Better Red – A Smoky-Sweet Strawberry Salad

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

An early-summer strawberry salad with Piquillo peppers

a strawberry and Piquillo pepper salad on a blue plateI mentioned this super simple and tasty summer strawberry salad last week, and I’ve made it more than a few times since then to take advantage of the all-too-short Michigan strawberry season. It’s easy to put together, and a lovely blending of sweet and savory.

To make it, head to the farmers market or Argus Farm Stop to get some of the last of the season’s local strawberries. Pull off the stems and cut the berries into halves or quarters. Pop open a jar of the Piquillo peppers and cut them into thin slices. Their meaty smokiness is a fantastic match for the sweetness of the berries. Put the sliced strawberries and peppers into a mixing bowl. Add a bit of really great sweet vinegar—I’ve been using the vinegar from the Valdueza family. It’s great too with Banyuls or a well-aged Sherry Vinegar. Add some olive oil. The Marqués de Valdueza oil I wrote about is ideal—its fruity rounded flavor is big enough to bring beauty to the dish, but gentle enough that it won’t dominate the fruit.

Add some chopped toasted almonds, a pinch of fleur de sel, a healthy grind of black pepper, and then garnish with fresh mint leaves. Eat and enjoy just as it is! (It can macerate at room temperature for a bit if you like too, though if you leave it sitting too long the berries will start to break down.) Truly delicious, refreshing, easy to make, and beautiful on the plate. Fresh, local strawberries won’t be here long—as Laurey Masterton said, “Don’t postpone joy!”