There’s a low-lying fog that has wrapped up our valley for the past few days. Maybe it has been even longer, as I tend to forget those details. It’s almost mysterious in the way that it seeps in overnight and envelops the morning horizon, muting the sun to a vaguely bright spot in the fog. Depending on the day, the thickness of the fog varies—sometimes so thick that I can’t see much more than a car or two in front of me on the street. Other times, it is wispy and soft, bringing a romantic blur to the horizon. At night when I walk the neighborhood streets, sometimes I can see the stars through holes in the fog while street lights glow orange with fluorescent halos. The fog never fails to make me feel cozy, wishing for a blanket and a cup of tea.
On foggy days, I search for brightness elsewhere, like on my plate. While I can’t control the weather and shaking my fist at the sky has brought little result, the meals on my plate are completely under my control, so I adjust as needed. For some reason, the weather has me reaching for the vinegar. The bright acidity brings life to some warm comfort foods and an irresistible sharpness to crunchy salad greens.
The flavors of this salad are not ones that I would readily dreamed on my own. The pairing of quick-pickled red onion with the candy sweetness of Medjool dates is brilliant and I knew immediately I would love it. It’s just one of those combinations I could already imagine before putting vinegar to onion. The recipe jumped off the page as I was browsing through my new cookbook, Jerusalem, this weekend. I know the book has been out for a while, but sometimes I have to pace myself through the myriad of new cookbooks released every fall, adding some of my top picks to my Christmas list, then stacking them up beside the bed for evening reading. (Tell me I’m not alone in this little habit.) There are plenty of dishes I am hoping to make from this book, but this was the one I had to make first while I plotted out my plans for the next dishes.
Spinach salad with almonds and dates
Adapted from Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ small red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 oz pitted Medjool dates, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup whole raw almonds, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sumac
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or chile flakes
5 oz baby spinach
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt, to taste
Combine the vinegar, red onion and dates in a small bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir to combine. Let sit for at least 20 minutes. When ready to use, drain and discard any remaining vinegar.
In a small pan, combine the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped almonds and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Once almonds are toasted and golden, remove from pan and set on a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with sumac, pepper flakes and a little salt and allow to cool.
When ready to serve, add the spinach to a large mixing bowl and top with the almonds, red onion and dates. Dress the salad with lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Toss to coat and add a little salt, if needed. Serve immediately.