Spinach salad with dates & almonds

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

Serves 4

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

salt

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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