Saturday, March 17, 2012

Vegetarian Spinach Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Finished Salad Looks Like Mandala
Jae's Potluck Idea

Recipe by Jae and Robin

A few years back, I was completely socially inept. Not only was I unable to make conversation at parties, I was absolutely clueless about what kind of food to bring to these gatherings. So many foods seemed unacceptable: chips and salsa were brought by too many people already, anything with meat was a faux pas if a vegetarian accidentally ate it, shellfish was suspect by individuals who thought it might not be cooked sufficiently, beer was assumed to accompany something else, and the ramen and veggies that I largely subsisted on rapidly deteriorated in texture as the evening progressed.  Because I wanted to mingle with others, I asked my few girlfriends what to do.

Closeup of Spinach Salad with Eggs and Veggies
Variety in Tastes and Textures
My friend Jae, a more-or-less vegetarian, suggested bringing a spinach salad to potlucks. I had no idea that traditional spinach salads include bacon, nor did she clue me in. Her original ingredients were spinach, artichoke hearts (packaged), eggs, cherry tomatoes, and red onion. Jae was right that this was a potluck hit, especially at gatherings with emphasis on heavier foods. Spinach salad is always a good bet at Thanksgiving. I repurposed it this year for St. Paddy’s Day, since slumgullion (meat), colcannon (potatoes), and tipsy parson (exotic dessert) were already on the menu. And spinach is GREEN, after all.

String Beans in Steamer
Break String Beans into Pieces before Steaming
Throughout the years I’ve added multicolored bell peppers and steamed green beans to the mix. Usually I stick with Jae’s cherry tomatoes, but the only cherry tomatoes available at this time of year are imported. The local hothouse tomatoes look better and fit better with my locavore aspirations. Vegetable quantities are flexible, and feel free to add or subtract veggies. Sometimes I add some carrot curls, but decided orange wasn’t apropos of St. Paddy. The challenge of this salad is that heavy vegetables tend to weight down the spinach, so cut pieces of other veggies small.

Jae’s original recipe included a bottled dressing, and often I bring along a bottle of Paul Newman’s Light Balsamic. For today’s feast, I’ve made a simple Dijon vinaigrette. You can experiment with different sorts of dressings.

Be sure to plan this salad with enough time to cook and cool the eggs, artichokes, and string beans. Baby spinach saves a lot of preparation time, but you can substitute a large bunch of fresh spinach, making sure to allow time to remove the stems and wash it thoroughly.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 

Spinach Salad
Colorful and Healthful
Vegetarian Spinach Salad
serves 8 - 9

5 eggs
1 pkg. frozen artichoke hearts
7 oz. string beans
½  small red onion, 1.5 oz. or less
1 medium yellow bell pepper
3 - 4 small tomatoes
10 oz. baby spinach leaves

Wash and dry spinach using a salad spinner. It’s best if leaves are thoroughly dry for this salad.

Hard-cook the eggs and cool. Cook frozen artichokes according to instructions on box (usually microwave for about 5 minutes with stirring) and cool. Break string beans into 1-inch pieces. Partially cook by steaming for 4 minutes, then immersing in cold water to stop cooking. Drain, cool, and dry. Chill eggs, artichokes, and string beans in refrigerator.

Slice red onion very thin. Julienne the bell peppers into 1-inch pieces. Slice artichoke hearts in quarters if they’re not pre-sliced. Slice tomatoes into small wedges. Slice eggs into 4 – 6 slices each.

Add spinach to salad bowl and arrange veggies and eggs on top. If you’re using a glass bowl, you can make layers of various veggies.

Serve as is with dressing on the side, or toss first and add HALF of the dressing, serving the remainder on the side. There will probably be leftover dressing, which can be used on any green salad.

Bottle of Homemade Dressing with Salad in Background
Dressing on the Side
Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing
makes 1 cup

6 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 ½ tsp. sugar
4 tsp. smooth dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ cup water
¼ cup good olive oil

Whisk together red wine vinegar and sugar till dissolved. Add lemon juice and dijon mustard, whisking until smooth. Stir in salt, pepper, and water. Beat in oil. Decant into cruet and serve with salad. Or dress the spinach salad with one half of dressing and serve the rest on the side.

No comments:

Post a Comment