To write this article, I was trying to think back to a month ago when we ate this salad, on a night when I’m almost sure there was still snow on the ground.
I guess there must have been, since that was the night my friend Jackie came over for dinner, and she had to grip the stair railings to keep from falling on the ice on her way inside.
But listen to this: Tonight I drove home with the windows open, the sun beating down on me, and I was actually sweating, if you can believe that. All around me, the grass outside is totally green, there are flowers budding that look like little lumps of cotton, and the skies are the perfect shade of blue.
It is really spring here. Finally. And honestly, I’ve almost forgotten winter entirely.
I think there can be a lot of value in forgetting. I mean, it’s not good to forget the story your friend told you yesterday at lunch, but it’s pretty great if you can forget the obnoxious thing that guy said to you at work. And at this time of year, I am all for forgetting: forgetting the ice, the snow, the cold, and the painful commutes.
Now that spring is here, it’s time to start eating like it. And that’s where this salad comes in.
At its heart, this is a pretty basic dish: just some spinach tossed with sliced apples, crumbled goat cheese, crispy prosciutto, and pickled grapes. But the taste is anything but basic.
The pickled grapes are super simple to make and can be catered to any taste. All you need is vinegar, sugar, and your choice of spices. I opted for cloves and black peppercorns.
Boil the vinegar and spices together, then pour over the grapes and refrigerate. It’s as simple as that. YUM..
But it’s the dressing that really takes it over the top: a combination of olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, freshly ground pepper and spicy brown mustard, this topping is sweet and tangy, absolutely perfect as it blends with the acid of the fruits and the texture of the spinach.
This weekend, if the weather is finally starting to warm up where you are, take this opportunity to sit outside, soak up some rays, and eat a big bowlful of this healthy salad that’s packed with antioxidants.
It’s the just the thing to make you forget about anything that isn’t fresh and fragrant, perfectly green, and filled with sunshine.
Because this lunch or side is so easy to put together, you can take the measurements in the recipe as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. You can feel free to eyeball it according to your taste preferences and what’s in your fridge.
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Mise en Place
Gather all ingredients, including those for the dressing.
Using a salad spinner or a sterilized sink and a colander, wash your spinach thoroughly, being sure to remove any debris that may be on the leaves. The bagged variety is okay, but we still recommend washing it. Remove any thick stems and set the cleaned spinach aside.
Wash your apple and slice the fruit into thin half-moons. Set aside.
Measure out your prosciutto and your chevre goat cheese crumbles and set aside. Note that you may opt to use more if you choose. If you are a cheese lover, feel free to load it up!
Finally, grab your salt and pepper grinders. Freshly ground seasonings add the most flavor, so I always opt to do this when I can.
Step 2 – Make the Pickled Grapes and Crispy Prosciutto
If you opt to make your own pickled grapes, do that now as they need to sit for at least one hour before adding them to your salad.
Combine the vinegar, sugar, cloves, peppercorns, salt, and cinnamon in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes.
Add the grapes to a large airtight container and pour the pickling liquid over them. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
You may also be able to find pickled grapes at your local farmers market or specialty store. Either packaged or homemade is fine to use for this salad, whichever you prefer.
Cut your prosciutto into thin strips and fry it in a medium pan over medium heat, the same way you would fry bacon. Be careful not to burn the meat, and adjust the heat if you need to. This should take about 5 minutes or so in a preheated pan.
Once crisped, remove from the pan and set aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Step 3 – Make the Dressing
Add the balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, honey, and mustard to a bowl. Using a balloon whisk, combine the ingredients. Then, add the olive oil in a thin stream while whisking and continue to combine until an emulsion is formed.
How do you know when this has happened, you might ask? Well, when all of the ingredients are completely combined with no floating pools of oil or obvious separation between the oil and vinegar, you are done whisking.
The mustard helps to form the emulsion. Adding a dab of mayonnaise can also help to bring a salad dressing together. The final result will be thickened and creamy.
Step 4 – Assemble the Salad
In a large serving bowl, lightly toss the spinach, apples, and pickled grapes with the dressing.
Now, garnish with the goat cheese and crispy prosciutto.
If you would like to serve your salad buffet style so each diner can make their own according to their likes and dislikes, you can place each ingredient in its own bowl instead, with the dressing on the side or with the spinach already tossed in the dressing.
A Satisfying and Healthy Bowlful
Finally, it’s time to eat!
Serve this salad as a light and flavorful lunch, or a quick and easy dinner.
Need a bit more protein? Cubed chicken breast would be a wonderful addition to this salad, especially if you are opting for the dinner option.
Want something a little more savory or some added crunch? Toss in some sliced red onion.
I have to admit, this is a new favorite for me. Such robust flavors paired with amazing nutrition profiles? I’m hooked.
Did you serve this salad alone? Pair it with a meal? Did you add a protein or tweak the ingredients? Let us know in the the comments below!
And if you’re looking for more ideas to brighten up your springtime menu, try this kale fiesta salad, our classic Greek salad, or a fresh kale grapefruit salad. You can also find all of our salad recipes here.
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Photos by Leslie Morrison, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing by Leslie Morrison. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on April 16th, 2009. Last updated: March 15, 2018 at 18:54 pm.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna has a Masters in Writing through Depaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.