Remember when spinach salad meant warm bacon dressing and chopped hard-cooked eggs, and we all loved it and felt oh-so-sophisticated when we ordered it at a café? Did you know (I didn't) that spinach salad, an adaptation of a German dish of dandelion greens with a bacon-vinegar dressing, probably originated in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and not in the kitchen of a French chef? These days, when it comes to spinach salad, there are no rules, as this version with bell pepper, olives, feta cheese and pine nuts proves. There are a few secrets to making great salads that draw on ingredients in your pantry, and they all come down to this: be fearless! Combine unlikely ingredients, using whatever's in season. Take a sauce you'd made for pasta, or a chutney, and thin it with some water to make a salad dressing. Don't be afraid of color. If you don't have baby spinach for this salad, pluck a few lettuce leaves from your garden. And if you don't have good feta, try ricotta salata or another salty cheese.
Spinach salad with bell pepper, olives, feta and pine nuts
For the pesto dressing:
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad:
2 cups baby spinach leaves, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup canned black olives, halved
1 small red bell pepper, cored and diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
Fresh black pepper
To make the pesto dressing: Place basil, nuts, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until chopped. With the machine running, add olive oil in a stream. Thin the dressing with 2 Tbsp water, and set aside. (Can be made up to 3 days in advance.)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the spinach, olives, bell pepper and feta.
In a small dry nonstick frying pan, toast the pine nuts over low heat for 2-4 minutes, until the nuts are just starting to brown and become fragrant. Remove from heat, and add to the spinach mixture.
Toss the salad with just enough of the pesto dressing to moisten all of the ingredients without drowning them (you will have leftover dressing; refrigerate and use for another dish). Add fresh black pepper, to taste.
Serve at room temperature.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Spinach salad with honey mustard vinaigrette
Deconstructed spinach salad on a crunchy whole wheat rice cracker
Chickpea, quinoa and spinach salad with preserved lemon vinaigrette
Spinach salad with glazed beets and blue cheese
Greek pasta salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Mediterranean spinach salad with garbanzos, tomatoes, radishes, and sumac-lemon vinaigrette, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Spinach pomegranate salad with apples and walnuts, from Pinch My Salt
Spinach salad with feta and walnuts, from Eating richly even when you're broke
Spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, from Annie's Eats
Spinach artichoke pesto pizza, from Two Peas & Their Pod
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.