Is this a gorgeous sight? We have a fabulous berry stand right in our neighborhood where a local farm sells its strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and marionberries. Each year, when we see the stand being set up and the “Coming Soon” sign posted, we let out a little cheer. Summer is just around the corner and we can begin our daily pilgrimages (those pint boxes are single servings). Sometimes it’s a couple of weeks before it actually opens depending upon how the growing season is going, but every day we eagerly look and wait. An-ti-ci-pa-a-tion…
If my husband was not such a calm driver, I may have caused an accident when I let out a loud gasp and thrust my pointed finger in his line of sight at the now open berry stand. We have had the wettest, coldest spring I can remember in Seattle and I am desperate for summer. We are on our way to the airport with Isaac for his Japanese adventure so we all have a quick debate over stopping now for strawberries or taking a chance they’ll be sold out if we grab them later. Japan calls and Isaac insists we get to the airport so on we go.
Fortunately, these little red gems are still waiting upon our return. These are small, delicate, fragrant berries that almost taste like candy with their sweetness and melt on your tongue.
Right now, I really should be vacuuming and changing sheets. My folks are arriving for a visit and in the chaos of the past few days the house cleaning did not get done. Instead, all I can do is gaze at the half flat of strawberries sitting on the counter and think about what I will create with them. My parents need lunch, right? Lunch is more welcoming than mopped floors, right? At least the chicken coop is clean …
Barley Spinach Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
4 cups barley, cooked and cooled
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
8 ounces fresh small mozzarella cheese balls, cut in half (or cut a larger sized ball into bite sized pieces)
3 handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/2 pints strawberries, preferably small local ones, green tops removed
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
In a medium sized serving bowl, combine the barley, nuts, cheese, spinach and 1 pint of strawberries. If the strawberries are very small, keep them whole. If not, cut in half or quarters as needed.
To make the vinaigrette, combine the remaining 1/2 pint strawberries, vinegar and oil and whiz with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth. Season to taste with salt. Drizzle about 3/4 of the dressing over salad and gently mix. If the salad will sit for a bit, you will need to add more dressing since the barley will soak it up.
Serve to your guests. They will admire your pretty pink salad and overlook the dusty furniture.