A few weeks ago, we had some friends over for dinner to celebrate my husband’s birthday. My favorite part of having friends over for dinner – besides the great company – is planning the menu. Whether it’s nibbles or a sit down dinner, I love pulling together a handful of dishes that will serve as the backdrop to a great night. For this occasion, we promptly turned to Jerusalem, a cookbook that has been getting a lot of love in our kitchen since my husband bought it for me as a Christmas present. Very simply stated, it’s a collection of recipes from the various cuisines that meet in its eponymous city, and it has inspired many a meal that we’ve cooked in 2013, including my husband’s birthday dinner. One of our favorite recipes from the book is a spinach salad with dates, topped with spiced toasted pita bread and almonds – sweet, spicy and crunchy. And it went down well with our friends too – clean plates all around and a few requests for the recipe too. If you’re looking for a unique salad (and I’m always looking for them), then give this recipe a spin.
Spinach salad with dates and almonds
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 ½ oz Medjool dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
about 3 ½ oz pita bread (or 2 small pitas), roughly torn into 1 ½-inch pieces
½ cup whole unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
2 tsp sumac
½ tsp crushed red pepper
5 oz baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Put the vinegar, onion and dates in a small bow. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard.
- Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the torn pita and the chopped almonds and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove the pita from the heat and mix in the sumac, crushed red pepper and a pinch or two of salt.
- When you’re ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large 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.