When I’m getting to know someone new, I employ a few tricks to kickstart the friendship, and all of those tricks include multiple bottles of wine. I guess what I’m saying is that I have a hard time making new friends. It’s not for want of trying, but rather a problem with small talk that leads me to blurt out fun facts about Sandra Bullock’s hair stylist or the inexorable breath of death creeping ever nearer. I’ve always said I don’t make a good first impression, nor a good second one. But if you can stick with me to the third impression (and I’m not talking about my cockney accent), you might just really like me.
I learned this about myself at a young age, so, when presented with a new social opportunity, I bring the wine to soften the edges of my weird quirks and emphasize all the fun we might have rolling on the floor and laughing together (you’re welcome, Mrs. Wilkerson’s fifth grade class). And, as a wise cartoon character once said, you simply don’t win friends with salad.
I’m actually here to disagree with everything I just wrote and and tell you this is the kind of salad traveling pants sisterhoods are based upon. Well, this and a seven-layer salad, but as I’m contractually obligated by Micah never to blog any dressing whose chief ingredients are mayonnaise and sugar, this is the salad upon which all praise be heaped.
One of the best parts of this salad is its compilation of seemingly incongruous ingredients and the perfect harmony they achieve together. I’d like to thank the balsamic for that. Frankly, I’d like to thank balsamic for a lot of things, first and foremost for being my favorite vinegar (props to ya, mawma), and secondly for starring in so many of my favorite dishes. But that tangy dressing does nothing to overwhelm the pepperiness of the arugula, nor the brightness and crunch of the celery; instead, it elevates them. Add toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas around these parts) for a textural nuttiness, and you’ve got yourself a stew. I mean salad.
So bring this along for your next successful interaction with a human being, and you might win some friends or at the very least admirers.
This may be the wine talking, but I think you’re great.
- 2 celery stalks, sliced thinly on a sharp bias
- 4 ounces of asparagus, sliced thinly on a sharp bias
- 1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
- 3 cups baby arugula, rinsed and dried
- ⅓ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to preference
- Cayenne pepper, to preference
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Slice the asparagus, and place on a parchment- or foil-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast the pieces of asparagus for approximately 5 minutes at 450F, or until bright green and partially cooked. Asparagus should still be a bit al dente.
- While the asparagus cools, slice the celery and grape tomatoes.
- On the stove top, heat a small light sauté pan at medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, cook the pepitas at a medium heat until toasted. The light color of the sauté pan will allow you to see when they have changed color. They will also start to smell nutty. This should take at the most 5 minutes, but usually about 3 minutes.
- Remove the pepitas from the sauté pan and toss with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. You can increase or decrease the cayenne based on heat preference.
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- Juice from ½ fresh lemon
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a small mixing bowl, add all the ingredients except the oil, salt and pepper. Whisk together until fully combined.
- At a slow drizzle, whisk the olive oil into the ingredients until fully emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Will keep for one week in the fridge.
To finish: Toss greens, celery, asparagus, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with balsamic lemon vinaigrette and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pepitas and serve immediately.