One of my problems with spinach salads is the raw spinach. No, seriously. I actually love spinach and feel very virtuous when I’m eating it because it’s so packed with iron and vitamins. But raw leafy spinach is daunting. With the exception of baby spinach, I find it too bulky, too much work for not enough flavor. So I tend to avoid spinach salads.
Until I hit on an idea, which of course is not original to me, but what in cooking is truly original? I could wilt the spinach somewhat to make it easier to eat and tastier, which would enable me to eat more spinach salad. Brilliant! This salad calls for a spinach that is barely wilted, just enough to reduce the bulk of it without thoroughly cooking it as you would for, say, a creamed spinach.
I’m actually going to present three versions of my favorite spinach salad, which just goes to show how versatile this recipe is. Feel free to substitute to your heart’s content to create your favorite spinach salad. You could even omit the spinach from the spinach salad altogether, and substitute arugula, chard or bok choy. Go crazy.
Wilted Spinach Salad: Three Versions
The first step for all three salads is the same: wilt the spinach. Figure on ½ pound raw spinach per person. Wash the spinach well to get rid of the grit. Chop off the stems and chop the leaves into smaller pieces. Heat a small amount of olive oil (or whatever oil you plan to use in the dressing) in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the spinach with the water clinging to the leaves and toss with tongs until the spinach is wilted and has reduced to about half its original bulk. Remove and let cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Then toss the wilted spinach with 3-4 other ingredients (cheese, meat, raw vegetables, nuts, fruit) and enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the spinach leaves. The following are three different ideas for the salad. Although no specific amounts are given, the other ingredients are meant to be garnishes to the spinach. Figure on a small handful of each addition per person. The dressing amounts will serve 4 — adjust accordingly.
- Spinach Salad for Summer: Toss the spinach with toasted pine nuts, chopped tomato, chopped hard-boiled egg and enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. For the dressing, whisk together 3 tbsp. oil, 1 tbsp. cider vinegar, 1 tsp. mustard, 1 clove minced garlic, salt, pepper and a few dashes of Tabasco.
- Spinach Salad for Winter: Toss the spinach with sliced mushrooms, diced red onions, crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts and enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. For the dressing, whisk together 3 tbsp. walnut oil, 1½ tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 tsp. mustard and 1 clove minced garlic.
- Entree Spinach Salad: Toss the spinach with broiled or roasted chicken cubes, grated Parmesan or another hard cheese, croutons*, cherry tomatoes and enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. For the dressing, whisk together 3 tbsp. oil, 2 tbsp. champagne vinegar, 1 tsp. mustard and 1 clove minced garlic.
Notes: Homemade croutons are essential for a salad like this. Find out how to make croutons.
Want to make your wilted spinach salad with bacon? Of course you do. Here’s a recipe.