Hang onto your seats, people, because I have a feeling some worlds are about to get rocked.
I was feeling a little spunky the other day, and while making one of my standard dressing recipes–a balsamic vinaigrette–I quickly reached into my fridge, grabbed a handful of Peruvian Raw crumbles, and threw them into the mix. What?! Crazy talk, I know. So, I guess I should give you just a little bit of backstory…
It was one of those days. I woke up craving chocolate, and I ate it all damn day. Seriously. Bits on top of my breakfast yogurt bowl, a little piece immediately following lunch, chunks blended into my afternoon smoothie…and so on. Naturally, when it came time for dinner that evening, I wanted a little cacao action in my salad. In the past, I have tried my hand at a cocoa powder-based salad dressing, and most of my attempts turned out fairly well. When you sub a few pieces of a Honey Mama’s Cacao-Nectar bar for regular old cocoa, however, you set yourself up to enter an entirely new realm of YUM. I didn’t take the time to worry about the sweetness of the bar, or how that would affect the dressing. Now (after having consumed several amazing salads using this dressing), I can honestly tell you that the sweetness isn’t a factor. I often add a tiny bit of maple syrup to my dressing anyway, so the honey from the bar paired just as well.
Since it is full-on strawberry season here in Oregon, this dressing was the perfect compliment to a salad made with the incredibly flavorful Unger Farms berries I picked up at the market, baby spinach, toasted hazelnuts, and dairy-free cheese. I even added a handful of roasted cacao nibs to boost the crunch factor, because I’m crazy like that (and, yes, a bit cacao obsessed). I can also see this dressing working well with grilled spring onions, roasted radishes, or with sweet baby beets and arugula.
Just a little heads-up so you aren’t surprised by the outcome: this dressing is THICK. I found a way to work with the texture by placing my greens in a large bowl, and very gently massaging the dressing into the greens just before serving. If this seems like a chore to you, or you simply prefer a dressing that you can drizzle, whisk in some warm water very slowly, and taste as you go to avoid a watered-down flavor.
Cacao Balsamic Vinaigrette:
Place shallot, Peruvian Raw pieces, vinegar, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. With the machine running, pour oil through the opening in the lid in a slow, steady stream, until it is emulsified. Using a blender will produce a smoother dressing; with a food processor, your dressing is likely to have a little more texture.
Makes about 2 cups
If you are interested in making the salad I have featured above, gather some local strawberries, baby spinach, toasted hazelnuts, cacao nibs, and make a batch of this pine nut cheese (or sub goat cheese, if your belly likes dairy). Follow the directions above to make the dressing, then assemble the salad just before serving. I like to add a little flakey sea salt and freshly ground black pepper as well. Enjoy!