Strawberry and Onion Salad with Poppyseed Dressing from the iconic Rochester Junior League Cookbook Applehood and Motherpie, is a refreshing spring salad. Make this when local strawberries are abundant.
One of my favorite salads from my favorite cookbooks… I can’t tell you how many times I flipped past this recipe, overlooking it because of its simplicity. But this recipe seems to prove that simplicity can be the highest form of sophistication. There are no involved steps, no exotic ingredients, just a fool proof salad that is guaranteed to become a family favorite.
Strawberry and Onion Salad with Poppyseed Dressing is the kind of salad that would be right at home on the table for a Mother’s Day brunch but is also easy enough to whip together on a weeknight. In fact, the recipe author hints that this was originally a special occasion salad in her recipe introduction: “Try different fruits to fit the season or your color scheme”. While the recipes have stood the test of time, occasionally Applehood and Motherpie shows it’s age. Is it just me, or does that quote have a certain amount of vintage-ness to it?? And just out of curiosity, what would have been a color scheme for an early 80’s dinner party?
Truthfully, there is not much to this salad. Romaine lettuce, sweet onions, and sliced strawberries are all that the original recipe calls for, the dressing is the real star of the show. The perfect balance of sweet and tangy, it is completely irresistible. You may be tempted to leave out the sugar, or even scale it back, but please don’t. The success of this dressing lies within the balance of the creaminess of the mayo and milk, the acidity of the vinegar and the sweetness of the sugar. If you lose one component the whole thing goes awry.
Don’t overlook the onion when making this salad. Select a sweet variety, such as Vidalia, Walla Walla or Bermuda, they are typically available from April to August in North America, and tend to be mild, sweet and crisp. Someone once told me the “flatter the Vidalia the sweeter it is” I have no idea if this is true, but I still tend to try to pick out the flattest of the bunch. If I do happen to bring home a more pungent sweet onion, and it does happen a quick soak in ice water tames the bite of the raw onions and mellows out their flavor.
- 1 head of romaine
- 1 "sweet" onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 pint fresh or frozen strawberries
CREAMY POPPY SEED DRESSING:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 whole milk
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- Place all ingredients in a jar, a mason jar works well.
- Cover and shake vigorously until well blended.
- Dressing keeps for several days in the refrigerator.
- Wash romaine lettuce, pat dry or dry in a salad spinner. Refrigerate until serving.
- Place lettuce greens on individual salad plates, or in a large salad bowl.
- Slice strawberries. If using frozen strawberries, let the strawberries partially thaw before slicing.
- Place berries and onions on top of the romaine lettuce greens.
- Drizzle poppyseed dressing over the salad. Gently toss if using a large salad bowl.
Strawberry-Spinach Salad: Try spinach in place of the romaine.
This salad is perfectly suited to customize to your hearts content. I have added grilled chicken breast, feta cheese, and avocado, but the sky is the limit. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Sliced nuts or toasted or candied pecans, walnuts or almonds would complement this salad beautifully.
- A sprinkling of cheese: gorgonzola, blue, feta, parmesan.
- Mandarin oranges, blueberries, or raspberries if seasonally available.
- Sliced chicken, salmon or shrimp can be added to make this salad a meal.