I'll be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a movie-star, fashion, and TV tortoise. I just don't do well keeping up with stuff like that ................ but I'm thinking I might just be a step ahead of you in one area ................
............... we finished up our Christmas celebrating over the weekend, days before most of you. Each year we pick a time that we can all be together and make that our Christmas. We had a special celebratory dinner Friday evening and had fun opening gifts and enjoying a traditional holiday breakfast Saturday morning. Sunday it was a spectacular Christmas church service, a lunch out on the town and time just hanging out the rest of the day. Sunday evening we parted ways, the kids going on to celebrate with in-laws. Being a nurse, I had "drawn the straw" to work on Christmas Eve ................. hospitals just don't close and babies don't realize it's a holiday ........... when it's their time to be born .............. it just happens, regardless of the calendar.
So while you were celebrating the joyous holiday yesterday, I was in the kitchen tinkering, testing and tweaking some new recipes; new fresh, light and fabulously-full-of-flavor recipes. I don't know about you, but I've sort of had it with all the rich, heavy, high-caloric holiday food and just the thought of yummy fresh salads and lean entrees makes my tummy smile.
I was thrilled to receive a new cookbook for Christmas called Jerusalem. It's written by the proprietors of one of London's most famous and delicious cafés, Ottolenghi. Scott and I had the delightful pleasure of discovering Ottolenghi several years ago. Whenever we visit our daughter (in London), Ottolenghi is always on our must-do list. The array of fresh, fabulous entrées is gorgeously displayed and we find it impossibly difficult to choose just a few of their delectable delights. We take it "to-go" and ooh and aah over each bite in one of the nearby local parks.
I've been studying the book for the past few days and have bookmarked a ton of recipes to try. One that really stood out was the delicious looking Baby Spinach Salad w/ Dates & Almonds. I wanted it to be a bit more colorful and since I had some gorgeous oranges and a pomegranate, I added them to the lovely salad. The recipe calls for pan-toasting torn pita bread and almonds. I found it easier, with less tendency to burn, to toast this mixture in the oven. I also added a scoop of sesame seeds for more texture and fun visual appeal.
We loved this salad; it's sweet, savory and has a touch of mysterious spiciness. I'm sure I'll be fixing it again VERY soon! It's uniquely delicious with lots of fabulous flavor. You might need to visit your local Middle Eastern market in order to find the sumac, but it's well worth it. Sumac is a spice used extensively in the Middle East. It has a tart flavor, a bit like fresh lemon. Historically, it was used in the Middle East as a substitute when fresh lemons weren't available. You'll also find it wonderful on grilled chicken, pork or seafood. If you don't have a Middle Eastern market nearby you can also find this unique seasoning online here (with free shipping).
I served this salad with a sprinkle of applewood bacon (wonderful!) but it would also be great with any grilled or pan-seared beef, chicken, pork or seafood. Try it! I think you'll love it too!
Baby Spinach Salad W/ Dates, Almonds & Oranges
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 ½ ounces pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
2 large navel oranges, peel and sliced into ½-inch slices, each slice cut into quarters
pomegranate arils (seeds)*, optional
2 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ regular size pocketless pitas or naans, roughly torn in 1 inch size pieces
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sumac
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces baby spinach
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Put the vinegar, onion and dates in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and toss mixing well. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes then drain and discard any of the residual vinegar, set aside.
2. Pre-heat oven to 325˚F. Line a sheet pan with foil. Combine the butter and olive oil in a medium bowl. Add the pitas, almonds and sesame seeds and toss with your hands to coat well. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and crisp, stirring every 5 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with the sumac, red pepper flakes and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt, toss and set aside to cool.
4. When ready to serve, place the spinach in a large bowl. Add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat spinach leaves with dressing. Add the oranges, pomegranate seeds and prepared red onion/date mixture and toss again. Top with the pita/almond mixture. Serve immediately**.
* ~ For a super easy, no-mess way to remove the seeds from the pomegranate, check out this post.
** ~ If not serving salad immediately, place salad in a large bowl and other ingredients in small zippered bags. Toss together just before serving.