The everyday tossed green salad needs a compelling replacement! Our strawberry, fennel, and arugula salad with cacao nibs, adapted from Cafe Johnsonia, is going to become your family’s favorite way to eat more fruit, vegetables, and chocolate.
Chocolate in a salad? Before you start reaching for your stash of chocolate candy bars, let us prepare your taste buds for the most authentic chocolate fix on the planet. The chocolate in this surprisingly addictive salad is in the form of cacao nibs. Never heard of them? Keep reading!
Instead of serving a boring bowl of lettuce, tomatoes, and a few vegetable drawer extras, dazzle your dinner table with a salad featuring fresh strawberries, thin slices of fennel bulb, peppery arugula leaves, cacao nibs, pink peppercorns, and toasted pecans tossed with a luscious balsamic vanilla bean vinaigrette. The vanilla, pink peppercorns, fennel, and exciting bits of cacao give this easy gourmet salad a fascinating blend of flavors that will make your family want to eat forkful after forkful.
Back to the cacao nibs: Cacao nibs are intensely flavored bits of cocoa beans that have been harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, cracked, and removed from the shell. They are everything you love about chocolate without all the sugar. Chocolate in its purest form, these yummy nutritious nibs are packed with antioxidants, fiber, iron, and magnesium. Toss them in your oatmeal, homemade granola, trail mix, smoothies, baked goods, salads, and side dishes — or straight into your mouth from the bag.
Salad making tip: The vinaigrette recipe calls for vanilla bean seeds from half a vanilla bean. You can also substitute 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Vanilla bean paste is basically a small bottle of vanilla seeds in a paste form. It adds big vanilla flavor and the tiny black flecks of vanilla bean seeds without you having to split and scrape a pricey vanilla bean.
A vanilla vinaigrette is the perfect dressing for a salad showcasing strawberries and cacao nibs. To make the vinaigrette, combine vanilla bean seeds, white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, pink peppercorns, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk until well-blended. Set aside.
Toss the salad
In a large bowl, toss the arugula, strawberries, and fennel until well combined. Drizzle the salad with some of the vinaigrette and toss to coat.
Garnish the salad
Sprinkle cacao nibs, additional pink peppercorns, and toasted pecans on the salad. Serve immediately.