Salads that Scream Olé

DOLE spinach & flaming strawberry sangria salad

Life of a Spanish Party… 

“Salad cannot be the life of a party,” a friend said to me recently. As an inveterate salad lover, this gave me pause for thought. “Well, why can’t salad be the life of a party,” I said to myself, then to my friend. And I took it upon myself to prove that, indeed, salad CAN be the life of the party!

Salad traditionally has some tough competition for center stage: savory appetizers, mouthwatering meats and luscious desserts all vying for attention. For a salad to be a contender for stardom it would have to rock the stage. What could be better, I got to thinking, than a little pyromania? Aha! I knew I was on to something. Let me explain.

Fire Fiasco

I have experience lighting things on fire… even if it was my childhood friend (sorry Pam). I didn’t understand that gasoline in a can plus playing with matches while burning trash equals somebody’s getting burned, and the other somebody getting grounded. Fortunately, Pam didn’t get hurt, because she knew to roll in the dirt and NOT because I tried to put the fire out on her leg by beating her with a plastic trash can. Oh the lessons we learn! Fast forward several decades…

Dole Salad House Party logo

The Challenge

I was sent a DOLE Salads‘ Taste of Spain House Party VIP party pack to create a salad party with a Spanish theme. It included lettuce coupons, a tapas tray from La Tienda, recipes and more. The idea was to present a party with all the (Dole) fixings so that guests could create their own salads. My inter goal was to create the best, to show my salad-doubting friend what role salad could REALLY play.

I channeled my inner Martha Stewart to create a festive atmosphere with ingredients that would have my amigos screaming ole!

Stunning “Saladery”

I choose to use DOLE’s Baby Spinach, Chopped Romaine, Shredded Lettuce, Butter Bliss and Mediterranean Blend as base ingredients.


To dress the greens, I chose a range of my favorite homemade dressings.

Spicy – Spiced Balsamic Dressing
Savory – Walnut Dressing
Tart – Meyer Lemon Vanilla Dressing from Shockingly Delicious
Sweet – Sangria Dressing (recipe below)

To accessorize the salad, guests choose from savory or sweet.

DOLE salad party cathy nelson arkle

Savory: Spanish olives, marcona almonds, manchego cheese, cucumbers, red onions, micro-greens, and tomatoes

Sweet: Sangria candied almonds, fresh Dole strawberries and blueberries

There was no siesta with these salads fixings!

DOLE salad party

Partygoers eagerly jumped in. Rona, the fitness guru chose something fruity and healthy.

DOLE salad party cathy nelson arkle

Tom, the typical male, made a non-girly salad (void of fruit).

Everyone’s masterpiece looked pretty impressive.  I had to up my game. Which is where the pyrotechnics came in.

cathy nelson arkle she paused 4 thought

I hollowed out a strawberry and filled it with 100-proof vodka.

DOLE salad party

Sex in the City doesn’t hold a flame to Spanish in Studio City.

The effect was impressive, if I may say so myself!  That little flame shown!
I rounded out our salad feast with savory Spanish appetizers.

Dole salad party cathy nelson arkle

Melon with Serrano Ham and Sherry Reduction
Gazpacho with Tomato Marinated Grilled Shrimp
Roasted Red Peppers with Garlic
Roasted Sweet Onions with Blue Cheese

I made Rona’s rendition Spanish Meatballs, except I did a delicious combination of beef and lamb. Her lighter version uses ground turkey.

Spanish Meatballs - olives

These Rosemary-Lemon Spanish Olives were also a hit.

Dole-Taste of Spain-party-food

We finished with a Spanish cheese plate garnished with Fig Jam, Visi’s Mini Potato Tortillas and  Fresh Pineapple & Spicy Ginger Sorbet served in Spanish Cava and/or Sparkling Chardonnay Grape Juice.  Fiesta, Fiesta, it was a fiesta!


Spinach and Flaming Strawberry Sangria Salad


Serves 4.


  • 2 bags (6 ounce each) Dole baby spinach, de-stemmed, and sliced into strips
  • 2 cups strawberries, trimmed and sliced lengthwise
  • 6 ounces Manchego cheese, shaved
  • 1 cup Sangria candied almonds (recipe below)
  • 1 cup Sangria dressing (recipe below)

Sangria Candied Almonds

Dole Spanish salad party


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup Sangria
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • Pinch salt


  1. Mix sugar, butter, sangria and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue heating until mixture reaches soft-ball stage, about 250°F. It will take approximately 8-11 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Pour over almonds and cool on a non-stick surface. When cool, break into pieces and store in an airtight container. Keeps up to one week.

