Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese, Candied Almonds, and Roasted Strawberry Vinaigrette

I had the best idea.

One night I was craving a hearty salad with sweet-tart, fresh fruit vinaigrette. I’d already made salad dressings with lemon, orange, and tangerine, but I wanted to move out of the citrus family and try something different.

And that’s when inspiration struck – I could transform the classic combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar into a savory salad dressing, with layer upon layer of flavors.

Juicy, caramelized strawberries, fresh garlic, creamy-sharp Dijon mustard, a tender kiss of wild blackberry honey, and aged balsamic vinegar.

Sadly, this brilliant idea occurred to me five months ago, in the dead of Minnesota winter, when strawberries—if they could be found at all—were dry and wooden.

That left me with 147 long, cold days to dream of ripe, juicy berries. In those 147 days, I wondered just what would happen when you roasted strawberries. I finally had a chance to roast strawberries last week, and as it turns out, this is what it smells like when doves cry.

The strawberry halves gently caramelized in the oven, their juices slowly seeping out and thickening, before they became the foundation of my new favorite salad dressing. I tossed the dressing with romaine hearts and scallions, then topped the greens with roasted chicken, goat cheese, and sweet-n-spicy candied almonds.

It was a very long winter.

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Garlic and Herb Corn

Last night I dreamed about a barbecue. I dreamed of hungry friends lining up alongside a red gingham-swathed picnic table filled with alfresco favorites as far as the eye could see. Bowl after CorningWare bowl of potato salad, deviled eggs, fresh watermelon, baked beans, pasta salad, coleslaw, mac and cheese…and nary a saucy rib nor chicken breast in sight.

Even in my dreams, I don’t know how to grill meat. I don’t have the tools and I don’t have the experience. Gas or charcoal? Direct or indirect heat? Lid up or lid down? The only thing I know how to grill is a cheese sandwich. One day I’ll conquer my fear and learn to grill meat, but in the meantime, I’m sharing summer side dishes, starting with my favorite garlic and herb corn.

This simple side (it comes together in minutes) is packed with flavor—it’s sweet, buttery, herbaceous, and garlicky. This is loud corn. This is corn on the mob.

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