Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds
Since coming back to the US (my parents’ house, more specifically), I’ve let someone else do the cooking. It’s not that I’ve lost my kitchen mojo completely, it’s just that my parents have it in spades.
My dad was, traditionally, the cook in the family. But since the last of their three children left home, my mother has had more time and energy, and less picky eaters. She peruses Tastespotting, reads cookbooks and bakes (this or this or this) two or three times a week.
Her favorite cookbook of late is Jerusalem, a collaboration between two Israelis, one Jewish and one Arab. The food reminds her of home, a pretty kibbutz in Israel’s Sharon Valley. It reminds her of Jerusalem, with its hole-in-the-wall shwarma restaurants, stalls selling towers of spice, its ancient peace.
When it comes to cooking, I’ve never been much of a cookbook person. I’ve always liked to go it alone, to try and experiment and learn as I go. But for some reason – for all the reasons – I don’t mind a little help right now. And Jerusalem is all I need. My mom’s been cooking from it for the weeks we’ve been back. And I’ve started to crave everything I’ve tried.
The food tastes familiar but new. Kind of like coming home after many years away.
Baby Spinach Salad with Dates, Almonds, Pita and Sumac
Recipe from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I’ll reproduce it as in the book, but I recommend adding a bit more baby spinach, as the flavors are strong and could be stretched a bit more. It could be, on a simple dinner kind of night, a dinner on its own. My mother serves it with the turkey burgers from the same book – and the combination is perfect. Oh, and don’t skimp on the sumac — it makes the dish. Serves 4.
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
100 grams (3.5 ounces, around 8) Medjool dates, pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small (Israeli) pitas (or 1 large), torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
5 ounces (or more) baby spinach
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Put the vinegar, onion and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hand then 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 skillet over medium heat. Add the pita pieces and almonds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pita is golden brown and crunchy. Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle the pita and almonds with the sumac, red pepper flakes and 1/4 tsp. salt. Set aside to cool.
When ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice and another pinch of salt.
Taste for seasoning. You may need a bit more olive oil, lemon juice or salt. Serve immediately.