So, a handful of years ago, I worked out of my house full-time as a freelance writer and editor. When business was slow, I’d fill in behind the counter at Priscilla’s, a little catering/gourmet take-out joint owned by a friend of mine.
Priscilla’s was a ton of fun. And you know how I love food: It was like a second home in a lot of ways.
I learned how to crack an egg with one hand. I sold penny candy and baked dozens of those gigantic chocolate chip cookies. I helped make nine-million-and-one types of chicken salad. I fried egg sandwiches. It took me forever, but I learned how to slice roasted turkey breast by hand, so that it was so thin you could see through it.
Priscilla’s front had an old-timey, blue screen door with a good bang to it. We loved our regulars, even the crazy ones (especially the crazy ones). We cranked the music and danced around when the shop was empty. It was the kind of place that you loved even when the AC broke in the middle of August.
There wasn’t much I didn’t like about the time I spent there. Except the spinach.
It’s a little thing, I know. And it makes me sound just a little insane. I get that. But this spinach, it was like torture.
Whenever we were catering a big party, I always got stuck cleaning the spinach. And I don’t mean washing it. That was a breeze. I mean removing the thick, fibrous stemsâ€”from Each. Single. Leaf.
We’re talking about the monster bags of spinach, the kind that the food service companies deliver. I don’t know how much they weighed, but they were about 3 feet long by 1 foot thick.
Those bags were packed solid with spinach. Like, cubic feet of it. If you work at a restaurant, you know what I mean.
It took me hours to do the whole bag, I swear. And I’m only exaggerating a little. (Think I’m joking? Try it sometime. After about 45 minutes, you’ll be like, “I’m STILL doing this, and I’m not even through half the bag?”)
Anyways, after Priscilla’s, I vowed that I’d never clean spinach again. And I honestly don’t think I have. I always buy baby spinach at home. It costs a little more, but that doesn’t bother me a bit.
What is baby spinach?
Baby spinach is a variety of spinach with mild, tender leaves.
Raw baby spinach is really good for you. (In fact, cooking spinach can actually destroy some of its nutritional value.) It’s packed with fiber; antioxidents like beta carotene and lutein; vitamins A, B, and C; and minerals including calcium, potassium, and iron.
Simple & fresh
Spring’s just around the corner. Even if the local stuff isn’t available yet, I’m starting to crave leafy greens like a bunny.
Pretty much everyone I know makes some kind of a spinach salad. This is how I make mine.
It’s a really simple salad with a ton of flavor. It’s one of those things that I throw together often, because I almost always have the stuff on hand. It’s a classic example of how “just eating what’s in the fridge” can be delicious and downright good for you.
For this one, I used baby spinach, tomatoes, crumbled Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts, and a simple lemon and olive oil dressing. The tomatoes were pretty good (for winter tomatoes…)
It’s a great combination of flavors.
Fresh and green from the spinach. Earthy from the toasted walnuts. Tang from the blue cheese. A little bite from a squirt of fresh lemon juice, tempered by a drizzle of silky olive oil.
Other ideas for salad add-ins
- Sliced, grilled chicken or shrimp (to turn it into more of a main course or brunch-y meal)
- Crispy, crumbled bacon
- Toasted pine nuts
- Dried cranberries
- Sliced strawberries (would go great with a balsamic vinaigrette)
- Hard boiled eggs
You get the idea. Serve with a couple big hunks of crusty bread smeared with roasted garlic.
How to avoid soggy salad
Ever had a salad that was just a soggy mess (i.e. bad high school cafeteria style)?
You know the kind I mean. The greens are wet, and it’s swimming in dressing?
Most likely, the salad ingredients were rinsed, but not dried, before dressing.
Remember that adage about oil and water not mixing? It totally applies to salad. If your greens (or other salad ingredients) are still wet, any oil-based dressing isn’t going to stick to them.
So, always rinse fresh produce well to get rid of any surface grime and gunk. (This is especially important with bagged salad mixes, which have been found guilty of harboring bacteria in the past.)
Be sure to dry it just as well. Get a salad spinner. It’s a bulky, annoying thing to store in the kitchen, but it will save you tons of time and get your greens dry in a jiffy.
Most baby spinach comes in a bag and is labeleled “triple washed.” Despite this, I always wash mine just to be safe.
Simple Spinach Salad with Toasted Walnuts & Gorgonzola
Fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges
Walnut halves, toasted
Fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Prep the tomatoes
Remove the stems and whack them in half, then into quarters.
Sprinkle with toasted walnuts. (To toast the walnuts, put them in a dry pan over medium heat and shake them back and forth until warm and fragrant. Let them cool before you add them to the salad, or their heat can wilt your greens.)
And Gorgonzola crumbles. Drizzle with olive oil and a little lemon juice.
Sprinkle with a little salt if you think it needs it.