I remember salads growing up consisting of mainly iceberg lettuce, cut up carrots and celery. Store bought salad dressing. Nothing fancy or exotic. But salads nowadays are just wonderful. Not only vegetables from all over the world, but fruits, nuts, grains and herbs. And salad dressings using various oils, seasoned vinegars…fresh and flavourful. This spinach salad, adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, Jerusalem, is all of the above combined. Never in my youth would I have thought of putting almonds and dried fruit in a salad. And pungent red onion and chili pepper flakes to boost up the taste buds a notch.
Besides baby spinach, the main ingredients are red onion, dried medjool dates (they are the most delicious dates), almonds, some salt, chile pepper flakes and sumac. I omitted the pita pieces from the original recipe.Sumac is a deep burgundy spice ground from the dried berries of the sumac bush. It has a sour lemon taste but you can substitute lemon zest with a touch of salt. But you will definitely miss the exotic colour and unique flavour in your dish. Sumac is a common ingredient in the za’atar spice blend which you can find among my earlier posts.The red onion is sliced and the dates are pitted and quartered lengthwise. These are marinated in a bowl with some white vinegar for 20 minutes. This technique firms them up and makes them slightly ‘pickled’. Drain the vinegar and reserve the onion and dates.Roughly chop the almonds and fry in butter/olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the sumac, chile flakes and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Turn off the heat and cool.When you are ready to assemble the salad, place the baby spinach leaves in a bowl, add the spiced almonds, the red onion and dates. Add additional olive oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt, if required. Fresh and exotic. And a delicious salad for many a main course. I have served this with tagines, kabobs and most middle eastern style dinners . Enjoy!
Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds (adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 7 pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 tablespoons olive oil (or use 3 tablespoons olive oil and omit the butter altogether)
- additional 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 package baby spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain away any residual vinegar.
- Meanwhile, heat the 3 tablespoons butter/olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the almonds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring all of the time until the almonds start to brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool.
- When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves seasoned almonds in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.