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This is a great recipe any time of year. It makes a meal with just the addition of a couple of slices of bread—and I have to say that I’m quite fond of our kalamata olive bread with this salad, echoing the olives in the salad. If you want to heat the whole loaf up (rather than just toasting individual pieces), put the unwrapped loaf in the oven at about 350 degrees for 15 minutes or so, and you’ll have a crusty crust and a hot, moist interior, even if the bread’s been thawed from the freezer.
So, about the salad—you can heat up the vinaigrette and toss the spinach in it right before serving, so the spinach is wilted just enough to soften the leaves a bit. This is great for spinach that is fairly robust. But if you have very tender little spinach leaves, you don’t need to heat the dressing—just use it cold, and it’ll wilt the leaves anyway. There are several ingredients that I feel are optional in this salad—it’s great even if you’re missing lots of them. Although this salad is fantastic if you have mint, it’s still great without it. I also generally omit the feta. I think that the salad is rich and crunchy enough without the pine nuts (because of the red peppers), although it’s very yummy with the nuts, as well. I’ve also made the salad without the red peppers—just with the red onions and olives, and it’s still tasty! The photo at right is of the salad with the mint, olives, and onions, and I used toasted almonds instead of pine nuts! So just go with whatever you have, and be fearless about buying large quantities of spinach!
I make a pretty large batch of this vinaigrette because I like to use it for a couple of meals, but if you think it’ll be too much, you can halve the recipe. The recipe is based on one from rebar modern food.
6 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
½ teaspoon cracked pepper
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a blender jar, combine all the ingredients except the oil. Puree until completely smooth. Slowly add the oil while the blender is running. Taste, and add salt, honey, and/or mustard to taste.
1 pound spinach leaves, washed and stemmed
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and julienned
½ red onion, halved and cut into very thin half-moon slices
¼ cup chopped mint (optional, but very nice if you have it)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted in a skillet (optional)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1. Put the sliced onions in a small bowl, and pour a cup or so of boiling water over them. Let them sit for about 30 seconds, then drain the water off. (This takes some of the spicy acid edge off the onions, but will still leave them crunchy and flavorful.)
2. Combine the spinach, olives, peppers, and onions in a large salad bowl.
3. Just before serving, if your spinach leaves are fairly thick and a little bit tough, heat ½ to ¾ cup of the dressing—as much as you think you’ll need—over medium heat in a small skillet. When it begins to simmer, remove from the heat and drizzle over the salad, then toss well to combine and wilt the spinach slightly. Heat and add more if you like it saucier. If your spinach is very tender, just use the dressing cold or at room temperature.
4. Gently mix in the fresh mint, and if you’re using the nuts and feta cheese, sprinkle them over the top. Serve immediately with slices of bread or toast, if you like.