I did not hold out for Ontario strawberries. The Californian ones were on sale, too, and perfectly ripe after I left them on my counter for a few days.
Right now, after chowing down on this salad, I don’t care that I didn’t eat local. This was springtime in a bowl, with a dash of summer from the strawberries.
I was inspired by Joanne after I saw her Goat Cheese, Strawberry and Basil Salad. I trotted off to buy some cheap asparagus to go with my ripe strawberries, and was pleased how everything came into place at the grocery store (my new favourite grocery store, better than Bestwin!).
Ontario asparagus was $1.99 a pound, and wasn’t even advertised. I picked the bunch with the thinnest stalks. I had mint at home, so I had planned to forgo basil. However, they had the biggest bunches of basil that I ever did see. Complete with roots, they were that fresh. It tipped my scales at 290g for $1.50 (again, not advertised). I scored a 1-lb clamshell of baby spring mix for $1.99. They have random containers marked down, but it looked fresh and with an expiry date a week away, I saw no reason not to buy it. I had my juicy strawberries already, so I was all set!
At home, I quickly assembled my salad for one. Steamed my asparagus, quickly blanched some edamame (frozen beans are great for small amounts), thrown overtop the baby greens and basil and drizzled it with mosto cotto. Yes, I christened my Eatalian mosto cotto with this salad. It was divine. Simplicity at its finest.
Mosto cotto (also known as saba), is a a condensed balsamic vinegar made with reduced Concord grapes and then aged for at least 12 years. I was introduced to mosto cotto when Chef Gentile from Buca was at Tastes of Tomorrow. He used it as a finish for a red wine, cinnamon, clove-marinated beef heart salad with grilled radicchio di Treviso, balsamic braised chipling onions, Tallegio cheese, crispy sage, dandelion greens and pickled fig, lightly drizzled with olive oil and mosto cotto. It was delicious.
He highlighted that certain ingredients are worth their weight in gold. Mosto cotto is an expensive balasmic vinegar, but still considered a poor man’s balsamic vinegar. Compared to the traditional balsamic vinegar it doesn’t compare: it is a thicker syrup with a deep, complex and sweet flavour. I have been wooed to the dark side and recommend searching it out (Amazon.com sells it, and should be found in specialty Italian grocers – I bought mine at Eataly while in New York City). In this recipe, you could substitute a balsamic syrup by boiling down some balsamic vinegar, or just use a good quality balsamic vinegar.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Healthy Vegan Friday, to this week’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for strawberries, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Smitha of Kannada Cuisine, this month’s No Croutons Required featuring asparagus and to this month’s Simple and in Season for May.
Asparagus, Strawberry and Basil Salad with Mosto Cotto
1/8 cup frozen shelled edamame
1/2 cup asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
2 tbsp fresh basil, sliced
3 strawberries, sliced
1 tsp mosto cotto, or balsamic syrup or other good quality balsamic vinegar
2 cups baby spring mix (or your favourite green)
1. On the stovetop, get your steamer ready. Once boiling, drop the edamame in the water to thaw briefly.
2. Put the asparagus in the steamer, and steam until tender-crisp, around 2 minutes (depends how thick your stems are).
3. Remove both when done and set aside.
4. For the salad, plate your greens, top with basil, asparagus, edamame, strawberries and drizzle with mosto cotto or balsamic vinegar.