Merry Continued Christmas Weekend! I arrived safe and sound in Louisiana after spending some extended quality time in both the Atlanta and Dallas airports, where my planes were delayed as the result of, surprisingly, not wintry weather as I had suspected, but an absent flight crew! I'm not exactly sure how two airports, on the same day, managed to misplace two entire flight crews, but by the time I arrived in the Lafayette, Louisiana airport, somewhat delirious from a long night at work and from being awake for more than 48 hours, I was no longer concerned with the mysterious whereabouts of pilots that day - I was simply thankful to be out of an airport and in a nice warm home with Zach and his family! Despite my repeated efforts via cell phone to ensure that Zach's family didn't delay the Christmas festivities until I arrived, I walked through the door to find all the gifts still festively wrapped and everyone gathered around to greet me. Every year I am always so touched by the kindness and warmth of Zach's relatives, and as I stepped inside and hugged everyone I felt so blessed to be welcomed into this family. Thank you to everyone in Zach's family for a truly magical surprise!
Continuing with the wonderful vacation spirit, today was filled with glorious relaxing,
(Zach and Miss Kitten napping... :-)
along with chatting and catching up, spoonfuls of transcendental homemade ice cream that Scott concocted in his new ice cream maker, and, for supper, scrumptious gumbo and Zach's father's famous salad. This is the salad which inspired Zach to call me on his second day in Louisiana for the express purpose of raving about a salad - and for a salad to merit its own phone call places lofty standards upon this bowl of verdant delights indeed. Zach and Mr. Alden (Zach's father) recreated the salad tonight, and Zach watched with anticipation as I gathered up my first forkful of tender spinach leaves, tangy marinated olives, crispy carrot, creamy guacamole, and a sprinkling of spinach vinaigrette dressing. Oh. My. Goodness. As much as I love salads, I've never been rendered speechless by a salad before - until now. The flawless melding of flavors and textures, the creamy, tangy, and piquant explosion of tastes... Now, I fully understand why Zach phoned me with such superlative tones. Truly, this is a salad worthy of a phone call... and a plane ride, no matter how long... or even a long drive... or a journey via hang glider... for this is the salad of a lifetime!
**Spinach and Olive Salad with Guacamole**
For the Olive Salad: (This provides plentiful leftovers for future salads, sandwiches, etc)
1 1/2 cups minced pimento stuffed, pitted green olives
1/2 cup minced, pitted black olives
1 cup minced pepperoncini peppers
1 T finely minced capers
1/8 cup thinly sliced celery
1/4 cup minced roasted red peppers
1 T minced parsley
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1 T minced chives
3 T red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the Guacamole:
2 ripe avocados
2 T lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
Sea salt to taste
For the Spinach Vinaigrette: (You'll have plentiful lovely leftovers of the dressing as well!)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 cup baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
For the base of the salad:
8 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup chopped baby carrots
8 oz cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped red cabbage
~ To make the olive salad, which needs to be prepared ahead of time, stir all the ingredients together well, place in a jar or other well sealed container, and let everything marinade together in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
~ To make the guacamole, mush the avocado together with the lime juice and chili powder to make a smooth paste, then season with salt to taste.
~ To make the spinach vinaigrette, blend the olive oil, vinegar, and spinach together in a food processor until nice and smooth, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
~ To assemble and serve the salad, toss all the "base" ingredients together in a large bowl. Add a few generous spoonfuls of olive salad and a gentle drizzle of spinach vinaigrette, and toss again to distribute the dressing. Finally, add the guacamole in dollops, and toss once more very lightly. Alternatively, you can also create a salad buffet and allow everyone to assemble all the ingredients in their individual bowls!