Over Memorial Day weekend, we went to Charleston, SC for a short family trip. We loved it there. We were able to experience so much local flavor. Because of my diet restrictions, we have to stay away from most chains and eat at local small businesses. (If you know me at all, you know that I love eating local anyway!)
We had an amazing lunch at Five Loaves Cafe. The service was spectacular, and the food was astounding (I used the thesaurus to find another word like “spectacular.”) Needless to say, we loved this restaurant.
Here is a picture of the amazing salad I had at Five Loaves Cafe (sorry for the bad quality phone picture).
The salad was made with spinach and a warm component over the top which contained local yellow squash. I chose an oil-free roasted red pepper dressing, and it was amazing. Ever since tasting this salad, I have wanted to make my own version. This week we happened to have an abundance of yellow squash in our CSA basket, so I came up with my own recipe. It turned out great!
Bibb Lettuce Salad with Warm Yellow Squash and Toasted Pine Nuts
1 head bibb lettuce, torn into pieces
1-2 yellow summer squash, chopped
1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/2 cup pine nuts
For prep, I always wash and tear my lettuce first. Then, I use my salad spinner to get rid of excess moisture. After it’s done spinning, I open it and let the lettuce air dry while I prep the other ingredients. (Dressing coats dry lettuce better than wet lettuce!)
After you’ve finished prepping the vegetables, place a skillet or frying pan on medium-high heat with about 1 tablespoon of oil. When the pan is hot, pour the onions and garlic into the pan, cooking for 2-3 minutes and deglazing the pan with stock or water. Then, add the squash and tomatoes with a generous pinch of salt.
Cook for about 2 minutes before adding the balsamic vinegar, thyme sprig, and bay leaf. Add stock or water as needed to deglaze the pan and keep the vegetables from sticking. Continue cooking this mixture for 5-7 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistently. (5-7 minutes will yield a chunkier vegetable mixture. More time will give it more of a silky texture.) Remove bay leaf and thyme sprig and pour the mixture in a small serving bowl.
For the pine nuts, place a small nonstick pan on medium-high heat and add about 1 Tbsp of butter. (You really want to use the real deal here if you can.) When the butter is melted, add pine nuts and a pinch of salt. Cook the pine nuts stirring continuously until golden to dark brown, turning down the heat as needed to prevent burning. (Watch the nuts like a hawk! Once they go brown, they go fast.) Remove the nuts from heat and allow them to cool.
When the nuts have cooled, combine with prepared lettuce in a large serving bowl. You can either add the cooled vegetables to the lettuce and pine nuts or let each person do that themselves. I let my family prepare their own salad and just told them how to put it together with the bibb lettuce and pine nut mixture on the bottom and the vegetable mixture over the top.
We served this with Newman’s Own Family Italian dressing, but to be honest, it doesn’t really need it. I hope to make my own recipe for a similar dressing soon. We really love the flavor of the dressing, and we prefer to make dressings at home.
Tip: When creating your own salad inspiration, always combine different textures. We almost always add a toasted nut to our salads for crunch unless the salad already has a particularly crunchy vegetable. Pine nuts are one of my favorites to use in dairy free salads because they add both crunch and a smooth texture similar to cheese.