Classic Blue Cheese Wedge Salad Recipe and Dole Salad Farm Tour

by heidi on May 29, 2013

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad | foodiecrush.com

I must say, this blog has given me the chance to do things I never in my life could have imagined. I mean, how many of you have walked through acres of furrowed rows of big-headed, leafy green orbs to watch as they’re cut from their stalk and stems by the swiftest of hands that instinctively know just the right angle and pressure to keep the lettuces at their tender, leafiest best? Or stayed at amazing resorts, sampling amazing food with amazing foodie friends? Or almost been trampled on the 18th hole of Pebble Beach by a deer (as docmuented here and here.)

Well, I can strike them all off of my bucket list, check this and roger that. 

Dole Salad Tour | foodiecrush.com

I can’t believe I ate green iceberg lettuce, straight from the field. From the Dole field. From a field that is the birthplace to millions of salads all across the United States. And there I was in the middle of it, wishing I had a little of my favorite dressing to slurp alongside it.

Iceberg screams summer to me thanks to it’s watery, juicy crunch. Which led me to finally posting my favorite Classic Blue Cheese Wedge Salad. My other natural option was a BLT Sandwich, which this actually sort of is, minus the bread. Let’s call it low-carb, shall we?

My salad inspiration stemmed from my trip a few weeks ago to Monterey, CA when a group of food bloggers were invited to the Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit. It was an opportunity to meet and tour local growers, see the inside operations of one of the Dole Salad factories, eat fantastic food, drink local wine (in a vineyard), savor the coastal temps in relaxing accommodations (please take me back), and learn all sorts of foodie insider information from the editors of Eating Well (did you know that America’s favorite vegetable is asparagus and that 78% of U.S. adults say they are now buying organic?) 

Before I went to the salad summit, I had the impression that Dole was like other corporations who dominated the industry, leaving not much room for the little guy to succeed simply because the giants had proven successful in their field. This trip made me realize I had formed an idea based largely on assumptions when it came to Dole.

Our trip started by setting in at the gorgeous, Carmel Valley Ranch, a stunning retreat set in the hills of the Carmel Valley featuring an upscale yet comfortably rustic design with the perfect intermingling of raw woods, sculpted concrete and vineyards, tree-lined trails beckoning deer and wild turkeys, and lavender plants everywhere you looked not to mention a resident bulldog named Roxy—I was won me over right then and there.

Carmel Valley Ranch | foodiecrush.com

Carmel Valley Ranch | foodiecrush.com

Each cottage is its own suite with a full living room (mine had a fireplace), a huge bedroom (with yet another fireplace) and a wrap around deck perfect for enjoying my morning cup of joe.

The bathroom is always my favorite destination and my soaking tub got plenty of use. But the bath amenities were what put it over the top for me, better than any other fancy schmancy hotel I’ve visited. The Lavender Sea Pine Shampoo and Conditioner was for once a hotel conditioner that didn’t strip my hair of all moisture. And the Violet Leaf Wild Mint Body Wash and Lotion gave everyone a lavender scent the next morning at breakfast. I’ve already put in my order for more and just wish I’d made time for a spa day. Note to self for the next visit.

Carmel Valley Ranch | foodiecrush.com

Dole Salad Tour | foodiecrush.com

Knowing there were a bunch of food-fixated guests in their midst, the kitchen staff outdid themselves incorporating the Taste of Spain flavors with Dole berries, pineapples, asparagus, lettuces and more, all complimenting meals of tender Colorado lamb filets, jumbo prawns and of course there was no skimping on the desserts.

On day one of the tour, we were met at a lettuce field by local farmer Mark Pisoni. His family has been farming for over 100 years, and as a graduate of UC Davis and Cornell University, he now oversees the family business which is one of 38 local farms in the Salinas Valley that annually contracts with Dole.

in-the-Dole-salad-field

Thanks to its Mediterranean-like climate and fertile soil, the Salinas Valley has become the number one vegetable-producing region in the U.S., supplying 80% of the nations lettuce and grows more wine grapes than any other county in California, including Napa. Now that’s my kind of land. 

