Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Salad Days: Wilted Baby Spinach with Toasted Pine Nuts and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

In the winter, when root vegetables dominate, I try to make sure that we have salad as an entree at least once a week - there's something so refreshing about fresh greens breaking up the starchy monotony. In this spirit, I'm introducing a new series: salad days. Once a week, through the winter, I'll post a different salad recipe that is hearty and filling enough to serve as a main dish.

The first offering, warm spinach salad with pomegranate and pine nuts, is one I first came across about a year ago. After making it once, I was hooked. I made this salad several times last winter while pomegranates were in season, and I've been waiting all year for them to come back so I could make it again.

I found the recipe in The Armenian Table by Victoria Jenanyan Wise. I've tweaked it slightly. I use pomegranate juice instead of pomegranate molasses; I couldn't find the molasses and I think it would be too sweet for my taste, anyway. I love the sour tang of the juice. Also, Wise's recipe calls for walnuts, and I've made it that way, but once I substituted pine nuts, I could never go back - it just added so much more depth and contrast of flavor.

Wilted Baby Spinach Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
adapted from The Armenian Table: More than 165 Treasured Recipes That Bring Together Ancient Flavors and 21st-Century Style by Victoria Jenanyan Wise

8 cups baby spinach leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
seeds from one pomegranate

Rinse and spin dry spinach and place in salad bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until toasted, 2-3 minutes. When the smell becomes strong and the nuts start to turn golden, they are done. Turn the heat off, add the pomegranate juice and vinegar, and stir to mix. Add hot dressing to spinach and toss. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.

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