Spinach, Almond, & Date Salad
I’m in Vancouver this weekend, being hella Canadian with my mom. It’s my first time on the west coast of Canada - a reconnaissance tour of sorts to see if I could imagine myself living & studying business here. I thought I’d post another recipe from last month’s supper while I’m away - it was actually my favorite recipe of the evening; a perfect antidote to fall’s overload of heavy creamed dishes and endless squash.
I should mention: I hate(d) dates. Once, as a teenager, prowling the cupboards for something - anything - to snack on - I came upon a sad plastic container of dates. With nothing else to choose from, I ate one. It was gross - mealy, too sweet & cloying, with a sticky dryness that clung to my throat. For some reason, I ate another. As soon as I put it in my mouth, I felt my body viscerally rebel and spat the half-chewed date onto the floor, a wet brown lump which sat abandoned while I rinsed my mouth over and over. For months, I’d open the cupboard, see the sad dates, and feel a wave of nausea.
I’ve gotten over it, for the most part. I still don’t like them, but they no longer make my palms sweat and my stomach spin. This salad - which rehydrates them and tempers their saccharine toothsomeness with vinegar, fresh spinach, and spice, makes them downright delicious. It’s one of the better salads I’ve ever made, and comes together with basic pantry ingredients.
For the salad:
Chop 1/2 c dates (Medjool, preferrably) and combine with a very finely sliced small red onion (or two shallots) in a small bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and 2 tbs white wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar and no one complained). Let dates sit and get plump for a bit.
Heat a chunk of butter and a swirl of good olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Toss in three pitas that you’ve torn into bite sized carby morsels as well as 1/2 c roughly chopped almonds. Give ‘em a good roasty toast, stirring often. When they’re nice and golden and crispy remove from the heat and stir in a large pinch of hot pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and 1 tbs sumac. If you don’t have sumac, that’s ok. You can skip it or you can try to approximate its tart flavor and deep color by using some lemon zest, black pepper, and paprika.
Let pita & almonds cool and toss with a big bowl full of baby spinach and the date/onion mixture. You can dress it yourself with a good squeeze of lemon juice and some olive oil or you can provide each guest with a wedge of lemon and pass around the olive oil as I did (always a fan of diner participation).
Enjoy, as I did and surely will in the future.