“The numbers can be difficult to get your mind around: Annual harvest of 12,500 tons of tomatoes, 15,000 tons of strawberries, 82,000 tons of lettuce—a $2 billion annual salad bowl brought in from the fields by hardworking local and migrant workers.” (-Dole Salads)

And hard working they are. Our tour took us straight through the harvested plants to where production was in full swing and with quality control at the top of Dole’s list, there was plenty of camera mugging thanks to the hairnet photo opps.

Here’s a little video I made showing you how the harvest happens.

While Dole has come up with a machine that uses water knife technology to cut a heartier romaine from the field, the iceberg lettuces are still harvested by hand, by workers who are fairly paid, treated well and take a lot of care in what they do. The fields generally yield 4 harvests per year, contributing to the local economy and stimulating it in far reaching ways. Good job Dole. 

In the field, the crops are lightly washed, packed and trucked to the processing plant where they go through another round of lightly chlorinated washing (with less chlorine than potable water) and are made ready to eat in fresh pack salads which are trucked to our grocery stores within 2 days from coming out of the field. Ah freshness. 

Eating-at-Dole

After the tour we found ourselves hairnet-free and seated at the lovely Paraiso Vineyard for a lunch of more Spanish inspired dishes like empanadas and Saffron Risotto and of course wine-pairings from the lush vineyard. More food greeted us back at Carmel Valley Ranch with a tapas creation competition among the attendees and then later that evening dinner at the local Spanish restaurant, Mundaka where we feasted upon so much including Paella Valencia, mussels in saffron cream and flash fried chickpeas with truffle salt that were insanely delicious. Did I mention partaking in the Spanish parron? Thank goodness I escaped the camera documenting that one.

Dole Salad Tour | foodiecrush.com

Pre-dinner meet-up with Brenda of A Farm Girl’s Dabbles, Heather of Farmgirl Gourmet, myself, Ali of Gimme Some Oven and Sandy of Reluctant Entertainer

The trip’s capper came the last day with a tour of the famous 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, winding us along the Carmel coastline where plenty of photo opps were had (10 bloggers, all with their own cameras and two photo takers who were at our mercy—I felt like I was back in the sorority during formal.)

Dole Salad Tour | foodiecrush.com

Pebble Beach | foodiecrush.com

Dole Salad Tour | foodiecrush.com

Pebble Beach | foodiecrush.com

I always come away from these trips with a renewed appreciation for where my food, and yours, comes from and the people behind the scenes who make it happen. From the migrant workers, to the truck drivers, to the ag scientists, to the marketers and finally the local grocery store clerk, it takes all of them to make one salad.

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad | foodiecrush.com

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad | foodiecrush.com

Blue Cheese Wedge Salad | foodiecrush.com

Like this deliciously perfect summer style Classic Blue Cheese Wedge Salad. The salad dressing is far above and beyond anything you can find on the store shelves, even the refrigerator section and has just the right bite thanks to a dash of red wine vinegar and a bit of buttermilk.

I’m a fan of lots of chunky blue cheese but if you prefer yours on the un-chunked side, just mash up those cheesy bits a bit more and you’re good to go.

You could always make this a main by adding 3 ounces of shredded rotisserie chicken breast or simple grilled salmon.

Serving tip: I usually reserve a few especially blue-veined pieces of the blue cheese to sprinkle on top of the salad and reserve a few strands of chives to snip at an angle and sprinkle on top. Bigger chunks of freshly ground black pepper are a must here in my opinion.

Classic Blue Cheese Wedge Salad Recipe

Yield: makes 8 wedges

Classic Blue Cheese Wedge Salad Recipe

Ingredients

For the Blue Cheese Dressing
1 cup light sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons buttermilk
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces blue cheese (reserve a few chunks for garnish)
3 chives, diced (reserve a few for garnish)
For the salad
1 head iceberg lettuce, cored
4 strips bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
4 medium size tomatoes, cut into wedges

Instructions

  1. Add all of the dressing ingredients to a medium bowl and stir well to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Remove any limp outer leaves of the lettuce head and then cut in half, then cut each half into quartered wedges. Place each wedge on a plate, drizzle with the blue cheese dressing, top with a few crumbles of bacon, a sprinkling of chives and reserved blue cheese chunks and add a few wedges of tomato on the side. Give one more sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and serve.
http://www.foodiecrush.com/2013/05/blue-cheese-wedge-salad-recipe/

I was thrilled to spend time with another group of fab food bloggers, some of them for the first time, and really encourage all of you to visit each of their blogs for delicious inspiration and tasty vittles. Here’s just a taste of some of their summer salad creations you’ll find when you visit.