Sangria Dressing


  • 4  tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 4  tablespoons Sangria (can substitute orange juice)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2  tablespoons shallots
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut oil (walnut oil can be substituted)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Whisk the vinegar, Sangria, honey and shallots together in a small bowl.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the olive and hazelnut oil, whisking constantly until fully incorporated, and continue to whisk for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Dressing will emulsify as you add the oil.
  3. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Flaming Strawberry


  • 4-6 Dole Strawberries
  • 100-proof vodka at room temperature (use Bacardi 151 for fail-proof results, and only if you don’t have a fire disaster history).

Directions for the strawberries:

  1. Wash and hull the strawberries carefully being careful not to pierce the side of the strawberry, or the liquor will leak out and the whole salad can catch on fire. (Having a fire extinguisher on hand is always a wise move.)
  2. Dry the inside of the strawberry with a paper towel.
  3. Nestle one strawberry in the middle of each salad. Fill strawberries with liquor just before lighting. Use a grill lighter in lieu of matches to flame the strawberry.
The Fine Print: Do not eat the flaming strawberry… seriously. Let the strawberry completely cool before drinking liquor.
Have a fire extinguisher near by. Do not try to extinguish flame with water or a plastic trash can (see paragraph 3).
Flame will naturally extinguish after a minute or two.

Salad Assembly:

Arrange cut strawberries around the outside rim of a plate. Pile cut spinach in center of plate. Sprinkle with candied nuts and cheese. Place hulled strawberry in middle of spinach. Pour vodka into strawberry. Light vodka with grill lighter. Serve immediately.


Everybody got into the spirit of the party.


Nan showed us other uses for a salad bowl and Visi flamingo danced with the Dole supplied apron. Ole!

Every guest left the party with a Dole gift bag, recipes, and game cards for a chance win a $40,000 Trip to Spain.
cathy nelson arkle DOLE party

Even the sunset seemed to stay on theme. It was a spectacular ending to a hot Spanish night. Who knew salad could have everyone screaming olé.
…and then, she paused for thought

24 thoughts on “Salads that Scream Olé

  1. nusrat2010

    That was one spectacular, steamy, sexy Spanish Night ! Thanks for sharing the star studded pictures 🙂 All-smile guests seemed to have a great time out there 🙂

    And the Flaming Strawberry Sangria Salad looks outstanding ! Never seen before, unheard of combo of crunch, freshness, beauty and tons of oomph factors 🙂

    You rock, Cathy!

  2. Nan

    Ole” That was one absolutely prefect evening. Wonderful food, amazing presentation and very special people to share it with. Thank you! Really, is there anything you can’t do? 🙂

  3. Rona Lewis

    I had a blast at your fiesta! How could you not with the “3 F’s?” Food (on the table), Flowers (in our hair) and Flames (in the strawberry)!! Thank you for having me share in your feast! (Yup, another F)

  4. Heather

    I love it! It all looks so tasty. I am definitely going to try to make the salad (maybe minus the flaming strawberry because I would probably set my apartment on fire!)

    1. cathyarkle Post author

      Thanks Heather! I have set my kitchen on fire as well as my childhood friend, and somehow I continue my fascination with the flame. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Cheri Cameron Newell

    I have never set anyone else on fire… but have ignited my own self!!! Cath what a gorgeous spread and party!!! Everything looked so tasty!!! Glad I got to vicariously enjoy the moment!!!

  6. Paul piasko

    It doesn’t matter what you do..whatever you put your hands on, it comes up to be a masterpiece…I’m so proud of you..and obviously, I’ll try the salad the first chance I’ll have down here..!! love ya and miss ya sooo much!! Paul Piasko

  7. Christina

    Everything looked smashing, from the food to the fiesta decorations! Even Mother Nature bows to you and gave you that amazing coordinated sunset!! Incredible job, Cathy! Now I’m off to win a trip to Spain! 😉

  8. Pingback: Mini Spanish Potato Tortilla | She Paused for Thought

  9. Kim

    I’d say SPECTACULAR! But someone else already did. So instead, I’ll say, STUPENDOUS.

    My brother once waved a campfire marshmallow off a stick, complete with flames, right onto my cousin’s knee. Back then, the home remedy was to blow it out and apply toothpaste. To this day, I still think she has a scar. Oops.

    Ah, the lessons we learn.

    1. cathyarkle Post author

      I was just telling a friend that everyone has a fire story. If you are ever short of conversation ask people what their fire story is. It will provide entertainment for hours.

      WOW who knew how dangerous marshmallows could be! 🙂

  10. Pingback: 2013 Top Recipes | She Paused 4 Thought | She Paused for Thought

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *