This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we last week began our journey of cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi, we are all about Loving the Leaf! There is certainly no shortage of inspiration in any of Ottolenghi's books for turning out dishes of leafy green goodness, but with his latest book Jerusalem: A Cookbook being the most recent addition to my collection that was where I turned first. With so many great choices here (Raw Artichoke & Herb Salad; Kohlrabi Salad with Watercress & Mint; Swiss Chard Fritters; Swiss Chard with Tahini, Yoghurt & Buttered Pine Nuts; Split Wheat & Swiss Chard with Pomegranate Molasses; Watercress & Chickpea Soup with Rose Water & Ras el Hanout), and that was just in the first half of the book, I needed to look no further. I would happily devour any one of those dishes, but it was this recipe for a salad of baby spinach leaves tossed with dates, almonds, and crispy croutons that really took my fancy. Spinach is without doubt my favourite leafy green, and any kind of spinach salad is a favourite meal for me on just about any occasion - combine that with sweet, sticky dates, crunchy nuts and croutons, a little bit of lemony tang from a touch of sumac, and a little kick of heat from chilli flakes, and I am in leafy, salady heaven.
This salad delivered on all fronts - texture, taste (just the right amount of that sweet, salty, sour going on), and leafy goodness. I made a couple of small changes - I subbed in fennel in place of red onion, which I'm not particularly fond of raw in salads, and I replaced pita bread croutons with sourdough, because that's what I had on hand. I also adjusted quantities to make a delicious lunch for one person. This certainly won't be the last time that this salad graces my lunch table.
Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Makes a generous meal for one person, or a side for two
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
1/2 a large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
(a mandolin is ideal for this if you have one)
3x Medjool dates, cut into quarters, lengthwise (stones discarded)
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
knob of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for dressing
thick slice sourdough bread, cut into cubes
small handful raw almonds, very roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sumac
chilli flakes to taste
2x large handfuls baby spinach leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
flaky sea salt
Put fennel and dates into a small bowl, add the vinegar and a small pinch of salt, toss well and set aside for about 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the oil and butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and almonds to the pan and cook until they are crisp and golden brown - stir regularly. Remove pan from the heat; add the sumac, chilli flakes and another small pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside to cool.
Toss the spinach leaves with toasted bread and almonds. Add the dates and fennel, lemon juice, a generous drizzle of olive oil and another pinch of salt. Taste to check seasoning, and when it is balanced to your taste, serve immediately.
If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
... or check out Jerusalem and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.
I will also be sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, and at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.