Strawberry-and-Avocado-Spinach-Salad-1

Adding a touch of California dreamin’ via avocado-land, Ali puts a glorious creamy spin on a classic loaded with vitamin-powered baby spinach leaves in Gimme Some Oven‘s Avocado and Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing .(Check out Ali’s Dole Salad Summit Recap)

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Reminding her of precious memories of travels to the Amalfi coast, Kristin plays with Black Mission figs layered in both the dressing and as a featured player alongside chopped spinach leaves in Iowa Girl Eats Fig and Frico Prosciutto Salad. (Check out Kristin’s Dole Salad Summit Recap) 

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Prepping ahead and making plans for a healthy week is the secret to Sandy’s healthy success in creating the base for plenty o’ bountiful salads with Reluctant Entertainer’s homemade Superfood Salad Mix.

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Brenda shares a dressing so good she could drink it—her words, not mine—thanks to a kick of Mexican spice and fruit sweetened up from a date with the grill in A Farm Girls Dabbles Grilled Peach Salad with Peach Cumin Dressing.

rabbitfood

Following her Rabbit Food Pyramid Breakdown, Catherine adapts her favorite restaurant salad from Andrew Weil’s True Food Kitchen into a dinner or lunchtime healthy treat with Rabbit Food for My Bunny Teeth’s Tuscan Kale Salad. (Check out Catherine’s Dole Salad Summit Recap)

_Kale-Salad-damn-delicious

Eating and savoring a hearty meal calls for a balancing act with a bit of a healthy alternative and Chung-ah has discovered the ultimate healthy alternative with Damn DeliciousKale Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.

 
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Even though she moved from a historic farmstead where her family actually farmed their own food, Heather still finds the thrill of eating straight from the source in Farmgirl Gourmet’s Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Croutons 

oriental-chicken-salad-2-web

Of the many food bloggers I’ve met these past two years, Jane tends to be one that always keeps it real, both in life and all of its realities and in her weekly food menus, including This Week for Dinner’s Oriental Chicken Salad #2

Suburban

Lisa showcases three different lettuces that are tenderly dressed in a simple dressing spiked with a Spanish touch in Authentic Suburban Gourmet’s Farmer’s Market Salad with Sweet Paprika Dressing (Check out Lisa’s Dole Salad Summit Recap)

LemonBowl

Liz leaves the bottled dressing in the grocery store aisles and smartly opts to dress her fresh greens with a fresh vinaigrette, why buy when you can make The Lemon Bowl’s Garlic Dijon Vinaigrette

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Nikki takes a page from her mom’s recipe book and remakes a long-time favorite in Chef in Training’s Candied Pecan and Craisin and Feta Cheese Salad with Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette.

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Tessa brings California to the her home in the desert with the fresh tastes of Handle the Heat’s Grilled California Chopped Salad with Shrimp (Check out Tessa’s Dole Salad Summit Recap)

Thanks to Dole Salads for inviting me on this all expenses paid Taste of Spain Salad Summit. For Dole recipes and to enter the Taste of Spain Giveaway, visit them at www.dolesalads.com. I was not compensated for the trip and all opinions are my own.

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48 comments |

Posted in: salads and sides,sauces and condiments

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy @ RE May 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Loved the trip with you, Heidi. The salad looks fabulous, too! Always love me a wedge :)

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Ali | Gimme Some Oven May 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Oh my goodness. I actually saw your amazing salad photo on Pinterest and had to click it, which led me to your beautiful roundup. Beautifully written, and that video rocks!!!

So grateful for hairnet-rocking, bus-chatting, lettuce-trampling, and wine-drinking memories with you. Counting down the days til I see you again soon!

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Sandy @ RE May 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Hairnet, Ali? come to RE tomorrow. You’re rockin’ the hairnet! :)

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Ali | Gimme Some Oven May 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Oh…I’ll BE there. :D

Haha, can’t wait, Sandy!

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Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles May 29, 2013 at 7:34 pm

What a wonderful and very special trip, it was so good to finally meet you! I’m loving yours and all the other fresh salads, thanks so much for the link!

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Tieghan May 29, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I love this post and I am so glad to hear that Dole is a great company and not like the rest! That is awesome!

