On Saturday night, the sugar cured kitchen was abuzz with kneading, baking, tossing, and dressing up the makings of a perfect girls’ night dinner. Kate and her roommate whipped together two incredible and innovative pizzas (recipes forthcoming) and I was put in charge of the salad.
I haven’t shared many salad recipes on this blog, which runs counter to the fact that concocting big salads full of interesting ingredients is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen. Our special Saturday night dinner invited the opportunity to finally try my hand at a salad that had spoken to me from the moment I saw it touted on Lottie & Doof as “the best thing I made this year.” It hails from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, an incredible book full of Middle Eastern dishes that Kate has featured before on the blog. It combines baby spinach with dates, red onions, toasted almonds, homemade pita chips, and a simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil and results in a blissful marriage of flavors.
The pita chips, which are made by pan frying torn pieces of pita bread in butter and olive oil and then dusting the golden crunchy pieces with salt, red pepper, and za’atar, almost didn’t make it into the salad. They were so darn delicious on their own that we kept munching away at them straight from the pan as we [not so] patiently waited for the pizzas to cook. I had never thought to pan fry pita chips before, but I’ll definitely be adopting this technique when the need, or craving, for pita chips next arises. The dates and onions were soaked together in vinegar before being added to the salad, a step that both mellowed out the onions and made the dates even moister.
A little sweet, a little tangy, a little crunchy, and extremely unique—this salad is nothing short of brilliant, and yet another testament to the genius of Yotam Ottolenghi.
Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds
from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 1/2 oz/100g pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
2 tablespoons/30g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small pitas, roughly torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup/75g whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sumac (we used za’atar instead, which contains sumac)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (we used aleppo pepper)
5 ounces/150g baby spinach leaves
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 away any residual vinegar and discard.
Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pita and almonds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring all of the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool.
When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.