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This spinach salad was one of my top 5 food discoveries of 2013. I usually reserve such strong praise for dishes that are much higher in fat (let’s be honest), but this salad has a way of being sneaky that way. It’s healthy and quick, but packs such an unusual taste punch that you’re pretty sure it must be more complicated than it seems. In truth, it’s just a few different elements that each receive a little extra attention. Put them all together and you have a killer salad, one that I could happily make an entire meal of.

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This recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi, whose London restaurants I have dreamed of visiting for years. His recipes are amazing, always boldly spiced, sometimes aggressively so, and hugely diverse in their inspiration. He is also one of the few chefs who not only gives vegetables their due, but isn’t afraid to put them at the center of the table, even though he isn’t a vegetarian himself. I can try his recipes with the confidence that the flavors will always be interesting and unusual – no lentil burgers here. This salad is from his wildly popular book, Jerusalem, which spotlights the delicious food of his native Israel. I pre-ordered the book way before its release, knowing that if anyone could help me relive my own time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, this was the man. And he delivered big time. This is a beautiful, beautiful book, full of recipe inspiration. Plenty of the recipes from it have entered into our regular meal rotation.

But for now, spinach salad. An irresistible combo of sumac-coated pita bread, toasted almonds, vinegary onions, and sticky dates.

Spinach Salad with Pita, Dates and Almonds

Recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

3 1/2 oz pitted Medjool dates, cut into 4-6 lengthwise strips

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pitas, roughly torn into smallish pieces

1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons sumac

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

5 oz bag baby spinach

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

salt

Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for about 30 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pita and almonds and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool.

When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt. Serve immediately.

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