Nutty Spinach Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette

by Sarah on June 4, 2012 · 11 comments

Over this past Reunions-filled weekend, my friend (and sorority little sister), Caroline, turned to me and said, “I could just really go for a big bowl of salad right now.”

Story of my life.

If you know me, you know that “salad” for me usually means a giant bowl full of whatever I can find in the fridge or pantry to throw on top, covered in hummus and dressing and sometimes stranger (to you) things like salsa or relish or ketchup. (Yes, ketchup.) But when I was tasked to write a post for Breathe Magazine’s blog today about summery salads, I knew I couldn’t get away with that. So I did what I always do when faced with a ‘what would I serve to guests’ challenge: I turned to my binder of family favorites, specifically the recipes of my hostess-with-the-mostest aunt Elizabeth.And right on top, in the section labeled “salads,” was a sign: the unnamed, known only as “that salad Aunt Elizabeth makes,” deliciousness that once, at a potluck where I served it, inspired a guest to proclaim, “I don’t even like salad, and I’m going back for seconds!”The original recipe calls for a base of spinach and shredded cabbage.As all great hostesses know, what shortcuts you take are between you and the four walls of your kitchen, so you can buy bags of baby spinach AND bags of shredded cabbage and save yourself time. [The original recipe, in fact, calls for that.] Since cabbage happened to be on sale, and lasts for years in the fridge,* I went ahead and shredded half of a head in my food processor.

*I am not a certified doctor. Do not trust me on this.All that’s left to do now is chop up somegreen onions…. …and sprinkle on some sliced or slivered almonds, sesame seeds, and the dry ramen noodles (sans seasoning packet) stereotypically favored by starving artists, twenty-something bachelors, and Brother Smart when he was 15 years old.

Except I forgot the ramen.

I did, however, have a number of green apples that had accumulated in my lunch bag throughout the week as, whenever I walked through the teacher’s lounge it seemed appropriate to take another one. [They were free. They were there. I obviously subconsciously knew I would need them later.] Since I was already changing things up from the original, I decided I might as well just keep on Smart Kitchen-izing the traditional. Once I had photographed the standard salad and dressing, I added the aforementioned apples, and got to work on a NEW dressing.Instead of adding canola oil to the combination of vinegar, pepper, sugar, and seasoned salt…

Aunt Elizabeth would use Lawry's. Penzey's was found in my moving boxes first.

…I took a hint from the sesame seeds in the salad and added tahini (and tahini oil) instead!Now the salad was good before. But this Salty Sweet Tahini Vinaigrette concoction? Well that is the stuff of tastebud tantalizing dreams, I tell you!Before serving—and Aunt Elizabeth says to always serve a salad dressed*–whisk it up quite a bit to make sure the tahini has inflitrated the vinegar.

*Makes sense, really. You wouldn’t show up to the party naked, would you?But since this whole ‘whisking’ of dressing in a bowl concept doesn’t really do it for me, I filled up a jar and shook it out instead.

And yes, I did go back for seconds.*

*And pack thirds for lunch!

Crunchy Spinach Salad w. Salty Sweet Tahini Vinaigrette*

*Note: I’ve cut the recipe down here for a 2-4 serving size. 

For the salad:

  • One half 10.oz-package baby spinach (or regular spinach, loosely chopped)
  • 2-3 cups shredded cabbage (or 1/2 package angel hair cole slaw cabbage)
  • 3 green onions, sliced (whites and light greens)
  • 3 Tbsp. sliced almonds
  • 1 small green apples, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

For the tahini vinaigrette:

  • 4 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 1/3 cup cider or rice vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. seasoning salt
  • 1/2  tsp. black pepper

Layer salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl (or jar), whisk (or shake) together dressing ingredients. Just before serving, whisk (or shake) dressing again and pour over salad!