I’ve been cooking regularly since I was 23 years old. And, at the risk of sounding old, I will tell you that was 18 years ago. Because my mom always made salad and therefore dinner to me means “accompanied by salad”, I have made a lot of salad in my life. I have a lot of salad recipes here on this blog. Not to toot my own horn, but I make a pretty darn good salad. Over the years, I have learned things that have added to my salad expertise – always make your own dressing (tastes better and no nasty chemicals), always salt your lettuce before you dress the salad (lettuce is a vegetable and it needs to be seasoned), sliced hearts of palm are an exceptional addition to any salad, etc. For the three years I was a personal chef, I made probably upwards of 100 different salads – I wanted to keep things interesting. Still, when left to my own devices, I make more or less the same salad night after night.
When I made the Vindaloo the other night, my regular salad just didn’t seem right. So I bought some spinach and decided I would just figure it out. That night’s dinner came, I pulled open the refrigerator and created something that I’m in love with. This is saying something because, previous to this creation, spinach salad was something I tolerated rather than embraced. When I make Mexican food, I make a spinach salad with thinly sliced red onion, mushrooms, avocado, and Mandarin orange segments (from a can) because Randy loves spinach salad and canned Mandarin orange segments. Me? Not so much.
But this. Oh my. Baby spinach, bean sprouts (nice and crunchy and a bit nutty), thinly sliced mushrooms, black olives, slow-roasted tomatoes, hard boiled egg. This salad could be a meal. A meal I would be happy to find in any of the restaurants where I dine on sub-par salads for lunch. Hearty, tasty, well-balanced. I give this to you not because it’s so innovative or will change your life. I give it to you because it’s good and good for you.
A few notes. Baby spinach is key here. The big stuff will be too tough. I like to tear the larger stems off but you don’t have to. The slow-roasted tomatoes are probably the most important part of the salad flavor-wise. Especially in winter when fresh tomatoes are tasteless red orbs. I’m suggesting you roast two pounds of them which is way more than you will need for the salad. You will put them in everything, trust me. I have an egg slicer, a seemingly silly tool, except that I use it all the time. I like being able to get super thin slices but you can, of course, just cut the egg in quarters. Hearts of palm are found on the canned vegetable aisle, usually right near the canned artichoke hearts. They can be expensive so if you live near a Trader Joe’s, buy them there. In addition to being less expensive, they often come in a jar instead of a can so you can easily store what you don’t use. Costco sometimes has them too. I often use these vegetable sprouts in my salads called Three Bean Munchies – they are nutty and crunchy. They are not alfalfa sprouts. Grocery stores around here carry them in little plastic packs and they feature Chinese red bean, pea, and lentil sprouts. You can always just use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds if you want some crunch (and protein). Finally, you might be surprised by my choice of canned black olives instead of the more flavorful kalamata. Sometimes I find their subtle flavor and firm texture really welcome in salad and I like that they didn’t compete with the tomatoes. But use what you like. That is more than a few notes. Have I mentioned I am a salad geek?
One Year Ago: Deluxe Double Chocolate Cookies
Two Years Ago: Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie
Three Years Ago: Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese
Spinach Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Champagne Vinaigrette
Dana Treat Original
When slow roasting tomatoes, I usually use Roma tomatoes but they are so disgusting right now, I can’t bring myself to buy them. I found some smaller round ones on the vine and those turned out well.
2 pounds tomatoes, cored and seeded
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 hearts of palm, thinly sliced
¼ cup bean sprouts
2 hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced or quartered
Small handful black olives, halved
4 white mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
7 ounces baby spinach
Champagne vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 250ºF. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the sugar, oregano, a teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Use your hands to mix. Put in the oven and roast for 1 hour. Take out and, using tongs, turn the tomatoes over. Put back in the oven to roast for another 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. (These tomatoes will keep up to a week in the refrigerator. Place a single layer of them in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, then lay down another layer, drizzle with more oil, and repeat.)
Place all the ingredients, including about 10 of the tomato halves (or more), in a large salad bowl. Top with the spinach. Sprinkle the spinach with a large pinch of salt. Drizzle on a bit of dressing – use a light hand to begin with – and toss gently. Add more dressing to taste.
This is my house dressing. I make a batch almost every week. Any leftover dressing will keep at least a week in the refrigerator.
1 small shallot, minced
2 tbsp. Champagne vinegar
1 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. honey
Large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. olive oil
Place shallot and vinegar into a wide mouth jar. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Then add the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Put the lid on the jar and give it a vigorous shake. Remove the lid and add the oil. Give another vigorous shake and taste for balance, adjusting as necessary.