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!
Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto
Makes 4 servings
Salad and Vinaigrette
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Put a smear of pesto on each of 4 salad plates. Arrange 3 or 4 onions over the pesto.
- 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.
- 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
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready.
- 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.
- 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.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the ¼ cup cheese and mix well. Taste, and then adjust seasonings if necessary.
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.