Seriously, the BEST salad dressing Ever.

You know how really great movies always seem to have a sidekick that steals the show? You end up loving the supporting actor better than the A-lister.

This Fantasmo Strawberry Salad that I have made for years has been totally upstaged by its sidekick dressing, a deliciously sweet, red wine vinaigrette. The A-lister salad and its yummalicious dressing are both uber-simple, uber-delish, and will uber-impress your friends.

It’s February and in Florida, especially Central Florida where we live, it’s strawberry season!!! Strawberries adorn stands on every street corner, every farmer’s market, and every grocery store. They are cheap and a really great way to add in some healthy snacking, healthy toppings to your salads, smoothies, and juices. In February, my family will be fed this yummy healthy salad, full of delicious, in-season, juicy, ripe strawberries until they turn red!

But as I said, it is the red wine vinaigrette, affectionately known to me as the Best Salad Dressing Ever, that totally steals the show, even over those awesome Florida February strawberries! My Fantasmo Strawberry Salad is perfect as a side dish or a main meal with some grilled chicken added for the carnivores in your life.

It has great color, great taste and you can really improvise at times and make it your own. I have not met a Mommy at a playdate lunch or had a guest over for dinner yet who does not love this salad.

I am confident you will not break that streak! You’re gonna love this!

Amy’s Fantasmo Strawberry Salad

Best Salad Dressing Ever:
1 cup safflower oil (or grapeseed oil, EVOO, whatever is your mainstay)
1/2 red wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Greens (Pick your fave, but I love spinach or romaine. The dressing clings to spinach the best.)
1 pint strawberries, rinsed, patted dry and sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (If desired)
1 block (10 0z.) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Put all the ingredients for the dressing into the blender and blend. You can use a dressing shaker, but blending really emulsifies the dressing. The original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar-holy cow! I got it down to 1/3 cup; if you use less, just know that the dressing will separate. For the garlic you can toss it in un-minced if you are using the blender…it will do the mincing for you.

Get your greens ready in a large bowl. Slice your strawberries and toss into the greens. Grate the cheese. Let me say this again-GRATE the cheese. Do not buy the pre-shredded, it totally ruins it. I swear, it’ll only take you 3 minutes to grate a block of cheese. Have an unruly child or a web-surfing hubby do it. Bat your eyelashes. Say please and thank you.

If you are serving at home, toss in the walnuts. If you are taking this to a par-tay or serving it to guests, whose allergies you do not know, put the nuts in a bowl beside the salad and let them decide.

Right before serving, pour some dressing on the salad and toppings and toss. Just a little dressing at first and then add more. That way when the guests serve themselves they have the choice to drown it like me or just eat it with the wee bit you used to toss; but I warn you this dressing is so good, it can be addictive. I have been known to swig it. Yes, that’s what she said.

UPDATE: I have recently made some updates to my beloved Best Salad Dressing Ever, to go complement our healthier diet. I replaced regular sugar with coconut palm sugar. It is a high nutrient/low glycemic natural sugar alternative. It can be found on Amazon and at Whole Foods. I believe Trader Joe’s also has a version. It keeps the dressing sweet, but not too sweet, without the added sugar to my daily dose of salad. I’m using pecans instead of walnuts to spice it up a bit and I’ve added goat cheese crumbles instead of Monterey Jack, as a sub for cheese derived from cow’s milk. It’s all pretty darn yummy anyway you eat it.

For the Improvisor: If you really want to play with this dressing try different vinegars like: Balsamic Pomegranate, Balsamic, Garlic Red Wine Vinegar, Champagne Vinegar, etc.

You can also change up the fruits, nuts, and cheeses too. But I recommend always trying a recipe the orignal way first, so you can get a baseline for what changes you’d like to make.

Be adventurous and enjoy!

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