Sunday, June 9, 2013

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

Tender leaves of baby spinach, sweet chewy dates, thin slivers of red onion, crispy pita bread croutons with crunchy slivers of almonds kissed with the exotic blend of sumac and red chile flakes, all tossed together in a bright citrus dressing.  It all comes together to create a very delicious and rather unique salad.  

This is a salad for the senses.  Sweet, chewy, tender, crispy, crunchy, citrusy,  with mild onion flavor, and bright citrus notes.  It looks a bit exotic.  It tastes a bit exotic.  It feels indulgent and it is.  However, it's also perfectly healthy.  I encourage you to give it a try.

 A few words about dates.  I absolutely love them because they are so sweet and chewy.  In fact, they almost taste like candy to me.  I do have trouble sourcing them.  The only place I've ever found Medjool dates has been at Trader Joe's in the produce section.  The dates from Trader Joe's are nice and plump and lend themselves perfectly for stuffing, wrapping, or eating out of hand.  I buy them whenever I visit.  However, Trader Joe's is almost an hour away from my house and I can't always get there.  So, this time around, I thought I'd try the Sunmaid dates sold in the dried fruit section of my local supermarket.  To be honest, I wasn't expecting them to be anything wonderful.  Boy was I happily surprised.  Turns out the Sunmaid brand was every bit as tasty as the fresh dates from Trader Joe's.  The only difference was the size.  The Sunmaid brand were considerably smaller.  The smaller size is not necessarily ideal for stuffing, but they are perfectly suitable for this salad, any type of dessert, or even for eating out of hand.  I'd definitely recommend them in a pinch. 


Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds
Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Serves 4

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3-1/2 ounces/100 grams pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small pitas, about 3-1/2 ounces roughly torn into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
5 ounces baby spinach
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl.  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 the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat.  Add the pita and almonds and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown.  Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, chile flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Set aside to cool.

When you're ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a larger mixing bowl.  Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt.  Taste for seasoning an serve immediately.  

Theme: Something Sweet!

Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

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