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
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.