{Recipe: Warm Spinach and Broccoli Salad}

Some nights, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to make for dinner. I poke my head in the fridge and pull out random ingredients and then I get to work.  Typically, I steer clear of heavier dishes and, instead, work on a hearty salad.  Sometimes it’s roasted sweet potato, a hard boiled egg, and some blanched green beans.  Other times, however, I go even lighter.  Mixed greens, tomatoes, some cucumber slices, a drizzle of oil and a spritz of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Whatever you throw into your salad, be sure to season it properly.  There’s nothing worse than a flavorless salad.  This means salt.  Yes, salt is a must! And acid (lemon juice, vinegar)!  And herbs! Oh, fresh herbs can make a huge difference.  Lastly, if you have good olive oil, this is the time to use it.  A little goes a long way but it can turn that boring lettuce leaf into a piece of heaven.

I’ve been playing around with textures recently.  When it comes to vegetarian dishes, especially salad, the whole thing can feel a little flat.  To fix this, I’ve resorted to cooking some of my salad toppings to spruce it up a bit.  Like shaved broccoli (typically cut finer than displayed here).  Crisp that in a skillet, season with a dash of salt and a little smoked paprika, and you’ll get a little crunch in there (I know it’s not a substitute, but that smokiness gives it a bacon-like flavor).

And nuts.  I can’t get enough of them.  Toasted pine nuts, almonds, pecans.  They add depth to the texture and flavor profile of a salad.  For this particular recipe, I used pecans, as the subtle sweetness balances nicely with the acid from the tomatoes and the earthiness of the broccoli.

I could go on and on about different salad recipes and I’m sure I’ll feature more of them in the coming months.  For now, I hope you enjoy this one.

Warm Spinach and Broccoli Salad // Vegetarian, Gluten Free

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as an entree


2 cups spinach, rinsed and dried

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, left whole or cut in half

1 head broccoli, florets cut thinly with a knife

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Kosher salt

Black pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


1. Transfer the spinach and grape tomatoes to a serving bowl.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high in a large skillet until just about to smoke.  Add broccoli florets and season with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and 1 tsp of smoked paprika.  Let the broccoli brown for 1-2 minutes and then stir to brown the other sides, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.  Make sure the broccoli does not burn.

3. Pour the broccoli over the spinach and toss to combine.

4. Crumble the pecans in the same pan you cooked the broccoli in and set to medium heat.  Toast in the pan for 2-3 minutes, or until browned.  Toss over the salad.

5. Drizzle the salad with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, and then season with parsley and your preferred amount of salt and black pepper.  Serve immediately.

  • April 4, 2012 - 7:49 am

    Michelle Jaffee - Love everything about this recipe!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 8:24 am

    Bev Weidner - So, so, soooo gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 8:55 am

    chinmayie @ love food eat - Such a beautiful bowl of salad! So very well color coordinated!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 8:59 am

    Maria - Love this salad and beautiful photos!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 10:05 am

    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. - This is absolutely fabulous! I have bookmarked this one!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 10:59 am

    Anita at Hungry Couple - Looks great and yes, nuts add so much to a salad…as does some fruit.ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 11:41 am

    Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic - I love warm salads but hardly ever add nuts – thanks for reminding me to try and change things up!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 11:49 am

    RavieNomNoms - This looks lovely! Gotta love veggie salads that are made different and uniqueReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 1:03 pm

    Kiri W. - Mmm, what a great combination! I’ve never had a warm broccoli salad, I’m intrigued!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 2:47 pm

    Jaclyn - absolutely gorgeous photos, Brian! to be honest, I am not the biggest fan of broccoli, but I do kind of like it roasted. I love spinach and tomatoes, so I’ll have to give broccoli another shot!

    also, totally random but you live in Boston, right? I’m moving there this fall for grad school! I do hope we get a chance to meet one another! :)ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 9:03 pm

    Kelsey - I love the sound of this salad, with all of the different textures and flavors. Yum!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 10:47 pm

    Jeanette - Love the smoked paprika in the broccoli and all the textures in your salad. I love some crunchiness in my salads too. Gorgeous photos!ReplyCancel

  • April 4, 2012 - 11:41 pm

    Lora @cakeduchess - I can’t get enough of different and healthy salads. This recipe is one I will make this weekend. The crunch from the pecans is a wonderful idea. A gorgeous spring salad:)ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2012 - 8:42 am

    Suzi - This looks fantastic. I eat salad everyday but I want to try adding the cooked broccoli, I love it when spinach wilts just a bit by tossing on something hot. Nice.ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2012 - 10:33 am

    chutneyandspice - what a fresh, colourful nutritious salad. I love the way you have cut the broccoli, what a great photo. And anything with nuts in it has my vote, I add them to everything – that and beans my other obsession. Yum.ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2012 - 10:57 am

    Charlie - Hi Brian:

    Great looking salad.

