We hosted two little dinner parties last week, which made for a very busy but fun couple of days. I’ll be writing a post in the next few days with the recipe to the entree I served, plus a few tips for throwing a stress-free dinner party. In the meantime, I wanted to share the salad I made for my friends last Saturday. I have to admit that I didn’t follow one of my own new rules – don’t make something for a party that you’ve never tested out before – but since this was a simple salad, I took a chance. This will now not only be a go-to side salad for me, but a lovely and simple way to start future dinner parties.
Lately I’ve been working out on my little stationary bike while watching episodes of Barefoot Contessa on DVR, and I’ve picked up some wonderful party tips from Ina along the way. One of my favorite tips was from an episode about how to throw the perfect cocktail party. Ina said that instead of making everything from scratch, do yourself a favor and make some things that only require assembly, not actual cooking. I took this advice to heart when coming up with a salad recipe for my party. I wanted the salad to be flavorful and interesting, but I didn’t want to have to spend more than five minutes throwing it together.
When I started thinking of the salad as the “assembly” part of my meal, it was easy to come up with an idea: I used a jar of marinated artichokes and some store-bought marcona almonds that were roasted with rosemary as the centerpiece of my salad. With a simple lemon and olive oil dressing, the salad ended up having an effortlessly delicious combination of flavors and textures. The artichokes and marcona almonds were already so good on their own that they did all the work for me – all I had to do was throw them together. The dressing is bright and zesty, but won’t distract from the other flavors. And importantly, the salad is light enough that your guests won’t be too full going into the main course. I served this with an Italian entree, but I’m sure it would go well with a large variety of other meals.
Of course, this is really more of a blueprint for a salad rather than a set recipe. You can use any sort of nuts you want, but try to get something good quality with plenty of flavor. Remember, let the ingredients do the work for you!
- 1 bag of mixed greens
- About 1 cup marinated artichokes, drained
- ⅔ cup marcona almonds
- For the dressing:
- ½ cup olive oil
- Juice of 2 lemons (about ¼ cup)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Roughly chop the artichokes into bite-size pieces.
- Combine artichokes, almonds and mixed greens in a large serving bowl. Toss well.
- Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together until fully blended.
- Add about half the dressing to the salad and toss well; taste to see if more dressing is necessary. Alternatively, serve dressing on the side so guests can add their own.
Note: Dressing from the cookbook Barefoot Contessa Family Style
Katie @ Whole Nourishment says
I love this assembly idea Ina has too. Good one! And what a unique but flavorful salad combo with the artichokes and marcona almonds. I’m sure your dinner guests will be returning soon. 😉
Thank you, Katie! It’s such an easy but tasty way to start off a meal. Ina is full of wonderful tips, isn’t she? And yes, I am hoping my guests come back soon – they are great company!
Traci | Vanilla And Bean says
Great tips, Julia! A reminder that simple food is always good, especially when shared. I recently tried marcona almonds and raved about them! They are so delicious and packed full heart healthy nutrients. Thank you ,Julia for practical tips and a delicious salad recipe!
I’m glad you were able to try marcona almonds, Traci! Aren’t they delicious? I use them all the time now in recipes (and nibble on them too!) and just love their flavor and texture. I hope you enjoy the salad!
Such a simple, yet elegant salad! Did you get these almonds at Trader Joe’s? The crunchy texture is a nice contrast to the artichokes. Can’t wait to try this one, Julia!
I did get the almonds at Trader Joe’s! You will love them – the herbs and sea salt make them truly addicting. I think you would also like the dressing to this salad, because it’s so quick, light and flavorful.
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen says
I agree that anything you can do to make a dinner party easier is the way to go. Ina always has the best advice :). I love to start a meal with a simple salad – my mom always served one when I was growing up. Look forward to trying this! Thanks, Julia.
Glad to hear you’re an Ina fan too, Geraldine! She has such a relaxed attitude about things, so I really try to emulate her when it comes to entertaining. Hope you’re having a great weekend!
“Effortlessly delicious” could become a catch phrase for you, Julia. This certainly looks like a great example. Even though I just finished lunch moments ago, thoughts of those hard-working almonds have got me salivating. I bet this whole assemblage works really well.
Why thank you! Effortlessly delicious is definitely the goal with all of my recipes 🙂