Celebrate spring with fresh, leafy greens

It was a slow start but spring is finally here. The warmer weather has formed new growth in the ground as fresh vegetables sprout and tree buds open. Fresh, leafy greens like spinach are in season this time of the year.

Celebrate spring and new growth with this easy spinach and berry salad. Spinach is a versatile leafy green that can be eaten cooked or raw. Most of us know that spinach is a good source of iron but did you also know it contains fibre, calcium and folate? All of these nutrients are important for our health.

This recipe is adaptable, and any ingredients can be added or swapped in or out. The recipe is a go-to of mine for spring and for potlucks throughout the year. It is always a hit.

The key to a perfect salad dressing is a balance of acid, oil and flavour. A basic rule for salad dressings is to have 60% oil, 30% acid and 10% of other flavours, and some of them also have a sugar component for sweetness. This recipe gets the oil from vegetable oil (I prefer canola oil in this recipe), acid from the cider vinegar, and flavourings from the sugar, toasted sesame seeds and paprika.

Here are some ideas for mix and match salad dressings that can be easily made for any salad type.

Oil – 60%                             Olive oil, Canola oil, Grapeseed oil, Avocado oil, Sesame oil

Acid – 30%                          Cider vinegar, White or red wine vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, Lemon juice, Orange juice, Lime juice, Grapefruit juice

Flavour – 10%                    Dijon mustard, Sugar or honey for sweetness, Tahini, Jam, Herbs and spices (e.g. cilantro, basil), Soy sauce, Sesame seeds, Hemp seeds, Poppy seeds, Grated ginger

To see other vegetables in season this month, see Halton Region’s Vegetable Availability Guide.

Recipe of the month: Spinach and Berry Salad

This salad is great to make ahead for May long weekend barbeques or potlucks. Add theRachel'sKitchen_Spinach salad dressing just before serving.

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 pound spinach, rinsed and cut into small pieces, or one package of baby spinach
  • ½ cup (125 mL) dried, unsweetened cranberries
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sliced strawberries, or other fresh berry
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) crumbled goat cheese
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) almonds or walnuts or pecans
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) butter or margarine

Dressing

  • ½ (125 mL) cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) white or red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. (30 mL) toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) sugar
  • Pinch of paprika

Directions  

  1. Melt butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add nuts and lightly toast them. Be sure not to overcook them as nuts burn very quickly. Once cooled, set them aside.
  2. Wash the spinach and add to a large bowl. Slice strawberries and add to bowl.
  3. Crumble goat cheese and add to salad along with dried cranberries. Add toasted nuts.
  4. In same saucepan that was used for almonds, lightly toast sesame seeds for about one minute on low heat.
  5. While sesame seeds are cooling, start adding the ingredients together for the salad dressing. Add oil, vinegar and sugar to a medium bowl. Whisk together well. Add in poppy seeds and paprika. Once cooled, add the sesame seeds and whisk again.
  6. Toss with spinach just before serving.

Recipe adapted from www.recipes2all.com/salads/green-salad/jamie-olivers-spinach-and-cranberry-salad-recipe/.