This is my kind of salad! I adore bue cheese. Really I love it! This looks perfect to me!

Oh and I also love how supportive you are of other bloggers! I think is so awesome how often you share others recipes, it is a really nice thing. Way to go you!

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heidi May 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Thanks Tieghan, I love showcasing great foodies and their delish recipes! So much talent out there.

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Averie @ Averie Cooks May 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I had to bow out of this trip at the last minute but would have LOVED to have been standing in the salad field with you. Or, okay, savoring some spa time at the resort. Thank for the awesome pics!

And I happen to have a TON of blue cheese on hand from something else I was working on and this dressing is Perfect!

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heidi May 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I would have spa’d right there with you! Next time I hope you’ll make it!

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patti May 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm

So happy to see that Dole takes such care to put delicious fresh products in our kitchens. I loved your post and photos of the process, and thanks for sharing such a great variety of tasty salads.

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Emily May 29, 2013 at 9:58 pm

This is my dad’s favorite salad. Totally going to make it for him!

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Stephie @ Eat Your Heart Out May 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm

This wedge salad is gawwgeous! But that trip…oh my goodness! Greener than that lettuce with envy. What a wonderful experience!

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Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen May 30, 2013 at 3:33 am

Loving all these fresh salads!

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nessa May 30, 2013 at 5:33 am

This looks gooooood.

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Liz @ The Lemon Bowl May 30, 2013 at 5:41 am

Gorgeous photos – love the video!!! It was so great to finally meet you in person Heidi. I can’t wait for our paths to cross again. :)

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heidi May 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Me too Liz! You’re really such an inspiration and so on top of things!

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Sommer @ ASpicyPerspective May 30, 2013 at 6:10 am

Delicious-looking salad!

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Bev @ Bev Cooks May 30, 2013 at 7:30 am

That salad makes me shiver.

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Deborah May 30, 2013 at 8:04 am

Now I’m going to be craving that salad all day long!!

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Brian @ A Thought For Food May 30, 2013 at 8:08 am

Loved seeing my favorite ladies altogether again. Looks like a wonderful trip!

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heidi May 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Only thing that would have been better would have been some of your wit to join us :)

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Kristen May 30, 2013 at 9:12 am

Oh how I love wedge salads.
Wasn’t that trip to the iceburg lettuce fields the most eye opening experience? So cool!
Great video!!

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heidi May 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Loved the trip and being able to show the process in video form was fun. I made it with Videolicious and it is so easy to do!

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ashley - baker by nature May 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

Wedge salads will always have a special place in my heart – and your version, of course, is just breathtaking!

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Jen @ Savory Simple May 30, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I’m headed to Carmel Valley Ranch on Sunday for a different event and you have me SO EXCITED. It looks amazing!! I’m glad you had fun and this salad looks awesome.

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heidi May 30, 2013 at 10:34 pm

You are going to LOVE Carmel Valley Ranch. Have a blast and I’ll look for you on Instagram!

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Gerry @ Foodness Gracious May 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

This looks like an awesome trip, I love the area along that coast it’s so beautiful! One thing made me sad though….no male contingency, real men eat salads too! ;)

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Lisa {AuthenticSuburbanGourmet} May 30, 2013 at 9:46 pm

So great to meet you Heidi! It was a fun trip and I loved your post. :-) Your wedge salad just pops off the screen and wish I had it right now – one of my favs! ( Loved the salad feature from all of the bloggers – thanks!!! )

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Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking June 1, 2013 at 7:05 am

Asparagus? Really? Who knew! I never would have guessed that. I was following your trip on Instagram and as per usual, loved every picture! This salad! Those flecks of perfect cracked black pepper! Amazing!

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Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious June 1, 2013 at 11:11 am

Love the recap! And what an awesome video. I can’t believe you shot all of that on the trip!

And this wedge salad – YES! I’m not much of a blue cheese person but I’d very much like to try this. I don’t think I’ve ever made a wedge salad before!

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Chris Mayhew June 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Beautiful blog, Heidi! And all of the salads you shared look SOOOO inspiring – I’m going to go through and try every single one of them!

Chris M at Dole

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Bathtub Refinishing June 25, 2013 at 3:21 am

Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I loved this article. It was helpful.
Keep on posting!

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heidi June 26, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Thank you and so glad you liked it!

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