Salad. What comes to mind when you read that word? Lettuce? Tomatoes? Onions? Maybe some chicken breast? Salad dressing? Wow…you’re mind has quite the imagination doesn’t it? To be fair, most people really only think about salads as it relates to their waistlines and in that case, boring is what it usually is. We’ve all heard the stories about the fat and calories in a restaurants’ Chinese Chicken Salad or how adding the shredded cheese, crumbled bacon and creamy salad dressing makes that bowl of lettuce have more calories than an In-n-Out double double monster style. But sometimes you just need a simple, straightforward salad to set your palate straight and to get your eating in check. But no one said it had to be boring or tasteless.
Spinach salads can be pretty boring too, I know. But with the big “green” kick that everyone seems to be on these days, spinach has become a very popular item. While spinach isn’t quite the blank slate that iceberg or romaine lettuces are, it is still pretty compatible with lots of flavors. Of course bacon is my favorite flavor pairing for spinach, but strawberries are my number two favorite. So I thought I’d share this strawberry spinach salad recipe with you. It’s healthy AND it tastes really good.
It’s very strange to me to call any salad (that’s a bowl of greens with some toppings on it) a recipe. Let’s face it…you throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl, pour a little dressing on it and shovel it in your pie hole (sorry, eat it). This strawberry spinach salad is no different. However, a couple of the things that go in it (pickled rhubarb) and on it (poppy seed dressing) do have recipes. So I guess it merits the recipe tag…but don’t panic, it’s easy stuff.
Like I said before, I don’t believe in boring salads so I’m always looking for things to add to them to make them taste better, look better and be even better for you without adding a lot of extra calories. So I started digging around and decided to toss some rhubarb into the mix. Don’t get your panties all in a knot, I realize that rhubarb is really tart and sometimes as hard as a rock. So to soften it up a bit, both literally and figuratively, I decided to pickle it. Not in a green dill kind of way, but a bit more subtle and flavorful way. When the pieces are mixed into the salad, it brings so much extra flavor to everything. Plus, while strawberries and spinach are a classic combo…so are strawberries and rhubarb.
To really mash things up a bit, and go a little crazy, I tossed in some green almonds for a little texture and even more flavor. What do you mean you’ve never heard of green almonds. See that picture above? That’s them. Okay until this year, I hadn’t heard of them either. I was strolling through this little Middle Eastern market, and there they were (not these, but some other one’s). I scooped some up, brought them home and did a little research. They are exactly what the name “green almonds” says they are. They are baby almonds, which are green (and on the soft side) before they ripen and turn hard.
They’re a popular snack and are used a little bit in cooking. I only found a few actual cooked dishes. They are mostly used as a slightly crunchy garnishment on things or as a snack. The first batch I got had already found the nut to be starting to harden and have the outer brownish skin. They didn’t taste like almonds at all. In fact, they were really bitter and I ended up tossing them out. Then I got a package from the Almond Board of California (because they found out I was looking for green almonds). These were perfect (or at least the kind of green almonds I was looking for perfect).
When I cut these open, I found the almond to be just formed. You can see from the salad picture that they are almost a bright white. The inside of the baby almond is kind of like the texture of a grape, but with a tangier grass-like flavor. Who needs crummy croutons to top a salad when you can top it with green almonds (lower calories and I think they taste better).
Green almonds are only available for about 8 weeks (May into June), so may still be able to find some. They’re definitely something to try.
Last but not least, how could you have a strawberry spinach salad without poppy seed dressing? I threw the strawberry part in there again to remind that this isn’t just a spinach salad, because if it were it would be topped with a hot bacon dressing.
This lemon poppy seed dressing is simple to make and easy to modify to your tastes. I prefer mine on the tart side but if you like it sweeter, add more sugar. With the exception of the poppy seeds, you probably already have all the ingredients you need to make the dressing.
So get moving on this salad. It really tastes as good as that picture looks. And it might just help you get back into those jeans you were wearing last summer and can’t even zip now.
Sometimes it’s a fine line between being sick and being “sick.”
Recipe: Strawberry Spinach Salad with Green Almonds and Poppy Seed Dressing
for Pickled Rhubarb
- 1 Large Rhubarb Stalk (peeled and cut into 1/4″ thick pieces)
- 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1/2 Cup Turbinado Sugar (raw sugar)
- 1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
- 3 Cardamom Pods (crushed)
for Poppy Seed Dressing
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 4 Tablespoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Poppy Seeds
for Strawberry Spinach Salad
- 4 Large Handfuls of Baby Spinach
- 8 Strawberries (hulled and sliced)
- 8 Green Almonds (opened and almonds split in half lengthwise)
for Pickled Rhubarb
- Set aside the rhubarb pieces.
- Add the remaining ingredients to a small saucepan.
- Bring liquid to a boil and stir until the sugar has melted.
- Remove from heat and add the rhubarb pieces.
- Let sit overnight.
for the Poppy Seed Dressing
- Add all ingredients, except for the poppy seeds into a small container or into a blender.
- Using a stick blender, blend the ingredients until everything is thoroughly combined. If you don’t have a stick blender, do this in the blender.
- Pour dressing into another container and stir in the poppy seeds.
for the Strawberry Spinach Salad
- Remove the rhubarb pieces from the pickling mixture and rinse them with cool water.
- Lightly pat them dry.
- Divide Spinach between two plates and top with strawberry slices.
- Top with sliced green almonds and rhubarb pieces.
- Serve with poppy seed dressing.
To cut open the green almonds simply take a sharp knife and cut into the almond along the crease. Then you can pop the almond halves out with the tip of the knife.
If green almonds aren’t available, you could always substitute with sliced or slivered almonds.
Remember that the recipe for this dressing is pretty tart. If you prefer a sweeter dressing, add more sugar.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)
Diet type: Vegan
Diet tags: Gluten free, Raw
Number of servings (yield): 2
Culinary tradition: USA (General)