    When you said pour broccoli over spinach, did you mean oil and all?

    You didn’t mention using the stems. I always smooth out the stem, peel it and chop it and add with the florets. Some sweet!

    If you have the time you could roast the broccoli.
    Toss with some olive oil and salt to coat.
    Roast in 400 oven for 12 to 15 minutes.

    This is a must try salad for me.

    Thank you for sharing.


  • April 5, 2012 - 11:36 am

    Brian @ A Thought For Food - Charlie,

    Love the idea of roasting the broccoli as well! Will have to do that (with a sprinkle of smoked paprika of course).

    As for the broccoli in the recipe, yes, whatever oil may still be in the pan (I can’t imagine there’d be much) can go into the salad. But, again, I don’t think there will be much there.


  • April 5, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    naomi - I do the same thing-peer into my refrigerator, throw something together, but it NEVER looks like this. I’m jealous. :) This looks fantastic and so delicious.ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2012 - 2:45 pm

    Eva - Made this for lunch today and LOVED it!!! Great salad and I loved the smoked paprika! Will make this again and again!!!ReplyCancel

  • April 5, 2012 - 2:48 pm

    cooking rookie - Great recipe, amazing shots!ReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2012 - 5:04 am

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen - I’ve been mildly obsessed with broccoli for some time now and never get tired of having it for dinner!ReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2012 - 9:35 am

    Sommer@ASpicyPerspective - Completely stunning and oh so yummy! I think just about anyone would enjoy broccoli this way. :)ReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2012 - 9:44 am

    Joanne - There is NOTHING I hate more than a boring salad but this is anything but! Salads with fun mix-ins and components and textures are the best. I love the mix of nuts, cooked and raw veggies. And the photos are just stunning as per usual!ReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2012 - 9:52 am

    Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence - I’m liking this combination. I think I would personally work a little bacon in there somehow 😉

    PS. Congratulations on the Top 9!ReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2012 - 11:38 am

    Corina - I love nuts in a salad and like the idea of the smoked paprika with the broccoli too!ReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2012 - 1:11 pm

    Russell - I have all the things to make this!! I think I’m going to try this for lunch. Yum!ReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2012 - 6:01 pm

    foodwanderings - Sheesh where have I been missing everyone’s posts. This is such a healthy delicious salad. Do you want to make me some wen you are back in Boston?! :)ReplyCancel

  • April 6, 2012 - 7:52 pm

    Kankana - Well, currently I am breaking my head to come up with something for dinner! I think I am gonna try your salad. Just have to omit the spinach and use salad greens instead.ReplyCancel

  • April 8, 2012 - 12:31 pm

    Janet - Beautiful and Inspiring!ReplyCancel

  • April 9, 2012 - 9:36 am

    Rosie @ Sweetapolita - This is truly a gorgoeus creation, Brian. Believe it or not, I have a real love affair with salads–especially those with an element of warmth and different textures (maybe it’s how I balance out all of that cake I make & eat). I love the images in this post, particularly the first 2. Just stunning. Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend. xoReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2012 - 4:07 am

    Rosh - Excellent salad…quick and healthy! My hubby loves broccoli so must try :)ReplyCancel

  • April 10, 2012 - 6:20 pm

    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com - Drool-worthy!! I also LOVE roasting broc and hearty veggies.ReplyCancel

  • April 12, 2012 - 10:38 pm

    Kirsten - Made it tonight-delish! Didn’t have smoked paprika-used Hungarian and instead of the third T of oil I subbed in about an ounce of goat cheese.ReplyCancel

  • April 17, 2012 - 1:01 am

    Andrew Frishman - Mmn. . . I LOVES me some greenery.

    Verde ≠ VerdiReplyCancel

  • April 17, 2012 - 10:31 am

    Jillian in Italy - Delicious looking salad. I’ll be definitely trying it out in the coming days. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • April 30, 2012 - 5:26 pm

    Alysa (InspiredRD) - I do the same, usually for lunch. I pull out whatever looks good and throw it all together somehow. Sometimes in a salad, sometimes sauteed in coconut oil. This looks incredibly flavorful, I can’t wait to make it!ReplyCancel

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  • March 5, 2014 - 7:46 pm

    15 Healthy and Fresh Green Spinach Salads - […] Recipe & Photo credit to athoughtforfood.net […]ReplyCancel

  • March 14, 2014 - 4:11 am

    Easy & Healthy Green Recipes For St. Patrick's Day - […] Warm Spinach & Broccoli Salad […]ReplyCancel

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