Big salads are my favorite way to eat tons of greens! Aside from the nutritional benefits, it is fun to make salads because they are so customizable with virtually limitless combinations of flavors. This salad is made with a base of baby spinach. Roasted sweet potatoes, chopped dates, walnuts, and blue cheese are piled on top and the salad is finished with a thyme and shallot-sherry vinaigrette.
The sweet potatoes are cut into bite-sized chunks and tossed with a little cooking oil (I use avocado) and Bragg’s organic sprinkle seasoning. This is basically an all purpose seasoning. It is heavy on the herbs like rosemary, thyme, and parsley, plus garlic, onion, and lemon and orange peels. If you do not have any on hand, sub with your favorite all-purpose seasoning and/or a mix of herbs (especially rosemary and thyme) with garlic and onion powders.
Medjool dates bring sweet, caramel flavors that compliment the caramelized and sweet notes of the sweet potatoes. For the best results, use dates that are fresh because they will be softer and therefore easier to eat in this salad.
Shallots take on a pickled, slightly sweet, and more complex flavor when left to soak in vinegar, which also reduces the ‘bite’ that raw onions often provide. This makes them more palatable, and also helps keep them from dominating the other flavors.
Here they are minced and then combined with sherry vinegar, which is tart and sweet, falling somewhere between balsamic and red wine vinegar in flavor. The leaves from two sprigs of fresh thyme (about 1/2 tsp.) gives the dressing a fall-forward vibe I am all about right now. A little honey, salt, pepper, and a minced clove of garlic round out the vinaigrette. Extra virgin olive oil provides body and dilution to get that perfect balance of acidity, seasoning, and sweetness. Making the vinaigrette is as easy as adding these ingredients to a jar and shake-shake-shaking until emulsified.
I always try to consume my nuts raw because the delicate fats are better preserved that way. This is why the walnuts in this salad are not toasted. Feel free to toast them lightly if you prefer.
Blue cheese is one of my favorites to pair with dates and baby spinach, but if you are not a fan of the funk or do not have any on hand, I think feta would be a great sub. Shredded pecorino or parmesan would bring some nutty, sharp notes. Pick what you like or whatever is easiest! The beauty of salads, eh?
Spinach Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Dates, Blue Cheese, and Shallot-Sherry Vinaigrette
Time: 30 minutes
- 3 cups of baby spinach, packed
- 1 large sweet potato
- 2-3 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
- 2 ounces of blue cheese (or other cheese)
- 1/4 cup of walnuts
- Your fav all purpose seasoning (see comments above)
- 1/4 cup of sherry vinegar
- 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced or shredded on a micro plane
- 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed (about 1/2 tsp. of leaves)
- 1/2 tbsp. honey (optional)
- 2 large shallots (1/4 cup, diced super small)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Start by cutting the sweet potato into bite sized chunks. Place on a sheet pan and pour on some oil (I used avocado). Sprinkle on salt and all-purpose seasoning of choice. Toss to coat.
- Cook sweet potatoes in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until browned, flipping half way through.
- To make dressing, place the minced shallots in a jar. Add sherry vinegar, thyme leaves, garlic, olive oil, honey (if using) and a nice pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and shake to emulsify. Makes about 1 and 1/4 cup of dressing. You can use the same ratio to make a smaller serving, or do what I did and prep some for salads all week! Dressing will keep for a week or so in the fridge.
- Pull sweet potatoes from oven and allow to cool slightly before prepping the rest of the salad. This is to avoid wilting the spinach.
- Pile spinach into a bowl and top with cooled sweet potatoes, dates, walnuts, and blue cheese.
- Top salad with dressing to taste, I like about 3 tbsp. Make sure to scoop from the bottom in order to get the shallots!
- The shallots get better with time. Prep the dressing a day ahead and then serve to maximize the flavors.