengthwise through the root. Brush with the vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Set the onions on grill, cut side down, cover and cook until they get grill marks, about 3 minutes. Flip, cover, and cook on the second side until tender, just a minute or two. They’ll continue cooking after you pull them off the grill.
  5. Put a smear of pesto on each of 4 salad plates. Arrange 3 or 4 onions over the pesto.
  6. Toss the strawberries and tarragon in a bowl with the vinaigrette. Add the greens and toss again. Spoon over the onions. Garnish with pistachios and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.

Pistachio Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cleaned basil leaves
  • ¼ cup pistachios
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit extra as needed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready.
  2. Add the basil and blanch for 30 seconds. Scoop the basil out of the water and plunge into ice water. When cool, drain the leaves and squeeze gently to dry.
  3. Put the the pistachios in a food processor and pulse several times. Add the basil and ¼ cup oil. Puree to a rough paste, adding additional oil if the mixture seems dry. Using a fine microplane, grate the garlic into the food processor bowl. Season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the ¼ cup cheese and mix well. Taste, and then adjust seasonings if necessary.

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-2

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-6

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-12

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-20

This is the presentation for friends bringing the swordfish or really expensive wine.

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-1

This is the family presentation.

Jody Notes:

Every once in a while I hit on something that is so good and brings me such delight I want to yelp and kick up my heels.  Ken has to listen to me say over and over, “Oh my God!  I love this!” or “I wasn’t sure it would work, but it really does,” or “This is so good.  Did you taste it yet?”

This recipe is one of those.  I took the classic Italian combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar and paired it with the smoky-sweetness of charred spring onions and pistachio pesto.  So, YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS RECIPE RIGHT NOW, while the strawberries are perfect and you can still find spring onions.  The day before we blogged I arrived late at the farmers market and was able to snag only 1 bunch–look at the grill photo: spring onions, along with scallions.  If you can’t get spring onions, try scallions or small Vidalias.  But the spring onion and strawberry combination is something special, so make the effort to find them.    

PS. Ken likes to cover the grill when cooking the onions, but if your grill is hot enough, you may not need to.

Click on a picture to walk through the recipe. Left and right arrow keys will move you through the photos.

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45 thoughts

  1. Beautiful salad! I love the idea of combining watercress and strawberries; I have tried strawberries in salads before, and really liked it (now that I think of it, I haven’t seen the watercress lady at the market in the past few weeks… Do you think I could replace the it with arugula?)

  2. Yes! Our first two CSA boxes contained both bunches of spring onions and quarts of strawberries. Will (obviously) report back to you once our latest shipment of spring/summer alliums arrives. All this will indeed take place after the 4th. (If only because my sister-in-law is deathly allergic to all nuts. Sniff sniff, no romesco OR pesto for any one. )

    • Ooh, now there’s a celebratory suggestion – make the salad, but have heaps of extra grilled onions on the side with a pot of romesco! (Come to think of it, I’d probably try a version of the salad with romesco too – it would certainly look pretty). Ken

  3. This is gorgeous! Spring onions are so flavorful and combined with fresh strawberries, some balsamic, the pesto, etc. I cannot wait to try this. I also love the idea of pistachios. This salad has texture, flavor, depth. Your photos are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Brilliant to combine the two very best parts of spring! And pistachios? And watercress? All my favorites. I keep kicking myself for not putting out onions this year, though we have found some nice ones at the markets. I’m afraid our strawberries are gone, but there’s always next year.

    • Wow–gone already? Well, of course, I suppose, when I think of where you are. It’s just so strange, this blogosphere, where they’re just starting for Chicago John, and also gone in Scotland. Next year. Ken

      • I know! It’s always so frustrating to me to read the food section in the NY Times, for example. Because just when they’re starting their recipes for ramps/green garlic/berries/fill-in-the-blank, my season has just ended. But that’s less confusing than following the bloggers in the Southern Hemisphere!

  5. Glorious. Is that strawberry at the top conjoined by any chance? I love the idea of pistachio pesto. Sorry that I don’t truly ‘get’ the 4th of July. I’m also genetically partly to blame for it, perhaps that’s why. Anyhow, thanks for always ‘bringing it’ to the table and to my computer, where I can feast my eyes and feed my soul. Sophie

    • That strawberry joined us after a long and illustrious career in a raree show, Astounding Marvels of the Fruit Realm. It was undoubtedly conjoined. Normally I’m not a fan of giant strawberries–little flavor, often hollow, with a fibrous texture, but this was a good one. (And, like a trophy wife, it photographed well.) Ken

  6. I can honestly say I would never have paired onions and strawberries – it just even sounds strange! However, it looks just beautiful and your description sounds so good I think you might be winning me over :)

    Becky

    • Hi, Becky–it does sound like a strange combination, which is one of the reasons why I find it so appealing. :-) We made it yesterday, for a post-4oJ family dinner, the third time in a week, not counting the test versions. Even a simplified version, just with pistachios sprinkled over the top is great. Thanks for the comment. Ken

  7. The strawberry/Spring onion combination sounds like a real treat and something I’d love to try. Our strawberries season is beginning to wan, although, surprisingly, a few vendors have some up until August. Those must be some shaded patches. Love that you anchored this salad with pistachio pesto and that vinaigrette with its ginger sounds like a great way to unite everything. Thanks for sharing a great recipe.

    • Hi, John–thanks for the kind words. I suspect you’re right about the shaded patches (or polyurethane tunnels). Just makes you appreciate real strawberries’ brief appearance all the more. The recipe is one of this odd combinations that sounds counterintuitive, but it works. All of us are going to blink and then we’ll be on to blackberry cobbler season. Ken

    • Hi, Johnny–pesto’s one of those cool things that once you discover it you can’t believe that you haven’t been making it forever. It’s also fun to use it as a rationale for acquiring a large mortar and pestle in order to make it the old fashioned way, which of course leads to poking around Thai cuisine for spice mixtures to make in your new mortar and pestle… You get the picture. Ken

  8. This is flavor kapow! I’m going to have to show this recipe to yes!chef! I love pesto and I never would have thought to use pistachios (another love of mine) in the pesto. Great post and beautiful photos.

    • Thank you, Karen. Pistachios are the circus clowns of nuts–I don’t know why–they have a serious flavor, but they always seem to have some sort of humorous twist to them, and with the exception of a couple of desserts never seem to get the respect they deserve. The color–red or green–maybe? Anyway, the salad has some great flavor combos and is quite simple. Thanks. Ken

  9. Ken, I hope “Bob” isn’t your real name, and if it is, I sure hope you avoided any major fireworks accidents. :P This recipe looks great. I just wish we had a grill that we could use in our tiny “no balcony” apartment.

    • I hope you still have some strawberries in your part of the world. Last week they disappeared from our local farmers market, replaced with raspberries. Thanks for the kind words. Ken

      • :-) I see some Strawberries in our Kroger or Wholefoods in Atlanta, but I admit, most of them are in a sorry state. Thankfully, we have a very good person who sells his produce in a little tent close to where we live, so for now, I have access to fresh strawberries. I already planned on making this salad this weekend. Thank you for dropping by my blog and they very encouraging comments.

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