Having just returned from the first day of the spring farmers market in Louisville, I went a little bit crazy. I didn’t go crazy at the farmers market though. I showed great restraint THERE and came home with only a head of green lettuce, two pounds of Kentucky bison stew meat, and a new ingredient – red spinach. As soon as I walked in the door of my apartment, I began scouring my cookbooks and the internet for a suitable recipe to honor this beautiful and new-to-me vegetable.
I couldn’t just turn it into a salad (too easy), or dump it into a cheesy spinach lasagna (would cover up the spinach too much), or even just steam it (too boring). I wanted something unique! Something different! Something delicious! Something that would bring out the natural flavor of the red spinach.
I stacked up my most promising, veggie-centric cookbooks and began searching for the best recipe. I couldn’t just use my imagination, I needed THE ONE RECIPE.
This is something I recognize about myself – my inherent need to follow a recipe. I’m working on this and often tweak recipes as I go, but still. It was a little ridiculous. I finally realized how crazy I was… trying to find the perfect recipe that wasn’t too simple. I took a breathe, sat back, and cracked open my newest cookbook and turned to the salad section.
Yes – the salad section. I need to get over my need to always whip up a new, complex-ish dish. What more perfect method of using red spinach exists except by showcasing it in a salad? Maybe with a homemade dressing (to up the complexity-factor a bit).
I had been eyeing Melissa Clark’s cookbook In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite for a while before buying it at a sad, going-out-of-business sale at Borders. This book is full of delectable-sounding recipes and I wanted to make most everything right away. Since buying it one and half weeks ago, I’ve already made 4 things with plans to make a 5th this week.
Most of the recipes are accompanied by essays, and I particularly enjoyed the one about salad. It was all about using more than just bagged salad and bottled dressing to create something equally easy and much more interesting and less expensive. Well, maybe not equally easy. You do have to wash the lettuce, and mix the dressing together. But really, it isn’t too difficult. One of the recipes included is for spinach dressed with a zippy mustard and garlic dressing. It sounded easy, and delicious. And made me excited to make the salad.
After filling my newly-cleaned sink with cold water, I washed the spinach in two changes of water. This allows all the dirt and sediment clinging to the spinach to fall to the bottom of the sink. I then dried it in my salad spinner – which has been a great, if a space-hogging, addition to my kitchen. I then used an almost empty jar of dijon mustard to mix up the dressing (a technique I learned from the Amateur Gourmet, who learned it from Dorie Greenspan). It’s a great, easy way to use up the last of the mustard in the jar, and to create a reusable salad dressing container.
To make a long story short, all of this fretting turned into a salad I craved. A salad I was excited to eat. I hope you’ll try it too.
And the red spinach? Well it was delicious. Sweeter than regular spinach and perfectly complimented by the tangy, garlicky dressing. Not a bad way to showcase a vegetable experiment, even I did rely on a recipe.
“Spinach and Avocado Salad with Garlic Mustard Vinaigrette” from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark
dressing makes at least 4 servings (will keep in an old mustard jar, or other container, in the refrigerator for a while – at least a few weeks)
2 garlic cloves
a pinch of kosher salt, more to taste
juice from one half of a lemon
1 t. dijon mustard (I used what was left in the jar)
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
about 6 cups spinach leaves (or other dark greens, like arugula) (enough for 2 to 4 salads)
1/2 avocado, cut into cubes
Using a heavy knife (or a mortar and pestle if you have one), mince the garlic together with a pinch of salt until a paste forms. Use the side of the knife to smear and mash the garlic once it is minced. Scrape the paste into the mustard jar (or a small bowl). Whisk in the lemon juice, mustard, and another pinch of salt. Screw the cap on the jar and shake until the salt is dissolved (or use a whisk). Then either whisk in the oil or add it to the jar and shake again.
Place the avocado and spinach in a large bowl, add the amount of dressing you want and toss. Add additional salt and lemon juice if needed.