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Fresh salad won’t let strawberries go to waste

Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

One of the first true delights to turn up at farmers markets this time of year are local strawberries. Boy, they’re terrific out of hand — just try getting a quart container of them home without snacking on a handful — but they also can add a sweet, juicy touch to any number of desserts and appetizers such as salsa and crostini.

Full of good-for-you antioxidants, the bright-red berry works a particular magic in a salad, especially when paired with another favorite spring market find, spinach.

To turn this easy spring recipe from a side into a more hearty main, I threw sliced fried chicken into the mix, along with crumbles of gorgonzola, a mild blue cheese. Grilled or roasted chicken — shredded or diced — would be a fine substitute if you’re cutting back on fried foods.

I like the tangy contrast of blue cheese against the strawberries, but if you’re not a fan, substitute feta or goat cheese or even brie or fresh mozzarella. Same with the nuts: I used pre-packaged honey-roasted sliced almonds (available in the produce aisle), but you may prefer toasted or caramelized pecans or walnuts.

Serve with crusty bread and a crisp, chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc for a simple supper.

Fresh, local strawberries add a sweet touch to this easy spring salad with fried chicken.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

For salad

1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced into half moons

4 cups baby spinach or spinach-arugula mix

1 quart local strawberries, hulled and quartered

1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola

3/4 cup toasted pecans, walnuts or honey roasted almonds

2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced thin on the diagonal

For dressing

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

11/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place sliced red onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water.

Prepare dressing: Place vinegar, honey, shallot, poppy seeds, mustard and olive oil in a mason jar, screw on the lid and shake vigorously to combine ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and put aside while you compose the salad.

In a large salad bowl, place the greens along with a pinch of salt, and toss with your fingers to combine. Add the quartered strawberries. Drain onions, and then place into the bowl. Add crumbled cheese and chicken, and then drizzle with about 1/2 of the salad dressing (or more, depending on how well-dressed you like your salads).

Toss the salad, making sure all of the greens are nicely coated with dressing. Garnish with nuts and serve.

Serve with extra dressing on the side.

Serves 4.

— Gretchen McKay