Spinach Salad with Dates + Almonds

EAT YOUR GREENS

One of my favorite cookbooks of recent years is Plenty, a beautiful and hefty book that has flavorful and innovative recipes influenced by the author's native Israel. The recipes are grouped together in a really natural way - roots, leafy greens and onions each get their own chapters. The author, Yotom Ottolenghi, was born and raised in Jerusalem and now owns a number of well known restaurants and prepared food shops in London. His business partner, Sami Tamimi was also born in Jerusalem, but on the East side in a Palestinian community. They have collaborated for years cooking in London, and then released a cookbook, almost a follow up to Yotam's incredibly popular Plenty.  

Jerusalem is just as it sounds, recipes from their hometown but based on the number of rich cultures that inhabit this one City, and the various (and often common) food traditions of each. There are beautiful pictures throughout the book, stories of their childhoods and food memories, and simple, incredibly perfect recipes.  I've made a number of things from the book and am continually amazing by how all the flavors come together in the most balanced and bright way. This spinach salad is a perfect example; pretty brilliant in its simplicity.  It also happens to make the perfect fall salad.

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds
From Jerusalem, by Yotom Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Sumac is a beautiful, deep purple spice that has a tart, acidic flavor.  It's very common in Middle Eastern cooking, so if you like these books, it's worth picking some up.  In a pinch, you can use a bit more lemon juice and black pepper as a substitute, but I recommend getting your hands on some sumac if possible.  

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 1/2 ounces Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise & pitted
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (for frying)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small pitas, roughly torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 5 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt to taste

Put the vinegar, onion, dates & a pinch of salt in a bowl to sit for about 20 minutes.  Drain. This will macerate the onions a bit and give a nice tang to the dates.  Meanwhile wash your spinach well, spin dry, and place in a large bowl.  

Heat the butter in a large pan over medium heat until about to foam.  Toss in the almonds and pita pieces, coating well with the melted butter. Fry for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pita is golden brown and the nuts smell flavorful and have some color. Remove from heat and toss the sumac, red chili flake and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in the hot pan.  Stir to coat the nuts and pita well.

Add the nuts and pita to the bowl of spinach and toss well. Add the onions and dates to the large bowl of spinach, along with the olive oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt. Adjust for seasoning, adding more lemon juice, oil or salt as necessary.