Spinach Berry Salad
A simple and delicious salad that you can whisk together in a matter of minutes. I love adding fresh fruit to green salads – how about you? Spinach Berry Salad? Yes please!
Spinach Berry Salad
My Spinach Berry Salad is the perfect summer lunch or picnic accompaniment. In my opinion there are few things more delicious than a ripe strawberry in peak strawberry season. If you find yourself with a craving for this salad outside of strawberry season, I would recommend looking for a canned fruit option like mandarin oranges. I have talked at length in other posts, such as about how canned foods can be just as nutritious as fresh and frozen forms. Affordable, convenient, nutritious, and delicious!
While a sturdier kale or even arugula could hold up to dressing in advance of serving, spinach is a more delicate plant. If you are going to store in the refrigerator before consuming, keep the salad and the dressing separate.
The Equation for a Perfect Dish
In culinary school I learned how to perfectly balance the five flavor types: sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami. These tastes serve as the basis for any recipe I create. If you are ever making something on your own without a recipe and notice that something tastes flat, bland, or generally lacking, I bet anything you are missing one of these flavors! Fat also plays a key role in rounding out a dish.
In my Spinach Berry Salad I have multiple sweet elements (strawberries and maple syrup), a sour element (white wine vinegar), salt, and fat (olive oil). Common examples of bitter elements when cooking are arugula, radicchio, dark chocolate, and horseradish. Common elements of sour elements include lemon, vinegars, and cultured dairy like yogurt or buttermilk. Sweet elements could include natural sugars in fruits and vegetables like dates or carrots, as well as added sugars like honey or maple syrup. Roasting or sautéing can actually caramelize or release some of the natural sugars in ingredients. Umami and salty elements can overlap to include soy sauce or tamari, olives, cured meats, and aged cheeses (these also have strong umami notes). Other elements of umami include meat, tomato sauce, miso, and mushrooms.
Elaborate cheese boards increased in popularity over the last couple years. A balanced cheese board is a perfect example of how to incorporate all five flavors. For umami or salty flavor many people will include cured meats, salty nuts or cheeses. For sweet or sour flavor you can include fresh or dried fruits, jams or preserves. Finally for bitter you might see dark chocolate or even wine or cheese with bitter notes.
In addition to thinking about flavors I also like to make sure I am including a variety of textures. In my Spinach Berry Salad I have soft, juicy strawberries, tender lettuce, crunchy almonds, and crisp raw onion.
The Quick Pickle
In my Spinach Berry Salad video, I mention there are two alternative ways to enjoy uncooked onions even if the taste of fresh, raw, cut onions is too sharp or bitter for your palate. You can either soak your cut onions in cold water for 10-20 minutes before using, as I mention in the Spinach Berry Salad video and also in this post, or you can pickle your onions.
Pickling is a term that refers to the preservation of vegetables or fruits in a brine of salt, vinegar, sugar, and spices. Unlike the pickles or sauerkraut you might buy in a store that can take special canning equipment and skill, quick pickles are not fermented and are easy to whip up at home. For quick pickled red onions, I will boil one cup of vinegar with two cups of water and add two tablespoons of kosher salt, two teaspoons of cane sugar, and whatever spices I have on hand (peppercorns, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, etc.). I will pour this liquid over my cut onions and place it in the refrigerator in a sealed container after it is cooled to use for about one week.
Health Benefits of Spinach
Despite the fact that spinach is about 90% water, it contains loads of beneficial nutrients like carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, iron, and calcium. A number of different phytonutrients in spinach act as antioxidants to protect our cells against free radicals that can cause certain diseases. The synergistic effects of the carotenoids in spinach might be important for influencing the initiation and progression pathways of different types of cancers (1). These same effects are not seen, or are much weaker, when nutrients are split up into their separate components, rather than eaten as whole foods.
How to Use Spinach
I use spinach in many of my recipes not only because it is packed with nutrients, but it also has a neutral flavor that can be added to both sweet and savory dishes. In my Spinach Berry Salad I made the healthy leaves the star of the show, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. Spinach can be used in its whole form in dips, pastas, or casseroles, but also blended into smoothies or baked goods.
Interested in trying other salads with spinach? Try my Spinach Quinoa Salad, my Corn and Tomato Salad with Miso Dressing, my Fruit and Avocado Salad, my Taco Salad with Healthy Taco Seasoning, or my Potato Lentil Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette. I use spinach in other savory dishes like my Vegetable Curry, and in sweet dishes like my Ginger Berry Smoothie or my Green Berry Kefir Smoothie.
- Linnewiel-Hermoni K, Khanin M, Danilenko M, et al. The anti-cancer effects of carotenoids and other phytonutrients resides in their combined activity. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2015;572:28-35.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ red onion sliced julienne
- 6 cups baby spinach
- 1 pint strawberries sliced
- 1 avocado diced
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- In a large bowl, add oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper and whisk together well. Add onion and stir together. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes while preparing remaining ingredients.
- Add spinach, strawberries, and avocado to the bowl and toss well.
- Garnish with sliced almonds