Spinach has had a reputation for healthfulness since the 12th century. Eating it raw or slightly wilted in a salad highlights its light texture and mildly bitter, astringent flavor. Salads featuring tender baby leaves or more robust full-grown ones complement just about any meal, especially when dressed to perfection. When combined with eggs, chicken, beans, steak or tuna, a spinach salad can be a complete meal in itself.
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Creamy dressings usually go well with heavy salad ingredients. A hearty salad made with chopped egg, bacon and tannic curly spinach pairs well with a creamy blue cheese dressing or a classic ranch. For a lighter yet still creamy dressing, blend plain yogurt with lemon juice, minced garlic and honey to top baby spinach leaves tossed with red bell pepper strips, roasted chicken and grapefruit segments.
Warm and Savory
A bacon dressing that combines bacon, shallots, malt vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar and herbs was originally tossed with dandelion greens to mellow out their bitter flavor. This dressing, borrowed from German potato salad, offers a rich foil to acidic full-grown curly or flat leaf spinach leaves, too. Use it to make a hearty salad to serve with roast meats. Or brown onions in olive oil and mix with sherry wine vinegar and feta cheese, the pour the dressing over full-grown spinach to wilt the leaves slightly.
Sweet and Citrus-y
Baby spinach leaves serve as a base for sweet and savory combinations, such as strawberries and feta cheese or apples and spiced walnuts. Dress these with a poppyseed dressing or with a slightly sweet dressing made with maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. A citrus vinaigrette complements spinach tossed with chopped pineapple, blueberries and sliced almonds or leaves mixed with mandarin oranges, walnuts and shrimp.
Create an Asian-inspired salad with a dressing of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, orange juice and ginger. Toss it with spinach leaves, slivers of carrot, cashews, crispy wontons and chicken breast slices. For an Italian twist, make a pesto-inspired dressing by pureeing roasted almonds, fresh basil leaves, parsley, garlic and Asiago cheese with light rice wine vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil. Sauteed mushrooms, shaved Parmesan cheese and baby spinach leaves need just lemon juice and olive oil as a dressing. Because of its mild flavor, spinach can even tolerate heady flavors found in an Indian curry-style dressing featuring cumin, garlic, lemon and olive oil. Sweet dried apricots and roasted almonds round out the flavors.