Strawberries come into season when the beginnings of spring are arriving. When it’s time air out the seersucker and the sandals and give the grill a good clean and make sure the big cooler is ready for weekends at the lake and beach. And though we drink sweet tea all year, the mint is starting to grow and its time for great big glasses full of ice while sitting outside enjoying the weather before it gets too hot or the mosquitoes get too fierce. It seems only naturally to take the first fruit of spring and combine it with a delicious dressing tinged with the flavors of the South’s favorite beverage. Sweet, sweet strawberries and mint combine with the sweet and tangy dressing, set off with a hit of vinegar and emulsified to a nice creaminess with oil. This salad is beautiful on its on, but looks pretty on butter lettuce leaves as well. The strawberries can also be part of a sweet dish, served along side a cake or over ice cream.
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 black tea bags
- a generous handful or fresh mint leaves
- 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
- 6 Tablespoons canola oil
- 4 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the teabags, cover the pan and leave to cool. When the syrup is cool, remove the tea bags.
- Place the sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Stack about 10 mint leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons (this is called a chiffonade). Separate the ribbons and toss with the strawberries.
- Place 1/3 cup of the sweet tea syrup in a blender. Add about 5 mint leaves and the vinegar and blend until combined and the mint is beginning to break down. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a creamy dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the berries in the bowl and gently stir to coat. You may not want to use all the dressing. The berries just need to be lightly coated, not drowning.
- Serve immediately.
- The strawberries can be sliced ahead of time and the dressing can be made ahead, but do not combine until ready to serve.
- Leftover dressing can be used on other fruit or a green salad.
- Extra sweet tea syrup can be used as a base for sweet tea. Combined with water to taste, or as part of a brine, as in Sweet Tea Glazed Pork Chops.
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