Main dish salads are good all year round and yet reflect seasonality by their components. There are many exceptional main dish salads and you only need to know two and you are a wiz in the kitchen. Here is a very special main dish salad with spring in mind and its source of protein is duck.
While once duck was reserved for special occasions, the availability of frozen duck breasts makes it a delightful poultry alternative. I was served this salad at a lunch party after one of my private cooking classes. It was really a hit since it was so different and satisfying with the savory use of the tart blueberries, which go so remarkably well with the flavor of the rich duck. This needs to be served in blueberry season, both summer and winter which has the berries imported from Chile in staggering amounts (my market had buy 1 get 2 free-when do you see that anymore-oh well so much for eating local), hence the fresh blueberries. I cannot resist fresh blueberries at all. While blueberries are a first choice, in the fall I have used fresh figs and in early spring used sliced apricots.
Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. Blueberries are the fruits of a shrub that belong to the heath family, which includes the cranberry as well as the azalea and rhododendron. They are extremely high in antioxidants, making them a super good food to eat. Blueberries in general are considered low in terms of their glycemic index (GI) and have a definite piquant edge to their flavor, making them an easy match in savory dishes. When purchasing fresh berries, shake the container gently to ensure that the berries move freely and are not clumped together, this may indicate that they are soft and damaged or moldy. Don’t wash berries until right before eating as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skins from degradation. Store ripe blueberries in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 days. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.
The delightful surprise vinaigrette is a unique combination of fruit jelly and dried currants; the currants will plump and soften as they sit in the dressing. The pan-seared duck breasts are done in minutes and taste really fantastic. You will feel like a master chef making this salad.
Cooking Method: Stovetop
Cook Time: About 8 minutes
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red currant, plum, or blackberry jelly (definitely jelly not jam)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup dried currants
- 4 boned duck breast halves with skin (each about 6-ounces)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 6 cups mesclum (mixed baby salad greens)
- 4 cups baby spinach leaves, stemmed
- 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed
- 1 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted on a clean baking sheet in a 350º oven for 6 to 8 minutes
- 4 green onions, white and green, chopped
Place the vinegar, mustard, jelly, and thyme in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Pulse a few times. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil until thickened. Taste for seasoning and add the currants. Set aside or refrigerate until needed. Makes about 1 cup.
Sprinkle the duck with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil and butter in a 12-inch heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add the duck breast and sauté until browned, about 4 minutes per side (8 minutes total) for medium-rare. Do not overcook or they will be tough. Remove and cut each breast crosswise on a diagonal into strips, but keep the breast together. Set aside.
Combine the mesclum, spinach, blueberries, walnuts, and green onions in a bowl. Toss very lightly with some vinaigrette. Divide between 4 dinner plates. Top with the duck breast and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.
Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Weeknight Cooking, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2008, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.